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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Countdown to CNN Democratic Debate; Protesters Chanting "Stop Trump" Outside GOP Gala. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired April 14, 2016 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:29] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to a very special edition of OUTFRONT. Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. Countdown to the CNN Democratic debate tonight. I'm live here in Brooklyn, New York where in less than two hours, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will square off. For Sanders, it is a make or break night just five days before the New York primary. Tonight is his last best chance to stop Clinton from locking down the nomination.

Sanders speaking to civil rights leaders in Harlem tonight. Concedes nothing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We started this campaign 60 points behind Hillary Clinton in the national polls. Last couple of polls over the last few weeks had us ahead in several polls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And everything is on the line for Hillary Clinton tonight too. She needs a big win here tonight to prove she can beat Sanders at the polls. Sanders meantime riding a wave of momentum. He has won eight of the past nine contests. Their debate right here at the historic Brooklyn Navy Yards and it comes as the tension between the two campaigns reaches a new high. Our expert team is going to be with me throughout the hour.

And we begin with Jeff Zeleny, he is inside tonight's debate hall. Now, Jeff, you've had a chance to talk to both of the campaigns today. And obviously tonight is so crucial for both of them. What are they saying to you?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is indeed, Erin. I'm actually on the debate stage. You can see behind me right here the podiums are set. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton will be standing side by side, face to face for the first time in five weeks. They're ninth time overall. But Erin, what I'm learning tonight is, the Clinton campaign believes that this race is tighter than the public polls indicate. That's why they're going to go out tomorrow with a new advertisement from the New York Daily News that editorial we've been talking about all week, they're, going to put that on television to translate that message that she is more prepared than he is to be president.

This is one sign that the Clinton campaign is not taking anything for granted and is in fact a little bit worried about the momentum that Senator Sanders had. We saw that last night on the ground in Washington Square Park when so many thousands of people came out to see Senator Sanders. Now tonight, I'm told by top advisers to the Sanders campaign is that they are just going to keep on hammering away, raising questions about the honesty, the trustworthiness, the creditability of Secretary Clinton, specifically on a lot of New York issues, on Wall Street reform, on criminal justice reform, on fracking, on other things.

So, Erin, this is going to be a decidedly local debate. And it's pretty fitting since we are here in Brooklyn where Senator Sanders of course was born and raised, or Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarters is. So, the battle for Brooklyn is actually real, it's not just a cliche and this side debate could be one of the more important one certainly likely the last one and it's such a critical moment of this campaign. Five days of that New York primary will set the rest of the course of this primary campaign -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny. You heard Jeff saying that the Clinton campaign says they think their internal polling shows a much tighter race in some of the polls out there. Coming as a FOX News poll tonight is actually saying the gap between the two nationally is now down to a two-point lead by Hillary Clinton. Down by 13 just last month.

More on that in a moment. But this debate comes after a heated 24 hours for both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Joe Johns is OUTFRONT with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the battle lines are drawn.

SANDERS: You elect me president. You're going to have a president who is prepared take on the billionaire class, not take their money.

JOHNS: Sanders speaking today to Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network, the same group Clinton addressed a day earlier appealing to African-American voters in New York.

SANDERS: We are going to invest in education and jobs for our kids, not jails and incarceration.

JOHNS: Sanders also holding a rally with thousands of supporters last night in Lower Manhattan.

SANDERS: When I look at an unbelievable crowd like this, I believe we're going to win here in New York next Thursday.

JOHNS: But he wound up having to do some clean up after one of his supporters made this comment on stage.

SANDERS: Medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma. JOHNS: Dr. Paul Song, a healthcare activist and the husband of CNN's

Lisa Ling later apologizing on Twitter saying, it was insensitive and Sanders disavowing the comments tweeting, there's no room for language like that in our political discourse. The Clinton campaign firing back on CNN.

ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think what's troubling overall has been his campaign strategy in New York to launch these kinds of personal attacks against Hillary.

JOHNS: While Sanders filled Washington Square Park, Clinton was holding a much smaller rally in the Bronx.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vote not just for me. My name will be on the ballot, but vote for yourselves. Vote for your families. Vote for your children, your grandchildren. Vote for the future of the Bronx.

JOHNS: And turning her focus once again to the Republicans.

CLINTON: One of them denigrates New York values. One of them, Mr. Trump, wants to set Americans against each other.

JOHNS: And as the Democratic fight reaches a critical moment, Sanders is complaining that the primary process has made his path to the nomination more challenging.

SANDERS: People say, why does Iowa go first, why does New Hampshire go first, but I think that having so many Southern states go first kind of distorts reality as well.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[19:05:02] JOHNS: Less than two hours away from this pivotal debate here in Brooklyn tonight, and at least for one of the candidates this night will not end when the debate is over. Bernie Sanders flying off to Rome to the Vatican for a conference on economic inequality tomorrow -- Erin.

