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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Wisconsin Key for GOP Candidates; Scott Walker Endorses Ted Cruz; Trump Campaign Manager Arrested, Charged with Assault on Reporter; Wisconsin a Battleground for Democrats; Kasich, Cruz, Romney Plot to Stop Trump. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 29, 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] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. John Berman is off.

The famous fight song tells us, "On Wisconsin," and so it is. Every candidate running for president is in that state today ahead of the primary exactly one week out. We're hours away from a critical stop from the Republican candidates. All three will take the stage in Milwaukee tonight and face the voters in a CNN town hall.

Ted Cruz picking up a key endorsement a short time ago from Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT WALKER, (R), WISCONSIN GOVERNOR (voice-over): We want people who are principled, common sense conservatives who are people who can do what they say, who stick to their guns, but also people who can both win the nomination and go on to defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall. And for that reason, I am proud to endorse Ted Cruz.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So there you have it. He'll be campaigning with Ted Cruz.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is joining us now in Milwaukee at the site of tonight's CNN town tall.

Phil, this is a state with 42 delegates and it's become a key prize for the Republican side of this race. Lay it out for us.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. Look, no shortage of issues for the candidates to get into tonight based on the last week of what we've seen, whether it's personal attacks or Donald Trump's foreign policy or whether, perhaps, even delegate lawsuits. I think what's most interesting when you look at this state right now is it's even. When you look at Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and even John Kasich, as the delegates are allocated by this state, there's an opportunity to do well for all. Scott Walker's endorsement is more proof that everybody is consolidated behind him. Donald Trump has wasted no time attacking Scott Walker and saying he's the candidate people should be going for in Wisconsin.

What will be really interesting to watch over the next couple of days and tonight is how the candidates deal with one another. No love loss between Cruz and Trump, but even John Kasich really going after Donald Trump on foreign policy as well. Again, trying to target this state, pull off some delegates and get in the way of Donald Trump on his march who has looked unimpeded to the nomination.

BOLDUAN: In the effort to stop Trump, this state has become key and possibly make-or-break in that effort to hold him off.

Let's discuss it.

Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

Let me bring in CNN political commentator and Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany; editor of the "Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol; national political reporter for "The New York Times," Alex Burns, and CNN political commentator, Van Jones.

It's great to have all of you.

A very important day ahead of this CNN town hall, but also this endorsement, Alex, from Scott Walker. I think we can all agree endorsements have meant much less in this cycle, but he's as big as it gets in Wisconsin. Do you think it impacts in the state?

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I do. Wisconsin is not seen as a state that's a natural fit for somebody like Ted Cruz. He's much more of a conventional evangelical oriented more southern politician. That's not necessarily the person you see winning the Wisconsin primary. Walker is a validater for those conservative voters, particularly in Milwaukee, they don't like Trump. Walker getting behind Cruz is a signal to them that this guy is OK for people like this.

BOLDUAN: This guy is OK.

But also it's interesting. Bill, let me have you weigh in on this. Walker, last week, I think he also said that if this goes on the Republican side to a contested convention, he says none of the three of the guys running are going to lock in the nomination. What's he saying there?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: I think he's saying what's true, which is if Trump falls short and Cruz falls short, it will be a deadlocked convention and then an open contention, something we haven't seen in our lifetime. It would be interesting and fun, and maybe produce a good result, maybe not.

Trump did not win in either Iowa or Minnesota, which are both neighboring states to Wisconsin. I think this is a state where Trump could lose. It could be important. There's a week off after Wisconsin. It's kind of a reset or the second half, like 40 percent of the delegates, 40 percent of the states have to vote. Wisconsin has become a little bit like New Hampshire was at the beginning where Trump did well and launched himself into a winning streak in the first half of the states. If Trump loses Wisconsin, I think you could see a similar kind of momentum here in the final 40 percent. If Trump wins Wisconsin, I think it's close to over. I never want to say it's over until it's over. It's a big moment a week from now in Wisconsin.

BOLDUAN: So, Kayleigh, Bill is talking about a reset. It seems that Donald Trump needed a reset. He was largely off the trail. He called into Sunday's shows. He was largely off the trail last week. And now he's back in it, and hitting the trail in Wisconsin. And it started then with an interview with a very well-known conservative radio host in Wisconsin, Charlie Sykes. He hammered him between Trump and Cruz with regard to their wives. Sykes called Trump a 12-year-old bully on the playground with regard to this feud.

