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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Chaos Breaks Out on Convention Floor; Awaiting Trump Arrival at Convention; Interview with Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas; Interview with RNC's Sean Spicer. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 18, 2016 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That does it for us this hour.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be back one hour from now. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks so much, Anderson. OUTFRONT next, the breaking news. Civil war on the convention floor, chaos as anti-Trump forces try to stage a protest vote.

Plus, Donald Trump preparing to take the stage tonight as his wife, Melania, makes a rare public speech. Can she convince more Americans to vote for her husband?

And the official start of tonight's prime time lineup that is coming up. We'll going to bring it to you live. Let's go to the special edition of OUTFRONT.

Good evening and welcome to this special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett coming live to you from the Republican National Convention. OUTFRONT tonight, chaos at this convention on the very day Donald Trump takes the stage here for the first time. War broke out on the convention floor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those in favor say aye. All those opposed, no. In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Anti-Trump forces as you could hear in a last-ditch and loud effort, waging a battle against Trump, the failed. But the move showed the civil war in the party breaking out on live television. Donald Trump is about to arrive here at the convention, going to be arriving any moment on the tarmac here in Cleveland breaking with tradition because he is going to take to the stage tonight to introduce his wife, Melania. She will then address the crowd here.

It is a major moment from a quiet and reserved person whose longest speech in the campaign so far was 90 seconds. Her ability to share personal side of her husband is crucial in his convention push to unify his party and it all begins live this hour. The honor guard is going to march in this hour. The national anthem will play, all leading up to Trump taking the stage tonight.

We begin with our special coverage with Dana Bash on the convention floor. And Dana, you know, that moment of chaos today, an incredible, unprecedented thing. They say, OK, this wasn't meant to embarrass Donald Trump but, obviously, it did just that.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, look, the bottom-line is when you are at a convention, which is gathering here in Cleveland, to nominate -- to do a lot of things about the rules of the party but ultimately nominate somebody to be their presidential pick and there is that kind of display that you showed, it is not certainly what the Trump campaign or the Republican National Committee wanted. And just to kind of boil down what all of the chaos and the discussion was all about was that there were a couple of camps of delegates who wanted to have and open roll call vote of the rules they worked on all last week before most people got to Cleveland.

And they were not able to do that. They were not able to get that kind of roll call vote primarily because the Trump campaign and also the Republican National Committee didn't want to open that up. Because once that happened, a lot of the issues that the Never Trump movement were pushing like allowing the delegates to be unbound and not have to vote for Donald Trump, if they were elected originally for others, for example, or the -- there were other people in the camp, the conservative camp, many allies of Ted Cruz, who wanted to change the rules to make the process more palatable and better for a conservatives running for president in the future. One of those was Senator Mike Lee. Here is what he said to me about how upset he was that they didn't actually get a vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: This is about the future of the party, about the ability of delegates at the convention, were grassroots activists from around the country being able to come together at the national convention this year in Cleveland and have their views heard and talk about their view for the future, about how we expand the party, how we expand the tent. How we make sure that we have good candidates. And this is not about Mr. Trump. It's about having a good, fair rules process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: And so, Erin, I'm standing here in the Colorado delegation. Because this is one of the places where delegates were really pushing for that roll call vote. And when you heard people screaming no, this is one of the places it was coming from. You see here, Colorado. And, in fact, when they didn't get that vote on the floor, the ability from their perspective to have their voices heard in this kind of arena, about 20 of these delegates walked out. They walked out in protest, to show that they were not happy with this process.

So, what does this mean at the end of the day? For Donald Trump and his ability to be the Republican nominee? The answer is nothing. Because the people who were here were already -- many of them were already not supporting Donald Trump and not happy with the process. But the fact that this is how it began was no question not how the Trump campaign wanted it, not how the RNC wanted it and worked extremely hard behind the scenes all week last week to try to avoid that. But that is how that happened. It's going to be a different kind of moment and movement for the next few days but that was certainly not the way they wanted it to start.

[19:05:26] BURNETT: No. Not at all. But an incredible drama --

BASH: Exactly.

BURNETT: -- playing out as we said on live television.

OUTFRONT now, I want to go straight to David Gergen, former adviser to four former presidents, Reagan, Clinton, among them. White House correspondent for the Associated Press joins me, Julie Pace. Our political director David Chalian, former president of Trump Productions Andy Dean, a Donald Trump supporter. Our political commentator Ana Navarro and Hillary Clinton supporter Bakari Sellers.

So, David Gergen, when you hear Dana walking through this moment. But I mean, when you heard the shouting erupt here on the floor -- I think erupt is a fair word for what we saw today.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I couldn't hear in these booths.

BURNETT: I mean, a moment of great significance.

