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CNN at the Republican National Convention; Mother of Benghazi Victim: "I Blame Hillary Clinton"; Donald Trump and Melania Trump to Speak Tonight; Sitcom Star: "We Have a Choice in November"; Trump Arrives at Arena for Convention. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 18, 2016 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:01] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It was a surprise yesterday that Donald Trump would be introducing his wife here at the Republican National Convention tonight, until we found out about it.

But I am told by a senior Trump adviser that Donald Trump will not only introduce his wife, Melania Trump. He will be doing some more talking, as to be expected. And we should be looking for Donald Trump to tap into that theme of America making America safe again.

I'm also told, Wolf, that he's going to be showing some affection, some warm, genuine, loving affection toward his wife, Melania Trump, up here on stage tonight. We should be looking for that as well.

So, in addition to trying to get out the message, Wolf, that Donald Trump will make America safe again, that he's going to adopt a tough tone when it comes to protecting the country, in law and order. They also want to show their softer side in their nominee as well -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: They certainly do. All right. Jim Acosta, stand by.

Anderson, over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thanks very much.

The first speaker we're expecting will be broadcasting live, of course, Willie Robertson, "Duck Dynasty" star.

Before he comes out, let's talk to Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, Nia- Malika Henderson, Michael Smerconish.

I mean, to introduce Melania Trump, to have Donald Trump, it defies pretty much every convention I've ever been at, where you don't hear from the candidate really until the last night.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. I remember 2012. Mitt Romney was sitting in the box, watching his wife speak. And then surprised her and came up on stage to give her a kiss after her speech. So, he did make a cameo appearance. This is different, because I think what Donald and Melania Trump are

trying to do tonight and throughout the entire convention is present themselves as an American family to the public and to show that their family has values that not only Republicans share, but that the country should share. And I think she is the beginning of that.

And I don't think it's a Donald Trump needs humanizing. I think he is a pretty human candidate. I think she needs to soften him a little bit and talk about the other side of him. That's exactly what she's going to do, because his popularity with women, as you know, is not high.

COOPER: David, we did see an attempt by, I guess you could say, anti- Trump forces -- although a lot of them said this wasn't an anti-Trump move, it was just about the rules. But an attempt to go for a roll call vote on the rules, on the passing of the rules here. That basically failed, though.

This is definitely Donald Trump's convention. I mean --

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is his convention. There's no doubt about it. This is not the story that they wanted on day one, however. It's going to be high up in every story. So, it underscores the fact that this is a divided party.

So, he has two missions. The one Gloria is talking about, to reach out to new voters. And the other is to bring the Republican Party together. And they may be at odds at points, because the way you rally the Republican Party is with some red meat. And the way you get some of these women who are resistant to him will be by telling the softer story.

COOPER: Although, Nia, we're going to hear a lot about Benghazi tonight and a number of people who are survivors of the attack in Benghazi are going to be speaking tonight. Marcus Luttrell who wrote the book "Lone Survivor," about his experience in Afghanistan, will be speaking tonight, as well as Melania Trump.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. And Michael Flynn as well who worked on the Obama administration, on that short list of the V.P. slot, as well as Rudy Giuliani.

I think we're going to get a real critique, a very harsh critique of the Obama administration. What we've seen in the last couple of days is this emerging, talking point from Donald Trump that it was really Hillary Clinton who was the leader in terms of foreign policy, in leading Barack Obama the wrong way in terms of major policy issues.

So, I think we'll see a lot of that tonight as well as this idea, make America safe again. That's going to be the theme tonight. But again, I think this softening of Donald Trump, that's the main theme out of tonight and just overall the rebranding of Donald Trump. People are going to go into this convention the American public, a lot of them have very negative views of Trump. They're going to try to reverse that tonight. COOPER: There is -- I mean, at one point there has got to be some concern. There's a lot of supporters of Donald Trump who don't want a softer Donald Trump. I mean, if you look at the polls they like that he's viewed as strong -- strong on the economy, strong on national security.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Those very lines that have been so antagonizing to so many Americans have also been known to rally the base. I think that's the point that you're making, Anderson.

COOPER: Willie Robertson has just en introduced, "Duck Dynasty" star. The first speaker we'll be hearing from tonight. His father having endorsed Ted Cruz before endorsing Donald Trump.

