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Stakes High Tonight's CNN Clinton-Sanders Debate; Cruz: Trump Campaign Acting Like "Union Thugs". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 14, 2016 - 11:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan. And it is debate day in America, or you could also say, "Fight night in New York".

[11:00:01] We are live at the Brooklyn navy yard, the site of tonight's Democratic debate right here on CNN. You're looking right now at live pictures of where tonight's action is all going to take place. The final face off for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders before Tuesday's potentially make or break primary here in New York.

Both sides have been hitting each other harder than ever on competence and policy.

BERMAN: But by current Republican standards, that would be patty cake. Overnight, Cruz told CNN that Donald Trump staffers act like union boss thugs.

We're all over the races today.

Let's start with Democrats. CNN's Joe Johns inside the debate hall.

Joe, lay it out for us.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So, we just wanted to give you a little bit of an idea, John, about this stage and where this event is occurring. The event space is the Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn Navy Yard. Right over here, of course, is the place that will be the center of attention where the two candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, will stand and deliver.

Over here to my right is the moderator's table. That is where Wolf Blitzer, my colleague, will be speaking and asking questions as he has so many times in previous national political events. And over there is, if you will, the co-moderator's table. That's Errol Louis and CNN's own Dana Bash.

So, a lot to talk about here. This is the ninth debate this cycle among the Democrats, and a lot has happened over the last 24 hours as well as the last two weeks. These candidates going back and forth on everything from fracking to Wall Street, who is more qualified to be president of the United States?

So, they will have a lot to talk about. They've also been talking about immigration over the last 24 hours, and even reaching out to the minority vote in New York City. As you know just yesterday, Hillary Clinton appearing before Al Sharpton's national network, and as a matter of fact, Bernie Sanders is going to be appearing there just this afternoon.

So, a lot to talk about and discuss tonight, and it all happens right here. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns inside the debate hall here at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Thanks so much, Joe.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Joe.

Joining us right now to discuss what's at stake tonight and what is the state of play is Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, Robby Mook.

Robby, thank you so much for joining us.


BOLDUAN: Thank you.

We're going to talk about tonight. Let's talk about last night quick. Let's compare to images. I want, for our viewers, images you know welcome pairing Hillary Clinton, her rally yesterday against Bernie Sanders, his big rally, 27,000 people turning out last night in New York. Those crowds that you see right there.

Now, I know you guys have set up your events to be smaller, to be more intimate. That's something you've talked a lot about. I'm not going to talk about the enthusiasm gap.

But would you prefer to be the image on the right or the image on the left with 27,000 people waiting hours to come to your event at this point?

MOOK: Well, I would prefer to be the candidate who is winning the popular vote, and that's exactly what Hillary Clinton is doing. She has a lead over Sanders of over 2.4 million votes. She is winning the delegate contest by a bigger margin than President Obama ever was in 2008. So, we feel really good about where we are right now. We're going to keep work hard to earn every single vote.

BERMAN: But the crowds are impressive, just objectively speaking, Robby, as a student of politics, 27,000 in Washington Square Park is a good picture, yes?

MOOK: Well, first of all, the Park Service is saying it was significantly smaller than that. They're saying it might have been a third of the number that the Sanders campaign is quoting. But again, what matters in this race is the voice of the voters, and Hillary Clinton is overwhelmingly winning this primary contest.

And the more people that vote in the contests, the bigger the turnout, the bigger she wins by. So, that's what we're focused on. That's our job, is to win people's votes, win those delegates and then win the nomination.

BOLDUAN: Also, something else happened last night. We want to get your take on that. A supporter of Bernie Sanders speaking, warming up the crowd said this in front of that crowd last night. Listen.


BERNIE SANDERS SURROGATE: Medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma and the private insurance industry instead of us.


BOLDUAN: Now, that guy, Paul Song (ph), he apologized and walked back, more importantly, Bernie Sanders, he also calls the comments inappropriate, insensitive. There's no room for language like that in our political discourse.

Your campaign was very outspoken about this remark when it happened last night, and going through this morning.

[11:05:01] Now that Bernie Sanders has talked about it, remarked about it and said there's no room for it, is this over?

MOOK: Well, I'm glad that Senator Sanders finally decided to disavow it. I think all Democrats should disavow language like this about any elected official, let alone Democrats that are fighting hard for working people every day.

You know, Hillary Clinton took on the insurance companies. Before there was Obamacare, there was Hillary care. She took them on. She got knocked down. She kept fighting until 8 million kids in this country got health insurance.

So, to use this kind of term to describe her or any Democratic official is wrong, and I'm glad that Senator Sanders finally decided to disavow it.