GERGEN: I think it was. And I must say, what -- talking to some of the people who were on the losing side of this, what disturbed them so much was they couldn't understand -- they didn't have the votes to win the roll call. They were in a minority here. And so they don't understand, why didn't they just give us something we could take home? You know, if they're really trying to unite the party, why would they just concede on this point? Because they have to win anyway. You know, there's a famous quote from Churchill when he said in defeat defiance, in victory, magnanimity and that's what was lacking, was magnanimity.

BURNETT: Which is perhaps the commentary on how the Trump campaign was handling.

GERGEN: Yes.

BURNETT: That's what their floor operations.

GERGEN: And Andy, this was heated and as David points out, perhaps the victory you could have given to the losers to make them feel more magnanimous. When they didn't allow that roll call vote, here is what we heard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD CHANTING "ROLL CALL VOTE, ROLL CALL VOTE, ROLL CALL VOTE, ROLL CALL VOTE, ROLL CALL VOTE")

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Eighty percent of Republicans say their party is divided

coming into this crucial convention. What can Donald Trump do to change that? Obviously today, an opportunity that was missed.

ANDY DEAN, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Sure. Well, if you looked at that footage you just showed, the first guy shouting out "roll call vote" was from the Texas delegation. You can see because they all walked around here with their Texas lone star shirts.

BURNETT: Yes.

DEAN: Texas is Ted Cruz. So, a lot of this was the remnants of Ted Cruz. Remember, just three months ago, we thought this was going to be a contested convention. Ted Cruz's people were trying to stack the delegate floor and they did a pretty decent job of that. But what happened is the American (audio gap) and Donald Trump got to over 1500 delegates and get to 1237. So, look, let them have their fun today. That's cool. But Ted Cruz is speaking for Donald Trump and these people will vote for Donald Trump.

BURNETT: And I want everyone to know what you're hearing, the screaming and celebrating, right now the delegates are arriving. Because as I said, the big program here begins during our hour. Donald Trump's plane is slated to land in just a few moments here in Cleveland. We'll going to have the national anthem, the honor guard. All the delegates are getting in their sits and getting ready for that. So, you'll be hearing that through the hour. And the plane has just landed. So, he is coming here.

And Bakari, this is putting today's moment aside, as significant as it was, this is his big moment, his big convention, his big chance to not squander.

BAKARI SELLERS, ATTORNEY: I mean, you have to juxtapose what's going on in this convention, all of these excitements with what's going on outside these secured gates. Donald Trump is not speaking to the delegates of the Republican National Convention today. Donald Trump is speaking to the United States of America this week. And I know tonight is make America safe again. And Donald Trump is going to paint this bleak picture about where we are in a country full of despair. But we have to begin to hear solutions from Donald Trump.

In the Republican platform they talk about a one-state solution. In Israel and Palestinian. We know that's going to cause more chaos. We're talking about building a wall, a Muslim ban, deporting and rounding up hundreds -- excuse me, millions of immigrants into this country. That is not a solution that this country wants to hear. So, Donald Trump is going to have to actually do something. He has to have some there, there. It hasn't been there the whole campaign. So, I think the bar is set pretty high for him.

And Ana, the frustration you saw, the eruption here on the floor and we're looking at video, that is the Trump's plane arriving, as we said, in the highly unusual move of introducing his wife for her keynote address tonight. But Ana, four of the five Republican presidential nominees most recently are absent, right? Forty one and 43 President Bush are not here, John McCain is not here, Mitt Romney is not here. All of them in protests of Donald Trump. Forty four percent of Republican voters wish that Donald Trump were not their nominee. Is there anything he can do this week to say this week, to win those people over? People like you?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I'm not sure there's anything he could do to win me over. I mean, maybe if the Virgin Mary appeared to me and asked me to do it, I would consider it. Maybe. But short of that, not really. But look, we've already seen how the convention is starting and how this day has gone. This day started with Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort attacking John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, for not being here. What a ridiculously stupid thing to do.

[19:10:18] Go attack Hillary Clinton, go attack your opponent. You are not running against John Kasich. And whether you like him or not, whether he likes you or not, he is the popular governor of this state which happens to be a purple state. And he manages and knows the political machinery in this state. So just pro-tick, do not antagonize the man that runs the Republican machinery in a purple state. You really should win if you want to win the presidency.

BURNETT: John Kasich's role not insignificant today when you look at the uprising that we saw in the floor.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. In fact, one of Kasich's supporters, a county chair here in Ohio, was so angry after their attempt failed that they didn't get this roll call vote on the rules package alone, because they wanted some avenue to express that they were with someone else. But you know what, we should not have expected a smooth sailing --

BURNETT: Right.

