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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump, RNC Talk Delegates, Convention; Tensions Boiling in Democratic Race; Trump Poll Numbers with Women Hitting Record Lows. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 1, 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: In a closed door meeting, Trump, and the head of the RNC, Reince Priebus, and other party leaders, reportedly cleared the air and discussed the potential delegate drama at the Republican convention coming up in July.

CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us with more on what went down.

Oh, if those walls could talk, Phil. What are you picking up? What happened?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the meeting was described as cordial and that there was no shortage of issues for the two sides to discuss, the least of which was the complete implosion of the pledge of all candidates to support the eventual nominee earlier this week. But the primary focus I'm told was delegates, particularly how Donald Trump will approach delegate math as he heads to the convention in Cleveland. Part of the reason this is coming up is the state of Louisiana, where Cruz has operated behind the scenes to secure an extra 10n delegate. It was a state and an issue that was brought up during this meeting. Arcane different rules across the country, frustrating to a lot of people as they try to figure, and a potential problem for Donald Trump if he doesn't secure the 1237 delegates needed in advance of the convention to security the nomination.

Kate, an interesting thing along those lines. John Kasich speaking behind me right now in Pennsylvania, pointing out this is his strategy. Basically, delegates are traditional establishment Republicans, people aligned with the party for a long period of time. When they get to the convention floor, the type of voter and supporter Donald Trump has had up to this point aren't the people that are going to be on the floor. That's how John Kasich thinks he can squeeze his way into the nomination, even though he's so far behind. And that's how Cruz is operating behind the scenes in a lot of states to try and get a leg up. Donald Trump, trying to approach and figure out how to get himself around that in that meeting yesterday with the RNC.

BOLDUAN: A lot of people are going to have to get smart quick, on how the delegate count works when you get to the convention You would think the Trump campaign would get smart on that quicker as they're trying to fight it out state by state.

Phil, thank you very much. Phil at the Kasich event in Pennsylvania. Let's talk about the fallout for Donald Trump.

Joining me is CNN political commentator and Donald Trump supporter, Kayleigh McEnany; and Jim Geraghty, contributing editor of "The National Review Online."

Guys, great to see you.

Jim, there's no love loss between you and Donald Trump. Let's lay it out there. What do you hope the RNC said to Donald Trump in that meeting yesterday?

JAMES GERAGHTY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: It would probably do him some good to read the state party rules in these states. One of the controversies that have come out in the last couple of days, the possibility that, in South Carolina, there's some talk about maybe they could be unbound from Trump. Trump won all the congressional districts, he won statewide. There's 50 delegates in paper. They all should be going for Donald Trump. But if you pay attention to the state party rules -- and I've printed them out -- they're only bound on the first ballot. If he goes into Cleveland and has less than the 1237 ballots, they'll have the first ballot, nobody will get the majority, and then, at that point, the 50 delegates can vote for whoever they want, Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich, or some other candidate. This is how the rules work.

You'd think a guy who is best known for his fabulous deals would know to read the fine print at this point.

BOLDUAN: Kayleigh, I want to get your take. But also, during the meeting when they were talking about the fights for delegates, state by state, and when you get to the convention, "The New York Times" is reporting that Trump turned to his aids in the room and suggested they weren't doing their job. Do you think Trump's aides, the people he's surrounding himself with, when it comes to the delegate fight, do you think they're failing him?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not familiar with what works in the campaign, what the aides are doing. I don't communicate with the campaign. If Donald Trump says they're not doing the delegate work, then perhaps he's right. We need to step up that game.

We just heard Jim make the case with why Donald Trump is doing so well. We saw Jim hold up the rules and say this is the name of the game, winning the delegates. Delegates, as we just hear Phil says, are from the establishment lane a lot of the time. Essentially, what these rules do is elevate the will of the delegates over the will of the people. That is precisely the problem that many Republican voters have with this party. That's the precisely the reason they're turning out in record turnout to vote for Donald Trump, because they don't like things like what we just heard Jim say. The vote doesn't matter, the people don't matter. What matters is the will of the delegates. That's the problem with the Republican Party right now.

