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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Battle for Wisconsin; ISIS Nuke Fears; Clinton Rallies for Support in New York; Trump Calls for Women to be Punished if Abortion Banned. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired March 30, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It turns out that that Republican loyalty pledge, it's worth about as much as John Berman's broken NCAA brackets.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Moments ago, new, potentially explosive comments from the one self- styled pro-choicer Donald Trump, now not only saying that abortion should be banned, but that women should be punished for having them.
Soft targets are scary enough. Imagine the fear a president might have of losing an entire city. President Obama hosting a summit to discuss the unthinkable, ISIS madmen obtaining nukes.
Plus, she's the unofficial diplomat and socialite who triggered a chain of events that ended up bringing down two of the most powerful men in the world. Today, in a cable news exclusive, Jill Kelley will come here to share her side of the David Petraeus scandal and talk about your right to privacy.
Hello, everybody. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Just moments ago, Republican front-runner Donald Trump said not only should abortion be banned, but women who have an abortion should be punished, this as a new Marquette Law School poll shows Donald Trump has an uphill climb to grab Wisconsin's 42 delegates. Ted Cruz is leading him there by 10 points, Wisconsin the next major Republican primary.
CNN correspondent Sunlen Serfaty joins me now from Madison, Wisconsin, where Ted Cruz spoke earlier today.
Sunlen, in the past, very strong anti-abortion candidates, like Mike Huckabee, have supported criminalizing abortion, but not punishing the women who seek abortions. What impact might this have on Donald Trump going farther than that?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have already seen, Jake, today his rivals quickly pounce on all of this, really criticizing that hard-line position. You know, this came from a town hall that Trump had to do with MSNBC. He was pushed to clarify his anti-abortion stance. And this came during a question whether, as you said, to punish women
who have abortions if it was deemed made illegal in the United States. Here's that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes. There has to be some form.
MATTHEWS: Ten cents, 10 years, what?
TRUMP: I don't know. That, I don't know.
MATTHEWS: Well, why not?
TRUMP: I don't know.
MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.
TRUMP: I find -- I do take positions on everything else. It's a very complicated position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: Now, his rivals really jumping very quickly on that.
We have already heard from Hillary Clinton calling it horrific, she says, and telling -- Bernie Sanders calling it shameful, and even the Cruz campaign interestingly chiming in over this on Twitter, a top strategist tweeting that: "Donald Trump does not understand the pro- life position because he is not pro-life."
Of course, all of this coming as Donald Trump continues to be on the defense over women's issues.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you continue to pledge whoever the Republican nominee is?
TRUMP: No. I don't anymore.
SERFATY (voice-over): The Republican loyalty pledge broken.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the nominee is somebody that I think is really hurting the country and dividing the country, I can't stand behind them. SERFATY: At CNN's town hall, all three GOP candidates backing away
from their commitment made last September to support the eventual Republican nominee.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family.
SERFATY: Trump insisting he doesn't care whether Cruz supports him.
TRUMP: Honestly, he doesn't have to support me. I'm not asking for his support. I want the people's support.
SERFATY: This as Trump deals with the controversy surrounding his campaign manager.
TRUMP: They wanted me to fire him.
SERFATY: The GOP front-runner today doubling down in his defense of Corey Lewandowski, who was arrested and charged with simple battery for grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields.
TRUMP: Did anybody think it was a horrible thing what happened? I don't get it.
SERFATY: After questioning Fields' account.
TRUMP: Michelle Fields, who, by the way, is not a baby. OK? In her own worlds, exactly, "I was jolted backwards." Well, she wasn't. She's standing there.
"Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm." Tightly. "And yanked me down." She wasn't yanked down.
SERFATY: Accusing Fields of pressing charges to gain attention.
QUESTION: Wouldn't it have taken care of this if he had simply said I'm sorry.
TRUMP: I actually don't think so. I think she would have pressed charges anyway because I think she likes it. That's my opinion. Maybe I'm wrong.
