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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Candid Revelations From Trump's Top Advisor; Obama Slams Trump While in Japan; Sanders Accepts Trump Challenge for Debate; Trump Dustup with N.M. Governor Creating GOP Rift; LGBT Amendment Halts Spending Bill in House. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP CANDIDATE: It could be we're going to run against Crazy Bernie.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump will never be elected president.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: He makes a habit of insulting women.

He does want to have a deportation force.

TRUMP: If she wins, you'll have nothing but four more years of Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of the comments that he's made display ignorance of world affairs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, there. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

New this morning, candid revelations from Donald Trump's top aide, pulling back the curtain on the campaign and offering new hints of who the presumptive nominee really will or won't be picking for his running mate.

BERMAN: Paul Manafort in a lengthy interesting interview with the "Huffington Post," also said how the candidate is, quote, "moderating on the Muslim ban and will soften it some more." Those were his words.

We're joined by CNN national correspondent, Jason Carroll.

This was an unusual and frank interview.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Unusual and frank, and really insightful. That name, Paul Manafort, is not going to ring a bell to many sitting at home, but he's the campaign chairman, chief strategist. When he speaks, you're going to listen. He spoke about a number of issues. Very, very interesting. Let's

start with the ban on Muslims. As we know, Donald Trump has been very, very clear and many people criticized him for his position on that temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Manafort weighing in on that basically saying -- and I'm going to read part of the quote -- he says, "He operates by starting the conversation at the outer edges, then brings it back towards the middle within his comfort zone. He'll soften it some more."

So basically saying that he's already starting to moderate his position on that ban on Muslims.

A number of other issues he talked about, too, the issue of taxes. As we all know, many people have been calling for Donald Trump to release his federal income tax returns. Manafort saying, probably not going to happen, at least not anytime soon. He's saying the only people who basically want him to do that are the people who aren't out there supporting him. He's saying his supporters aren't really interested in that, so why should he?

Another point, the V.P. Who could that be? I can tell you who it probably won't be. Paul Manafort saying, it, in all likelihood, will not be a woman, will not be a person of color. Why? Because it would look like they're pandering to people. But in terms of who it would be, he said that clearly someone who is going to be experienced to do the part of the job that Trump does not want to do. Manafort also saying they have a long list of potential candidates, but they all have a lot of problems.

A lot of insight in that "Huffington Post" article.

BOLDUAN: They all have a lot of problems.

BERMAN: We need to learn a lot more about what he meant by some of those comments because potentially very, very revealing.

CARROLL: What's also interesting about this, we're getting more information from the campaign chairman than we're getting from the candidate himself. Trump has been a little bit lean on some of his specifics in terms of his points of view and where he stands in some areas. This was more insight than we've gotten in quite some time.

BOLDUAN: It will also be fascinating because Paul Manafort and Donald Trump in the past week have shown they're not necessarily on the same page with regard to Paul Manafort telling Republicans, don't worry, we won't hold a grudge if y need to distance yourselves. The next day, Donald Trump slamming a very popular Republican governor. So we'll see if Donald Trump repeats those points.

CARROLL: One other point here. There's a little worry here from some of Donald Trump's supporters, because you don't want to see yourself softening on positions in some ways because that's just going to feed into some of the people who say this is not a man who is a true conservative, not very clear about where he stands. So they're going to have to be careful going forward in terms of that as well.

BERMAN: Jason Carroll, thank you very, very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Jason.

BERMAN: A political body blow this morning delivered from halfway around the world, the sitting U.S. president slamming his potential successor on foreign soil. I want you to look at President Obama talking about how world leaders are reacting to Donald Trump's political rise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think it's fair to say that they are surprised by the Republican nominee. They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements, but they're rattled by it, and for good reason.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: President Obama said that earlier in Japan at the G7 summit. He also said -- these were his words -- "Many of Trump's ideas show ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude or an interest in getting headlines" -- again, these are the president's words -- "instead of actually thinking through what is required to keep America safe."

