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Interview With Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger; Interview With New York Congressman Chris Collins; Saudi Ties to 9/11?; Talk of Unity But No Endorsement at Trump-Ryan Meeting; 9/11 Role of Saudis Living in U.S. Questioned. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 12, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And Saudi 9/11 connection? A member of the 9/11 Commission now reveals new details of evidence that Saudi citizens living in the United States were supposedly supporting al Qaeda ahead of the terror attacks. What was their connection to the Saudi government?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He portrays himself as the ultimate Washington outsider, but Donald Trump very much the inside today as he huddled behind closed doors with top congressional Republicans in a series of important meetings, the most anticipated, a 45-minute sit-down with the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who pointedly said he is not yet ready to endorse Trump.
And tonight he is apparently still not ready. Trump and Ryan did issue a joint statement stressing unity and commitment, but all sides are also acknowledging the long road ahead, describing today as a first step in an ongoing conversation.
We are following new questions also about 9/11. A former commissioner with the official congressional investigation tells CNN there's evidence as many as six Saudi individuals were supporting al Qaeda in the weeks and months before the attacks.
We're covering all of that, much more this hour, with our guests, including Congressman Chris Collins. He was the first Republican representative to endorse Donald Trump. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.
Let's begin with our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.
Dana, all sides are trying to put a very positive spin on these meetings, but there are still some very serious issues that divide them.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about it.
But I'm told that Donald Trump, according to a congressional source in one of the meetings with him, came in and walked in with an attitude of wanting to come together. But this really isn't just about Trump. It turns out that Paul Ryan's interview right here on CNN last week was controversial among many of his own rank and file Republicans, so there was as much as stake for the House speaker as there was for the unlikely Republican presidential nominee.
BASH (voice-over): It was an event congressional Republicans never imagined in their wildest dreams, gathering to greet their nominee for president, Donald Trump. And they all could not sound more eager to get beyond the discord.
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The headline is positive first step toward unifying our party.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I do believe that we are now planting the seeds to get ourselves unified.
BASH: In fact, Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan even issued a carefully crafted joint statement using a version of the word unite three times in one paragraph, including, "We will be having additional discussions, but remain confident there's a great opportunity to unify our party and win this fall," but also said, "While we were honest about our few differences, we recognize that there are also many important areas of common ground."
The differences ran deep during the primaries.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A total and complete shutdown.
BASH: Ryan recoiling at Trump's tone and tenor, especially's Trump's call to temporarily ban Muslims last December.
RYAN: This is not conservatism.
BASH: CNN is told that today behind closed doors, Ryan made clear to the billionaire it would be up to Trump to unite the GOP. A source familiar with the meeting says Ryan told Trump that while millions voted for him, many Republicans oppose him, too.
RYAN: I represent a wing of the conservative party, you could say. He brings -- he's bringing a whole new wing to it. He's bringing new voters that we have never had for decades. That's a positive thing.
BASH: Still, Ryan was not yet ready to endorse Trump.
RYAN: This is the first very encouraging meeting. But, again, in 45 minutes, you don't litigate all of the processes and all the issues and the principles that we are talking about.
BASH: A source familiar with the meeting also said Ryan brought up something near and dear to his heart, balancing the budget by reforming Medicare and Social Security, which Trump has argued he doesn't want to touch. And sources tell CNN that, during the meeting, Trump mostly listened
and said all the right things. The most anticipated meeting of the day was the first, just these three men, Trump, Ryan and Republican Party chair Reince Priebus.
CNN is told Priebus has been working hard behind the scenes for over a week to bridge the divide between the two.
PRIEBUS: It's important to be unified. It's important remember that...
BASH (on camera): But it's not usually this hard.
PRIEBUS: Well, you know what? This was not a usual election. It was a very contentious, tough primary. And, obviously, no one can deny that. It's something that a lot of us haven't been through.
BASH: Do you feel like a couples therapist?
PRIEBUS: No. You know what? You wouldn't say that if you were in the room. It was very -- it was great. And I think we had very good chemistry between the two of them.
BASH: Maybe the most stark piece of evidence of the Trump thaw, Wolf, was word that we got that Lindsey Graham, who right here on CNN last week also said that he would not vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton, never mind not endorse him, the two of them spoke by phone yesterday, talking, according to Graham, about issues of national security for about 15 minutes.
Graham said it was a cordial conversation. And, Wolf, this comes after I heard Graham yesterday talked about the populism that Trump brings to the Republican Party, and maybe that could help the party in the future. Again, these are not things anybody expected to hear from the man who is perhaps Trump's starkest opponent and continued to be so in the primary.
BLITZER: Good point, Dana Bash.
