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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump: Calling Obama ISIS Founder Was Sarcasm; Dozens of Republicans Urge RNC to Cut Off Money to Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired August 12, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be looking up to that and to your updates, as well. We'll also be looking to see when the color of the water of the pool changes.
Coy Wire for us live in Rio.
Thanks for joining me today. I'm Erica Hill.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They're the founders.
(voice-over): I think he's the founder of ISIS, I do.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Reince Priebus essentially threatened Donald Trump to turn things around or else.
TRUMP: If it is true, that's OK, too, because all I have to do is stop funding the Republican Party.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Clinton's chief of staff was in New York working on behalf of the Clinton Foundation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel confident that all the rulings were followed?
TRUMP: Maybe the most important election that our country's ever had. It's probably the only way I'm going to get to heaven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was a good one.
I'm Kate Bolduan.
Let us play our favorite game on this happy Friday, one we like to call, I didn't say that, you just heard it wrong. You can find it right on the shelf next to taboo and battleship. No, you are definitely not sensing any bit of sarcasm here.
Today, Donald Trump after tripling down on calling President Obama and Hillary Clinton the co-founders of ISIS, is now tweeting this, quote, "Ratings-challenged CNN reports so seriously that I call President Obama and Clinton the founders of ISIS and MVP. They don't get sarcasm?"
Let us take a brief walk down memory lane of the last 48 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He is the founder of ISIS. He's the founder of ISIS.
I call President Obama and Hillary Clinton the founders of ISIS. They're the founders.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, these are the founders of ISIS.
HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST (voice-over): Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant, he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.
TRUMP (voice-over): No. I think he's the founder of ISIS. He's the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way.
HEWITT: But he's not sympathetic to them. He hates them. He's trying to kill them.
TRUMP: I don't care. He was the founder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Meanwhile, something nearly unheard of in Trump world, an admission of vulnerability, maybe even weakness in states you would never imagine.
Let's go to chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, live for us in Washington.
Dana, you are never sarcastic.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know what you're talking about. I'm usually not speechless. The question I'm sure you're wanting to know is, how did he go from Hugh Hewitt not handing Trump not one but two lifelines to kind of work his way out of this idea that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the co-founders of ISIS yesterday to today saying, no, no, it was just sarcasm, CNN and other news organizations are taking me too seriously. So are we supposed to not take him seriously even when he says he really means it and doubles, triples, quadruples down? I'm not sure I know the answer. We have to keep on keeping on keeping on, reporting what he says and bringing it to viewers.
BOLDUAN: Keep on keeping on. That's basically the only way to survive this election for any of us. Dana, we have heard him say he was joking and folks have misunderstood
BASH: No question.
BOLDUAN: One thing we haven't heard before really is Donald Trump talking about losing and talking about specific states.
BASH: There was so much focus on his founder and the ISIS situation yesterday that this may be got a little bit lost. I think you're exactly right. I think it was something so striking because it seems so out of character for Donald Trump speaking yesterday to a group of evangelical leaders in Florida talking about the potential to lose a very Republican state of Utah. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You got to get your people out to vote. And especially in those states where we're represented -- having a tremendous problem in Utah. Utah's a different place. I don't know -- is anybody here from Utah? I mean, it's -- I didn't think so.
We're having a problem. I mean, because, you know, look it could cost us the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, just a little bit of context there. Again, he was talking to evangelical leaders. There is kind of an historic tension between evangelicals and Mormons. And Mormons, of course, make up the vast majority of the Republican voters in Utah, at least those who Republicans rely on. So that was kind of what his appeal was there. But, still, the idea of him saying that it's a place that he could potentially lose is definitely not something we hear from the guy who says he's going to be winning so much, we're going to get sick of winning.
[11:05:14] However, I will say, as that is going on, I'm hearing this morning from some Republican officials, veteran Republican officials, who have run campaigns on a national level before, people who are perplexed about where he is spending his time. For example, tomorrow, Donald Trump is going to Connecticut. Connecticut is a historically reliably blue state, at least in modern times. His campaign tells me that they think that is one of the areas where he can turn it red. They say that's the reason he is going.
But that's not the only complaint, I will tell you, as I toss it back to you. The other big open question I'm hearing is what about the tens of millions of dollars he has been able to raise? He spent a lot of time fundraising. Why is it they're waiting so long to put any ads on the air?
He says it all the time on the campaign trail, the Hillary Clinton campaign is spending so much money against him and he's got goose egg on the air. And, you know, they say inside the Trump campaign, they do have a strategy, they do have a plan. They won't share it with us. But there's a lot of concern out there he's just sitting on this money and they don't know why.
