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Boehner Torches Cruz as "Lucifer in the Flesh"; Sanders Laying Off Campaign Workers; Is GOP Warming Up to Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 28, 2016 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:00] JULIAN E. ZELIZER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY & PUBLIC AFFAIRS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: In the Soviet Union, Gorbachev decides to do something bold and he says let's separate SDIs from reducing the nuclear stockpile. Once he does this, it opens up the possibility for a third summit.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Relive "The Eighties" tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern, only on CNN.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: "Ted Cruz is Lucifer in the flesh, the most miserable son of rhymes with which he has ever worked with." Those insults not from Donald Trump but from John Boehner, emerging from the shadows to torch Ted Cruz before the race of his life.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So if Boehner has now becoming the face of the Never Cruz movement, what does that mean for the Never Trump movement? Why the Republican establishment is warming up to the billionaire.

BERMAN: Chilling new details about Prince's final hours. Sources now tell CNN what was found on the music legend and how days before he was treated for a possible overdose.

Hello there. I'm John Berman.

BOLDUAN: I'm Kate Bolduan.

Just moments from now, Ted Cruz and his brand new running mate, Carly Fiorina, will be hitting the stage for their first full day of campaigning together. We're going to take you to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where they will be making their pitch to Indiana voters as soon as they begin their freshly minted message aimed at stopping Donald Trump's march to the Republican nomination. The front runner this morning mocking that new alliance.

BERMAN: Their freshly minted message. It still has that new car smell, the message does. But the mocking Donald Trump gave the announcement, nothing compared

to the tongue-lashing Cruz just received from another front. The former speaker of the House. John Boehner, raining down political hellfire almost literally. He reportedly described Ted Cruz as "Lucifer in the flesh."

Let's bring in CNN's political director, David Chalian.

David, I don't think the former speaker meant that in a nice way.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I don't think so either. In fact, it's not the first time that he has referred to Ted Cruz as Lucifer. This is sort of -- has become Boehner's nickname for him perhaps. Let's take a look at what else he said in Stanford when he was out there for an interview in Palo Alto, guys. "He said I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a "blank" in my life."

That -- there's no equivocating right? John Boehner's views on Ted Cruz are pretty darn clear, don't you think?

BOLDUAN: Yes, I think so. I think we could take it that way.

And also, David, Ted Cruz responded, I believe. We can get to that, but that also gets -- this comes at a very critical time for Ted Cruz. The make-or-break, the Hail Mary, the "everything being thrown at it" moment in Indiana for Ted Cruz.

CHALIAN: That is true, and you're right, Ted Cruz did respond in a tweet, which is how modern day campaigning responses work. He said, quote, "Tell me again who will stand up to Washington? Trump, who's Boehner's", quote, "texting and golfing buddy," a reference to something Boehner said in that reference, "or Carly and me."

Listen, guys, I don't know if you will remember but back last September Ted Cruz went to address a social conservative gathering in Washington, the value voters, on the very day that Boehner announced his resignation and he praised those grassroots conservatives for coming to town and driving Boehner out of town. This has not been a friendly duo for quite some time. But I think Ted Cruz has a point in his response. I don't know many Republican primary voters this season taking their cues from John Boehner, the former speaker of the House. You know, it is exactly the energy that has fueled Donald Trump and Ted Cruz to the top of the field after this very crowded nomination season that is the same energy that ousted John Boehner. So I don't know how much impact John Boehner's comments are going to have on Ted Cruz.

BOLDUAN: Oh, we will see though. That's for sure, David Chalian.

Thank you so much.

BERMAN: All right. We need to discuss this further because naughty words were used.

Our panel, Andrew Kirtzman --


BOLDUAN: It just makes us giggle.

BERMAN: -- long-time political journalist, currently president of Kirtzman Strategies; CNN political commentator, Kayleigh McEnany, a Donald Trump supporter; Susan del Percio, Republican strategist and former aid to Rudy Giuliani; and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis.

