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Donald Trump Ramps Up Challenge to GOP Speaker Ryan; McCain: "Foolish To Ignore" Trump Voters; Clinton: Republicans Are Reaching Out To Me. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 9, 2016 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:14] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Pamela Brown in for Carol Costello on this Monday. Thanks so much for joining me today. It's a very busy Monday.

Donald Trump marching toward the Republican nomination with two more expected sweeps tomorrow and lobbing more grenades along the way. The fire brand now dismissing the need for party unity and fully embracing a controversial remark he made over the weekend. He accuses Hillary Clinton of serving as an enabler to her husband and his marital infidelities.

Here's what he said a little while ago on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He was the worst abuser of women.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You just said I'm making too much of it. Now you say it's a big thing.

TRUMP: Excuse me. As a politician in the history of our country. He was impeached. He was impeached and then he lied about it. He said nothing happened with Monica Lewinsky and then he said, sorry, folks, it actually did happen. And the guy was impeached for lying.

CUOMO: All of that have can be true.

TRUMP: I know but you --

CUOMO: What does that have to do with Hillary?

TRUMP: She can't talk about me because nobody respects women more than Donald Trump. And I'm going to take -- I will be better for women by a big factor than Hillary Clinton, who frankly -- I don't even think will be good to women. You know, she went and she spoke -- it was very interesting. She spoke a few weeks ago and she said, I'm going to put the miners and the companies out of business. Then she went to West Virginia and she tried to pretend she didn't make the statement. That's the way it is with her. You know, the lies and the deception, it's horrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: All right. CNN's Phil Mattingly is in New York. He joins me now. It really seems like Trump is doubling down on those comments, Phil, about Clinton.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, Pam. Doubling down on his attacks on Hillary Clinton, but also in the midst of a two-front battle if you will. Obviously looking forward to the general election and that fight against likely Hillary Clinton but also fighting within his own party.

Pam, it has only escalated, the tension between Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, senior GOP leaders. As the weekend went along, Donald Trump continuing to reiterate that he doesn't feel like he needs to move towards Paul Ryan at all, not on a political front, not on a policy front. And escalating even further when Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential nominee and big-time Donald Trump endorser, said she would be willing to support Paul Ryan's opponent.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think Paul Ryan is soon to be Cantor, as in Eric Cantor. His political career is over but for a miracle because he has so disrespected the will of the people. And yes, as the leader of the GOP, the convention, certainly he is remain neutral and for him to already come out and say who he will not support was not a wise decision of his.

You know, I think why Paul Ryan is doing this, Jake, is it kind of screws his chances for the 2020 presidential bid that he's gunning for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: Now, Pam, for some perspective here, Paul Ryan is very popular in his district. He has 76 percent approval rating in Wisconsin. Ted Cruz won Paul Ryan's district in the primary by more than 19 points. So the idea that he would lose in a primary doesn't look likely right now. But it's the threat that underscores the damage that's really starting to occur in the Republican Party. Damage Donald Trump tried to distance himself from this morning on CNN. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Do you want Sarah Palin going out there and trying to turn people against Paul Ryan? You're supposed to be unifying the party.

TRUMP: Well, Sarah has endorsed me.

CUOMO: Yes.

TRUMP: And I like her a lot. I think she's a terrific person.

CUOMO: But do you want that? Do you want Paul Ryan take that? TRUMP: Let me finish what I wanted to say, OK. But I have nothing to

do with that. I mean, that's Sarah -- you know, Sarah is very much a free agent. She's a terrific person, but she's very much a free agent. And I didn't know about this until yesterday. I guess she has been fighting or she's endorsing somebody that's running against Paul Ryan. And I didn't know about it until yesterday when I read about it.

CUOMO: But this is a big deal. Paul Ryan, the speaker there, you have said to this point, to give you your due, hey, I want Ryan on my side. I want to work with him.

TRUMP: No, no.

CUOMO: Let's meet with him.

TRUMP: I'll go a step further. I've always liked him. He called me not so long ago, I don't know, a number of weeks ago. But he called me and he was very supportive and very nice and -- I thought everything was fine. And then I got blindsided. So we'll see. I mean, look, I'll see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And Pam, the state of play is really this, heading into this Thursday meeting, Donald Trump refusing to go anywhere near where Republican leaders want him to be. Republican leaders saying Donald Trump needs to come towards them. So obviously there are some serious issues here on the political side of things, on the tone side of things but also, and more so perhaps than anything else from Paul Ryan's perspective, on the policy side of things. There are splits and the willingness on either side to come to the center and try and meet in the middle right now at least is very unclear -- Pam.

BROWN: And so much anticipation as a result for that meeting come Thursday.

Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

[09:05:03] And let's talk this over. With me now CNN political commentator and Donald Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord, CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer, Deborah DeMoss Fonseca, spokeswoman for Conservatives Against Trump, and Neera Tanden, Center for American Progress and Hillary Clinton supporter.

Lot to discuss here to the four of you. And Jeffrey, to you first. You're the lucky one to start this all off. Get ready. So we heard Trump from Phil's report and this morning's interview on CNN basically railing again against Clinton, saying that she was playing the woman card. This is retribution, that he's using -- saying that she was an enabler for her husband's infidelities. Is he driving an even deeper wedge into the party and with women, with those comments, doubling down on them?

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, you know, I find it amazing. Various of these women who were abused by Bill Clinton have accused him -- have accused Hillary Clinton of being an enabler. Jennifer Flowers has said this. Juanita Broderick, who has a very graphic accusation of rape against Bill Clinton, which was, you know, out there on NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal" years ago, has specifically said that Hillary Clinton threatened her.

Now if we're going to talk about the woman card, are we really OK with a woman who is being accused of bullying other women for, you know, standing up for themselves?

I mean, I find that fascinating.

BROWN: Neera?

NEERA TANDEN, HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTER: You know, I think that what Jeffrey said is a perfect enunciation or perfect representation of the Trump campaign. Just gutter politics after gutter politics after gutter politics. And I think that's why Republican leaders are so repulsed by what he's doing because they know that Donald Trump has a 30 percent approval amongst women. 66 percent of women disapprove of him.

And it's because of comments exactly like this, where you attack a woman for whatever happen with her husband. And it's this why I think lots of Republicans and Democrats and independents say that Donald Trump would be -- is not the candidate. He cannot unify his party and this is a strategy of why he can't do it.

BROWN: And we just saw the unfavorables among women on that note. 64 percent, Jeffrey. You know, if you look back a few years ago, he talked about the situation with Bill Clinton and he had a very different tone then than he does now about it. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant and they tried to impeach him which was nonsense. And yet Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, Tara, even though he's clearly changing his tune here about this, it doesn't seem to impact him like it would other candidates. Why is that?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's been some new standard that's been created for Donald Trump and his duplicity on so many things and his flip-flopping, changing the truth. I mean, he lies constantly. I mean, he -- he lied about Paul Ryan calling him to congratulate him after the New York primary. That never happened. He lied about Marco Rubio, you know, talking to him favorably about a potential vice presidential pick. That never happened. Both their camps came out and said those things never happened.

But yet here, Donald Trump comes in, he says one thing one day, one thing one hour and changes it the next day. I think it's very important for those of us in the media and those of us who have platforms to continue to point out his back and forth lies, and misrepresentations of things consistently. Because -- now that we're moving into a general election, the electorate is very different than primary voters.

I don't think that this kind of -- you know, bringing up tabloid things and -- believe me, I applaud against the Clintons and their agenda and I've been very vocal about that for many, many, many years, and as objectionable as I think they are. But most Americans do not care about that anymore. Just look at how popular Bill Clinton is, look at how popular he was impeached after he was impeached when we were in the thick of it.

So I don't know that that is necessarily going to work for him. I don't think that's a good strategy. But he does it as a distraction so he doesn't have to talk about his own policies, which are very thin, to say the least.

BROWN: Before I get to you, Deborah, I got to Have Jeffrey Weigh in on what Tara just said that basically Donald Trump lies constantly, that he's a hypocrite.

LORD: Well, of course I don't think this is true. I mean, it's true. I mean, this is one of the -- you know, I love my friend, Tara. But in essence, Tara and friends who are doing this now, Donald Trump is -- this is not just about Donald Trump. This is about the voting public in the Republican Party that has now nominated him for president of the United States.

So there are millions and millions and millions of people out there who have made their choice very, very clear. So that's it. I said all along that I would support any Republican -- any Republican who was nominated, period.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: And so on that note --

[09:10:04] SETMAYER: So why in 2008 was it nonsense for Bill Clinton's impeachment and now it's not?

BROWN: I want to bring in -- I want to get Deborah's voice on this because Jeffrey does make the point that, look, millions of voters have come out to make Trump the presumptive Republican nominee.

Deborah, are you concerned that people like you, the never Trump people, will now flee the Republican Party and throw their support, you know, behind Clinton?

DEBORAH DEMOSS FONSECA, SPOKESWOMAN, CONSERVATIVES AGAINST TRUMP: Well, no, I'm not concerned about our people throwing their support behind Clinton. I don't think -- I think all of us have been very clear that it is never Trump, never Clinton. We have been concerned about the country. This is not about the Republican Party. It's about the heart and soul of the conservative movement. And that is so much more important than the party. And there -- Donald Trump had 10 million plus people who voted for him but there are 15 million people in the primary who voted for somebody other than him.