CHALIAN: Like first day of the Republican convention. Donald Trump has upended the way the Republican Party has functioned for the better part of the year. Why would we think that that would stop here on the convention floor? And he is the victor, I mean, he is on the winning side of it, just like he was on the floor today. Remember, they pushed for a roll call vote. The Trump forces with the RNC actually quelled that.

BURNETT: Yes.

CHALIAN: And prevented that from happening. And if it did go to a roll call vote, it would have been a huge show of strength that Donald Trump probably had more than 2,000 delegates on his side.

BURNETT: Right. He still what he still what he wants. This is why perhaps as David points out, he should have let it happen.

JULIE PACE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think so. If you look at the 2008 election, which was probably the Democrats comparison to this where you had a lot of people coming to the floor who were Hillary Clinton supporters. What the Obama campaign did is try to find a way for those supporters to channel their energy in a positive directions. They had Hillary actually up there, formally putting Obama into nomination, putting him over the top.

BURNETT: Yes.

PACE: So maybe there could have been a move that the Trump campaign could have done along those lines.

BURNETT: All right. And for one moment, we will be back. Because next, much more on our special edition of OUTFRONT as we are live from the Republican National Convention, counting you down to this crucial beginning of tonight. Donald Trump's theme tonight, make America safe again. And with the chaos, it is of course proving to be an extremely unconventional convention.

Plus, we seldom hear from Melania Trump. She will take the stage tonight. A crucial moment as we're counting you down to that. Why she thinks her husband should be president.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:16:35] BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT live from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. We are just moments away from the prime time kickoff of the convention. Donald Trump is now officially here on the ground in Cleveland. Going to introduce his wife, Melania. They just, as we said landed here in Cleveland together, she is going to be speaking, a speech that we understand she has worked on a speechwriter for five or six weeks.

So, a lot of time and effort going into her speech, a very quiet and reserved person and of course this hour, we're going to be bringing you live the pomp and circumstance of the opening of tonight's first prime time evening of ceremonies, the color guard, the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem. All of this coming just a day after the deadly police ambush in Baton Rouge that killed three officers.

Officials tonight saying the gunman, quote, "assassinated police officers in what they say, in their words, was a meticulously planned attack." We're going to go to the floor of the convention in just a moment. As the delegates were gathering. My panel though back with me. So, let me just start with you -- all right.

Actually, let's go down to Chris Cuomo. But we do have him on the floor as the delegates are gathering. Chris, tonight is a crucial night, the first night. And you have got Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arriving. The theme of tonight is Keep America Safe or Making America Safe again. What do you expect tonight?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Here is the word, Erin. Yes, that's the big theme, make America safe again. You'll going to hear that mostly with the floor speakers tonight, you have over 20 speakers and I'm told there's something for everyone. You have older members of the guard like Giuliani. You have Rick Perry who is in the race. And there aren't many of the competitors who are going to be here at the conventions. He is one that shows an evolution that the campaign likes. He started out calling Trump bad names. You remember he said that he was a carnival barker. And then he went

for Cruz and he eventually came around to Trump for the reason they think believe is the most important. That he is better than Clinton. You'll going to hear that a lot tonight. You'll going to hear on the positive side attributes of Donald Trump as a leader. On the negative side, policy mistakes that speakers tonight will ascribe to Hillary Clinton. That's the main theme from the floor speakers.

But the big event is going to be Melania, Trump speaking about her husband. And just as importantly, Donald Trump's introduction. I am told that we will see a different Donald Trump tonight. That is what I'm told that he is going to fawn over his wife and leave the fire power to others. And the big moment for Melania Trump tonight is going to be, this is really not her natural setting. She is very intelligent, she is very accomplished and very tied to what her husband does personally and professionally.

But this is going to be how she says things, her comfort with the language. There's a lot of excitement and anticipation. And that's why Trump wanted to do the introduction tonight. As you said, Erin, unorthodoxed, but Donald Trump cares about his wife very deeply and how she is perceived. And so, it will be interesting to see what he does leave to others tonight and what he says about his wife and himself.

BURNETT: All right. Chris Cuomo, thank you very much. And that is going to be a crucial part of this evening. And of course, as Chris mentioned, we're going to be having addresses from Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, one of the first to criticize the Black Lives Matter movement, along with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark, who's been incredibly critical of that movement.

And David Gergen, that is a crucial part of tonight. He may leave the tough talking to others but there is going to be some incredibly tough talk in the context of what has just happened in Baton Rouge and what just happened in Dallas. Donald Trump has been -- and his speakers tonight, these are people who have criticized Black Lives Matter.