Let's talk more about this with CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, joining us here.

Some important context, not just hearing the president take on Trump so directly, but it's also where he was and who he was with when he was making these remarks.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. And listen, it's a fact. World leaders are -- I'm obviously not talking of the world leaders the president is, but I speak with diplomats overseas, I speak with officials overseas, and they are rattled by the positions they hear coming from the Republican nominee, and not just the tone, which they notice, but the substance. You speak to Asian officials, and when Donald Trump says I want to give nuclear weapons to South Korea and Japan and upset a decades'-long nuclear balance there, they wonder is that a serious proposition. Is that likely to happen if he is elected president of the United States? You talk to officials, NATO officials, for instance, and when they hear Donald Trump say, I can be pals with Vladimir Putin, while NATO is in the midst of a military buildup to counter Russian -- what they say is Russian military aggression in Eastern Europe, they clearly listen. Their ears perk up.

These are substantive positions that, when a putative U.S. presidential nominee says them, people notice. They do notice.

[11:05:48] BERMAN: There's a fascination with this election that I have never seen before from overseas. Look, you have a show on CNN International because there's so much interest overseas. And just like you, Jim, you hear from people in the diplomatic community, and they have questions. They want to know, is this real? Or what's going to happen? Or how is this being received? SCIUTTO: Absolutely. They will always ask that question, the

political question, what are his chances? I'm sure you get asked that when you travel as well. It's interesting. I have been overseas for a lot of U.S. elections -- and you guys know this, you have traveled overseas -- and there's a kind of critical view you will hear overseas. "Your elections are crazy, your politicians are crazy," all this sort of stuff. But also, there's this deep down, you scratch the surface, but it's not all going to blow up, is it? There's a desire and an interest in having the U.S. be a stable place.

BERMAN: Superiority and inferiority complex all wrapped in one.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Yeah, we're secure and insecure. That's just the way we are.

What about looking at it from the other side. If you're a Republican looking at President Obama, who you disagree with on everything, looking at his comments in the G7 summit, that politics is supposed to remain at the water's edge. Yes?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Although, that ship sailed 100 years ago --

(LAUGHTER)

-- to some degree. To be honest, he is a Democratic president, sitting Democratic president, who very soon is going to be campaigning pretty aggressive for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, if it is --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Here but not necessarily there.

SCIUTTO: I suppose that's a rule that, at least in my experience, that went out the window a long time ago. Even on issues -- sensitive issues of national security. You have folks taking potshots. And the old rule used to be we're all Americans overseas.

BERMAN: It was unusual to hear a president, who has been careful on how he weighs in on the election, domestically, does it in Japan.

BOLDUAN: Slowly. That carefulness slowly slips away.

SCIUTTO: Yeah.

BERMAN: Jim Sciutto, great to have you here with us.

SCIUTTO: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Jim, great to see you.

BERMAN: Turmoil on the inside. Donald Trump's political director jumps ship just six weeks after joining the campaign. What's the nature of the turf war going on inside? We will speak to the campaign live.

BOLDUAN: And Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, they've talked on the phone, but the House speaker still has not offered an endorsement. So what did they talk about then? Any minute, we're going to hear from Speaker Ryan himself. We'll bring it to you live.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:11:57] BERMAN: So do we have an actual debate or just a good late night joke or both? Bernie Sanders says "game on" to Donald Trump's proposal for a debate ahead of the California primary. That would be a debate between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. So long, Donald Trump says, as Sanders is willing to give money to charity.

BOLDUAN: So what do we do with this, folks? Let's discuss it. CNN political commentator, Margaret Hoover, is here. She worked with George W. Bush White House and two Republican presidential campaigns. Edward Espinoza is also here, former presidential campaign official for Governor Bill Richardson; CNN political commentator, Angela Rye; former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus; and Ryan Williams, former spokesman for Governor Mitt Romney.