GERAGHTY: What you're arguing is the rules don't matter, which probably makes sense when you think about the way Donald Trump operates and you think about a guy who breaks his words, issues a statement on women, should be punished for abortion, and then an hour later, I didn't mean to say that. I said "yes," and I meant "no." I missed it by one word.

MCENANY: You know, Donald Trump is not a politician. So sometimes -- he talks off the cuff.

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGHTY: You don't have to be a politician to say what you think.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: Let me finish, Jim.

BOLDUAN: Hand on, Jim.

MCENANY: Let me finish, Jim.

Donald Trump, unlike Ted Cruz, walks into the most hostile of territory, gives an hour of his time to MSNBC, 100 minutes to "The New York Times." They said no other candidate will do this. He has the courage and the will to walk into the lion's den. Unlike Mitt Romney, who wrote off 47 percent of voters, Donald Trump wants to bring his message to the left, right and middle. He gives access. By virtue of that, people come back. He'll misspeak at times and that's what we saw.

(CROSSTALK)

[11:35:16] BOLDUAN: Jim, let me bring you in on -- you can move forward with that conversation, but let me ask you this. You wrote a scathing piece about Donald Trump and those supporting him. You wrote this in part, "Years of effort spent in attempting to dispel the accusations of inherent Republican misogyny, xenophobia, hypocrisy, ignorance and blind rage have been undone by Trump's campaign. And every Trump advocate in front of a camera had a hand in this. We're not just gonna hug it out"

What do you mean, Jim?

GERAGHTY: Well, this is driven by a series of comments. First, Ann Coulter said -- I was doing a podcast and she said, "Our candidate is mental. He's like a 16-year-old son we have to bail out of jail once a week."

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But what about not hugging it out? What do you mean by that?

GERAGHTY: We're not going to welcome them back with open arms and say it's understandable. Newt Gingrich has been talking up Donald Trump for a long time. There's murmurs he might want to be chief of staff of a Trump administration. This week, he said, tweeting nasty things about Cruz's wife was, quote, "Utterly stupid." Thanks for noticing, Newt. It's wonderful that only now you're recognizing that Donald Trump is tweeting out stupid things. The former communications director of the Make American Great Again super PAC came out and "Donald Trump is only out for Donald Trump." Some of us didn't need to work for him for six months to recognize that. Some of us had him pegged as unhinged. Some of us saw this from day one. Welcome to the party, pal. But some of us have been arguing this the whole time and been called liars.

MCENANY: No one has done more --

BOLDUAN: Kayleigh, he's talking about you. Have the final word.

MCENANY: Sure. No one has done more damage to the Republican Party than Mitt Romney. When he said on camera he doesn't care about 47 percent of the electorate because they're dependent on government benefits and we need to write them off, that's the most insulting things I've ever heard. Donald Trump is reaching out to them, expanding the platform, saying he wants people to have health care, and doesn't want people to die on the streets. He's expanding this tent. People can get in the tent and enjoy the Trump train, or see Hillary Clinton walk into the White House. Those are the options right now.

BOLDUAN: One final thought. Let's talk about 2016. What Kayleigh is talking about is welcoming more people into the party. What I'm hearing you say, though, is that you're trying to shame some of those people.

GERAGHTY: It's an abominable person to nominate as president. If you add up the total votes, Donald Trump has won 37 percent. He is a minority of a minority.

BOLDUAN: Guys, great to see you. Thanks so much.

MCENANY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I have a feeling we can talk a little bit more about this later on. I appreciate.

Still coming up for us, why some are calling Donald Trump the, quote, "zombie candidate." We'll break that down.