GERGEN: Absolutely. Even though it has had a bumpy start to the convention. I think he can turn it around tonight. If this is well organized. I think they scrambled to put together sort of law and order evening so they can cover the full range of issues that are out there. And this could be very, very well done. To come back to the Melania speech, I do think that's going to be the highlight of the evening, likely to be. It's worth remembering in the last Republican convention four years ago, the most memorable speech of the convention was by Ann Romney.

BURNETT: Oh, by far. Yes. Yes.

GERGEN: You remember that?

BURNETT: Yes.

GERGEN: She came out and told a story about her husband that we had not heard before. You kept wondering why didn't they tell us this before? You know? And it was really, very, very compelling. And Melania Trump has the chance, along with the children who are going to follow during the week --

BURNETT: Yes.

GERGEN: -- to tell us about a different Donald Trump even as, you know, he's going to remain tough but you like to hear about the story of compassion. What is the best story she has about Donald Trump? Show us who he is that's the story you would like to hear today.

BURNETT: And people are going to be interested by that and by all of the children.

GERGEN: Yes.

[19:21:01] BURNETT: And, and we're going to have much more because we have much more a preview of her speech is coming up. But Andy, this issue of Black Lives Matter. As you have protesters on the streets here, as you hear about what police officer are saying is an assassination in Baton Rouge, is going to be front and center. And the Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clark is a very controversial figure on this, he has blamed Black Lives Matter for what happened and for inspiring violence against police. Last night, he is going to speak tonight. Last night he spoke to Don Lemon. And I just want to play a very brief clip of that for everyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF DAVID CLARK, MILWAUKEE COUNTY, WISCONSIN: This anti-cop sentiment from ideology called Black Lives Matter has fueled this rage against the American police officer. I predicted this two years ago. So when --

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Okay. Sure.

CLARK: Do I want to know --

LEMON: With all due respect, do you know that this was because of that?

CLARK: Yes, I do.

LEMON: As a law enforcement officer?

CLARK: I've been watching this for two years. I predicted this. This anti-police rhetoric sweeping the country, has turned out some hateful things inside of people that are now playing themselves out on the American police officer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: He is going to be speaking tonight. He blames Black Lives Matter for this tragedies against police. Does Donald Trump condone that? DEAN: Well, I'll tell you first, we're talking about David Clarke, I

mean, he is an excellent police officer. And he is right that Black Lives Matter, their rhetoric is completely out of control. And what I think we're seeing from the White House is some sort of moral equivalents between Black Lives Matter and our police officers. And what I think Donald Trump wants the American people to know is that African-Americans are not under attack. In effect, African-Americans make up an equivalent amount of our police forces in America.

There are approximately 13 percent black population at the United States and approximately 13 percent of the police force. David Clarke is an excellent example of that and one of the tragic victims in Baton Rouge was a wonderful African-American officer. So, if this breakdown of law and order the Donald Trump is going to talk about and what I think Barack Obama, with his I think couch language, with all the equivalency with BLM and our police officers, which is flat out unacceptable.

SELLERS: That is absurd. I mean, this is what we're talking about. We're at a moment in the country where Donald Trump, David Clark, all of these speakers, on a night where were talking about making America safe again need to be bringing this country together. This type of language where you hint around, it's almost McCarthyite. Where you're talking about Barack Obama somehow condoning the slaughter of these police officers is the same language that Donald Trump used to say that somehow Barack Obama condoned when we had some Islamic terrorists in this country. And that is not the case. And I know you want to chime in.

BURNETT: No, no, no, I'm just chiming in so I can tell people what you're referring to. Donald Trump saying, I watched the President but sometimes the words are okay. That you look at the body language and there's something going on. That's what you're referring to.

SELLERS: Exactly. And this is the problem. Because David Clarke, Donald Trump, Michael, they have no solutions. So yes, they want to make it an attack on Black Lives Matter. But what we know is we had two young men, two African-American men who committed a heinous act, a tragedy in this country that should not have happened, they were definitely mentally disturbed. But they do not speak for the majority of African-Americans who feel a very specific pain, who are victimized on a daily basis.

DEAN: Correct. We agree.

SELLERS: I'm not done yet. I'm not done yet.

DEAN: Neither did the two horrible cops speak for the police force.

SELLERS: I'm not done yet. And that's my point exactly.

DEAN: Exactly.

SELLERS: Because if you're going to sit here and say that the officer who choked Eric Gardner or the officer that shot Tamir Rice and the list goes on and one and on, do not speak for law enforcement, then these men do not speak for me and many others who just want justice. And the fact of the matter is Donald Trump, until he realizes that African-Americans in this community, in this country had this very specific pain and are victimized the same way that law enforcement feel today because I pray for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling the same way I pray for those officers in Baton Rouge, Dallas.

DEAN: We agree on that.