It's great to have you.

So, Ryan, there's this back and forth of a debate, maybe. It sounds like a joke. It sounds absolutely silly. But John said it, in this election, anything is possible. What do you think the chances are?

RYAN WILLIAMS, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY: Well, I don't know. I think it would be a very highly rated debate. It's certainly something that Senator Sanders would want to do. It would help his campaign, which is now struggling in the final stages of the Democratic primary process. I don't think it's a good move for Trump. Trump is the Republican nominee for president. He's going to face off against Hillary Clinton. His focus should be solely on Hillary Clinton. And debating Bernie Sanders is really just kind of punching downward and not helping him in the general election match-up.

BERMAN: I mean, the whole notion seems a little ridiculous.

But admit it, Margaret Hoover, when you first saw it, you laughed and then said, wait --

BOLDUAN: Wait.

BERMAN: -- it could really happen.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not only could it really happen, the late and great William F. Buckley, founder of the modern American conservatism and the movement, often said the best and most substantive debates he ever had were with people where there was less space between the opposition. So when you have a Bernie Sanders and a Donald Trump, who are actually both, you know, isolationists effectively in this race, they are closer together on some of their trade policies and some of their economic policies than maybe with Hillary Clinton, maybe you would actually get into the nuances of some real substance finally in this political cycle.

BOLDUAN: Maybe.

But, Angela, Hillary Clinton wakes up, reads this headline and says, what?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: She says, maybe I should have debated Bernie?

(LAUGHTER)

I think the reality of this is, to Margaret's point, although I disagree slightly, I think this is an opportunity for Bernie Sanders to show just how much of a team player he is. At first, I was like, oh, no, you know, this might not be good for the Hillary campaign, but I think it could be really good. Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that he can hit hard, and he's hit Trump hard already. I think him going on stage with Donald Trump saying there is a whole lot of light between our two positions, whether they're isolationists or not, or they're ginning up the anti-establishment or not, to Margaret's point, doesn't really matter. There's whole lot of difference in their positions and he could show Donald Trump what it means when you get bullied on stage and he wags that finger. So I'm looking forward to this.

BERMAN: For the record, I don't think it's going to happen. I say no -- 80/20?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: 90/10.

BOLDUAN: 90/10?

I'm going to be bullish. I say 50/50. And you're wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

HOOVER: I'm with you. I'm with you Kate.

BERMAN: Edward, 50/50, you can't be wrong. That's not fair.

Edward, we just heard from Jim Sciutto explaining what President Obama said about Donald Trump, going after the presumptive nominee on foreign soil, essentially calling Donald Trump ignorant, and saying that foreign leaders are rattled. What do you make of what the president said, clearly taking politics past the water's edge?

[11:15:35] EDWARD ESPINOZA, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OFFICIAL FOR GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON: You know, I don't think where he says it has any -- as much bearing as what he says. If you look at anybody who knows this subject, knows foreign affairs and knows leadership better than anyone right now, it's the guy who is occupying the White House, whether that's a Democrat or a Republican, that is somebody who has gone through all of these things and knows what is in store for that person. Donald Trump has got a lot of bluster, and he says a lot of things that, frankly, are going to have to own up to those, not only in the general election but if he gets selected, god forbid, he's going to have to own up to them on the world's stage, and that's something we should be talking about.

BOLDUAN: The thing you disagree with vehemently are the reasons -- some of the reasons why his supporters -- why he is the presumptive Republican nominee. He is the opposite of Obama when it comes to things like national security and foreign policy.

So, Ryan, Obama taking him on at the G7 summit, do you it will help Trump?

WILLIAMS: It will rally Trump supporters. Anytime Donald Trump engages with the president, it helps him. It makes him look like he's on the same level as the president of the United States.

