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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

New York Post Endorses "Rookie" Trump; Trump Campaign Stumping on Capitol Hill. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired April 15, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: How's that been working out for you? That's the question that Donald Trump is posing to voters this morning in his continued attack on what he calls a rigged Republican primary system.

In an op-ed for "The Wall Street Journal" Donald Trump writes, "I, for one, am not interested in defending a system that for decades has served the interest of political parties at the expense of the people. What we're now seeing is not a proper use of the rules, but a flagrant abuse to the rules."

CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now. Phil, this was an interesting read. And in some ways, explains what Donald Trump's been saying over the last few days.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of the biggest questions when you talk to GOP officials over the last four or five days is, where is Donald Trump going to take this. It seemed like he was tossing a couple of jabs but wasn't necessarily going all in on the "me versus the establishment" delegate rules state party chairman issue. Well, he just went all in.

And I think the calculation here by his campaign when he talked to his advisors is this. They have a very good map coming up ahead for them. They can roll up a lot of delegates in the next three or four weeks. Those delegates are absolutely essential to Donald Trump getting to a point where he doesn't have to go to an open convention.

Rally those supporters. Get them excited. And potentially put yourself on that pathway to 1,237.

Now, obviously, the Republican National Committee not super thrilled by this, and Reince Priebus pushing back this morning on "Good Morning America." Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION: The system has been around for a long time. It was good enough for Abraham Lincoln. I think it's good enough for whoever our nominee is going to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE) And Sean Spicer, obviously, senior advisor, we all know very well, putting out a lengthy memo this morning basically explaining that look, these rules were always in place. You've just had to take the time to actually read them.

One of the most interesting elements, though John, and you know this well, if Donald Trump does get to 1,237, if he's the general election nominee, he's going to need to work hand and glove with the RNC. They've got the data infrastructure. They have the digital infrastructure. They have the donor infrastructure. And a lot of kind of the curious scratching of the head and a lot of the frustration frankly, at the RNC right now is his lack of willingness to grasp that, and this is only escalating.

BERMAN: The other side is that the RNC may need Donald Trump and his supporters, no matter what happens as well. So both sides need to be careful.

Phil, stick around. There's a lot more to talk about with this.

I also want to bring in former RNC communications director, Doug Heye, and talk radio host and Trump supporter, John Philips.

Doug, I want to start with you. I know you disagree with Donald Trump's argument here. I know you think he's wrong. I want you to suspend the fact that you disagree with what he's saying, and let's talk about why that he's saying it.

Because today in his op-ed he does something interesting. He ties the delegate system, the primary system, to the greater system. Donald Trump essentially says he wants to stick it to the man in the delegate selection process, because he wants to stick it to the man overall.

He says, you know, the only anecdote to decades of rule by a small handful of elites is a bold infusion popular will. Again, aside from the fact that you disagree with the premise of his delegate argument, is this a smart strategy to bring this up like this and tie the two things together?

DOUG HEYE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: It may surprise you. I think it's a smart strategy. As wrong as I think it is, it's a very smart strategy. It's also consistent with what we've seen from Trump, this "us versus them" mentality that he's had, but also talking about anything other than taxes, jobs, reducing our deficit.

He never wants to talk about issues, so he creates a fake fight, a fake outraged du jour. This is another example of it, because he didn't read the rule books of the 50 state system, and he hasn't hired the staff or the organization necessary necessarily to do what you should do as a normal candidate.

BERMAN: Yes, you could make the case it makes something very small, which has been his whining and complaining about Colorado, into something much bigger, a larger argument, again, about the system and popular will. John, I want to ask you about something else that's out there in

writing today. It's an endorsement from the "New York Post." And I suppose you should put, you know, endorsement in air quotes, because it says something interesting, this endorsement from "The Post," which, by the way, is a Rupert Murdock owned paper.

It says, "Should he win the nomination, we expect Trump to pivot -- not just on the issues but in his manner. The post-pivot Trump needs to be more presidential, better informed on policy, more self- disciplined and less thin-skinned." This is sort of like saying, we endorse him, but we want him to be very, very different than he is.