Susan, let me start with you.

We've all come to know the Never Trump movement. They played a big role over the last month in the campaign. Are we now seeing, with this from John Boehner and some others, the emergence of a never Cruz movement?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, they're certainly going to have to take sides on what they want to do. I think what they're saying right now is the frustration with Cruz, the Lose With Cruz movement, if you will, has been losing steam. That's what we saw about maybe six or eight weeks ago. The Stop Trump folks actually thought let's Lose With Cruz because at least the party will remain intact. Now they seem to be shifting that it's actually better to get behind Donald Trump because he's most likely going to be the party's nominee and that Cruz is becoming much more of a spoiler to this than actually anyone else could be.

[11:05:17] BOLDUAN: I'll say. And no one who knows John Boehner will be surprised by his remarks. I mean, maybe only surprised that he said them so publicly, but this is John Boehner on the loose now that he's no longer in office, I guess we'll say.

Ted Cruz, if you take that statement of how Ted Cruz responded, Errol, it seems, tell me again, who will stand up against Washington? Boehner and Trump essentially or Carly and me? It seems that they are welcoming this and they could just embrace this as part of his he stands up against the Washington cartel message.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's right. That's where Cruz wanted to be all along. Frankly, it's not as if he could walk away from it. Once you call the head of your conference in the Senate a liar on the floor and refuse to retract it, you're pretty much sort of setting yourself in stone.

I think though he's finding out that the Lose With Cruz movement or suggestion or strategy doesn't have the backing of the voters, doesn't have the backing really of his colleagues, doesn't have the backing of the insiders or outsiders. It leaves him in a very difficult place, and I think that partly explains the big gap in delegates between him and Donald Trump.

BERMAN: It's a dangerous ground though, Kayleigh, for Donald Trump because, you know, take Ted Cruz's point. Donald Trump is texting and golfing with a former speaker of the House. That as insidery as it gets. And isn't Donald Trump supposed to be an outsider?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think it's going to hurt him because he laid down his stakes earlier in the cycle when he stop with Colorado voters and says I'm against disenfranchising one million Colorado voters. When he called out some of the shady delegate tactics, people took a very firm stance against the RNC, against the GOP. Now people are coming together. We see Colorado is now going to let their citizens vote next time. You know, yippee, yeah, hooray, we get to be excited that we get to vote next time around. So he laid his stakes at the beginning when Ted Cruz was embracing these shady tactics, the disenfranchising of the American voters. It's time for the party to come together because he can't beat Hillary otherwise.

BOLDUAN: So I want to take a moment to look at the Democratic side of the race. The announcement coming out from the Bernie Sanders campaign that they're laying off hundreds of their campaign staff. They say that this is the evolution of a campaign, but is that the evolution of a campaign that's looking to a general election?

ANDREW KIRTZMAN, PRESIDENT KIRTZMAN STRATEGIES & POLITICAL JOURNALIST: No. I think Bernie Sanders is kind of acting in a classy way. He's just saying the writing is on the wall and he's got a huge following, and he's going to respect that following by taking it all the way. But you know, you already have signs of him kind of moderating the criticism against Hillary. She's got a big job ahead of her in order to keep his voters or get his voters to follow her. You know, I think her best gambit is just to say, you know, look at the alternative, right? Look at Trump. Like, you got to stay with me. You know, Sanders looks like he's going to go along and be kind of a good Democrat.

PERCIO: When you know you're going to back out of a campaign or you think you're going to win rather, if you're going to go into the general, you reallocate resources. You put them in different places. You don't fire people. So it's a clear sign that he has -- he's going to wind this down.

BERMAN: Donald Trump is one of the cheapest guys allegedly around, and he's staffing up right now, because he thinks he may be going to the general election or wants to get there. Bernie Sanders cutting is a different story.