And Bernie Sanders is firing back against Hillary Clinton who fired at him going off at him and his campaign. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I am so sick. I am so sick after the Sanders campaign lying about me. I'm sick of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:42:50] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

CLINTON: I do not, I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick, I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I'm sick of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The tension boiling over between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders as Wisconsin and New York primaries are drawing closer. And in Wisconsin, you see the numbers have gotten tight. You just heard right there Hillary Clinton accusing Bernie Sanders campaign of lying about her record. Sanders with a response earlier today. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Your reaction to that this morning?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not crazy about people disrupting meetings. But Secretary Clinton has taken significant sums of money from the fossil fuel industry. She raises her money with a super PAC. She gets a lot of money from Wall Street, from the drug companies and the fossil fuel industry. On the other hand, we've received over six million individual campaign contributions averaging $27 a piece. I'm proud of the way we are raising money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now to discuss is CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile; and "CNN Politics" executive editor, Mark Preston.

Guys, great to see you.

Mark, Sanders' campaign says Hillary Clinton's campaign is taking large sums from the fossil fuel. Clinton and her team say that's not the case, that both campaigns are receiving donations from individuals who work in the fossil fuel industry. Who is right?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: There's no doubt the super PAC for Clinton has accepted money from individuals who work in the industry. It's a false way of answering the question to say that the campaign is not taking money. The campaign is not taking money, but her super PAC is taking money. They haven't disavowed the super PAC and told them not to take that point. It's a little bit he said, she said. The fact of the matter is she is getting money from that industry.

BOLDUAN: Donna, Jeff Weaver was on this morning. He said Hillary Clinton needs to apologize for saying they're lying. He says she needs to come out and apologize to Sanders.

[11:45:05] DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm neutral. I'm not getting into the he said, she said conversation that often come about in campaign. This was a young activist from Green Peace, which is a progressive environmental group that is championing climate change. They're out there each and every day. I walk down the streets of Washington D.C., they want you to sign a petition saying you'll not take money from the fossil fuel industry. They want you to pledge to support their campaign to clean up the environment. So I understand from an activist's point of view why she approached Secretary Clinton. The politicians are heckled all the time, and it's part of it.

I want to go back to mark's point. We're about to go what into what I believe to be the most important of the Democratic race. We have big states coming up, Pennsylvania, California, New Jersey, and other states. Voters want an opportunity to talk to the candidates about the important issues. These are important issues, the environment, of course, climate change, and let's have a conversation about that. Not go back into he said, he said, and whether or not an employee of ExxonMobil, Shell, or one of the big oil companies are contributing to the candidates. They have a right. These employees have a right, these workers. And I'm glad to see they're participating. That's my personal view.

BOLDUAN: To think that -- it seems -- it's more than just a he said, she said. I mean, this video really shows that, for whatever reason, and, Mark, and you tell me why, it really struck a nerve with Hillary Clinton. You don't see her react this way. He's very even measured when it comes to thing. She's faced many protesters before. That's nothing new. Why do you think this struck a nerve?

PRESTON: A couple things. There's no doubt green peace was trying to get a reaction from her and to film it. It was filmed and distributed by green peace. They were trying to get her backed into the corner whether she would say she wouldn't take the money or react. You have to give Hillary Clinton credit up to this point. She's been able to keep her composure in a high pressure campaign. We've all been focused on the Republicans and the negativeness. But below this, it's a negative Democratic campaign. Hillary Clinton at this point in the campaign is on the glide path right now to win the Democratic nomination. She looks add Bernie Sanders at this point as something that's hindering her from doing it, and having her answer questions and take specific policy positions she doesn't want to address in a primary. I think it got to her yesterday. Look, she's human. This is going to happen. And I'm surprise quite, frankly, it hasn't happened prior to this time.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: It's rare. It's rare for her.

BOLDUAN: Donna, to what Mark is saying right there, compared to the Republican side, this is a civil race. But it had been civil for a long period of time on the Democratic side. But it seems that it's quickly taking a turn. What do you think is the tipping point? Does it concern you as a neutral party leader?

