Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

GOP Senator Calls for Third-Party Candidate; Trump Vetting Short List of Potential Running Mates. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 5, 2016 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Check this out, the president and first lady feeling the force on May 4th and getting a couple storm troopers and R2D2s dancing to "Uptown Funk". Just another day at the office.

Thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello. "AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND BOLDUAN" starts now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think we can take a risk on a loose cannon like Donald Trump running our country.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a person under investigation by the FBI. She's only going to get the nomination because it's a rigged deal.

CLINTON: If he wants to go back to the playbook of the 1990s, I'm more than happy to have him do that.

TRUMP: Maybe she won't even be able to run.

CLINTON: Oh, please.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Kate Bolduan.

It's the first day of the rest of your life, or at least the 2016 election. And some would argue that is one and the same. John does.

Battle lines are being drawn between likely general election rivals Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump but it is not just battle lines between Trump and Clinton. There is still a war raging it seems between Trump and factions of his own party.

BERMAN: Yes, well, the presumptive Republican nominee is starting to shop for running mates. Some Republicans are also shopping for someone else. A plan C to run against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

One popular Republican senator is now even openly calling for a third party candidate.

Let's begin with CNN's Phil Mattingly. He is in Columbus, Ohio, for us this morning.

Good morning, Phil.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

And even before John Kasich announced just about three miles away from right here in Columbus that he was no longer in the Republican race, the Never Trump movement has been pinging around questions, what do they do next?

Now, this isn't a group that is completely unified, but they do have conversations and sources in multiple factions of the groups have said a third-party candidate is an option. It is an option that was really put in great detail on Facebook last night by Ben Sasse, the Nebraska senator who at times has been the chief Donald Trump antagonist throughout social media, in public, questioning Trump's candidacy saying last night explicitly he thinks a third-party candidate should be an option.

Typing at one point, "If you are one of those rare souls who genuinely believes Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are honorable people, if they are the role models you want for your kids, then this letter is not for you. Instead, this letter is for the majority of Americans who wonder why the nation that put a man on the moon can't find a healthy leader who can take us forward together."

Obviously, Ben Sasse with some strong feelings on this issue. Guys, it is an interesting co conundrum that this Never Trump movement faces. There is no candidate for them in the Republican race. What kind of options do they have for a third party?

Now, this brings up a thicket of legal issues when you talk about ballot access, donor issues when you talk about funding a campaign to go up against likely billion dollar operations on the Republican and Democratic side, and also coalescing around a candidate. Now, a number of people I have talked to have tossed out a lot of names. Ben Sasse being among them, something he has personally shot down.

But who can everybody in this group of people coalesce behind? That is the big question that nobody seems to have a real answer to right now, and, guys, time is of the essence. If you want to get on the ballot if you want to have an opportunity to run, you need a candidate.

BOLDUAN: And to get on the ballot in some of these states, you need a candidate and you need it fast, like right now.

BERMAN: You needed it like a month ago frankly.

BOLDUAN: Or that. But still like three days from now some deadlines are seriously coming up.

Phil, thank you so much. Phil Mattingly on it for us. Let's discuss. Here with us now, New York City councilman Joseph

Borelli, co-chair of Donald Trump's New York campaign, Republican strategist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, Josh Holmes, and CNN political commentator and former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton in 2008, Patti Solis Doyle, and Dan Pfeiffer, former senior adviser to President Obama.

John Berman turned to me so dramatically I lost my train of thought.

BERMAN: I was paying attention. I was riveted by your introductions to our guests.

BOLDUAN: With the only time he has.

OK, Josh Holmes, first to you, what Phil is talking about here, the third-party candidate. This is a real conversation and very unusual, but you're hearing this from people that -- Ben Sasse, the Republican Party really, really likes him. Bill Kristol, he is a really, really strong voice amongst conservatives, Bill Kristol of "The Weekly Standard" -- all talking about this.

But how realistic is this, Josh?