JOHN PHILLIPS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Right, well, let's also be honest about the fact that they read the polls. They know who's going to win in the state of New York, and the winner will be Donald Trump.

And it really was an easy call for the "New York Post" and for some of the other New York papers that have endorsed Donald Trump, because Ted Cruz essentially disqualified himself as a candidate in the state of New York when he ran earlier in the race and never expected New York to matter, assumed that he would sweep all those southern states, get all the delegates that he needed in the deep South, and New York would be an afterthought. California would be an afterthought.

And he made that remark at the debate like he's in some sort of 1980s Pace Picante salsa commercial where he was attacking New York values. Well, you can go ahead and do that, but if New York matters, there are consequences. And these are the consequences, and the newspapers really didn't have a choice.

BERMAN: The poll we were just showing there, by the way, wasn't a New York poll. It was a national poll from Fox News, which is actually pretty interesting in itself when you put that back up there. It shows Donald Trump out in front, and it shows Ted Cruz in second, John Kasich in third.

But if we can see it, there you go. It shows that Ted Cruz has slipped in the Fox News poll since March. Despite all the victories that he's claiming in the last several contests, his national numbers he gone down. John Kasich's have gone up, Phil Mattingly. That's pretty interesting.

MATTINGLY: "The little engine that that could" is John Kasich, always likes to prefer to his campaign, may be actually moving here. I think one of the interesting -- and look, his campaign is thrilled by this. I think I've had about 10 e-mails about it this morning already. And I've already gotten fundraising e-mails about it as well.

I think one of the interesting element here, and this is what the Cruz folks will point out, and they've already been knocking down this poll -- is that look at the delegates, don't pay attention to the polling. John Kasich is 600 delegates behind Ted Cruz. John Kasich is not in a position to win any states going forward. John Kasich isn't in a position to maybe even surpass Marco Rubio by the time they get to Cleveland. But the Kasich campaign has worked over the last 10 days throughout

New York and in Pennsylvania and in Maryland to set themselves up for that run they've been pushing towards. This is his moment, if he's going to have one.

Again, the polling in all of these states isn't showing that on the state level he's going to have the moment. But he had a big speech in New York that his team was very happy about. They thought it set him apart, set him as the adult in the room. Gave him that opportunity.

The polling, at least nationally, is starting to show that maybe he's creeping up a little bit. Could he get to that moment? That's the big question.

BERMAN: And Doug Heye, you know, John Phillips was just talking right there that Ted Cruz may have some bad days ahead of him. And he may have had a night last night that didn't go as well as he wanted either.

All three candidates spoke to Republicans here in New York City, and a lot of people who were in the room -- I don't know if you were in that room, Phil, but a lot of people who were there who said as Cruz was actually speaking, you know, the crowd was, you know, not paying attention, turning their backs, finishing their desserts, getting up, that he sort of had a rough time there.

You know, Doug, what if this is a rough stretch for Ted Cruz? What if he finishes third in New York, and as you go to Connecticut and Maryland and Delaware, things look similar?

HEYE: Well, I think it means this process is going to continue to go on all the way to the convention, which, unless Donald Trump gets to 1,237. But John, I think the "New York Post" really highlighted for a lot of Republicans like myself what the challenge would be, the problem would be with Donald Trump as our nominee.

The "New York Post" basically said, I love you, but change. I'll tell you, I've been on the receiving end of that a couple times. It never works --

BERMAN: Haven't we all?

HEYE: -- and it's not going to work in November for Republicans up or down the ballot.

BERMAN: John, last word from you? How many delegates in New York out of 95 possible?

PHILLIPS: I think it's probable that he wins it a clean sweep. He's north of 60 percent in one recent poll, north of 50 percent in all recent polls. I think Donald Trump has a very good night.

BERMAN: All right, gentleman, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it. A lot more to discuss today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. BERMAN: Six former --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

BERMAN: -- "Apprentice" contestants, they have a message for Donald Trump. They've all heard it. You're fired. Well, sort of. They're speaking out against the Republican front-runner trying to prevent him from getting to the Oval Office. We'll discuss that, coming up.