Let's listen.


Thank you so much. I'm so honored to be here. As some of you know, we end every episode of "Duck Dynasty" with a family prayer at the dinner table.

[20:05:00] And I know we just said one, but I'm going to throw one more up with the way things are going in this country.

Father, we're so thankful and blessed to be in this country and, Father, tonight we want to pray that you keep us safe. I am mindful of my brothers and sisters in Louisiana right now, Father. Be with them in their pain. We love you through Jesus. Amen.

I've always said that me and Mr. Trump have three things in common. We're both successful businessmen. Although I flew commercial here, so I'm guessing he didn't.

We both have had hit television shows. And we both have intelligent wives who are much better looking than we are.

Are you cheering because we're ugly?

It's been a rough year for the media experts. It must be humbling to be so wrong about so much for so long.

But I have a theory about how they missed the Trump train. They don't hang out with regular folks like us, who like to hunt and fish and pray and actually work for a living.

Heck, I don't even know that they know how to talk to people from Middle America. I mean, when I tell them I'm from Louisiana, they really start talking real slow and real loud.

Let me tell you why I've been on the Trump train from the beginning. See, when you're from the South and you grow up with rednecks, there are some occasional disagreements. Sometimes those disagreements turn into fisticuffs. But any time I was ever in a bad spot, I always knew my brothers would have my back. And today, in a lot of ways, America is in a bad spot. And we need a

president who will have our back.

And I can promise you this: no matter who you are, Donald Trump will have your back. If you're looking for a job, or trying to grow a business, like I am, Donald Trump will have your back.

If you're a serviceman, fighting overseas or a cop who is risking their lives to help keep us safe at home, Donald Trump will have your back.


If you're an average American who feels like you've been forgotten, neglected by faraway leaders, that the deck is stacked against you and you just can't win, Donald Trump will have your back.


Now he may not always tell you what you want to hear. You may not always agree. And he may not always be politically correct. But when your father is Phil Robertson, I'm used to that, OK?

But I'll say this. Donald Trump will always, always tell you the truth as he sees it. And that's why we can trust him to make America great again as our next president.

Thank you. God bless you.


COOPER: Willie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" opening up this. Now here is Scott Baio.

ANNOUNCER: Scott Baio.


SCOTT BAIO, ACTOR AND TELEVISION PRODUCER: Thank you for that warm welcome. Thank you so much.

Tonight's theme is making America safe. So I want to thank all the brave men and women who served our country, including retired Lieutenant Colonel Charles Kettles, who just this morning received the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Vietnam. Absolutely.

[20:10:00] And I want to thank Mr. Trump for asking me to be here tonight. I can't tell you how much of an honor it is to stand up here and talk about a man that I trust with the lives of my family and the health of our country.


America, the greatest country God ever created.

Now, America is an easy place to get to. But for you first-time voters, it's important for you to know what it means to be an American. It doesn't mean getting free stuff.


It means sacrificing, winning, losing, failing, succeeding and sometimes doing the things you don't want to do, including the hard work, in order to get where you want to be.

And that's what it means to be an American.


But, folks, our country right now is in a very bad spot. You can feel it. You can see it everywhere. There's no stability. Nothing seems right. And all the things that we hold dear are being attacked every single day.

We cannot go down this road anymore. We need to stop. We need Donald Trump to fix this.


Is Donald Trump a messiah? No. He's just a man -- a man who wants to give back to his country, America, the country that has given him everything. A country that has also given all of us so much. And now, it's time to give back to her.

We have a choice in November. We can go for Hillary Clinton --


I agree. Who wants to continue the same policies that are wrecking this country, policies that make us unsafe. A woman who somehow feels that she's entitled to the presidency, that she somehow owed it.

Or we can go for Donald Trump.


A man doing this from the goodness of his heart and genuinely wants to help. A man who knows how to get things done. Means and mea means what he says.

Hillary Clinton wants to be president for Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump wants to be president for all of us.


So, of course, let's make America great again. But let's make America America again.


Thank you all so much. God bless. Go Trump! Good night.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) ANNOUNCER: Please welcome the former governor of Texas, Rick Perry.



You know, back in 2006, my wife and I, we had this extraordinary experience, this great pleasure of touring a naval base in San Diego.