I think what's troubling overall has been his campaign strategy in New York to launch these kinds of personal attacks against Hillary. He called her unqualified, as you know.

So, we're hoping that tonight's debate, at tonight's debate we see something different which is a focus on the issues and not name calling and personal attacks that have come from Senator Sanders' campaign.

BERMAN: Robby, you say finally, I mean, it was 12 hours. It wasn't like it took weeks and weeks for Bernie Sanders to respond. He got on Twitter fairly quickly as far as these things go.

But let's talk about the debate tonight which you just brought up. Curious about Hillary Clinton, how she's going to approach it. When you say offense or defense tonight?

MOOK: Well, I think she's going to talk about the issues and she's going to talk about the plans. You know, the spotlight shines brighter in New York on any candidate than anywhere else in this country.

Senator Sanders has come under a lot of scrutiny. His plans have come under scrutiny. We saw at "The New York Daily News" editorial board, he was light on details on how he would do things like break up banks or deal with ISIS. And that's been a contrast in this race.

So, you're going to hear Secretary Clinton talk about her plans and real objectives that she can accomplish that are going to make a real difference in people's livings. And, you know, we hope to hear from Senator Sanders, how the math on his plans add up, and what the real details are because that's what the voters want to know?

BOLDUAN: No question that probably will likely come up tonight as a question.

Robby, after tonight, very quickly, Bernie Sanders is going to head off. He's going to be heading to the Vatican to make a speech. If Hillary Clinton got the invite to go to the Vatican, make a similar speech, this many days out from the New York primary, would she accept the invitation?

MOOK: You know, that's a hypothetical. You know, we'd have to deal with that if we were to receive any sort of invitation. We've been very focused here on campaigning across New York state. As you mentioned earlier, doing those small events where she can really spend time with the voters. She's been out on the street meeting people, talking to them about her plans, talking to them about those details that are so important. And that's what we're going to keep doing.

BERMAN: Robby, do you think it's a mistake for Senator Sanders to leave New York and go to the Vatican?

MOOK: You know, I could say, as a campaign manager, I will leave it to them to decide on their own schedule. We decide on our schedule. I'm not going to judge theirs.

BERMAN: All right. Robby Mook, thank you so much. Nice to see you in New York. You know, big New York.

BOLDUAN: Somewhere, in big New York.


MOOK: In Midtown. Nice to see you. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: In Midtown, exactly.

Good luck tonight. Robby, thank you so much.

Let's continue the discussion in this part of New York where the debate is at right now with our panel. Julian Zelizer, he's a historian and professor at Princeton University. CNN political commentator Donna Brazile, also Democratic strategist. CNN political commentator, Bill Press, the host of "The Bill Press Show" and a Bernie Sanders supporter. And CNN political commentator Paul Begala, Democratic strategist, who has not come on our show in something like the forever.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: I don't like Berman. By the way, you should --

BOLDUAN: I was wondering what it was --

BEGALA: We do need to disclose that I advise a pro-Hillary super PAC. Our viewers need to know that. I think Berman knows that.

BERMAN: But familiar, I'm familiar with work.

BEGALA: I love Hillary. I would be for her for free, but people need to know that --

BOLDUAN: You do nothing for free, my friend.


DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just spent an hour in a car with him, so I can tell you a lot more about Paul today.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about expectations tonight. You heard Robby Mook saying they need more details. That's what the Hillary Clinton campaign is.

What do you think? Does Bernie Sanders need to talk more details? Does he need to work on what happened with that New York Daily News interview?

BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. First of all, I think we're going to see a really good spirited debate tonight. I'm excited about it. Everybody ought to watch. Tune in. Look --

BOLDUAN: What does spirited mean?

PRESS: Spirited mean, first of all, you've got two great candidates. You've got a very, very important primary on Tuesday. And spirited -- I mean, I think they're going to get into the issues that Robbie talked about, issues that are pertinent to New York particularly, fracking, Bernie brought up this week. You know they're going to get into that.

Wall Street, the Goldman Sachs find this week, the transcripts. I think you're going to see more of the differences between Hillary and Bernie than we've seen in previous debates.

[11:10:03] They both need a good debate tonight, and I think Hillary needs a win on Tuesday. We got a lot stake.

BERMAN: It's interesting. You know, the Clinton supporters say that Bernie needs a win in New York and there's a lot at stake with him. The wife of the mayor Bill de Blasio, Chirlane McCray, she actually said this, she said that Bernie Sanders is getting desperate. I think we have that sound. We can play that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIRLANE MCCRAY, WIFE OF MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: I think the tone will be respectful, but I think Bernie is getting a little desperate, so I expect we'll hear the volume pumped up a little bit.


