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RNC Chair Reince Priebus Say Ryan/Trump Meeting "Good First Step"; Paul Ryan Talks Drug Bill, Takes Questions on Trump Meeting; Trump Meets with Senate Leaders. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 12, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Like how do you think this played out?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's both. Paul Ryan obviously has been putting out a positive agenda that he wants to campaign on for House Republicans because his job, we talk about the troops in the field for as Republican voters, he's also got House of Representatives members that he's concerned about with their re-elections. A lot of Republicans in the House and Senate --


HEYE: -- are being attacked for saying they will support the nominee -- Kelly Ayotte and John McCain being two.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: They talked about specifics. I was listening to the Reince Priebus interview. If you did a word cloud --


--of the things Reince Priebus said, unify, great, positive, great, chemistry. It is very important it seems to Reince Priebus to give the impression that was a great, positive meeting.



BORGER: From both sides.

BERMAN: Why is it so important for Reince Priebus to send that message right now?

BORGER: Because he's trying to unify his party. He's trying to raise money. He's trying to win the election, and if you have a speaker of the House who is at war with the nominee, it's not good for people running down ticket, first of all. You can't -- you can't be successful in keeping the House and keeping the Senate if you've got a divided party at the top. So I think here it was mutually cooperative because there is mutual self interest here. And, you know, politicians are motivated to have a self interest. Let's be honest. Donald Trump didn't want to be at this meeting except he felt he got blindsided by the House speaker, so he needed to be there because it is in his self interest to have Reince Priebus make peace and help -- (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- because it needs to be positive though.

BORGER: It needs to be. And they have to find some kind of mutual ground because, as Doug points out, you know, Ryan has really worked hard on this agenda for House Republicans, and he wants Donald Trump to be aware of just what they are running on because they have committed on a lot of this stuff and they can't have their candidate disagreeing with them. Entitlements is the key area.

BOLDUAN: If Paul Ryan is going in with specifics that were discussed, and that's like the one specific we got from Reince, there is that they did touch on specifics, what --


BOLDUAN: Specifically, specifically.


BOLDUAN: Paul Ryan is going to the podium right now.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: -- from drug overdoses than they do in car accidents. Let me say this again. We have more of our fellow citizens dying from drug overdoses than they die of car accidents.

Today, the House continues to work on legislation to address the heroin and opioid epidemic across this country. And for those of you who were at our press conference yesterday, you heard from Susan Brooks and Bob Dole, authors of two of these initiatives. All told, by the end of this week, we are acting on 18 bills to deal with this. I will actually be signing one of them today. It is S-32, the Transnational Drug Trafficking Act. This allows prosecutors to go after drug traffickers in foreign countries if we believe their drugs will make it to our shores. That's going to the president's desk today.

But one reason we call this an epidemic is because it cuts across all demographics. It affects families everywhere in America. Take youth athletes. Youth athletes get injured, and then they're prescribed some medication, before they know it, they are on the path to dependency and addiction. Yesterday, we passed a bill introduced by Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania to help families and students deal with these dangers.

You can also be born with a dependency. This is the saddest story of them all. That actually happens every 25 minutes in this country. These babies struggle to eat or even breathe. Yesterday, we passed a bill introduced by Evan Jenkins, of West Virginia, to help protect infants and to make sure that they get a healthy start.

The next step here is that we will take all of these bills we are passing out of the House and go to a conversation committee with the Senate. Then we intend to send the bill to the president's desk. And I hope that each and every one of you will be back here when we sign this bill.

This opioid epidemic is something we have to get on top of. I'm very proud of the Republicans and Democrats that have come together to address this situation because this really is about people's lives. It is about whole communities that are being torn apart, and I believe we can win this fight, and we must.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you. I've been reading the joint statement that you and Mr. Trump put out a few minutes ago. I know this is a first meeting but all I can divine out of that statement is you just want to beat Hillary Clinton.


