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Interview with Ken Cuccinelli; Chaos Consumes GOP Convention Floor; Democrats More United Than Republicans, Says New Poll; Baton Rouge Officers Assassinated. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 18, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KEN CUCCINELLI, TRUMP DELEGATE MANAGER: People who legitimately obeyed the rules. To get a roll call vote. This is disenfranchisement, dare I say.
[17:00:09] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let me ask you, a lot of people out there, a lot of politics observers suggesting that the reason that you and Utah Senator Mike Lee, two Ted Cruz supporters, although I know you're voting for Donald Trump. I'm not sure what Mike Lee is going to do, by the way. But that this is an opportunity for you to created a closed...
CUCCINELLI: Let me stop you again. There are people in our coalition -- we add a Trump delegate at our rules coalition. We had Kasich delegates. We have Cruz delegates. And we have people who never committed to any candidate. This is not a former Cruz effort. We had people on our team that were not on the cru team.
TAPPER: You're way ahead of me. Let me just explain: The idea is to close the primary process from independents, from Democrats, from other people who aren't Republicans so that a conservative can such as Ted Cruz can win in 2020, 2024. You're saying this is not part of that?
CUCCINELLI: No, there is about decades of growing establishment power in the rules. And having an opportunity, or so we hoped, to have all of these -- more than we'd ever had -- anti-establishment delegates in this hall.
And I venture to say that, if more of the Trump delegates knew the whole story, they'd be voting with us. But we don't have the opportunity to deliver that message. And I understand it from a Trump campaign standpoint. What I do not understand is the RCN violating its own rules right here and decimating its own grassroots four years after that demoralized large swathes of the Republican base.
TAPPER: So I asked Rudy Giuliani, who was just here.
TAPPER: America's mayor. Big supporter of Donald Trump. He said, after we played some of Mike Lee talking, he said this is why Donald Trump won. This kind of inside the beltway obscure rules debates, and instead of talking about how to protect the country from terrorism; how to get better trade deals, how to bring more jobs to the United States.
CUCCINELLI: What we are talking about here, getting grassroots conservative rules is not inconsistent with -- look at what happened to the platform. You had more conservatives on the platform committee, and the Trump folks basically got all the things they wanted on trade and immigration, which I don't have any qualms about. That's fine. And you didn't see us resisting this. We saw a lot of conservatives assisting in that effort.
So why did they suddenly turn on us here in rules along with Reince Priebus and the RNC? And it was to decimate the grassroots and make sure that the grassroots did not permit, can't get power away from the establishment.
TAPPER: Well, the Republican National Committee response might sound something like this: Having a roll call vote on the rules would allow individuals to offer amendments...
CUCCINELLI: Mm-hm. Mm-hm.
TAPPER: It would not?
CUCCINELLI: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It's a straight up or down vote.
TAPPER: Straight up or down vote?
CUCCINELLI: Straight up or down vote.
TAPPER: On the rules?
CUCCINELLI: On the rules.
TAPPER: And you were going to vote no on the rules?
CUCCINELLI: I was going to vote no on the rules because of the centralization and power within the party. And the completely ignoring and abusing the grassroots.
TAPPER: And you think that your side would have lost, though?
CUCCINELLI: Look, let's face it. Whenever you're going up against a presumptive nominee when they teamed up with the party, your odds are long, but you don't win any fight you don't get in. And they didn't even let us get -- take a try.
TAPPER: My point...
CUCCINELLI: We didn't even get to vote, Jake.
TAPPER: My point is by saying no, that you were trying to add amendments, you're kind of acknowledging that your side wasn't going to win, because...
CUCCINELLI: No, it's not, because...
TAPPER: If your side won you could offer amendments.
CUCCINELLI: If we had won, the rules would have had to go back to the rules committee, and then would have been the opportunity for a compromise.
TAPPER: Right. And then people, not you, but others saying unbind the delegates...
CUCCINELLI: There was never -- there was never going to be in that rules committee an unbinding compromise. That was not on the table.
TAPPER: You say it would never pass, but there would be a vote, and the point is for the RNC...
CUCCINELLI: But there was a vet Thursday.
TAPPER: Yes, but we weren't covering it. There weren't millions of TV cameras around it at the time. And my point is that the Trump forces say this is just an attempt to embarrass us and make it seem like there's disarray and there's no support for Donald Trump.
CUCCINELLI: You know, we actually had an agreement with the Trump RNC team. They were, a Trump RNC team in negotiating over the rules with the grassroots conservatives. Not the unbinding people. They weren't part of the discussion. OK? And we came to an agreement. And then RNC backed out of it, and they backed out of it, interestingly, over this bonus for incentivizing states to have closed primaries, which Reince Priebus is on the record, in concept, supporting. So he pulled out on something he supports.
And then on the Trump side, we were trying to fix the things he said were rigged. And he's right. The selection committees in Florida, New York, Indiana, we put in amendments to get rid of them. They whipped against us. How does that make sense?
TAPPER: Well, if nothing else, you brought some excitement to my hour of television, 4 to 5.
CUCCINELLI: If things get boring, you can always draw cartoons.
TAPPER: Every -- every time you want to do this, do it between 4 and 5.
[17:05:05] CUCCINELLI: No, we -- this -- this is the last thing I wanted to see here. This is really unfortunate.