JOSH HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, look, the anxiety is very really. We're 48 hours removed with everybody coming to grips that Trump is likely to be the nominee here in just a matter of weeks. And so, I think there's a little bit of growing pains involved.

As to a third party, look, I have tons of respect for Senator Sasse, he's been incredibly consistent all along on this and virtually everything else but the issue is how do you get on all of these ballots in all these states?

[11:05:00] I think if we're talking about this, we should talk about it after we see some evidence of people fanned out across the country funding efforts to try to get signatures to get on ballots. I think that is a huge endeavor that's extremely unlikely for anybody to actually undertake and beyond that, what was mentioned earlier about actually picking a candidate. That's not unimportant to that process too.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BERMAN: So, Councilman, you know, you said yesterday to us that this would all work itself out as part of a natural healing process. But these people like Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Bill Kristol, I asked him this morning, he essentially said he's unhealable, right? What they have cannot be healed through any process at this point.

JOSEPH BORELLI, COUNCILMAN, 51ST DISTRICT OF NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: Look, you're never going to get 100 percent of Republicans to any nominee --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: But that's one of the magazines that writes for the Republican Party, "The Weekly Standard". That seems --

BORELLI: Well, "The National Review" has been attacking Donald Trump the whole primary season, and we see how that really didn't play out well for them.

But I agree with the previous speaker, it's an impossibility. How does someone get 900,000 signatures over the next month, weeks? They have to raise money.

They have to find a candidate who they can all coalesce around. Who could that be? Is it someone in the establishment? Doesn't it undermine their whole argument?

So, it's really an impossibility. And when this movement fails to materialize, people are going to be left with a choice, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton. The majority of those conservatives are going to -- even if they have to hold their nose, they're going to vote for Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Interesting, maybe looking from the Democratic side, Dan, how damaging do you think the conversation of a third-party candidate is or how much -- how damaging do you hope it is?

DAN PFEIFFER CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think -- I don't think the conversation is damaging or not damaging. I don't think it matters a whole lot.

A third-party candidate would be absolutely devastating for Trump's chances, of course. Look, the Republican Party is incredibly divided. I agree with Josh that the idea that these guys who have failed to mount any sort of coherent strategy effort to stop Trump are somehow going to in the next few weeks here raise a bunch of money, get organizers working in every state in every part of the country to get someone on the ballot seems impossible.

You already see it with these vulnerable Republican senators who are coming to terms with and endorsing Donald Trump in the first few hours here. Everyone is going to have to get on board. Trump still has huge vulnerabilities, huge deficit to make up to have a real shot in this election.

But at the end of the day, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. He's in charge of the Republican Party, and every member of the party with the possible exception of Ben Sasse will be out there campaigning for Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Well, we'll see about that because a lot of them at this point, Dan, say not so fast.

BOLDUAN: Might have other things to do.

BERMAN: Patti, I want to talk a little bit about policy right now because Donald Trump has been sort of the presumptive nominee for all of 24 hours, and already seems to have shifted some, specifically on the subject of the minimum wage. Wolf Blitzer had a chance to ask him about the minimum wage. Previously, he had said -- he said he actually thought the wages were too high.

BOLDUAN: Too high. Then needed to stay -- where the minimum wage needed to stay.

BERMAN: And now listen to what he told Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm actually looking at that because I'm very different from most Republicans. I mean, you have to have something you can live on. Get people great jobs so they make much more money than that, so they make much more money than the $15. Now, if you start playing around too much with the lower level, the lower level number, you're not going to be competitive.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: If you were president what would you recommend?

TRUMP: I'm looking at it but --

BLITZER: You're open to raising the minimum wage.

TRUMP: I'm open to doing something with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, Patti, what he was essentially saying is he was open to the idea of perhaps raising the minimum wage. He would explore it.

Now, there are people and people who ran the Republican primary who will say that's a flip-flop or a pivot. But I want you to look at it from the other side right now. Doesn't this present one of the problems for Democrats now running against Donald Trump, that his positions, he may be willing to change them to be more acceptable to a general election audience?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I don't think the American people are stupid, John. I think there is so much film on Donald Trump saying these crazy, outrageous things, not just in term of, you know, the American people make too much money when they haven't gotten a raise in 15 years, but also on immigration and mass deportation, on ISIS and, you know, giving the world nuclear bombs. I don't think they're stupid.

So I honestly think that this is where Hillary Clinton is going to shine. She not only has been consistent in her policies, but she's also answered the question on how to get these things done, and Donald Trump hasn't gone anywhere near on how to answer those questions.

BERMAN: Well, she wasn't for the $15 minimum wage nationally and then she sort of was-ish, right? So, she wasn't completely consistent on that.

DOYLE: Well --

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: But, Joe, on the opposite side of it, Councilman, you have these three different views that we're hearing from Donald Trump on this issue. When you look at it, are you worried that this is kind of exactly -- feeds into exactly what Ted Cruz before he dropped out said, that Donald Trump, one, will say anything to get elected. This is his general election pivot. Or two, Donald Trump is a liberal in Republican clothes?

BORELLI: Right. If you listen to what he says, he says, as he has the whole campaign period, that he wants to raise wages for people period. That doesn't always necessarily mean a strict legislative minimum wage increase for people.

BOLDUAN: To Wolf's question he did push him and you do have to push Trump to get him to say a declarative statement sometimes. You're open to raising the minimum wage. I'm hoping to do something with it.

BORELLI: Look, you can't have a double standard for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. You see that she walks her positions back on the same issue. She walked back her votes to send troops to war.

So, when you compare the two candidates, she's right, the American people aren't stupid. They've already seen, digested, and know Hillary Clinton. And I think they're going to go with someone new and willing to make the decisions necessary to affect middle-class change.

Donald Trump has been speaking to that point and I think it's been working for him.

BERMAN: You know, Josh, last question here -- John McCain speaking at a closed fund-raiser essentially said with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, it would make it the race of his life. He's running for re-election in Arizona right now. Thirty percent of the Hispanics vote in Arizona, so -- 30 percent of the population is Hispanic there. So, he says it's the race for his life there.

McCain thinks he's in trouble. Do you think that extends past Arizona for Republicans down ballot?

HOLMES: Look, I think it's a statement of the obvious when you've got somebody on the top of the ticket, literally the only Republican running for president this cycle who trailed Hillary Clinton throughout and as your poll pointed out yesterday, trails by double digits. So, obviously, there is a huge headwind for a lot of Senate candidates and congressional candidates down the ticket.

I think Senator McCain is going to be just fine. He's got a well- established reputation within Arizona. They know him. He's got good relationship there is. He certainly spent a lot of time at home tending to his own netting.

So, I don't think Donald Trump simply being on the ballot will affect people like Senator McCain but it certainly makes it more difficult for everybody.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what they do about it as they head into the general.

Joe, unfortunately, we'll get your take on it next time. Great to see you.

BERMAN: Councilman, Josh, Patti, and Dan -- thanks so much. Appreciate it.

DOYLE: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right. He is a former presidential candidate who supported Marco Rubio this year. Now he says he is ready to back Donald Trump. But will other Republicans follow suit? We're joined by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty shortly.

BOLDUAN: Affectionately known as T-Paw.

Plus, Donald Trump is on the hunt. Trump says he would consider former rivals to be his running mate, so what are the chances? Oh, don't worry, Trump tells us precisely what he says the odds are.

But would a rival like Marco Rubio sign on? Let us take you to the not so distant past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: This is a con job where he's going to Americans that are struggling, Americans that are hurting, and he's implying I'm fighting for you because I'm a tough guy. A tough guy? This guy inherited $200 million. He's never faced any struggle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:17:08] BOLDUAN: Unity schmoonity. That's what some Republicans say by coalescing around Donald Trump right now. Just look at the Bush presidents, W. and H.W., say that they're sitting this one out going nowhere near an endorsement.

BERMAN: Let's bring in Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, former Republican presidential candidate, former support of Senator Marco Rubio and now Governor Pawlenty, someone who says you will support Donald Trump in the general election.

But what exactly does that mean, support Donald Trump? How much are you going to do with that support?

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: Good morning, Kate. Good morning, John.

I have said all along I'm going to support the nominee. He's going to be the nominee and I don't know what form or shape that will take. I'm certainly happy to help.

I don't agree with everything he says, I don't agree with all of his positions, I don't agree with the way he says a lot of things. But he's our nominee, I think he's going to be better than Hillary Clinton and I'm going to support him.

BOLDUAN: What do you say to the folks who say they're not going to support him, they can't support him no matter what, the Republicans, they're burning their Republican cards today?

PAWLENTY: Well, what's true in May may evolve by October. Ands I think most of the people who are hesitant within the party about supporting him will support him by fall, not everybody. But he doesn't need to get everybody. But he does need to get most of them.

The other thing, isn't it interesting, Kate, the double standard. When the establishment gets their candidate, they always call upon the outsiders and the more conservative people to say, come on, to unite the party you've got to come and join our candidate.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. You have the outsider who got the nomination and they're calling upon the establishment to unite and all of a sudden elements of the establishment are saying, no, not this time because it didn't go out our way. There's a real double standard at play.

BERMAN: What kind of pressures are elected officials facing, particularly people in tough Senate races. Kelly Ayotte, she says she will support Donald Trump but she won't endorse Donald Trump. What pressures do you think they're feeling right now?

PAWLENTY: Well, I'm sure they're feeling some political schizophrenia because they're in tight races up for re-election and they're trying to measure to what degree, the Trump candidacy will be a plus or minus. They're hedging their bets trying to say they're somehow loyal to the nominee but trying to create some space in case in a negative for an anchor around their political ankles.

BOLDUAN: Not an easy position to be in, regardless, especially when you use the anchor around your political ankles.

So, the short list for VPs for the running mate for Donald Trump, Governor. Jim Acosta got a short list of them. The short list soar that we have, they basically all came out in the last 24 hours saying, no, thank you. You've been on short lists before. Do you believe the "no, thank yous"?

PAWLENTY: No. I think if Donald Trump has a plausible chance to win this election and Hillary Clinton is the front-runner but who knows, he might be able to pull this off. I think people will evolve their thinking if they actually get asked.

BOLDUAN: Wait, do you think Donald Trump doesn't have a plausible chance right now?

[11:20:02] PAWLENTY: No, I think he does. Obviously, the polls show she's in the lead but you got to drill down on the swing states as you all know, not just the national polls, and he's behind. But that's according to traditional analysis, traditional assumptions and traditional calculations, and he's going to try to do the nontraditional re-scrambling of the map and the dynamics and we'll see. So I think it's plausible but she has to be fairly described on today's polling as the front-runner.

BERMAN: But you don't know the noes mean anything right now.

Got some news, just seconds ago, Donald Trump announced a national finance chair. That person Steve Mnuchin, from private equity world, he's going to be raising money for Donald Trump. The release notes that Donald Trump self-funded the primary campaign largely, although he did accept donations. This time around, he's going to do the same thing but he is appointing a national chair. This indicates there will be a more robust fund-raising operation.

Do you think this idea that he shifted from self funding to now raising money when he bragged about it so much, will that hurt?

PAWLENTY: Well, it's not going to help, but to put it in context, even for a billionaire if you had to finance a billion dollars yourself, that could get to be a challenge. His FEC reports indicate he's got about $300 million in liquid assets.

Anyhow, I think he's making a calculation he can't write a check for $1 billion between now and October so it's born ever necessity. It's not ideal. It's not optimal compared to what he has said in the past but I think he's got to do it.

BOLDUAN: Yes, especially when he says that money makes you, you know, you always call in favors when you call in money from anyone.

BERMAN: Can he raise enough? Do you think he can raise enough?

PAWLENTY: Yes, keep in mind, there's a role of the third parties here, the RNC and others who can take much bigger checks much more quickly. You have to look at it as a total pot of money, and time is short but he's going to have to raise, you know, close to $1 billion in six months and it's just going to be physically very difficult.

BOLDUAN: Governor, that might be where you need to help with your support. That might be where you'll be called upon.

PAWLENTY: Well, if he's counting on me for that kind of money, I think it's going to fail because I don't have it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Governor.

BERMAN: Appreciate it, Governor. Thanks so much.

PAWLENTY: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. One programming note, House Speaker Paul Ryan is going to join Jake Tapper today on THE LEAD. That's at 4:00 Eastern. That should be interesting. It's only right here on CNN.

BOLDUAN: The veep stakes, sounds like a neat reality show, but it is the next crucial phase of the 2016 race, and Donald Trump, he is talking about it. What he needs in a running mate and who fits the profile. That's ahead. BERMAN: Plus, Hillary Clinton taking aim at Donald Trump, calling

him, quote, "a loose cannon." But what about Bernie Sanders? Does she need to worry more about that race?

A top campaign official from the Clinton team joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:27:08] CLINTON: I don't think we can take a risk on a loose cannon like Donald Trump running our country. He's a loose cannon. I mean, he's somebody who has said so many things, and I'm sure he'll be scrambling and his advisers will be scrambling, but he's already said all of these things. He is a loose cannon and loose cannons tend to misfire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You heard it right there. Hillary Clinton rolling out some new lines of attack on Donald Trump, calling him a loose cannon, a risky choice, and saying some of his proposals are downright dangerous.

BOLDUAN: Mrs. Hillary Clinton still faces fights on two fronts, one against Donald Trump and also still against Bernie Sanders, who says he's not going anywhere.

Joining us now to discuss, a spokesman for the Hillary Clinton campaign, Brian Fallon.

Brian, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in.

Let's talk about the path ahead, but first, you have to play our favorite game. What's our favorite game? It's called finish the sentence. When Cruz and Kasich dropped out, your first thought was --

BRIAN FALLON, PRESS SECRETARY, HILLARY FOR AMERICA: It's on. It was a surprise that Donald Trump is a presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. We've been bracing for that prospect for several weeks. It's been clear his delegate lead has been significant, and I think that the fact that the field is now winnowed to one justifies the steps we were already taking to prepare for a general election.

We've actually been hiring campaign managers in many of the battleground states for the last couple weeks, and we just today announced the battleground team that will be leading the effort out of our headquarters in Brooklyn. And so, we are going to be on a dual track. We're going to honor the primary, continue to contest these states against Senator Sanders all the way through the middle of June, but at the same time, we're going to be undertaking these general election preparations because we know we need to be ready. You know, everybody thinks of November as when the general election is happening but in reality of early voting, many states starting in September.

So, we have a plan to have people on the ground this summer in order to execute on a field program.

BERMAN: Well, in reality, you could make the case the general election started on May 4th, which is yesterday, at least on that side. You said it's on. I probably -- I assume you said it with more passion when it actually happened than you did right now.

BOLDUAN: And an expletive.

BERMAN: This had to be earlier than you anticipated, yes?

FALLON: Well, we learned a long time ago to not be surprised by anything that happened on the Republican side. And, look, you know, as I said, we're going to honor our primary. We think that we have every confidence at the end of the process, our party will come together.

BERMAN: Does this change anything though? Does it change anything about the way you maneuver that Donald Trump --

BOLDUAN: It is a fundamentally different race today.

FALLON: No, I mean, we were already taking plans to run against Donald Trump regardless. I think what's been remarkable, I think it succeeded even our expectations the degree of divisions that you've seen play out in the Republican Party over the last few days. You've seen scores of prominent Republicans come out and say that they can't support Donald Trump, including the two living former Republican presidents of the United States saying that they'll remain neutral in this contest.

That is a remarkable and breathtaking thing. I think that Donald Trump is talking about he's now going to turn his sights on Hillary Clinton and we're prepared for him to throw the kitchen sink at her, but I think before he turns to that project, he's got a huge, huge task ahead of him in terms of uniting his own country, let alone the country.