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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump, Ryan to Meet Thursday; Romney Striking Against Trump, Sanders; Trump: May Have to Increases Tax on Rich. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 9, 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] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.

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

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

Just one day now until the West Virginia and Nebraska primaries, but more importantly, possibly, three days until the Paul Ryan primary. The powerful House speaker says he is not ready to back his party's presumptive nominee, not yet, not ready to back Donald Trump.

BERMAN: The two men will meet Thursday in a moment that could determine the future of Trump's campaign, the Republican Party, or both.

Joining us CNN political director, David Chalian.

But first, CNN's Phil Mattingly to report on this family feud.

Play the role of Richard Dawson for us with less kissing. Who is winning or where does it stand?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nice way to put it right off the top. If you look at what Paul Ryan did last week, a bit of a brush back to warn Donald Trump to get him to move towards Paul Ryan on policy, on politics, on tone. So Donald Trump has decided to go the exact opposite direction on all of those things. And that sets a strange date of play as we head towards Thursday here.

One of the important things to point out, guys, is over the course of the weekend things seemed to get progressively more aggressive. You had Donald Trump kind of considering the possibility he would pull Paul Ryan or propose pulling Paul Ryan from the Republican National Conventional chairmanship. Then you had Sarah Palin, the former vice presidential candidate and top Donald Trump surrogate, threatening to go and try and take Paul Ryan out essentially, knock him out his House seat, support the challenger there.

But I think there's an interesting point here, and that's how Donald Trump perceives this. He actually pointed to it in his interview this morning on "New Day" with Chris Cuomo. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: We have a group of people that's great. This group of people has given me -- and it's them, it's a group, I'm like a messenger -- but they have given me a number that no other president, not Ronald Reagan, nobody, has ever gotten, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: So Donald Trump is blindsided, correct? He said that. He did not know Paul Ryan was going to do this. Paul Ryan's staff did not call Donald Trump. But I think it's important to note that after that initial reaction, Donald Trump sat there and, according to his advisors, started thinking, millions of people have voted for me in this primary than any other Republican primary in the history of the country. Why is it incumbent on Donald Trump to move towards Paul Ryan? Why is it incumbent on Donald Trump to move towards Republican leaders? Donald Trump decided it isn't, and that's where you're seeing him going into Thursday, keeping a very hard stance on where he's been on policy, where he's been on tone. Paul Ryan should have to come to him. And, guys, where that basically leaves us now just a couple days away from this is no closer to any type of resolution in what has become a very big problem for the Republican Party.

BOLDUAN: No closer to a Kumbaya moment, no closer to any middle ground.

But, David, put this all in context, the broader context of the week and where Donald Trump is right now. A candidate that seems to be trying to transition to a general in tone, but, but, dot, dot, dot, but not yet it seems.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Put yourself in Donald Trump's head space for a moment. He has done nothing but --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That is a challenge, to put yourself in Donald Trump's --

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: No, no, but I mean by observing what he's done. He has been speaking this very same message about vanquishing his Republican opponents, about the support he's getting inside the party, and about how the establishment doesn't understand. That's been every day, several stops day. By rote, this is his entire reason d'etre. He's in a moment of transition and he's finding his way there. This is not flipping a light switch for people. We look at these candidates like they're robotic but they're human beings, and he needs to sort of shed -- he won the Republican primary. He is right about the historic nature of his victory. He vanquished every rival. He is the Republican nominee. And so now he has to shed that language about trying to defeat Republicans because he does need to bring some more Republicans on board with him. It's a simple math equation. In order to get to 270 electoral votes, there is no doubt, Donald Trump has brought new people into this process, he's going to bring new people in, in November, I guarantee it, that haven't voted before, that he has excited. And Donald Trump has been winning among Independents and he's going to have a great time with a lot of Independents in the fall I believe as well. And yet he still does need to consolidate support in his own party. He can't ignore it. And if he thought he could ignore it, guys, he wouldn't be meeting with Paul Ryan. So, yes, he doesn't want to do this on Paul Ryan's terms but he understands he has to get the party to heal from this very contentious nomination season.

