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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Democratic Campaign Gets Contentious; N.Y. Mayor Responds to Cruz "Values" Dig; Cruz Speaks at N.Y. Rally; Ben Carson Talks Republican Race. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 7, 2016 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I've got this guy standing over there looking at me, talking about New York values with scorn in his face, with hatred of New York.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted Cruz has no business in the Bronx. We're in the poorest congressional district in the country.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe that she is qualified.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Don't destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the secretary's ambitions to become president of the United States.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Live from New York, it's just under two weeks before the next major contest of the election. And the New York state of mind is "bring it on."

BERMAN: This morning, a new chapter in the most contentious stage of the Democratic campaign yet. Last night, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders unleashed this attack on Hillary Clinton saying she is unqualified to be president. Then he listed the reasons why he thinks that's so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: I don't think that you are qualified if you get 15 million from Wall Street through your super PAC.

I don't think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq.

(CHEERING) (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And just a short time ago, Bernie Sanders kind of taking on that question once again citing CNN's reporting as he's talking about it of Clinton's campaign thinking they need to take him on more directly after her defeat in Wisconsin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: She has attacked me for being unqualified. And if I'm going to be attacked for being unqualified, I will respond in kind. I know every day they develop a new approach to the campaign. I gather their approach is -- again, this is a quote from CNN. Quote, "disqualify him, defeat him, and unify the party later." That sounds to me like they're ready to run a very negative campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, this morning the Clinton camp is adamant that Hillary Clinton never said that she thought Bernie Sanders was unqualified to be president. If you look at the tape from yesterday, she didn't go out of her way to say he was qualified. This morning, a different tone from Secretary Clinton. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I'm going to keep talking about the issues, Dan. I'm going to keep drawing contrasts. That's what elections are about. But I think it is important to tell people what you're going to do for them, and how you can get it done, how you can produce results that will make a positive difference in people's lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining us right now is CNN senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, for more on this.

Jeff, it seemed different Sanders and Clinton last night than this morning.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Some cooling of heads overnight. They are still going after some of the same voters in the middle. Neither one of them wants to inflame things too much. It underscores what's happening. There are frustrations. We've seen it with -- inside the Clinton campaign. First of all, we saw it at the rally last week when she said I'm tired of them lying about my record. That's when it started.

On the Sanders side, they believe they haven't been treated with as much respect or dignity. And Sanders, last night, some of his advisors, some of his supporters, want him to be tougher than he wants to be in his gut. Some people want him to go after the e-mails, which he has not done. He hasn't gone there.

Over the next two weeks, we'll see Bernie Sanders have a wrestling with himself, how aggressive he wants to be on her. But she, for her part, is annoyed at him, no doubt, but this morning was trying to say, oh, that's silly. She laughed on the air yesterday here on CNN, trying to cool it down a little bit. But, underneath, it's pretty hot.

BERMAN: It is interesting. Both candidates took a step back from their own rhetoric where their campaign is saying this morning.

Jeff Zeleny, thank you for being with us. Stand by.

Why? We have someone I think who will want to weigh in on this, and a lot else going on in the New York race right now.

The New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, joins us now from city hall.

Mr. Mayor, I want to get to the Democratic race in a second. First, the Republican race. The Republicans are talking about New York values. Ted Cruz, listen to what he said.

All right. We don't have the Ted Cruz sound. But Ted Cruz --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Let's do a dramatic reading of it for you, mayor. This is Ted Cruz in the Bronx yesterday. He said, "Let's be clear. The people of New York know exactly what the values are. They're the values of liberal politicians, like Andrew Cuomo, like Anthony Weiner, like Eliot Spitzer, like Charlie Rangel, all of whom Donald Trump has supported and given tens of thousands of dollars throughout the years. If you want to know what liberal Democratic values are, follow Donald Trump's checkbook. He's been funding the policies. Look for people in western New York who would like to have jobs."

He's also lumped you into that category when he talks about New York values, saying he cheered when police turned their backs on you. What do you say to Ted Cruz?

