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DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz Under Fire; Does State Department Report on Clinton E-mail Server Make Sanders Care Now; Interview with Paula Abdul; Sanders Campaign Manager Disputes Boxer's "Fear" at Violent Sanders Rally. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 25, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:10] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: First, it was Sanders campaign saying the head of the DNC was throwing shade. Now other Democrats on Capitol Hill have started quietly discussing whether Debbie Wasserman Schultz should be removed from her post. Sources tell CNN there's about no formal effort to oust her but some Senator fear she's becoming too toxic.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN senior political reporter, Manu Raju, right in the middle of this reporting and details.

Manu, what have you got?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, guys. These discussions really have started to intensify over the last few days. This is not a coordinated or formal effort but it's happening behind the scenes among certain members worried about what they are seeing in their party after that Nevada aftermath and Sanders supporters really took it to party leaders and led to a chaotic scene. Folks are worried, come Philadelphia, the July convention, maybe that will replay itself. Whether Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was accused by the Sanders campaign as someone not being fair and quietly siding with Hillary Clinton, could actually tamp down that chaos.

Even some Hillary Clinton supporters seem to be unnerved about Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whether she can actually play that role to calm down tension.

I just had a chance to talk to Claire McCaskill, a leading Hillary Clinton supporter, about Debbie Wasserman Schultz's role as the DNC chair, and she did not call on her to step aside, but came right up to it.


SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D), MISSOURI: I think this will get worked out over time. The role of DNC chair is always a supportive role, not a starring role. And I think because of what has occurred, it's hard for her to avoid a starring role. And so I hope it will all get worked out. I understand that, fair or unfair, she is seen by many in the Sanders camp as a representative of the problem and, you know, it may not be completely fair to her, but it's a reality. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So sort of a gentle nudging from Claire McCaskill there.

Other Senators also expressed that concern privately. Some said she may be too toxic come July. There are others that do support Debbie Wasserman Schultz to be fair. House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, came out and said she supports her staying in that role. Other Senators have suggested that as well. Of course, members of Congress don't make that decision. Hillary Clinton's campaign would make that decision, assuming she gets that nomination.

So we'll see how this plays out but clearly part of that larger concern within the party about uniting ahead of the July convention, something that's really intensified over the last several days -- guys?

BOLDUAN: And pretty amazing that not only that folks are not just talking about it but going on camera and on the record with you that Senator Claire McCaskill did, that says something, Manu.

Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Plus, he's a good reporter, among other things.

BOLDUAN: That goes without saying.

Thanks, Manu.

Let's discuss this and much more. Let's bring in Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, joining us from Vermont.

Jeff, thank you so much for joining us.

We'll get to the conversation about Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a moment. First, we want to talk about the breaking news about this official inspector general's report coming out from the State Department saying that Hillary Clinton did not comply with the rules with regard to her e-mail practices as -- during her time as head of State Department. Bernie Sanders said we don't care about your damned e-mails in that debate. Does this change that?

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It's still an ongoing process, Kate, and this is part of the process. We should let the process play itself out. This is one piece of a bigger process, and as the Senator said, as you pointed out, back as early as November, this is not something that needs to be kicked around in the political arena but something -- there's a process for. We'll let it play out.

[11:35:11] BERMAN: But, Jeff, this part of the process is done. This is the official inspector general report from the State Department. State Department says she did not comply with the rules there. Are you saying that I have no reaction at all to this report?

WEAVER: Well, I think the report speaks for itself. This is an area where the Senator has chosen not to go. He tried to keep this campaign on the issues, like minimum wage and health care and trade policy and making college affordable. He's doing so well in this campaign because he's talking about these substantive issues. People can make their own judgments about what is reported about the other issues.

BOLDUAN: Bernie Sanders will not be speaking about this?

WEAVER: I don't anticipate he will.

BERMAN: Let's talk about Debbie Wasserman Schultz.


BOLDUAN: Well, it depends on what he's asked about that report. Why everyone would like to --


BERMAN: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, you heard Manu's report, with some Senators suggesting maybe she's not the best person to lead the party and unify the party. Do you want her out, Jeff?

WEAVER: I think what the party needs, and the Senator spoke about this the other day on Sunday television, what the party needs is a person at the head of the DNC who can help unify the party and bring the various factions of the party together. We have had good relations with many people at the DNC. I and others talked with senior DNC people on a regular basis.