BURNETT: Joe Johns. Thank you very much. And OUTFRONT now, my political panel, our political analyst David Gregory. Jonathan Tasini, a Bernie Sanders supporter. Bakari Sellers, Hillary Clinton supporter. Amanda Carpenter, the former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz. Jeffrey Lord, a Donald Trump supporter and our political director David Chalian.

OK. Great to have all of you with me. Bakari, let me start with you. You just heard Jeff Zeleny reporting. The Clinton campaign believes that this is going to be a much tighter race. Some of the polls show. Some of the polls in New York have given her a double digit lead. Easily 13 percent, 17 percent. Certainly the FOX News poll nationally is now showing it to be a dead heat. How much does tonight matter for her?

BAKARI SELLERS, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Well, tonight is big. I think anyone that who wants to underestimate the value of tonight is simply lying to themselves. Tonight is a big night. New York is a big primary. And the reason being is because Hillary Clinton feels comfortable here. She feels comfortable here because not only did she represented this state for so many years in the United State Senate, but the demographics also match where she excels. The problem that Bernie Sanders has had throughout this entire campaign is that he is not been able to expand his base at all.

The eight out of nine states that he won on the west coast to swing, the demographics looked exactly the same. When you come here tonight or next week to New York, you'll going to see a very diverse, robust African-American and Hispanic population. Hillary Clinton does especially well with that group. And if Bernie Sanders doesn't make inroads here in New York, the race is over.

BURNETT: All right. And Jonathan, would you agree with that? Because, I mean, look, on one level --

JONATHAN TASINI, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: No. The answer is no. First of all, let's go through a few things. First of all, the people of Hawaii and Alaska would be very surprised with Bakari claiming that those are not diverse states. Bernie in fact won those. They are very diverse state. I think Jeff is right that the race is very, very tight and I think that is partly because of the incredible enthusiasm among supports. I've never seen -- I've been doing political organizing for 30-plus years.

I've never seen the thousands of people jamming into halls, wanting to grab those phone lists, wanting to grab canvassing lists. There is enormous energy on the streets and that is going to make the big difference in the last 40 hours. The transport workers union, which endorsed Bernie, very important union here represents the subway workers and the bus drivers. Those people are incredibly effective in turning out the vote in the city. And I think Bakari and I agree on this. Upstate, it is pretty much a tie. Bernie is doing very well in areas where he can show that Hillary Clinton's support for very bad trade agreements has hurt people upstate.

BURNETT: So, David Gregory, when you have the Clinton campaign telling Jeff Zeleny, they think it's a lot closer. I mean, part of that also can be a tactic. Right?

DAVID GREGORY, FORMER MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Yes.

BURNETT: It gets turn out off. It gets people to come out. Did they really think that? I mean, a lot of the polls have shown, what? Ten to 15, 20 percent gaps with her in the lead.

GREGORY: Yes. I don't actually know but I would tend to think they're arguing a little bit tighter than it actually is.

BURNETT: Yes.

GREGORY: If you look at the trail of public polling, she's in a more commanding position, but the point is that that enthusiasm gap that she may be experiencing is something that she's worried about.

BURNETT: Yes.

GREGORY: Look, she didn't necessarily want this debate tonight. Why would she want to give him at a shot at all of this oxygen and all this air time and an opportunity to wound her in a substantive debate? She's like to play more robadope from just a political matter, she is going to turn out her voters. She's got a home state vibe going on. But it's interesting. You know, I actually had a constructive exchange on Twitter earlier today.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news.

GREGORY: But this is a woman who lives in California, but from New York and she said I'm really looking forward to tonight because I want to hear from Sanders a real plan of action. She's got my head, but he's got my heart. And I think that says a lot about where people are. He's much more of a movement politician --

BURNETT: Right.

GREGORY: But she's still in a commanding position.

BURNETT: And David Chalian, one thing that is interesting when you look at these polls, out of New York, 30 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters say they will never under any circumstances vote for Hillary Clinton. Nationally that number is 25 percent. That's pretty hard because then when she comes out, if she is the nominee, she's got to have those votes to win.

[19:10:08] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, there's no doubt. And the reverse, Bernie Sanders supporter, 15 percent, only 15 percent say that they wouldn't support -- her supporters would say that they wouldn't support Bernie Sanders. So, she does -- that is on her to-do list once she's able to finish off this nomination, if she's able to do so. The first thing on her to-do list is going to be bringing those people in. How she goes about doing that? She probably has more experience than anybody else in terms of a Democratic presidential nomination fight about what needs to happen, right?