BURNETT: Well, I hope that Donald Trump David Chalian will capture the passion and the emotion that Bakari has. Because he has an opportunity at this event and tonight others speaking for him, but to speak to everyone. Not just to police, to everyone.

CHALIAN: Yes. It's a really big opportunity two-fold. One, the predicate of Trump's campaign to this moment over the last year with the immigration issue and the wall, with the Muslim ban initially and now talking about banning people from countries that harbor terrorists, that actually -- he was laying a predicate on this law and order stuff before Dallas. And then once Dallas and Baton Rouge happened, this sort of compounded his message of law and order, and that there's a sense that were out of control and not as on top of our own security. He has that opportunity but he also has said we are a divided nation. Criminally divided, he said, after this weekend.

BURNETT: Right.

CHALIAN: And to me that's a challenge to himself to present himself as the uniter.

BURNETT: All right. And we're going to pause for a moment. Because next, as we're here in Cleveland in this special edition of OUTFRONT, we are inside the Republican convention, moments away from the opening speeches. Donald Trump bucking tradition, he will take the stage in the first day of the convention. He is on the ground here in Cleveland to introduce his wife, Melania. She is with him. Can she win over women? What will she say tonight? Our special report next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:30:09] BURNETT: We're back from the Republican National Convention here in Cleveland, live for a special edition of OUTFRONT.

Donald Trump arriving in Cleveland just moments ago. He is now in a car, on the way to where we are right now. The center of it all, the convention.

We are moments away from the opening speeches, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance. You're going to see the color guard take the stage behind me as the pomp and circumstance of Donald Trump's convention gets under way. Donald Trump, as we said himself, will take the stage tonight to introduce his wife.

Already today, we've seen chaos on the convention floor. A group of delegates mounting a last-ditch effort to stop Trump, and it was an explosive and historic moment.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton is speaking here tonight and he is OUTFRONT now.

And, Senator, thanks so much for being with me.

I have to ask you about that moment. I mean, it sort of in a sense here -- it felt as if it came out of nowhere. All of a sudden, you have the shouting, some of your colleagues, Mike Lee among them a part of this.

Are you concerned about this division, that this dislike by some of Donald Trump is playing such a front and center role at his convention?

SEN. TOM COTTON (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I think in the end, the Republican Party is going to come out here not only unified but also looking to expand a reach to independents and Democrats who want America to take a different path than what we have.

And I saw some of your reporting earlier with Senator Lee and Ken Cuccinelli, and they stressed that some of the opposition to the rules package wasn't about opposition to Donald Trump. They're just wanting to change the rules. That's a healthy debate for our party to have. We didn't have it tonight. We'll probably have it next winter.

BURNETT: So, a good way to put that aside. Let me ask you about tonight's theme, because you are speaking about it, keep America safe.

You are five years active duty, Iraq, Afghanistan. Why do you believe Donald Trump is the best person to keep America safe, all right? In a nutshell, why?

COTTON: Well, we know that Hillary Clinton isn't because of the failures of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy and Donald Trump has said that we need to focus on our core national interest, we need to rebuild our military, which has been badly reduced in terms of defense budgets over the last eight years, and we need to look out for the core national interest of the United States of America. We need to be tough once again in the world. We need to quit appeasing our adversaries and we need to stand with our allies.

BURNETT: All right. So, talking tough and acting tough can be two totally different things. It's much easier to do the former than it is to do the latter. He talked about his plan for ISIS this week, specifically, which I know is something you have spoken about in speeches on foreign policy, Senator. Here is what Donald Trump said he would do about ISIS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I am going to have very few troops on the ground. We're going to have unbelievable intelligence, which we need, which right now we don't have. We don't have the people over there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. We don't have the people over there. I' going to have very few troops on the ground.

Just last week, President Obama approved, as you know, another 560 troops to go to Iraq. That brings the total to about 4,500. It sounds like Trump isn't saying anything different than what Barack Obama is actually doing.

COTTON: I would disagree with that. One thing that he stressed throughout is that we need to hit the Islamic State harder and faster. What you just pointed out is how President Obama continues to make small, incremental changes every time there's a terrorist attack. But we should be making those changes all right now.

BURNETT: Donald Trump says I'm going to have very few troops on the ground. That's exactly the light footprint that Barack Obama has pursued.

COTTON: If we can have our allies, troops from countries like United Arab Emirates, Jordan, taking the fight to the regime in Syria, which I've been told by some of those leaders of those countries they would be willing to do if America would be more constant and more steadfast in our policy to ensure that we want to defeat the Islamic State and we don't want a Muslim Brotherhood government to replace Assad, they would be willing to bear more of the fight and we wouldn't have to have so many troops.