Listen to what Sykes said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:05:35] CHARLIE SYKES, CHICAGO RADIO SHOW HOST (voice-over): I expect that from a 12 year-old bully on a playground, not someone that wants to --

(CROSSTALK)

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION (voice-over): Again, I didn't start it. He started it. If he didn't start it, it would have never happened. Nothing like this would have ever started. But he started it.

SYKES: Remember, we're not on the --

(CROSSTALK)

SYKES: We're not on a playground. We're running for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Kayleigh, we talked over the weekend about this during election coverage. You want this to go away. You want to move onto other policy conversations. Doesn't look like it is.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it will move on. I think tonight's town hall is going to be a big night for Donald Trump to talk about the issues. It will be a substantive night. He does need to move on from this. I've said that repeatedly. And I think he will.

With regard to the interview yesterday, that was completely unfair. That was a got you interview. Donald Trump called in, and the host almost took glee and joy in the fact that Donald Trump didn't know that he was a Never Donald Trump supporter. To Donald Trump's commendation, he goes and talks to "The New York Times" for 100 minutes. He goes on a radio program with a guy who is a Never Trump host. No one in this race has gone into this hostile territory. For Sykes to take glee in tearing down Trump, I think it was unfair.

BOLDUAN: Kayleigh, Trump admitted he didn't know when he went on with Sykes that he was part of that "Never Trump" movement. Isn't the campaign a little bit at fault for not doing their homework?

MCENANY: He didn't know. But I praise him for that. Unlike others, who strategically say, I'll go on this one but not that, he goes on. He wants to take his message to the American people. That means going to unfriendly places. I think we should commend him for probably being the most open candidate in this race with regard to making himself available to all platforms.

BOLDUAN: When you see, Van, coming from the Democrat, you can sit back and let this play out. But Hillary Clinton, when she's been out in Wisconsin, she doesn't look like he's running in the primary, to some, anymore. She seems very focused and in tune with what's going on, on the Republican side.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. Donald Trump has proven to uniter. He's united the Republican and Democratic Party against him. "The Economist" magazine says he would be one of the top-10 threats to world peace and security. "Barron" magazine says he'll destroy the stock market. He's uniting a lot of people against him.

One thing that's interesting, the situation where you had Trump-zilla going through the village, and the villagers fighting among themselves about who will be in this lane or that lane. Finally, the Republican Party is trying to coalesce to try to stop this guy.

From our point of view, Trump is going to help -- if Hillary Clinton is our nominee, he will be her running mate. She's going to say the name more than her own running mate to help her with her own numbers.

BOLDUAN: I want to talk about the effort to stop Trump in a minute with you, Bill.

But, Alex, you've been looking kind of at the glee or kind of the strategy the Democrats will have, not just in a general, but the impact of a Trump nominee at the top of the ticket, down the ballot. We're talking about the balance of power in Congress. In Wisconsin, is one of those states the Democrats are targeting, and have a chance, and that could impact where the majority lands in the Senate. What are you hearing about how real the Trump effect is in terms of ballot races and how candidates are handling it?

BURNS: I think it has the potential to be totally transformative in terms of the ballot to control the Senate and the House. You already have the National Republican Senatorial Committee taking polls to test the power of a message that of assumes Democrats win the White House and tells voters you need a Republican Senate as a check on President Hillary Clinton. Wisconsin is the rare state where they think Trump would bring out Republican voters, not traditional Republican voters in the western part of the state, might not turn out for their Senate candidate. But overall, when you look at the constituencies who Trump has turned

off sort of most intensely, women, college educated voters, Hispanics, and black voters, and you look at the Senate map is, it's tough to see how you hold some of these states like Pennsylvania, like Nevada, like Florida, with those diverse populations with a guy like Trump.

BOLDUAN: Kayleigh, how do you respond to that idea that Trump could be a drag? Could be a weight, a bad weight on the ticket as a nominee?