BURNETT: Yes.

CHALIAN: Because if indeed she vanquishes Bernie Sanders, she's going to think back to the conversations that Barack Obama had with her about what he needed from her to help heal the Democratic Party.

BURNETT: And momentum, Bakari, certainly has helped her. Look, the FOX News poll is just one poll among many. But it has come out with a month ago, 13 point lead for Hillary Clinton, now a two point lead. In that month of course he won eight of nine contest, the momentum appears right now to truly be in his court.

SELLERS: And I have to push back a little bit on what was said to my right and this theory about momentum. Because this race again has not been about momentum. This race is purely about demographics. And yes, we understand the diversity of Alaska and we understand the diversity of Hawaii, but we're talking about African-American voters here in New York. We're talking about Hispanic voters here in New York and that's vastly different. That's first.

And second, this enthusiasm gap that we keep making up is purely nonexistent. The fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton is dominating this race by every single metric that you put forth. Whether or not you're looking at the total states won, whether or not you're looking the fact that she's up by two points, four million raw votes or whether or not you're looking at the fact that she's about 200 delegates.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. You're all going to be with me the whole show.

OUTFRONT next, breaking news. A whole crowd of protesters at this hour greeting Trump in New York City tonight. Our angry crowds like this one got to hurt him in the polls or not. We have surprising new numbers. A new poll just released. And those protests are happening where all three GOP candidates are going to be speaking at a gala tonight. Trump will speak first in just moments from now.

And we're less than two miles away from Wall Street where we're sitting right now. The issue that's simply will not go away for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Who will win that crucial fight on stage tonight?

All this as we count you down to tonight's crucial Democratic debate right here in Brooklyn.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:15] BURNETT: Welcome back to a very special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live tonight from Brooklyn, the site of tonight's Democratic presidential debate. Clinton and Sanders facing off less than two hours from now right here on CNN. First breaking news on the Republican side. A new poll just out showing Donald Trump jumping to an 18-point lead over Ted Cruz nationally. Three weeks to go in the same poll his lead was three points.

And tonight, a rare event. Trump, Cruz, Kasich all in the same room. We're going to show you some live pictures of the protests that are growing outside the New York State Republican gala that is where the three candidates are all going to be speaking tonight, many of the protesters chanting "Stop Trump."

Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT. And Sunlen, what are you hearing about these protests tonight?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, the scene inside this Black tie event a stark contrast to what's going on outside. Our team outside reports that there is a group of about 300 protesters. And they report that that group is growing by the minute. They say they are Stop Trump protesters. They're yelling Dump Trump and other anti- Trump sentiments. We know that a short time ago a small group broke off and they tried to cross the street, cross the police barricade, in front of this hotel. That's when a group of NYPD officers stepped in.

There was absolutely no violence we are told, but we are told that there has been some arrests. That's according to our team on the ground outside with those protesters right now. We knew about this stop protest in advance. They were advertising it. They certainly were coming around to reporters outside saying, we will be protesting here later today. So, certainly fitting a large group about 300 protesters at this point, but this is a black tie dinner hosted by the New York State Party. All three Republican candidates, Donald Trump, John Kasich and Ted Cruz will be here, so certainly a prime target for protesters to potentially have their voice be heard tonight. It will be interesting to see as the candidates take the stage here all in one room potentially the same time how they respond to the protest here tonight -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sunlen, thank you very much. And also this evening, Trump's team courting Washington. His campaign actually held private meetings with House Republicans earlier.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT from Capitol Hill, these meetings obviously Manu very important because Trump is trying to build support in Washington instead of just treating it with disdain. Is it working?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the jury is still out, Erin. Today actually began the beginning of a series of weekly meetings that Trump campaign is going to have with members of Congress. Today was only with the supporters of the Trump campaign. Roughly half a dozen or so folks met with a senior level Trump aide Ed Brookover who laid out what the Trump campaign believes is its path to victory and making a very bullish projection that they would lock up this nomination in June in the California primary, where at that point they believe they'll get 1237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED BROOKOVER, SENIOR ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I think we're on a glide path. We have to work hard. We have to talk to the voters, but I think it's a path which has very few obstacles just winning on the first ballot. The hard number is 1237. And then we think we're going to blow way past that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Now, there is discussion about getting to 1265 delegates, which one congressman who left the meeting said, that was a conservative estimate. They think they can get to that. But when I pushed Ed Brookover and said, look, what if you don't get to that 1237. He would not even go there. Really just underscores the real concern within the Trump camp, if they do not clinch before the nomination, it will get much harder in the Republican convention to become the nominee in the second or third ballot -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. To say the least, Manu Raju, thank you very much.