Our guy that day happened to be this big old drink of water Navy SEAL who is recovering from combat-related injuries. Now, he is a Texas boy.

[20:15:00] He was -- he was pretty plain spoken, and respectful and his love for America came through loud and clear.

As we departed that day, I just told him kind of in passing if you're ever in Austin, come by and see us. Now, you know, some people might say that that meeting was just blind chance or a twist of fate. I will tell you it was by the grace of God.

He and I kept in touch over the course of the months, through a tour he had in Iraq and in his return to Texas, and darned if he didn't just show up on our doorstep at the governor's mansion unannounced, with nowhere else to go. We welcomed him in our home. We helped him get the care that he needed. And today, he's like a second son.

Now, many of you know the battles he fought in Afghanistan, but too few of you know the battles that he and thousands of veterans just like him face when they come home.

Tonight, our commitment is this. Making America great again starts by taking care of our veterans.


Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome an American hero, the lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell.


MARCUS LUTTRELL, FORMER U.S. NAVY SEAL: Cleveland! I love coming down here. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All right.


All right. Thank you. Thank you again for having me back.

For those of you I have stood before in the past, it's a pleasure to do so again. For those of you I haven't stood in front of, thank you for the privilege to do that. Really, I mean it from the bottom of my heart.


I was fortunate enough in life to be born from a patriotic family. Taught me to love this country and people who make her up unconditionally. To die for any woman and to fight beside any man without hesitation or hopes of individual achievement. That's the way I was raised and the way I still walk my life.

For generations, the men and women in my family have served this country proudly, both at home and abroad. My father served in Vietnam. And although he was shamed out of his uniform, it only solidified his resolve to raise his boys, me and my twin brother, to be patriotic and love this country and its people more than we loved ourselves.


The past ten years of my Navy SEAL career, first ten was in combat. Next part of it I was traveling around the country, state to state, city to city, town to town. Armed only with the memories of your bravest fighters and the story of how hard they fought to protect our way of life.

And because I was willing to completely open up my life and speak about the worst week of it, I was blessed with meeting and seeing one of the greatest people America has to offer.

[20:20:00] And I think it's important -- and I think it's important to say that we have to make sure that the hell the veterans return from is not the hell they come home to. OK?


That's what was promised and that's what's deserved, period. It also speaks volume about my generation and how I love my generation. Generation X, the X men. It was wonderful to fight alongside of you.

Even when our system doesn't take care of our boys, the citizens step up, start foundations and programs to help the wounded and families of the fallen. So, from the bottom of my heart and, literally, please know I end every day on my knees for thanking God for y'all and what you do and how you cut it. My generation of veterans coming home.


I got a chance -- those of you who know me, I only talk about stuff that I experienced. Usually on the worst side of it and the best side of it. I had a chance to actually spend time with Mr. Trump. I know he understands what it's going to take to fix this.

And to -- the only way we're going to keep America safe is have an elite military. All right?


Made up of the warriors and prepared by the toughest training that we have to offer, supported by the best equipment and backed up by the nation, to put those people in the harm's way. Every one of us has to step up in some way. We need our leaders to lead by example. Each -- excuse me. They need to lead by example and show the American

public that each and every life under the flag should be considered family and treated accordingly.


I'm sorry. I'm so used to speaking from the heart when I have to rea this, it goes wrong so I'm just going to go. Are you ready?


Not only do the leaders have to speak up and support us, but the family. Those of us in here, we're all family. And we back them up, too, and we hold them accountable for every position and office that they hold. Either way --


Look, either way, the only way we survive this is together, not apart. In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter. You understand?


To my generation, that was for y'all. To the next generation, this is for you. Your war is here. You don't have to go searching for it. Your people are afraid.

I stand among you, walking. I was allowed to walk with giants, all right? Now we're looking for the next generation of giants. Who among you will love something more than you love yourself? All right? Who among you are going to step up and take the fight to the enemy? Because it's here!


I challenge all of you to fight for this country and for each and every one of us. Look, the world, outside of our borders, is a dark place, a scary place. America is the light. And her people are the goodness that grows from that.

She'll always be worth fighting for and it was my greatest honor to fight for her every day of my adult life. All right?


And I just wanted to come up here and thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to serve you for 20 years. And I swear to God, I'm going to spend the next 20 paying you back.