BURNETT: In your speech tonight, are you be giving a ringing endorsement of Donald Trump? In the past, Senator, I'll be honest with you, your support of him has been described, at best, as lukewarm. Are you now full heartedly behind Donald Trump?

COTTON: I'm going to say that I think that Donald Trump and Mike Pence, Republican Congress, will be able to better provide for our military and better keep America safe.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Cotton, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much.

COTTON: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: As we said, the senator is going to be speaking tonight in prime time here at the big event.

And headline speaker, of course, will be Melania Trump. She hasn't been seen much on the campaign trail, just a couple of interviews. We really haven't really heard from her at all, frankly.

It's such a big deal that Donald Trump himself is going to be introducing her. So, what will she say?

Sunlen Serfaty with a peek OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight is Melania's moment.

MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: He will be the best president ever.

SERFATY: For one night, Trump's wife will steal the spotlight away from her husband, who is the one used to being center stage.

DONALD TRUMP: I'll bet she gives a great speech. She's worked hard on it. I will be there. I want to watch. It's going to be very exciting.

SERFATY: While she was there for the launch of Trump's campaign, she is not a regular presence on the trail.

[19:35:04] MELANIA TRUMP: Hello.

SERFATY: And speaks even less frequently. When she does, it's usually for very brief remark.

DONALD TRUMP: Melania, say something. Please.

MELANIA TRUMP: Just want to say, an amazing place, South Carolina.

SERFATY: Melania's longest speech so far this cycle -- clocking in at 90 seconds.

MELANIA TRUMP: As you may know by now, when you attack him, he will punch back ten times harder.

SERFATY: Trump's oldest daughter, Ivanka, often fills the role of family spokeswoman, introducing her father at his presidential announcement instead.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: He is battle tested. He is a dreamer but perhaps more importantly, he is a doer.

SERFATY: But Melania Trump does play a significant role behind the scenes.

MELANIA TRUMP: He will be unbelievable.

SERFATY: Her voice carrying real weight with the candidate known for a tight inner circle.

DONALD TRUMP: She's a secret weapon.

SERFATY: Injecting herself at key times.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You don't try to change him?

MELANIA TRUMP: I don't try to change him. He's an adult. He knows the consequences. And so I let him be who he is. I give him my opinions many, many times.

SERFATY: And calling her husband out at moments of controversy during his campaign.

DONALD TRUMP: My wife called just before. She said, darling, would you please react presidentially? Be presidential. MELANIA TRUMP: The man who will --

SERFATY: Sources telling CNN Melania's main goal tonight is to soften her husband's image, her speech focused on the side of him that people don't get to see in public.

Her remarks offering a potential for a breakout moment like the one Ann Romney delivered with her prime time speech four years ago.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: That is where this boy I met at a high school dance comes in. His name is Mitt Romney and you should really get to know him.

SERFATY: A unique look at the personality of the presumptive GOP nominee that now falls to Melania Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: Oh, she's going to be a great first lady. I want to just tell you one thing. One thing I will tell you. She is beautiful, but she's more beautiful even on the inside. She's a great person and, boy, is she smart.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY: And Melania Trump has been working on this speech for quite some time, working with a speech writer for the last five or six weeks. She will be trying to stay on script tonight. She will be using a teleprompter. This is such an important moment for her, Erin. She is really reintroducing herself now as a potential first lady.

BURNETT: All right. Sunlen, thank you very much.

My panel back with me now.

Julie, she's been working with a speechwriter, you heard Sunlen say, five to six weeks. David Gergen said this is a moment for her to share a deeply personal anecdote about Donald Trump.

What is at stake for her tonight?

JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I think that clips that you saw in Sunlen's piece are almost the totality of what we've heard from Melania Trump throughout this entire campaign. So, first, there's just a curiosity factor. How does she perform in this environment? This is a huge stage for anyone, let along some who's not involved in politics and hasn't done this before.

Second, she has an important role here tonight. She really is the first person from the family that's going to be OUTFRONT, saying to the American people that there is another side to this man. This is why you want him in the White House, protecting your family. That's incredible crucial for her husband.

BURNETT: So, can she show the personal side of Donald Trump? And more, right? She is an immigrant. She will speak with an accent. She will show a side of Donald Trump that, frankly, a lot of people don't expect. ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm so happy I won't be the

only one with an accent in this entire hall. With the lack of immigrants here, I might be.

Look, I -- as you know, lightning might strike that I would say something good about Donald Trump, but I actually think it's very sweet that he's coming to see his wife and support his wife, because she's obviously outside of her natural habitat, outside of her comfort zone. And I think his being here lends support to her, tell her how important it is to him.