Yes, Lindsey Graham wrote: "I know Mr. Trump is reaching out to many people throughout the party and the country to solicit their advice and opinions. I believe this is a wise move on his part." He congratulated him on his win, a very nice statement from Lindsey Graham as far as Donald Trump is concerned.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.
Jim, you are hearing from people inside the Trump campaign. What are you hearing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Donald Trump is all but declaring victory after his trip to Capitol Hill, but it was not mission accomplished. He didn't land that coveted endorsement of House Speaker Paul Ryan. But I talked to some Trump aides earlier today who said they believe that will come in time, adding no endorsement was really expected today.
And despite all of this talk of unity, we should point out there were some concerns expressed by GOP lawmakers about Trump's visit and what happened during Trump's visit. Consider what happened over on the Senate side. Dana was talking about the House side.
On the Senate side, Senator John Cornyn was at that meeting earlier today with Trump. He told reporters after that meeting that he told Donald Trump he needs to tone down rhetoric on immigration. And that's just one of the issues that Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, tried to exploit earlier as he offered Donald Trump a welcome all his own. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Since the Republican leader is all in for Donald Trump, we can only assume that he approves Trump's calling immigrants rapists and murderers. Since Senator McConnell has so enthusiastically embraced Trump, we can only assume he agrees with Trump's view that women are dogs and pigs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, Trump did hold one other important meeting today, we should mention, off the Hill.
And that was with former Secretary of State James Baker. Wolf, that could open the door to potentially mending fences with the Bush family, although that is highly unlikely after Trump's superheated rhetoric aimed at Jeb Bush and former President George W. Bush.
Trump will have another chance to reassure conservatives next week. He has a big speech on the schedule at the NRA's annual meeting in Kentucky. But, Wolf, this was a very different Donald Trump we saw on Capitol Hill earlier today. There were no mentions of little Marco and lying Ted. This was toned-down Trump, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very positive rhetoric indeed. All right, thanks very much, Jim Acosta reporting.
Let's get a little bit more on all of this.
Joining us, New York Congressman Chris Collins. He was the first Republican congressman to publicly support Donald Trump.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: Oh, good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, you had a chance to speak to Speaker Ryan before the meeting today.
COLLINS: I did.
BLITZER: What was your message to him?
COLLINS: Well, we need to unite the party. And Speaker Ryan at our conference meeting also confirmed we need to be a united party to defeat Hillary Clinton and her liberal progressive socialist agenda.
That does unite us. She's the great uniter. But Paul Ryan did say, I don't know Mr. Trump. So, when I met with him, I encouraged him that we would be coming together sooner than later. And he said, well, we're going to have to have a conversation that started today. I was very, very impressed with the unity message that came out.
There's going to be two or three more meetings, but the speaker and the future president of the United States have to have an agenda to change the direction of this country. Come next January, we're going to pass the laws that President Trump will sign.
BLITZER: What does it say, though, that the speaker after the meeting today is still not able to endorse Donald Trump?
COLLINS: There's a process.
Speaker Ryan is a very cautious and a very deliberative person in decision-making. He has his issues and he knows about the differences, whether it is the Trans-Pacific Partnership or other trade issues. He acknowledges that Donald ran on those and won. Those aren't a disqualifier, in Mr. Ryan's opinion.
He needs to get to know him. Paul Ryan is somebody who is -- just is going to take a little more time. I would say end of the month, first part of June, not to put a total timeline on it, but a few more meetings.
BLITZER: There's a story in Politico that some of Trump's supporters -- and, Congressman, you were the first Republican to endorse him in Congress -- were disappointed and upset that Donald Trump didn't find time to really meet with them while he was here in Washington today.
COLLINS: Well, I'm not in that camp.
I have met with Donald Trump. I talked to him. I campaigned -- or my folks are talking to him all the time. We knew what this schedule was today, compressed, hectic. Never expected or even asked to meet with Donald today. We have talked about him coming in to speak to our conference. Our conference chair, Cathy McMorris Rodgers...
BLITZER: You mean the entire Republican Conference, all Republican members of the House.
COLLINS: And I think we will do that sooner than later. We have to remember May 4 was not the date we thought we would be
coming together. We thought it would be in July after the Cleveland convention, maybe June 7, after California. No one expected May 4.
So, there's a little catchup occurring here. But that gives 10 weeks ahead of where we thought we would be to take the fight to Hillary Clinton. And so I think all the steps are positive. Let's face it. Today, if this was the election, Paul Ryan would be voting for Donald Trump today. It is just going to take a couple of more meetings. And he will be there.