I think it's a breach of protocol to engage in politicking overseas. That's something that candidates and presidents have avoided for years, to leave politics at the water's edge. And I think it's unusual that he did that. But I think it helps Trump rally his base, it helps get him in the conversation on foreign policy today, so it's a net benefit to Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Margaret, I want to ask you about the continued dust-up about Donald Trump and Susana Martinez, and how so much of the Republican establishment has really rallied to the governor's side. Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, the RGA, the Republican Governors Association, which she leads, all saying Donald Trump went into the New Mexico and criticized the sitting republic governor. It seems like it's creating a rift that may not go away.

HOOVER: It didn't create a rift, John. This is just a further exposure of the continuing rift of Republicans who view themselves as, frankly, fundamentally and philosophically in a different place than where Donald Trump is, and wonder if they can ever support him as the Republican nominee. This is one more episode in the "I prefer the victims of war criminals that don't get caught," or I prefer the veterans --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Right, prisoners of war.

HOOVER: This is one in a long chain of really -- talk about breach of protocol, breaches of protocol on behalf of a presumptive nominee, a guy who is supposed to be uniting the party right now. I don't know if the Paul Ryans and Susana Martinezs and the John McCains are ever going to unify behind Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: At the very least, it made Paul Ryan's consideration of endorsement or the timing a little more complicated that that came out when he did. Maybe not. We'll see. Maybe we'll hear from Paul Ryan today. Actually, we will.

Margaret, Edward, Angela, Ryan, thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Joining us now, Healey Baumgardner, senior press representative for the Trump campaign.

Healy, thanks so much for being with us.

Since we have you here, let's clear this up once and for all. Is there going to be a Donald Trump/Bernie Sanders debate?

HEALY BAUMGARDNER, SENIOR PRESS REPRESENTATIVE, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: I wish I could tell you. I'm not a political fortune teller, so I can't answer that, unfortunately.

BOLDUAN: Was Donald Trump serious when he said he would do it?

BAUMGARDNER: I can't speculate on Mr. Trump's --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Why can't you speculate? You're a senior press representative.

BAUMGARDNER: Only Mr. Trump speaks for Mr. Trump.

BOLDUAN: You represent the campaign. Is the campaign making plans for a debate?

BAUMGARDNER: Not that I'm aware of, no.

BERMAN: OK. No plans for a debate that you're aware of.

I want to ask you about comments made by the campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Again, you are here as a representative from the Trump campaign. He told the "Huffington Post" about the Muslim ban, the proposed Muslim ban Donald Trump made back in last December. He said he's going to bring it back towards the middle, within his comfort zone, he'll soften it some more. When it comes to the Muslim ban, where is the middle?

BAUMGARDNER: Well, I think that, you know, now that clearly Mr. Trump has sealed in the nomination, as it just broke in the press, we will be focusing on developing those policies more specifically moving forward into the process throughout the campaign.

BOLDUAN: What does a more moderate Muslim ban look like?

[02:20:04] BAUMGARDNER: I'm not sure, honestly. I can't answer that at this point. I think that that's something we'll sit down and develop more specifically as well as the other issues that Mr. Trump looks forward to addressing and we'll be talking about those more specifically on the campaign trail moving forward, including defeating ISIS, revitalizing our economy, creating jobs, all the things that Mr. Trump will do as the president of the United States.

BERMAN: Let's delve further into some of the statements made by the Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He was talking about the vice presidential selection process. He said he needs -- Trump needs an experienced person who can do the part of the job he doesn't want to do. What part of the job of being president doesn't Donald Trump want to do?

BAUMGARDNER: Well, I think that you're kind of taking that out of context. I don't think there's any part of the job that Mr. Trump doesn't want to do as president of the United States and as commander- in-chief. I think that what that statement meant was that he wants to be -- make sure that the pick is somebody that will complement the strengths needed in order to pass legislation, work with Congress. You know, Mr. Trump is not a professional politician. You know, he is an incredibly successful businessman, as he has proven, so I think that that's what those remarks were meant to infer.

