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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Kasich: Trump Should Apologize to Judge; Florida State of Emergency as Tropical Storm Strengthens; Obama to Endorse Clinton; Baltimore Officer Requests Bench Trial in Freddie Gray Case. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 6, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


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[11:33:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Jittery donors, concerned party leaders, and a presumptive nominee who is turning it up, instead of toning it down. Donald Trump's criticism of a judge's heritage, though he is an American citizen, born in Indiana, has put Republicans in an awkward position of supporting their nominee but not supporting his comments.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Trump's former rival, Governor John Kasich, tweeted this, he said, "Attacking judges based on their race and/or religion is another tactic that divides our country. More importantly, it is flat-out wrong." Kasich goes on to say, "Donald Trump should apologize to Judge Curiel and try to unite this country."

Remember, last month, John Kasich told CNN why he couldn't endorse Donald Trump yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KASICH, (R), OHIO GOVERNOR & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At the end of the day, endorsing is going to mean a lot. And, frankly, my wife and my daughters have watched this, and if I were to turn around today and endorse him, they'd be like, why, dad? And that matters to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the head of the conservative think tank, American Action Forum; and also with us, "CNN Politics" executive editor, Mark Preston.

Doug, for a long time, you have been the economic soul of the Republican Party. You have your fingers and ears everywhere inside the establishment and out. That angst you're hearing from John Kasich right now, does that represent what you're hearing over the last day or two?

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN ACTION FORUM: Yes. I mean, the comments are wrong. They are unacceptable. And there is no upside to them. The only question is who will be damaged and how badly? Certainly, Donald Trump's candidacy will be damaged. He has hurt his standing among Hispanics. The number-one issue with Hispanics is jobs and the economy. If he were to turn and start to talk about that, there is a good chance they will have tuned him out already and that's going to hurt him, and I think the real issue then is what happens to his in brand in 2020. Republicans have known they have to appeal to Hispanics to win national elections. This at best sets them back four years. It may do lasting damage.

And then there's the fate of Republicans in House races, in Senate races, and I think what you see is a full-scale effort by leaders such as Paul Ryan, John Kasich, Mitch McConnell, to make sure they ca insulate those races as much as possible from these comments.

[11:35:24] BOLDUAN: But can they? I think that is a huge unknown right now.

Doug, one quick question, do you think in the most near, near, near term if Donald Trump would apologize like John Kasich is asking, would that fix everything?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think it would take a prolonged period of behavior that's very different than what we've seen. I think an apology is going to ring as hollow and empty at the moment. He has said many things in the course of his primary candidacy and now moving into the general that are divisive and unacceptable. They've been directed at this judge, at Muslims, at the press. So I think it's going to be very difficult for people to accept an apology quickly and somehow say, oh, we're going to let bygones be bygones. This is a big issue for the party. And, you know, it's going to take a real change.

BERMAN: You know, Mark Preston, the question is, what are Republicans who are upset about it, what can they do now? I mean, I guess Donald Trump when you count the pledged delegates to him, he's not over the top, but he's going to get there tomorrow. So he is going to be the party's nominee. They can't really stop that from happening, so what do they do?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, they try to inoculate themselves. Certainly if you are a vulnerable Senator say in Pennsylvania or Ohio, maybe Illinois, North Carolina, New Hampshire, these are all races that Democrats are focusing money, time, and effort on, trying to take back the United States Senate. If you're one of these candidates, you have to inoculate yourself from Donald Trump as best you can without alienating those Trump supporters because you need those Trump supporters to help you win. But you don't necessarily want to hitch your wagon to the horse of Donald Trump if he continues to make remarks like this.

But to your point, he is going to be the nominee, he's the presumptive nominee. What they need to do is to try to get Donald Trump to change a little bit, and that is very difficult. Kate had wondered if he had apologized would that help. Donald Trump has never apologized. He said he's never even asked god for forgiveness. That alone makes it difficult for him to come out and do that. I think what they'd like Donald Trump to do is maybe not talk as much. Maybe not go on Twitter as much and focus on basic policy issues. That's more of a winning formula for Donald Trump. BOLDUAN: Why then with all of that reality, everything you laid out

as fact, as is always true with you, Mark Preston, everything you say is fact, what is John Kasich going at then? What is John Kasich trying to do? He really hasn't been weighing in too much recently on the presidential race. Why now?