SERFATY: His rivals are pouncing, criticizing Trump for setting the tone for his campaign.
CRUZ: Look, it shouldn't be complicated that members of a campaign staff should not be physically assaulting the press.
SERFATY: Both Cruz and Kasich saying they would have fired any staffer of theirs who did the same.
KASICH: When you see things that are pretty clear -- from what I understand, the video is clear -- of course I would fire him.
SERFATY: Meantime, on the ground in Wisconsin...
TRUMP: Winning Wisconsin is very important.
SERFATY: The Donald Trump/Ted Cruz showdown wages on.
TRUMP: Lying Ted Cruz.
SERFATY: Trump taunting Cruz at their dueling events across the state today.
TRUMP: Do you ever hear Cruz get up and say, I'm the only one that has proven that I can beat Donald Trump? I beat him here. I won.
SERFATY: But Cruz today laying off his rival.
CRUZ: This event this morning is a celebration of strong women.
SERFATY: His campaign formally rolling out their women coalition, just one week after the nasty spat between Cruz and Trump over their spouses.
CRUZ: Women are a majority of the United States of America. And every issue is a woman's issue.
SERFATY: And both Ted Cruz's wife and his mother appeared on stage with him today, giving personal testimonies about how they believe he would treat women as president. The Cruz campaign acknowledging that the optics and the message of today, they believe, sends a very clear contrast with Donald Trump -- Jake.
TAPPER: Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much.
Joining me now is Chad Sweet, campaign chairman for Senator Ted Cruz.
Chad, thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it.
CHAD SWEET, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Good to be here, Jake.
TAPPER: So, let's talk about this latest news.
Donald Trump said that not only should abortion be made illegal, but that women who get abortions should be punished in some form. His campaign sent out this statement afterwards saying -- quote -- This issue is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination. Like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions which I have announced numerous times" -- close quote.
What does Senator Cruz think about this issue? Should a woman be punished? Senator Cruz is obviously pro-life.
SWEET: Senator Cruz shares the views of the pro-life movement, which for years has focused on punishing those who perform the abortions, not the women who get them. Unfortunately, this has been another example of Donald Trump
misstepping. Why? Because he's a charlatan. This is a man who for the vast majority of his life didn't just embrace abortion. He embraced extreme forms of abortion, all the way to partial-birth abortion.
And I think it's one of those examples of where we have seen this time and again. Look at immigration, where one day he's against all H-1B visas. Then on the debate stage, he says -- he flips. And then the next day after the debate, he has to walk it back. So this pattern of fumbling is a pattern that comes out of not being anchored in core principles, in contrast to Ted Cruz, who is consistent.
Why? Because he has been the same person that we have seen and acted in the same way that he's told us he's going to act over and over again.
TAPPER: Well, let me ask you, because Donald Trump Jr. pointing out in a tweet that Donald Trump, his father, asserting there should be some sort of punishment if it was made illegal. He also says, shouldn't there be consequences for breaking laws?
So what would your response me to Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr.? Why not punish the woman if it's made illegal? To quote Trump Jr., shouldn't there be consequences for breaking laws?
SWEET: Well, look, even in the partial-birth ban, the penalties, the criminal penalties are focused on the abortion providers.
And, again, that's -- the point of the pro-life movement is to save lives. We don't want to create disincentives for women to come forward. We need -- the overall movement is again focused on saving lives. And those that commit the crime of partial-birth abortion, for example, they are the ones that should be facing the criminal penalties.
But, again, as I said before, Jake, this is another example of where once again Donald Trump is way over his head. We even saw that in national security, where this morning he's effectively saying yes to Putin and yes to Hamas, but then no to NATO and no to Israel.
I mean, this is more like a liberal Michael Moore film producer than it is courageous Ronald Reagan. So that's what we're seeing today. And I think we have got to continue to call Donald Trump out on his inconsistencies.