BOLDUAN: Well, on the pick, Paul Manafort did say that you probably won't be picking a woman or a minority as a running mate because that would be viewed as pandering. Is there -- so -- is there not a qualified woman or minority out there to be a running mate?

BAUMGARDNER: You know what? I'm not part of that process. Corey Lewandowski is managing the selection of vice presidential picks and he's --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: What did Paul Manafort mean?

BAUMGARDNER: I can't speak for Paul. I wasn't there. I have not had a conversation with him about it. I can't speculate on what someone meant by what they said. That would be totally unfair.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Again, you represent the Donald Trump campaign.

BAUMGARDNER: I do represent the Donald Trump campaign. You're 100 percent correct. However, I cannot speculate, based off of another person who works for the campaign's remarks, and what they meant by those. Only they can clarify what was specifically meant by what they said.

BERMAN: Let's ask you then, as a long-term Republican and a woman, Donald Trump -- Paul Manafort said they're not going to pick a minority or a woman because it will be seen as pandering. Was the selection of Sarah Palin as running mate in 2008, was that pandering?

BAUMGARDNER: I'm sorry, could you say that again? It broke up a little bit.

BERMAN: Paul Manafort said Donald Trump is unlikely to pick either a woman or minority as vice president because it would be seen as pandering. My question to you just as a human, not necessarily representative for the Trump campaign, was the selection of Sarah Palin in 2008, was that pandering?

BAUMGARDNER: I don't think that's pandering. I mean, Sarah Palin connects with the American people. She was named as the most influential Republican woman recently by "Newsmax." So absolutely not. I mean, there's nothing that a woman can't do that a man can do better. So I think it's just based on skill set and who is best for the job. And, you know, Mr. Trump has proven that in his hiring of women in his many businesses, you know, in major real estate businesses back in the times when that wasn't popular.

BOLDUAN: Is there -- are there women out there you think are qualified to be Donald Trump's running mate because Paul Manafort thinks it would be viewed as pandering, but do you think there is a qualified woman out there?

BAUMGARDNER: I'm sure there are many qualified women out there, but I'm not part of the process. That is something Corey Lewandowski is heading up. There's many qualified men and women to be vice president of the United States. It's not based on gender. It's based on qualifications.

BERMAN: So you, Healy, do not think it would be pandering to pick a woman or minority?

BAUMGARDNER: I do not think that that has anything to even do with it. As I'm saying, to pick the proper vice presidential candidate, it's based on qualifications and performance, and who can best complement the strengths that Mr. Trump already brings to the table, which is being an incredibly successful businessman globally, and he's a political outsider. So I think those are the biggest determining factors.

BERMAN: Healy Baumgardner, senior press representative for the Trump campaign, thanks so much for being with us.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BAUMGARDNER: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: So in politics, insults are nothing new, or between us for that matter, but Donald Trump's latest target has some people scratching their heads. Up next, we're going to ask the chief strategist of the RNC about Donald Trump slamming one of the most popular Republican governors in the country, the chair of the RGA, New Mexico's Governor Susana Martinez.

[11:49:42] BOLDUAN: Any minute now, as well, Speaker Paul Ryan. Is he any closer to endorsing Donald Trump after their phone call? You can be sure that question is likely to come his way this morning.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Breaking news from Capitol Hill. The House of Representatives failing to pass its annual spending bill because of an amendment involving a controversy about LGBT protections.

Let's go to Manu Raju is life on the Hill. Manu, this just happened. What happened?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Kate. What we've seen is the House floor sort of become a forum for this larger national fight over LGBT rights. Democrats last week tried to push forward an amendment that would protect federal workers from being fired or discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Now, at that time, that vote failed because a number of Republicans were convinced to switch their votes on the House floor and effectively kill that amendment. Now, last night Democrat Sean Maloney, the author of the amendment, offered this again to another spending bill, made some small modifications, and it got adopted. Republicans, in response, pushed forward their own plan to reaffirm federal --