BERMAN: Your best guess at this far, David, do they walk out holding hands metaphorically?

CHALIAN: Right. It's so hard to guess anything, John, this election season, but, yes, my best guess is, I don't know if they'll walk out thursday holding hands but I don't see a permanent rift between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump going all the way through the convention and beyond in the fall. I think that is a more unlikely outcome. I'm prepared to eat my words, like I have many times before in this election season, but I think that's a more unlikely outcome than an outcome of an all-out civil war in the party that doesn't get healed in some way.

[11:05:23] BERMAN: No, it was an unfair question because my answer to every political question is I have no freaking idea after everything we've been through.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It is anyone's guess what it's going to look like coming out of that meeting but intriguing nonetheless.

Phil, David, thanks, guys. Great to see you.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So the 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, is weighing in again, hitting both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR & FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We live in tumultuous times, demagogues on the right and the left draw upon our darker angels, scapegoating immigrants and Muslims or bankers and business people. Profiteers tempt and endeavor to hook us with compulsive addictions. Entertainment media distracts us from the things that bring enduring achievements and happiness. Think carefully about the habits of your life. You deserve to be happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. This speech from Mitt Romney came just days after Mitt Romney met with our next guest, Bill Kristol, founder and editor of "The Weekly Standard," now leading an effort to find a third-party candidate or at least some kind of alternative.

Bill Kristol, thanks for being with us here in New York.

BILL KRISTOL, FOUNDER & EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Great to be here.

BOLDUAN: You had a meeting with Mitt Romney that's received a ton of attention right now. There are those who say you are recruiting him to run as a third-party candidate, some who suggested he may have been open to that notion, some that say he was not. Please tell us right now what happened at this meeting.

KRISTOL: I'll let Mitt Romney tell you what happened at the meeting. Just get him here tomorrow and --

BOLDUAN: No problem.

KRISTOL: No problem. Right? So we both happened to be at a dinner in Washington on Thursday night. We had a glass of water and sat down and we discussed what he said publicly that he doesn't believe Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump should be the president of the United States, something I strongly agree with. And we discussed different possible ways to go forward. I do want to go to that meeting on Thursday that Paul Ryan is having with Donald Trump. Don't you think I should be invited?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Sure.

KRISTOL: Donald Trump could represent the 42 percent or 44 percent or whatever of the Republican primary voters he's gotten so far, and I can represent the majority of the Republican Party that didn't vote for Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Did Romney say he was open to the idea of running at all?

KRISTOL: I thought you were going to say is Paul Ryan open to me coming to the meeting? This is obviously on my mind.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't want to characterize what Governor Romney said. He can speak for himself.

But I think a lot of people -- we can joke about family feuds and all this and Kumbaya. It's a pretty serious thing. If you're Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan or George W. Bush, people who have spent their life in politics fighting for certain ideas, and they see Donald Trump, a man who they said -- in the case of Romney and Bush -- is qualified, has the character to be the president of the United States. Paul Ryan has been a little more tentative saying he hasn't yet seen he has the right character to be the president of the United States. Tat's a serious matter. You can't just say, I'm a Republican, what the heck, the guy won the primaries, I am going to support this guy to be president of the United States, commander-in-chief. So I think one has to respect them. It's much easier to go along and get along. It's easier to say the people have spoken. And I really respect Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for saying, wait a second, my conscience doesn't let me say Donald Trump is the right man. BOLDUAN: Bill, it's one thing to say that my conscience doesn't let

me say that Donald Trump is the right man, but you're going a whole step further --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Well, if your conscience tells you something, Kate --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: No, no. If you're involved in the fight and you say that it shouldn't be Clinton and it shouldn't be Trump, someone intelligent is going to say, hey, what are you doing about it?

BOLDUAN: Tactically, how? Tactically, how do you go about having a third-party nominee at this point? You take a look at where the rules are. Texas's deadline for filing for a third party is today. Do you have any news that someone is filing in Texas today?

