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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Hillary vs Bernie; Trump at War With Republican Party. Aired 4- 4:30p ET
Aired April 15, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Each party doing a great job at beating themselves up.
THE LEAD starts right now.
He says the system, the same system that has him in first place by a large margin, is rigged, and, today, Donald Trump is doubling down on his war with the Republican Party.
A bare-knuckle fistfight on the Brooklyn docks between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but with just four days until New Yorkers vote, did either side draw blood?
Plus, nagging heartburn gone, but at what cost? The new serious warning about drugs that many of you probably have in your medicine cabinet right now.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in again today for Jake Tapper. And we start today with the politics lead.
Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders are far from alone in trading jabs in what's become a fierce fight for the White House, today, Donald Trump launching a new round of attacks against his own party. In a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed today, he's calling the GOP primary system rigged against Americans and a flagrant abuse of the rules.
And now the Republican Party is pushing back. Today, all three Republican candidates are on the trail across New York just four days before that Empire State that is my home state's primary.
Let's go now to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty. She is traveling with Ted Cruz in Rochester, New York.
So, Sunlen, in the same breath, you have Donald Trump not only going after his party, but of course going after his closest opponent, Ted Cruz.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim.
Donald Trump really intensifying his attacks on the Republican Party and the system writ large of choosing delegates. And really, in doing so, he's also notably ramping up attacks on Ted Cruz, really trying to connect him to the insiders, the party insiders and the system that he's railing against.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who the hell wants to talk about politics all the time, right?
SERFATY (voice-over): But Donald Trump is talking politics today, intensifying his aggressive criticism of the RNC and the GOP's nominating rules, out with a scathing op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" blasting the system for what he calls a flagrant abuse of the rules.
The GOP front-runner also tearing into his rival, Ted Cruz, tying him to party insiders he alleges are stacking the deck against him, writing -- quote -- "The great irony of this campaign is that the Washington cartel that Mr. Cruz rails against is the very group he's relying upon in his voter nullification scheme."
The chairman of the Republican National Committee pushing back today in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Delegates on the floor choose the nominee of the party after being empowered by the voters. This is a very normal system that we have been using for many years.
SERFATY: The RNC also firing back by throwing down the rule book, blasting out a pointed memo, noting that the rules were set last October, writing -- quote -- "It ultimately falls on the campaigns to be up to speed on these delegate rules."
Trump today looking ahead to his home state's primary Tuesday.
TRUMP: I think we're going to close it out before the convention, to be honest with you. We have a great -- so important is for you to get out and vote.
SERFATY: Picking up the endorsement of "The New York Post" editorial board today and receiving the warmest reception of the three Republican contenders at a black-tie event in Manhattan.
TRUMP: You know, I talked tonight about New York values that we all, many of us, that we all know so well.
SERFATY: Ted Cruz, moments later on the same stage, finding a less receptive audience, but a group of Trump's former "Apprentice" stars...
KWAME JACKSON, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: I think America is often beguiled by a billionaire because he's shiny.
SERFATY: ... teaming up today to denounce Trump.
TARA DOWDELL, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Donald Trump is validating people's hate and bigotry in a way that I truly believe has the potential to tear this country apart. SERFATY: Meantime, Ted Cruz back campaigning on Trump's home turf
today, brushing off Trump's allegations.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And it is not surprising when a candidate loses 11 elections in a row he's unhappy about it, and so he complains. And that's fine.
SERFATY: And having a laugh on the late-night couch at Trump's expense.
CRUZ: Well, Donald, last year, the Colorado state GOP, they voted to cancel their statewide primary and instead to hold district conventions to elect their 34 delegates. We have known this all along and I won those elections fair and square.
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JIMMY FALLON": You know what I think? I think the people of Colorado did vote, but they were so high, they completely forgot. And let's face it, anyone that high definitely voted for me, so basically I won Colorado.
SERFATY: And that Donald Trump op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" just the latest sign that it seems the Trump campaign is trying to hit the reset button a bit.
The way in which Donald Trump is now airing his grievances, expressing frustration, not as much these middle-of-the-night tweets, but now done in a more formalized way, so, certainly, Jim, it seems that the Trump campaign is trying to recalibrate a bit -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question. Sunlen Serfaty, with the Cruz campaign in New York, thank you.
Switching to the Democrats now, let's get loud. That could easily have been the theme for last night's brawl in Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton shouting over each other at times. These two rivals seem to be sick and tired of each other, their supporters getting rowdy too, but the candidates got downright combative.
CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, he is in New York.
Jeff, it wasn't long ago the candidates were declaring a truce, saying we're going to get civil, enough of this back and forth. But, clearly, the gloves are off again.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about that, Jim.