[11:10:11] MCENANY: You know, I take issue of the wisdom that this will hurt Senate candidates. Something is happening. There's a reason turnout is unprecedented. Turnout we haven't seen in decades. This is because of Donald Trump. This is because he's moving people to the polls and you're just looking at turnout, he's expanded the platform to make the Republican Party amenable to workers who don't want to lose their Social Security and afraid of free trade deals of taking jobs of husbands and wives. He's expanding the platform, saying he wants people to have health care, not die on the streets. I think when he takes that message to voters, it will be popular. The wisdom of him being a drag on Senate candidates, is the opposite. I think he'll be a huge plus for Republicans who need desperately to expand their message.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Alex

BURNS: It's true that Trump is bringing people, who are not typical voters, and not typical Republican voters. She's right. The turnout is higher than it's been in Republican primaries. A lot of people turning out are also voting against Donald Trump. He's driving turnout on both sides of the race. Bringing people who wouldn't vote for Kasich or Romney, also turning out who might not show up for Cruz, except as an opponent for Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: We know that there is a whole lot of attention and handwringing in the halls of Congress, with these members of Congress, especially in the Senate side on how they handle a Trump candidacy and how they handle it as they're trying to save our seats.

Guys, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss.

A quick reminder for viewers, tonight, you'll hear from the Republican candidates in a town hall as they take questions from the voters of Wisconsin tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

Also next, word of a secret effort involving Mitt Romney to broker a deal between Ted Cruz and John Kasich. We have the details.

Plus, the Clinton campaign told us, if Bernie Sanders wants more debates, he needs to change his tone. What's really going on here? We'll discuss.

And more on the breaking news. A man hijacked a passenger jet and says he has explosives. Hear how he did it. And see video showing what happened moments before he boarded the flight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:16:12] BOLDUAN: A live look right now of Hillary Clinton. I think we're going to be seeing her any second now. Hillary Clinton, she will be speaking to voters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Until next week, you can call it Battleground Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton is looking for obviously a win after a weekend swept by Bernie Sanders out west. Sanders is looking to build on his momentum of the moment, something that I heard him say several times Saturday night in his victory speech.

Let's go to senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. He is at the Clinton event.

As we've waiting for it, Jeff, lay it out for us. How is it looking there right now in battle for Wisconsin?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. It is a big battle for Wisconsin. The number 18 comes to mind. You may ask, what is that. That is the number Hillary Clinton lost by, 18 percentage points, to Barack Obama, here in Wisconsin in 2008.

The state of Wisconsin has a progressive history and liberal roots here. That's why Bernie Sanders believes he can do well. It's hard to imagine that he could beat Clinton by 18 points, like Barack Obama did, but the Clinton campaign remembers that well. It's one of the reasons she's campaigning here in Milwaukee. We're at an event on gun violence. Like you said, it's going to start any minute now, at a community church here in Milwaukee.

She's really trying to emphasize the differences between these two candidates on gun violence in particular. It worked during the South Carolina primary. She talked about it a lot. She'll be campaigning here with some mothers of some high-profile shooting and gun victims here. One of the things they're trying to do.

Bernie Sanders is having these big rallies all across this state. All those big rallies he had last summer started here in Wisconsin, in Madison, Wisconsin. He had some 10,000 people here last summer. He's been planting the seed here for a long time.

The next seven days is on Wisconsin. It's true in this Democratic Party primary race -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Oddly enough, it was my high school fight song was on Jeff Zeleny. I wanted to throw that out there.

Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you very much. We'll be keeping an eye on that event.

Let's talk about the state of the race on the Democratic side. It seems there's more and more to talk about right now. Let's bring back in CNN commentator and Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany; editor of the "Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol; national political report for "The New York Times," Alex Burns; and Van Jones, CNN political commentator.

Van, before we get to Wisconsin, because I know it actually is quite important, let's jump ahead of Wisconsin. I want to ask you about New York and the New York primary. Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton to a debate in New York.

On this show yesterday, a chief strategist for Hillary Clinton, he said, before we can talk about more debates, Bernie Sanders needs to change his tone.

Listen here to Joel Benenson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Because we agreed to debates up to a certain point. We're now out campaigning in these states.

BOLDUAN: What's the risk?

BENENSON: There's no risk. She's done well in the debates. The debates have been good. But Senator Sanders doesn't get to decide when we debate, particularly when he's running a negative campaign against us. Let's see if he goes back to the kind of tone he said he was going to set early on. If he does that, we'll talk about debates.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Van, I want to get your take on what you think is going on. First, do you agree with Joel Benenson that Bernie Sanders has turned decisively negative against Hillary Clinton?