RYAN: That is true. We do want to beat Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: That can't be the only point of unity here. You're having trouble passing a budget here in the House. What makes you think you can get on board with some of the things that Donald Trump is talking about when it comes to --


RYAN: Let me say this, I think we had a very encouraging meeting. Look, it's no secret that Donald Trump and I have had our differences. We talked about those differences today. That's common knowledge. The question is, what is it that we need to do to unify the Republican Party and all strains of conservative wings in the party. We had a very good and encouraging, productive conversation on how to do that.

It was important that we discussed our differences that we have but it was also important that we discussed the core principles that tie us all together. Principles like the Constitution, the separation of powers, the fact that we have an executive that is going way beyond the boundaries of the Constitution and how it's important to us that we restore Article I of the Constitution. It's the principle of self government. We talked about life and how strongly we feel about this core principle. We talked about the Supreme Court and things like this. I was very encouraged with what I heard from Donald Trump today. I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified, to bridge the gaps and differences. And so from here, we're going to go deeper into the policy areas to see where that common ground is and how we can make sure that we are operating off the same core principles.

And so, yes, this is our first meeting. I was very encouraged with this meeting. But this is a process. It takes a little time. You don't put it together in 45 minutes. So that is why we had, like I said, a very good start to a process on how we unify.

[11:36:14] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You don't think that it's an issue -- (INAUDIBLE). RYAN: Jonathan?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, I read that statement as well. I'm still a little confused. Are you endorsing Donald Trump? If you're not what is holding you back and do you really have a choice?

RYAN: The process of unifying the Republican Party, which just finished a primary about a week ago, perhaps one of the most divisive primaries in memory, takes some time. Look, there are people who were for Donald Trump, who were for Ted Cruz, for John Kasich, who were for Marco Rubio, and everybody else, and it's very important that we don't fake unifying, we don't pretend unification. That we truly and actually unify so we are full strength in the fall. I don't want us to have a fake unification process here. I want to make sure that we really, truly understand each other and we're committed to the conservative problems that make the Republican, that built this country. And, again, I'm very encouraged. I heard a lot of good things from our presumptive nominee and we exchanged differences of opinion on a number of things everybody knows we have. There are policy disputes we will have. There's no two ways about it, plenty of Republicans disagree with one another on policy disputes, but on core principles, those are the kinds of things we discussed, and, again, I'm encouraged.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you expect to endorse him?

RYAN: Yeah. I think this is going in a positive direction and I think this is a first very encouraging meeting. But again, in 45 minutes, you don't litigate all of the processes and all the issues and the principles that we are talking about.

I didn't catch that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you offer any assurances that he would change or moderate?

RYAN: Look, I think it's important that the kind of conversation we had is between the two of us, and no offense, but I don't want to litigate our conversation through the media, because I think when you're beginning to get to know someone, you have a good conversation of trust between each other. So I want to keep the things we discussed between the two of us because they're very important and they were personal in some senses, and that means we talked about what it takes to unify, where our differences were, and how we can bring these gaps going forward so that we're strong as a party going into the fall.

Let me just -- Wong?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Trump reiterated a desire to see you as the chairman at the convention in Cleveland, and is that a role you still want?

RYAN: He did. I am the speaker of the House. I am happy to serve in this capacity as the chair of our convention if our presumptive nominee wants me to do so. I see that as -- it's the delegates who technically headache that but I would honor the decision of our presumptive nominee, and he did express that interest.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: To what extent, based on his past statements, do you think he's committed to reduce as you are the scope and size of -- (INAUDIBLE) -- and what did you think of his personality?

RYAN: Yeah, so -- his personality, I thought he had a very good personality. He's a warm and genuine person. Like I said, I met him, for like 30 seconds, in 2012. So we really don't know each other. And we started to get to know each other. So I actually had a very pleasant exchange with him. That's point number one.