BERMAN: Desperate. Donna Brazile, fair?

BRAZILE: Passionate, very passionate. The Sanders people are passionate. The Clinton people are passionate. I think if they get too aggressive tonight, it could hurt both of them.

The Democrats, overwhelming majority of Democrats would like to see civility, not the kind of attacks. That will hurt Senator Sanders. That will hurt Secretary Clinton. So, I think they will find points, some weak spots to perhaps highlight. But the majority of Democrats, they really want civility.

When you look at the Republicans and people threatening delegates, giving out hotel rooms, please don't come to my hotel room, because you would not want to see me without my makeup like you're seeing me right now, OK?

But the truth is that Democrats want civility. So, we'll have a spirited debate, but we're not going to go to that attack level.

BOLDUAN: Do they really want civility, Paul Begala?

BEGALA: They do, they do. Democrats are in a different place from Republicans. Republicans, boy, they're just hateful. I'm sorry. They are. They hate -- they killed (ph) their speaker, John Boehner.


BEGALA: There's a difference, my party -- the Hillary voters --

BOLDUAN: But Bernie Sanders is getting -- Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, they're getting way more chippy than they started.

BEGALA: You're half right. Bernie is, and I think --


BERMAN: You think that Bernie Sanders is getting desperate, Paul.

BEGALA: His supporters certainly are. This guy last night that called my friend Hillary Clinton, that's so beyond the pale. And I know you give him a pass because it took 12 hours, this ain't pony express, man.

This is Twitter.

BERMAN: What are you supposed to do, Paul?


BEGALA: I believe you give them the benefit of the doubt, first. I don't believe he heard it.

I know Bernie is a good guy. If he heard that, he'd correct it right away. But I also believe he heard it within 12 hours. It didn't take him 12 hours. He should have corrected immediately.

It's a hateful, horrible thing to say about Hillary Clinton. The first -- the guy walked it about and said, well, I meant the Democrats in Congress. Oh, really? Kristen Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer and good Democrats, I have friends who lost their seats voting for Obamacare. They lost their jobs.

That's beyond the pale. If Bernie turns to that tonight, and I think he will. You want my prediction? Bernie's going to go hard negative tonight. Why? Because Santayana was right, philosopher, who said, fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts after you forgot your aim.


JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It's issue base negativism and personal. I actually don't think he's descended as far down as people are saying. Even the qualification debate, you know, compared to where the Republicans are, is nothing. And I think, you know, both candidates, including Bernie Sanders, understand that an issue-based debate, vigorous and principled, not only benefits both of them.

It benefits the party, because now, they're thinking what's the contrast with the Republicans when they're talking about hand size and talking about other issues like that. I think it sets up a nice general election. Even if they go at it tooth and nail.

PRESS: Yes. Plus, I have to say this word that keeps throwing around, desperate. Why is Bernie desperate? He's won eight of the nine last contests. And 27,000 people there last night. I don't care if Robby Mook wants to try to deflate the number. It's what everybody is reporting.

He's on a roll. He's got momentum. He's got to win, I think he's got to win on Tuesday. I think Hillary has got to win --


BERMAN: That's setting the bar high.

PRESS: Well, let me maybe correct myself. Within 12 hours. I think Hillary Clinton has to win, and I think if she does not win, it's going to totally change the momentum.

BERMAN: Your phone is going off the hook for the Sanders campaign head quarters.

PRESS: And a win for Bernie would be huge.

BEGALA: There is no momentum. There is no momentum. There's no such thing as momentum.

PRESS: Why does he keep winning?

BOLDUAN: What's 27,000 people in the park?

BEGALA: There's only mathematics. There's only democgraphic.

BRAZILE: There's only math.

BEGALA: Every place where Bernie and Hillary have run that is mostly white and mostly liberal and mostly young, Bernie wins big. That's his demographic. God bless him.

Hillary needs those voters desperately. She will need those. She's got to do better with them.

But that's not momentum. That's demographics. Every place is more diverse. If there's more people of color, Hillary wins. That's -- you can go through the next 22 states and with 90 percent accuracy tell you who's going to win based on demographics.

PRESS: I think that's one thing that's wrong with the Clinton campaign. You tell the 82 percent of people voting for Bernie that politics is nothing but math. That's wrong.

Politics is about heart. It's about spirit. It's about things you believe in. It's about energy and enthusiasm. It's about passion. It's more than math.

BOLDUAN: Doesn't the nominee need both?

BRAZILE: But the race to the White House is not about poll size. It's not about crowd size. It's about delegate math.