[11:19:41] JONES: Compared to what? Certainly, not compared to the Republican debate and not compared to what was going on between Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008. The reality is that the -- we're in the middle of a second surge. That's the reality. You look at the polling numbers, and they're beginning to close between Sanders and Clinton. I think there was a hope after the Michigan miracle that when she then put him away in Ohio and Illinois, that the rationale for his campaign would begin to fade. He was saying I could go north and beat her there. Sanders never got that memo. His supporters never got that memo. They are charging forward. She can't hit him too hard because she doesn't want to chase his voters out of the party, but she needs to figure out how to wrap this thing up to she can turn it to Donald Trump.

New York is the place where this will finally get resolved in important ways. If he can get to 30 percent, 40 percent in her home state, this thing is going to go to the convention. If she can stop him in New York, then maybe this race can settle down to a Hillary Clinton Donald Trump match earlier. Listen, don't count out Bernie Sanders. People keep trying to count him out. His supporters are passionate. He's not going away.

BOLDUAN: Bill, what do you think is going on? What is the calculation within the Clinton campaign? Joel Benenson says there's no risk for him. Hillary Clinton is a great debater.

KRISTOL: It's a classic front runner strategy of trying to run out the clock, do pretty well, mobilize her base voters, and bake it to the nomination. She's a weak candidate. Bernie Sanders is running an impressive campaign, but to do this well against Hillary Clinton is pretty amazing. People didn't predict this six or nine months ago, which is why Republican Congressmen and Senators are panicked. It's not as if Hillary Clinton two or three month months.

She's run an uninspiring campaign. She was ahead in Iowa. She's now ahead by average of 11 points. It's not that she's won over a ton of voters. That's that Donald Trump has alienated a ton of voters needed in the general election, which is why the Republican establishment, looking after themselves, were never opposed to Donald Trump. They were going to accommodate him and appease him. I argued with Senators and they said they could do well.

Now they're shutting and they're seeing Trump could hurt them at the top of the ticket. That could change. I don't know if voters care about that. I think the dynamic could change a little bit as people look up at polls and see Cruz is trailing Hillary Clinton by three or four points. Kasich is ahead of Hillary Clinton. The Republican Party is not in terrible shape. Hillary Clinton is not a strong Democratic candidate. The problem is Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Alex, there's an interesting thing that is going on in terms of strategy. Not having to do with -- we were talking about strategic voting. Now it's about how to block Donald Trump from 1237. Dana Bash and others have done fascinating reporting about conversations that Kasich's campaign is trying to have with the Ted Cruz campaign, even going to Mitt Romney getting him involved to try to have him broker a deal of how to play it smart, they think, in states where one or the other is going to do better in order to use their resources, work together, coordinate, to stop Trump from getting the nomination. It seems Cruz's campaign is having nothing of it. It sounds like a fabulous movie plot, but --

BURNS: It reminds me a little bit of the scene before Florida were the Rubio campaign was trying to say to the Cruz campaign, just back off my home state, let us live to fight another day, we'll divide up delegates with Donald Trump and let each man try his best at the convention. Cruz's response is, you're on your own, buddy. As far as Cruz is concerned, a one-on-one race with Donald Trump leads to Cruz being nominated. And a fractured field leads to a convention where maybe Trump gets nominated or somebody who's not in the race gets nominated.

That's also a fear for Cruz. For somebody like John Kasich this has to go to a convention. For Cruz, there's always the risk. He's disliked in Washington. He's hated by the Republican establishment. He is seen as almost as unelectable as Donald Trump. If this goes to a convention, they pull in somebody virtually off the street, politically speaking, and give them the nomination.

BOLDUAN: Bill, that's something you would like if they did that. Do you think in this kind of -- it almost seems like a bit of a fantasy that campaigns would coordinate in good faith to try to block a third candidate from getting the nomination. Would this ever work, do you think?

KRISTOL: Yeah, I think, de facto, it might be happening a little bit with Cruz and Kasich. Wisconsin is winner-take-all. New York is mostly by congressional districts. They could divide Congressional districts. They should. Kasich should campaign in New York City and Westchester. Cruz should campaign up state in New York. And I think they could do more damage probably together than separately. Ted Cruz is convinced a one-on-one race is in his interest. I'm not sure that's necessarily true, if Kasich and Cruz can, de facto, coordinate against Trump.