[11:05:14] BILL DE BLASIO, (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think Ted Cruz is out of touch with New York state and New York City. I think people are going to let him know what they think. You can't insult the people of New York who have fought their way after the tragedy of 9/11 back to strength and expect people to ignore it. We're pretty tough here in New York and focused. And Ted Cruz insulted the people of New York when it was politically convenient earlier in the primary season. I have to say a rare moment when I agreed with Donald Trump, he defended the honor of New York and spoke about what New York had done after 9/11. You know what? Ted Cruz thinks he's smart. The people of New York City are going to see through him. Now he's trying to redefine what he said. Back then it was bluntly a regional appeal. He was trying to somehow cast negative aspersions on Trump because he came out of New York. Now it's more important than Cruz might have imagined and now he'll pay the price.

BERMAN: He says, now, that New York values to him represent Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer. Do those men, to you, represent New York values? DE BLASIO: New York values include compassion and respect for

all peoples. That's why we're a beacon to the world. We are a city of immigrants and proud of it. We're proud of the fact that people get along here. In fact, this moment in world history where there's so much conflict over faith and differences, we're a place where people manage to work it out and work it together. Those are New York values. We're proud of that fact, and don't come into our home state and put us down. It's not going to work. People are not going to cut Ted Cruz any slack when he insults New Yorkers.

BOLDUAN: You know what Ted Cruz is trying to get at when he points out Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner?

DE BLASIO: Look, I think he should be careful. The Republican Party has had plenty of problems, scandals, corruptions, interruption, I should say. Many instances to point to. I think what Ted Cruz is trying to do is play it both ways. He says New York values. He doesn't say he disagrees with progressives or any individual philosophy. He paints the whole people of New York with a broad brush because that's how he appealed for money from his donors. He was sending out a fundraising appeal to New York at the same time. He wants the money, but he wants to put down the people of New York when it's convenient. I don't think he planned on the fact that his fate would be decided in part in New York State. Guess what, now it will be.

BERMAN: The "New York Daily News" had an interesting cover today, hopefully, we can put that up so people can see it. It says, "Take the F.U. Train, Ted."

Is that a sentiment you share, Mr. Mayor?

DE BLASIO: I would not say it in those particular words. I find "Daily News" to be colorful in their approach, but I think a lot of New Yorkers are feeling that way today. And "Daily News," I think they call it like they see it. They're not a particularly partisan paper. But I think they're representing the fact that the hypocrisy is of Ted Cruz is pretty clear here. We don't take kindly to it. If you want to disagree with any one of us -- if Cruz wants to disagree with me and my policy, bring it on.

BERMAN: He does.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: To be fair, he does.

(CROSSTALK)

DE BLASIO: Right. But --

(CROSSTALK)

DE BLASIO: -- over terrorism? But I want to make this point. He got in a tussle with me and Bill Bratton over terrorism. Bill Bratton said Cruz doesn't understand security and what we have to do to bring our communities closer to our police, including our Muslim communities. I think Ted Cruz, every time he wants to try to disagree on policy, ends up looking pretty stupid, so he broadens it and attacks the people of New York State. That makes no sense. It's not going to work for him.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, do you think Ted Cruz taking you on might help him with Republicans? That could be -- that's clearly what he thinks.

DE BLASIO: You know, if he wants to do that, that's fine. I can take it. But then talk about me and my policies. Don't attack the people of New York who work hard every day and have been an example to this country of people getting along and respecting each other. Don't attack the efforts we made to keep this city safe. It's the safest city big city in American. The NYPD has thwarted 20 attempts at terrorist activities in New York in 15 years. Show some respect for the NYPD and the people of New York.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the Democratic race. A heated Democratic race all of a sudden in New York City and New York State. Last night, Senator Sanders gave a speech where he flat-out said, Hillary Clinton, you're not qualified to be president. He backed off that a little bit this morning. But last night the words were strong. Your response?

[11:10:01] DE BLASIO: He clearly backed off this morning. He should keep backing off of it. I have a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders. And I say as his fellow progressive, this is not the right way to go. Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president of the United States. By the way, Bernie Sanders is qualified to be president of the United States too. He keyed off of a single headline in the "Washington Post," which did not accurately portray Hillary's words. I watched the interview on "Morning Joe." Hillary never said he wasn't qualified. She said squarely today either one of them would be better than the Republican candidate.

