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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Tries to Unify Party Following Mexican Judge Comments; Trump Going after Sanders Supporters; Sanders Remains Defiant; Ryan Calls for Unity, Some Republicans Backing Away. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 8, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Will others follow his lead? The House speaker saying we need to unify.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, we have brand-new information about Donald Trump's speech last night. Who convinced him to deliver it like that, and by like that, I mean on a teleprompter?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Donald Trump trying to douse the flames over his racially charged comments about a federal judge. No, he did not apologize. He said his comments, in his words, were "misconstrued." Last night, he delivered a speech that some believed was different. He did it on teleprompter. Didn't apologize there either, by the way.

BOLDUAN: Let's get the latest from what's going on in the Trump campaign.

Senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, live outside Trump Tower here in New York City.

What is the word you're hearing from inside the Trump campaign today, Jim?

[11:35:12] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate and John. That's right. It was a very different sounding Donald Trump last night. He was on teleprompter. He was scripted. His rhetoric was toned down, as John mentioned. There was no apology in the speech.

I'm told by a Trump source when you talk a look at the speech, listen to the speech he delivered, and then the statement that was issued by the Trump campaign earlier today, according to the source, this was the hand of Paul Manafort, campaign chairman, who is a much more careful manager than Cory Lewandowski. They feel Paul Manafort had a hand in it.

Keep in mind, John and Kate, all this unfolded 24 hours after that conference call. We heard about a conference call where Donald Trump told his team to keep fighting, keep up the criticism of Judge Curiel. I've heard that Paul Manafort had a hand in the writing of the statement and it was a team effort that went to the speech last night.

Moving forward, I'm talking to one Trump source who tells me one of the big focuses from the campaign, what they're urging supporters and surrogates to say publicly is that they want to reach out to Bernie Sanders supporters.

After last night, Hillary Clinton essentially wrapping up the Democratic nomination and giving that historic speech that she gave in New York City, that they understand inside the Trump campaign that there are going to be Bernie Sanders supporters who are not going to be enamored with Hillary Clinton, not attracted to her campaign. The message coming from the Trump campaign today is to go after those Bernie Sanders supporters. They don't want them to be attracted to the Hillary Clinton campaign. They want them on board the Trump train.

Now, obviously Donald Trump has other speeches coming up later on this week. He'll be talking to Christian conservatives Friday. Monday, he apparently has a speech. He said it's probably Monday, early next week, we'll call it, where he's expected to go after the Clintons and their personal financial dealings. He said last night that he believes that Hillary Clinton turned the State Department into the Clintons' personal hedge fund. Talking to sources inside the Trump campaign, you can expect to hear more of that line of attack in the coming days, guys.

BOLDUAN: Road ahead, that's what it looks like.

Jim Acosta. Thank you very much, Jim.

Here to discuss this now, "CNN Politics" executive editor Mark Preston, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich; CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, a political anchor at Time-Warner Cable News; and senior politics writer at "U.S. News & World Report," David Catanese.

Sorry, gets me so excited and emotional that you're here. So sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

Let's play our favorite game.

Jackie, what is different today? Hillary Clinton woke up this morning and said?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Hooray!

(LAUGHTER)

No, this was a hard-fought battle. I don't think anybody thought it was going to be this tough for her to secure this nomination. Now I guess the ultimate answer we were talking about off air is "bye, Felicia." You know, Bernie Sanders is not finally done, there needs to be concessions, and there will be diplomacy at hand. There's a lot of relief in that campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: We'll get to Bernie Sanders and "bye, Felicia" in a second. Jackie, thank you for that.

David, I want to ask you about Donald Trump. Donald Trump woke up after a few hours sleep, because he doesn't sleep much. He woke up this morning, and you suspect said what?

DAVID CATANESE, SENIOR POLITICS WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Ready for Hillary. He's ready for Hillary. Last night's speech was boring for the press. We went to Westchester, and it was a scripted Donald Trump. As your reporting pointed out, I think we assumed this was Paul Manafort's hand. He's been the guy to soothe the tensions he's had on Capitol Hill, has tried to tone it down. It looks like he won. The problem is there's no consistency. Can we count the days until the next time Trump decides to fly off the handle? So when will there be ever discipline in this campaign?

But I think what Trump is going to do from now on is going to train all his fire on Hillary Clinton. This is the great uniter for him. There's always going to be the Paul Ryans and Mark Kirks who have problems with his comment. The one thing they can get on board with is bashing Hillary Clinton, and Trump starts that campaign in his speech on Monday. I think it will be tough stuff that Republican likes.

BOLDUAN: A very different wake-up call maybe for Bernie Sanders this morning, Errol. Bernie Sanders woke up and said what this morning?

[11:39:44] ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It ain't over. That's the message that you hear every way that he can make it clear. Now he's got -- I think he's probably also thinking, and I'm going to have to go into the White House and say that to the president of the United States today.

