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Interview With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; Interview With New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; Hillary vs. Bernie; Trump Takes on RNC; Brooklyn Brawl: Clinton, Sanders Debate on CNN 9PM ET; Cruz: Trump Staffers Act Like "Union Boss Thugs". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 14, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is debate night in Brooklyn, and how sweet it is.

THE LEAD starts right now. They battled over who is more New York, who is more of a Democrat, who is even qualified to run the country. Tonight it's the final face-off for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders before Tuesday's huge Empire State primary, and it will be live here on CNN.

It's the first time in decades that a New York presidential primary actually matters for both parties. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio along with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will both join me live to talk about what's at stake for their party and for the country.

Plus, Senator Ted Cruz now accusing the Trump campaign of acting like union boss thugs and saying he's lucky he wasn't woken up with a horse's head in his bed, as all the candidates prepare to go to the mattresses during Republican Convention week.

Hello, everybody. Welcome to THE LEAD. Brooklyn is in the house. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we are live from the scene of tonight's Democratic debate. The Navy Yard, they just don't call it that for fun, they actually used to build warships here and it's fitting that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are going to war, not only because of the warships, but also because this is the borough, Brooklyn, that bread Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G., given that the Democratic race is starting to sound a bit like a vicious rap battle.

Sanders has called Clinton unqualified and he walked it back. But he made sure to question her judgment. Clinton questioned if Sanders was capable of withstanding the spotlight, if he had done his homework on his biggest policy initiatives, while blaming his home state of Vermont for some of the violent crime in New York City.

And then a Sanders surrogate took the feud to a whole new level last night in front of tens of thousands of Sanders supporters standing shoulder to shoulder in Washington Square Park. One of Sanders pre- speech acts called politicians opposed to Medicare for all, of which Hillary Clinton is one, he called them -- quote -- "corporate Democratic whores."

The Clinton campaign demanded an apology, and the speaker later offered one after insisting he was not referring to Clinton.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is inside the debate hall here in Brooklyn.

Jeff, Sanders claims he drew more people to Washington Square Park last night than Barack Obama did back in 2007, but instead of talking about that this morning, he's having to disavow these remarks made by a supporter.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: He did, Jake. He disavowed those remarks. He called them insensitive and inaccurate.

But one thing they're not disavowing, the size of the crowds. I can tell you, Jake, I was at both rallies, the one back in 2007 and the one last night, similar size energy, it sort of felt the same. But, Jake, this moment was totally different. That was early on in the campaign against Hillary Clinton. This is nearing the end.

The challenge for Bernie Sanders tonight is to make his move quickly against Secretary Clinton.


ZELENY (voice-over): The stage is set for a battle in Brooklyn tonight, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face to face for their ninth Democratic debate. But their fight for New York makes this meeting unlike all others.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was honored to be your senator for eight years. And if you will give me the honor of your vote on Tuesday, we will continue to make life better.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jane and I left New York City when we were kids. It is great to be back.

ZELENY: Five days before the New York primary, Sanders is trying to shake up the race. Tonight is one of his last, best chances to make the case against Clinton on Wall Street, trade and maybe in politics.

SANDERS: You elect me president, you're going to have a president who is prepared to take on the billionaire class, not take their money.

ZELENY: And Clinton is trying to move on, but not before winning here. She spent all week raising questions about whether Sanders has a firm grasp on actually fixing problems, from financial reform to foreign policy.

CLINTON: Under the bright spotlight and scrutiny here in New York, Senator Sanders has had trouble answering questions.


ZELENY: Tonight, those dueling arguments will be made at close range. Sanders is working to cut into Clinton's lead by expanding his appeal

to a diverse coalition of voters, stopping by Al Sharpton's National Action Network conference earlier today.

SANDERS: What does it matter if you desegregate a lunch counter, but you don't have the money to buy the damn hamburger?

ZELENY: Sanders has been firing up voters, drawing one big crowd after another, including last night's massive rally in Washington Square Park. A Sanders supporter, Dr. Paul Song, sparked controversy as he warmed up the crowd.

DR. PAUL SONG, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: Medicare for all will never happen if we continue to elect corporate Democratic whores who are beholden to big pharma.


ZELENY: He's married to Lisa Ling, a Clinton supporter and host of CNN's "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING."

He later apologized for using the word whores. The Clinton campaign seized on the remark, calling on Sanders to denounce it, which he did, tweeting: "There's no room for language like that in our political discourse."