So, thank you again. God bless!


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, one of four Americans killed in Benghazi in September 2012.



[20:25:00] My son, Sean, was one of four brave Americans killed during the 2012 terrorist attack at Benghazi.

Sean was a wonderful son and father to my two amazing grandchildren, Samantha and Nathan, now 10 and 11. He was proud to serve his country with the United States Foreign Service.

The last time I talked to Sean, the night before the terrorist attack, he told me, "Mom, I am going to die. All security had been pulled from the embassy," he explained. And when he asked why, he never received a response. Nobody listened. Nobody seemed to care.

The very next day, he was murdered by radical Islamic terrorists. To this day, I don't even know why a computer guy like Sean was sent to Benghazi. That night we lost sons, brothers, fathers and husbands. We lost four brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country they chose to serve and the American people lost the truth.

For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism, the tragedy in Benghazi has brought upon America -- I blame Hillary Clinton.


I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son. That's personally.

And in an e-mail to her daughter shortly after the attack, Hillary Clinton blamed it on terrorism, but when I saw Hillary Clinton --


SMITH: She sure is. She lied to me and then called me a liar.


When I saw Hillary Clinton at Sean's coffin ceremony, just days later, she looked me squarely in the eye and told me a video was responsible.


Since then, I have repeatedly asked Hillary Clinton to explain to me the real reason why my son is dead. I'm still waiting.

Whenever I -- whenever I call the State Department, no one would speak to me, because they say I am not a member of the immediate family.


Sean is my son. Hillary Clinton is a woman, a mother and a grandmother of two. I am a woman, a mother, and a grandmother of two. How could she do

this to me?


How could she do this to any American family?

Donald Trump is everything Hillary Clinton is not.


He is blunt, direct and strong. He speaks his mind and his heart. And when it comes to the threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism, he will not hesitate to kill the terrorists who threaten American lives.


He will make America stronger, not weaker. This entire campaign comes down to a single question. If Hillary Clinton can't give us the truth, why should we give her the presidency?


That's right. Hillary for prison. She deserves to be in stripes.


[20:30:11] BLITZER: Jake Tapper, so, so far we've heard from Willie Robertson, Scott Baio, Rick Perry, Marcus Luttrell and a very emotional remarks now from Pat Smith. I guess a theme is developing right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the theme right now is emotion tied into international security. And you've heard this very, very stirring moving speech from Marcus Luttrell, awarded the Navy Cross after being the lone survivor from the same name and the book that he wrote after Operation Red Wing. Talking about the need for an elite military not really talking about the issues of Trump versus Hillary Clinton, talking more about the need for an elite military and supporting, I guess, Mr. Trump just by being here and then more tears. Even more tears. There were people moved to tears after the Luttrell speech but then even more after Patricia Smith, who lost her son, Sean Smith, who was an I.T. consultant for the State Department, he was killed at Benghazi, talking with anguish and grief.

I've interviewed her a few times, Patricia Smith, and that anguish and grief is obviously very, very real and very, very close to the surface.

Just one moment just for anybody out there wondering, she referred to Hillary Clinton lying to her and calling her a liar. That is a reference, just to try to explain for people who haven't been following the Benghazi story that closely is a reference to Hillary Clinton telling her and other families that the video, the anti-Muslim video was to blame, according to some of these accounts. And then at the March debate on CNN, Hillary Clinton was asked about it and she said I feel a great deal of sympathy for the families of the four brave Americans that we lost in Benghazi, and I certainly can't even imagine the grief that she has for losing her son but she's wrong, she's absolutely wrong, she said, specifically referring to Patricia Smith's ...

BLITZER: She's right if she never blamed the video in her conversation with ...

TAPPER: In her conversation with her. That was Hillary Clinton. That was the reference. But, you know, Patricia Smith has been making these comments about what Hillary told her, and she's not the only one, other members of the Benghazi families have as well. It's just as a political observer, a reporter, and analyst, I've never really quite understood why there wasn't more outreach to Patricia Smith by the State Department and more when she started going, you know, public and talking about her concerns and talking about her anguish and grief. I don't really have the answer to that.

BLITZER: Yeah, she said I blame Hillary Clinton for the death of my son.