(LAUGHTER)

Because, you know, they've talked more than once. This won't be his first conversation with President Obama. But you know, when you're in his house, literally, and he's sort of making clear that this is something that's important, not just to the party, not even necessarily the country, but to the president himself, it's real serious stuff at that point. We have seen damaging articles about, you know, utter turmoil in the Sanders camp. You've got layoffs. He's got to do a lot of different things. But this is sort of the summary of his life in politics. And I think we should take him seriously when he says I'm hanging on until I see some of the change that I want to see happen. I don't think he has any reason to think that has happened as of this morning.

BERMAN: If Errol's right, Mark Preston, reality woke up this morning and said what?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: And said it's a new day, right? And it's something we've been looking for or certainly have been discussing, will we see a Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump general election match-up? We will see that. Now the question is, how dirty is it going to be? Will it go into the gutter immediately? Some would argue we're already in the gutter at this point. But to Errol's point about Bernie Sanders, he needs time, I think, to

figure out how he wants to proceed forward. We heard Vice President Biden tells our own Ted Barrett, just a short time ago, on Capitol Hill, that, you know, give this guy some time, give him respect, breathing room.

It's also worth saying that in an hour or so in Washington, D.C., the DNC platform committee will meet for the first time. This is something Bernie Sanders has talked about. He wants to influence it, push the party a little bit more to the left. His representatives are on that committee, as are Hillary Clinton's representatives. We'll see how they get along.

But within the next hour, I think we'll start to see whether there's this unification of the Democratic Party in an easy way.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that's -- do you think the course of what's happening in a meeting that's obscured to most Americans, that can really change how gracefully or not Bernie Sanders --

(CROSSTALK)

PRESTON: I talked to these folks all the time. I can't tell you how focused the Sanders campaign is on the platform committee, as well as what role Bernie Sanders will play in the Democratic party post primary. Absolutely. They see this platform -- and we all know what the platform is. It's a written document that absolutely means nothing, that pushes out the Democratic principles. But Bernie Sanders' principles are little bit different than Hillary Clinton's principles. And he wants to try to drag it over to the left.

BERMAN: Let's tune in, in an hour, and see how the meeting goes and how friendly they are. That will be interesting to see.

Mark Preston, Jackie Kucinich, David Catanese, Errol Louis, thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: So Paul Ryan, just one day after calling Donald Trump's comments the "textbook definition of racism," Paul Ryan holds a meeting with Republicans who leave the meeting saying they are under the impression Paul Ryan wants them to unite behind the nominee. Confused? We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:47:16] BERMAN: Back to the breaking news. A day after Paul Ryan said that Donald Trump's comments about the judge in the Trump University case were the "textbook definition of racism," he's holding a meeting with Republican lawmakers, and he is talking about the importance of unity right now. A lot of people thought that meant unity lining up behind Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Still, some Republicans are backing away from Donald Trump, as we've been discussing, even after we heard from Republicans, even after this meeting. Manu Raju is reporting they are still saying they do not plan to endorse Donald Trump or are pulling back their endorsement. That's word from some Republicans.

Let's discuss this now with Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator, and senior contributor for "The Daily Caller."

Matt, you have interesting perspective. You sat down just yesterday in an interview with the top Republican, Mitch McConnell. Before we get to that interview with McConnell, what do you make of where things stand now with House Speaker Paul Ryan, the endorsement, his biting criticism of Donald Trump yesterday, and then saying in the closed- door meeting with Republicans this morning we need to unite, though it's unclear exactly how he was -- what he directing his members to do?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. Look, there's no way around this. I mean, there's dissidence, inconsistency. It doesn't make a lot of sense. I think we can all appreciate that Paul Ryan is in a bind now. Donald Trump has put a lot of Republicans in a difficult spot. I think that Paul Ryan has to make a choice. Does he want to be the conscience of conservatism? The guy who, if Donald Trump goes down in five months, somebody has to be the leader of the conservative movement in exile that can reemerge in the post-Trump era. I fear that Paul Ryan has advocated that role. And you can either be a good, loyal, partisan Republican soldier, or you can be the conscience of conservatism. Paul Ryan can't do both things.

BERMAN: Let's talk about Mitch McConnell. What about Mitch McConnell and where he stands? You had an interesting conversation last night with the Senate majority leader and what he thinks Donald Trump needs to do. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I think it's time for him to look like a serious candidate for president, which means that you need to think before you speak, you need to apologize when you make a mistake, and get on script. He running for the most important job in the country, some would argue, in the world. And I think there's a certain threshold of credibility that needs to be met. This could be a winnable race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:50:02] BERMAN: Now, as you know, Mitch McConnell chooses his words very carefully. That was quite a smack-down in a prepared smack-down from the leader. Is that how you took it?

LEWIS: He had to know I was going to ask him that question. We had a great discussion at the American enterprise institute. This is another prime example of the Senate majority leader, who was also in a very difficult position. I mean, a lot of people don't realize that Mitch McConnell has been quietly a civil rights leader in the party of Lincoln. He voted against Barry Goldwater in 1964 because Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act. Mitch McConnell stood up to President Ronald Reagan as a freshman

senator over the issue of apartheid in South Africa. And now Mitch McConnell has had to nominally supporting Donald Trump who said racially insensitive things. And on top of it, McConnell is a savvy, shrewd political operator and he sees Donald Trump going off script. So clearly, I think this was a warning from the top Republican in the Senate that Donald Trump has to get in line. He has not sealed the deal yet.