BLITZER: Donald Trump himself made it clear when I spoke with him last week, he didn't necessarily think that Cruz and Kasich were going to drop out as quickly as they wound up dropping out.
COLLINS: Well, if you heard Ted Cruz, you never -- no one expected that. It is good for the party. Gives us 10 extra weeks to coalesce around our nominee, Donald Trump. The mood on the House floor is very positive, very energetic.
BLITZER: Here's the problem, though, and the speaker makes no bones about it.
He disagrees with Donald Trump on several core issues, and they have to resolve this. I'm going to play a couple of clips.
COLLINS: All right.
BLITZER: This is where Trump has spoken out on very sensitive issues. The speaker and a lot of other Republicans are not happy about these positions he has enunciated. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the king of debt. I love debt.
This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default, because you print the money. I hate to tell you, OK?
We are out of control. We have no idea who is coming into the country. We have idea if they love us or if they hate us. We have no idea if they want to bomb us.
Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people.
I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
Folks, we're going to build the wall, believe me.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, so how do they resolve -- those are sensitive issues, obviously. Trump, he's modified his tone a little bit, but he is really not backing away from the substance.
COLLINS: Well, I think it goes to the top line.
Secure our borders, bring our jobs back that were stolen by Mexico and China, strength -- peace through strength, stand up to Putin, stand up to North Korea, defeat ISIS.
And to get the economy moving, we're going to have to have fundamental tax reform. So, Donald Trump has set that stage at the 30,000-, 60,000-foot level. I have disagreed with some of what Mr. Trump have said on the Muslims. I said we do need to know who is coming in. The Syrian refugees that Director Comey of the FBI can't certify are not terrorists, we needed a time-out. I called for that.
I wouldn't have gone as far as Mr. Trump. And he has modified some of that.
BLITZER: But you believe think he is moderating some of his positions?
BLITZER: Do you believe he is ready to compromise with, let's say, Speaker Ryan, on some of these sensitive issues?
COLLINS: I think, as we now move forward and we are pivoting to running against Hillary Clinton, she's the uniter of our party. There's no question the chief executive, Donald Trump, knows we need to get our team together. He knows that we're going to have to debate these issues.
He has reached out to committee chairmen and others, give me your ideas, let's talk this through. With Donald Trump, there's certain things set in concrete. He is going to secure the borders. He is bringing our jobs back, and he is going to defend the safety of this country. Those, he is not going to compromise on.
When it comes to the details, I think that's what a CEO does. We're going to have the conversation, we're going to get the best ideas, have the best and brightest in the room. And Paul Ryan will be part of that. So, I have a very good feeling about where this is headed.
BLITZER: Yes, he makes it clear he is ready to compromise. He has got his opening bargaining position. There's other positions. He is willing to work -- he says he's willing to work with Democrats, too, if he is elected president of the United...
BLITZER: He wrote "The Art of the Deal," as you...
BLITZER: Do you think Reince Priebus is doing a good job trying to bring these factions together?
COLLINS: I am very pleased with what Reince Priebus is doing right now.
He knows it is imperative that the Republicans win, that we are united with the individual on the top of our ticket, Donald Trump, and then with President Trump, Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell, we can change the direction of this country, we can get the jobs back. And we have to be united.
So, this is a process, and I think we are well along on the path.
BLITZER: Chris Collins, thanks very much for joining us.
COLLINS: Sure. Good to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Always good to have a fellow Buffalonian, as I always remind our viewers, on the show.
COLLINS: There we go.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more reaction to Trump's meetings with top Republicans. Congressman Adam Kinzinger, he is standing by join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get some more now on Donald Trump's very important meetings today here in Washington with top congressional leaders, including the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who still is not endorsing his party's presumptive Republican nominee.
I want to bring in Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Thanks, Wolf. Yes.
BLITZER: Are you ready to endorse Donald Trump?
KINZINGER: No, I'm still not there.
KINZINGER: I feel like a broken record.
Look, as everybody has a decision to make on who to vote for, a member of Congress, as a private citizen, has to make that decision as well. Donald Trump's tone, his violent rhetoric, things, talking about banning all Muslims, when, frankly, there are Muslim nations that are doing a lot of dirty work against al Qaeda, for instance -- Saudi Arabia dealt al Qaeda one of the biggest blows recently.
It is that tone. It is a foreign policy that's nonsensical when he explain it. That's a huge concern to me.
Now, I would love to eventually get to where I can endorse the Republican nominee. I'm a Republican. But the Republican nominee has to talk like a Republican. He has to have some Republican values. And, frankly, he has to be worthy of inheriting the job of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan.
And the tone I hear from Donald Trump is not there yet. It's nothing against people that support him. But I have a decision to make.