BRAZILE: Well, look, I do believe that on the Democratic side by and large we've been debating issues. We've been getting into the policy of how to expand the economy, how to change the tone in this country. I mean, the policy differences between the Republicans and Democrats even on the issue of abortion the other day, so I think by and large, it's been a civil campaign, but there's no question there are differences between the candidates. There's a lot of what I call machinations going on. I have friends on both sides. I talk to friends on both sides every day. I asked them -- they send me their talking points, if I don't understand what they're up to, and right now, it's testy, because Senator Sanders is trying to catch up with Secretary Clinton in terms of pledged delegates. He's also trying to win some big states. And so I suspect that we're going to have a little bit more back and forth over the next couple of weeks. And guess what. It's healthy. It's healthy for our democracy.

BOLDUAN: It's testy, says Donna.

We'll watch out for that going forward.

BRAZILE: Oh, I like it.

BOLDUAN: Donna likes testy. Watch out, Mark Preston. When she says that --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: It's Friday. It's Friday.

BOLDUAN: It's Friday.

PRESTON: It is Friday.

BRAZILE: And, you know, I've had some of those moments when I look at somebody and say I'm sick and tired of dealing with this.

BOLDUAN: Don't start with me Donna on a Friday.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Hey. You know, I can snap and point and stir it. Whatever you want.

BOLDUAN: Good thing we're in different cities.

All right, guys, thanks so much. It's great to see you.

BRAZILE: Oh, you want -- Kate, I'll be in New York on Monday, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: And here it comes. Here it comes, everyone.

BRAZILE: Here it comes.

[11:49:57] BOLDUAN: Great to see you.

Mark is happy he's not involved in that. (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Donald Trump's poll numbers among women hitting record lows. If Trump does face Hillary Clinton in the general election, how could he turn that around? Could he win a general with numbers like he's seeing with women? We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: March Madness is quickly coming to an end, but if you need a little extra basketball before it is all over, look now further than this week's "CNN Hero." Take a look.

MARQUIS TAYLOR, CNN HERO: This program is not about creating the next basketball star. It's about helping young people develop skills that will prepare them for the next step. It allows you to navigate challenges that are in your face, because that's what is going to happen when they hit life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: There is something different about this basketball program. Older players become mentors for younger ones, and that can be a pathway to college.

If you want to hear more on this story, go to CNNheros.com and take a look.

Let's get back to politics. I want to bring in a new panel to discuss what is going on this fine Friday. Joining me is Margaret Hoover, CNN political commentator and a GOP campaign veteran; Kellyanne Conway, Republican pollster, heads up the pro Ted Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise; Scottie Nell Hughes, chief political correspondent of USA Radio Network and a Trump supporter; and Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Guys, great to see you.

Let's talk about the polls, Kelly. Let's talk about the specific polls we are looking at here. Trump -- Trumps -- the view of Trump among women. You are no fan of Trump. You can get that out of the way. And the polling expert on this table right now. When you see numbers like this -- I want to put up the CNN numbers, unfavorables for Trump, 73 percent among women nationally, 26 percent favorable. It's not just CNN, FOX News, Quinnipiac and more. Similar numbers of unfavorable, negative view of Donald Trump amongst women nationally. What does that tell you?

[11:55:02] KELLYANNE CONWAY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Just to clarify, I'm not a fan of some things that Donald Trump says, but I have known him for years and sat on one of his boards. But I do support Senator Cruz. The data among women are unmistakable and recent. That's what's

confounding. When Donald Trump pivoted to an election strategy before a single vote was cast in the Republican primary caucuses when he took on the Clintons, the base loved it and the female base loved it. It's now suffering among marriage females, suburban females. These are members of his party over 40 percent of who would prefer he not be the Republican nominee. He gets to a general election strategy against Hillary Clinton, who has a terrible problem among male voters, particularly white male voters. She is doing terribly among men who distrust, dislike her, and don't commander-in-chief and president by and large. A lot of that is washed away if you look at Donald Trump's numbers for women right now.