And my panel is back with me now. And Jeffrey, look, you just heard Ed Brookover over there talking to Manu saying, it's going to be a glide path to the nomination. They're now saying, let's talk about a majority. We can do even more than that. Again, the words glide path. Too confident?

JEFFREY LORD, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: There may be a few air pockets along the way.

(LAUGHTER)

LORD: But, you know, I've known Ed Brookover for a long time. He looks younger there. He knows how to bean count as does Paul Manafort. This is what these guys are therefore. This is what, you know, the Trump campaign is evolving into, a regular presidential campaign. And when you have people like this and you hear people like this, they know what they're doing and they're there for a reason.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ: In a normal world, if he were a normal candidate, he would be on a glide path. I mean, it really is, in a new territory where someone is leading by so much, and yet, the base of the party, conservatives are saying, we will not go along with this candidate. There's a movement called Never Trump and it is based on real policy disagreements. They don't trust him on foreign policy, they don't thrust him on health care. I mean, every issue and then you add his personality to it and that's the problem.

I don't see how Donald Trump taking actions to heal that and mechanically he is making changes in this campaign to hire a convention manager. Now, go to outreach in Capitol Hill. These are all things that should have come long ago. He recognizes there is a problem now, but the real problem is Donald Trump the candidate.

[19:21:16] BURNETT: All right. David Chalian, what about the poll that has just come out? Now it is just one poll, right? But a month ago, we had a three point lead for Donald Trump over Ted Cruz. And people were saying, OK, this could be the end. Is Wisconsin the end now? It's at an 18-point lead for Donald Trump.

CHALIAN: Which looks more similar to the polls before we saw (INAUDIBLE) with moment is the outlier here.

BURNETT: Right.

CHALIAN: To me, what is really interesting in this new FOX News national poll is Ted Cruz's national number has gone down significantly and Kasich has jumped up. If that is actually happening, there is going to be a rationale for John Kasich to argue to donors and supporters as to why he should remain in this race. And then there comes to this whole question we've discussed. Do they find a way to organize together or not because they haven't been doing that so far? But I will say, hearing Jeffrey say that Donald Trump is now running a regular presidential campaign all these months into this race, it is kind of astonishing. He is actually starting to put on some of the clothing of being an establishment frontrunner, bringing a team together -- we've just have never seen this before.

GREGORY: But look what he's actually doing -- what he is actually doing is going so over the top saying that the game is rigged, that the party is stacked against him, that everybody wants him to lose while at the same time he is finally putting in place a really sharp inside team that could get him very closer over that magic numbers. And then he would say, wow, look at this. Look at what I was able to pull off despite the fact that it was stacked against me. This is really kind of the political genius that we're seeing in the Trump campaign and the call to personality that he's created.

BURNETT: Right.

GREGORY: Look, if he wins here and wins big, he gets into a situation where he gets to be closer to a glide path. I don't think it's going to be that easy. I don't think they think it's going to be that easy. But it's certainly he's still in command of this race and I think that putting together an inside team, trying to calm down some of the self- inflicted wounds, and finally getting into a winning pattern could do a lot for him.

BURNETT: And Amanda, and this poll also, it shows him with a 45, 45 percent of the voters buying that. You're going to say that is not a majority. It is higher than his previous high though which was 41.

CARPENTER: Yes.

BURNETT: At a time when frankly he went through that horrific week, the week of the abortion comments, the week of Wisconsin, if this is accurate, and I think you have a fair point, right? Is this poll accurate or not, that's a pretty significant move up.

CARPENTER: Yes, I agree. What he's been doing that's so effective, he's avoided talking about any issues, right? Right now he's lying Ted, little Marco. Now he's made the enemy the RNC. He's still not getting into any real policy proposals where he really gets into trouble. He's promised I'm going to produce ten policy speeches. The first one will be about unity. That's not a policy proposal either. He's probably going to continue to get away without defending any real conservative ideas or values or positions, he's probably going to continue to get away and to do okay in the polls, but he has to be pinned down. And that's the challenge, really, for Ted Cruz and Kasich, which is hard without a debate.

LORD: There are serious speeches forthcoming and I know some of the people working on them and they're substantive people and substantive talks.

SELLERS: But also, I think isn't it fair to say that if Wisconsin happened and it wasn't in front of New York where -- this is his home where he is expected to do well, and then you go to Pennsylvania and then you have this North Eastern cluster. I mean, he gets an opportunity to rebound in the states where he's going to do extremely well.

CHALIAN: And listen, we're seeing that even with his high unfavorable ratings going forward into a general election, they weren't impacted. They remained constant in the polls that we're seeing now. It's not that he got more unpopular because if the subtracts. I think his tweet last week summed up his state of mind better than and I'll paraphrase which is like, I am so far ahead. I can't believe I have to fight this hard to actually still get the nomination.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: All right. Great. Well, and tomorrow, by the way, on "NEW DAY," Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski will be on the show right here on CNN at 7 a.m. tomorrow.

