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Cruz/Rubio Would Have Beat Trump; Trump: Hillary an Enabler to Bill Clinton Abuse of Women; Paul Ryan Would Step Down as Convention Chair if Trump Asked; North Carolina Files Suit against Feds over Bathroom Law. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 9, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It would have been a blow out, according to a source close to Ted Cruz who says Cruz could have stopped Donald Trump if Marco Rubio had signed on as Cruz's running mate back in March.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: In March. This is a long time ago, folks, before Florida and Ohio. The Cruz campaign apparently, you know, called the Rubio team and actually poll tested the idea of this unity ticket in five primary states and says Cruz/Rubio would have beaten Trump in a landslide, 65 percent/35 percent. This is all information Jake Tapper got over the weekend from Team Cruz. It really is pretty interesting.

Here to discuss, Jeff DeWitt, Arizona state treasurer and a Donald Trump surrogate; Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief, "The Daily Beast"; and Kevin Sheridan, former senior advisor for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and former RNC spokesman.

Kevin, I want to start with you here.

You know, is this sort of like missed opportunity, a dream, or is this a type of dream that is only ever a dream and would never really happen?

KEVIN SHERIDAN, FORMER RNC SPOKESMAN & FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, MITT ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I mean, we'll never know. I don't totally buy it. I think, you know, Ted Cruz -- in some ways, it's an attractive ticket but Ted Cruz had some problems that were structural and some problems with his likability. Marco Rubio is a very likable candidate and came across as youthful and energetic, and in some ways they were similar but he was more -- better in the likability scale. I don't know that that jumps to Ted Cruz just because they become a ticket. So I don't actually think that it honestly would have mattered. The Republican Party was looking for an outsider and they got it in Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: But, Jackie, to Kevin's point, do you think if all of this is accurate, the polling is accurate, what Cruz is saying, these conversations, Cruz said these conversations were kind of, sort of, maybe happening. Do you think it ever would have happened? You know the tenor and the tone of the race back in march. It was crazy.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It certainly doesn't seem like that. It just seems like the Cruz campaign is sort of looking to pass the buck a little bit, when, in fact, when you get down to it, they had a product that not a lot of Republicans wanted to buy at the end of the day. Cruz never really sold it. Like said, his likability problem. It's not like Rubio's likability would have transferred because there were so many variables that happened over the course of those months. Who knows? It is a little bit -- it seems like they're trying to shift some blame to someone else.

BERMAN: It's interesting, there's the Rubio story Jake broke over the weekend, and then Jeff Roe, Cruz's former campaign manager has been tweeting essentially that they could have won if John Kasich had been out. There's a lot of finger pointing in all directions from the Cruz team.

Jeff, I want to talk about a few things we've learned on the show in the first --

BOLDUAN: Talk about the now.

BERMAN: Yeah, talk about the now. We talked to Grover Norquist about taxes. He's OK with Donald Trump's plans. He trusts Donald Trump. We talked to Bill Kristol. He says there's a 50/50 chance, he thinks, there's a viability third-party candidate in the general election. That's pretty high. As a Trump supporter, what's your level of concern right now that that could really happen?

JEFF DEWITT, ARIZONA STATE TREASURER & DONALD TRUMP SURROGATE: I don't think that's going to happen at all. You know, what's fascinating to me is if you go back to that first debate when they were pushing Donald Trump very hard to take the pledge, and he was very honest about his reservations, and then he ended up coming around, signing the pledge to support whoever the Republican nominee is, and that was the establishment's way to try to force him into a box when the establishment thought there's no way but an establishment candidate can win.

And now that that's not the case, you have the establishment running around and trying to find these third parties. Jeb Bush, who has proven to not be a man of his word, who always had said he would support the nominee, is now out there saying he's looking for a third- party option. He won't support the nominee. We're all heard Mitt Romney is out there looking for a third-party option. So the pure establishment figures are running around and they're doing things that are going to be so monumentally bad for the Republican Party and they don't understand where America is. And they're leaving the Republican Party. They might as well just sign up and be Democrats at this point because all they're going to do is elect Hillary Clinton if they do that.

