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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Ken Cuccinelli Talks GOP Delegate Fight; What Democrats Need to Do to Win N.Y.; New Battle over Democratic Fundraising. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired April 19, 2016 - 11:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:33:11] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ted Cruz has moved on to the next primary states, Maryland yesterday, Pennsylvania tonight. He's hoping to continue to sweep up delegates and stop Donald Trump from doing the same.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Trump has brought on fresh blood to try to turn around his delegate game, but he does continue to cry foul all the same about what he calls rigged system and the corrupt rules in the delegate system that are working against him.

Our next guest is directly in the middle of that fight.

Ken Cuccinelli, he's the former attorney general for Virginia, and is also leading the Cruz campaign's delegate operation.

Great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.

KEN CUCCINELLI, TED CRUZ FOR PRESIDENT: Yes, good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: So how about these three words -- lying, stealing and bribing. That is what we heard at the top of our show from Trump campaign's Tana Goertz. She says she's seen bribing firsthand on the part of the Cruz campaign in trying to win over delegates. What do you say?

CUCCINELLI: You know, I call foul and B.S. I was on opposite Paul Manafort of their campaign Sunday and he made similar allegations and George Stephanopoulos said, well name one example. He couldn't name a single example. Well, their Gestapo tactics include Donald Trump calling for violence in the streets, their team threatening intimidation of delegates at their hotel rooms, releasing their hotel rooms, death threats to the Colorado GOP chair, threats of frivolous lawsuits from Manafort against individual delegates and about credentials, so they are doing these tactics while accusing others of doing them. We're just building a grassroots campaign that's built on Ted's vision for greater opportunity and freedom, and it's inspiring people to come out, and it's how we're winning.

[11:34:56] BERMAN: You're just asking people nicely to line up and support Ted Cruz? Come on. I mean, the reason that they have you doing this is because you're good at it, lining up delegates. How are you twisting arms? I'm not saying there's anything illegal, but there's got to be some art to convincing these delegates to line up behind you.

CUCCINELLI: No, no, look -- when you ask a question that way, your bias is naked to everyone watching, so let's get down to facts instead of your bias. We ask people nicely.

BERMAN: No, I'm just saying you're playing the game well.

CUCCINELLI: Well, I appreciate that. That's not how you phrased your question. We are asking people nicely. You know what the goodies we're promising people are? That you have their constitution back, and they can have economic growth, and a plan to actually execute it, and a candidate who can go head to head and defend it. Donald Trump won't even debate these issues because he can't debate them. Ted Cruz has a plan to expand freedom, to create opportunity across America with a tax plan that wipes out special interest power. He has a plan to return security to this country, and we have a president where that's desperately needed to be improved. Donald Trump can't debate any of these things. Those positions, based on principle, inspire people to come out, they inspire them not just to vote but to work and to make those phone calls, and yes, ask other voters nicely to come support Ted Cruz.

BERMAN: So we agree. I'm glad you said that.

BOLDUAN: You both agree that you're asking people nicely, that's wonderful.

CUCCINELLI: Oh, good. I'm glad we agree.

BOLDUAN: When we spoke to Tana Goertz during the show, just a short time ago, she said that she wanted to get clearance from Donald Trump, because she saw tactics firsthand that pointed to corruption and to bribery and that she would come back on this show and tell us, and what you're saying is that you have no concern that she has any evidence of that?

CUCCINELLI: No. This is just more outrageous charges from the Trump campaign. She doesn't have to get permission to talk about facts. She doesn't have facts. All they have is this banana republic intimidate voters rhetoric that they've actually been using around the country, and frankly on live television, and it isn't working. Frankly, it's ticking delegates off. If there's any not-nice tactics going on here, the Trump people are pushing delegates away from themselves and to us because of their, frankly rough and unprecedented Gestapo tactics.

BOLDUAN: Ken, I've got to tell you, I'm going to use that move so many times from now on. Thank you so much for joining us. Looking over your shoulder. You don't have a monitor so you didn't see it.

(LAUGHTER)

Ken Cuccinelli, good luck with the delegate game. We'll be watching closely. We appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much. Coming up next -- look over your shoulder, John Berman -- both

campaigns on the Democratic side will be joining us live on what each has to do tonight to consider New York a win.

This is CNN's special live coverage.

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[11:42:24] BERMAN: At this very moment votes are being cast across New York state. The Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they are making their final push.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk more about this with chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Joel Benenson, joining us.