OUTFRONT next, the protests, the Trump GOP event in Manhattan, all of the candidates going to appear there. At about 300 protesters right now. And behind me on the skyline, you see a lot of skyscrapers. They are Wall Street. Clinton and Sanders, and all-out war over Wall Street.

And it is going to possibly get nasty on stage tonight. My guest, next guest will be the Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook. And after the break, I'm heading inside the debate hall for the rest of the show. My panel is joining me as we count you down to CNN's Democratic presidential debate. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:29:48] BURNETT: Welcome back to a very special edition of OUTFRONT. We are moments away from the big Democratic debate right here in Brooklyn. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders going to be on the stage behind me. And we are less than two miles away from Wall Street.

[19:30:00] And Hillary Clinton's ties to Wall Street are sure to a very big issue tonight.

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, we can change the status quo.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wall Street.

SANDERS: If you want a candidate who is prepared to stand up to big money interests, to take on the agreed of corporate America, the fraud of Wall Street, if you want that candidate, we need your help.

MATTINGLY: a lightning rod in the Democratic race as it settles on the home turf of America's largest banks.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will appoint regulators who have be as tough and smart as they can be when it comes to dealing with the financial industry.

MATTINGLY: For Bernie Sanders, it's the very core of his campaign. He's unleashed relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton for her ties to Wall Street. For more than $30 million in industry campaign donations to her campaign and super PAC, to accepting nearly $2 million in speaking fees from the largest banks, all attacked on the stump.

SANDERS: We have shown the world that you can run a winning national campaign without being dependent on Wall Street and the big money interest.

MATTINGLY: And on TV.

AD NARRATOR: How does Wall Street get away with it? Millions in campaign contributions and speaking fees. Our economy works for Wall Street because it's rigged by Wall Street.

MATTINGLY: Hillary Clinton firing back.

CLINTON: Name anything they've influenced me on. Just name one thing.

MATTINGLY: And citing her record of reform.

CLINTON: I have the best policy toward dealing with what needs to happen to prevent Wall Street from ever wrecking Main Street again.

She's had trouble answering questions about his core issue, namely dealing with the banks.

MATTINGLY: Bolstered by a Sanders interview with "The New York Daily News" that appeared to, confirm her campaign's central attack line. Big ideas like breaking up the banks, but stuck on the basics and details of actually getting it done.

SANDERS: How do you go about doing it? How you go about doing it is having legislation passed and giving the authority to the secretary treasury to determine under Dodd-Frank that these banks are a danger to the economy under the problem of too-big-to-fail.

QUESTION: But do you think that the Fed now has that authority?

SANDERS: Well, I don't know if the Fed has it.

MATTINGLY: Sanders defending his plan, pointing out he's been calling for a break up of the largest banks for years.

SANDERS: Now, I understand that Wall Street and Goldman Sachs may not like it. Tough luck.

(CHEERS)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY: And, Erin, Sanders advisers saying to expect attacks on Secretary Clinton's relationship with Wall Street early and often tonight. And to hammer that point home, the campaign releasing an advertisement just a few hours ago urging New Yorkers to, quote, "send a message to Wall Street with their vote in this stage on April 19th." Obviously, based on polling, Senator Sanders has a lot of ground to

make up. The campaign willing to bet this is the message that can take them to that point.

The Clinton campaign willing to defend her past and pivot to her future, a reform plan that the campaign likes to point out has a lot of support amongst financial reform advocates, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil Mattingly.

OUTFRONT now with me inside the debate hall is the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, Robby Mook.

Robby, good to have you with me.

I want to get to Phil's reporting in just a moment, but first tonight is a crucial night. How are you feeling about it?

ROBBY MOOK, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: We feel really good. There's no better place for Hillary Clinton to campaign than New York where they saw what she did, how hard she worked, how much she accomplished for the voters here.

So, this is such a great showcase for her to talk about the detailed plans she has to make a difference in people's lives and her record of actually getting that done.

BURNETT: So, "The New Wall Street Journal" poll just out moments ago, Clinton ahead by 17 points in New York. Do you think that's accurate? Seventeen points. That's a big lead, if so.

MOOK: You know, I ignore the polling before an election, particularly these public polls. They've been all over the place.

We're really focused on getting Hillary out, talking to the voters, making our case. We feel very good about how we're going to do here. But, you know, we let the voters decide on election day.