Plus, he's one of the first members of Congress to endorse Donald Trump. There were meetings with the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill yesterday. What happened at those meetings, and are more members of Congress about to hop on board the Trump train? That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Fresh fire this morning, the escalating battle between Donald Trump and the RNC. Trump blasting the party for what he calls a rigged delegate system. The party hitting back saying the rules are grass roots driven, effective and easy to understand for those willing to learn them.

Joining me is Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino. He has endorsed Donald Trump for president. Congressman, thank you so much for being us.

I want to talk about the idea --

REP. TOM MARINO (R), PENN.: It's a pleasure.

BERMAN: -- of the rigged system in the op-ed in a moment. But first, there were meetings on Capitol Hill yesterday. The Trump campaign set representatives to speak to members of Congress, those who were supporting Donald Trump, to brief them on the status of the campaign. What happened behind closed doors?

MARINO: It was a good meeting. The representative from the Trump campaign told us where they think we stand on delegates. Considering Pennsylvania and New York and New Jersey seem to be looking good, and out in California, we talked about what we're doing at the grass roots level, and how we started contacting delegates, how we started opening offices. So it was a good cordial meeting.

BERMAN: It's a hand full right now of members of Congress. You're one of them supporting Donald Trump.

MARINO: Yes, yes.

BERMAN: Any new members coming, do you think? Will there be more endorsements? Can you give us some news here in the coming days and weeks from members of Congress?

MARINO: I think there will be in the next coming days, a week or so. We just left the floor from voting. I had a couple of my colleagues, the Republicans, you know, come up to me and ask me some questions, knowing that I'm the chair in Pennsylvania for the Trump campaign. And by their comments and questions, I think we're going to see more in the next several weeks, and after that even more.

BERMAN: You've been a member of Congress for a few years. You were in Pennsylvania government or, you know, an elected prosecutor before that. Maybe part of the system. Is the system rigged?

MARINO: Well, the system is very difficult. It's archaic. It's the responsibility of each state to set their system up. But don't forget, these systems may be tweaked, but they've been around for decades when there were party bosses and party bosses controlled things and party bosses controlled people by patronage.

And now with the media that we have, with people like you getting the information out to the public, there are -- people are aware that, hey, wait a minute. I'm a voter. I'm a constituent. I vote. Not a handful of people at some level, whether it's at the campaign level or whether it's the national or state level. I have a say in this, and not one or two people just picking delegates as they want to to serve their own purpose.

BERMAN: You know, the game may stink, but even if the game stinks, don't you have to play it well?

MARINO: Sure do. There's no question about that. And that's why I've been brought on. That's why I've been asked to advise. That's why I've been asked to start up what we did in Pennsylvania.

And we are doing that. We're getting more and more people involved, more volunteers. And you have to play the system. You have to play the game. It doesn't mean that it's a great system. It just means we have a mission, we have to accomplish it, and we have adapted to that.

BERMAN: You think the Trump campaign needs to play that game better?

MARINO: I think we are playing it better, and I think it's going to get even better as we go along. We have people in the field. This is the point where now we're talking to delegates. We're making phone calls. We're doing eye to eye contact with them. We are listening to what they have to say. That is key.

Before it's, you know, the party told you what to do, but people are so moved in this campaign. Donald Trump has brought together millions of people from all walks of life from both parties and people who have never voted. And they want to vote in this. That's the way it should be. The American people decide this, not a handful of bosses and political insiders.

BERMAN: Congressman, you talk about a strange system. Pennsylvania, you know, you have one of the strangest. You have some delegates that are awarded at large by the state --

MARINO: Yes.

BERMAN: -- but you also have direct election of delegates --

MARINO: Yes.

BERMAN: -- who are largely unbound.

MARINO: Right. Yes, we have --

BERMAN: You know, is the Trump campaign up to this? I mean, this requires, you know, really granule work and identification, and if you want to get your people on board, you've got to identify delegates, people who will support Donald Trump in each one of the congressional districts.

