Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Day 2 of Republican National Convention; Wasserman Schultz Responds to Manafort Slamming Clinton for Melania Speech Controversy; Tiffany, Donald Trump Jr to Speak at RNC Tonight. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired July 19, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I just love an opportunity to say that. The big business of the day, Donald Trump will officially be nominated. If yesterday's floor chaos is any preview, what will today bring?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us to discuss, CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers, a Trump supporter; and CNN political commentator, Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump supporter; Alex Conant --
BOLDUAN: Can any of you out there understand him?
BERMAN: -- Alex Conant, a Marco Rubio supporter. A lot of good that does you today.
And, John Yob, author of "Chaos, The Outsider's Guide to a Contested Republican National Convention." He supports order.
Let's leave it at that.
BERMAN: Alex, I want to start with you. We'll play a game, today you are thinking what? Put yourself in Paul Ryan's shoes. After last night and what happened, the Melania speech issue, Paul Ryan, the big speech tonight. He's approaching tonight's speech and going through his speech is?-
ALEX CONANT, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MARCO RUBIO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: What do I want to talk about? He's not going to go up on the stage and talk about what Trump wants to talk about. He's going to go up and talk about what I want to talk about. What we've seen so far is the people that take control of their own destiny, if people go up and talk about their messages. They're doing the best on the floor.
BOLDUAN: Quick question, does he mention Donald Trump at all in his speech?
CONANT: I think you have to.
BOLDUAN: A couple people didn't last night.
CONANT: I'm sure -- look, Paul Ryan has a big future in this party, and tonight is not going to be a big moment for him long term. I don't think we'll be looking back four years from now on what did Paul Ryan said at the convention. I think it'll be good speech about the House agenda --
BOLDUAN: Another thought bubble we're curious about, Scottie, Chris Christie, he walks up on that stage, looks out amongst the stage, what is his thought bubble?
SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: His thought is, man, I hope happens to me one day.
Chris Christie, we saw him this morning, going right along with what the Trump campaign is saying regarding Melania's speech. I think tonight's speech is going to show. After all, this convention is about Mr. Trump. But I think it's ability introducing everyone to his possible administration. I think this is letting the public on a big stage saying these are the kind of folks I'm going to surround myself with I'm president. And Chris Christie will be one of those.
BERMAN: John Yob, the Never-Trump movement, they were dealt perhaps a fatal blow.
BOLDUAN: It won't die.
BERMAN: What are they thinking right now? What else can they do knowing tonight is the night Donald Trump is nominated for the Republican nomination?
JOHN YOB, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & AUTHOR: They lost. They were given a voice yesterday, had an opportunity, submitted the signatures. Some of those folks didn't know what they were signing so they retracted the signatures. They were given a voice, an opportunity and the effort failed.
BERMAN: Nothing else they can do?
YOB: You can always try to make noise in a convention hall. There's nothing that's going to be effective in terms of impacting the nomination process.
HUGHES: Which is what the whole goal was. It was about embarrassment to the GOP, to Donald Trump.
BOLDUAN: Don't tell that to Ken Cuccinelli and Mike Lee and all those delegates that were screaming on the floor yesterday.
HUGHES: The key going into it, why did they not know -- they knew their guys were not going to hold strong. Why do it except to have that as the attention and embarrass them.
CONANT: Why steamroll them? Why not let some of the air out of the balloon yesterday so you're not going to again deal with it this afternoon. (CROSSTALK)
CONANT: They said this is an issue we'll talk about all week because you have delegates on the floor who feel their voices have not been heard.
HUGHES: They've lost every single battle. They've lost 84-12 on Saturday. They had to start -- it's called rules. We do have rules. They sat there. They lost every single time. This was another desperate Hail Mary. Unfortunately, Ken Cuccinelli and Senator Mike Lee, two good conservatives, are the scapegoats on it --
CONANT: I'm not a Never-Trumper. I think it's good we come out of Cleveland with delegates feeling they were disenfranchised.
HUGHES: It depends. The delegates are there not necessarily to be true Trump delegates.
YOB: I would give the RNC podium credit for recognizing the motion. This time they at least gave them a voice. Recognized the signatures submitted to the secretary. They could have steamrolled and it was dealt.
BERMAN: Bakari Sellers, you've been seeing here --
CONANT: Is like TV in person.
BOLDUAN: By the way, we're on television.
BERMAN: Don't wiggle out.
BOLDUAN: No wiggling.
BERMAN: No wiggling here. Watching the convention last night, what do you think the best moment was?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The best moment for the Trump campaign, I'm not certain yet. The best moment for the Republican Party was Joni Ernst. She was a superstar last night. But I thought it was indicative of the Trump campaign because they buried her at 11:30 with no one in the hall to hear her. I peaked up because this is what I wanted to see the entire night. I think Melania Trump's speech had an opportunity to humanize Trump. It was a swing and miss. Now we're dealing with these other issues.
BERMAN: Swing and miss because of the plagiarism issue?
SELLERS: No, no, no. Well, that is an issue.