BURNETT: What about the national poll we just mentioned from FOX News? She was ahead by 13 points a month ago. Since then, obviously, Senator Sanders has won eight of the nine contests that's happened. Now, she's ahead just by two points. That drop is all accounted for with a drop among women.

Is that concerning to you?

MOOK: Well, again, I don't put too much stock in these public polls. What I do put a lot of stock in are the election results that we've seen.

Hillary Clinton is leading Bernie Sanders by 2.4 million votes in the popular vote. She is leading in the pledged delegates. Her lead in the pledged delegates is larger than President Obama ever had when he was running against her in 2008. So, these results I think speak very clearly. Hillary is winning this primary.

BURNETT: So, her ties to Wall Street, this is going to come up two miles away.

[19:35:01] In our skyline shot, that's Wall Street. This is a crucial issue for both her and Senator Sanders. It's going to come up tonight.

She was paid more than $3 million for speeches in 2013. Look, it's a lot of money, Robby, by anyone's count, it's a lot of money. Why doesn't she release the transcripts?

MOOK: Well, look, the real question in this primary is who is going to fight against these special interests for them. Hillary went to Wall Street before the crash happened. She spoke out against the dangerous practices. She has released the toughest -- Paul Krugman has called her plan, her Wall Street plan the toughest one out there.

This is the same Hillary Clinton who took on the insurance companies, the health insurance companies, before there was Obamacare. There was Hillarycare. She has a record of fighting on behalf of everyday people and getting real results. I think her record is what people need to look at here and I think it speaks very clearly.

BURNETT: So, one thing people talk about, though, who say her record doesn't fully add up. They say, look, in her first year in the Senate when she was representing New York and Wall Street, she supported a bill that made it harder for consumers to walk away from their debt, a bill Barney Frank has told me he didn't agree with her vote on, a bill that was opposed by consumer groups and union groups, a bill, by the way, she herself had opposed when she was first lady.

And they point to that and they say, oh, once she got in office, she voted for the banks.

MOOK: Well, again, who went to Wall Street before the crash and spoke out? Hillary Clinton. Who has the toughest plan according to Paul Krugman, a leading progressive economist? Hillary Clinton. Who took on the insurance companies when it wasn't popular, got knocked down, and kept fighting until we got health insurance for 8 million kids? Hillary Clinton.

So, you know, I think the record speaks for itself.

Look, Bernie Sanders is out there talking about special interests. I think he needs to be asked -- the NRA funded the opposition to his opponent in his first run for Congress. What did he do? He voted against universal background checks for firearms five times.

So, I think Bernie Sanders has a lot of questions to answer here in New York about his own record on special interests, particularly the gun manufacturers.

BURNETT: Which I'm sure Secretary Clinton will bring up tonight.

But one final question to you -- last night, Senator Sanders, tens of thousands of people came out to a rally. That is something I know you would love to have. Her rallies are different. What will you do to generate that sort of enthusiasm for her? MOOK: Well, look, I'm proud of what Hillary has already done, which

is generate 2.4 million more votes than Bernie Sanders. She's winning the popular vote. She's winning the delegates.

You know, we can point to this, that, or the other thing. You know, I'm also really proud. We've seen her do some very strong events where she can talk with New Yorkers, really hear from them about what they're looking for in their president.

But the fact of the matter remains, Hillary Clinton is winning the popular vote, winning the pledged delegates, and she's going to win the nomination.

BURNETT: All right. Robby Mook, thank you very much.

MOOK: Thank you.

BURNETT: I appreciate being with you tonight.

And OUTFRONT next, the Trump protests are growing right now outside a GOP event in Manhattan tonight. This is a new poll. Shows the frontrunner is the most unpopular candidate for president since David Duke. Have Trump's recent controversies though even hurt him?

Plus, Bernie Sanders leaving tonight for Vatican City. Some call it a big mistake. Is he conceding defeat in New York? My next guest, Sanders' top strategist Tad Devine.

And the key things to watch for tonight. Our expert panel will be back. They'll be with me as we count you down to the crucial debate tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:42:15] BURNETT: Welcome back to a very special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live from Brooklyn, New York, just about an hour away from the big showdown in the Big Apple tonight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They're going to be on the debate stage right behind me.

Sanders going all in today with a new ad with a familiar theme -- taking on Wall Street.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AD NARRATOR: Nothing will change until we elect candidates who reject Wall Street money. Send a message to Wall Street banks and billionaires: enough is enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, the senior adviser for the Bernie Sanders campaign, Tad Devine.

Tad, good to talk to you again.

TAD DEVINE, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Look, Bernie Sanders is about breaking up the big banks, a signature issue of his campaign, defining who he is. He struggled in an interview with a New York paper, "The Daily News", to talk about exactly how and the specifics.