BOLDUAN: Kevin, do you think that's the case? Do you think it would be monumentally bad? Bill Kristol says not. He says he thinks a third-party candidate would have a viable chance.

SHERIDAN: Well, Donald Trump won the nomination fair and square, but he has not united the party. The party is simply not together. People have many questions about what kind of policies he's going to pursue. He's now in favor of raising taxes and we already know his issues on trade and everything else. So, you know, I think there's still a lane there, whether it's a third party or it's, you know, just a lane of disaffected Republicans that aren't going to support Donald Trump, they're out there. Donald Trump needs to convince them to come on board his candidacy, and if not, you know, I think they either stay home or do back something else.

BERMAN: Jackie, where are you currently on the unity-schmunity scale? Are we headed towards more unity or less?


[11:35:10] KUCINICH: It really seems like we're headed toward a convention that's the Thanksgiving dinner where everybody is fighting about grandma's will but we're going to have a good Thanksgiving and nobody is going to talk about it. It doesn't seem like there's going to be a lot of give on either one's side. There's an impasse because Donald Trump seems to be making some of his policy decisions on the fly. When you have someone like Paul Ryan, who has had the same policy positions for a very long time, has been fighting for 20 years for a lot of the same things, and so it's a hard thing to come together when you have sides that are saying they're not going to bend.

BERMAN: One position he's moved on is, all winter long, he was saying he would support the Republican nominee, and right now, he's not, at least not yet.

BOLDUAN: And then, and then.

Guys, stick around.

A lot more to come, including Donald Trump, he once defended Bill Clinton during his White House scandal, but now Trump is calling Hillary Clinton an enabler of Bill Clinton's infidelity. Fair game? Good strategy?

BERMAN: And North Carolina files a lawsuit now against the Justice Department over the so-called bathroom law. This, just hours before the state was told to offer a solution or else. We have new details ahead.



[11:40:40] TRUMP: And Hillary was an enabler, and she treated these women horribly. Just remember this. And some of those women were destroyed not by him, but by the way that Hillary Clinton treated them after everything went down.


BERMAN: That's Donald Trump accusing Hillary Clinton of being an enabler of her husband's marital infidelities. That was this weekend. This, this morning is how he justified those attacks a short time ago on CNN.


TRUMP (voice-over): He was impeached. He was impeached. And then he lied about it. He said nothing happened with Monica Lewinsky and then he said, sorry, folks, it actually did happen. And the guy was impeached for lying.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, NEW DAY: All of that can be true --


TRUMP: Listen, she can't talk about me because nobody respects women more than Donald Trump.


BOLDUAN: Back with us now, Jeff DeWitt; Jackie Kucinich; Kevin Sheridan. Adding to the fun, CNN political correspondent, Angela Rye, joins us as well. Angela is a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Great to see all of you.

Angela, to you, on this line of attack, how should Hillary Clinton respond?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think she should. There's just no place for this in this election. I know that Donald Trump continues to try to make a way, but she's going to have to take the higher road. There is no way that you win getting in the mud with the pig. You just can't. And he is a pig. He's a chauvinist. He's misogynistic. He's clearly demonstrated over time he's not a lover of women. He loves the Hispanics with his taco bowl and loves women based on what he said Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, but Tuesday, and Friday, boy, he hates those pigs. Look at the face. There's all of these -- blood coming out -- know he says it's the ear and nose. Don't really believe that, guys. So I think he's got a real problem here and Hillary Clinton only muddies the water if she is with him.

BERMAN: You know, Kevin, I want to ask you as a Republican who watched Mitt Romney go through your entire roster of opponents, what advice would you give to Hillary Clinton? If you're not in the business of giving advice to Hillary Clinton, which you're probably not. What lessons should she learn from the Republican primaries as she does turn to deal with Donald Trump?