TAPPER: You thought -- you honestly thought that they were going to allow a roll-call vote?
CUCCINELLI: Why wouldn't they? The easiest thing -- look, we had the...
TAPPER: Because it would have sent rules back to the committee.
CUCCINELLI: Well, they were so sure they were going to win.
TAPPER: But I'm saying that, if your side had won...
CUCCINELLI: Yes. Then the rules committee reconvenes and everybody else keep doing their business. It's in the rules.
TAPPER: I'm guessing that their argument is, if we had done a roll call vote instead of a voice vote, if we had done a roll call vote, then that would have demonstrated disunity at the Republican National Convention.
CUCCINELLI: So trampling the people who obey the rules doesn't?
Another important piece of this is even after the RNC polled the agreement that existed, an omnibus agreement, they love those, right? We came back to the table and kept negotiating to try and achieve a peaceful solution to this.
But again, the unbinding people were not at the table. This isn't -- it wasn't that we were advocating unbinding or advocating binding. That was not part of our discussion. We were advocating fixing primaries, getting rid of the rigged parts of the system, which do exist. And those were all shot done. And those olive branches were spurned.
TAPPER: Last question.
TAPPER: Somewhere in a Trump Tower or somewhere else, Mr. Trump is watching us. He's seeing Mike Lee and Ken Cuccinelli leading this effort to create disarray at his convention. That's his perspective, not yours. And he's thinking, those are Cruz supporters.
What do you want to say to him? Should Ted Cruz still be given a speaking opportunity at the convention.
CUCCINELLI: Well, we had nothing to do with Ted Cruz.
TAPPER: He had nothing to do with this?
CUCCINELLI: Absolutely nothing. Jeff roe is probably having a heart attack somewhere, you know, because people like you would ask that very question.
TAPPER: I'm trying to get to you clarify.
CUCCINELLI: It's a legitimate question. I'm just saying there is -- he wasn't consulted, we didn't talk to him. He didn't know what was happening today. They haven't been involved in any of this.
So you know -- and I would point out the only reason that Senator Lee and I were at the microphones. He had asked them to recognize a lady from Washington state. You heard the chairman at the beginning say you have to turn these in in writing beforehand to be acknowledged and so forth. All of that was done as they requested. And there was a regular grassroots delegate ready who was ready to make that motion. It only takes one when the petitions are filed, as per rules. TAPPER: Yes.
CUCCINELLI: And they wouldn't recognize her. When Womack was looking over there, and you know, I'm in the middle of the -- I'm in the middle of Virginia, and Washington is way off in the left corner. So I'm looking at Womack, and I think he's looking over that way, and I thought OK he's going to -- he's going to recognize her. He's going to recognize her. This is great. And...
TAPPER: Womack was the guy on the stage.
CUCCINELLI: Yes. Congressman Womack was in the John Boehner position of 2012. And he didn't. They dragged West Virginia in to some other motion that was out of order.
TAPPER: Very interesting, Ken Cuccinelli. We appreciate it.
Mr. Trump, if you're watching at home, Ken said that Ted Cruz had nothing to do with that. So don't hold it against him.
CUCCINELLI: And your guys should have been better negotiators. You should have been here Thursday. I'm sure it would have gone...
TAPPER: That's from Ken, not from me. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
That's it for "THE LEAD." Thank you to the generosity of Mr. Blitzer and Mr. Cooper, who allowed us to go over. I throw it to them right now.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello from the Quicken Loans Arena where suddenly, just a few moments ago, a last-ditch "stop Trump" rebellion erupted, and so did the convention floor.
Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. Anderson Cooper is standing by. He'll join us shortly. So does the Trump campaign -- the Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He's with me right now, as well. He'll be joining us. But let's begin with exactly the kind of moment that conventions used to be known for: outcries from the floor. Arm- twisting back stage. Intrigue, uproar. You name it, and we just saw it.
It happened when the convention rules came up far voice vote. Anti- Trump forces, some of them also Ted Cruz supporters, trying to have their say. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection, the previous question is ordered. The question is on adoption of the resolution. All those in favor say aye. All those opposed, no. In the opinion of the chair the, and the resolution is agreed to. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.
The chair would remind the hall that it is absolutely critical that we are able to discern the ayes from the nays. Those in favor of the rules package will say aye.
Those opposed shall say no.
In the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our CNN political director, David Chalian.
This was quite a moment, David. We anticipated something would happen, but this was a very, very contentious moment on the floor behind us.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It was and entirely unscripted, which is not the way we are used to conventions going these days. But let's be clear on what happened here.
Last week -- I just want to take us back to last week for a moment, when the convention rules committee was meeting. We had to take about three different buckets that they were looking at. When it comes to delegates here, there were two different efforts. One was to unbind the delegates. They're not bound by state primaries and caucus results, and they can just vote, and they could determine them unbound. That failed. That was going anywhere. The Trump forces were able to crush that.
Then there was this effort of a conscience clause, that you could just vote your conscience. That failed. That wasn't going anywhere either.
There was also this effort that you just heard Ken Cuccinelli talking about, these forces about changing the primary calendar for next year and getting some different rules in place for how the party select its nominee. That also failed.
So none of these were going anywhere. What happened here today is that the entire rules package, as voted out of those committees, with none of those pieces in place. What you saw is some of those forces coming together to try to force a full roll call vote on the floor to turn down that whole rules package, because they don't like the way it came out of the committee.