BOLDUAN: She also very carefully didn't say whether or not she thought he was qualified. She said it was up to the voters to decide on that. I mean, that is an artful way of getting around answering it.

DE BLASIO: You know what?

BOLDUAN: You're saying she said both are qualified?

DE BLASIO: They're clearly both qualified. They both have a long history. This is the point. I watched her interview word for word. She said he should have done his homework. She has the stronger policies for reigning in Wall Street. She has done her homework, and she knows how to do that. The point is, there was a headline in the "Washington Post." Look, I've been a candidate. Candidates feel. And I understand how misinformation flows. That headline was wrong. Hillary didn't say that. I can understand how that would bother anyone. What leaders need to do is recognize the truth as the truth, and help get people to the right place. This party ultimately needs to unify. And I would say to my fellow progressives, in the end, whoever the nominee is, we have to work hard for them against the Trumps and the Cruzs of the world. I think we need to get back to the issues. Bernie had done a great job raising important issues. Hillary has done a great job putting forward a flat form to change this country. Let's get back to the issues. Both clearly bring a lot to the table. Qualifications are not the issue here. Who's going to get the job done and change this country and actually help restore the middle class? That's what this election is about.

BERMAN: You say the party needs to unify. Doesn't your family need to be unified when it comes to this election? There are reports your own children were for Bernie Sanders.

BOLDUAN: A house divided.

(CROSSTALK)

DE BLASIO: No. You know, my children, first of all, they're wonderful children, and they are very involved and very involved in their campuses and communities. They haven't said publicly what they're going to do. I don't know if they've made up their minds. I think like so many young people, they're struggling with tough issues. They reflect what so many people in this young people are concerned about and why so many young people are concerned. When I was in Iowa for Hillary Clinton, I went to a college with over 1,000 young people there caucusing, a lot for Bernie and Hillary. I talked to them. They said they had a preference, each of them, but they would be happy to work with the other one, too, because they want to change the country. That's why I think both people have to recognize the people are ready for change and they want to do that in fall. I believe that. The American people are looking for progressive change. This country is moving in a more progressive direction. Hillary has the platform and ability to achieve it, but let's have a respectful debate over the issues, and Bernie needs to recognize -- I understand it was a heated moment. The "Washington Post" was wrong. He needs to say I didn't have the right information, of course, she's qualified, we have differences on history and on the issues, let's debate that and where we're going as a country. But obviously, these are two people who bring a lot to the table.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, we know you have to go, but real quick, can Bernie Sanders win New York?

DE BLASIO: Look, I believe Hillary Clinton is going to win New York. I think she has tremendous goodwill here. Every election, though -- I'll say this because I think it's important to recognize what's going on in our country. Every election comes down to turnout, which is why I've been out and so many other people who I care about all over this city and who I work with all over the city, are out there working hard to turn out a vote for Hillary. I have no question Hillary has a majority in the city and the state, but people have to turn out. The next 12 days are going to be decisive, and it's going to be won on the ground.

BERMAN: Sounds like you think there is work to do.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your time, sir.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Mayor.

DE BLASIO: You're very welcome.

BERMAN: A lot more to discuss and digest. Here joining us, Democratic strategist and co host of Pollsters Podcast, Margie Omero; and also with us, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Bob Beckel.

Bob, let's back up to where the Democratic candidates are this morning. Last night, they questioned each other's qualifications. Last night they went from zero to 60. Today they went back to 10 miles an hour. Why?

[11:15:00] BOB BECKEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Bernie probably decided and his advisors that there are a lot of things you can say about Hillary Clinton. One is not that she's not qualified to be president of the United States. Yesterday, I talked to Tad Devine, Bernie's chief strategist. It comes down -- as I put together what he was talking about, they have New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and California in mind. That's where Bernie could do. The problem is you still can't get enough bound delegates to get over the top. So what happens? People forget about the super delegates. Super delegates, I dealt with them for years. They're not bound to who they say they're going to vote for, and they can abstain, and if they get enough to do that, you get to a second ballot, and then there's an outside shot at winning the nomination for Bernie. I think it's a long shot. It's not a bad strategy when you're down to what you are.