BOLDUAN: The longer you wait, the more expensive the ads get in those media markets. You know what I mean.
So, Dana, keep on keeping on, great to see you.
Great to see you.
BASH: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Joining us, Joseph Boreli, New York City councilman, Trump supporter; Doug Heye, CNN political commentator, Republican strategist, former RNC communications director; Hilary Rosen, CNN political commentator, Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter; and Hunter Schwarz, national political reporter for "The Independent Journal Review."
Guys, great to have you all here.
Mr. Boreli, to you first, my friend.
You are a Donald Trump supporter. All day yesterday, Donald Trump and everyone supporting him and defending him spent all day saying this was not a joke, this was very serious and this is exactly what Donald Trump means. Does this put you in a tough spot, now that he's gone 180 so quickly?
JOSEPH BORELI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I think Donald Trump was using sarcasm the whole time. Whether you're a supporter or critic believed that he was actually saying Barack Obama was in a cave somewhere in Syria --
BOLDUAN: He believes he was saying that.
BOLDUAN: So many people were defending him on our air, saying that.
BORELI: I have been objective on Donald Trump comments in the past. I think this is one of the times it works to his Benefit. What he's doing is creating a word association. He's saying Obama is tied to ISIS in a way we can all remember. For the last three days, we haven't been talk about any of the stuff that was bad for him in the last week. We've all been talking -- Trump surrogates have been explaining this comment and Trump opponents have been saying, well, Obama really did have a failed policy on ISIS but it's not nice to say.
BERMAN: Your idea is if you're talking about ISIS at all, even if you're talking about false claims about ISIS, it's good for Donald Trump.
BORELI: He's creating, again, a word association that two guys in a firehouse or two women waiting for their kids at school can just talk and snicker at and I think it presents this -- rather, it just -- it creates this image in people's mind of an association between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and ISIS which a concern.
BERMAN: When he said he wasn't joking yesterday, he was joking about not joking?
BORELI: I think so.
BOLDUAN: There you have it.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's just a terrible thing to say. I just -- I want -- I don't even know where to begin with this kind of gamesmanship about such a serious national security issue. First, he was joking about president Putin, Vladimir Putin infiltrating America's databases. Then he said, no, I was just joking. Now he's just joking about it. It's not funny. He's running to be commander-in-chief. Making jokes about this. And then his surrogates going on TV saying, of course he's sarcastic and that's the point so you'll all act like idiots for three days talking about it. That is just not funny. This is not what a presidential campaign should be about. Hillary Clinton is out there talking about the issues. Where is Donald Trump's five-point plan to deal with ISIS, if he's so smart about it? Let's talk about it. Let's have a conversation about how he's going to govern. This is not a game.
BOLDUAN: Doug, real quick, on this. We've got another topic we want to talk about. But you're a Republican that is no fan of Donald Trump. Where do you land on this?
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We focus on Donald Trump outrage every day because it's always something different. While we talk about the latest crazy thing Donald Trump said, what's really happening on the ground is Hillary Clinton right now is organizing in key states and key counties in precincts. Donald Trump's campaign is not.
I was in Iowa last week. There's no Donald Trump campaign there. Help had a rally. There was a big Trump plane in the Des Moines airport which, unfortunately, it was bad timing to be at, at the same time. In my home state in North Carolina, another swing state, there's no real Trump campaign there. The only thing you hear about Trump staffers is this week's revelation that one Trump staffer pulled a gun on another staffer. Probably not the Second Amendment conversation we need to have. Also demonstrates this is not a real campaign and doesn't exist except on TV and Twitter.
[11:10:27] BERMAN: Want to come back to the strategy around the country. But let me put a button on the sarcasm discussion to the point Councilman Boreli was making because, on Monday, Donald Trump is giving a speech, a policy speech, he says, on ISIS, in Ohio. You know, ISIS is one of these issues, who best to handle ISIS. In the polls, it's been Donald Trump ahead, Hillary Clinton, topsy-turvy. This is a place where he's competitive.
So if it is being discussed, is this terrain you think which is more favorable to the Trump campaign, Hunter?
HUNTER SCHWARZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE INDEPENDENT JOURNAL REVIEW: You know, this is something that he focused on when he was speaking at the RNC. You know, the war on terror is no longer something we fight far off in Afghanistan. This is something that's come home. That's something he's campaigned on. He is the candidate who is going to be able to fight is and fight terrorism at home and abroad.
BOLDUAN: Let's talk about kind of the campaign organization and where things stand right now. There's this letter has been -- an open letter to the RNC, to Reince Priebus, saying it's so bad that you need to pull back, you need to move all of your resources elsewhere. Doug, move your time, your energy, your effort elsewhere. You saw that letter. You decided not to sign. Do you disagree?