Here's the thing. What you just saw was a display of how together the Trump campaign and the RNC are these days. They were successfully able to take an effort where they tried to get signatures from nine states or so.
BLITZER: Seven states.
CHALIAN: Minimum of seven, but they got nine. The anti-Trump forces.
BLITZER: They needed a majority.
CHALIAN: Exactly. They beat them back to only six states so the chairman went up there. Paul telling me five. So the chair went up there, and said, "We now have an insufficient amount." That was his success of not allowing a roll call vote.
Even if there was a roll call vote, the Trump forces had this lined up. They were going to overwhelmingly crush this effort. But what happened here was this unscripted moment that just caused some chaos. And I look at it as, like, a last gasp of the anti-Trump forces where the performers and the party that don't like the labels try to come together and force a change, even though it's not in the cards.
BLITZER: It was a very, very dramatic moment, indeed.
Paul Manafort is with us, the campaign chairman. I want to get to that. I want to get all of your thoughts on this in a moment. But Dana Bash, she's also behind us at the convention. I want to bring in Dana.
Dana, you were there. You watched it all unfold so dramatically. I had the chance to speak with them who were making this case for this roll call vote. Go ahead. What was it like?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It was incredibly dramatic, and I just want to underscore what David Chalian was just reporting, that just in getting the sense from the people here who are trying to push that roll call vote, it was as much about trying to kind of guide the future of the party and make it more conservative as it was about the sort of last gasp, as David said, of the "never Trump" movement. Both of them were quashed.
But I want to bring in Ken Buck, who is from the Colorado delegation, a.k.a. supporter of Cruz.
And I want to ask you. You were behind this, was kind of a quiet effort which just exploded on the floor, to try to get a vote here which would have allowed you to change the rules. From your perspective, were you doing it to stop Trump or were you doing it to try to help a Ted Cruz or a Ted Cruz-like conservative for the next election if Donald Trump, assuming Donald Trump does not win?
KEN BUCK, CONVENTION DELEGATE: Well, I will support the Republican nominees. I have nothing against Donald Trump and will support him if he wins. But what I was trying to do was to get a roll call vote on the rules package so we could have closed primaries in the future. That's what I felt strongly about.
BASH: And for people who might not know what that means, what you're effectively trying to do is make it so that the process by which a Republican nominee is elected through the primaries is only done by people who are registered Republicans, not independents or swing voters. And your point is to make sure that the nominee is a conservative, correct? Or more conservative that you believe someone like Donald Trump is?
BUCK: Well, I think a Republican should choose a Republican nominee. Democrats should choose a Democratic nominee. And so the point is that we want closed primaries so that we have a nominee that represents the Republican Party. [17:15:09] BASH: Now, I was just talking to a Republican Party source
who said that the reason they were able to quash your effort and get several of the states who had said that they would go along with you to pull back, because they were hoodwinked. That they didn't realize that many of them were "never Trump" people, and they didn't realize what they were signing onto was a process that you're describing to try it make the party and the platform and the process in the future more conservative. Is that a fair assessment?
BUCK: Well, I don't think anybody was hoodwinked. If the RNC wanted to do this properly, what they should have done is to name the nine states that had signed up and then named the three states that were withdrawn. That would be a transparent way of telling the delegates that they had gone through the right process. Instead everything was done in secret, and I think that's unfortunate.
BASH: OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
And what you see here is a lot of talk about kind of the weeds of the process here. But it is clear that the party isn't united.
However, it is also important to note that the Trump campaign, working hand in glove with the Republican Party was -- they were able to stop this in a very public manner, but they were able to stoop this effectively an insurrection on the floor.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, stand by. We have some breaking news that we want to report. John King is with us.
John, very disturbing information. What are you learning?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, a hiccup on Mr. Trump's plans to come here to the convention tonight. Paul can tell you more in a minute about his plans to introduce his wife tonight.
But we're told by a Secret Service source, and we now have the Trump campaign confirming that there was some sort of a motor vehicle accident involving Mr. Trump's motorcade as he was moving from New York City out to the airport to come here. We're trying to get details, but we're told by the Trump campaign it was a staff car. Trying to get more information from the Secret Service. By all accounts, just described as a motor vehicle incident, and we have no information at all at the moment.
BLITZER: But the indication is Mr. Trump is fine?
KING: Fine. Yes. The campaign has checked when we asked them about this incident. They checked and said, yes, he's absolutely fine. It's a staff car; happens every now and then, as you know.
KING: And especially in New York City, driving motorcades. We've had the experience in the past. These things happen. But we'll try to get more information.
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman. What can you tell us about this incident?
PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: What I'm hearing is that he everything is fine. Mr. and Mrs. Trump are on the plane and on the way here.
BLITZER: They've already boarded their aircraft. They're flying to Cleveland. But they're OK? Anybody else injured in that motorcade?
MANAFORT: I'm told no one was injured.
BLITZER: I'm told it was just an accident. OK. So we can move on in.
MANAFORT: That's right.
BLITZER: OK. That's good to know.
Let's talk about what just happened here moments ago on the floor. What's your understanding of this -- this lively, contentious debate that we just saw?
MANAFORT: It's a convention. Actually, David defined it really well.