Point number two, look, there are things we really believe in as conservatives. We believe in limited government. We believe in the Constitution. We believe in the proper role of the differences in the operation of powers. We believe in things like life. Not everyone is pro-choice in our party and accept all comers, but we're a majority pro-life party, and these are things that are important to us, and so we just had a good exchange of views. I think he's over having the same conversation with the Senate right now. Our leaders met with him and everybody expressed opinions and exchanged ideas. And so the point of this is I think we're off to an encouraged start. We get ourselves to full strength so we can win in the fall because the stakes could not be higher but it takes more than 45 minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Specifically, on reducing the size of government, you're someone --


[11:40:10] RYAN: We discussed those issues at great detail.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORT: Mr. Speaker, can you define modern conservatism along the lines of entitlement reform, pro-trade, and immigration, both on the Muslim ban and dealing with the issue comprehensively?

When you say few problems in this joint statement, aren't you papering over those rather sizable differences in not only how conservatism is defined broadly but how you have tried to define it for this House conference?

RYAN: Right. So I represent a wing of the conservative party you could say. He brings -- he's bringing a whole new wing to it. He's bringing in new voters that we haven't had for decades. That's a positive thing.

The point though is, can we agree on the common core principles that unite all of us? We will have policy disputes. There's no two ways about that. All Republicans do. Mitt Romney and I didn't agree on everything in 2012. So we will have policy disputes. I'm not interested in litigating the past. I am interested in going forward and seeing where that common ground exists to make sure that we can have a unified Republican party that, yes, there will be different Republicans that have different views on various policy ideas. The question is, can we unify on common core principles that make our party -- and by the way, they're the principles that built this country and I'm very encouraged that the answer to that question is yes.


RYAN: One more over here.


RYAN: Sorry, the lady, first.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You just mentioned the millions of new voters and he's bringing in new people. I was wondering how you actually interpret his success. Is it going to mean the real -- fundamental realignment of the party because of the new voters he's bringing in? Just how do you interpret his success?

RYAN: It's really unparalleled I think. He has gotten more votes than any Republican primary nominee in the history of our country, and this isn't even over yet. He hasn't even gone to like California, yet. So it's really a remarkable achievement.

So the question is, and this is what we think we can be a party to helping, how do we unify it all. So this is really a big and growing movement. How do we keep adding and adding and adding voters while not subtracting any voters, and to me that means a positive vision based on core principles, taking those principles, applying them to the problems facing our country today and offering people positive solutions and speaking to people where they are in life, addressing their anxieties and show that we have a better plan.

Look, here is what we agree on. A Hillary Clinton presidency would be a disaster for this country. It's effectively a third Obama term. And the other thing we all know is most Americans do not like where this country is headed. Seven out of 10 Americans think America is on the wrong track. We agree with that. So the question is, can we unify around our common principles to offer the country a compelling and clear choice and agenda going forward so that the men and women of this nation get a real and honest choice about how to fix this country and get us on a better track? And I am very encouraged that we can put that together.

I'll go one more in the back.

Yes. You got here late.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I heard your statement last week on CNN that Donald Trump was not ready to support your agenda. Did he change his mind today? Did he say he's supportive of that?

RYAN: We talked about all of these issues and our policy teams are meeting to just walk through details. So, again, this is a process. We just began the process. I'm very encouraged at the first meeting of this process. And going forward, we're going to go a little deeper into the policy weeds to make sure that we have a better understanding of one another.

All right. Thank you very much, everybody. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: All right. You have seen the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, describing what took place in a series of two meetings he just had with the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. He called the meetings very encouraging. He said they talked about the core principles they share and importantly, he said he liked Donald Trump. He said he had a good personality. He's a warm and genuine person.

BOLDUAN: They talked about their differences. They talked about, again, where they think they could maybe work on finding common ground, planting the seeds, I believe he put it, and how to bridge the gaps and the differences between the two.