SHERIDAN: Well, if we've learned anything, it's that Donald Trump is not going to play by any conventional rules, and that includes going after Bill Clinton on his personal issues from 15, 20 years ago. He's going to bring up every attack he can. He's going to circulate every conspiracy theory probably that he can on the Clintons. He's going to rehash the Clinton -- all the Clinton issues from the '90s, and before that probably, I would bet. So I mean, he's going to come at them from every side and they're going to have to be completely ready for it. And I don't know, honestly, whether or not the old playbook that they've used for now 20, 30 years of Hillary playing kind of a victim card in this is still going to work. We don't know that yet. And we'll have to see if she -- I think she's going to continue to do that. We'll see if continues to work though.


BOLDUAN: And that's interesting, Jeff, because -- and, Angela, you can jump in after I get Jeff's take on this -- because, as Kevin is pointing to, past attempts at taking this on, every time Hillary Clinton is attacked along this vein, she's come out winning. She's come out looking better. Do you think -- how is that going to be different this time?

DEWITT: Well, I think it is already playing a role in why she's struggling so much to win the Democrat nomination as we speak. So --


BOLDUAN: Why do you think that's the case? That's definitely one area that Bernie Sanders isn't going.

DEWITT: No, he isn't going there but the narrative is out there everywhere. You can see it everywhere. The Clintons, you know, because of these kinds of scenarios, have been the subject of countless jokes. We all know jokes about these topics that go back to -- some of them back to the '90s. They're household references that we use to some of these names that were involved. And so, you know, she has a problem, and I think she should address it. But she has a lot of other political hit men around her that will do her dirty work. And when you look to the previous guest, who said she shouldn't get in the mud and say anything, and then goes and slanders Donald Trump all over the place, when you have people that will come on and do the dirty work for her --


RYE: Those are his words. He slandered himself.

DEWITT: No, you're --


RYE: Yeah.


BERMAN: Angela --


Hang on, Jeff. Hang on, Jeff. Hang on, Jeff.

Let Angela put a button on this. And I want to shift subjects to Jackie because we just got a bit of news in.

Angela, you want to finish up on this point? RYE: Yeah. I think a couple things. One is I know it's really hard for Donald Trump surrogates and supporters to understand that he actually continues to lie. There's a big Pinocchio story about this, topic after topic, thing after thing. He's been a clear chauvinist, and it's his words. There's a whole ad where women are reading his words. These are his words. That's not slander. If you want to talk about somebody slandering someone, perhaps you should look at your candidate.

[11:45:22] BERMAN: Guys, I want to stop that right there because we just got word from the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel," a reporter, Christian Schneider, interviewed Paul Ryan this morning, and has been tweeting some of that interview. The reporter asked Paul Ryan asked he would step down as convention chair if Donald Trump asked, and Paul Ryan said, I'll do whatever he asks me to do.

Jackie, that's kind of interesting.

KUCINICH: It is interesting. We'll have to see what happens on Thursday. I mean, Donald Trump has had a little bit of a history of being very brash and has a lot of bravado in public but when he actually sits down with these players behind closed doors he's reasonable and talks to them just like people. So we'll have to see. I would be surprised if it came to that because, while Paul Ryan doesn't hold as many cards as Donald Trump, he certainly does have control of another sector of the party that Donald Trump, you know, if he actually is serious about unifying, he's going to need.

BOLDUAN: He also -- also coming out of this interview, this reporter says that Speaker Ryan tells me he's steadfastly opposed to a third- party candidate, even if it is Mitt Romney.

Kevin, I mean, Bill Kristol, that was his big hope, his final hope, and Paul Ryan saying not going to happen.

SHERIDAN: Well, Bill Kristol and Ben Sasse and a few others -- and the Never Trump crowd are still I think very interested in trying to explore whether or not that's possible. You know, there's probably 20 percent of the party right now that does not want to get behind Donald Trump or is either trying to figure out how they can or looking for an alternative, and that number could grow or shrink depending what Donald Trump ends up doing and who else gets in. But, look, Paul Ryan is doing what he's got to do. He's going to meet with him on Thursday. We'll see how that meeting goes. I think there could be accommodations on both sides. They'll never agree on perfectly everything, but we'll see how his tone is and we'll see how that meeting goes.