BOLDUAN: Looking at New York, Margie, you heard from the mayor. He said Bernie Sanders should be backing off his comments about disqualified and should continue to do so, but clearly the Sanders campaign said this morning the think Hillary Clinton has been running a smear campaign. They might be publicly trying to dial it back. It's in a different gear, it seems now, now that we've entered New York. What do you think the Sanders campaign should be doing?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & CO HOST, POLLSTERS PODCAST: I think we're talking about whether someone said qualified unqualified or disqualifying or how a headline compared to an actual quote just shows how civil the Democratic debate has been compared to the Republican side. This counts as the gloves are off on the Democratic side when Republicans are calling each other liars and con men and that sort of thing. It shows how much more unified we are. One poll showed a majority of people Sanders would vote for Clinton if she's the nominee, and the other way around. Pew shows a lot of worry on the Republican side about unity in their primary. The voters are worried and aren't sure what they're going to do. I think everyone will take a cue from the voters on the Democratic side and think about the issues that are important to voters and what that means going into November.

BERMAN: Saying you're not qualified to be president represents unity and niceness --

BOLDUAN: You're not qualified to be a news anchor, John.

BERMAN: I know. That's the nicest thing you've said to me today.

(CROSSTALK)

BECKEL: I've heard that and I've defended him, saying he is a good newscaster.

(CROSSTALK)

The one thing here is it's ratcheting up. This is one of the most important primaries of the election season. It's going to get rougher. If they're not doing it, the delegate, surrogates are doing it, and they should. This ain't bean bags, as Mayor Daley would say.

BERMAN: Margie Omero, Bob Beckel, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: We have a programming note. Will the gloves be on or off? One week from today --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You can still land a punch with gloves on.

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face off for a Democratic presidential debate live from Brooklyn. Where? Right here on CNN, April 14th. Do not miss it.

Any minute now -- man, there's a lot going on this morning. Any minute now, Cruz will take the stage. He has a rally outside Albany, New York. Will he respond to Mayor de Blasio going after him on this show? We'll take his remarks live.

BERMAN: Plus, Ben Carson will be joining us. The former presidential candidate, now Donald Trump's top surrogate, he'll be weighing in on where this race is and where it is headed.

And as President Obama takes his Supreme Court fight on the road, we'll speak with one Senator who just met with Obama's pick moments ago. Hear what happened inside the meeting.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:22:45] BERMAN: Fresh off his Wisconsin win, Ted Cruz right now speaking in New York outside Albany one day after he refused to back off his comments on New York values. Let's listen if he does it again today.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And yet, we're here this morning for something a lot more important than politics. We're here because our country is in crisis, because we're bankrupting our kids and grand kids, because our constitutional rights are under assault each and every day, and because America has receded from leadership in the world. And yet, I am here this morning with a word of hope and encouragement all across New York, all across this country. People are waking up.

(CHEERING)

CRUZ: And help is on the way.

(CHEERING)

CRUZ: This next election is going to focus on three critical issues: jobs, freedom and security.

(APPLAUSE)

BOLDUAN: Cruz is speaking. Listening to Ted Cruz in New York. He's just kind of kicking off this rally outside of Albany.

Let's go to Dana Bash, who is there at the event. Cruz has just taken the stage.