BLITZER: Are you getting pressure from Republican leaders to change your mind and go out there and endorse him?
KINZINGER: There is a lot of pressure, yes.
BLITZER: Describe a little bit of that pressure. What kind of pressure is it?
KINZINGER: Well, it's not like lock you in a room, and beat you down, but it's like saying, hey, we have got to unite.
It is a compelling message as a Republican. If our party is united, it's good. We can push forward our principles.
BLITZER: Where does that pressure come from?
KINZINGER: It just comes from colleagues, from people, from, frankly, folks in my district, good people that support me, that support Donald Trump. I'm well aware of that, you know? And, again, it's nothing against people that support him.
But I came out here not because I wanted a title, not because I wanted paycheck, but I came out to make a difference. And on a thing like foreign policy, where I have spent six years fighting hard to remind Americans our mission in the world and things like that, when you have a nominee that says basically the direct opposite, embraces Vladimir Putin, is flattered by Vladimir Putin, says give the Middle East to Russia, those are concerning issues and ones that I can't just roll over on.
BLITZER: You're a combat veteran. You served in the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan, for that matter.
Are you one of those Republicans potentially that could actually vote for the Democratic nominee, assuming it is Hillary Clinton?
KINZINGER: No, I don't see myself going there.
Look, I basically disagree with Hillary Clinton on just about everything, I'm sure. So, I want to get to where I can support the Republican nominee, but he has to be worthy of having my support. Like I said, people have to make their individual decisions.
I'm in the same position. We are no different than anybody. We have to make that decision. I won't be supporting Hillary Clinton. What I will definitely be doing is still taking out a ballot. And even if I don't vote for presidency, I can write somebody in and I will be sure I vote for down ballot like Senator Kirk in Illinois.
BLITZER: What do you of the way the speaker, Speaker Ryan, is handling this whole issue right now? He came out, a joint statement with Donald Trump today. He didn't formally endorse Trump, but he said it was a great meeting.
KINZINGER: I think the speaker is handling it well. He is a man of great principle. He's somebody that wants to do what's right, understands the need to work together, but wants to do right.
But he is the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, basically the leader right now of the Republican Party. He has a different set of pressure points on him and a different responsibility to unite than somebody like me, for instance.
So, I think he is doing a great job. He's upholding his principles, and doing what I hope that I can do, too, is to help bring Donald Trump to a position where he starts to sound like a Republican, and, again, he speaks in tones worthy of a guy like Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.
BLITZER: Yes, Trump, he is very ambitious, as you know.
And, politically, he has made no bones about it. He thinks he can carry important battleground states, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania. He thinks he can carry his home state of New York. Do you think -- let's say you come around and you endorse him. Do you think he could actually carry your home state of Illinois?
KINZINGER: It will be tough. Look, it's tough.
He has got a coalition of people showing up that traditionally don't vote. And that's true. And I will give him that. Now, the question is, does that translate out of a primary into a general election? I think that remains to be seen.
But the other thing is, how much does he motivate, for instance, the Hispanic vote to come out for Hillary Clinton and vote against him? These are questions that I think we are kind of figuring out. And really it is on Donald Trump. Whether the Republican Party unites, whether he can turn out those coalitions is on him and his tone and what he says. So, I will leave it to him. It's in his hands.
BLITZER: You saw the statement that Lindsey Graham put out. He had a 15-minute phone conversation with Donald Trump.
"I had a colorful, a cordial, pleasant conversation with Mr. Trump. I congratulated him on winning the Republican nomination."
He didn't formally endorse him, but it was a very generous, warm statement that he released. I assume you would like to have a conversation with Donald Trump as well.
KINZINGER: Yes, I would. Everybody would want to.
BLITZER: What would you say to him?
KINZINGER: I think the first thing I would say is, Mr. Nominee, you have to understand that your words have a real impact.
I hear from our allies, our actual allies in the Middle East that they are concerned about with what you're saying, and it is actually affecting them domestically, for instance. Not everybody in the United Arab Emirates, for instance, is pro-West, but it is a pro- Western government. They have those things.
So, it's like -- your words have an impact. Talk about American leadership. Populism is one thing. Populism on foreign policy is something completely different. And I think the job of presidency and the debate is worthy of adult discussions on it, not just populist rhetoric.
BLITZER: Maybe you will get a phone call from Donald Trump and you can have that conversation.
BLITZER: We will look forward to your statement afterward.
KINZINGER: Yes, there you go.
BLITZER: Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, thanks very much.
KINZINGER: You bet, Wolf. Thanks.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more on this critical day in Donald Trump's presidential campaign. Was Paul Ryan taking a swipe at Trump with a tweet he sent after the meeting? Stand by.