Tonight, is he going to come with all of the details -- arm with those details to fight back against Hillary Clinton?

DEVINE: He sure will. He looks forward to talking about it. I think he actually did a good job with 'The Daily News", but you can tell with their endorsement of Hillary Clinton they weren't going to be nice to Bernie Sanders.

So, you know, Bernie has ambitious plans for this country, not just breaking up the big banks, but ending a rigged economy that's sending almost all new wealth to the top and ending a corrupt system of campaign finance, which is keeping a rigged economy in place. I think he's anxious to talk about that. He looks forward to the opportunity to do it in tonight's debate.

BURNETT: So, Tad, I know there's all kinds of technical questions about how you would break up the banks, but on a really simple level today, we actually looked up how many people the four biggest banks employ in the United States. So, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup, combined more than 700,000 people work for those banks in the United States.

Would breaking them up do more harm than good with all those people losing jobs?

DEVINE: No, it wouldn't, Erin, because those people aren't going to lose their jobs. Listen, we're not talking about ending banking in the United States. We're talking about ending a big banking system which now is too big to fail. It was too big to fail in 2008 and almost destroyed the economy of United States and the rest of the world. And now, the big banks are even bigger.

So, what Bernie is proposing to do is to get back to a 21st century Glass-Steagall to separate commercial banking functions from investment banking functions. So, if we do that, it's not going to result in these banks necessarily being that much smaller, but it will protect our economy from bank failure. Right now, we're vulnerable to it. He wants to break them up. Hillary Clinton doesn't. That's a big difference in this campaign.

BURNETT: So, how do you feel about where you are in New York right now? You know, Bernie Sanders has said if he wins New York, he's going to be on his way to the White House. Obviously, the polls show, the latest one out of "The Wall Street Journal" tonight here in New York, with a 17-point loss to Hillary Clinton in the polls.

Do you think it's going to be closer than that? Are you confident of an all-out win?

DEVINE: Well, listen, I think it will be closer than that. [19:45:01] You know, this is Hillary Clinton's home state. She has

tremendous advantages here. Independents are not allowed to vote. That's been our strongest group in every election primary since New Hampshire.

We saw it again in Wisconsin, you know, a very strong performance with independents. I can see Hillary Clinton has an advantage in her home state, but listen, we think there's plenty of time between now and June to make up the difference in pledged delegates, in New York. I think we have a very strong close. After New York, we have five events next week and we're going to compete there.

BURNETT: And, Tad, before we go, obviously, it's going to be a long night for you because after the debate, Bernie Sanders is getting on a plane to Rome to go to an economic conference at the Vatican. Some people say that's a mistake. If you're narrowing this, if you're fighting, why are you leaving the country? Why do you say to them?

DEVINE: Well, I say it's true. He's going there. He was delighted to be invited by the Vatican to speak at the pontifical institute.

It's going to be a serious speech. It's not a political speech. He's going to talk about something that is very near and dear to him, which is a moral economy.

He is a great admirer of Pope Francis, someone who understands that we have to do something to change a rigged economic system, that just in America but all across the world. So, Bernie is looking forward to doing that.

I don't think we'll lose ground. He'll be back here Saturday for a debate. Hillary is going to Clooney's fundraiser in California. So, they'll both be away. But I think we'll be able to make up any loss time and I'm sure his speech will get a lot of attention.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Tad Devine, I appreciate your time.

And now, let's go back to my panel. Of course, Gloria Borger is now with me, our chief political analyst.

Since you are the new addition to our panel, let me start with you.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.

BURNETT: Both campaigns very confident about tonight, but it is definitely going to be combative on Wall Street and also on the issue specifically of guns, clearly.

BORGER: Yes, I think the question is who lands the first blow, and I think if had to take a bet right now, I would think that Hillary Clinton would sort of sit back and wait for Bernie Sanders to go after her because he's got everything at stake here. He wants to narrow that gap.

Democrats give delegates to everybody. They give participation awards, as my friend David Axelrod likes to say.

BURNETT: Right.

BORGER: So, he's going to come away with a bunch of delegates here, but she -- he needs to narrow that gap. So I think he's going to come out. It wouldn't surprise me if he talked about her speeches. I heard you asking about that before. Talked about her speeches, talked about the fact she earned a bunch of money speaking to Verizon which currently has its labor issues.

I think you're going to hear Sanders draw those contrasts and come out a little bit swinging.

BURNETT: Look, they both have some issues here though on the issue of the banks. So, let's start with Bernie Sanders. 700,000 Americans work for those top four banks. If you broke them up, they're not going to have jobs at new banks tomorrow. It's not going to be that easy. You're going to -- not anywhere else. So, how specific is he going to be able to be about that?