KRISTOL: No, but precedence from the '80s -- if a candidate decided to run by June 1st, the only two states they would miss the ballot are Texas and North Carolina. A lawsuit in those states would probably succeed in saying that early deadline is unconstitutional. You could do a write-in effort. It is practically doable. Is it hard? Yes. If it was easy, people would be doing it every four year. Did John Anderson get on all 51 ballots in 1980? Yes. Did Ross Perot get on all ballots in 1992? Yes. Was Perot ahead in June --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: At what success? Who did he end up helping? That's --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Who did he help? At one point in June, he was ahead in the polls. I think there's so much unhappiness with both Clinton and Trump, the Independent candidate could have a shot.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: An outside shot.

BERMAN: You're reading a banner that says Trump taps Christie to lead transition team. The Trump campaign JUST put out a statement saying, if and when Donald Trump wins the nomination, Chris Christie is going to help that transition to the White House on January 20th. That's why you're reading that right there. We've got a long way to go before --

[11:10:06] KRISTOL: Chris Christie was an important endorsement for Trump and some elected officeholders like Governor Christie have decided they can work with Donald Trump.

If you look at the last week and a half, the conspiracy theories about Ted Cruz's father, embracing Mike Tyson, a rapist in Indiana, and then he's the prospective nominee. Is he going to change? Quotes ideas about perhaps defaulting on the U.S. debt. This is not a man who has thought through the issues --

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOL: Good. I think it's more important than people realize. It's amazing for a presidential candidate to say. Again, for me, it comes down to character and judgment. I just don't think he's shown the character --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Paul Ryan is having this meeting. Paul Ryan says he's not there yet. If Paul Ryan does decide to support, endorse, or at least say something supportive of Donald Trump, will that change your opinion of Paul Ryan?

KRISTOL: No, because everyone has to make up his own mind on this. And I think Paul Ryan is a very serious and impressive guy. But I hope he keeps his powder dry and makes -- look, I think it's reasonable for people, especially if they have elected office, it's one thing for me to say I think there should be a third candidate. Paul Ryan is representing the Republican members of the House, the speaker of the House, the third-ranking person in the U.S. government. It's a little harder for him to just go where I'm going, but I think it is very striking. And this is the big news of the last week. Trump clinches the nomination. All credit to him. Terrifically clever campaign, impressive campaign. And what happens? The Republican speaker of the House says, I'm sorry. And the most recent Republican presidential candidate, both say, I'm sorry, I can't support him now. That's a pretty big now.

BOLDUAN: Not yet at least. What are the chances we're going to have -- maybe a different one.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: What are the chances you're going to have a third-party nominee?

KRISTOL: 50/50.

BOLDUAN: 50/50?

KRISTOL: A serious candidate. I think there will be all people who will run in symbolically ways in specific states even if we don't succeed in persuading a couple of people who could really be serious in a national campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Who is serious? Give it to us.

KRISTOL: Ben Sasse --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: He says no thanks. KRISTOL: He says, so far, no thanks, but let's see.

BERMAN: 50 percent chance is pretty high.

All right Bill Kristol, we'll hold you to it.

BOLDUAN: Bill Kristol, the eternal optimist, some say.

Bill, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right, Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton was an enabler of her husband's infidelity and called Bill Clinton the worst abuser of women in political history. What is the best way for Team Clinton and the Clintons themselves to respond to Trump?

BOLDUAN: And Donald Trump may want to check in with Donald Trump on his tax plan saying he's willing to pay more in taxes but then today on CNN saying something a little different. Is he clarifying, expanding, or changing his position? We're going to talk to one of the country's staunchest opponents of tax increases. What does he think Donald Trump is saying?

BERMAN: And breaking news out of North Carolina. Just hours before a big deadline, the state makes a big move over the so-called bathroom bill. We have new details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:16:42] TRUMP: For the wealthy, I think frankly it's going to go up, and you know what? It really should go up.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You want taxes on the wealthy to go up or down?