In 34 states that have already had their say, Clinton has won about 9.4 million votes, Sanders about seven million. Her lead is largely built on overwhelming victories across the South, which Sanders took issue with last night on Comedy Central.

SANDERS: I think that having so many Southern states go first distorts reality as well.


ZELENY: But, Jake, Senator Sanders has a chance to make his own new political reality tonight on this debate stage.

Now, you can see behind me here now our CNN team is doing a bit of a warm-up act. There's Wolf Blitzer who is asking questions of people who are playing the role of Senator Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

But, tonight, in just five hours' time, there will be real candidates up there with real questions. And, Jake, this is an important one in this stage of the campaign. We're five days before the New York primary. It might be the last chance for Senator Sanders to shake up this race -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

New York City will have a profound impact on next week's primary, a city of more than eight million people. And the man overseeing operations here joins me now, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mayor de Blasio, thanks so much for joining us. BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you, Jake.

I have to say, as a Brooklynite, I'm very proud tonight the eyes of the nation will be on Brooklyn.

TAPPER: It's a great borough.

I want to ask you, sir, you and a son of Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders, you share a lot of views on a number of issues, free public education, higher minimum wage, income inequality. What do you tell critics who say that maybe you endorsed Hillary Clinton because you have known her for so long and because you think she might win, not necessarily because you share her vision of progressive politics?

DE BLASIO: Oh, I'm very comfortable telling my fellow progressives I know Hillary Clinton very well and I know she can get things done on this agenda, and that's why I support her.

Look, it's not enough to say we want to make these fundamental changes, we want to tax the wealthy more and raise wages and benefits and do things like full-day pre-K all over the country, which I'm proud we have done here in New York. It's not enough just to talk about.

We have to do these things for people who need this help around our country. Hillary Clinton knows how to get things done. And this is a very pragmatic city and a very pragmatic state.

And I believe the fact that she understands the pathway to achievement, that she's proven it time and time again, will be decisive. And, by the way, knowing that she can win -- I firmly believe she's the best candidate to win the general election -- is a very important thing for progressives to weigh, because we look at Trump, we look at Cruz, we look at how they would set this nation backwards.

It really makes sense to say if you have got a strong progressive Democrat who has stood the test of time, who has been in the fire, and stood strong and has handled all the scrutiny, all the vetting, it makes sense to go for that candidate. That's why I strongly support Hillary.

TAPPER: Right.

Well, let me ask, Mr. Mayor, can you name something that Hillary is proposing as a candidate, a campaign promise that furthers the progressive vision that you talk about that you think could pass the Senate?

DE BLASIO: Oh, absolutely.

I believe that what she's talking about in terms of closing the carried interest loophole, demanding that hedge funds pay the same as the rest of us in taxes and not a lower tax rate,or the Buffett rule, that a millionaire or billionaire shouldn't pay a lower tax rate than their secretary or their driver, I think those are the kinds of things that actually could pass in today's America, because people on both sides of the spectrum are demanding these kind of changes.

I believe increases in benefits like paid family leave, paid sick leave are gaining more and more traction around the country. So, this could be a decisive election. What I see happening here, particularly if it's Trump or a Cruz at the top of the Republican ticket, Hillary as a proven candidate could have a decisive victory that then changes the nature of the Congress and pushes momentum, creates momentum for some of these bigger changes. These are realizable goals.

TAPPER: The Sanders campaign is celebrating its crowd of 27,000 supporters last night in Washington Square Park. That's more than Barack Obama drew there in 2007.


In recent weeks, Sanders has been narrowing Clinton's lead in polls here in New York. He seems to have some momentum. Why do you think that's happening?

DE BLASIO: I'm not sure he has that momentum. I have a lot of respect for Bernie Sanders and the issues he's raised.

But, look, when you talk about enthusiasm, the highest form of enthusiasm is participation. Almost 2.5 million more voters have supported Hillary Clinton since the beginning of this process. She's won more states.

Those are the ultimate indicators. So, I would say, if you look what's happening in New York, wherever I go supporting Hillary, I'm hearing great feedback for her, great energy. I think her campaign has a much better ground game, turnout operation this time than eight years ago.

So, I actually think she's going to win solidly in New York and that she's building towards Election Day very, very strongly.

TAPPER: It looks like Donald Trump will win the Republican Party, if you believe polls, by a landslide.

If the general election comes down to Clinton vs. Trump, do you think the Democratic Party is going to have to spend money to keep New York blue, a state that normally goes blue all the time, not only because Donald Trump is from New York, I mean, but because of the all the white working-class voters to whom he seems to have some appeal?