TAPPER: Because it was her -- I've asked her, and when I asked her about that on my show when she came on, I said why? Why do you blame her? Because it was the State Department. It was her Department. She was in charge. And there was inadequate security. And it is hard to argue that there was adequate security.

BLITZER: Yeah. All right. Anderson, over to you.

COOPER: Wolf, Jake, thanks very much. Here with our panelist, Trump supporter, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, Republican non-Trump supporter S.E. Cupp and Van Jones, a Democrat.

What we've seen so far, I mean is this -- I mean, again, an unconventional convention, certainly started out unconventionally with Willie Robertson, and you have Scott Baio, Governor Perry, who had called Donald Trump a cancer, I think, on conservatism and with one of the first candidates not only to drop out, but also to attack Donald Trump. What do you make of what you heard? And Marcus Luttrell, obviously, very powerful speaker.

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yeah. I thought it was very, very moving. And this was a direct appeal to what used to be called and maybe still is Middle America. This is -- these are the focus of silent majority. I think Donald Trump has even used the phrase that was invented by Richard Nixon years ago. And it basically means as I remember, Nixon's description to people who pay the taxes, who get up and go to work every day, love their country, fight for the country, et cetera. These -- all of these speakers in their own way appeal to exactly that audience. And there's nothing condescending about it. There's nothing, you know, it's a straight out appeal to equals, and very touching stories that apply directly to Hillary Clinton and issues of confidence and that sort of thing.

COOPER: (Inaudible) Kayleigh other than Governor Perry, a practiced politician, it is people who are not politicians, who are speaking, you know, Willie Robertson speaking pretty plainly, Marcus Luttrell, who's a friend of mine, who's an accomplished speaker but speech from the heart. I mean he speaks -- he just, you know, speaks at going off prompter, as we saw there. It's interesting that that's how they chose to start this.

[20:34:59] KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Yes, that's exactly right. You know, these are everyday Americans. They are heroes and they're putting forth a positive vision of what it means to be an American.

We heard from Scott Baio, America is about sacrificing. It's about failing and succeeding. We heard from Marcus Luttrell that people in this country love this country, they fight for this country. We love this country because we love ourselves. A positive vision being put forth by everyday Americans and heroes like Marcus Luttrell.

COOPER: And yet, S.E., Governor Kerry didn't, I think, mention Donald Trump at all, unless I'm mistaken, unless somehow I missed it. But I don't think he mentioned Donald Trump by name during his whole speech?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. I think that would have been uncomfortable for him to do. But, you know, whatever you think of the caliber of celebrities on stage tonight, there's no way around it. I thought these were great speeches. They were short. They were emotional. They hit on a consistent theme, whether Rick Perry is talking about taking care of our vets and Marcus Luttrell is talking about service and Pat Smith giving that emotional account of the death of her son. These were good speeches. These were good speeches for this room and good speeches for American audiences, I think, as well.

And where the Democrats have accused Donald Trump of being insufficiently informed, what Donald Trump is trying to say is that Hillary Clinton has been insufficiently outraged about all of the foreign policy and domestic policy catastrophes. And everyone on that stage really struck, I think, that tone that there's been insufficient outrage from Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.


CUPP: It was a very good line-up, I thought.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Very powerful, very emotional. And yet in some ways, there's broad casting and there's narrow casting.

And as a Democrat, and as someone whose maybe isn't in the strike zone, I felt like it was narrow casting to a particular kind of person and signaling to a particular kind of person. And it didn't feel like it was reaching out to me yet.

But I tell you what, when that veteran got up there and spoke from his heart the way he did, the honesty was so refreshing, it was so embracing.

CUPP: Marcus Luttrell. JONES: Marcus Luttrell. Yeah, actually, it was so refreshing and so embracing. And I think that they continue to do that night after night, it will begin, I think, to fill out what it -- for those of us who are confused by the Trump phenomenon, I think we're going to be getting educated now on what is he actually reaching.

So, that -- I have to say, I felt very uncomfortable though with the mother. I felt that she was unhealed and I felt that -- I remember when the mothers from -- mother Emmanuel, when those people were killed in South Carolina and the country applauded them for forgiving so quickly.

I worry about exploiting grief. And I feel that, for me, I felt uncomfortable with her unhealed grief being brought forward in that way. And I just pray that she can find some peace and that we don't politicize for her pain.