Let's discuss. Gloria Borger is still here, Doug Heye, Mark Preston, and Barry Bennett, with the Donald Trump campaign.

Guys, it's great to have you sticking here with us.

Mark, what is your takeaway from what you heard from Paul Ryan. Fascinating.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Let's just tie it back to the marriage thing.

BOLDUAN: Please.

PRESTON: Basically -- why don't we? This is an exciting time in the relationship. They're getting to know each other, they're going to go on another date and what have you, but the bottom line is this is a shotgun wedding. They didn't realize this was going to happen and there's going to be no honeymoon period. There isn't enough time for there to be a honeymoon period. They're just going to get through this, quite frankly, and as Gloria has said and Doug has said and Barry has said as well, House Republicans and Senate Republicans need Donald Trump just as much as Donald Trump needs them. If they leave Donald Trump alone at the top of the ticket to get destroyed in key states, then that's really going to hurt the down-ballot candidates.

[11:45:37] BERMAN: Gloria, who moves more here? We haven't heard from Donald Trump yet, so we don't know what kind of language he's going to use, but Paul Ryan seemed to have moved a lot, frankly.

BORGER: What I heard from Paul Ryan was trying to figure out a way to get to yes, OK? And what he was talking about was core principles. So he went very broad.


BOLDUAN: The Constitution. BORGER: As in the Constitution, as Kate says, separation of powers,

and pro-life. It's hard to get more broad than that, kind of, if you're a Republican. And if you're conservatives, those are things, that if you're pro-life, some aren't, but if you're a conservative, the Constitution and the separation of powers is pretty easy to say yes to.

BERMAN: If you're liberal, the Constitution is easy to say yes to, also.

BORGER: Right. And separation of powers, because they all object to Barack Obama's executive actions. So he said the staffs are going to get more into the policy and the weeds, but this was a meeting, I think, for them to find out where they can agree coming out of this meeting. And so they came out with this broad sort of set of core principles. So he could say, well, I like Donald Trump, and by the way, he and I agree on the broadest possible outline of what the Republican Party stands for.

BOLDUAN: On who moved more and on the issue of talking about their differences, talking about where they're similar, I have got to ask you because has Donald Trump moved on the Muslim ban, Barry? Now -- he said last night the Muslim ban was a suggestion. Was that -- to do that, was he doing that ahead of the meeting for a reason?

BENNETT: No, no, no. What he said is, until we can figure out the good guys from the bad guys, we should stop allowing people to come into our country.

BOLDUAN: That is originally what he said. Last night, he said it was a suggestion.

BENNETT: Last night, they were talking to him about exceptions. What about the London mayor? What about the emir? What about all these folks? Of course, you have to make exceptions for those people, but what we need to do is fix our immigration system, not try to ban people from the country. What he's trying to say is, until we have an immigration system that works, we're putting ourselves at risk foolishly.

BERMAN: Mary Katharine Ham is still with us from Washington.

Mary Katherine, you listened to this whole event we just listened to as well. Paul Ryan was asked specifically does this mean you are now endorsing Donald Trump. Are you supporting Donald Trump? He did not answer that question. He chose to dodge and weave around that question. But does that even matter? Now that he's come as far as he has right now and talked about the fact that he finds Donald Trump a warm and genuine person, he talked about their encouraging meeting, and how they both believe in core principles, is an endorsement even significant at this point?

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it is. Here is my thought on this. He's doing this for two reasons. He's slow walking this because it is a weird unification process. On both sides of the party, the outsider candidates just joined the party. We shouldn't be that surprised that this isn't a normal unification process on either side. So there is a reason for sort of making this a process if he wants to actually come to some agreement. I have disagreements about how much agreement you can come to with a guy who I don't think has those core beliefs and whose feelings change all the time as to what he believes.