And all of the polls show you now that the people are looking for someone else to vote for and that a large majority of people will either stay home and not vote or they will find another candidate on the ballot. And that is what we are -- that is what the talks are about now. We are inundated with e-mails and social media posts about people who are looking for another alternative in both parties. I think people are concerned about both candidates. So I think that --

BROWN: Do you think this late in the game that a third party candidate is going to emerge and change everything?

FONSECA: I think everything is different this year than it has been any other year. Nobody thought that we would be where we are today. But I think people are just now, after 10 or 11 months, they're starting -- a lot of people are just now starting to tune in and they're starting to realize who is the real Donald Trump and they still can't actually figure out because he's different from day-to- day, he's different from hour-to-hour, from minute-to-minute.

And his story changes repeatedly. And we don't know yet what his policy positions are. People know generally that -- in the conservative movement what Hillary Clinton's policies are. And we don't like her policies either. We won't vote for her. But Donald Trump's policies -- anybody who thinks that Donald Trump is going to be a safer bet than Hillary is going to be sadly mistaken.

And I would reach out to the Trump voters and say, you've got to think about this. You've got to look at what he's been saying and look at his repeated lies over and over again, changing his story. Look at his behavior. Look at his character. Look at his lack of policies and his changing of policies. Don't think for a minute that he would be any safer than Hillary Clinton.

BROWN: And so --

(CROSSTALK)

FONSECA: So I think it's wide open for another candidate?

BROWN: He has come out to talk about some policies. In fact we're going to talk a little bit later in terms of what he thinks about taxing the wealthy, the minimum -- raising the minimum wage, that kind of thing. So a lot more to discuss. Stick around, panel, because we're going to discuss more in the next block.

Still to come right here in the NEWSROOM, there's another sign of a major rift in the Republican Party. Senator John McCain says GOP leadership needs to take Donald Trump seriously.

We'll continue our discussion with our panel right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:16:03] BROWN: Senator John McCain says he's supporting Trump, but that's not the only comment to raise eyebrows. In an interview with CNN's Manu Raju, the Arizona Republican said it's time his party's leadership take Donald Trump seriously.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Are you worried that there's a disconnect?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: You have to draw the conclusion that there's some distance if not a disconnect between party leadership and members of Congress and many of the voters who have selected Donald Trump to be the nominee of the party.

We could go down the list, but a lot of it is older, white, blue collar workers who see no prospect of a job ever again. We see dissatisfied young people who are carrying student debts into their first job for many, many years.

So, there's -- and, of course, a perception which is largely reality. Not totally. That there's gridlock in Washington. That's given rise to Trump and Sanders. And that's something that we in the Republican Party will have to look at very carefully.

RAJU: Do you think they'll listen to those folks a little bit better?

MCCAIN: You have to listen to the people that voters have chosen the nominee of our Republican Party. I don't think -- it would be foolish to ignore them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: All right, let's bring back our panel to continue this conversation we've been having, Jeffrey Lord, Tara Setmayer, Deborah DeMoss Fonseca, and Neera Tanden.

Deborah, we spoke about the fact you want a third party candidate. But you just heard John McCain, he said basically how can you ignore the will of the people? They have spoken. Why aren't you? Are you concerned that this lack of support could backfire for the party?

DEBORAH DEMOSS FONSECA, SPOKESWOMAN, CONSERVATIVES AGAINST TRUMP: I think we do need to listen to the voters out there and to the Trump voters, I think that they were showing frustration, so to speak, with what they see in the country.

But I don't think that Donald Trump is the answer. Donald Trump doesn't have -- they're not going to fix their problems. And I would reach out to them and say Donald Trump is not going to fix your problems because he doesn't have any ideology or philosophy except for authoritarianism and self-promotion.

That is a very dangerous mix. So I would say to those people, let's look for another option, see what we can do within the boundaries that we have, whether it's a third candidate, independent candidate, write- in candidate.

We're looking at all options and the movement, I believe, is growing, and the calls are growing for something like that. And it's showing in the polls.

BROWN: But, Deborah, some of these voters listen to you, they may think why does she know more than I do? Look, millions of people have made their voices heard. Why is it up to you and other Republican leaders to know what's best for the American people?

FONSECA: Well, I don't pretend to know what's best for the American people. What I'm saying is that people need --

BROWN: But they've spoken and chosen Trump as the Republican nominee.

FONSECA: Well, but 15 million people, more people voted against him than voted for him and that's significant.

[09:20:10]So I think a lot of states had open primaries, there weren't Republicans there. If he is going to be the future of the Republican Party, that is no longer the party of Lincoln and Reagan. I think we will lose the heart and soul of the conservative movement and of America for years and years to come.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Pam? Pam?

BROWN: Jeffrey, I do want to bring you in. Go ahead.