MARINO: Sure. Well, I tell you what. You come to Pennsylvania. You come to the 10th congressional district and the 11th congressional district -- because I'm a chair. My good friend Lou Barletta, he's the co-chair -- and see what we're doing across the state in opening these offices.

And it is working. We've been working on this since I came out and said I endorsed Donald Trump. And I did it before Super Tuesday, and I'm the only candidate that came out and endorsed him without ever endorsing anyone else.

So Lou and I and the people that we have working for us and the constituents that are involved in this, we have it down.

BERMAN: Quickly, out of 71 delegates available in Pennsylvania, how many will go for Trump?

MARINO: I think mid-50s, maybe higher.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Marino, thanks so much for being with us. Interesting projection. Really appreciate it.

MARINO: Very welcome.

BERMAN: Thanks. (Inaudible) Congressman, I should say.

We're going to hear from RNC chairman Reince Priebus and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz this afternoon. That is on Wolf. It's at 1:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

All right, the apprentices versus Donald Trump. Why six former show contestants, they don't want Trump to go from the boardroom to the Oval Office. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: From apprentices to adversaries, this morning, six former contestants from Donald Trump's show, the "Apprentice," they are slamming what they call his campaign of sexism, xenophobia, racism, violence and hate.

One called for voters to quote, "choose Kennedy over Kardashianism." It was hard for everyone to say, frankly. Trump is now firing back.

CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, host of "Reliable Sources" is here with more. This is really happening. BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It really is happening right ahead of the New York primary. These six former contestants, very media savvy, holding a press conference this morning. We can show you a little bit of what they said a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDAL PINKETT, FORMER CONTESTANT, THE APPRENTICE: We stand united as former candidates on "The Apprentice," not to denounce Donald Trump the man but to denounce Donald Trump, the presidential candidate's message.

TARA DOWDELL, FORMER CONTESTANT, THE APPRENTICE: Donald Trump is validating people's hate and his bigotry in a way that I truly believe has the potential to tear this country apart.

KWAME JACKSON, FORMER CONTESTANT, THE APPRENTICE: Trump has corrupted the Republican Party to his own peril and taken key air time from substantive candidates like John Kasich, while forcing other candidates to join him in the race to the bottom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: That is the message from these former contestants about the candidate. But I have to show you Trump's statement in full, because it is a doozy. Let's put it on the screen.

It begins with, "How quickly they forget. Nobody would know who they were if it weren't for me. I couldn't have been nicer or more respectful. They just want back into the limelight like they had when they were with Trump. Total dishonesty and disloyalty. They should be careful or I'll play hours of footage of them individually praising me. Ask them how successful they've been since they left. Six failing wannabebes out of hundreds of contestants. So sad. I gave Randall Pinkett (the organizer of this) the opportunity of the lifetime by selecting him as the Apprentice. He worked for me and (he) did a terrible job."

That is Donald Trump's response to these six out there today. It's a very Trumpian response, isn't it?

BERMAN: That's unbelievable. That's like -- he took -- he was more upset by that than I've seen him by attacks on the campaign trail.

STELTER: It's almost as if he's right back on "The Apprentice," right? And Donald Trump learned a lot by being on TV, but maybe this is the down side, some of these contestants who don't quite love him anymore.

BERMAN: Brian Stelter, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

STELTER: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right, the deadly legacy of Charles Manson back in the spotlight this morning. A California parole now recommending the release of one of his youngest followers, this decades after he went to prison for a Manson family killing spree.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Refugees come to America hoping to build a better life, but many refugee children struggle with work and trying to fit in. That's something that this week's CNN hero understands.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's so many things stacked against them. For you to be successful, you're competing against all of these other people that are already like 10 steps ahead of you. So how are you going to catch up? How are you going to stand out? And how are you going to contribute successfully?

We're getting people from all over the world, from all different faiths to come together, to do something great.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: You can watch the full story at Cnnheros.com. And while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero for 2016.

Thanks for joining us at this hour. Kate Baldwin, feel better. "Legal View" with Pamela Brown starts right now.