And, yes, I like all of the stuff that you have put into the soup pot, but at the end of the day, the chefs who are looking at it are looking at the numbers.

[11:15:07] You need 2,383. Let's not forget that. New York a huge prize, 247 delegates. We will not get this big, large number like this until California.

So, fight like hell, go at it. Get you -- get a good turnout. But at the end of the day, it's really about delegates.

BERMAN: Professor, you have the credentials. We'll give you the last word. You've written an op-ed saying, they shouldn't go negative. They should stay above the board. You leave the Republicans out of it, but you think the Democrats are doing better.

But isn't a debate, isn't a campaign about mixing it up?

ZELIZER: Well, what I said is they should mix it up on policy. And I actually think the great thing about this primary, there has been a really vigorous debate of where the Democratic Party should go. And, you know, Sanders has raised some very important questions about

campaign finance and economic inequality, and they should go at it tonight. They should talk about foreign policy, not who's qualified or not qualified. But when should the United States use force and when do we have a national interest in sending troops abroad?

I'll take it that way, and they should give voters an opportunity to see the choices that the party is offering. So, it should be vigorous. It should be heated, but it should be about policy.



BERMAN: It is tonight at 9:00 p.m. Professor Zelizer, Donna Brazile, Phil Press, Paul Begala, thank you to all so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: A reminder, it is all happening here tonight. Passionate, vigorous. You choose the word. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, they face off in the CNN Democratic debate. That's at 9:00 Eastern, only at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, only on CNN.

BOLDUAN: So, Ted Cruz says he's lucky he hasn't woken up with a horse head in his bed. He's now accusing the Trump campaign of acting like thugs. So, what does Donald Trump and his team think about this latest attack? We'll find out.

BERMAN: And delegate battle, yes, math again. Math matters.

BOLDUAN: You told me that math was not going to be part of this.

BERMAN: Trump, he says the process is rigged. He's slamming his own party, but the RNC says, not so fast. Those are the rules.

Our special live coverage from Brooklyn continues, next.


[11:21:14] BERMAN: A new chapter in this Republican race this morning. Perhaps a new chapter in "The Godfather" saga. Ted Cruz likening Trump to a mafia-like figure.

BOLDUAN: During a town hall on CNN, Ted Cruz says Trump and his henchmen are acting like thugs, his words. He also accused Trump campaign and supporters of threats and intimidation of potential convention delegates. Listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not funny when Roger Stone, who organized and put together Trump's political campaign, is telling delegates in Cleveland we're going to make public your hotel room so people can come and threaten and intimidate you if you dare vote against Donald Trump. That is -- you know what, that is behaving like Democrats in 1968 in Chicago, and we're not Democrats. We're not interested in behaving like union thugs. And Donald Trump needs to learn that.


BERMAN: All right. Let's bring in Michael Cohen. He's the executive vice president for the Trump organization and special counsel to Donald Trump.

Michael, thank you for being with us.

BOLDUAN: Hey, Michael.

BERMAN: I know you don't work for the campaign.


BERMAN: But we just heard from Cruz there, he basically said people who work for Donald Trump are thugs.

COHEN: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Your reaction?

COHEN: Wrong, and he's wrong again, because Roger Stone doesn't work for the campaign either. Roger Stone is somebody that's known Mr. Trump for many years. He's not part of the campaign. He's not paid by the campaign.

So, the fact that he wants to say what Roger Stone is doing, he's now turning around saying anybody that does something that he doesn't like is now part of the Trump campaign and they're acting thug-like.

BERMAN: But we're hearing from people in Colorado, the chairman of the party there, saying he's being harassed. There are people in Indiana, delegates there who say that they're concerned because of what Trump supporters are saying to them.

COHEN: Well, maybe the supporters happen to be people that live in Colorado, and the people who are upset because there wasn't a primary or a caucus in Colorado. They just allow delegates to just give out the votes.

BOLDUAN: Michael, if, if someone is harassing delegates, do you agree it is a bad thing?

COHEN: Yes, it's a bad thing. Nobody should be harassing anybody, nor should Ted Cruz be spreading the additional lies that he does.

BOLDUAN: So, if it is a bad thing, and these supporters of Donald Trump -- shouldn't Donald Trump speak up and say don't do this?

COHEN: Yes. But right now, Mr. Trump is concentrating on winning New York, winning New York big. Winning the Northeast.

BOLDUAN: You would also tell me that Donald Trump is going to --


COHEN: He sure does. But you know what, there's also the Northeast and there's California. His goal is to win this nomination. His goal is to get to the 1,237, despite the millions and millions of dollars that are being launched against him, including by people like Ted Cruz.