TRUMP: They will go up a little bit, and they may go up, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they're going down in your plan.

TRUMP: In my plan, they're going down, but by the time it's negotiated, they'll go up.

I don't mind paying more tax. I'll be honest with you. I have done very well over the last --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But will someone like me or Donald Trump pay more under your tax plan?

TRUMP: I have a feeling we may pay some more. I am willing to pay more. And, you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. They're willing to pay more, I'm willing to pay more. More, more, more. That was this weekends. Donald Trump is either backtracking or clarifying or expanding this position depending on your point of view. Yesterday, he seemed to suggest he would accept an increase for the wealthy in a Trump presidency, but this morning, he claims that's not what he meant at all.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP (voice-over): If I increase on the wealthy, that means they're still be paying less than they're paying now. I'm talking about increasing from this point. I'm talking about increasing from my tax proposal. And yet, they go there to talk about like I'm giving a tax increase for the wealthy. I'm not. I said they may have to pay somewhat more than my proposal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining us now is the president of Americans for Tax Reform, the man who created the No Tax Hike Pledge, Grover Norquist.

Great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: So a couple things we should say. One, last week, you came out to back Donald Trump. Two, you are a tax expert. We do know that. So let's start with those two things.

NORQUIST: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Do you understand Donald Trump's position on raising taxes today?

NORQUIST: Yeah. I mean, I understood it when he talked to Chuck Todd and George Stephanopoulos. His tax plan takes the tax rates to 10 percent, 15 percent, and 25 percent for individuals. That's a significant across-the-board reduction in taxes for everybody. And the corporate rate both for Uber drivers and subchapter S as well as businesses, companies, businesses, to 15 percent. That's a tremendous reduction in the taxes that businesses have to pay. Be very good for jobs. He said when I go in to negotiate with Congress, I may not get everything I asked for, and if I do have to give anything up, it's not going to be on the middle class side.

Now, he's going to be sitting in a room with Kevin Brady, Republican leader of Ways and Means, and Hatch, Republican leader of the Finance Committee, as well as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, the five of them in a room starting with Trump's tax plan. I'm very happy. I sleep very well at night. Taxes are going to go down for everybody significantly. I think Trump's plan is a fine resting place, not just an opening bid.

NORQUIST: You know, you heard George go back at him several times on the issue of would you be willing to pay more taxes, not more taxes under your plan than you're currently proposing, but paying more taxes now. That really was the implications of that. You didn't get out of that that Donald Trump was suggesting the taxes on the wealthy, he'd be willing to let them go up?

NORQUIST: No, because if you look at his plan, and he kept talking about negotiations, I was not -- I understand what Stephanopoulos was trying to do --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I don't think there was anything like cloaked though, Grover. If you look -- I have the transcript in front of me --

(CROSSTALK)

NORQUIST: I read it.

[11:20:06] BOLDUAN: -- several times. I'm not questioning that you did, but what Donald Trump laid out in September in terms of his tax plan, this does not coincide with that. That's where the confusion is today. I'm surprised that you're comfortable when he says -- George says, "But people like you and me, we should pay more?" "I don't mind paying more in taxes. I have done very well in the last 10 years." "In the end, will someone like me or Donald Trump pay more?" "I think more. The middle class will pay less. I wouldn't mind paying more."

I'm surprised to hear you say you're comfortable with that.

NORQUIST: OK. One, since I have read his original plan, and he said in the interview he's with his original plan, and it came in the context of negotiating with the Republican House and Senate about how in the world the actual bill -- I mean, Kevin Brady and Hatch will both have their own plans. Paul Ryan has written his own plan. The Republican House and Senate have strong plans. The plan that comes out of a Republican House/Senate and Trump presidency will not be exactly Trump's plan. I think it will be close. I think it needs to include full expensing. That would be a good addition to Trump's plan. But I thought he was fairly clear and clarifying. Anybody like George Stephanopoulos, who wants to pay more in taxes, there's a thing at the bottom that says you can pay more. Six states have "Tax Me More" proposals and any politician that wants to raise taxes should show us a history of 10 years of paying more themselves.