I do think she can do a lot to help him, because she seems to be very grounded. Though she is spectacularly beautiful, spectacular wealthy, she seems to be spectacularly normal despite those things. She criticizes h, husband, says he needs to be presidential, that she sometimes disagrees with him, that she doesn't like some of the words and tone he has used throughout this campaign and tells him so but that she lets him be who he is.

BURNETT: So, the question, David Gergen, is, she can help him tonight, there is no question. Could anything she says hurt him?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. If she seems elitist or wrapped up in her wealth, that would hurt him. I think it's important.

She cannot only help him but, remember, she's auditioning to be first lady tonight. This is the most important time she can have to introduce herself to the country. And there's going to be a lot of comparisons, what is it like to have Melania Trump versus Bill Clinton back in the White House?

[19:40:03] Interesting.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all.

And our special edition of OUTFRONT continues. We are moments away from the keynote speakers and from the formal kickoff here. You're going to see it live OUTFRONT.

And we're counting down to Melania Trump, Willie Robertson of "Duck Dynasty", all of those people, Rudy Giuliani on the speaker's list tonight. We're getting ready for the Pledge of Allegiance, the national theme, live here OUTFRONT, after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right. Welcome back.

We're now here on the floor. We're now here on the floor. My mike is very close to my mouth, because what's going on is they're getting ready for the call to order here.

Sean Spicer with the Republican National Committee is here with me.

Sean, this is obviously the big moment.

SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Right.

BURNETT: And I know we're going to have the call to order, we're going to have the Pledge of Allegiance, the national anthem. Today, what erupted on the floor, did it surprise you?

SPICER: Not really. We've known that there is a very vocal minority of delegates. We've been hearing about it for the last couple of months. We saw it in the rules committee last week. Every proposal they put up went down in fair order.

[19:45:03] So, we saw it again today. They tried to ask for a voice vote. It got voted down. They asked for a roll call vote. They needed seven states, they ended up with five.

So, I get it. It's over. We're on to the program. Melania Trump is going to take the stage tonight. We're going to talk about making America safe again.

BURNETT: So, the question I have for you, though, when you say it's over, it is a vocal group, right? And they're very passionate.

SPICER: They're loud but they're small.

BURNETT: And you have Mike Lee among them. You had Ken Cuccinelli.

SPICER: Right.

BURNETT: But you also have coming into this convention, 80 percent of the people in the GOP says your party is divided, 44 percent of them don't want Donald Trump as your nominee.

SPICER: All right. So, if you look at it, 44 states, 6 territories voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in the rules package today. And I think you're going to see that. When you actually look at the numbers -- that's what really matters. The overwhelming number of delegates that are here are excited about this ticket. They're excited about the selection of Mike Pence as vice president for nomination, and they're excited about beating Hillary Clinton.

BURNETT: Have you had a chance to talk to Donald Trump about his tone, about presenting an image of unity at this convention?

SPICER: Yes. I mean, I think there are three things that will come out of this convention.

Number one, I think people are going to learn a lot more about Donald Trump, the man. We'll see it tonight with some of the people that know him, have worked for him. His wife, Melania.

Two, I think you're going to draw a sharp contrast with Hillary Clinton. You're going to see that from some of the guys who will talk about Benghazi and Hillary Clinton's failed record as secretary of state.

BURNETT: Right. SPICER: And third, I think you're going to really see a lot of the principles of the Republican Party that I hope more people want to join our party and see the contrast with the Democrats in Philadelphia.

BURNETT: And what about Melania Trump? Have you had a chance to talk about her speech? We understand she's been working on it for over a month.

SPICER: I'm sure.

BURNETT: It's a crucial speech, right?

SPICER: Yes.

BURNETT: This is a moment where we talk about tryout for a first lady. It's humanizing a man who comes off often as very bombastic and loud. A lot is at stake.

SPICER: There's one thing that people always that they love about Donald Trump is his family. His kids, his wife, the way they speak to him, their relationship that they have with them.

And tonight, Melania is going to kick off what will be a week of the Trump family talking about their dad, him as a husband, him as a family man and getting to know more about the man behind the guy you see on TV a lot.

BURNETT: All right. Sean Spicer, thank you very much.

So, the ceremony and the program about to begin in just a moment. We're going to take a very quick break and we will be back with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:51:26] (PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE)

ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Marlana VanHoose who will perform the national anthem.

(NATIONAL ANTHEM)

BURNETT: And that was Marlana VanHoose, she was born without the ability to see. They thought she would only live to 1 year. And here she is, one of the singers of the year, singing here the national anthem at the Republican National Convention.

The festivities begin tonight and all the speeches, including Melania Trump and Donald Trump. Let's hand it off now to my colleague, Anderson Cooper.

(MUSIC)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening.