HEYE: I don't disagree with that strategy. I think that's probably where the RNC will end up. We have members of the Senate who we need to shore up and who really are experiencing a lot of bad things on the campaign trail, having to answer another Donald Trump comment yet again every day. For me, you guys know when I worked at the RNC, it was pretty choppy waters. I don't want to add any choppy waters to what Reince and the team there is dealing with. I think we get a lot of people 50-people letters and all the harrumphing. I wish they were doing that a year ago when people were warning this guy should be taken for real and he's dangerous for the party and potentially the country.
BERMAN: We'll leave that there.
Hunter, I want to talk about Utah because it's fascinating. You cover it quite a bit. Give us a sense of what's going on there right now. Give us a sense of what Donald Trump's words yesterday meant, because it's fascinating on many levels. On the one hand, was he asking for evangelical support in Utah? Did he just not understand the dynamic between evangelicals or Mormons? Or was he trying to fan the flames?
SCHWARZ: What we're seeing is unprecedented. Mormons are the most Republican religious group in the United States. Usually, it's taken for granted they'll vote Republican. To have the Republican nominee admit he's not doing well in Utah. And then the Democratic nominee, we had Bill Clinton in Utah yesterday. He was fundraising. And Hillary Clinton wrote an op-ed in one of the two major newspaper. And it was -- the language in that was -- it was very specific to Mormons. She mentioned Mormon history, including the 1838 extermination order where the governor of Missouri said Mormons should be exterminates. These are things you don't hear presidential candidates saying when they're speaking to Mormons. She quoted Mormon leaders. She quoted Mitt Romney. And --
(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: Why is he struggling? What's the one -- why is he struggling amongst Mormons? Why is he struggling in Utah?
SCHWARZ: Mormons what they look for in a leader, it's not necessarily the things Trump looks for. The things they teach you growing up and the things you value, it's more humility than being bold and brash like Trump. And so he's just -- he's having a problem connecting with voters there. The governor of Utah, however, he's been critical of Trump, Governor Gary Hubert. But he said he's planning on voting for Trump. He may not agree with everything he says, but he said he thinks Trump does a better job on state rights, Supreme Court nominees. But even his administration is split because I spoke with a spokesperson for the lieutenant governor, Spencer Cox, and he said he is not ready to say he's going to vote for Trump. So that's how a lot of voters in Utah and Mormon voters across the country are feeling now.
BERMAN: Councilman, as you sit here in New York and you look at troubles in Utah, that's got to be concerning.
BORELI: Look, I don't know if Utah was ever on the Trump campaign strategy in a broad sense. I think as we pointed out he did always have troubles with Mormons. You saw that in the primary as well. It's a state where if you don't get this bloc of voters, the Mormons, you're not going to compete as a Republican. I think he's going to do a great job. I think as Hunter pointed out, the governor's comments are indicative he could pick up ground there. I just don't think the campaign has formally adopted a Utah broad-based campaign approach.
HEYE: But the reality is Republicans shouldn't have to in Utah.
HEYE: And South Carolina has problems, too.
[11:15:14] BOLDUAN: But, I mean, Hilary, do you think Hillary Clinton is going -- this kind of goes on the Georgia conversation we had, the Arizona conversion we started having. Does this fit the bill? Are they going to be moving resources? Bill Clinton was there. Is she going to start going there?
ROSEN: We're seeing Hillary Clinton move the map for Democrats in an historic way here where Georgia in play. Utah in play. Arizona's looking strong. I think we're going to see Hillary Clinton win some states that weren't originally in the plan. And, you know, the interesting thing, just as a political analyst, not as a partisan here, the amount of defections we are seeing from Republicans. It's just -- I never -- not only have we never seen this in presidential elections, I've never even imagined it could be this broad. And so the fact that Donald Trump is just not really significantly expanding his base beyond the primary. And, in fact, is sort of pooh-poohing the need to, gives Hillary Clinton a lot of openings here to just broaden her tent, broaden the support. And, frankly, when he governs as president, it will serve her well, because she will have started to bring the country together in the general election.
BERMAN: Said as a nonpartisan.
BERMAN: Hillary Rosen, Hillary Clinton supporter; Hunter Schwarz, Doug, Joseph, thank you very much.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
BERMAN: Up next, we're going to speak to a Republican who signed the letter we were just talking about urging the Republican Party to stop spending money on behalf of Donald Trump. Why they now think that Trump's what they call "recklessness" could hand the Democrats more than just the White House.