DE BLASIO: It's a great question, Jake.

First of all, I would say I do want to acknowledge I think Trump has a clear advantage in New York in the Republican primary, the Republican primary in New Jersey, the Republican primary in Connecticut. I would say that local impact will be there for him.

But when you talk about general election, Hillary Clinton unquestionably is going to win New York state. This is a state that has become more progressive and more Democratic steadily over the last 20 years. She represented us very well, a lot of good will for her here, and, by the way, a state that's not going to accept a divisive candidate who unfortunately has used racist rhetoric, meaning Trump.

No, I don't think it's going to be close. I don't think this is where the Democratic Party is going to have to put resources. I think Hillary wins New York going away in the general election.

TAPPER: All right. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.

DE BLASIO: See you in Brooklyn, Jake.

TAPPER: All right.

Coming up, it's been, shall we say, a little bit nasty on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders getting a bit personal, taking on a sharper tone. Will they hold their fire when they hit the stage and have an audience of millions watching at home?

Our panel is next ,and we will dissect.


[16:16:38] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

For what could be the biggest day of the Democratic race -- well, we assembled the biggest panel we could find. As many people as we could fit at one table.

Joining us, former Ohio state senator and Bernie Sanders supporter, Nina Turner, CNN political commentator and adviser to a Clinton backing super PAC, Paul Begala, CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, CNN commentator and former South Carolina representative and Hillary Clinton supporter, Bakari Sellers.

Why do you have that longest one?

CNN political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Amanda Carpenter, and Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times."

Is that it? Did I get everybody?

All right. Let's start off with the corporate Democratic whores from Bernie Sanders.


TAPPER: I'm going to start with the corporate Democratic whores. How much of this actually is people being really honestly offended by this, Bakari?

SELLERS: Well, I think that for a long period of time Democrats had the moral high ground when it came to the debate and dialogue, because I've been on this show, Paul has been on this show, I believe Nina as well, and we have chastised and we have chastised Donald Trump and the Republican party for having a discourse that wasn't elevated enough. I think last night, although I don't throw this on the whole Bernie

Sanders campaign by any stretch, but I do think last night was language that cannot be used in this context and cannot be used when we're on the verge or many of us, I believe, we're on the verge of having the first female president of the United States. I feel that was unacceptable.

TAPPER: Paul, the guy who made the charges, Dr. Song, he also praised the Clintons and he's married to Lisa Ling and Bill Clinton rescued Lisa Ling's sister from North Korea. He insists he was not talking about the Clintons, he was talking about members of the Senate.

That's not good enough?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I read the context -- first off, he's a terrific guy and everybody makes mistakes. First of all, I don't believe senator Sanders heard it or he would have corrected it in the moment. Bernie is a really good guy with a really good heart.

But -- first I did believe it and I tweeted back to him last night. I said still not cool to call Democrats, many of whom lost their jobs to enact Obamacare, still not cool to call them corporate whores either. When you read the context, he's plainly referring to Hillary.

But, you know, it took longer than should have. I think Bernie's campaign need to get sharper.


BEGALA: But he did walk it back. Senator Sanders disavowed it and I think that resolves it.

TAPPER: What do you think, Nina? It was wrong.

NINA TURNER, FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: It was wrong. And the senator was not in the presence when he said it, but it was absolutely the wrong thing to say point blank, there's nothing else to say it was wrong. I'm glad that Dr. Song apologized and --

TAPPER: It's funny when you all agree. OK.



TAPPER: Let me ask you a question. Obviously there are a lot of scraps that have been going on between Clinton and Sanders.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You have to air quotes when you say scraps because I'm a Republican. This is nothing.

TAPPER: You've seen all sorts of things, starting with the hands. There's no problem. Believe me, I guarantee it. So my question for you is do you think you're going to say -- what do you think you're going to see on stage tonight? You're still laughing. Do you think that Hillary and Bernie are actually going to bring it

tonight? Do you think there's going to be a feistiness?

CUPP: I do. That campaign has been ratcheting up the past few weeks, not our ratcheting up but it's been ratcheting up. And, you know, "The New York Daily News" editorial board interview for Bernie was not great and I think he's gotten a little desperate.

[16:20:08] I think Hillary Clinton has also gotten a little concerned and so she has been, I think, really smearing Bernie Sanders' character on gun issues in particular, on sexism charges, racism charges. I think it's gotten a little below the belt and I would expect and hope Bernie tonight to really sort of defend his character.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: I think they both have something to prove. They both have been dancing around each other, fighting through the media, fighting through surrogates, and not getting into that direct confrontation that I think the Democratic Party has to work through.