BERMAN: A lot of people watched the spiel and thought it was effective.
SELLERS: It was effective to a point. She is his number-one character witness. When you have a speech like that, when you have an Ann Romney, a Michelle Obama, they tell you personal anecdotes. What we didn't hear is how he's a great husband. Give me a story about what he does when you're sick at home. What does he do with baron? The reason she read it so eloquently is because it was Michelle Obama's speech.
[11:35:28] HUGHES: Oh, had to get that dig in there.
BOLDUAN: Alex, you actually worked Joni Ernst. What's going through her head today?
CONANT: I haven't spoken to her, so I can't speak to what going on in her head. I wish somebody would say, it's late, let's push her to Tuesday night. Find her ten minutes this evening to speak. She is one of the few next-generation conservatives addressing the conference, one of the few people I was really excited to hear from. It was a disturbance to the campaign, to the party, to Joni to have her speak to an audience that was much smaller than she deserved.
SELLERS: Because outside of the themes, the narratives that are drawn, outside of Melania Trump's plagiarism, is the major narrative coming out, but the themes, you have Rudy Giuliani and Sheriff Clark, I mean, I heard Black Lives Matter last night more than I hear Black Lives Matter at a Black Lives Matter rally. It was that type of rhetoric and some was divisive. Joni Ernst and General Flynn I thought they deserved the time to address the nation on what they knew best. Joni Ernst could be a super star and she could stir some hearts of Democrats as well.
BERMAN: Can we talk about the WWE moment? I loved when Donald Trump walked out with the smoke behind him, the silhouette and introduced Melania, his wife there.
BERMAN: John, that was a powerful image. Will that stick with delegates? Do delegates like that?
CONANT: I think it was a very powerful image. But I think it's also an indicator of what's to come. We'll see more of Donald Trump in the next few days. It's going to be exciting. He won the nomination based on his ability to do things like this and his experience in terms of reality television and driving the media narrative, et cetera. I think it's an indicator of what we'll see.
BOLDUAN: How does he top it? Is it zip line?
HUGHES: People were disappointed he didn't zip line. Parachuting might be next. Anything less would be unexpected. He knew he had to do that. He came out and gave this very short introduction of Melania. There was people saying he would go for 20 minutes talking about everything else. That's the key about Mr. Trump. I guarantee we'll tune in tonight.
SELLERS: Didn't he promise us celebrities and superstars and showbiz? You get Scott Baio I don't and the underwear model, Antonio Sabato.
HUGHES: We know you know, you have the picture above your bed. Don't be so jealous. Don't be a hater.
I'm sorry we can't sit here and bring out Hollywood stars like the Democrats roll out for theirs. Don't criticize those conservative Republicans who get hurt from coming out as conservatives in Hollywood.
CONANT: I just hope that by the end of the week, that is truly presidential from Donald Trump. We didn't see that.
CONANT: Because if he's going to be competitive this fall, he needs to prove to Americans this week he is capable of being president, he's ready to be president. I think last night was missed opportunities. We have three more nights to go.
BERMAN: All right.
BOLDUAN: Stick around everybody.
BERMAN: Stick around.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys. It was very fun.
Coming up, more developing stories. The Trump campaign now slamming Hillary Clinton as it fights accusations that Melania Trump copied parts of Michelle Obama's 2008 speech for her 2016 speech. What the Democrats have to say about that coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:43:11] SEN. JONI ERNST, (R), IOWA: Hillary Clinton has failed to protect our national security.
PAT SMITH, MOTHER OF BENGHAZI VICTIM: I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son.
RUDY GIULIANI, (R), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Who would trust Hillary Clinton to protect them?
LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER DIRECTOR DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Crooked Hillary Clinton, leave this race now!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So Hillary Clinton not invited to the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland, but they did have a lot to say about her. Just this morning, Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, blaming Hillary Clinton for the controversy surrounding plagiarized portions of Melania Trump's speech. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL MANAFORT, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: And certainly we've noted that the Clinton camp was the first to get it out there in trying to say there was something untoward about the speech that Melania Trump gave. It's just another example, as far as we're concerned, when Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy the person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Here now to react is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, also Congresswoman from Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Congresswoman, great to see you. Thanks for joining us.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, (D), FLORIDA & CHAIRWOMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thank you, too, Kate.
BOLDUAN: I want to ask, you heard right there Paul Manafort talking about Melania-gate, we'll have to call it that to shorthand there. The campaign has just said they're done talking about accusations of plagiarism. Nobody is going to be fired, they are moving. Do you accept this is over and done?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Let me first say I thought Melania Trump did a really nice job presenting herself to the American people and gave a very nice speech. At the end of the day, it is the Trump organization, the Trump campaign that needs to be held accountable and to answer for any concerns over the content of the speech. I think this is just emblematic of how unprepared and be president of the United States Donald Trump really is. They had a chaotic and disorganized mess on the convention floor yesterday. They had the most vitriolic, spewing venom about Hillary Clinton from the stage yesterday because they have nothing good to say about their own nominee. that is evidenced, Kate, by the fact you have the last two Republican presidents, the last two Republican nominees and dozens upon dozens of Republican officials who have not come to the Republican National Convention because they want nothing to do with the toxicity that is Donald Trump.