But as to John's metaphor, Paul Ryan, two times now, has gotten two days of coverage of the positive agenda that the Republican House wants to put forward using the enticement of Donald Trump and the conversation they're having. I think we'll see some engagement photo shoots, a lot of Facebook action about these two coming together and doing in a slow way so that he can continue to get that coverage.

BOLDUAN: Doug, on this endorsement, does it matter at this point or not, and he talked about, you know, he's getting closer, he's kind of laying the groundwork, you can't fake unification, is how Paul Ryan put it. Is Paul Ryan in a stronger position if he gets on board now or is he in a stronger position if he gets on board later? Because whoever asked, why are you holding out, is a legitimate question.

HEYE: It's a very legitimate question. I think Paul Ryan feels he is in a stronger position by having this process play out longer. One thing I think he did that was pretty interesting is he removed a big piece of leverage that Donald Trump had saying, if Donald Trump doesn't want me to be chairman of the convention he can do that. That would lay heavy on this meeting otherwise.

BERMAN: And he meant that, I think.

HEYE: He did mean it. But also I think one challenge is not just about an endorsement. If you look at Marco Rubio's interview with Jake Tapper, a lot of people throughout the country, elected Republican Senators and members of Congress, will say, just very milquetoast fashion, I will support the nominee. That is not an enthusiastic endorsement. And getting that enthusiasm -- certainly the core Trump supporters are as enthusiastic as even Bernie Sanders' voters. But there is not a lot of enthusiasm from that broader coalition in party.

[11:50:23] BERMAN: Kevin Sheridan, I want to bring you back into the discussion right now because from Paul Ryan, talk about the fact that they share core principles. We heard Mary Katherine saying she is not so sure about that. And as this event with Paul Ryan was going on, Bill Kristol, who is adamantly against Donald Trump, tweeted this. He said, "This is one of the most depressing press conferences I have ever seen."

Pretty interesting to hear from the guy who runs the "Weekly Standard," a pretty important conservative magazine -- Kevin?

KEVIN SHERIDAN, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR FOR MITT ROMNEY & FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE SPOKESMAN: Bill Kristol is still very committed to finding a third way and continuing to oppose Donald Trump. I think any speaker of the House that would be in this position will be in a really tough position because he has members for, against and still thinking about how they can come on board with this. I think they all want to defeat Hillary Clinton but we don't know how that looks. If we can get on board, build a unity ticket around some shared principles as broad as you can make them, which you were saying you have to kind of widen the lens to get to the very most basic things about our party that we all believe in, then we are going to try to do that. Now, if Donald Trump goes out and starts saying things that we can't support, then maybe that falls apart at some point during this summer or fall. At this point, this is what they should be doing. I think he did a good job with that.

BOLDUAN: Jackie, on the -- everyone had said in one way or another positive first step. How many steps are there in this process? Do you have any idea or any guess?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It's a great question because this is sort of beta, this whole process. When was the last time you had a speaker of the House have to say, I'm really trying to support my party's nominee for president? This hasn't happened since I have been around covering this stuff. So it is hard to say. I don't know if it is like a grief step thing or -- it is hard to say. So, we'll see.

BERMAN: It is interesting. Jake Sherman of "Politico" sent this out during the speech. He said, "This is Paul Ryan's every day until November."

Patrick Healy of "The New York Times" joins us now.

Patrick, thank so much for being with us.

Paul Ryan talked about unity and core principles and this being a first step, but this isn't going to go away for Paul Ryan. In some ways, is this the only answer you expect he will give between now and November?

PATRICK HEALY, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think Paul Ryan wants a process. It's very clear what he is looking for ultimately and it's a normalization of Donald Trump.

What happened last fall with all the Republican candidates was that they were asked about supporting the eventual nominee. They went on the record about saying they were going to do that. And then they went through months and months where they were confronted with Donald Trump shooting at the hip, saying things that they found offensive, and they were just cringing over it. Paul Ryan doesn't want to get himself into a situation over the next month and a half where he is going to have to be answering every time Donald Trump says something that is strange or controversial. He wants this process to sort of give himself time to come around it, I think, and also see if Trump is capable of changing.