But there has been -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been unfair in many respects, going back as early as the scheduling of the debates and scheduling on weekends and scheduling only a few, cutting off the Sanders data right before Iowa in a move that was at least privately denounced by many people at the DNC. She came out and tried to put the gasoline on the whole Nevada thing. I think there's been a pattern of conduct which calls into question whether she can really be the kind of unifying force we need in the Democratic Party.


BOLDUAN: Do you want to see her go?

WEAVER: Well, I think someone else could play a more positive role, I'll put it that way

BOLDUAN: That's one way of saying yes, Jeff?

WEAVER: I'm trying to be diplomatic.

BOLDUAN: And diplomatic you are.

One more thing to ask you about.

WEAVER: Sure. You said to Jeff -- you're Jeff. You said to john just last night that Senator Barbara Boxer, when she said at the Nevada Democratic convention that she feared for her safety, you seemed to suggest that she was lying about the fact because she was blowing kisses as she left the stage and she was walking off. You said it was incongruous, the fact that she feared for her safety.


BOLDUAN: I'm being very accurate with how you described it. That's what you said. But she said that to me that she feared for her safety. Do you stick by that? You seem to think that she was lying, yes?

WEAVER: No, that was not my word. That was John's word. I never used that word. I would not use that word. But it does seem incongruous that someone would be fearing for their life, and what you see in the video of the blowing of the kisses --


BOLDUAN: She didn't say she was fearing for her life. She said she feared for her safety. Does that distinction make a difference?

WEAVER: No. But she said she feared for her safety and then she is in a video that's widely available online shown blowing kisses at the Sanders people, who are obviously upset during the whole process. It does not seem to match up. That's all I said.


WEAVER: It was John's word.

BERMAN: I did use -- I asked you if you thought she was lying last night and you told me you thought it was incongruous, her actions and what she was saying. Does that mean she's saying something and doing another? Do you think she's saying something she does not believe to be true?

WEAVER: I have no idea what in the Senator's head. All I'm saying is she said one thing to Kate, and if you watch the video and put the two together, they don't seem to line up.

BERMAN: But you don't know what's in her head, but it's possible she was fearing for her safety, correct?

WEAVER: I think people can make their own judgments, John. I don't think my opinion is important. If people will listen to the interview and watch the video, they can come to their own conclusions.

BOLDUAN: Jeff Weaver, thanks so much. Always great to have you on. We really appreciate it.

WEAVER: I'm always glad to be here. Nice talking to both of you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. Thank you very much. So we just spoke with Jeff Weaver about this incident in Nevada. What

does Barbara Boxer have to say about all of it? She's going to be joining us live coming up.

BERMAN: Plus --




[11:40:02] BOLDUAN: How do you describe us?

BERMAN: This is the best transition --

BOLDUAN: How do you describe us?

BERMAN: -- I've ever seen in my life.

Pop legend, former "American Idol" judge, superstar, Paula Abdul, joins us. She's at the White House and talking to us about the '80s, and why she's working with first family to fight for education. That's coming up next.








[11:44:52] BERMAN: That moment of awesome, brought to you by Paula Abdul, Grammy Award-winning singing and Emmy Award-winning choreographer, long-time judge on "American Idol," and current judge on "So You Think You Can Dance, the Next Generation," which premiers next week. She's the mentor for under-privileged children learning about the arts through the first ladies' Turnaround Arts Program.

BOLDUAN: Abdul will be watching some of her students perform today at the White House where they'll hold a talent show there.

And Paula Abdul joins us from the White House now.

Thank you so much more for joining us.

PAULA ABDUL, SINGER: I'm thrilled to be here. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you. We want to talk about why you're at the White House in just one


But when I saw -- when you see the video for "Straight Up", you broke through in the '80s, that tap sequence, opening sequence, is still one of my absolute favorite moments in music video history.

BERMAN: It changed your life.

BOLDUAN: It changed my life, I think I can say.


BOLDUAN: What was it about the '80s? Why was it such a special era for music? You lived it.

ABDUL: I did. MTV was everything. I remember just being an avid fan of MTV and I'd stay home just to watch the world premieres of these incredible videos from Michael Jackson, to you name it, Prince. I was fortunate later in life to work with two of these legends. Music videos were everything back then.

BERMAN: You got to collaborate with just about everybody. So name names now.


I don't want you to be diplomatic about it. Who was your absolute favorite?