Plus, we have new revelations about 9/11 and some Saudi citizens who were actually living in the United States when the attacks happened.
BLITZER: A watershed moment in Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
The presumptive Republican nominee meeting here in Washington with top congressional Republicans, including the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who hasn't yet endorsed Donald Trump.
For more, let's bring in our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, along with our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, our CNN political commentator, the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" magazine Ryan Lizza, and "Washington Post" assistant editor David Swerdlick.
Guys, thanks very much.
[18:30:11] Heard a lot of positive talk out there, Dana. But what is it going to take to get the speaker of the House formally to endorse Donald Trump?
BASH: You know, I would imagine it's going to be a little bit of time, unclear how long. And frankly, I'm not entirely sure how much it matters at this point. You know, perhaps to the hardcore Trump supporters, it will matter.
But I think what matters more is going to be the actions that Paul Ryan takes, that Donald Trump takes to unite the party, in that they can try to kind of come together around a message, maybe more importantly, come together around a fundraising schedule so that Trump can help House Republicans keep the majority. And, you know, perhaps Ryan can help a little bit in terms of the overall attempt by Republicans to do well from the top down.
So, you know, it's really hard to know how much that's going to really matter, except -- here's the only exception. The rank-and-file Republicans in the House, those who, you know, looked to Paul Ryan and said, "What did you do? Our districts are, you know, hugely supportive of Donald Trump, and you might have really hurt us in our districts." Those people might say, "You know what, Paul Ryan? We need you to endorse."
BLITZER: It's a tough issue for Paul Ryan, speaker of the House. On the one hand, he's under all this pressure to support the Republican nominee, to endorse him and all of that.
On the other hand, he wants to keep a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives, and there are a lot of Republicans out there are very worried that, with Trump atop the ticket, that that could hurt their prospects.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, "WASHINGTON POST": The one thing all Republicans agree on is that they want to win in November. But for Ryan, Trump does not represent what he wants: a party of conservatism, a party of ideas, a Reaganesque tone. And right now, I think he's got to hold back a little bit of his leverage, even though, like Dana says, his rank-and-file members want him to sort of, you know, make amends or at least have a detente with -- with Trump. If he folds into the Trump tent too soon, he's giving away his leverage as a power center in the Republican Party.
BLITZER: Ryan, Paul Ryan is a very sincere, sensitive guy. He says he doesn't want fake party unity. But on the other hand, he doesn't want Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States either. So he's got a delicate line he's got to walk.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It does seem like, from his statements, that he's trying to offer Trump a path here, right, that his end goal really is to be able to come around and say that he backs Trump.
And I think Dana hit the pressure point that we really saw this week on him, is he is speaker of the House during a time when that job is extremely difficult, even if you didn't have a presidential candidate like Donald Trump who's so polarizing in the Republican Party. Obviously, Boehner was basically overthrown by rebellion on the right.
And, you know, I was up on the Hill today, talking to a lot of Republicans. And that is what you're -- it's definitely divided, but you're picking up from a lot of the more -- the conservative faction, frankly, who are always looking for a reason to be against the speaker anyway.
And now they've sort of seized on this, some of the Freedom Caucus members, the most conservative members in the House. They've seized on this as, "Wait a second, Paul Ryan. Basically, the Republican Party wants this guy." And it's turning into an establishment versus grassroots issue. And for a lot of conservatives in the House, those are Paul Ryan's base. That's the thing he's going to have to worry about going forward.
BLITZER: Is the biggest problem that Trump has with Ryan his demeanor, as we say? That he would like -- Ryan would like him to be more presidential, in that to mean tone of some of the comments he's making, or substantive policy differences?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think it's both. I think that the substance, though, is where Paul Ryan is most known. He's a very substantive guy. I mean, he has lived and breathed his life in policy. He's grown up on the Hill, essentially, and he is concerned that Donald Trump is not carrying the ideals of this Republican Party. He really feels strongly about the party of Ronald Reagan, the Grand Old Party. And I believe it's more policy.
I do -- I don't think he likes his tone. But I think that Paul Ryan would not have done what he did without specific policy differences.
I can't see how they come together, and I don't think they necessarily have to, and they won't on everything. On trade, for example, they are not going to come together. But I think on some other -- some other issues, I think that's what Paul Ryan is waiting for here.
It's risky on one hand, but I also think it elevates him at this moment as a speaker. He's a young speaker. And I think this is a good test of his leadership, but it's also a sign that he's willing to stand for something. And a lot of people I've talked to, a lot of Republicans think that makes him look pretty good.