I want to go back to the Never Trump movement, Errol, because something interesting has happened. Tim Miller, a spokesman for our principles back which is the pre-eminent PAC fighting Donald Trump now, is essentially threatening Republicans to get off the sidelines now and get into the game of stopping Trump. And he did some tweets this morning. He said, "If your 2020 litmus test is did you stand up for conservative values in the face of an orange demagogic GOP takeover, the field is rather small." Essentially, saying people aren't standing up. And then he went on in another tweet, CC: Governor Pence in Indiana, among many others. Governor Pence, in Indiana, hasn't endorsed yet, and I think you can see Ted Cruz supporters and people who want to Stop Trump are getting pretty annoyed by that.

LOUIS: Yeah. Look, the problem is with the very practical business. And I think the market for people making symbolic gestures based on how they might be seen in the light of history of in 2020 is going to be rather small. But the business at hand is the fall elections and the next administration. For a lot of people, apparently, including Governor Pence, they don't see it the way the Never Trump people see it. Look, it is so unreasonable to ask any sitting politician to back somebody they think cannot win for any reason.

BOLDUAN: You mean stand up on principle if they agree with him?

LOUIS: You know, the principle of losing and being out of the game or the principle of being on the outs with the White House for hour years is a tough one for a lot of people to --


PERCIO: Practicality, yeah.

[11:09:56] LOUIS: And, frankly, if you are in charge of the state of Indiana and you have to look out for your constituents, annoying the next president, if you think that's going to be the next president, if you really look at the numbers and you sort of see it one way, is really hard, and in a way sort of unprincipled to ask somebody, throw your constituents to the wolves, throw your own political career in the backseat because of this principle that we think you should hold to. Maybe he's not --


PERCIO: And it's also really hard to ask someone to stand up with you when you have nobody that you're supporting. You're saying come be with me in this, you know, super PAC and go against Donald Trump. I'm asking you to support Washington insiders, super PAC donors? Who? There's no one there.


MCENANY: Susan has such an excellent point. There are people -- and it's a small group, our Principles PAC is the leader of it -- who have staked their claim on being negative. Negative denial of a candidate rather than passionate advocacy on behalf of a candidate, and that's a problem the conservative movement has had for a while, the party of no, that's been it's reputation. And this negative Never Trump movement is at the helm of it. It's a small group and they're going away.

BERMAN: Guys, stand by. A lot more to talk about.

BOLDUAN: On just that topic, yeah. Exactly.

We also just learned, moments from now, Ted Cruz would be speaking with reporters in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, before he's going to be holding a rally. It looks like they're setting up for it right now. We'll see how he reacts. If he takes questions, he might be asked about John Boehner.

BERMAN: I bet that's why they're setting up the press conference.

Making peace. Republican lawmakers may be warming up to the idea of Donald Trump as the nominee. Will the party fall in line behind him?

BERMAN: And also new details into Prince's death. Pills found with the singer at the time of his death. What role did they play? We'll be right back.


[11:15:31] BOLDUAN: First on CNN, a top Republican in the Senate who, not long ago, called Donald Trump "an albatross to the party" is now singing quite a different tune. So is Washington starting to warm up to the idea of a Donald Trump nomination.

BERMAN: Our CNN senior political reporter, Manu Raju, has been doing some digging.

Some really interesting conversations, Manu. Tell us what you learned.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. It's been a remarkable shift over the last couple weeks, guys. Remember, Republicans were very nervous that Donald Trump would actually wipe away their Senate majority, possibly even put the House at risk, but that's started to change as Trump is starting to move towards the Republican nomination and Republicans are looking for unity.

John Cornyn, the number-two Senate Republican, told me in February that Trump could be an albatross to down-ticket Republicans. When I asked him about that yesterday, he said Trump could expand the map, perhaps could win the majority. "We'll be fine," he said.

Similarly, Mark Sanford, a congressman from South Carolina, who supports Ted Cruz, said that Donald Trump -- we're getting around to the fact that Donald Trump could be the nominee.