MCENANY: According to Pat Smith, she was told on the runway by Hillary Clinton that the reason that her son was killed was because of a video when, in fact, she has said different things in private e- mails. She has a real grievance if that is the case as she lays it out.

COOPER: Right.

MCENANY: And there's a reason she is upset.

COOPER: And then Jake mentioned Hillary Clinton in a debate said that that was not the case. But again, that's clearly only those who know what actually has said.

Michael Smerconish, your thoughts on what you heard?

SMERCONISH: When we were in prime time earlier today, they got out of the gate with a stumble. I thought this was well choreographed. I thought this was to the point. I thought this was playing all the hits that appeal to the GOP base.

As the week progresses, they got to expand the tent. They cannot end the week only focused on the folks who are in this hall.

COOPER: We're going to take a short break. We're going to bring you more of the speeches coming up.

Donald Trump's big entrance at this convention, he's introducing his wife, Melania. She'll talk about man behind the famous game, but she never know what -- of course, he may say in introducing her. Stay with us.


[20:42:56] BLITZER: Welcome back to the Republican National Convention. We're waiting to hear from Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor. Also Donald Trump, he will be speaking. He'll be introducing his wife, Melania Trump. That is all coming up right now.

I want to go to Dana Bash. He's got Scott Baio, the actor who was the second speaker tonight. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. And thank you so much for joining me, Scott Baio, we are -- we're on. I just want to ask, first of all, how did this come to be? How did you meet Donald Trump and how did it come to be that you appeared tonight?

SCOTT BAIO, ACTOR AND TELEVISION PRODUCER: I met Donald Trump, I was doing judge "Jeanine Pirro Show" in New York and he happened -- at Trump Tower and Mr. Trump happened to walk in the building and she knows him. And I spent a couple of minutes with him up in the Trump Bar, in the Trump Tower.

And then on Thursday, last Thursday, I was at a Trump event in L.A. and he was finishing his speech and was walking on. And I said, Mr. Trump, Scott Baio and he went, "Oh, my God. Hey, did you want to speak?" And I thought he meant there. And I went, "Here?" He goes, "No, at the convention." I went ...

BASH: It was just last Thursday this happened?

BAIO: And I went -- I -- you've been so good to me and thank you so much. I said, "Mr. Trump, whatever you" -- "Come with me." And we walked in the house and he said this is my girl. Then, she goes said, yeah, blah, blah and that was it.

BASH: That was it? Well, did you have any hesitation?

BAIO: The only hesitation I had was I was shocked. I didn't -- just sort of, you know, guys like me don't get to do this kind of stuff often. So, it was just -- I didn't came out of left field and I didn't know how to respond. I couldn't tell if he was joking with me. But I was honored. And I'm ...

BASH: You first endorsed Scott Walker. Why did you choose Scott Walker at first before Donald Trump?

BAIO: I had seen Scott Walker prior to Mr. Trump getting in the race and I saw him at somebody's house, and he sounded fantastic. And he was a governor. And it made -- seems like a good move, his common sense for that kind of guy with that kind of credentials, and what he did in his state of Wisconsin was amazing.

And then I think after the first debate, when, you know, come on.

[20:45:00] This guy, to me, is a guy that's going to fight back. And that's what I liked about him. So, I immediately went over to Mr. Trump. He wasn't taking crap from anybody. And Republicans never fight back, ever. And I got so sick of it. And he was fighting back. And I -- that's why I went to him.

BASH: Speaking of -- I have to ask you about a tweet that you sent out last week. Hillary Clinton in front of a sign ...

BAIO: Right.

BASH: ... that had the words of a -- vulgar words about a female body part. Given and talking about Hillary Clinton, given kind of the high profile that you have now, given the discourse that I think Republicans are trying to sort of calm down, do you regret that?

BAIO: It's just a picture somebody sent and we sent it out. I mean you make of it what you want. I didn't have put anything behind it. I just sent it out there, you know. You look at it in any way you want.

BASH: You have been doing Republican campaigning since -- or at least you've been involved since Reagan in 1980. You know, people think of Hollywood and for the most part they think of Democrats. What made you different?