Joel, great to see you again.

JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: Great to see you.

BOLDUAN: Give us the number. Give us the magic number for you guys. What is the margin you have to hit so Sanders can claim a moral victory?

BENENSON: I don't think he can claim a moral victory when we win because his campaign said, he said, this is a must-win state for them. There are no moral victories in politics. You have to win. You have to win politics. Build your delegate lead, which is what we'll do here tonight.

BERMAN: But if it's like Iowa, if you win by less than 1 percent, 2 percent, 3 percent, you can't tell me it's going to be a nice feeling around Brooklyn headquarters tomorrow.

BENENSON: I think winning at this point given the size of our pledged delegate lead is what we need to do here. We want to win so some breathing room. I think we'll do that. Your count has us at 229 pledged delegates to our advantage, and anytime we build on that and take over 200 delegates off the map, it just makes the climb for Senator Sanders steeper.

BOLDUAN: I want to get you to weigh in on what's really happened in the last 24 hours. Sanders' campaign sending this letter to the DNC questioning the use of joint party campaign donor dollars, fund- raising dollars. And this is one of the lines from the letter saying that you guys have serious apparent violations of campaign finance law. That's a serious charge. What do you say?

BENENSON: I say the same thing that I said this morning, this is a last-minute, desperate charge coming from the Sanders' campaign. It's a false attack. We've signed an agreement just like previous Democratic nominees have, just like Senator Sanders has, and we live by those agreements, and the fact of the matter is that what happened in the last 24 hours and it's unfortunate, Senator Sanders has abandoned the kind of campaign he's going to n. He's dispatched his operatives. He himself is making charges here and running a more negative campaign every day because it's a state they put a marker on and said it's a must-win state and they know they're going to lose today.

BERMAN: There are questions raised in this lawyer's letter which some campaign finance experts say, look, there is a gray area right here. Apparently there are people being paid who raise money for Hillary for America for the Clinton campaign proper. They're getting paid by the Victory Fund and money that -- much bigger donations can go there. It seems to be a gray area.

BENENSON: Look, I don't know what the gray area is. I'm not a campaign finance expert. I believe our campaign acts within and by the letter of the law. I think this is a kind of innuendo and insinuation that's just like what Senator Sanders has been doing in New York about Hillary Clinton and wall street and claims because if you take money or if you give speeches, you won't stand up to wall street, and when he was asked on the debate stage last week if he could name a single incidence where she was influenced by any money or took a stand in favor of wall street as opposed to against them on a debate stage standing next to her, he couldn't name it. It's really time to stop campaigns run on insinuation and innuendos and let's run on issues, which is what Senator Sanders said he would do.

[11:45:34] BOLDUAN: Joel, you have been around a long time. You've been in campaign for a long time --

(CROSSTALK)

BENENSON: Are you saying I'm old, Kate?

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: No, I'm saying you are young and you started when you were 5. Are you concerned this could stick though? If it's desperate, if it's innuendo, all the things you say though, it's politics.

BENENSON: I'll tell what you I'm really concerned about. When Senator Sanders got into this race Tad Devine made clear he's running as a Democrat, he's not running to be a spoiler or to be another Ralph Nader. I'm concerned we're getting into the final stretch here and Senator Sanders I understand he may be a little disappointed and frustrated. I think he has a decision to make here. Is he going to run as a Democrat or is he going to become a Ralph Nader when we face the stakes and the likes of defeating Ted Cruz and Donald Trump out there. Is he going to help Democrats not just win the presidency but up and down the ticket rather than say things and do things that are aimed at weakening the party and painting a broad brush against any Democrat -- a broad brush against any Democrat who is not with him or isn't in lock step with him on every issue.

BERMAN: Joel Benenson, thank you for being with us. We'll talk to you tomorrow.

BENENSON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: The next chapter of the Joel Benenson show. Great to see you, Joel. Thank you so much.

BENENSON: That you.

BOLDUAN: Bernie Sanders hoping for a huge turnout and a dramatic upset tonight. Can he pull it off? We'll speak live to the Sanders campaign manager. He will be responding, coming up next.

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[11:50:50] BOLDUAN: The Bernie Sanders campaign is hoping to extend his winning streak today. The New York native has won -- born and raised here -- has won eight of the last nine contests, but Hillary Clinton is still ahead on the delegate count.

BERMAN: And while there's a battle going on over votes and delegates in New York, there's a new fight over campaign fundraising and all of the rules.