Earlier today on "New Day," Tom Coburn, a big time Trump critic, sounded more open to the idea of Trump being the nominee.


DR. TOM COBURN, (R), FORMER OKLAHOMA SENATOR: I think he's going to be the nominee. It seems obvious to me at this time. It's going to be pretty hard to stop him. And what I would say is he's probably wearing on people where they're starting to see something besides superlatives and starting to see some substance, and so I think it's something that we're going to see over time.


RAJU: Now, I should caution there are still a lot of folks in that Never Trump movement, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said the Republicans would be, quote, "creamed," if Donald Trump becomes the nominee. But clearly there's a split on Capitol Hill, guys, and some folks are starting to embrace the idea that Trump will be the party's standard bearer.

BERMAN: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us.

Manu, great reporting.

Let's bring back our panel to discuss.

Andrew, does it sound to you or seem to you like D.C. insiders, these elected officials, are warming to Donald Trump or are they coming to terms with Donald Trump, and I suppose does the distinction matter?

KIRTZMAN: You know, these are transactional people. You know, let's take a step back for a second. If the election were held today, it would be a complete washout, right? The majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of Donald Trump. Three-quarters of women have an unfavorable view of him. 91 percent of African-Americans have an unfavorable view of him. So I don't think you're going to see a stampede towards Donald Trump. I think you're going to see a trickle towards Donald Trump. I mean, you know, like I said, these are transactional people, and the women's vote alone is a major problem, and there was a reason that Carly Fiorina was singing lullabies during her speech. They're going after the women's vote. It's a huge problem for Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: I want to get back to the Never Trump movement and kind of the impact and maybe the postmortem that may already be ending with the Never Trump movement.

Susan, you touched on this.

The Florida governor actually said -- and, yes, he's a Trump supporter, but he said the Never Trump movement never worked, it needs to be disbanded. He wrote this, "If the anti-Trump groups don't stop now, their efforts will be nothing more than a contribution to the Clinton campaign."

So if the Never Trump movement hasn't worked, just start there, is it helping the Clinton campaign, though?

PERCIO: I don't think they've done anything as to date that would actually help Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump's negatives and the things that people dislike about him are very clear and well known and defined. Donald Trump has, in fact, been the one to define himself, going out there, saying things that people -- every day, saying I can't believe he said that. And then doubling down on them whether it's -- what he said about Hillary Clinton and being a woman is the only thing she has going for her, and then double downing on it the next day.

But it is a very good point as to if -- do you have to recognize that this movement isn't working, and I think there's a lot of people in Washington who are concerned that not only is this not working, that Donald Trump's message and why we have to more or less come to terms with it and figure out how to maybe not embrace it but calculate our own campaigns against it is that this is going to be a populist campaign. Donald Trump is going to not move, necessarily pivot to the center but pivot to this system is rigged and throw the bums out. So you're going to have a lot of are incumbents who are going to be very, very scared.

[11:20:05] BERMAN: Kayleigh, let's talk about the message. Yesterday was it was foreign policy. He gave a big foreign policy speech. Not specifics, but there were some things specifically not discussed. He didn't talk about building the wall. He didn't talk about banning Muslims from entering the United States. He didn't talk about bringing back torture. He didn't talk about giving nuclear weapons or having Japan and South Korea get nuclear weapons again. Is that an acknowledgment that those proposals, if they were at before, are wrong? Is he softening his message? Or is he just -- is he just trying to address a different audience?

MCENANY: A different audience because here is the thing, for a long time he was trying to differentiate himself vis-a-vis a Republican field. Now he's trying to differentiate himself vis-a-vis Hillary Clinton. It doesn't mean the proposals go away but it mans he needs to draw a contrast. Now it's the irony that Hillary Clinton is the one who looks like a neoconservative interventionist in Syria and Libya, toppling foreign dictatorships and ISIS filling the vacuum. Donald Trump is drawing the contrast, I am going to do the reverse. I'm going to put America First. We are going to say here. So it is an odd reversal of Hillary Clinton looking like a Neo Con and Donald Trump looking like very conservative on foreign policy.