PRESTON: Well, because, I mean, bottom line is John Kasich is somebody who has been around politics a very long time. He is not indebted to Donald Trump by any means. You know, he's finishing up his second term as governor. Donald Trump -- rather John Kasich is somebody who has always really been his own person and he sees no reason to change that now.

BERMAN: I see Doug agreeing with that.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us. Really appreciate your time.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A brand new forecast out just moments ago as Tropical Storm Colin gains strength and heads toward Florida. We'll show you where it's expected to make landfall, what is the track, what is the exact timing. That's ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, new details about the celebration of Muhammad Ali and how Muhammad Ali helped plan this memorial.

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[11:43:04] BERMAN: Just this hour, Governor Rick Scott of Florida has declared a state of emergency there for 34 counties. Millions in the path of a strengthening Tropical Storm Colin, which is barreling right now towards the coast.

BOLDUAN: CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers is in the CNN Weather Center with the very latest.

So, Chad, there was an update just this hour on the path and the timing and the severity and everything. What are you hearing?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It turned a little bit farther to the left. The Hurricane Center moved it slightly to the left, kind of on the left side of the old cone and made a new cone. This is the third storm of the year, Colin. We've already had Alex and Bonnie. The next one would be Danielle.

But here it is. It is still a disorganized mess but what it's going to do is put downwind of about 50 miles per hour and very heavy rain. This is not going to turn into a hurricane. There's no time. This will be onshore in eight or ten hours. By tomorrow this time it will be offshore of South Carolina. That's how quickly it's going to get caught up in the winds, but r tropical storm warnings now all the way from North Carolina all the way back to almost panama city beach in Florida. There's the storm. It's forecast to strengthen but only when it gets out into the gulf stream, at 60 miles per hour. The maximum winds we'll see should be around 50.

What I'm concerned with is a very saturated South Carolina and even parts of North Carolina could get more flooding. It has been just raining for months in South Carolina, not as much in Florida, not as much in Georgia, or even into parts of the mid-Atlantic, but if we get enough rain from Columbia down to Charleston, I want you to watch out for swollen rivers there into the low country. Some spots, guys will pick up six inches of rain.

At least this is not going to Texas. There's something to be said there. I have spent the last part of my life in Texas with this flooding. We don't need more rainfall out there.

BERMAN: No, but South Carolina has a lot there, too. Some of the pictures there, not much a place left to put it.

Chad Myers, thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

[11:45:01] BERMAN: News just in involving President Obama's role in the 2016 race. Perhaps new role in the 2016 race. "The New York Times" reporting he could endorse Hillary Clinton formally as early as this week. Details next.

BOLDUAN: Plus, breaking details in the trial of the Baltimore police officer who was driving the van during the Freddie Gray arrest in Baltimore. Up next, will a judge or will a jury be deciding this case? Important details, important update, coming up.

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BERMAN: All right. So potentially big news. President Obama could formally endorse Hillary Clinton as early as this week. That is new reporting from "The New York Times" on what President Obama is doing and thinking behind the scenes right now.

BOLDUAN: Michael Shear co-wrote the piece with Julia Hirschfield Davis. And Michael is joining us right now from "The New York Times."

Michael, what is going on behind the scenes? President Obama itching to get in. What are you hearing?

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: So it's pretty clear we won't hear a formal announcement until after -- at least after tomorrow when the California and New Jersey and other primaries happen. And we expect Hillary Clinton could actually clinch the number of delegates she needs to win the nomination. But already there has been, we are told from both the Hillary campaign and the White House, active conversations between the two of them about how best they are going to use the president. That includes the possibility of an endorsement that could come this week and how he would campaign across the country for her.

[11:50:24] BERMAN: Any calculation how he could say it given Bernie Sanders says he will take this fight to the convention? Will he say, the president, flat-out, that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive nominee?