TAPPER: Chad, at last night's town hall, Senator Cruz would not guarantee that he would support the Republican nominee for president. That's a pledge that every single Republican candidate made at the beginning of the campaign season.
The pledge said nothing about, I will only support the nominee if he has never attacked me or my family in an unfair way. It was a pledge to support the nominee, period.
How would Senator Cruz not be breaking his promise if he's not sticking by the pledge?
SWEET: Well, Jake, he has not said he would break his promise. He said it's making it harder and harder.
But the point is that this is a moot question. At the end of the day, Donald Trump will not be the nominee. Senator Cruz will be the nominee and we won't have to worry about that issue.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about this one question about this horrific tabloid trash, this "National Enquirer" story which the Trump campaign has been pushing out there.
One uncomfortable point that critics point out, critics of Mr. Cruz, is that while Senator Cruz has called the story garbage, he's never unequivocally denied being unfaithful to his wife, Heidi. He was asked directly by a "Daily Mail" reporter, have you ever been unfaithful, and he wouldn't answer or didn't answer the question.
Obviously, this is a disgusting topic and an intrusion on his privacy, but the Trump campaign is making hay out of it. I can say I have never been unfaithful to my wife, period. Can Senator Cruz say that too?
SWEET: He can say that.
And let me tell you this, Jake. I'm a personal friend of the senator's. My wife, Julie (ph), and I have known Heidi and Ted for years. They're godparents to my two daughters, Abbie (ph) and Chloe (ph).
I can tell you that he is an incredibly faithful and devoted husband and father. And I want to be absolutely crystal clear about this -- working with him on this. He made it clear from day one that the "National Enquirer" accusations are garbage and lies, absolutely false, and he wants me to convey this unequivocally as well, that he has been faithful to his wife. There's no doubt about that.
And if there's any confusion about that, let me settle that right here right now.
TAPPER: All right, Chad Sweet, thank you so much. Appreciate your coming on the show.
SWEET: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: With Wisconsin next on the calendar for Democrats, Hillary Clinton may have good reason to focus her attention somewhere else, and she seems to be doing just that.
But don't think Donald Trump didn't notice. He is calling Clinton out on two seconds of video featured in her new campaign ad.
Stay with us.
[16:15:17] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
Continuing with politics today, Hillary Clinton looking past the primaries and aiming her sights at the general election. She's out with a new ad targeting Donald Trump. It's airing as Clinton tries to rally support from New Yorkers today in her adopted home state, which is also Trump's backyard. This as Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders remains focused on next week's primary in Wisconsin where 86 delegates are at stake.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the Clinton campaign. He joins me live from New York.
Jeff, a new poll out today is suggesting Clinton shouldn't get too far ahead of herself, perhaps.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there is no question the Wisconsin contest is very tight. A new poll out this afternoon shows Sanders has a four-point lead. Of course, that is why Clinton is planting her flag here in New York.
That new ad is targeting Donald Trump as you said, but there's one real reason she's doing that now. His name is Bernie Sanders. She's trying to show Democrats she's the best candidate to stop Trump.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is a thrill to be live at the Apollo. It is wonderful to be back home in New York.
ZELENY (voice-over): Hillary Clinton back home, but hardly taking a victory lap. Even after winning 9 million votes so far.
CLINTON: That is more than a million that Donald Trump has received, and 2.5 million more than Senator Sanders.
ZELENY: She has her eyes fixed on both rivals.
CLINTON: New York, 20 million people strong.
ZELENY: In a new television ad for the New York primary in just three weeks, she took on Donald Trump.
CLINTON: When some say we can solve America's problems by building walls, banning people based on their religion and turning against each other -- well, this is New York.
ZELENY: She also has Bernie Sanders in mind, imploring Democrats to be practical as they pick a president.
CLINTON: Now, some folks may have the luxury to hold out for the perfect, but a lot of Americans are hurting right now and they can't wait for that. They need the good and they need it today.
ZELENY: Worried about next week's Wisconsin primary, Clinton is looking ahead, but not Sanders.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't do it alone, really can't.