BLITZER: He might talk a lot about (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He also talks a lot about Jack Kemp as a mentor, too, who was someone who did reach out to the minorities, who tried to build a more compassionate conservative alliance, if you will. Jack Kemp really played a critically important role in his life, as well.
[18:35:11] There was a very cute tweet that Paul Ryan put out there, posted it. I'll show our viewers right now. This is after his meeting with Donald Trump. You see it up there. It says, "My most important meeting of the day." You see him with a bunch of little school girls over there. So you can read that in various ways, right, Dana?
BASH: That's right. But the way Paul Ryan's office told me to read it, is give me a break. He was trying to say, "These are children. They're the future." You know, he's trying to say nice things about kind of what matters in life are the kids.
But one thing I just want to add to what we've all been talking about, just on the pure raw politics of this, that I was reminded of, that I hadn't really thought through by kind of a senior Republican type here, and that is that, for all of his opposition to Washington, Donald Trump has really obviously galvanized the grassroots.
But he has not called on his supporters to challenge incumbent Republicans as he's gone into these various districts, even and especially when a lot of them didn't support him. And that that is something that did not go unnoticed by, again, a lot of the incumbent Republicans, and they're hoping that that will help them. But it also has kind of endeared them, even those who don't really think he's their kind of Republican, to him. Because we've seen the divisive nature of the Republican primary process, even and especially within the House of Representatives. It can get pretty ugly.
LIZZA: Sarah Palin.
BLITZER: He endorsed -- Paul Ryan. Disavowed that in a Republican primary in August, a Republican primary in his home district in Wisconsin.
Let's say the Trump charm offensive fails; he can't bring the Republican Party elite on board. Can he still win the election?
SWERDLICK: I think he can win. I'm not going to say he will win. But he can. And a lot of it will have to do with whether he can reach sort of a stalemate, again, with some of these guys.
If Ryan doesn't endorse him, will Ryan sort of reach a detente with Trump? Will some of the big Republican donors? He got T. Boone Pickens today. He's got some other big donors that are trickling over to him, even though others like Paul Singer are saying they won't support Trump. If he can get some fund-raising, some support, he's got people like Representative Collins who was here earlier supporting him. And he has the grassroots. That's the thing.
ZELENY: And the grassroots is the most important thing. I was out in Omaha, in Nebraska, a red state, with Donald Trump on Friday. The crowd booed as loud for Paul Ryan as for Hillary Clinton here. So it doesn't really matter, I think. We were very focused on this today in Washington, and rightly so. But conservative activists are, you know, with the nominee.
BLITZER: Trump is making it very clear -- hold your thoughts for a moment -- he's no longer self-funding. He's to go out there and start raising money.
BASH: Can I just add one more important thing about the establishment? James Baker doesn't get more establishment than that. The fact that he met with Trump today is huge.
BLITZER: The former secretary of state.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. Much more to discuss.
We'll also take a closer look at what's happening on the Democratic side between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Much more right after this.
[18:42:54] BLITZER: Hillary Clinton's lock on the Democratic presidential nomination, but as her rival, Bernie Sanders, says the party's super delegates are rejecting the views of their constituents.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is still here with us. He's got the latest on the Democratic race.
Jeff, the super delegates are what it -- what makes it mathematically impossible, shall we say, at this point for Sanders to overtake Clinton.
ZELENY: It sure is, Wolf. And you know, super delegates, of course, those elected Democratic Party officials, they have overwhelmingly sided with Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders is arguing that it's unfair, particularly in states like West Virginia and New Hampshire, where he won big, but those super delegates are still backing Clinton.
That's not his only challenge, though. He would also have to win two- thirds of pledged delegates in all remaining states. That's a tall order. But Sanders is still making good on his pledge to fight for every vote in every state. Today, that took him face to face with a piece of Americana he's never seen before.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is our country at its very best. What an incredible achievement.
ZELENY (voice-over): Visiting Mount Rushmore today, Bernie Sanders taking in the majesty of the moment, this monument to four great American presidents.
SANDERS: Just the accomplishment and the beauty, it really does make one very proud to be an American.
ZELENY: Sanders has his own mountain to climb. Even winning all 11 remaining contests wouldn't put him on top of Hillary Clinton in the fight for delegates.
Sanders is drawing less attention these days, but he's not going quietly, taking aim at super delegates, who overwhelmingly back Clinton even if he carried their state.
SANDERS: I say to those super delegates in the states where we won landslide victories, listen to the people of your state!
ZELENY: In Kentucky today, Bill Clinton asking Democrats to send his wife across the finish line with strength.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: She needs to go into that convention not just with a popular vote lead, not just with a delegate lead, with the wind at her back, so we can unify our party and make this case to the American people.