[11:45:44] BERMAN: You said vitriolic, are you including Pat Smith in that group, the mother of Sean Smith, lost in Benghazi, who spoke very passionately about what happened to her son there? And she blamed Hillary Clinton. There may be viewers out there who haven't been paying attention to congressional hearings who aren't up to snuff on Benghazi, who heard that. Might that not have connected with voters?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: She is a heartbroken mother. As a mom myself, I can certainly understand the pain and empathize with the pain that she must be going through.
But the panoply of speakers on the podium yesterday had nothing positive to say about Donald Trump or what he would do for the country. Today they are going to focus on making American work again. That's great, except if you get a close look at Donald Trump's business record, you can see very clearly that he has jilted people whom he owed money to. He has been in bankruptcy multiple times. He has a budget-busting, deficit-busting economic proposal that would cost more than 30 trillion and go back to policies that put this country in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression by taking care of those at the very top. If that's how we make America work again, the American people are going to want no part of it.
BERMAN: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic national chair, thanks so much.
BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Tonight, a pair of non-Melania Trump family members will give their speeches on the RNC stage. Will they help the Trump train drive past the speech plagiarism drama playing out today? What to expect from Tiffany Trump and Donald Jr. That's ahead.
[11:51:33] BOLDUAN: Yesterday's theme in Cleveland was "Make America Safe Again." Today, the theme sounds similar, "Make America Work Again." What should you look for in round two of the convention? Oh, we have a team to tell you.
Joining us, Pete Seat, former director of the Republican Indiana Republican Party ; and with us "CNN Politics" executive editor, Mark Preston; and CNN political analyst, editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast," John Avlon.
A lot to discuss. Before we look ahead, let's take a look behind, if we could.
John Avlon, you have written many, many a speech. How did this happen with Melania Trump?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, it appears no one's going to be fired. That's significant for someone's first impulse is to furiously fire people. The fact she was taking credit for writing the speech herself indicates she researched into formal first ladies' convention addresses. Somewhere in the process, whoever was directly responsible, a paragraph from Obama's speech was cut and pasted into her speech and subsequently edited. That's plagiarism. It was a distraction from a successful speech for her. There's also the -- it's not the crime, but the cover-up. That's significant. Coming from the top and every organization, this morning, CNN quick to say this was, blame it Hillary, Hillary attacking. The facts say otherwise. Don't be shy about saying it. It's monument all screw-up of the organization. It would typically be a firing offense.
BERMAN: Just this hour, we learned they are going to do nothing. No one is fired. Moving on, dealing with tonight.
Pete, how do you deal with tonight? Can you just go ahead with this program and will it go away when Chris Christie takes the stage, Paul Ryan, when they speak, do we forget what Melania said?
PETE SEAT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the theme tonight is "Make America Pivot Again." They have to pivot away from what happened last night. I listened to Melania's speech on the radio on the drive out here from Indiana thinking it was a grand slam home run, remarkable. I wish Donald Trump said those words. Now you have Chris Christie on the stage. Question in my mind, does he pull 2012 again speaking more about himself rather than Romney --
SEAT: Right. Or is he going to be a great surrogate for Donald Trump and make the case for him?
BOLDUAN: We also have other members of the Trump family speaking tonight, Tiffany Donald Trump speaking, Don Jr. speaking tonight. Did what happened with Melania make their job harder tonight?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: As we speak, I suspect they are now going through all the speeches word by word by word. I suspect, because screwing up once terrible, screwing up twice, I don't know how you would recover.
AVLON: There's a deeper screw-up last night, that it was all boilerplate. The opportunity for family speaking is to pull the curtain back. They know Donald Trump is the guy who fires people on "The Apprentice," a slash-and-burn candidate in the primaries. What the don't have a sense of is the heart behind the hair, so to speak, a sense who he is as a father, a husband, and that, anecdotes that illuminate to show last night were missing.
BERMAN: We could get that tonight.
PRESTON: We've seen that in the CNN town hall, where we had all the family several months ago --
PRESTON: -- and really was --
We'll do another one.
No, look, bottom line, that was a moment in the campaign for Donald Trump. One of his best moments, right? They were basically his witnesses, and they did a fantastic job.
[11:55:14] BERMAN: Pete, last question, 30 seconds left. What do we have to be talking about tomorrow morning for the convention to be on track?
SEAT: Talk about why Donald Trump should be the next president. Last night was, before all the controversy, was why Hillary Clinton shouldn't be president and now needs to turn to why Donald Trump should be.
BOLDUAN: Vision. We need to see vision. That's maybe some we'll get tonight.
Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.
BOLDUAN: Can I be invited to the next town hall?
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
BERMAN: Thanks to Mark Preston, Pete Seat, John Avlon.
Our special coverage continues, oh, in a wee little bit.
[12:00:13] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to this special convention --