SHEAR: I think the precise wording about what they'll say is under consideration, in part because they don't quite know what Bernie Sanders is going to say. You know, you sort of have seen Bernie talk a different game, depending whether he's interviewed, whether he'll go all the way to the convention or whether perhaps there are hints he maybe would say something different. And I think the White House and the Hillary campaign are waiting to see, you know, exactly what he says following the primaries and exactly how they come out. If she wins the California primary, that could set up a different conversation than if she doesn't. But in the end, you could tell -- I was with the president in Elkhart, Indiana, and he gave a speech that was a preview of his stump speech. And White House folks say he's itching to get out on the campaign trail.

BOLDUAN: Word choice in that endorsement announcement will be fascinating when it comes.

SHEAR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Michael Shear, great reporting as always. Thank you.

BERMAN: Jittery donors, concerned party leaders, as Donald Trump continues to attack the judge hearing the case on Trump University. We'll discuss the concerns inside the party ahead.

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[11:55:58] BERMAN: New development in the case of one of the officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. Baltimore Police Officer, the one facing the most serious accusations, Caesar Goodson, has opted for a bench trial. That means a judge, rather than a jury, will decide his guilt or innocence.

BOLDUAN: Goodson is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder and a list of other charges. He was driving the police transport van when Gray suffered fatal injuries back in April of 2015.

Let's discuss what this means in the critical part of the case. CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is joining us now.

Bench trial versus jury trial. Why?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Because you want to separate the trial from the passions of the community. It is often the case when police officers have been charged that they opt for bench trials rather than jury trials because police worry that jurors, who have to go back to the community, feel an obligation to convict independent of the evidence. Whereas, a bench trial, you feel like you have a more neutral passion-free decision maker. That's the theory behind these decisions. BERMAN: Does the defendant get to decide?

TOOBIN: It varies by state and by jurisdiction. In federal court, both sides have to agree. In Maryland, the defendant alone can agree. So it varies.

BOLDUAN: This is the same judge that decided the last case, the Edward Nero case. Does that surprise you?

TOOBIN: These cases are going badly for the prosecution. I mean, this is not, you know, we said when these cases were charged, wow, she really, the prosecutor went to the book at them and so far, it hasn't worked out. You can see why t defense probably is feeling some confidence.

BERMAN: What's the risk in a bench trial rather than a jury trial in theory?

TOOBIN: The risk is that the usual trials don't work. Portraying bias, portraying -- you know, the theatrics that defense lawyers believe sometimes work with a jury is less likely to work with a judge. It's a sign of some confidence in a rational analysis of the evidence on the part of the prosecutor -- I'm sorry -- on the part of the defense lawyer that he wants the case to be analyzed in a very calm, rational way as opposed to one where the passions of the community might be involved.

BOLDUAN: The first officer that faced trial, it was a mistrial. The second officer that went before this last one, he was acquitted. This is the officer, this is the big case, this is the officer facing the most serious of the charges. He was the driver of the transport van. What does this case mean in the scope of how many people are charged?

TOOBIN: As you say, it's the most important one and it's the real question of, will anyone be held accountable for the death of Freddie Gray or was it a tragic accident as the police have portrayed? The prosecutor has a lot riding on this. This was a defining case in the history of Baltimore, a defining case in the history of that office and, so far, they have absolutely nothing to show for it.

BERMAN: Obviously, that second case, he was acquitted. But was there anything within that trial that might give a sign of how Judge Barry Williams is thinking going forward?

TOOBIN: I think the result is the most important thing. This judge is obviously not afraid to get some criticism from the community by acquitting a police officer. So I think that is the dominant fact about what happened in that trial.

In terms of how the evidence unfolds, one of the things judges and juries are always told is that you have to analyze, not just the whole general situation, but what this defendant did. As Kate points out, this is the most important case. This is, according to the prosecutor, the most culpable of the police officers, but we'll see whether the prosecution can prove that.

BOLDUAN: A big step forward this morning in that decision that's going to go before a Bench trial.

Thank you, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: All right.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you.

And thank you so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

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