BAIO: Dana, I grew up in Brooklyn where all I knew was hard-working people. My dad worked hard his whole life, provided for me, my brother, my sister and my mom and went broke when we were babies. And didn't ask anything from government, got dusted himself off. Got back up and went back and did it. That's all I saw. I didn't know anything different. So that, to me, is a conservative mentality. And my father was just a straight shooter. And the whole neighborhood I grew up in was a bunch of guys and girls who just had a concern. You know, I think back on it, it was conservative. And then when I -- as I started getting older and becoming aware of politics, it was the logical sort of thing. And I heard Reagan speak, and to hear that guy speak was magical.

BASH: So before I toss back, I have to ask, would Joanie still love Chachi even though Chachi is supporting Trump?

BAIO: Joni Ernst still loves Chachi, more importantly.

BASH: Thank you so much.

BAIO: Dana, pleasure.

BASH: Appreciate it.

BAIO: Pleasure.

BASH: Thank you so much. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Dana. I want to go to Chris Cuomo. He's out of the convention floor, near the VIP section. What are you seeing over there, Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, obviously, we have Senator Bob Dole, who's behind us right now, and Donald Trump Jr. here. You've seen representatives of family all over the convention. This is a big night for the Trump family. And I think that so far the mood has to check every box for the party and for their presumptive nominee.

There's been a lot of heavy emotion here tonight. What's happening overseas, what happened with Benghazi, what men and special operators who have been fighting for America overseas have endured, that's what's going on, on the stage right now. That's been a big theme. And it's resonating very strongly with this crowd. There is no question. If you had to identify on the opening night what the galvanizing emotion is here, it's concern for America's fighting men and women. And it does suit the theme for tonight of making America safe again.

But all the anticipation, though, Wolf, on a personal level, will be Melania Trump. What does she have to say? What's the message? And how does Donald Trump come out of the box tonight? We know the big speech is Thursday when he's officially nominated by the convention. But how will he deal with his wife? How much will he talk about Hillary Clinton? How much politics versus how much personal?

My bet is from what we're hearing on the ground, Wolf, is that this is going to be a very personal night for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: I think you're right by all accounts. It was good to see Senator Bob Dole right behind you.

Still ahead, the former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on terror threats and Trump's plan. And the must-see moment tonight, Donald Trump in the convention hall for the first time, warming up the crowd for his wife.


[20:53:03] COOPER: And we are back live at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The speakers, the performances, the messages tonight are all designed to show that this is Donald Trump's party.

There's certainly a lot of anticipation this hall to see and hear from Donald Trump for the first time as he introduces his wife, Melania.

Also want to point out somebody who's in the audience, former presidential candidate, Bob Dole. Senator Dole is in the audience. Notable because all -- the other Republican candidates, former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, John -- Senator John McCain are not here, neither are George H. W. Bush or George W. Bush, the two former Bush presidents.

Bob Bole, the only Republican candidate who is actually here in attendance. He's sitting next to Donald Trump's -- one of Donald Trump's sons.

Coming up, we're going to be hearing from another celebrity who's a supporter of Donald Trump, Antonio Sabato, Jr.

We're back with our panel here, Gloria Borger, David Axelrod, Nia Malika-Henderson, Michael Smerconish.

In terms of what we are -- David, I mean, you've been to a lot of these conventions. How different is the start of this one?

AXELROD: Well, it's obviously starting with a big emotional punch. I agree with what everybody said here. Those early, whether -- they may have been narrow cast but they were effective narrow casting to the Republican base. I think, as I said earlier, one of the missions for Donald Trump is to try and unify the Republican base and these speeches are helpful in that regard.

And the reason he needs to do it is, as you point out Bob Dole, is the only living candidate for Republican candidate for president dating back 30 years to appear here and a lot of Republican -- leading Republicans aren't here. They've decided this was the week to clean their sock drawers because they didn't want to be a part of this.

COOPER: John Kasich, the governor of this state who is hosting this convention, is not here.

[20:55:01] AXELROD: And you see it in the numbers that Donald Trump has work to do. He's about 12 points off of where Mitt Romney was among Republicans and he needs to consolidate the base if he has a chance, so.

COOPER: Donald Trump's motorcade arriving here at the -- He's about 12 points off of where Mitt Romney was among Republicans.

And he needs to consolidate the base if he has a chance, so.