BERMAN: A little opt-in clause.

Let's talk about something else Donald Trump discussed this morning. He was talking about debt and fiscal policy. He was talking about how, in business, he loved debt. He was the king of debt. He used leverage a lot. But he also talked about the national debt, and he talked default, right? He said the U.S. can't default because you can always print money. "First of all, you never have to default because you can print money, I hate to tell you, so there's never a default." That's what he says about the debt. What's your level of comfort with Donald Trump's grasp of overall official policy?

NORQUIST: Well, that's just stating a fact. It's what the United States government has been doing for quite a number of years, is printing more money. You saw the double-digit inflation under Carter. It didn't default on the debt. He just made the debt much less valuable because he printed so much money and we ended up with double- digit inflation year after year. So it's a fact. That's what the governments do. That's what Argentina does. Is it a good thing to do? No. Is it where you want to be? No. Is it what governments do over time? He's quite correct, that's what they tend to do. Even our government has inflated the currency to the point where the debt, national debt, is a fraction of the percentage of GDP it was up until Obama started taking it off into new directions.

But when somebody says this is the way governments have behaved, that's not necessarily an argument that that's what they ought to do. What we should do is reduce spending as well as growth, and this is why a Republican House and Senate with Trump can make tremendous progress and finally deal with some of the spending issues that Obama wouldn't do.

BOLDUAN: Real quick, Donald Trump is one of two -- one of only two of the Republican candidates that did not sign your pledge, a pledge that has been critical in Republican politics for years. Does Donald Trump need to sign your pledge?

NORQUIST: Well, Corey Lewandowski, his staff person, actually told me he had signed it and he would get it to us. I don't physically have it. We don't count it until we see it and can put it online.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: When did he say that?

NORQUIST: I don't know, about a month or so ago back, when the --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Snail mail is taking a long time, taking a long time to get your way.

NORQUIST: We don't consider it a signed pledge until it's in front of the American people because the pledge is to the American people.

BOLDUAN: Right.

NORQUIST: But Trump has also said repeatedly, first to "Time" magazine and other places, no overall tax increase, period, which is what the pledge is to the American people. So, one, he said it. Two, I'm told we'll be getting a copy of the pledge, and trust that that's accurate.

But also remember, we have 90 percent of the Republicans in the House and Senate who have taken that pledge to the American people, not as Senator Reid or President Obama sometimes suggest to me, the pledge is to the American people, and there will not be a tax increase passed by the House and the Senate or signed by a president. They wouldn't give Obama a tax increase. They're certainly not going to give anyone else a tax increase. And Trump has said he'd never ask for it. BERMAN: OK. Grover Norquist, thank you so much. Let us know when

the mail gets there.

NORQUIST: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Appreciate you being with us.

NORQUIST: Shall do.

BOLDUAN: You can just send it to us in an e-mail. That's fine.

Great to see you.

NORQUIST: OK.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

NORQUIST: Thank you.

BERMAN: The Cruz campaign, a little of "Back to the Future." The Cruz campaign says they could have stopped Trump. How? A Cruz/Rubio unity ticket, but Marco Rubio refused. And now the Cruz folks say that may be one reason that Donald Trump is still around.

BOLDUAN: Is that the "Back to the Future" that includes the hover board?

BERMAN: Exactly.

[11:25:11] BOLDUAN: Nice.

So Donald Trump says party unity is nice, but maybe not necessary. What does that mean just days before the crucial face-to-face with the House speaker? Will he offer a different message behind closed doors?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: In the game of "could of, would of, should of," it would have been a blow, that according to a source close to Ted Cruz who says Cruz could have stopped Donald Trump if Marco Rubio had signed on as Cruz's running mate back in March.

[11:30:06] BERMAN: In March. This is a long time ago, folks, before Florida and Ohio.