A close race is exactly what happened here. That is what's shifting the tone. From guns and trade, financial reform to foreign policy, those disagreements between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders came through loud and clear, but, as you said, mainly loud. It was the most contentious debate yet, as time is running short in their primary fight.
ZELENY (voice-over): A day after the contentious Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton went their separate ways, Sanders flying to Rome for a Vatican conference on economic and social justice. There was no meeting with Pope Francis, but a chance for Sanders to speak on the world stage.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We must reject the foundations of this contemporary economy as immoral and unsustainable.
ZELENY: For Clinton, a quick visit to Harlem.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I now know where to come when I want a good game of dominoes.
ZELENY: Before heading to Hollywood for a weekend of star-studded fund-raising with George Clooney.
But, tonight deep, divisions are hanging over the Democratic race after their brawl in Brooklyn.
SANDERS: I am sure a lot of people are very surprised to learn that you supported raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.
SANDERS: That's just not accurate.
CLINTON: I have stood on the debate stage with Senator Sanders.
ZELENY: Their voices rising, CNN's Wolf Blitzer had to play referee.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If you're both screaming at each other, the viewers won't be able to hear either of you.
ZELENY: A fierce fight over a $15 minimum wage to a sarcastic clash over the influence of big banks.
SANDERS: When millions of people lost their jobs and their homes and their life savings, the obvious response to that is that you got a bunch of fraudulent operators and that they have got to be broken up.
CLINTON: It may be inconvenient, but it's always important to get the facts straight. I stood up against the behaviors of the banks when I was a senator. I called them out on their mortgage behavior. SANDERS: Oh, my goodness. They must have been really crushed by
this. And was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements behind them?
ZELENY: On the debate stage, Clinton expressing regret for the 1994 crime bill her husband signed into law.
CLINTON: My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it. I'm sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people's lives.
ZELENY: After the debate, we asked Sanders, who actually voted for the bill, whether he had any regrets.
SANDERS: In retrospect, it was a vote that led to a lot of awful things. There were good -- but here's the difficult -- you can't say in retrospect, if I had voted the other way.
I would had Secretary Clinton saying, Bernie Sanders, you had an opportunity to vote against to ban assault weapons. You didn't do that.
ZELENY: From start to finish, the tone was unmistakably sharper from early on in the race, when Sanders game to Clinton's aid.
SANDERS: The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.
CLINTON: Thank you. Me too, me too.
ZELENY: But, boy, Jim, that moment there, that moment of collegiality, almost seems like from another campaign entirely. And in a sense, it actually is. Such a defining moment here. The next fight, the New York primary in just four days' time -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: No question members of the GOP enjoying watching this, Jeff Zeleny in New York.
From Brooklyn all the way to Rome, CNN's Ben Wedeman joins me live right outside the Vatican, where Bernie Sanders spoke earlier today.
So, Ben, from the beginning, the Vatican has said the pope would not meet with Sanders, but we're hearing now there's a slight chance that that could happen in the end?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, here's the situation, Jim.
It's 10:00 -- just after 10:00 p.m. at night here. We understand that Senator Sanders and some of his closest aides are still inside the Vatican, but the vast majority of the traveling press and his other staff are at a hotel outside the Vatican. And many believe that he will be spending the night in Casa Santa
Marta, which is the residence of the Vatican, sort of like a hotel, where it just so happens that Pope Francis lives as well.
It's not a big place, so there's a very good chance that perhaps, late at night, if one of them is going out for a late-night snack, they may run into one another, an official meeting, perhaps not, but a meeting nonetheless.
Now, earlier in the day, Senator Sanders, he gave this speech in this conference on the changes in the global economy in the last 25 years, afterwards, coming out to speak to journalists and supporters here in Rome, stressing on familiar themes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: I have been enormously impressed by Pope Francis speaking out and his visionary views about creating a moral economy, an economy that works for all people, not just the people on top.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEDEMAN: And these are both men who really have stressed the importance of economic justice. It's worth noting that Pope Francis, in fact, not long ago referred to unfettered capitalism as the dung of the devil -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: So, Ben, they do have that common message on spreading the wealth, in effect, but they have a lot of differences on issues such as abortion. But does that necessarily hurt the chances the pope shows his support for Sanders?
WEDEMAN: Well, certainly, yes, it's important to keep in mind that, despite these very apparent points of agreement, when it comes to same-sex marriage, contraception, abortion, they're really at opposite ends of the argument.
But, nonetheless, the fact that he's here, the fact that an academy of the Vatican, not the pope himself, invited him at this point in the campaign does suggest that within the bureaucracy of the Vatican, among the top aides of Pope Francis, there are those who view his positions, particularly on economics, quite favorably -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: A lot of Catholics in New York, a lot of Catholics in the Democratic primaries for sure as well, Ben Wedeman outside the Vatican in Rome.
Well, all campaign long, we have talked a lot about the Republican Party splitting at the seams. Now one Republican leader says it is Clinton and Sanders who are -- quote -- "gouging each other's eyes out." Are the Democrats on the verge of splintering too?
That's right after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:16:41] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to understand that in America, we should be thinking big, not small.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think you've got to go at this with a sense of how to accomplish the goal we are setting.
SANDERS: Incrementalism and those little steps are not enough.
CLINTON: I don't take a back seat to your legislation that you've introduced that you haven't been able to get passed. I want to do what we can do to actually make progress in dealing with the crisis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto.
As you heard right there, last night's showcase, the very different approaches that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders take to politics. Many casting Sanders as the dreamer, Clinton liking to see herself as the doer.
Let's talk about the debate with our panel. Patti Solis Doyle, here with me in Washington. She supports Hillary Clinton. Ben Wikler, he supports Bernie Sanders. Ron Nehring, he's national spokesman for the Cruz campaign. David Wohl, he's a Donald Trump supporter.
So, if I could begin with the Democrats here with me in Washington first.
You know, there was a moment a little more than a week ago where Sanders said Hillary Clinton wasn't qualified. That was a tough 24 hours, and they said, ah, let's put the gloves back on. We don't want to be damaging each other. We want to really focus on Trump, blah, blah, blah. That disappeared last night. That was a rough night head-to-head for the Democrats -- Patti.
PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR/HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: Yes. I think, look, it was definitely the most fiery they have gotten with each other ever, and I think it's for two reasons. One, first of all, it's been a long, grueling year and I think it's fair to say they're just not that into each other anymore.
And second of all, it's imperative for each of them to win the New York primary. For Hillary, she's from the state, she represented the state for eight years, she lives there with her husband and her daughter lives there too.
But for Bernie Sanders, it's even more of an imperative. He needs to prove that he can actually win a large, diverse state, which he hasn't really proven yet. He also needs to cut into her delegate lead. This is sort of the last chance for him to do that.
SCIUTTO: Ben, I want to give you a chance to respond to that because that was the gauntlet that was thrown down there, but first on the infighting here.
BEN WIKLER, WASHINGTON DIRECTOR, MOVEON.ORG : Sure.
SCIUTTO: How damaging is that to the party, both in the primary now, but just also looking forward to the general?
WIKLER: I actually think it's great. There's nothing wrong with a little energy in politics. You could see from the crowd, they were fired up. They were fired up for both candidates.
You could see the candidates were battle tested and ready to fight and they're going to bring that energy, whoever is the nominee, into the general election.
It's also appropriate because the stakes are so high. You could hear it on the fight over the $15 minimum wage, over expanding Social Security, about how to rein in the power of Wall Street and reform the campaign finance system. These are really important issues, and if both of them didn't believe so much in what they were doing, I don't think you'd have had same kind of energy, but they do. I think that's a great thing for the party.
SCIUTTO: David, if I could go to you for the Republican point of view and I know your candidate, Donald Trump, your candidate, has his issues with the RNC. But I just want your response to what Reince Priebus said about last night. He said, Clinton and Sanders were gouging each other's eyes out.
I have to imagine the Republicans watched and kind of chuckled a little bit, and shook their heads and said, see, there you go. You guys are damaging each other like some of our candidates have been doing to each other.
DAVID WOHL, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, you know, it's too bad Bernie didn't start that a little bit earlier. But, you know, as far as momentum goes, Hillary is in a death spiral now. Leave New York, she's lost eight of the last nine primaries. Bernie is a much more likeable guy. She's got this e-mail scandal hanging over her head.
[16:20:02] There was this Romanian hacker extradited by the FBI who may turn state's evidence. Apparently, he hacked into Sid Blumenthal's email, apparently some of those were between him and Clinton. That could be really, really damaging obviously.
So, Bernie is going to hang in there. He's going to go full bore. He's going to -- unfortunately, he didn't start these attacks with a sledgehammer earlier. If he keeps it up and one slip-up happens or one indictment happens, I mean, that could turn the whole campaign upside down.
SCIUTTO: Well, before I go to you, Ron, I've got to give Patti a chance to contest or at least respond to Hillary Clinton in a death spiral.
DOYLE: Yes. I kind of want to hear your definition of a death spiral. She's got, let's see, 2.4 million more votes than Bernie Sanders, she's got a 200-plus delegate lead against Bernie Sanders, she's got a superdelegate lead. I know we don't want to talk about delegates, but she's got a superdelegate -- every metric that there is, she's winning.