LORD: Let me say a couple of things. Number one, more people voted against John McCain in the Republican primary process that voted for him. So, we've been here before and I don't remember Deborah saying John McCain should not get the nomination once he won the majority of the votes.

Number two, when Barry Goldwater withdrew his candidacy for president in 1960 at the Republican convention and endorsed Richard Nixon, he was accused by conservatives of, quote/unquote, "betraying the conservative cause."

And he finally said and I'm quoting him exactly, "I didn't realize until later there were some conservatives you can never satisfy." This popped up again when Ronald Reagan was president and conservatives denounced him and said he was a failure as president.

So, I've seen this kind of thing before. We have been down this road before. Deborah, whether she realizes it --

FONSECA: We've never been down this road before.

BROWN: The road we're down right now, Jeffrey, is a civil war seemingly in the Republican Party. It's incredible to see what's going on within the party. In light of that, you're hearing Trump raise the threat of blocking Speaker Paul Ryan from chairing the convention if he does not come out and support him as the nominee.

LORD: He is the leader of the party. He needs to support the party nominee. What's with that?

BROWN: You can make that argument. Are you concerned at all by coming out and making these comments that Trump could be hurting the chances of making peace with him at Thursday's sit down?

LORD: No. I like Paul Ryan. We both used to work for Jack Kemp at different times. I think he is terrific. As Newt Gingrich said, he made a serious mistake. Can you imagine when Newt Gingrich was the Republican leader in the House, in 1992, he said, well, you know, give me a week to think about it, I'm not sure if I can support President Bush for re-election?

I mean, they would have been after his scalp, as Newt himself says. Paul Ryan is the Republican -- say again, Republican speaker of the House, the Republican electorate has spoken. Therefore, that's it.

BROWN: All right, Tara, I'll get to you in a second, Neera. Tara, I want to get your response to that. It's pretty rare something like this would happen.

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. It's unfortunate. A year ago, we were positioned to rout the Democrats in the presidential election, we had great candidates that could have done this, but didn't have this kind of negatives or this kind of record, that didn't insult women, minorities and POWs and everybody else.

The issue here with other candidates that Jeffrey talks about, the difference is that none of them were holy unfit to be president. There are many of us, not only conservatives, many of us who feel as though Donald Trump's lack of character, integrity, his inability to tell the truth consistently and the fact that he believes in nothing consistently makes him wholly unfit for many of us.

We should not be brow beaten by a minority of people in primaries into falling in line with someone that we don't feel carries the mantle of the party or Lincoln or Reagan.

I mean, Donald Trump is the same guy who testified for Democrats in 1990 and referred to Ronald Reagan's tax cuts as something like out of the Soviet Union. Do you agree with that, Jeffrey Lord? You worked for Reagan.

BROWN: While this rift is going on within the Republican Party, Hillary Clinton came out and basically made the case that she sort of is getting a good deal from all of this. Take a listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For a lot of people, again, who take their votes seriously and really see this as a crossroads kind of election, I am asking people to come join this campaign. And I've had a lot of outreach from Republicans in the last days who say that they are interested in talking about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: So, Neera, I want to get your response to what Hillary Clinton is saying, that she has outreach from Republicans, GOP donors.

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Look, you know, I think that this panel demonstrates that there's a lot of concern around the country about Donald Trump and the kind of president he would be for very good reasons. Tara and others have mentioned. He's just unfit to be president of the United States.

And there are Republicans of good conscience who recognize that and want to do something in this election other than vote for Donald Trump. Hillary will have the proposals and policies, always have. People want an alternative to Donald Trump.

And I think Republicans will -- some Republicans will look at Hillary. Some will stay home. Many may form a third party. I think that's because this election is too important for every single American to allow Donald Trump to become president.

BROWN: But is there any concern quickly, Neera, that Donald Trump will be able to pull in some of those blue dog Democrats, perhaps some Bernie Sanders' supporters or that supporters will just stay home, supporters of Bernie Sanders? Is there that concern in the Clinton camp?

[09:25:12]TANDEN: I think Hillary has said that she has to earn the vote of, everyone in the Democratic Party, independents as well. So, she will continue to make the case as to why Bernie Sanders' supporters should support her. But Bernie Sanders himself has said that he will work every day to ensure Donald Trump is not president.

And I think after the primaries, you will see a united Democratic Party, which will be in sharp contrast to what we are seeing in the Republican Party implosion of the last few days.

BROWN: Sure to be an interesting few months to come. Thank you so much to this panel. Jeffrey Lord, Tara Setmayer, Deborah Fonseca and Neera Tanden. We do appreciate it.

Still ahead right on this Monday, the Justice Department challenges North Carolina's bathroom law and the deadline is today. What will the state's governor do? We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)