BOLDUAN: I want to get to Jim Acosta in just one second. He's outside the next meeting that Donald Trump is in with Senate leaders.

But, Barry, to you. As Patrick was saying, what folks say about Donald Trump is he is shooting from the hip, there is no message control. Do you believe that Donald Trump will stay on message and on script and on the same page with Paul Ryan going forward? Do you believe that he can?

BENNETT: I think he will stay on his message. They have to find areas where Paul Ryan can talk about his issues that is helpful for Paul Ryan and they have to find common ground.


BOLDUAN: Right. What I'm hearing you say is Donald Trump will stay the course and Paul Ryan has to find a way to work with that.

BENNETT: Paul Ryan has a couple hundred constituents in the House. Donald Trump has over 10 million, and over 13 million or 14 million votes in the primary. So he has to stick to his message for those people.

BERMAN: All right, I want to go to Gloria.

You have to go.


BORGER: This is the most uncomfortable situation I can imagine for a House speaker. You can understand in a way why John Boehner left. This is tough for him. He has to thread this needle. He has made it public that he has a lot of differences with this candidate. He has to save his House Republicans and figure out a way to deal with Donald Trump, with whom he disagrees with just about everything, so he is talking. Ironically, he has to thread this needle and go big to do it. The way he is doing it is the Constitution.


BOLDUAN: -- next to your name.


[11:55:17] BERMAN: Right.

Paul Ryan is not the only guy holding meetings with Donald Trump today. Donald Trump also meeting with Senate leaders.

I want to go to Jim Acosta, who I believe is outside where those meetings are taking place.

Jim, what do we know?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Just outside the national Republican senatorial committee offices on the other side of Capitol Hill, this is a much more civilized side of Capitol Hill right now. I guess the Senate feels like that is the case. It's not as crowded, not as many members of the media and not as many protesters. Donald Trump does not have as big of a task on the Senate side of the aisle. You know that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has already basically endorsed Donald Trump. He is not trying to get to a place where Paul Ryan is right now, which is a very difficult task. As Gloria was just mentioning, I talked to a top House Republican aid who said House members are all over the place.

On the Senate side, there is a challenge for Donald Trump and that is the down-ballot challenge. You have endangered members of the Senate on the Republican side, like Pat Toomey, who are a little concerned about wrapping their arms around Donald Trump at the convention in July. That is why you are hearing about Senators who may not be showing up at the convention because they have campaigning to do for their seat coming up this fall.

But as Paul Ryan mentioned during the press conference, that was just short of an endorsement. Inside the Trump campaign I will tell you they did not have expectation of an endorsement from Paul Ryan today talking to top Trump campaign officials. And they feel like this is the opening conversation and this is the beginning of the process of healing this Republican Party.

Keep in mind, as you know, Donald Trump won this nomination basically where through political combat. There are Republicans on Capitol Hill who can hear the names Little Marco, Lyin' Ted, Low Energy Jeb ringing in their ears. When I asked a House aid, what would Paul Ryan's nickname be, it is Principled Paul. They are feeling good about how Paul Ryan is dealing with Donald Trump right now.

Both men seem to have some leverage. We're seeing that play itself out. But from the sound of what Paul Ryan was saying during that press conference and what the Trump campaign is saying keeping the rhetoric down, which is always a challenge, it sounds like they may be able to get there eventually -- Guys?

BERMAN: Jim Acosta, outside this meeting where Donald Trump is meeting with Senate leaders. We are expecting to hear from some of those Senators. We could hear from Donald Trump at some point, as well.

BOLDUAN: A lot to follow and we will continue following.

Our special breaking news coverage continues in a moment.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[12:00:02] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

He got where he is on feverish rallies and bare-knuckle debates, but now Donald Trump has reached what may be the single most --