ZELENY: A new Wisconsin poll shows Sanders with a narrow four-point lead over his rival. He's hoping a win in the Badger State, eats away at her lead in delegates and keeps the race alive.
SANDERS: The powers that be are too powerful. We need a movement.
ZELENY: Sanders told CNN's Erin Burnett that anger among Americans is justified.
SANDERS: For your average guy, he is asking why he has to work longer hours for low wages. What Trump is doing is taking that anger and saying it's the fault of the Mexicans or it's the fault of the Muslims. We've got to scapegoat people. Well, beating up on Mexicans who make 8 bucks an hour is not going to deal with the real issues.
ZELENY: Trump ignored Sanders, but took note of his starring role in Clinton's new ad campaign.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Did you see the ad? It's a New York City ad. It's talking about New York. Except for one problem, she used a sign that's on Pennsylvania Avenue. I'm building a big hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue because if for some reason this doesn't work out, I'm going to live in Pennsylvania Avenue, no matter what happens.
ZELENY: So Trump doing a little bit of fact checking there, saying that there's a Washington scene in a New York ad. Never mind that.
As for Clinton, she's doing a bit of fund-raising here in New York City and Bernie Sanders is taking note of that. Within the hour, she'll be raising some money, as she does a lot, at a Wall Street benefactor's home.
Bernie Sanders sent out this e-mail to supporters just a little while ago. He's saying as she is raising money from Wall Street, please send in $27.
And, Jake, so Bernie Sanders is campaigning tonight in Wisconsin. That's one of the reasons this race will go on and on. He can raise money so quickly and she has to do it at all of these events.
TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
Donald Trump is practically writing the attack ad for his opponents with his brand new comments on abortion and punishment for women who get abortions. How much damage could this do? Or in true fashion, would it only help Mr. Trump?
And we've seen ISIS pull off horrifying attacks, but how close are they to getting nuclear weapons? The scary thought may not be so farfetched, unfortunately.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:23:55] CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Do you believe in -- do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle?
TRUMP: The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment.
MATHTEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yes, there has to be some form.
MATTHEWS: Ten years?
TRUMP: That I don't know. I don't know.
MATTHEWS: Why not? You take positions on everything else.
TRUMP: I do take positions on everything else. It's a very complicated position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
You just heard Donald Trump making new comments on abortion.
To talk more about this, let's join -- let's bring in our political panel. Executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, Sabrina Schaeffer, advisor to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, Tim Miller, and Donald Trump supporter David Wohl.
David, let me start with you. So, Mr. Trump, taking a new position as far as I can discern saying that women who get abortions should be punished. In the past even very, very strong anti-abortion politicians like, for instance, Mike Huckabee, have said women should not be punished. This seems to be a new position for a Republican front-runner.
[16:25:01] DAVID WOHL, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, Jake, abortion has been legal for 43 years. That's not going to change any time soon.
Donald Trump actually has made it clear for a long time from what I've heard and watched that he is pro-life with exceptions, such as for rape and incest. This was kind of an off-the-cuff comment that I think he'll clarify.
But let's get real here. He's got a huge lead. He's leading in states coming up such as Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, California. People are looking for anything to grab onto to try to tear him down, and that's what's going to be the meme over the next week.
You watch. That's what it's about. Nothing is going to change regarding abortion or his position. It was a hot interview, interrogation by the MSNBC reporter.
TAPPER: Well --
WOHL: It was an off-the-cuff comment and nothing is going to change.
TAPPER: OK, let me start with you, Sabrina. You're with Independent Women's Forum. I believe that is an anti-abortion, pro-life group, correct?
SABRINA SCHAEFFER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: No, we don't take a position. We focus on economic issues. That being said, I think that anyone in the pro-life movement, I know many of those women and men would find this kind of comment repulsive.
TAPPER: Explain why, because Donald Trump Jr. wrote in a tweet to me, things that are against the law, shouldn't there be punishment and consequences?