BOLDUAN: A warning of what though? That is the thing with the Republican leaders. Get on board. Get on message. Or what? That's what everyone has to ask.

Matt Lewis, great to you. Matt, great interview. Good to see you. Thank you.

LEWIS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Trump tells Republicans to "get over it." Those are his words. And they shouldn't be so angry. So can Republicans do just that and get behind their candidate? We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:41] BOLDUAN: If "un-Trumpian" was a word, maybe that would describe last night's speech. Gone was the off-the-cuff remarks that are a staple of his campaign so far. This was Trump on Teleprompter. It came after releasing a statement aiming to put his racially charged attack on a federal judge overseeing the Trump University case, to put that to rest. Trump last night claimed he had been misconstrued.

Let's discuss.

But first, flash back to his original remarks, some of which were with Jake Tapper.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: This judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall. OK, I'm building a wall.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD: If you're saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

TRUMP: I don't think so at all.

TAPPER: No?

TRUMP: No. He's proud of his heritage. I respect him for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: We said those in the original comments. The original comments were in that speech in San Diego, and, out of the blue, for 10 minutes, started talking about the case, saying the judge was Mexican. The judge was born in Indiana but he is of Mexican heritage.

Joining us to talk about all this, "CNN Politics" executive editor, Mark Preston; and Carl Higbe, a Donald Trump supporter, former U.S. Navy SEAL.

Carl, Donald Trump did not apologize for those comments. He put out a long lengthy statement and says the comments were misconstrued. I don't understand. What was misconstrued? He very clearly pointed out repeatedly and without prompting that this judge was a Mexican, incorrect, but saying that. What aren't we getting?

CARL HIGBE, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Look at the fact this judge has direct ties to La Raza. He's been pro illegal immigration --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That was not his original argument.

BERMAN: That was not in his original argument.

HIGBE: Right. But it begs the question of Mexican heritage and his commitment to the Mexican heritage over someone like Donald Trump's candidacy. Can he be neutral? I don't think so.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: So someone with Mexican heritage cannot preside fairly over the case?

HIGBE: No one that is committed to Hillary Clinton, that's financially committed to Hillary Clinton, and backing the fact that they helped illegal immigrants in America and they want illegal immigration, they want more people here that are undocumented. This is what this judge believes in.

BERMAN: Carl, you just said the Mexican heritage -- you actually said, not only were Trump's comments not misconstrued, but you defended what a lot of people thought, including Paul Ryan, that it's the "textbook definition of racist." You said, yes, his Mexican heritage does taint his views from the bench.

HIGBE: The fact of what he believes though. His Mexican heritage is rooted in the fact he supports illegal immigration.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But his Mexican heritage is rooted in the fact his parents are Mexican. They're not rooted in beliefs. It's a fact. His parents were Mexican.

HIGBE: That's what we're talking about though that this judge is rooted in the beliefs that he believes in illegal immigration, he supported illegal immigration --

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: So all people with Mexican heritage believe in illegal

immigration?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Wait. All people with Mexican heritage believe in illegal immigration?

HIGBE: Not all of them. This guy does.

BOLDUAN: What?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: How does one believe in illegal immigration?

HIGBE: Look at his history. Look at the past of everything he's been. He's been a supporter through La Raza, for immigration and sanctuary cities. This is not unknown knowledge. This is common knowledge.

BOLDUAN: This is not the argument that Donald Trump originally made though.

HIGBE: That's what he brought up in relation to it.

BOLDUAN: Let's weigh in.

BERMAN: Mark?

PRESTON: I don't know. Maybe I'll just pass it back to Carl.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean, a couple things. One, unless you were Native American, you're not from here. My parents are from Ireland. If you were to ask them, are you Irish or are you a citizen of the United States, they'd say they're a citizen of the United States. They're not Irish. They're of Irish heritage, or what have you.

The problem is with this is that Donald Trump did not make that case initially. And we now have a lot of Republican Senators, OK, if we're going to get a political football, they're coming out in defense of this judge. And it's also a slippery slope with the three different branches of government and a direct attack on one, one that's supposed to be very fair and impartial.

HIGBE: Supposed to be. But it's not.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESTON: But he is showing a record that he hasn't been.

BERMAN: He attacked the judge's heritage. Again, it's not just me saying this. It's Paul Ryan saying this, the leader of the Republican Party. BOLDUAN: It's Mark Kirk saying this. It's Mitch McConnell saying

this.

HIGBE: We know exactly what Donald Trump -- and if you don't, you need to do a little bit of background. Donald Trump is not a racist. It wasn't a racist comment. It was in relation to his --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: So you don't think he needs to apologize, no?

HIGBE: I don't think so.

BERMAN: Carl, Mark, thank you so much for being with us.

HIGBE: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Appreciate it

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

Thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Thanks to you, we've reached a milestone.