I mean, we see it all the time on the Republican side but you can't continue to have this pressure kind of build and have no confrontation tonight on stage. If that doesn't happen, I think they both look sort of weak.

TAPPER: Maggie, do you think Hillary Clinton -- on Sunday I interviewed her and she said like, quote, I'm not going to say anything negative about Bernie Sanders so I had to stop baiting her. Do you think she's not going to? Because the truth is the momentum seems to be going his way and she needs to stop it.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I'd be very surprised if she isn't much more aggressive to Amanda's point.

I think that you had two people who have wanted to do a fight by proxy for a very long time, for a variety of reasons, and it is in such contrast to what we've seen on the Republican side. You saw today the whore-gate got resolved pretty quickly, but it's not what you see on the Republican side.

But I don't think either of them wants to let these go. I think Bernie Sanders believes what he is saying. I think Hillary Clinton believes what she is saying. I also think, they are both I think exhausted at this point, as I think all of these candidates are.

TAPPER: This is grueling.

HABERMAN: It is really, really hard, you are talking about several candidates who are roughly 70 years old. They are now at the latest debate. I think it is likelier to be feisty.

TAPPER: It is exhausting. Everybody stick around. We'll have much, much more to talk about coming up.

Strong words coming from someone who likes "The Godfather Part 3", believe it or not, Ted Cruz accusing Trump staffers of mob tactics as he battles to make a dent here in New York.

Plus, Donald Trump about to speak at a New York fund-raiser, but members of the local community are saying it's the one place he should not have gone to campaign. Why? We'll tell you.


[16:26:41] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD live from Brooklyn.

The greenhouse next to me could get awful hot this evening. It's almost ready for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to take their war of words on to the debate stage. Democrats are not the only ones getting practice at using some salty language to talk about their opponents. Senator Ted Cruz is now accusing Donald Trump and his staffers of gangsterism, saying Trump operatives are, quote, "acting like union boss thugs".

Cruz also joked that he felt lucky to wake up without a horse's head in his bed. That is a "Godfather" reference to those of you playing at home.

Jason Carroll is in Patchogue, New York. Donald Trump is there holding a fund-raiser.

Jason, Trump has hotels and properties all over New York City. Why did he pick Patchogue of all places for this fund-raiser -- stop correcting my New York (INAUDIBLE) -- Patchogue, for all places for this fundraiser?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, Patchogue on Long Island is a strong hold in terms of Republican land, but apparently also Donald Trump very excited to be here.

But here's another question for you, Jake. Why attend a fund-raiser literally that's just a few blocks away from where an undocumented immigrant was killed in a hate crime several years ago. Some of Trump's critics are saying this is just another misstep by his campaign.


CARROLL (voice-over): Tonight, the Trump campaigns boldly assuring his backers in Congress that Trump can not only win the nomination, but he will secure the delegates needed before the GOP convention.

ED BROOKOVER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: Our path to 1,237 is pretty clear. We'll start next Tuesday in New York with a huge victory and go to April 26th with a huge victory. And then march on from there.

CARROLL: But Trump is still not ready to put his recent Colorado loss behind him.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a rigged system, folks. The Republican system is a rigged system.

CARROLL: Telling supporters in Pittsburgh, party leaders are trying to decide the election and stop the will of the people.

TRUMP: What it does is allows the bosses to pick whoever they want.

CARROLL: Trump's Republican opponent, Senator Ted Cruz, rejected that notion as ludicrous.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's only one way that you earn the Republican nomination. That is you earn the votes of a majority of the delegates elected by the people.

CARROLL: Cruz accused the Trump campaign of intimidation and threats of violence.

CRUZ: Look, violence doesn't belong in democracy and the Trump campaign encourages it over and over again. They're acting like union boss thugs.

CARROLL: As Trump fights for delegates, he says he isn't at war with the party, insisting he just wants votes to count.

TRUMP: They should give the voter real credit, not just partial credit.

CARROLL: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told CNN the rules have been set and no one is rigging the process.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I believe this is some frustration that has bubbled up and, look, the rules are there. I know people get frustrated and they're disappointed when things don't go exactly the right way. But certainly, one thing that's true is that the rules are not being changed in order to injure or benefit anybody.

CARROLL: After a rocky past two weeks, the Trump campaign got a boost today.

DAVE ARONBERG, PALM BEACH COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY: Although the facts support the allegation that Mr. Lewandowski did grab Miss Fields' arm against her will, the state will no file this case.