MANAFORT: Yes. He defined it very well. This was not about Trump. The conscience vote and the unbind vote were defeated handily. No reason to have that again. The signatures that were collected in the states were based on rules that related to the party, not just for 2020 but governance rules, as well.
And frankly, Mr. Trump said during the course of the campaign he wants to make changes to the rules that govern the primary in the next cycle. But we made a decision that it's not a good idea to change the rules that affect the future at conventions that have been in. Let the RNC pass rules that are thought to, end up being mistakes or don't have unintended consequences.
We created a commission, and that commission will take effect sometime in January 2017 and then will report back in a period of time with rules changes.
So we have no problem with the rules as they were. And -- and what you saw today was just some people wanting to play politics with the rules.
BLITZER: You see these people who are leading this fight, for this roll call, and what they needed were a majority of the delegates in seven states. But you say they didn't have that?
MANAFORT: No. They only have five. There are four petitions that were withdrawn, not three.
BLITZER: Was this Ted Cruz related?
MANAFORT: I don't think it was Ted Cruz related, because some of the people told us that they were signing the rules are big supporters of ours. And -- and a number of people who took their names off of the list when they found out this would affect the convention like everything else were able to do it if they were supporters. This -- the Trump campaign has nothing to do with this.
I should note, though you won't call it very exciting, we ended the convention on time today.
BLITZER: They went into recess on time before 5 p.m. Eastern, which is what they were supposed to do.
But it was a lively moment, you have to admit, when he was calling for the actual voice vote. It seemed close to me just sitting here on the floor.
MANAFORT: No, we probably had 1,900 votes on the floor. At least.
BLITZER: Well if there had been a roll call, you definitely would have won. But it would have prolong this effort for a while. They would have had to read the names of all the delegates.
MANAFORT: It would -- it would have been a meaningless gesture. We knew the result. Everybody knew the result. And it would have affected the schedule for tonight. So it wasn't something that is in question.
[17:20;16] BLITZER: Senator Mike Lee of Utah, he was among those who wanted that roll call. Has he formally told you that he's going to vote for Donald Trump?
MANAFORT: I haven't talked to Senator Lee in a couple of week now. So I'm not sure what his thinking is. I know he was one of the ones that had legitimate concerns about rules.
And I think that his motivations today are probably not related to presidential politics but more related to rules of the party and he was a champion of grass roots. And there are some rules that he wanted to change and, frankly, that Mr. Trump wants to change but in the right environment.
BLITZER: Tell us about the thinking about Melania Trump, the wife of Donald Trump. She's going to be speaking tonight. How did that decision come about?
MANAFORT: She wanted to speak. As we started to put the program together, I was talking to the Trump family, and they were asking about members of the family speaking. And I said sometimes they did and sometimes they don't. I would like you all to speak, because I think you all have a story to tell that hasn't been told in the campaign so far.
BLITZER: What is that story?
MANAFORT: They have the stories of who their father is and what kind of man he is. You see one part of Donald Trump in the campaign. That's a legitimate part of who he is. But you haven't seen him, really, as businessman, father, the compassionate human being that a lot of his friends and strangers who he's helped understand him to be. The family helps us communicate that message.
BLITZER: I guess all of the children will be speaking, except for Baron, his little boy, but all the four other kids will be speaking over the course of the next few nights.
MANAFORT: That's correct.
BLITZER: And this is something that Donald Trump clearly is anxious to do, as well. So he's on the flight now. He's coming here. I take it he will introduce his wife tonight and make a, quote, "surprise" appearance.
MANAFORT: I don't know how surprising it is on television. He's tweeted, as well. But originally, he was going to be watching. Then he said, "No, I want to be there." And then he decided, "I want to introduce her." It's his convention.
BLITZER: Is it going to be a long speech, short speech?
MANAFORT: I'm not sure. But I'm sure he will say what he wants to say, and then get off the stage.
BLITZER: Donald Trump, you never know. Paul Manafort. Thanks so much for joining us. You have a lot of work to do.
Campaign chairman for the Trump campaign.
We have to take a quick break. There's a whole lot more to talk about, from the floor fight to the speakers list to Donald Trump's journey here to Cleveland. Melania Trump, she's going to be speaking, as well. All of it coming up.
And also the security concerns here in Cleveland. Safety concerns for police officers nationwide after Baton Rouge and Dallas. You're going to see what police are doing to stay safe and why it could keep them all, keep all of us safe, as well. We'll be right back.
[17:27:13] BLITZER: We're back here at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the Quicken Loans Arena. There was excitement within the last hour or so. No shortage of breaking news from Donald Trump. There was a motorcade accident, as well. He's OK. Apparently everyone else in that motorcade is OK. We've just been told he's on his flight, together with his wife, flying here to the convention.
Anderson, there's been some serious excitement, especially on the floor.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it's quite a convention already, the likes of which we have not seen for quite some time.
Let's quickly go back to Dana Bash with the RNC communications director, Sean Spicer -- Dana.
BASH: That's right, Anderson.
And Sean, I just want to kind of get from you, from your perspective, people watching this on TV and, frankly, a lot of people here on the floor, were quite confused about what looked like disarray. First of all, that the chair, coming out and calling for a voice vote.
SEAN SPICER, RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Right. Which the ayes had it. It was clearly won by them, and there was actual...
PERINO: So why did he come back and do it again? Because there were -- it was unclear?
SPICER: To make sure that he actually went through the process properly. Checked with the parliamentarian. You need a majority of seven states.
So they lost the voice vote. It was very clear from everyone in the hall that the ayes had it. They went back and did a -- there was a request for a roll call vote. You need a majority of seven states. What happened was they submitted nine states. But what happened was, as people realized what was actually being asked of them, three of those states lacked -- ultimately lacked the majority of people took their names off of those petitions, because they didn't reflect what they thought they'd actually signed. So then it dropped below that. It went to only six states, and that didn't carry the ability to have a roll call vote.
BASH: Effectively, I want to get to what this means for the party. But effectively, what my understanding is that people in the sort of in the movement with Ken Buck, who was just here, other conservatives trying to set the process in motion for the next election.
So that it is -- it makes it so that a conservative would be more likely to be elected, because only Republicans would be in -- allowed to vote. But they used that as a way to get people in the anti-Trump movement that didn't want that as a result. So they basically co- opted them.
SPICER: Actually -- but look at what the rules actually did, right? So rule 40 that everybody was animated about earlier in this process that had been changed in Tampa to require eight states, because it was previously a plurality of five, was rolled back.
Reince Priebus led the effort to make sure that the grassroots had that say to make it easier for people to get on the ballot going forward.
So that roll back in favor of supporting grassroots efforts was done in the rules committee. Further, there was a lot of effort to do things that would have been pleasing to the roll call vote. Some of those folks that were out here today were people that rejected a deal that would continue to give the grassroots more -- more strength. And that's sad.
But, you know, there is an effort to continue to strengthen the rules back.
[17:30:07] BASH: So you guys won. You were able to squash the rally. But I think -- but I think my question is, this has not happened in a very long time. The kind of public -- Not like this. On the floor.
SPICER: No, no. The Paul people walked out. You guys carried it live. There is always a small tiny fraction...
BASH: This is more than small.
SPICER: The reality is, let's keep this in context. Forty-four states were in support. Most of the -- all the territories. So this is a tiny, tiny group of folks that made noise. They started in the rules committee, as you know. They did get a single minority report. They lost the voice vote, and then they were asked to demonstrate support here and lost that again. So they've lost three times in a row. The overwhelming majority of delegates today are unified, ready to go, and ready to support this ticket. That's back end.
And the rules package that just got passed is probably the most grassroots-friendly rules package that's been passed in two generations.
BASH: Sean, thank you so much. Anderson, back to you.
And Sean is explaining the reality, but reality, as you know, and optics sometimes clash. And I think it's going to be something you're going to have to explain over and over again because of the display that we saw on the floor, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, it was fascinating to watch. The reaction on the floor. Dana, thanks very much. Sean as well.
Here to talk about what happened, I want to introduce our panel: chief national correspondent, "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor John King is with us; senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson; XM Radio host and anchor of CNN'S "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish; and chief political analyst Gloria Borger; also CNN delegate analyst, former senior RNC official, Mike Shields; Trump supporters Jeffrey Lord and Scottie Nell Hughes; former Republican Michigan congressman, Mike Rogers. He's also former -- former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, currently our national security commentator and host of "DECLASSIFIED" here on CNN.
John King, let's start off with you. Just in terms of what we have witnessed on the floor, it's now in recess. What exactly happened? Because a lot of the folks who had been interviewed, Mike Lee, Ken Cuccinelli, are saying, look, this wasn't about Donald Trump. Are they right?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Yes and no. Obviously, it's Donald Trump's convention, and they were asked to do this in a different way. They were asked to do this in an orderly way. They were asked to do this down the line, and they decided to do what they did, knowing that if they succeeded or even just having some pay-offs at the very beginning of the convention would be somewhat of an embarrassment to the Trump campaign.
Most of the people involved are Ted Cruz loyalists. Most of them are trying to change the rules to make it a more Republican primary process. Fewer independents. Let me put it this way, a more closed primary so independents and Democrats can't vote down the line.
COOPER: So that a more conservative candidate would have a better shot down the road.
KING: Let's be honest, when they were starting this effort, part of the effort was to try to unbind the delegates. They realized they didn't have the vote. It began as an effort to try to strip the convention, take control of the convention away from Donald Trump, try to deny him the nomination.
COOPER: And unbinding the delegates, just to explain to our viewers, would allow delegates to essentially vote their conscience.
KING: Vote for whoever they wanted to. That's where it started, and then they realized as they got to the opening day, they didn't have votes for that. So they then at least wanted to throw some gum in the system and have a state by state roll call on the rules, which would have dragged this out. We would still be here, No. 1. The time for the primetime program would go off the rails.
So you can look at it as an effort by conservative grassroots people, most that don't support Donald Trump, to give him a poke. Or look at this this way. It's the first big challenge at the Trump convention and Trump forces took control there today. They took some of their people aside, and they said, "You signed those petitions. We need you to go in there and say, 'I want to take my names off those petitions'."
And it was a little ugly, and it was unruly. Some people say it wasn't democratic, but it worked for the Trump campaign on the first day of their convention. And so you look at it two ways. If you're the Trump campaign and you expect there might be a couple more of these because there are people in this hall who don't want you back, don't want Donald Trump as nominee, the Trump campaign says, "Hey, OK. They challenged us. We won. Move on."
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is an indication of what a different kind of convention this is going to be. We always complain that conventions are scripted, and there's -- there's no real news in them. I mean, this is the most drama on stage since Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair at the last convention, right?
And -- and I think this is an indication of the lack of unity of this party and the fact that there are some people on edge, and the fact that the Trump campaign and the RNC, by the way, are firmly in control of this floor right now.
But I wouldn't be surprised if we saw some more eruptions, you know, over the course of the next few days. Because this is a different party. It's not united. And it's going to be a different...
COOPER: And Mike Shields, you're our delegate expert. Were you surprised by what you saw? How do you see it?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN DELEGATE ANALYST: I wasn't surprised. First of all, it is frustrating when people -- there are rules that are in place. If you want to have a vote, you can get seven states. You can get over half the delegations to do it. They didn't have the votes. If it was really a Cruz floor and, you know, they are in favor of doing this, you'd have 50 states that would have...
[17:35:03] COOPER: Supporters have said that they had more states and that they'd like to see who actually withdrew. That they actually haven't seen the details.
SHIELDS: Right. But you wouldn't need that if you had over majority of delegates. And so what happens is, by the way, I was frustrated with the Trump people saying this during the primary part: the rules are rigged against us. Whatever -- wherever you are in the rules depends on whether or not you're winning.
And the fact of the matter is, this is the open process. People could have -- the Cuccinelli folks submitted amendment after amendment after amendment for hours on end in the rules committee, and they lost all the votes. And so they wanted to come to the floor.
I think part of this is a strategy. This is a Cruz sort of wanting a Reagan '76 convention coming out of this. Right? So he's going to give a speech, and he wants to win over the delegates and say, "Wouldn't you rather have nominated me?" And they want to walk out of here saying, "We got rolled by the establishment. We got -- you know, this wasn't fair; it wasn't democratic," Which is factually not the case. I mean, they followed the rules and they lost.
COOPER: Jeffrey, is this the last gasp of the "never Trump" movement?
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Yes. It's over. It's over. One of the things I wanted to say, I was involved in 1984 in -- as part of the White House team helping to write the Republican platform. There was a mammoth controversy, and that was a convention where everything was sweetness and light with Ronald Reagan.
We got into this mammoth battle with pitting Bob Dole against Newt Gingrich and Jack Kemp over raising taxes and the language in the platform. It was huge, and it was finally resolved with a comma. I can't remember the exact sentence, but we put a comma in there. That calmed everybody down.
All I want to say here is that these kind of things can happen. Is this a little different? Sure. But this is a political convention. This is what these things are for. And, you know, Trump has got control of this convention. He's the nominee.
COOPER: But Scottie, I mean, it does seem like this is a sign of the RNC and Trump forces worked very hard for several hours, I think, on the floor to make sure that this didn't go anywhere.
SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. And you can thank the 14 million people that helped vote in the primary election to sit there and force the RNC and the Trump delegation work together.
I would caution, though, in saying this was the conservatives that led this. Let's remember, in the primary, the majority of conservative states went for Donald Trump, the majority of evangelicals. All that stuff. This is a very small group. These are usually the people that were supporting Ted Cruz, who might, we thought, Donald Trump bringing on Mike Pence as his vice-presidential candidate, we thought that might actually appease them.
I'm thinking Ted Cruz is going, "Wait a minute. That guy with the same amount of voting record I have, staple standards, didn't make as many people angry." So I'm wondering if they're going, "Maybe this Pence would automatically, possibly move us from president."
COOPER: So Chairman Rogers, is this just a small group, or is this not a unified party?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: A, I think it was a crushing win for Donald Trump on the floor. In these big political battles, remember the House of Representatives every two years goes through this, normally behind closed doors. Everybody fight about the rules. The door is opened. Everybody forgets about it in 24 hours. I think you're going to see that here.
But this was interesting to me. This was a single movement that did not represent conservatives across the country. It represented somebody who had a candidate that they wanted to put in place, both protect them in the convention here and then later in 2020. Matter of fact, my home state, we even had a delegate go to the Virgin Islands to seek residency to become a delegate, to push for this coup. And I think...
COOPER: Have we seen -- I mean, Nia-Malika, have we seen a convention in which so many former presidents who are part of this party who are not coming? Or, you know, even up and coming people from the party are not attending?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. I don't think we've seen that before. But this is going to be a different kind of convention. I mean, if you think about the lineup tonight, I think the headliners are obviously going to be Donald Trump and his wife, Melania.
But we've got the guy from "Duck Dynasty." We've got Antonio Sabato Jr. We've got the guy from "Charles in Charge," Scott Baio.
COOPER: Scott Baio.
HENDERSON: I think he was Chachi, as well. So I mean, it's sort of a where...
COOPER: Like you -- like you don't know.
HENDERSON: I know. You know, where are they now from the '80s and '90s. So -- and this is what we've come to expect, I think, from Donald Trump. In talking to people on the floor, in some ways they don't know what to expect. Some of them know that Donald Trump is going to be here, that Melania is going to be here. But they don't know sort of the bevy of people from diverse backgrounds in some ways.
COOPER: Well, it's also fascinating, Michael, that Donald Trump is actually going to be on the stage speaking tonight to introduce his wife.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Right.
COOPER: That is a complete break from, you know, I always remember conventions sort of the night before...
COOPER: ... the candidate speaks, he appears at the convention. And it's a moment. To actually, on the first night, have the candidate speaking, that's...
SMERCONISH: I have a vision of my head of 1980, maybe it's '84, of Ronald Reagan waving at the television set as Nancy gives a speech.
SMERCONISH: And the arena erupts, because the closest you get to the Gipper is to see him on television.
I have a different interpretation of what just transpired. I know what I heard. The "aye" vote was a vote for Donald Trump. The "nay" vote was a vote against Donald Trump. And on that first vote, there was such confusion they had to do it again.
Now, if the "nay" votes are synonymous with people who are not happy with him being the nominee of this party, then it tells me there's a lot of discontent in this hall. I'm sure that Melania will be very well-received tonight. I'm going to be playing close attention to see how well-received he is when he first comes out.
COOPER: But it's interesting, though, because then publicly, you have a lot of the people -- a number of the leaders who are voting "nay" saying, "Oh, no, no, no, this isn't about Donald Trump at all."
BORGER: Right. Well, there -- it is about Donald Trump, because they're disrupting his convention. Right? And they know exactly what they were doing.
COOPER: Paul Manafort says, "Look, this isn't the place or the time to talk about rules for the next time around."
COOPER: We'll do that after all is said and done.
BORGER: Right. Because as Manafort says, we think the rules are rigged, too. You know, they didn't like the caucuses. Cruz did very well in the caucuses. They'd like it change that, as well. This is the place to talk about the rules. You may disagree with me,
right, but isn't this the place to talk about the rules? I think it is. It is where you have your convention delegates make the rules for the...
HUGHES: But isn't that in a rules committee? Not necessarily on the floor...
BORGER: But -- but to get the...
HUGHES: ... in front of all the television cameras.
BORGER: But to get back to Anderson's, you know, question. This was about Donald Trump, and it was also about 2020...
HUGHES: Ted Cruz.
BORGER: ... and setting it up for a more conservative candidate.
COOPER: John, I know we've got to go to break.
KING: And yet, I asked Paul Manafort downstairs, "Will you take revenge against Ted Cruz? Will you pull his speaking slot?"
He said, "Absolutely not." He says, "This is what happens. It's a convention." To Jeffrey's point, he said, "It's over; we won. All is good."
COOPER: Ken Cuccinelli also made a point on camera, saying this is not Ted Cruz telling us to do this. This has nothing to do with Ted Cruz.
BORGER: Said he didn't know.
COOPER: For the record.
Just ahead, Hillary Clinton spent day one of the Republican National Convention in Cincinnati speaking at NAACP's national convention. What she said. Plus new polling tonight, showing the Republican Party more divided than the Democrats. We'll see that and we'll have the panelists reflect on that, if it's true or not. We'll be right back.
[17:46:24] BLITZER,: Welcome back. Over the next four days, Donald Trump and his allies will be aiming a barrage of attacks at Hillary Clinton starting tonight with her handling of Benghazi. The Clinton campaign says it's ready. They've set up a rapid response team in Cleveland to defend -- to defend her from expected attacks.
As for Hillary Clinton, she started the day in Cincinnati today speaking at an NAACP convention.
The race is tightening in Ohio and several other key battleground states. But when it comes to unity, a new CNN-ORC poll shows that Democrats have an edge. 35 percent of Democrats say their party is united. 40 percent say it's divided but will be united in November. 24 percent say it's divided and will stay that way. Just 60 percent of Republicans say their party is united. 52 percent say it's divided but will be united in November. 28 percent say it will stay divided.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is joining us now with more on the secretary's day, an important day today for Donald Trump but also Hillary Clinton is not simply abandoning the stage.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: She is not at all, Wolf. She is here in Ohio as well in Cincinnati about five hours south of where you are. And Hillary Clinton making the case that she is going to fight hard for Ohio. Starting by speaking at the NAACP convention trying to rally President Obama's coalition of voters, those African-American voters that supported him by going after Donald Trump hard, saying that he has tried to de-legitimize the first blast president.
She, you know, reprised this whole controversy over questioning the president's citizenship. So, Wolf, striking that she was addressing the NAACP today. Donald Trump of course invited to that meeting. He did not choose to attend.
BLITZER: As you know, Jeff, the secretary also had an appearance at the University of Cincinnati today. What was her message there?
ZELENY: That's right, Wolf. It was an organizing event and she was trying to rally Democrats here in Hamilton County. Arguably one of the most important battleground counties in all of America here. Now she was trying to urge these Democrats to actually pay attention to the convention, to pay attention to what Donald Trump is saying and doing in Cleveland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A lot of Americans are upset about that. And they are asking what can I do, what can I do, to stop this dangerous divisive candidate from getting within a thousand miles of the White House. Well, I can tell you, it is not enough to yell at your TV screen. It is not enough to send a nasty tweet. That is not enough. You have to get registered and get out to vote in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: The Clinton campaign focusing, Wolf, this week on registering some three million African-Americans starting that effort here in Ohio and across the country. They believe that is key to November.
Now, Wolf, she's also -- as Republicans are meeting, she is nearing the end of her vice presidential search. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio at her side today. He's one of those listed as her potential picks. She'll be campaigning in Las Vegas tomorrow and then making her final decision before an announcement likely on Friday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jeff, thanks very much. Anderson, over to you.