ZELENY: Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, warning in a fundraising e-mail Democrats should nominate Clinton only if they are willing to roll the dice and court disaster.
[18:45:07] Those three words "roll the dice" ripped from the 2008 headlines when President Clinton used them to describe electing Barack Obama.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we let them win now, it will be a gamble, a roll of a dice. That's what we've heard folks say.
ZELENY: On CNN today, Weaver walked back at least part of his words.
JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The disaster is not Hillary Clinton. The disaster is the election of Donald Trump.
ZELENY: Trump meanwhile is focused on another Democrat, Elizabeth Warren.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Elizabeth Warren, now I hope she runs with Hillary, because I would like to take them out.
ZELENY: In a war of words on Twitter, Trump writing, "Goofy Elizabeth Warren has been one of the least effective senators in the entire U.S. Senate, she has done nothing. Warren shooting back, do you think you're going to shut us up, Donald Trump? Think again, it's time to answer for you dangerous ideas."
ZELENY: So, Hillary Clinton is watching this back and forth between Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump with great interest. She's also still watching Sanders.
Tonight in South Dakota, he said something interesting. He said, I'm not going to -- I'm not here to say that Hillary Clinton can't defeat Donald Trump, I absolutely believe that she can. But I believe quite honestly that Bernie Sanders is the stronger candidate.
So, certainly, Wolf, a bit of a softening of her tone against her tonight.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very interesting indeed. All right. Stand by.
Dana, despite winning impressively in West Virginia, delegate math for Bernie Sanders by almost all accounts is simply not there. Take a look at this very, very closely. Sanders could clearly win every remaining contest as Jeff just pointed out, still come up short.
How does he maintain under those circumstances the enthusiasm he needs.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, for any other politician, I would say it's going to be tough, but -- I mean, Bernie Sanders says, hi, my name is Bernie Sanders and he has enthusiasm that any other politician would die for.
I mean, that's what's driven this whole phenomenon, which is Bernie Sanders. So, the enthusiasm gap is not an issue for him at all. You know, the question is, how he continues to as Jeff just pointed out so well, turn his candidacy from maybe where it started, to -- but from a quest to get the nomination to a real push to keep his issues alive and keep his supporters engaged.
BLITZER: He has a problem, though, because he rails against the notion of superdelegates, that's totally unfair. On the other hand, he wants to turn some of the superdelegates away from Hillary Clinton toward him.
ZELENY: He does. And that's a bit of a mixed message. Even so, he makes a decent point in terms of the fairness of the states, but that's not how the process works. Superdelegates are designed by the Democratic Party, by the party establishment, to keep order on the party. So, his issues with rules of the party, he would be the first to admit there.
Even if all of the superdelegates from West Virginia, New Hampshire, Minnesota went to him, it still wouldn't be enough. He's won in small states and Hillary Clinton won in big states. That's the difference.
BLITZER: He is devoting a lot more of his stump speech, Ryan now, to going after Donald Trump. He is not mincing any words at all. Does that mean he's easing up on Hillary Clinton automatically as a result of that, presumably he is trying to hurt Donald Trump, but help Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination?
LIZZA: Yes, over the last month, Donald Trump made it part of his standard speech to reach out to disaffected Bernie Sanders voters.
I think Trump genuinely believes that there's something he can offer those Sanders voters, and there's a little bit of polling that suggests a chunk of them are not necessarily leftwing liberal Democrats, they're just disaffected Democrats. They don't buy into the sanders Democratic socialist agenda, but like that he is anti- establishment and they like that he's anti-Hillary.
So, there is -- you know, on issues like trade and economic populism that Trump and Sanders both talk about, I think Trump thinks he can appeal to them, and Sanders is basically saying no. Do not go to Donald Trump. It's a sign, Sanders once he is out of the race, he is going to be a firm anti-Trump. BLITZER: David, you realize, all of us realize, Hillary Clinton
lately barely even mentions Bernie Sanders. She's really railing against, devoting all of her attention against Donald Trump. She has a delicate line to walk, because she's going to need those enthusiastic young Bernie Sanders supporters if she's going to get elected.
SWERDLICK: Right, both of them have turned their fire on Trump maybe for slightly different seasons. Clinton wants to send a message that this thing is over, if not quite mathematically over, and that she's the general election candidate going ahead. For Sanders, like we were talking about Sanders wants to say look, I'm the better candidate the Democrats can put up against Trump. But either way, I think they had their fill of going after each other, but at the same time you had Jeff Weaver today giving those superdelegates something to think about, like, hey, watch out, if you nominate Clinton.