BOLDUAN: Top Hillary Clinton aide travels to New York City. That sounds like nothing. The reason for her travel, that sounds like something a lot of folks are talking about now. New details about the State Department, Hillary Clinton's State Department, and where the line is between that State Department and the Clinton Global Initiative.
We'll be right back.
[11:20:00] BOLDUAN: Is it now shaping up to be a Republican revolt? At least 75 Republican members, including former lawmakers and party staffers, signing an open letter to the Republican National Committee asking the committee, asking its chairman, Reince Priebus, to pull the plug and pull the purse on Donald Trump and direct its efforts elsewhere, to Senate and House races instead.
BERMAN: They see Donald Trump as a rogue submarine like "Red October" who could torpedo for the Republican majority in Congress. The letter warns it could drown with, quote, "a Trump emblazoned anchor around its neck."
BOLDUAN: Now I get the "Red October" reference. Thank you.
BERMAN: Rudy Fernandez signed that letter. He was a special assistant to George W. Bush, a former RNC official and was a supporter of Jeb Bush and then Marco Rubio in the primaries.
Rudy, thank you very much for being with us.
Why write this letter and make it so public?
RUDY FERNANDEZ, FORMER RNC OFFICIAL & FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Good morning, it's a pleasure.
FERNANDEZ: Well, we're trying to send a very strong message to Chairman Priebus to basically do his job. I've been in that building and worked several presidential campaigns. There comes a time when you have to prioritize. Look, if Marco Rubio was down RNC would divert resources to other states in play. You've got to prioritize. Most polls show Trump down eight to 10 points. What we cannot do as Republicans and most of the signers of that letter are people that have spent the majority of their Republican party. What we cannot do is hand Hillary Clinton, a potential president Hillary Clinton a blank check, as Paul Ryan said in one of his fundraising letters. And that's exactly what would happen if we lose the White House but lose control of the Senate and the potentially, if it's a landslide, we could lose seats like in Miami, a freshman member --
FERNANDEZ: -- who's a rising star within the party, and could lose if we don't get resources to him.
BOLDUAN: Rudy, probably maybe no surprise, Donald Trump does not agree. When asked about the idea of moving resources elsewhere and what that means, he issued his own threat. He said you guys need him more than he needs you. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If it is true, that's OK too. All I'll have to do is stop funding the Republican Party. I'm the one raising the money for them. Right now, I'm in Orlando. I'm going to a fundraiser for the Republican Party. So if they want to do that, they can save me a lot of time and a lot of energy.
(CROSSTALK) (END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: What do you say?
FERNANDEZ: Well, he acts like the Republican Party. Reality is the party of Lincoln has been around for a long time. We've been very successful fundraisers. He's not the only one raising dollars for Republicans. The fact is the major donors have stayed away because his campaign is a disaster and they're allocating funds to Senate races, key Senate races and key House races. That's what's important. What we have to do at all costs, if you love the Republican party and you care about the future of the Republican party -- Chairman Priebus, and that's after all your job -- you have to realize the party's bigger than any one person and we have to ensure we keep the Senate in Republican hands and ensure we maintain our (inaudible) we're going to deny Hillary Clinton a blank check. Keep in mind, President Hillary Clinton, with a Democrat Congress, would further advance this economy of entitlement and it would be very detrimental to the nation.
BERMAN: You say it's bigger than one person. 14 million people voted for Donald Trump in the primary. It gets to the question of who's party is it. He won the Republican Party caucus system. He got the convention behind him. He won. Are you not ensuring his defeat by launching this effort?
FERNANDEZ: And now he's losing. And now every major poll shows him down eight to 10 points. There's precedence for this. In 1996, you see, history is something that -- history in the Republican Party is something that Trump doesn't appreciate. And, of course, he only became a Republican a few years ago, so I don't fault him for that. In 1996, the RNC walked away from the Bob Dole campaign and shifted resources, as they need to do here in this particular race, to Senate races and house races.
[11:25:30] BOLDUAN: But real quick, to John's question, Rudy, are you ensuring he loses by coming out with this letter or moving resources rather than trying to turn around --
FERNANDEZ: He's doing a great -- Kate, he's doing a great job of ensuring he loses day in and day out. If he was planning to lose all along, I would submit to you he would be doing exactly what he's doing now.
BERMAN: Rudy Fernandez, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, Rudy.
FERNANDEZ: My pleasure.
BOLDUAN: Coming up, "Clinton is somebody I can work with" -- those words not coming from a Democrat but a very well-known conservative Republican and someone who is going to be voting for Donald Trump. The rare praise from that Republican Congressman, ahead.
BERMAN: Plus, a train trip by a Clinton aide that remains a mystery until now. New details about what many are calling the blurred lines between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation.