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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Family-Owned New York Paper Endorses Trump; Sanders Picks Up Endorsement of Sitting Senator; Trump Feuds with RNC. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 13, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] KEN KURSON, EDITOR, THE OBSERVER NEWSPAPER: "The Observer" is a relatively small paper.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just helping you out here.

KURSON: We didn't sit down with Mr. Trump either but I did go to a substantive Cruz event. I've known Ted Cruz for a couple of years. We didn't get a chance to talk to John Kasich. But this was made based on what we see in the electorate hungering for more than what the candidate platforms.

BERMAN: No family involvement at all?

KURSON: No, no --

BERMAN: It's just hard for people to say the son-in-law owns the paper --

(CROSSTALK)

KURSON: No, of course --

BERMAN: -- it would be shocking to endorse someone else.

KURSON: Jared is Donald Trump's son-in-law, and it's just a fact, and Jared is a member of our editorial board. He's one of the six of us. On some issues, it's more equal than others. There are member who are more into the environment or historical preservation. Jared and I, in particular, care about politics. We debated this like we debated any other but this was a pretty clear choice for us.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You were involved in the writing of his AIPAC speech that he gave in Washington. How involved were you?

KURSON: Almost none. There was a draft that came to me. Israeli affairs is something I really care about. I looked it over, said this looks really good, and that was it. You know, I had no idea of the furor two, three weeks later, it would cause two or three weeks later when "New York" magazine reported that I had looked at it but it was no big deal.

BERMAN: In that speech, Donald Trump called for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, which is a law but no president has acted it out since it was passed into law in the '90s. Paul Manafort, who is now running the convention operation for Donald Trump, "The Daily Beast" reported that in the 1980s he lobbied on behalf of Saudi Arabia to keep Congress from passing a law requiring the embassy to move to Jerusalem. Is that a source of concern for you?

KURSON: Well, if you're asking my personal opinion, I disagree. I think the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem. I don't know Paul Manafort. I've never met him, to my knowledge. I have no idea what role he's playing in the Trump campaign. But if you're asking my personal opinion, if your viewers care about my personal opinion, I believe it should be in Jerusalem.

BERMAN: Should it be a political issue? Should it be an issue for the guy running everything for Donald Trump, worked to keep the embassy from moving to Jerusalem?

KURSON: As far as "The Observer" is concerned, we've never endorsed a candidate with whom we agree 100 percent. It's fun to say here's 100 issues and you endorse the guy but here's 10, 15, even 30 that you don't agree with. We don't get to build these guys out of spare parts like the "Terminator." I don't know exactly where Donald Trump is on that issue. He said in the AIPAC speech that he favored moving to embassy to Jerusalem. As you know, everybody says that. George Bush said it and Bill Clinton said it. It's not getting done. I don't know if it's going to be as big of a priority as I hope that it would.

BOLDUAN: What do you think the state of affairs are as far as Donald Trump and RNC are in the middle of a feud? Donald Trump saying that Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself, and Reince Priebus tweeting back, "Give us a break. The rules are the rules." Do you like seeing this?

KURSON: I don't, and I don't on either side. I think there's a whole -- in Wyoming, Bernie Sanders wins by 11 points and ends up getting -- out of the 18 delegates, he gets seven and Hillary Clinton gets 11. On both sides, there's a real feeling among Americans that even though this is party politics stuff, not a constitutional process, there's disenfranchisement. You have this principle that whoever gets the most votes should get the most delegates, rather than in Colorado where there was no vote and, all of a sudden, one of the candidates walks out with 100 percent of the delegates. I do think there's a lot of anxiety among the rank and file in both parties. On the Republican side, a lot of people feel, if there's a contested convention, especially some guy comes in that didn't go through this brutal process of facing off on others, could suddenly be the nominee. I think that smacks of back-room deals that people don't --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: There's a lot of people learning about this process now, asking a lot of questions, things they didn't know about.

Ken Kurson, thanks for coming in. Really appreciate it.

KURSON: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much. The man who claims he will not be the Republican nominee now giving

his take on who he thinks should take that nomination. House Speaker Paul Ryan's new comments on a potential contested convention. That's ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, happening right now, Bernie Sanders is on a picket line joining Verizon employees who are stating a protest over their wages. I'm going to bring that to you live, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:38:51] BERMAN: All right. I want to show you live pictures now from Brooklyn, New York. You can see him right there. That is Bernie Sanders. What is he doing? He was just walking a picket line with Verizon workers who went on strike this morning. They are out over the issue of wages and jobs they feel have moved overseas. Some 36,000 Verizon workers, up and down the east coast, off the job. Bernie Sanders out in Brooklyn showing solidarity with him.

He often talks about his support of trade unions. Today, he picked up the endorsement of the New York Transit Union. In a way, these are two union events in just one day.

BOLDUAN: He also picked up another key endorsement, his first endorsement from a sitting U.S. Senator, the Senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley.

And Manu Raju, our political reporter, spoke with Merkley about that endorsement.

This is key. This is the first sitting Senator to back Bernie Sanders.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. 46 have actually endorsed Hillary Clinton. He became the first. I asked him was he surprised about that. He said, well, maybe if other Democrats had a chance earlier and did not actually commit to Hillary Clinton earlier, they would be considering endorsing Bernie Sanders right now.

But he said the main issues that drove him towards Bernie Sanders was his position on climate change, on campaign finance and on trade issues, and he made very clear the reason why he's backing Bernie Sanders is that he's the one person who has been leading the charge on these issues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:40:35] SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D), OREGON: Certainly, we're fortunate to have two candidates on the Democratic side that have experience in common positions but it's Bernie Sanders that I'm endorsing because he has been in the battlefield fighting clearly on these issues in a way that I think is the boldest, most powerful voice. I think the math is an uphill climb. The delegate math is an uphill climb. But my point is, I want to lay in on the side of the leadership that I think is the type of leadership that is the best possible leadership and where we need to go as a nation. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So Jeff Merkley is making this decision because he's heard a lot in his home state of Oregon about Bernie Sanders.

Their primary is coming up soon. He wants to influence the outcome of that race. I asked him, are you concerned about any backlash from the Clinton camp, particularly if Hillary Clinton does become the nominee. He said he has not got any word back from them yet but that is certainly possible. Hold out here is Elizabeth Warren, a like-minded Senator, a liberal just like Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders, won't that actually help your cause? He would not go there. He said that's Elizabeth Warren's decision, but it's very clear that's where folks on the left hope she gets behind Jeff Merkley, and it shows how folks are skeptical and not really willing to get behind Hillary on the progressive side of the Democratic side of the aisle because of some of her positions like trade that Jeff Merkley highlighted in our interview -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Merkley very careful in that endorsement, taking pains in that op-ed to compliment Hillary Clinton. Very, very interesting.

Manu Raju, thanks so much.

RAJU: Take care.

BERMAN: Next, it's pretty impressive for the Republican front runner now officially in a war of words with the chair of his own party. Why Donald Trump now says the Republican National Committee doesn't want him to win, and how the Republican Party is responding.

BOLDUAN: Plus, new developments in the shooting death of former NFL star, Will Smith. At any moment, an autopsy result will be released which could have a major impact on this case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:46:45] BOLDUAN: The love/hate relationship between Donald Trump and the RNC is certainly not feeling the love right now. Donald Trump calling the nomination process a disgrace, a scam, saying it's all stacked against him. The party chairman, Reince Priebus, firing back saying, "Give us all a break."

BERMAN: Joining us to discuss is CNN political commentators, Kayleigh McEnany, a Trump supporter; Amanda Carpenter, a former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz; and Matt Lewis, senior contributor for "The Daily Caller" and author of "Too Dumb to Fail".

BOLDUAN: Again, my autobiography.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: We're talking about the fight between Donald Trump and Reince Priebus. There was someone else who got involved with the process yesterday, Amanda. It was Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, who said, swore, he's not going to be a candidate for president at the convention. But he also said a lot more and the way he said it was interesting. I want to play a little more of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The rules committee, the assembled delegates, will decide what the rules are, but I would encourage those delegates to put in place a rule that says you can only nominate someone who actually ran for the job.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Speaker Ryan, does that mean that you think that only the three candidates remaining will be the party's nominee?

RYAN: I'll leave it up to the delegates to decide that. I think, honestly, I really believe, if you want to be president, you should run for president. And when we select a nominee, we should be selecting among people who actually ran for the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: OK, Amanda, this was a guy who chooses his words very carefully.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: He very carefully there opened the door to the possibility that the convention could nominate someone other than the three guys currently in the race. Didn't he?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. There's only 17 people to choose from.

(LAUGHTER)

But listen, I think Paul Ryan, he does have to run the convention. He has to set some guidelines. What I think he probably meant is someone who had delegates but he did leave it wide open. I think the consensus is going to be a candidate who is still competing. But Marco Rubio was talking to Mark Levin maybe we should have a debate at the convention. There's a lot that could happen there. Maybe there's a Cruz/Rubio alliance versus Trump/Kasich. Anything could happen. Only people with juice on that floor are going to people who have delegates on their side.

BERMAN: Marco Rubio has got more than John Kasich right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: He's still ahead of him on the delegate count.

Let's talk about that interview because it was very interesting, speaking of words matter and choosing them carefully. Here's Marco Rubio.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want the Republican nominee to be a conservative and, in my view, at this moment, of the candidates still actively campaigning, the only one that fits that criteria is Ted Cruz.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: John and I differ on this. I want to get your take. The fact that Rubio says the candidates that are still actively campaigning, actively campaigning, underline, underline, the only one that fits that criteria is Ted Cruz. Is he choosing his words carefully?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. He's a lawyer. It's not a full-throated endorsement.

BOLDUAN: Clearly, not.

(LAUGHTER)

[11:49:47] LEWIS: But I think Ted Cruz is the mainstream conservative and I think he's the most conservative left.

But I want to say something about Donald Trump's attack on the RNC. I think he's wrong. I think it's inappropriate. The Republican Party allows state parties to set the rule. Some of them have caucuses and open primaries, some have closed primaries, some are proportional. Some of them are predictive. If you have a caucus versus an open primary, that could be a benefit to one candidate or the other. When they say it is a rigged and Republican Party is calling the shots. Look at South Carolina. He got a third of the vote in South Carolina but 100 percent of the delegates. So, yeah, it's a weird --

BOLDUAN: That happened in New York, too.

LEWIS: It's a weird archaic system, but it doesn't mean Reince Priebus is calling the shots on this.

BERMAN: I want Kayleigh to respond to that.

But I will get back to the Rubio Ryan conspiracy theory. I'm not going to leave that.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: But, Kayleigh, South Carolina is a good example. Donald Trump benefitted by the process there.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. But what he is talking about is the fact that North Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado cancelled the vote of the people. Yes, the states are empowered. No state should be able to cancel the vote of the people. I want someone to explain to the American people why it is fair to cancel the vote of Colorado, North Dakota, explain not the rules are the rules are the rules but why they are just. No one has given me an adequate explanation --

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Why is it that Donald Trump got a third of the vote in South Carolina? But got 100 --

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: No one can answer the question.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Donald Trump got all of the delegates in Florida.

BOLDUAN: But the RNC says you have to have your allocation rules and your plan in to us by October 1, 2015. You get it in October 1, every candidate has access to the rules. You can see how every state plays it out. Ted Cruz read the rules and played it out. I know you don't want to go there, but Donald Trump has prided himself, the base prides himself on using the rules to his favor in his business life. Now that he didn't, won't, refused to, didn't read the rules, it is rigged against him. He has to take responsibility.

MCENANY: He is still winning. More than 200 delegates ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: Because the system is unfair and he wants people to have a voice. The RNC, it is their job to empower the people, not --

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: It is the RNC's job to franchise the voters not disenfranchise. They should have set a rule that no state should be able to cancel the vote of the people.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: So RNC should impose a top down, command-and-control, force local and state parties to comply with their rules.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: Why not empower the state Republican parties to set the rules? Maybe they want a convention, a caucus, an open primary, to let them allocate --

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: No, you're complaining about the states' rights. State rights about the legislature working in the state. Those are voted by the people, not empowering --

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: I know you are personally invested in the process but Donald Trump to be an effective president has to learn the rules.

(CROSSTALK)

MCENANY: And he's winning. He's winning. CARPENTER: Hold on a second.

Let's forecast it to a general election. If Donald Trump doesn't have ground game who understands, Hillary Clinton is going to kill him. Barack Obama opened field offices in 2008 that are still open. Donald Trump is just now getting around to doing that step in California. He has to put in the work.

MCENANY: He's beating your candidate, though. He has won more than double states than your candidate. He's beating your candidate --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I have a question. Isn't it possible, is it possible there are two questions here. I don't think that anyone will answer your question directly, Kayleigh. Isn't it possible the rules were clear and some of the systems set up stink. Right?

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I think that is what Kayleigh is asking. Can someone say maybe it would be better if Colorado did have a convention?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Can anyone honestly say it is a good idea to change them in the middle of the game.

BERMAN: That's a different question. That's a different question all together, and it may be Donald Trump, by bringing it up again and again, is trying --

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: There could be reform after this. You could have Republican states pressured to make it more democratic.

But there's a ton of things in our system that are archaic and odd, in some cases, by design. I'm not saying the founders designed a Republican primary, they didn't. But look at the electoral process. Al Gore won the popular vote and did not become the president. Look at North Dakota, it has two U.S. Senators, 700,000 people in the state, and they have the same number of Senators as California. A lot of weird things that doesn't sound good unless you sort of --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Wait.

In the limited amount of time left, I want to find out if you want to go back to Rubio or --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I think, if you'll humor me for a second here, when Rubio said the most conservative candidate actively campaigning, here's a guy that uses his word carefully, he's actively campaigning, Amanda. I call shenanigans.

CARPENTER: Listen, Marco Rubio sees there is a choice between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Conservatives will support Ted Cruz. He isn't ready to endorse someone. It was a rough-and-tumble primary. He saw his political life dissolve before his eyes. I'm willing to give Marco Rubio a tiny space. I think it is a big step for him to say Cruz is a conservative candidate that conservatives should support.

[11:55:12] LEWIS: I have heard from some Rubio loyalists and I think they are deluded, who are holding out hope.

(CROSSTALK)

LEWIS: They are.

BOLDUAN: I think he is saying it is a bitter pill to swallow, he couldn't take it.

MCENANY: He has the Oval Office in his eyes. If he can take advantage of the rules, make his way there, he will do so.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Kayleigh McEnany, Matt Lewis, Amanda Carpenter, great discussion. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Ahead for us, new details in the death of the former NFL star, Will Smith. Autopsy results will be released any moment, and Smith's father tearfully speaking out about his son's death. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FATHER OF WILL SMITH: I'm going to miss his smile, demeanor, his thoughtfulness for other people. Great young man an outstanding citizen, a person that cared about other people. That was my job as a parent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)