BOLDUAN: Scottie, what do you do about that. Spin it if you can. But that's not good.

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA RADIO NETWORK: It's not good. It is a problem Mr. Trump will have to address. Women are so busy, they are like nobody has time for that. They don't want to hear it over and over. Maybe one time they will excuse. Second time, there is an issue. We have to remember, in 2012, with the binder comment by Mitt Romney, he received 44 percent of the women vote. We have always had a problem with the women vote in the GOP. We were hoping for a change with the 2016 campaigns. I'm optimistic we can get it back. This is what happens in a primary when you claw each other to death. This is some of the casualties that happen.

BOLDUAN: You hear Donald Trump's recent comments, yes, this polling happened before the remarks on abortion. Do you think his favorables should be higher?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It should be -- they are historically high. In the history of polling, they have been so high. That's what the Gallup organization -- one of the organizations said that. The issue, too, is who -- among which demographic groups that need to turn out for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are his or her unfavorable ratings the highest? She needs minorities, Millennials, African-Americans. His unfavorables are so historically high with those groups. He will be -- the thing that helps her to reassemble the Obama coalition that is less enthusiastic about her than President Obama.

BOLDUAN: Interesting thing happened on the way to the forum, Doug Heye, Donald Trump unstoppable. That's something you have been fighting against for a long time saying it has been Republicans who didn't take them on early enough. Alex Burns, from "The New York times," had an interesting take on this. He thinks Donald Trump -- he has reporting that Trump is becoming something of a zombie candidate, damaged beyond repair, but too late for any rival to stop him. When does that grim reality set in for you?

DOUG HEYE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: On the case of delegates, it may be the case. We'll see what happens in Wisconsin. Watch North Dakota where we may see unbound delegates coming out of their convention. With the polling numbers you have talked about, as the token white guy, I will point out one number not talked about. 51 percent of white males don't approve of Donald Trump. That's his base. If your base doesn't support, you have a problem moving forward to November.

CONWAY: Let's not forget, Hillary Clinton is not in a great position either. You played the tape of her. Bernie Sanders is getting under her skin, getting 18 percent of the vote in Alaska within your own party and in 2008 when Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton, 56 percent of the voters in the Democratic primary were females. She has her own problems. I think Trump and Clinton were told you have this wrapped up by March 1st and here we are it is April 1st.

HOOVER: Yes, she has her own problems but it is not apples to apples. What we know for Republicans, if we are honest with ourselves, is the unfavorabilities are far more insurmountable for Donald Trump. And Ted Cruz has some challenging as well.

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: The key is he is getting clawed up by everybody. Maybe if we start unifying, I think you will see --

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: We are talking, it will happen with Cruz, too.

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: Hopefully, we have seen it comes from all of them saying they were not going to get behind them.

HOOVER: Attacking someone's wife.

HUGHES: Tell that to Ted Cruz.

CONWAY: Take four to five seconds to answer a question like a pro lifer. Not four or five questions.

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: Let me point out, it is ripped to shreds by everybody. Maybe it will be a different tone when we are unified behind the front runner. I hope it is, whether it's -- I hope it's Mr. Trump -- or Mr. Cruz.

(CROSSTALK)

HUGHES: That's the key, support the nominee.

HOOVER: One other point, as though this is normal par for the course in the primaries, no, guys, this is a race to the bottom. This isn't historically unprecedented.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: It's fracturing the Republican Party. Truly fracturing it in a way -- we don't know. HUGHES: Maybe it needed to be fractured. Maybe it needed to be

fractured.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Doug, final thought here?

HEYE: Yes. I would say in responding to these comments and also to what Jim Geraghty, a great reporter, said earlier today --

BOLDUAN: I think we lost Doug.