ABDUL: I have lots of favorites, but I'm most grateful to Janet Jackson and the Jacksons for basically discovering me when I was humble little Laker girl. And I went on to choreography the likes of George Michael, Aretha Franklin, ZZ Top, Duran Duran, even Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd and the "Tracy Allman Show" and the Oscars. Incredible times. And of course, "Coming to America" and "Jerry McGuire." I transformed Val Kilmer to become Jim Morrison in the Doors movie.

BOLDUAN: I did not know about "Coming to America" choreography. Now you're even more of a star in my mind.


BOLDUAN: It's really amazing. We're showing video of it for our viewers on the side of the screen.

But let's talk about what you were doing at the White House. You're there to bring attention to something that is an issue that is very important to both John and I. We were talking about it just this morning, bringing high quality arts programs to schools and children, to school-age kids across the country. It's understandable why this is near and dear to your heart. But what are you hoping to do?

ABDUL: There are over six million youth students that don't get to experience any arts education in their schools. And thanks so much to the first lady's support and initiative, Turnaround Arts is doing just that. And I adopted a school in Brooklyn, P.S. 165, and I've been working with these incredible kids. And you know, needless to say, what arts does, it's so important that people forget, it's the first time that a young child gets to find and align themselves with passion. That passion drives them forward. It creates amazing self- esteem, great comradery, and dance as well. Dance is the mother of all languages. You don't have to dance in French or Greek. You just dance and that's a visual medium, and it transcends all language barriers. I've seen so much improvement not only with their self- esteem but also happiness. And their attendance in school rises. It's so important. I can't imagine having grown up without the love, finding my passion.

BERMAN: And too many kids are having through the school system. Thank you for your work. We've got to get kids in schools getting exposed to the arts of all time.

Paul Abdul, an honor to talk to you today.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for having fun with us, too.

ABDUL: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Don't forget to tune into CNN tomorrow night for an all new episode of "The Eighties," music and MTV and all the things Paula Abdul was just talking about. It's at 9:00 eastern tomorrow night, only on CNN.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, the Bernie Sanders' campaign manager hitting back at Senator Barbara Boxer for saying that Sanders supporters made her fear for her safety at that raucous convention in Nevada. Senator Boxer will be joining us to respond and discuss ahead.


[11:52:03] BOLDUAN: So just what happened at the Nevada Democratic state convention earlier this month? State party officials blasted the Sanders campaign for what they saw as a slow tepid response to the chaos that played out. California Senator and Hillary Clinton supporter, Barbara Boxer, came on our program and said that she was there, she was speaking before them and trying to calm the crowd. She was booed off the stage and said she feared for her safety at that convention.

BOLDUAN: Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said, a few minutes ago, he has issues with the Senator's version of what happened because of this video we're looking at right now, showing the Senator blowing kisses to the crowd there.

Senator Barbara Boxer joins us now.

Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

We get to the back and forth between you and Jeff Weaver in just a moment. But, first, I want to get to the breaking news. We just learned the State Department's inspector general report. His review of the whole e-mail issue has determined that Hillary Clinton did not come with the State Department rules when it comes to her use of a private e-mail server at the State Department. Your reaction to this report?

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D), CALIFORNIA: What you're reading out of that is the State Department, the I.G. report states in its conclusion that every single secretary of state did the same thing. And I have it here. I'm not reading it. I want to show your viewers. This is the conclusion. They don't even mention Hillary's name. They basically say the Department of State and the office of the secretary, since Colin Powell, did not follow the exact rules of preserving the electronic communications. I think that's the key here for Hillary. I'm feeling as I read this --


BOLDUAN: But, Senator, the others are not running for president.

BOXER: Let me finish the point. What I want to say is we now know this has been a systemic problem, period, all through since Colin Powell. And people could take that to heart. Hillary has stated, looking back on it, she should have done things differently. She did hand over 55,000 e-mails, which, by the way, her predecessors destroyed all their personal e-mails. So, yeah. I mean, I think, at the end of the day, when people read the conclusion, what they'll find out is that the Department of State and the office of the secretary of state, going back to Colin Powell, did not keep and retain these records. Print out each e-mail, keep them in a file. And hopefully, going forward, which is what the inspector general says, they will do so.

BOLDUAN: This does not concern you even as it definitely will be a problem, will be an issue her opponents will bring up. Let's get to --


BOXER: No. Let me put it this way. They try to tear down Hillary Clinton. I could tell you, after reading the entire report and focusing on it, this is what I said in the beginning, a baloney sandwich, because they all did the wrong thing. Hillary was the only one to hand over any e-mails, and she apologized for it. So it's time to move on.