We are live in Cleveland, Ohio, and the arena where Donald Trump is promising an unconventional convention. To prove it, the Republican choice for president is breaking tradition by speaking to delegates and the nation, on this the opening night.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Welcome to the special edition of "AC360." The convention has just gotten under way. The first speech is minutes away.

And Donald Trump is on the ground in Cleveland right now.

[19:55:02] This is his big week, his big chance to present himself to America his way. Trump is expected on stage sometime after 10:00 Eastern tonight. He is here to introduce his wife, Melania.

As you might expect, we're told he will have more to say than just that.

Melania Trump is the headline speaker tonight, she's being showcased at this convention, along with Trump's children, to reveal more about his personal side. Now, this is a carefully planned celebration but it was briefly sidetracked earlier today. Anti-Trump delegates tried and failed to force what could have been an embarrassing protest vote. It was a remarkable public show of some of the party's division.

Here at CNN, we're watching all of this play out from a unique vantage point. I'll be here throughout the night, on top of our double-decker studio.

Wolf Blitzer is on the ground level to tell us about the themes and tone of this first night -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, right now, the nation clearly is on edge after police officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge and in Dallas, and after the third terror attack in France in 18 months.

Tonight, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other speakers will address voters' fears about their security, driving home tonight's basic theme, make America safe again.

There will be lighter moments as well at this unconventional convention. We're going to see an eclectic mix of Trump supporters, from everyday Americans to TV personalities. Speaking this hour, the "Duck Dynasty" star, Willie Robertson, and actor Scott Baio, best known for his role on "Happy Days."

Jake Tapper is here with me.

Jake, what is the message that the Trump campaign wants to get through tonight?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the theme of the Trump campaign is "Make America Great Again". And the theme tonight is "Make America Safe Again".

There are basically three groups of individuals speaking this evening.

First, we have people talking about national security, such as Rudy Giuliani, some members of Congress who served in the military and, of course, President Obama, former chief of the defense intelligence agency.

Then, we have people who will talk about immigration, keeping the border safe. In addition to Senator Jeff Sessions, we'll have family members of people who have been killed by undocumented immigrants. Three people who lost a family member and, of course, relatives of Brian Terry, the border patrol agent who died.

And then, lastly, I would call the group I'm going to refer to now as the validators. People who are not politicians. Scott Baio, by the way, you forgot "Charles in Charge," which is a gross offense. We'll talk about that some other time. Scott Baio, of course, Antonio Sabato Jr., Willie Robertson from "Duck Dynasty", ands most important, of course, the chief validator, Melania Trump.

BLITZER: She will be here during the 10:00 hour. And she will have a special person introducing her tonight.

TAPPER: Who could it be?

BLITZER: I wonder.

TAPPER: Who could it be?

BLITZER: Maybe her husband.

TAPPER: Perhaps. Perhaps.

BLITZER: Right now, let's take a closer look at the arena in Cleveland, where our political team is out in force, including Chris Cuomo and Dana Bash. They are on the convention floor.

Let's go to you, Chris. Pretty exciting out there, right?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, absolutely. You're hearing applause here. There was the presentation of the colors on the floor, the American flag, obviously, going to be the biggest celebrity tonight here at the Republican National Convention.

We just heard the invocation from Father Kieran Harrington. And he's a Catholic priest, who's very interesting, he mentioned the instruction of a Good Samaritan and to define who your neighbor is very broadly.

Now, that's interesting and it's not a coincidence. I just came from Baton Rouge, as you know. The country certainly is in the grip of the story and the tension that's going on and the need to move forward. It will be interesting how that's brought into play tonight.

There's something for everyone, Wolf. Willie Robertson is going to start us off of "Duck Dynasty" fame. He can speak to the America that Donald Trump wants to recognize at the convention.

BLITZER: He's going to be three minutes, Willie, in fact.

Let's go to Dana Bash.

We're all anticipating the Melania Trump speech later tonight, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Certainly, there is no question that she is going to be the most fascinating speaker to listen to. But what is most unusual about this night for a convention is that the presumptive nominee is going to not just be here to support his wife in her speech, but will actually be on stage, introducing her.

I am told that she very much wanted that to happen. This is not something that is in her comfort zone. And most spouses as they give this kind of speech, but particularly for her because she really has not been on the circuit speaking that much. And this is a very, very large audience, national and international.

And English is not her first language. She has been working very hard at this. But wanted her husband to be here and looking at history, I don't remember a time where the spouse has actually introduced.

But, you know what? It's Donald Trump and he knows better than anyone else. And the intro to his convention, pretty big ratings grab.

BLITZER: First night of this convention. I want to go to Jim Acosta. He's here in the hall as well, covering the Trump campaign.

You're getting more information. Jim, what are you learning?

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