[11:25:12] BOLDUAN: Guys, I want you to stand by.

We are getting some breaking news in about the Donald Trump campaign, and this is coming in just as we speak.

For this, let me bring in M.J. Lee, Brian Stelter, joining us.

M.J., you have been covering the Trump campaign. This is about Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski. What's going on?

M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It sounds as though Corey Lewandowski has been charged and arrested. Remember, this is coming from when former now former "Breitbart" reporter, Michelle Fields, accused him of having grabbed her at a press conference, and filed a criminal compliant.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: She said she was man handled and assaulted in some way --

LEE: That's right.

STELTER: -- there was the yanking of her arm. There was a dispute about this with the Trump campaign initially denying.

BOLDUAN: There was a back and forth on this.

STELTER: That's right.

BOLDUAN: You're learning that he's charged and arrested?

LEE: That's right. And this is the statement that I want to read a portion of from the campaign spokeswoman coming to us just a few minutes ago. She writes that, "Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty, and look forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated."

Remember, Kate, that Trump himself has really stood by Corey even after the charges first surfaced, even having him stand right behind him at a press conference a few days after the allegations, signaling to the public and the media that he is someone that he's going to stand by. I don't know if this changes anything. But you see that the statement says that they are feeling confident that he is innocent and will be proven innocent.

STELTER: We're looking at the arrest --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: We'll talk about the ramifications in a second, Brian. But you closely tracked how this played out. It wasn't just that Michelle Fields said that this happened to her. It was then she's now no longer a "Breitbart" reporter for a reason.

STELTER: That's right. The chronology here is complicated and important when it happened. "Breitbart" is a favorite of Trump supporters. The idea that she was making the allegation was significant. The website didn't initially support her. After a day, they did support her strongly. She felt it was not appropriate for her to remain there. It was a lot of chaos behind the scenes. She resigned.

She went to the police and asked them to look into it. The arrest warrant from this morning says the charge is battery, according to the arrest report we obtained from police.

We haven't heard from her this morning yet. But she's remained relatively quiet the last couple of weeks, since she went to the police and initiated the investigation.

There were other reporters at the time who supported her account. One in particular of "The Washington Post," who spoke to her right afterwards. There was an audio recording of that exchange. So there was some evidence at the time that she was and felt she was manhandle. However, the video was conflicting. It was a complicated case and very much in dispute, with the Trump campaign not only standing by Corey Lewandowski, but actually suggesting she had a history of these kinds of allegations. A lot of people felt she was being smeared by the Trump campaign.

BOLDUAN: Guys, stand by.

I'm hearing from the control room we're getting in some new video from the police of this incident. Let's watch this.

(VIDEO)

BOLDUAN: Play it again.

(VIDEO)

BOLDUAN: I'm honestly, going to tell you this. You can clearly see a mass of people. You see Donald Trump in the lower part of your screen. He's walking from left to right on your screen. I'm going to have to watch this closely again to see what we see.

Let's play it one more time.

(VIDEO)

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It looks like Michelle Fields right there. You see Michelle Fields, and it looks like she does get grabbed.

I wish I could circle it for you. I hope you can see it.

Let's look at it a couple more times. Donald Trump is in the middle and will go to the lower right. Michelle Fields will be with him to ask him a question. It's jumpy. It looks like she gets pulled some direction and you see Corey is in the mix.

STELTER: That's a version we haven't seen before.

BOLDUAN: That's right.

STELTER: There are other tapes there were unclear, but did suggest in various cases that she was pulled.

Now, one of the arguments Corey's side has made is this is a busy situation after a press conference, a lot of people here, Donald Trump trying to exit the room. At the time, Michelle Fields was trying to ask Trump a question. In the audiotape released after, from "The Washington Post," and from this moment, it was pretty clear that she was disturbed by what happened. She felt she was accosted.

BOLDUAN: Yep.

STELTER: However, Corey Lewandowski and the Trump campaign said that was not the case and denied that.

LEE: It's important to point out that the Trump campaign said things like there's no footage, there's no evidence that this is an incident that happened. I don't know if this video, which is shown from a totally different angle all together, changes that narrative at all.

BOLDUAN: And the source of this video is the Jupiter police where she filed the complaint.