So, death spiral seems a little --
WOHL: OK, but she lost -- she's lost eight -- eight of the last nine primaries, she's lost. She's going into her home state. Well, she's a carpet bagger anyway in New York, and she's got to win that big. She probably will.
But I'm telling you right now, if you're just going to assume there's going to be no indictment over this e-mail scandal, if you're just going to say she's a Clinton, it won't stick to her, then you're really on thin ice because there's much more this in my investigation than meets the eye right now.
DOYLE: There is no indictment because there is no criminal investigation. There will be no indictment.
WOHL: The FBI is investigating. That's a criminal investigation by definition.
SCIUTTO: I see Ben, who's with the Sanders campaign. You know Sanders' position on this, but you're shaking your ad there.
WIKLER: I'm also sick and tired of hearing about Secretary Clinton's damn e-mails. Frankly, that's not what this fight is about. This is a fight over a vision for the country. It's a fight over how to make change.
You know, Sanders is going at this so strongly because he thinks you lay out a big, bold vision for where we need to go, and then you fight all the way there and build a movement to do it. Secretary Clinton has her differences with Sanders, but this is a substantive debate.
DOYLE: That's right.
WIKLER: It is not like the character assassination and hand size comparisons that you see on the Republican side.
SCIUTTO: Ron, let me ask you with the Cruz campaign, do you think the e-mail issue is going to stick with Hillary Clinton, presuming she goes forward to the general?
RON NEHRING, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, TED CRUZ FOR PRESIDENT: Yes, I think that's a great question and I think what we see on the dynamic, we believe that Hillary Clinton will be -- is more likely to be the Democratic nominee, although clearly she's not as strong of a candidate as some people on her side would care to believe. I mean, in 2008, she was the presumptive Democratic nominee. She lost that primary contest to Barack Obama, showing that she does not have Bill Clinton's political skills.
And then now, in this contest, this is going on much longer than anyone had ever anticipated. She's a virtual incumbent and yet she's being given a run for her money by a self-avowed socialist on the Democratic side.
But, ultimately, the issue -- the e-mail scandal and her behavior is relevant because it undermines public perception of trust in her. And we see that on all sides. That's part of the reason why Bernie Sanders is doing well. It's part of the reason why she doesn't do well in general election matchups against -- you know, against Republicans.
And I think this is a serious, long term for the other team. Regardless of who the nominee is on the Democratic Party, neither one of those nominees is going to emerge in a particularly strong position and trust and confidence is a serious problem for Hillary Clinton.
SCIUTTO: Listen, I want everybody to hold their thoughts because we have the luxury today of several minutes with our panel. We're going to come back to the panel after this break.
But, first, North Korea is preparing to mark a key holiday. So how do they celebrate the communist country? With a missile launch, of course, but things didn't go exactly as planned.
Then, danger lurking under the surface. Russian submarine activities at a level not seen since the Cold War and the U.S. military is extremely concerned about keeping up.
[16:28:12] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
I want to pick back up with our political panel here. I first want to play some sound because today six former contestants from "The Apprentice" real show, of course, Donald Trump's show, held a news conference today to tell Donald Trump in effect, "you're fired". Listen to some of their comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KWAME JACKSON, FORMER APPRENTICE CONTESTANT: Trump has created a toxic ecosystem in our political discourse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't see the globe of the world or the diversity of America reflected in the leadership of the Trump organization.
TARA DOWDELL, FORMER APPRENTICE CONTESTANT: Donald Trump is validating people's hate and his bigotry in a way that I truly believe has the potential to tear this country apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: David, I want to go to you as a Trump supporter here. They say Trump's campaign has included sexisms, xenophobia, racism, hate. Even some of the former candidates I heard -- some of the former contestants I heard saying, listen, it's not the Donald Trump we dealt with on the show but his public message, and, of course, to state the obvious, all the people who participated in that press conference were people of color who feel like they are targets in this campaign.
What's your response?
WOHL: My response is, you know, I know colleagues in my profession, attorneys of all races, Hispanics, blacks, Asians who are coming onboard to the Trump train, so to speak. People are realizing now that what he says, some of the invective is just that. That it's not substance, and that what he has is ideas about building a wall, about bringing back jobs to America, after preserving the Second Amendment, about eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.
It's the substance that counts. And that's the same with the women I know. Some women are offended by what he has said. But a lot of women are buying into his platform, which is critically more important. So they're entitled to their opinion, those former contestants on his show.
But millions and millions more Americans are saying, "You're hired, Mr. Trump. We want you in the White House." And that's obviously more important.
SCIUTTO: Patti and Ben, your response.
WIKLER: He's literally inciting people to violence, and then they are committing acts of violence.