BLITZER: The super delegates are here to stay for this Democratic convention. Fifteen percent of all Democratic delegates are superdelegates.
[18:50:03] But do you think down the road they might revise that?
BASH: Maybe. You know, I interviewed Nancy Pelosi yesterday, who's the top Democrat in the today, and herself a superdelegate. She said to me flat out unsolicited that she can't stand the idea of superdelegates. She wants it to be more Democratic if you will.
So, who knows if it will change? I will say to Ryan, I think you're dead on about there being more of a crossover. I know West Virginia is maybe a unique place. But there are not a lot of Democratic socialists in West Virginia and Bernie Sanders did very, very well there, like, what, 30 percent or more said that they would go to Trump in general election.
BLITZER: Thirty percent of the Democrats who voted for Bernie Sanders said in a general election, they're voting for trump.
BASH: West Virginia's unique. That's right.
LIZZA: These superdelegates, the idea behind them is so that the Democratic Party can't be taken over by some outside force like, say, a Donald Trump.
If the Republicans had super delegates, they could --
BLITZER: Maybe the Republicans created the difference.
LIZZA: You know what, the Republicans, I think this election has shown that the people want small D democratic nominating system. There's a real rebellion against anything that's not small d Democratic. BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. More coming up.
Also, another story we're following. Just ahead, new questions about Saudi citizens living in the United States supporting al Qaeda ahead of the 9/11 attacks. Did they have a connection, though, to the Saudi government?
[18:56:05] BLITZER: New questions tonight about Saudi citizens living in the United States who may have supported al Qaeda the weeks and months before the 9/11 attacks.
Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is working this story for us.
Jim, you're learning about some evidence contained in Congress' 9/11 report?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I spoke to John Lehman. He's the former Navy secretary who served on 9/11 Commission. He says the FBI never fully investigated evidence that as many as six Saudi individuals, all with some ties to the Saudi government, supported al Qaeda in the run-up to the 9/11 attacks. That evidence contained in 28 classified pages of that congressional investigation which the president is now considering releasing to the public.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): It's an allegation that has lingered almost since the moment that the towers fell, that Saudi Arabia was somehow tied to the 9/11 attacks.
Now, speaking to CNN by telephone, former 9/11 Commissioner John Lehman says the classified 28 pages of a congressional report into 9/11 contain evidence that as many as six Saudi individuals supported al Qaeda in the run-up to the attacks. Those individuals, he says, worked for the Saudi embassy in the U.S., Saudi charities and a government-funded mosque in California.
Lehman makes clear that the 28 pages, which are mostly FBI summary reports, contain no smoking gun. Like the 9/11 Commission concluded, Lehman does not believe the Saudi government or any of its senior officials supported or were aware of the 9/11 plots.
However, Lehman says evidence of lower level Saudi involvement was never sufficiently investigated and should now be, quote, "vigorously pursued".
Other commission members, including former federal prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste are echoing Lehman's call.
RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER MEMBER OF THE 9/11 COMMISSION: We would not be so arrogant as to think that we, with our limited time and resources, have investigated every single aspect that there is to look at in the 9/11 disaster.
SCIUTTO: When it completed its investigation into 2004, the 9/11 Commission concluded it found, quote, "no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded al Qaeda."
Saudi leaders have repeatedly cited that conclusion as eliminating the possibility of any official Saudi role.
PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL, FORMER SAUDI INTELLIGENCE CHIEF: If you look at the commission report, it deals specifically with Saudi Arabia's role, that there was not a Saudi role nor any official role in this situation.
SCIUTTO: Some 9/11 Commission members do not dispute that defense.
BEN-VENISTE: There is a substantial jump to suggest that somebody who had a job in a consulate is a representative of the Saudi government.
SCIUTTO: However, Lehman says that the commission's conclusion intentionally left open the possibility that lower level government officials or employees may have played some role, even if they were not instructed by Saudi leadership, and it is that lingering question that he hopes that the 28 pages release and further investigation will answer once and for all.
The 9/11 investigation was terminated, Lehman told CNN, before all of the relevant leads were able to be investigated.
SCIUTTO: Lehman says it's all in the language of that 9/11 report conclusion, ruling out Saudi government as an institution, or senior Saudi officials, that that leaves open the possibility that lower level figures did it perhaps without the OK of senior officials.
I will note, Wolf, however, that the Saudis do also support releasing those 28 pages. The Saudi foreign minister is saying that just last week -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They've repeatedly said, go ahead release them. They've said they have nothing to hide.
All right. We'll see what goes on. Thanks very much, Jim Sciutto, for that report.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. Remember, you can always tweet me @wolfblitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.