COOPER: Donald Trump's motorcade arriving here at the convention center. Donald Trump flew in just a short time ago. I'm sorry, David, let's continue.

AXELROD: No, but I just think this is a big challenge for him. And some of these things, you know, a lot of these people on the hall may have differences among themselves. They don't like Hillary Clinton.

Many of them don't like Barack Obama, although Barack Obama's numbers are better than most people in American politics today. Not among Republicans. So, they're hitting things that will bring Republicans together.

And as Michael said, the next mission is to expand out. And some of the Republicans, they need to reach, you know, college educated professional Republicans, maybe less susceptible to some of this messaging than some of the people who have already been for Trump.

COOPER: Michael, go ahead.

SMERCONISH: The way the campaign has been run thus far, David, I think is the antithesis of what that autopsy report commissioned by Reince Priebus after 2012 and Mitt Romney called for which is specifically encouraging more people to participate by growing the tent. They haven't done that. So, they better pull out that playbook soon because they will have to take on Hillary Clinton.

AXELROD: (Inaudible) in the alternative theory is that there's somehow enough white voters out there to win.


AXELROD: You know, you're right about that. Donald Trump is getting 14 percent in the "Wall Street Journal" poll this morning, 14 percent Hispanic vote. That's half of what Mitt Romney got. And now, what Mitt Romney got set off alarm bells among Republicans in a country that's becoming more diverse.

HENDERSON: And he's also doing very poorly among white women. And I think that's going to be an Achilles heel. I think that Melania Trump -- Melania Trump as well as Ivanka Trump, as well as other, I think, will try to close that gap.

Would you think -- there was also an underlying thing here tonight, too. The idea of what it means to be an American, right? You have a Willie Robertson say, being in America doesn't mean getting stuff for free.

You have Scott Baio say, it's not only that making America great again. It's letting America be America again. And I think it veers away from a little what Paul Ryan wanted this party to be, right? He actually got this idea from two Americans, the makers versus the takers. (Inaudible) helpful for the Republican Party's mission in terms of broadening, the broadening -- but guess what, this is Donald Trump's Republican Party.

COOPER: I think though for a lot of people in this room tonight, hearing from and seeing Melania Trump is certainly something. I mean, I -- you hear a lot of people talking about that beyond just the emotion we started out with. We're going to have -- we've been hearing a lot about undocumented immigrants. We're going to hear from the families who've lost people. They're killed by illegal immigrants. But Donald Trump to be introducing his wife is -- I mean, have you ever seen this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No. No. No. I mean, you know, as we were saying earlier, Mitt Romney kind of sat in the box and then came up onstage to give ...

COOPER: But Michael Smerconish earlier pointed out there was the, you know, legendary when Nancy Reagan was talking Ronal Reagan ...


BORGER: I don't think this is as much about Melania as it is about Donald Trump being on every night of the convention because he knows that that will be a draw.

I just want to say one thing about tonight, though. What struck me and I don't know if you guys all agree, but was -- how very personal it was about Hillary Clinton.

And one thing that unites the Republican Party, which Donald Trump has to do. And, you know, Mitt Romney had 92, 93 percent of Republicans voting for him. What Mitt -- what he needs to do is unite the Republican Party. And nothing unites the Republican Party like Hillary Clinton.

And so, when you hear Pat Smith say that she blamed Hillary Clinton personally for what happened to her son, and you hear her grief, and you hear these veterans talking about Benghazi and war, you know, it comes down to a choice. A binary choice that they want viewers to see, which is the one we have before us. And I think they're going to keep pounding at that for those people who have their doubt.

AXELROD: I think -- Can I just say this?


AXELROD: And I don't want to denigrate in any way the great enterprise in which we're involved. But at 10:00, all the networks start covering this convention. And when I was planning conventions, we really were concerned about the 10:00 to 11:00 hour because that's when you had by far the largest audience.

The fact that Melania Trump is the star of that hour and the fact that Donald Trump is introducing her are signs, I think, of the importance ...

COOPER: Right.

AXELROD: ... that they attach to this. All of this stuff is being watched by much more likely by pace (ph) voters.

[21:00:01] But it becomes a much larger audience come 10:00.

COOPER: And where you understand Melania Trump has been working for weeks, practicing this, getting ready for tonight.