BERMAN: Countdown to the Ryan primary.

All right. Kevin Sheridan, Angela Rye, Jackie Kucinich, Jeff DeWitt, thanks all so much for being with us.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, guys.

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: There is breaking news today. The Department of Justice has

been trying to force North Carolina to make a decision over its controversial bathroom law. The state just responded with a lawsuit of its own.


[11:51:45] BOLDUAN: North Carolina just upped the ante with a showdown with Washington over the so-called Bathroom Bill. The governor responding to a Justice Department deadline to remedy what the government calls a violation of the Civil Rights Act. BERMAN: CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, is here to discuss it.

But first, let's go to Martin Savidge to tell us what just happened -- Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, what happened is the governor of North Carolina has said, look, I got a threat from the Department of Justice. That's what he felt it was. The deadline was today for him to respond and he responded by filing a lawsuit against the federal government. Essentially, he's arguing that the federal government is overreaching here with its use of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Take a look at the quote put out by the governor when he filed this suit. "The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina." He goes on to say that this is a national issue here.

And this is what North Carolina is trying to frame here in their lawsuit is to say, it is not just about this state. Bathrooms and transgender people are an issue that are going to be faced across this nation. It needs to be decided on a federal level.

Make no mistake, billions of dollars are at stake here, federal money, which the government said it could have withheld if North Carolina did not come back in compliance with the Civil Rights Act. Now, it's going to go to a court -- John, Kate?

BERMAN: All right, Martin. Stand by.

Paul Callan is here with us.

This goes to which court? Who will decide what, exactly?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's interesting because we're talking about a North Carolina state law, but this is a federal lawsuit. And essentially, the governor of North Carolina is saying to the federal court, listen, the feds are threatening to cut off funding for us because we're in violation of civil rights laws in the United States and we think they're wrong. We would like an opinion from the court as to whether or not this, our funds, could be cut off for gender discrimination if we say that transgender people can, in fact, use the restrooms of their choice. So it's kind of an opinion question to the federal court. BOLDUAN: Where does it go now?

CALLAN: Well, first of all, will the federal court give this opinion? Federal courts don't like to do it because they don't want to be bothered in thousands of lawsuits where people have these questions about, if I did this, would it be legal, if I did that, would it be legal? Usually, the federal courts say, wait until you get sued. This is such a big national question though, it's hard to say. Maybe they could decide to grant declaratory judgment. Now if they did, they could say, yes, the feds have the right to sue you and you better repeal that law.

BERMAN: When it's a question of state law running into federal law, that is when ultimately the Supreme Court.

CALLAN: My bet, by the way, is they will decline the declaratory judgment because they don't like to do it.

And one other thing I'll throw at you. The fourth circuit, which is a federal court, it's the federal appeals court that covers a large geographic section of the country, including North Carolina, has already recently handed down a decision that suggests they believe transgender people are protected by federal civil rights laws. So a strong argument can be made here that the federal court has already weighed in on this. And I'm talking about a court one level below the U.S. Supreme Court.

[11:55:17] BERMAN: Quickly, any sense of timing here, Paul?

CALLAN: You'll hear this declaratory judgment action, I think, heard fairly quickly. Within the next couple of months, I would think, which is fast by court standards.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Not over for sure.

Great to see you, Paul.

Martin, you as well.

We appreciate it.

Coming up, still, a fire larger than New York City with a smoke trail from Canada to Florida and it's growing more unpredictable. A live report straight ahead.


[11:59:44] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. And welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, is taking up a new mantle today, king of debt. In an interview on CNN's "New Day," Trump expounded on a national debt reduction idea that experts say is doable in the business world but unprecedented and probably impossible in government.