JONATHAN TASINI, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: So, what I would take is the analogy and the parallel to, for example, HR-7676 is the Medicare for all bill in the House, where there is a huge amount of money, about $10 billion, for transition or for retraining. I think that that probably would be the parallel we use in the breaking of big banks and that's common thing to do, when you both in transition. It's been done in the defense industry. You can do that when you break up industries and when industries transition.

I do want to say about the Wall Street -- I do think the Wall Street issue to people has a lot of salience because what they went through in the economic crisis. Millions of people lost their jobs. They lost their pensions. Hillary Clinton, it's now day 69 where she refuses to release the transcripts of the speech she gave at Goldman Sachs pays a $5 billion fine --

BURNETT: Hold on. Why not? Why not release the transcripts?

(CROSSTALK)

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: To Jonathan, just to give my retort to Jonathan, I think we're waiting on Bernie to --

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: He's answering.

TASINI: Why won't you release them?

SELLERS: I love seeing this consummate Bernie brawl -- you know, just narrative come out.

TASINI: Come on. Answer the question.

SELLERS: What she is doing -- she said that she Would release the transcripts when every other person running for office -- BURNETT: But no other person running for office has a million dollars

--

(CROSSTALK)

TASINI: That's absurd.

SELLERS: That's not true, because we know for a fact that Donald Trump has given speeches to Wall Street, paid speeches to Wall Street. We know that as well, and she should be held to the same standard as every other candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

TASINI: That's absurd. We're talking about the Democratic primary. $ Bernie Sanders is not giving speeches to banks. Hillary Clinton has and she's awash in that money.

BURNETT: OK, a quick final word. David Gregory, as the objective observer here, will this issue resonate for Bernie Sanders tonight?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's no question, but it's not going to be as simple as the ads and going after Wall Street money. He's going to have to defend a policy prescription that involves how you're going to deal with the shadow banking system, which was a big part of the level of risk that exploded in 2008. He's going to have to demonstrate a little bit more mastery of detail and executive power, and what kind of legislative game he's going to have if he wants to do something this large.

[19:50:04] Heretofore he's been a little thinner on this. If he wants to go toe to toe with Hillary, there will be vulnerability for both sides.

BURNETT: They got to go on detail tonight.

BORGER: Or with Wolf Blitzer, I'll tell you that. Wolf will press him on it.

BURNETT: We're counting you down to the battle right here in Brooklyn tonight. We're going to take a brief break and we will back, just about an hour away from that big Democratic showdown.

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BURNETT: And we are here, the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the setting for tonight's clutch Democratic debate. Going to be happening just behind where we are. We're about an hour away from kickoff.

So, most important thing to watch for, David Chalian?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We know Bernie Sanders is coming in to draw a contrast, but it's Hillary Clinton coming in to lower the temperature on that stage. They've been mixing it up on the New York campaign trail. She's trying to lower the temperature, set her sights on November, or is she looking to put a statement on this Democratic process the best she can.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If she didn't put that stake there, she'll be concentrating on Donald Trump, and, you know, setting the stage for the fall. She'll play a place a little class warfare, she'll play the war on women card, do all those of things and hoping to move on to that.

BURNETT: Amanda?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the fun part of Republicans watching a Democratic debate is to see what can be used against the Democratic nominee in the general election. So, for Bernie, I'm looking for him to repeat unqualified remark, release the transcripts, things that highlight dishonest, trustworthiness, that's what makes it fun for Republicans.

[19:55:08] BURNETT: Gloria?

BORGER: The issue of guns, the issue of immigration, and of course as you all were talking about before, the issue of Wall Street, and what tone they take in addressing each other. It's been pretty heated out on the trail, as they take here --

BURNET: Well, it is New York.

SELLERS: I think it will be issue just today the judge in the Sandy Hook case allowed that case against liability for gun manufacturers to move forward. I think that's important. And I think that also, people are tired or are growing leery or weary of hearing Bernie Sanders' promises. They want to see how he's going to implement those things, because there was an epic fail on "The New York Daily News."

TASINI: Wall Street, electing a president is not about a resume. It's about morals, principles, what you stand up for and being consistent, and Bernie Sanders wins that debate.

GREGORY: Dual challenge. He's got to get Democrats to turn out. That's where he is falling behind. And can he say something, do something tonight that can help him grow his base? Help him expand his support in the electorate? That's going to be important.

BURNETT: It's not the passion, but he needs to get the numbers up.

All right. Thank you all so very much.

And our presidential debate, it begins in just a little over an hour from now. Stay with us. We'll be back.

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BURNETT: And thank you so much for watching. We are counting you down to the Democratic presidential debate.

Let's hand it off to "AC360" with Chris Cuomo, right now.