BERMAN: Guys, we have to leave it there. An interesting difference on world views, to be sure.

Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, thanks, guys. Really appreciate it.

We have coming up new details about the hours before Prince died. What police found with the musical icon and how he was treated for a potential overdose just days before his death. We'll go to Minneapolis.

BERMAN: And Comedian Larry Wilmore hosting the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend. In a rapid fire response, Wilmore tells me what he really thinks. Word association about the field of presidential candidates.

BOLDUAN: What did he say about John Berman when you said John Berman?

BERMAN: He loved me.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. Sure.


[11:26:12] BERMAN: Live pictures from Indiana where the Cruz campaign just put together a news conference pretty quickly. We expect to hear Ted Cruz to respond to John Boehner who called him "Lucifer in the flesh." We'll bring this to you when it starts.




BOLDUAN: First, we have new details into the death of the music icon, Prince. The medical examiner there says it could still be weeks before learning the official autopsy results, but investigators do say now that prescription drugs, they were found with Prince when he was discovered unresponsive in his home.

BERMAN: There's more, too. Remember the health scare the week before his death when the plane he was on had to make an unscheduled stop? It turns out Prince may have been treated for a potential overdose of pain medication. That is according to the official.

CNN's Stephanie Elam is live from outside Prince's home in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

Stephanie, what are you learning?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, this is the newest development that we have here is this powerful painkiller that was found on Prince's body and also in his house here at Paisley Park. This is coming from officials saying this is what is happening here.

So interesting enough for these investigators that they've looped in the DEA to help them. At issue, they want to find out who is prescribing this medication to Prince, if he was overprescribed, and if it could have interfered with any other medicines he may have been taking. But when you combine this with the fact that this happened and the fact that plane did come down early on his flight back from Atlanta from those concerts about a week before he passed away, they're looking at these two things and trying to figure out if they are linked since they do believe he was treated for a potential overdose at that time. So that's where the investigation is now going.

Of course, as you said, the toxicology report will clarify a lot of this, but it will be a couple more weeks before we actually know the answers -- Kate and John?

BOLDUAN: A couple more weeks still.

Stephanie Elam with the details for us.

Stephanie, thank you so much.

Let's continue the discussion. Let's bring in right now CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, with much more on this.

Sanjay, it's great to see you.

A couple things on this, and I know this is an area you've done a lot of reporting on. On the fact that there is this -- the reporting is that his plane made an emergency landing and he was possibly treated for an overdose in the hospital days before his death. What would that treatment have actually entailed? What would he have been like after work?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a well-known treatment for this exact sort of thing. It's a medication known as Narcan or Naloxone. It's basically an antidote for an overdose of opioids. It basically reverses the effects of the opioids in the body and it can with work very, very quickly. It's something we've been doing a lot of reporting on because it can essentially rescue or save someone in the throes of an overdose. They give it. It works quickly, within minutes. Typically, within a half our or 30 to 90 minutes, that medication is really out of the body. So someone can be pretty much back to normal fairly quickly after taking a medication like this. And it's used quite often in situations like this situation possibly was.

BERMAN: You know, Sanjay, the painkillers being discussed here, just how addictive are they?

GUPTA: Well, you know, John, they can be very addictive. There are plenty of people out there who get legitimate pain pills for legitimate pain concerns, and they do well, they come off of them with no problem. But, you know, there's a certain percentage of people who do become addicted to these. They have to keep taking them. And it's not just a physical dependence on them. It is an addiction, meaning that it actually interferes with their way of life. Again, no one is suggesting that's specifically what happened here, but, John, one of the statistics that always drives me a little that in the United States, we consume 80 percent of the world's pain pills. We're 5 percent of the world's population. We take 80 percent of the world's --