BERMAN: It was more critical -- to be fair -- it was more critical of Hillary Clinton's use of the private e-mails server than any other secretary of state.


BOXER: That's well and good. But the bottom line is the bottom line. We live in a world that has a lot of issues in it. And when you read a conclusion of a taxpayer-funded report, and it doesn't even mention the secretary by name, I think you can gather that this is a systemic problem. And, by the way, it's a problem, as Hillary has stated, as she looked back, so I'm sure now Secretary Kerry is retaining any and all personal e-mails that he has at State.

[11:55:24] BOLDUAN: Senator, Jeff Weaver, Sanders' campaign manager, was on here, and when you were on the program, you said you feared for your safety. He questioned that in several different ways. He said it to John last night, again this morning. He said the fact that you say you fear for your safety and then contemptuously you were blowing kisses as leaving the stage. He said that doesn't match up.

BOXER: I don't know why Mr. Weaver, whom I don't know, wants to pick a fight with me. I'm a really good friend of Bernie, and I called Bernie on the phone and we had a very warm conversation. And I told Bernie 50 to 100 of his supporters were out of control. They were six feet from me. I think I described it to you when we did the interview. And it was extremely intimidating and it was a frightening situation and I feared for my safety because, frankly, they were so close to me. I don't know what they could have done. Could they have thrown something or rushed the stage? I didn't know what was going to happen.

But here's the thing. I want to set the stage, because it's critical. Before I spoke, I walked into the room and it was out of control. And a very nice state Senator tried to calm things down. He was introducing me to no avail. And then they even called up the Bernie Sanders supporter to try and get the people to move back and to be quiet. That didn't work.

At point, I could have walked away. But, you know, I'm tough, and I don't do that. I thought, I can get this under control. I tried. I said, look, I'm a friend of Bernie's. Bernie asked for civility. While I was on that stage -- remember, I was there to represent Hillary Clinton, and they had thousands of people in that room, who I couldn't really hear, and I said a few nice things about Candidate Hillary Clinton, the fact that she has won Nevada, fair and square. That made them even worse. And finally, remember, there were obscene things being shouted at me, which I think on the tape, unfortunately, and obscene gestures. At that point, the security escorted me down off the stage. I no longer feared for my safety. I was headed to the exit and they were following me with more of these vile comments. I used a sense of humor and blew them kisses. And if he doesn't have a sense of humor, I don't know. I just try to diffuse it any way I could. Let me be clear, I did not diffuse the situation.

So where are we now? Why are we looking back? And I say to Mr. Weaver, we try to win the election to unify, not go back and pick fights with one another. And I'm not picking a fight with him. He wasn't there, you know?

BERMAN: Senator, there's some Senators suggesting on Capitol Hill that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is not the best pick to continue to lead the Democratic Party heading into the convention. Jeff Weaver, moments ago, told us perhaps a different person would be better. Your reaction?

BOXER: My reaction is, who are these Senators? Who are they? (CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Clair McCaskill told our reporter, Manu Raju, did not give a full-throated defense of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, essentially suggesting --


BOXER: You said there are Senators calling for her to resign. I haven't heard of that. I'm with my colleagues. No one said it. And in all the meetings I've been in, in terms of looking forward, the women Senators hope to do a presentation, like they usually do at the convention. Wherever Debbie or her staff has been, they have been so fair to both sides. And I've marveled that they've been really good. So I don't see what the problem is with Debbie. I really don't. And I don't know why we would.


BOXER: She's in a difficult situation, you know? She's the chair --


BOLDUAN: One Senator says she may be getting too toxic. Do you not agree?

BERMAN: 30 seconds left.

BOXER: What Senator is saying she's too toxic? Tell me who?

BOLDUAN: Manu Raju is speaking to Senators on the Hill. He's a fabulous reporter.


BOLDUAN: I'm speaking to him in confidence, and I know you know Manu Raju is a very good reporter.

BOXER: Let me just tell you, after years and years of 40 years in election life, if you believe something, look in the camera and say it. Don't do something anonymous. Don't quote me. Because that's wrong. If somebody has a problem with Debbie, chapter, verse, what is it? I watched her handle a very difficult primary. And I think one of the problems in life is everybody says, oh, it's all this one's fault, or it's that one's fault, or that one is contemptuous. Come on. We're only human beings. We're all trying to make the best of a difficult primary process --

BERMAN: Senator?

BOXER: -- which is why -- I know, I have to stop. Thank you.


BERMAN: Senator, Barbara Boxer, thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Senator --

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Senator.

BOXER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.