COOPER: Wolf and Jeff, thanks very much. Back with our panel.
Mike, do you believe that the Republican Party is as divided as some of the Democrats believe it is?
SHIELDS: I think there's work to do. I think that we came out of a bruising primary and I think that you have seen the numbers. The poll numbers show that Donald Trump has work to do. I think he can --
[17:50:02] COOPER: Does Governor Pence help with that?
SHIELDS: I do think he helps. I do. I think that he eases some fears that some party regulars have, both evangelical type Republicans, mainstream Republicans. He can bridge a lot of different kinds of Republicans but I think the main thing is what's going to be said on that stage on Thursdays night. I think that is the opportunity. Trump is going to be speaking to this audience. He speaks to the audience wherever he goes. He sort of plays with the audience. His audience is the Republican Party across the country and these delegates that are on the floor. And he's got to win them over. And that's the point of having a convention, is to bring the party together and leave united. And it's up to him to do it.
LORD: Yes. Yes. I mean I think this will work out very well. I think that -- I was a Newt person but Donald Trump has chosen --
COOPER: But how does Governor Pence really help Donald Trump unify the party? I mean, he's the vice president whether --
LORD: Because --
COOPER: You know, I mean, he voted differently.
COOPER: He believes in different things than Donald Trump does.
LORD: The differences that we saw down here on the floor are coming from the -- exactly the folks that would like Mike Pence. And --
COOPER: But you've argued in the past that people don't vote for the vice president.
LORD: Well, I think that is true. I do think that's true. I'm just saying that it helps bring the party together. But in terms of the election itself, I'm skeptical of that at this point.
LORD: I just don't -- I just don't think that vice presidential nominees do it.
HUGHES: Except I think this entire week, because you're dealing with someone who's never been in office before, therefore does not have a track record, I think this entire week is about building confidence in Donald Trump and his administration. I think that's why you see such a variety of people that are going to be on the stage. I think you're going to be looking at -- I think Mr. Trump is using some of these speakers to introduce him and say, these are the kind of folks that I will put around me, possibly in my own administration, my own Cabinet. I think that's why some of these names have purposes, why we're going to be listening to them.
COOPER: But, Chairman Rogers, isn't Donald Trump, just as Hillary Clinton arguably is, a very known quantity? I mean, don't people have opinions sort of formed already?
ROGERS: I do. But I think this particular convention can be very, very important for Donald Trump. You're going to -- this is gone now. Tomorrow will be a new day on this floor. You're going to have a whole new panel of speeches. When Joni Ernst and real rising starts in the Republican Party take that stage tonight, today is gone. And by Thursday, you're going to find a Donald Trump that -- is likely to gain more unity, more strength and they're going to clearly define. It's either Donald Trump, folks, or Hillary Clinton. That is a very strong message when you have two candidates have such high negatives.
BORGER: You know, Donald Trump has two-thirds of Republicans with him already. Mitt Romney who lost had 92 percent, 93 percent of Republicans who voted for him. So he has a little bit of work to do with the Republican Party and that's what he's going to do this weekend.
SELLERS: But Hillary Clinton's convention will unite the Republican Party, maybe even more.
COOPER: Let's toss it back to Wolf -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now on that story that we've been watching very much -- a story very much on people's minds here in the United States, indeed around the world. The killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The theme here tonight at the Republican convention, keeping America safe. For the latest, let's go to Louisiana right now. Brian Todd is on the scene for us in baton Rouge.
Brian, what's the latest you're learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some riveting detail from state police officials about how the killer operated from behind these buildings. A lot of media gathered here. These are the buildings where the killings took place of the police officers yesterday. The Be-Quick Mart right here. And we're told by officials that the killer moved behind these buildings luring police officers back there and killing three of them back in that area. Three of them together, all in the same area.
They've spoken with that kind of detail but they've also spoken with great emotion about how diabolical this attack was. Here is the governor, John Bel Edwards, a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (R), LOUISIANA: This was a diabolical attack on the very fabric of society. And that is not what justice looks like. It's not justice for Alton Sterling or anything else that's ever happened in this state or anywhere else. It's not justice for anybody. It's certainly not constructive. It's just pure, unadulterated evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And one key detail that we're learning from police officials tonight is how the killer was taken out. We're told by police officials that as he made his way to the front of these buildings here, he was shot by a SWAT team from about 100 yards away. The police chief of Baton Rouge Carl Dabadie saying that he is convinced that this killer had he not been taken out of that moment, would have gone down the street.
And if you look at this, we're going to zoom down the street just a little bit here. If you see the Tan Building over to my right, your left, that's the Baton Rouge police headquarters. The police chief Carl Dabadie saying he is convinced this killer would have gone to police headquarters and taken out more officers.
Back to you guys.
BLITZER: Chief of police in --
BLITZER: Hello, again, from the Quicken Loans Arena here in Cleveland. I'm here with Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Donald Trump arrives shortly at nearby Lakefront Airport. His trip delayed by a motorcade accident. No one hurt there.
We begin, though with the loud and boisterous rules battle that played out late this afternoon -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How those pro-Trump forces eventually managed to carry the day.
Anderson, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection, the previous question is order. The question is on adoption of the resolution. All those in favor say aye. All those oppose no.