SCHAEFFER: First of all, abortion is not against the law.
TAPPER: This whole thing is a hypothetical, if it were made against the law, which Donald Trump and all three Republicans support.
SCHAEFFER: Look, I think the reason conservatives are aghast by this as are liberals is the fact that nobody wants to see women, who are already suffering, if they have gone through something like an abortion be punished any further. The idea is to have -- you know, most Americans want some kind of reasonable restrictions and reasonable freedoms and this runs against both parties' views on abortion.
I think it also is yet again another distraction from the real policies that most Americans want to talk about.
TAPPER: Tim, you're with an anti --
TIM MILLER, ADVISER, OUR PRINCIPLES PAC: Here are the two things that matter with this. Number one, Donald Trump is not really pro-life. He's been pro-choice his entire life. He was for partial birth abortion, up until he started running for president. And so, what he's saying, what happened here with Chris Matthews is this is what he thinks pro-life people want to hear.
He knows he's struggling with pro-life voters in Wisconsin, a very pro-life, so this comes up in his head. He says, look, what do I have to say to sound pro-life? It's all part of the phoniness with Donald Trump.
And what ended up happening is, what always happens with Donald Trump. He can't help himself but demean women. And that's why when David mentions his poll numbers, if you look at his poll numbers with women, they are disastrous. He has an unfavorable rating of almost three- quarters of the women in Wisconsin don't like him.
TAPPER: David, do you think, I understand that you're going to talk about poll numbers and how Mr. Trump is leading generally. But let me ask you, do you think this is a well thought out policy position or do you think that Mr. Trump was kind of caught off-guard and just answered as Tim just said what he thought pro-lifers would want to hear?
WOHL: No, I mean he's been pro-life for, I think, in the neighborhood of 15 years. To say that he can't be pro-life now, Barack Obama up until very recently was against gay marriage. Now, he's for gay marriage but no one holds his feet to the fire on that.
He is pro-life with exceptions. He made an off-the-cuff comment and people are grabbing onto it because the reality is he's up by 300 delegates, he's got many favorable states ahead and they're trying to find something to change that.
So, I don't think at all that's going to change anything. He's not -- he is a very honest guy. He does speak from his heart from time to time. And, of course, that's what voters love about him.
He's not preprogrammed. He's not scripted and sometimes he says things that people are surprised at. This is a great example right here.
TAPPER: Go ahead, Sabrina.
SCHAEFFER: The reality is if we want to talk about what's going to attract women voters, it's a broad economic policy that's going to give women ownership and control over important things in their lives, their health care choices, their education choices, whether they're going to have jobs to be able to move up the economic ladder, whether they're going to be able to balance work and home because our burdensome regulations driving up the cost of food and housing and everyday household goods.
These are the issues that women care about, and unfortunately, it seems with Trump, every single day, there is another distraction that's taking the conversation away on both the left and the right from a real substantive one that voters can grab onto.
MILLER: Well, look, the thing that stood out to me, as David says Donald Trump is an honest person. That's the biggest con of his entire campaign. He doesn't tell it like it is, he tells people what they want to hear. He lies.
"Politico" did an analysis of his stump speech. He lied every five minutes. If you just look at the recent examples of lying about Corey Lewandowski not touching Michelle Fields when video showed that it did. Lying about making up the fact that ISIS was targeting him at his events, which they weren't. Saying that he was never asked about being pro-choice when Tim Russert did ask him.
I could go on and on on the list of all of his lies. Donald Trump is a serial liar and this is just another example.
TAPPER: All right. Sabrina Schaeffer, Tim Miller, David Wohl, thank you all so much.
A political gamble is playing out on Capitol Hill with Senate seats on the line. Some lawmakers insist the president's Supreme Court pick will not take the bench.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: The fact is we're not going to hold hearings and we're not going to confirm this justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But never say never. An influential Democrat pushing for votes as early as this spring will join me next to explain why some Republicans might eventually get on board.