BOLDUAN: Of course --

COHEN: Now, interestingly enough --

BERMAN: Any responsibility as --


COHEN: Does Ted Cruz not have the same responsibility to turn around and talk about the super PACs that he knows are running the negative ads and then he disavows himself of anything? He speaks with two sides of his mouth. That's Cruz's problem. Hence why Mr. Trump calls him "Lyin' Ted".

BOLDUAN: But Donald Trump also wanted Ted Cruz to speak up and to tell his super PAC to stand down.

COHEN: Did he do it?

BOLDUAN: No. But Donald Trump though that Ted Cruz should speak up and tell his super PAC to stand down. Regardless of what Ted Cruz did, why is it wrong to say that Donald Trump should stand up and tell his supporters to stop harassing delegates?

COHEN: I think Mr. Trump has on many occasions turn around and said that he does not call for violence and he's not asking his supporters to act in manner, which is inconsistent with the way he would behave.

BERMAN: Let's talk about Reince Priebus, because yesterday, Reince Priebus went on "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer, tried to maybe take some air of the tension, lower the temperature a little bit in a feud that he's been having with Donald Trump.

Do you think that Donald Trump still believes that Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself for the way the delegate process is working?

[11:25:02] COHEN: I think Reince Priebus has an obligation, not just to the RNC, but really to the American people to turn around and say, OK, listen, you cannot all get together against one individual, spend $70 million plus in attack ads, attacking his wife, attacking Mr. Trump on everything, twist words and then go ahead and run negative ads against one person simply because he's the front runner since the beginning.

BERMAN: You want the party chair --


COHEN: Reince Priebus, he has an obligation to deal with the other candidates, to deal with the super PACs. He knows them all. If he wants to claim that he doesn't, he's sitting up somewhere in his perched Mount Olympus doing what, right?

He's supposed to be unifying the party. Instead he's allowing the party to become disenfranchised, why, because it's going to stop Mr. Trump from getting to 1,237.

BOLDUAN: But, Michael, Reince Priebus' job is not take sides in this primary. What do you want him to do?

COHEN: He's supposed to keep the Republican Party unified. That's his job really is. He's not doing that. He's doing a terrible job at it.

And do I personally as a voter, as a supporter of Mr. Trump believe that the process is rigged? I do. I think that the process -- the establishment does not want Mr. Trump to be the nominee.

BERMAN: Given your opinion of Reince Priebus, it's traditional when someone becomes the nominee, you're the presumptive nominee, he brings his own people into the Republican National Committee or the national party committee to run things. Would you want Reince Priebus to stay in power, stay chair of the RNC --

COHEN: That's Mr. Trump and a campaign decision.

BERMAN: I'm asking you. What do you think?

COHEN: Me personally, I'm a registered Democrat. So, I don't really care about Reince Priebus --

BERMAN: You can't vote. Can you vote --

BOLDUAN: You're not voting for Donald Trump?

COHEN: Not in the primary.

BERMAN: So his kids can't vote and you can't vote in the primary tomorrow?

COHEN: (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow?

BOLDUAN: Tuesday.

COHEN: I'd like to be one of them, but no, I'm not voting in the primary. I'm a registered Democrat.

BERMAN: He's losing votes from his family and the people --

COHEN: You don't have to worry about Mr. Trump. He's around 50 plus percent in New York. This is his hometown.

BOLDUAN: So, real quick, real quick. How close is close enough if you don't get to 1,237?

COHEN: Well, first of all, I think he's going to get to 1,237, but I don't think it's my opinion regarding close. Within 100 points should be fair. If the next person is 400 points away, you've got too with the person who's brought not just the Republicans out but brought Democrats and independents.

He's bringing in massive crowds, 25,000, 30,000 people at a clip. He's really -- he's a unifier, and he could unify the party, if, in fact, they get him the opportunity, which they just for some reason, they don't want to.

BERMAN: Leave us with a prediction. Will we get all 95 delegates here in New York?

COHEN: Yes, I believe so.

BOLDUAN: Michael Cohen, a man never short on opinion.


BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks for coming in, Michael.

BOLDUAN: We really appreciate it, Michael. Thank you so much.

So, we are just -- yes, we're talking about Republicans, but we're hours away from a big Democratic debate right here on CNN. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton facing off tonight, and the stakes could not be higher, folks.

BERMAN: And if Bernie Sanders somehow is able to pull off an upset here in New York, the entire race changes. Of course, if Hillary Clinton wins big here, the entire race could be all but over.

BOLDUAN: Changes too.

BERMAN: We're live in Brooklyn for a special two-hour edition of AT THIS HOUR, or maybe at these hours.

BOLDUAN: Double hours.