Dana, as Ted Cruz is getting into his speech, take one step back to just yesterday. He did not receive such a warm reception in the Bronx. It looks like he has a warmer reception in Upstate New York today.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A very different reception. I was walking around the crowd talking to a lot of voters before Cruz arrived. And to a person they were OK with his disparaging comments about New York values, because they don't see themselves up here in Upstate New York the way that New Yorkers where you all are in Manhattan and other places see themselves. It is a very different world up here. In fact, one voter even brought a map of the state of New York with the congressional districts and the voting patterns to show that down where you are it's quite blue, meaning a lot of Democratic voters, but up here it's very Republican, very conservative, and that is why even though he's getting a lot of pushback in a New York way down -- and did yesterday in the Bronx and perhaps later in Brooklyn. Here, it's a different scene. So many people have said to me point-blank, they're totally different worlds. That's why he's still campaigning hard. He hopes to do well in these conservative areas, because the delegates on April 19th are going to be allotted in some respects by congressional districts, and these are conservative congressional districts where he could pick up delegates and maybe, more importantly, deny Donald Trump delegates on the primary day -- Kate?

[11:25:55] BERMAN: Dana Bash for us outside Albany where Ted Cruz is speaking. We'll keep one eye on that event to listen to Senator Cruz. But with us right now, a special guest, a Donald Trump surrogate,

Dr. Ben Carson, himself a former presidential candidate, and now a Donald Trump supporter.

Dr. Carson, thank you for being with us.

DR. BEN CARSON, (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & DONALD TRUMP SURROGATE & RETIRED NEUROSURGEON: It's a pleasure.

BERMAN: Two days since Wisconsin, Donald Trump, the candidate you support, lost in Wisconsin and lost pretty badly. What happened?

CARSON: Well, you know, in a primary contest you're going to have some wins and some losses. You're going to be up. You're going to be down. What I find so fascinating is with each one of the contests, everybody saying, oh, this is the big one, this is the one that breaks your back, and then they move on to the next one and say the same thing. This is the way the process goes. You're going to win some and lose some. The key thing is to get your message out there, to learn, to adjust, and to try to provide solutions for the incredible problems that are facing our nation right now.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting, Dr. Carson, because Donald Trump sure seems to think this next one in New York is the big one. Do you agree?

CARSON: It is a big one, but there are a lot of big wins. Florida was big. California will be a big one. Texas was a big one. I personally don't buy into all this, "this is the critical one" stuff. I mean, I realize that people in the media have to do that because you have to stir up the excitement, but the fact of the matter is every single one of those contests is important. And as you look at --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Well, the candidates themselves say it's make or break.

CARSON: Excuse me?

BERMAN: Dr. Carson, you said one of the important things is Mr. Trump learn and adjust after each contest. A lot of people are suggesting there needs to be more adjustments within the Trump campaign. Are there changes happening right now?

CARSON: Well, clearly, more people are being hired. There's more concentration on the ground game. There's going to be more concentration on the delegates. The fact of the matter is there is a game that has to be played. It's unfortunate that you have to play that game, but unless you know how to play it, you're always going to lose. So clearly, he had to make some adjustments to make, and they're ongoing at this present time.

BOLDUAN: Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager, is he still running the show?

CARSON: What about Corey? I couldn't hear the last part of your question.

BOLDUAN: Do you think he should still be running the show after the controversy he has found himself in?

CARSON: Well, I think there are a number of people involved. And from my contacts with Corey, he's a very intelligent and efficient individual, and I don't see any reason, quite frankly, that we should demonize him. If you can come up with a good reason, I'll listen to it.

BERMAN: Well, look, he's been charged with misdemeanor assault in Florida. A lot of people think that is a reason.

CARSON: Well, I mean, a lot of people have been charged with various things. That doesn't necessarily mean that we need to demonize them. You've probably been charged with something, too, maybe with a misdemeanor or something. It doesn't mean you're an evil, horrible person. And --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I actually haven't, as far as I know.

CARSON: This is a problem in America. Everybody wants to demonize everybody rather than sitting down and having an intelligent discussion about what is going on. Let's look at the facts. The reason we have a court system is that when somebody is charged with something, all the facts can come out and a reasonable conclusion have been reached, hopefully, without a lot of hype.

BOLDUAN: The other candidates in the race, though, think that while this is circling, the fact that he's charged with misdemeanor assault of a reporter at a campaign event -- it wasn't a past grievance. It happened during this campaign. The other candidates think that Corey should step down.

[11:30:07] CARSON: Well, what I would say is we have ISIS and radical Islamic terrorists trying to kill us. We have a financial --