Joining us to discuss the Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.

Jeff, thanks so much for being here.

JEFF WEAVER, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Thank you.

BERMAN: You heard Joel Benenson, chief strategist for Hillary Clinton, he said his concern now is Bernie Sanders is serving as a spoiler in this campaign. He invoked the name Ralph Nader. He said his concerned it will be a Ralph Nader campaign. The implication, Nader somehow allowed the election to be stolen from Al Gore in 2000. He's saying Bernie Sanders can allow the campaign to be stolen from Hillary Clinton.

WEAVER: That's a ridiculous analogy given that Ralph Nader was running at a third-party candidate and Bernie Sanders is running in the Democratic primary process. I don't know why the Clinton campaign objects to having every Democratic voter across the country have an opportunity to have their say in this process. Why are we going to cut out California, New Jersey, and other states? Why do those voters not get to have a say?

BOLDUAN: He pointing to this letter regarding violations of campaign finance law. What he says is baseless, it's ridiculous. And he says that this comes down to innuendo, and tactics your campaign promised it would not take on at the beginning of your campaign.

WEAVER: Look, this is what they're doing with the joint fund raising agreement. They're getting big checks. Most of the money is supposed to go to the DNC, and instead, they're using the big checks of money that the Hillary campaign could not receive, because it's over the federal limit, and using that to churning it into a low-dollar fund raising program, which only benefits the Clinton campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: It doesn't only benefit the Clinton campaign. Doesn't it raise money in low-dollar amounts for the Victory Fund?

WEAVER: But the Victory Fund, the first $2700 goes to the Hillary Clinton campaign goes to the Hillary Clinton campaign and then the rest goes to the DNC. So if someone sends in a $200 contribution, it goes to the Hillary Victory Fund. Right? And let me tell you, Bernie Sanders campaign is funded by online donations and directly. You don't get $2700 online donations. You get $27.

BOLDUAN: If this is such an apparent and serious violation of campaign finance law, what it says in the letter, why send this to the DNC? Why not go directly to the FEC?

WEAVER: Because the FEC, because of its deadlock, it's a dysfunctional organization. They would not render a decision on this until way after the campaign is long over and, even then, it might be deadlocked.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: But to respond to the suggestion that this is just campaign tactics -- and some folks describe it as a late hit that shouldn't be happening at this point in the game.

WEAVER: It's time because the latest FEC report came out from the fund raising committee and had more information. "The Washington Post" wrote some part of the story three months ago but didn't have the latest FEC filings that just came out, and that's why we had this additional information --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: No late hit?

WEAVER: It's time because that's when the FEC reports came out. I don't have any control over that.

BERMAN: New York State, do you need to win? Bernie Sanders says he'll pull off an upset victory. If you don't pull off an upset victory, is that a disappointment?

WEAVER: We would like to win everywhere. But we have a path to victory. We have a path to get more pledged delegates than the secretary. It does not require us to win every state. There's no particular state that has won. We have to win a majority of states going forward. There's no must-win. Look --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: But you could be further from the goal. You admit you could be further from the goal tomorrow and actually it could go in the wrong direction.

WEAVER: Since March 15th, the Senator has cut the secretary's delegate lead by a third. She was way over 300 delegate lead and now down to about 200. That lead is going to continue to go down as we go through the process. BOLDUAN: What is the margin where you claim moral victory here? What

do you want to keep it to?

WEAVER: We like to keep it low as possible.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: What's low? Double digits? Single digits?

WEAVER: It's about delegates. We would like to maximize the amount of delegates. That's really what it's about.

BERMAN: We keep talking about late hit. When you heard Joel Benenson talk about Ralph Nader, some think Bernie Sanders has every right to run, as the Clinton campaign, but he is hurting Hillary Clinton in a way that she won't be able to recover from if she's the nominee.

[11:55:09] WEAVER: That's assuming she is going to be the nominee. What about the hits on Sanders? If he's the nominee, right? Bernie Sanders has the support of millions of people around the country. What about his viability in the general election? We all know is better than the secretaries. He polls much better against Republicans than she does in almost every poll.

BERMAN: Jeff Weaver, thank you so much. Good luck today. Big fight. A hard fought battle here in New York. Unusual.

Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Joe.

WEAVER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Voters are casting their ballots right now, as Donald Trump shuffles his campaign. A staff shake-up. We get word of it on primary day as spokesperson for the campaign will respond, next.

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