Story highlights

Spats over GOP convention rules are getting hotter

John Kasich says Donald Trump should stop complaining

Washington CNN —  

In an undecided Republican nominating contest, every single rule and procedure looks to be hotly contested – a reality that came into clearer view over the weekend.

After Ted Cruz picked up all 14 delegates at Wyoming’s Republican convention, Donald Trump amped up his complaints about a process he’s called “rigged.” Meanwhile, Republican National Committee members’ behind-the-scenes fight over a rules change that could make it harder for a “white knight” to ride in at the last minute erupted Sunday.

But immediately before all the candidates is the looming – and likely very consequential – showdown in New York.

For Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are both playing the home state card. Sanders capped his Empire State campaigning with a Prospect Park rally and a record crowd, while Clinton – who leads in the polls – spent time in Washington Heights alongside New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and grooving to Latin beats with state lawmakers.

On the Republican side, Trump hopes to quash the competition and secure as many of the 95 delegates as he can to continue his march to the nomination.

Here are the highlights of the weekend in politics:

GOP rules fight erupts

04:13 - Source: CNN
Reince Priebus: Donald Trump rhetoric is 'hyperbole'

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday pushed back against Donald Trump’s assertion that the nominating process is “rigged” to block him.

Priebus dismissed Trump’s comments as “rhetoric” and “hyperbole” in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” He said: “Since I know what the truth is, I don’t really worry about it because I know what is right and I know what is wrong.”

Priebus has been playing defense for more than a week, beating back charges from Donald Trump that the party has “rigged” the nominating fight against him. Trump was at it again Sunday, tweeting: “Lyin’ Ted Cruz can’t get votes (I am millions ahead of him) so he has to get his delegates from the Republican bosses. It won’t work!”

And Trump told The Washington Post in an interview published Sunday, he’s not sure he’ll keep Priebus as chairman of the Republican National Committee if he becomes the nominee

“I don’t know. I haven’t made the determination,” he said Sunday.

READ: RNC chief dismisses Trump’s comments as ‘hyperbole’

As the Trump-Priebus fight played out in public, top Republican National Committee members were fighting behind the scenes shortly before their critical meeting in Florida later this week.

It’s all over the rules that will govern the GOP’s July convention in Cleveland, and when they’ll be set. Priebus wants to delay any rules changes for now.

But RNC Rules Chairman Bruce Ash, who is part of a group of conservatives who want to openly debate rules changes when they meet in a few days, on Saturday accused the party’s top lawyer, John Ryder, of attempting to stifle that debate and a “breach of trust” in an email obtained by CNN.

Ryder, who is supporting Priebus’ efforts, replied that it had been a misunderstanding. He cautioned in a reply email that “it is important that the RNC not take action that can be interpreted as attempting to favor one candidate or another … Major changes now are dangerous and not a good idea, in my humble opinion.”

At the center of the fight is a push by conservatives on the Republican National Committee to have Robert’s Rules of Order govern the convention instead of the rules of the U.S. House. It sounds arcane, but conservative RNC members argue the change is needed to prevent party establishment figures from pushing through someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan in the convention.

Over the weekend, the fight for delegates continued in Georgia, where the Trump campaign battled the Cruz campaign for supporters, despite winning the Georgia Republican primary on Super Tuesday.

New York showdown

In New York’s hotly contested primary, Trump – who polls have shown topping 50% support in the state – has a chance to put weeks of struggles over delegate losses, self-made controversies and staffing behind him with a big win.

He’s deployed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s own words against him, repeatedly highlighting Cruz’s smackdown of “New York values,” giving the Texas senator little room to grow in the state.

The Democratic race, though, is much more competitive. Both Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the former secretary of state were duking it out in an increasingly negative contest.

READ: NYC to Donald Trump: He’s not one of us

New York’s contest is a pivotal one, because it’s Sanders’ chance to show he can win in big, coastal states with heavy minority populations – something he’s yet to do.

The two candidates were trading barbs over the weekend on guns. Clinton, a former senator from New York, hit Sanders hard Saturday.

“No matter how often he is asked by family members of those who have been murdered, he sticks to his talking points,” she said.

Sanders, meanwhile, worked guns into his stump speech in front of 28,000 on Sunday night.

“We have kids who are unemployed and have no hope of getting a job. Unfortunately they do have hope and success getting guns. Our job is to get kids jobs, not guns,” he said.

Much of the weekend’s action was focused on California, as Clinton visited the state (which holds a crucial June 7 contest) and Sanders returned from a trip to meet Pope Francis and attend a conference at the Vatican.

But Sanders’ best chance to truly shake up the Democratic contest comes Tuesday, when New York – the state where he was born, and Clinton’s adopted home – casts its votes. A week later, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island are up.

Sanders tries to sway Clooney

01:35 - Source: CNN
Sanders: Clooney 'honest enough' to call out big money

Bernie Sanders says actor George Clooney, who called the amount of money he’d raised for Hillary Clinton “obscene,” is backing the wrong candidate in the 2016 presidential race.

Asked by Bash on “State of the Union” if Clooney is backing the wrong horse, Sanders said, “Well, I think he is.” Sanders said: “He is honest enough to say that there is something wrong when few people – in this case, wealthy individuals, but in other instances for the secretary, it is Wall Street and powerful special interests – who are able to contribute unbelievably large sums of money. That is not what democracy is about. That’s a movement toward oligarchy.”

READ: Sanders: Clooney is backing the wrong horse

Sanders’ comments came after Clooney told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he wasn’t fond of raising huge gobs of money – more than $300,000 per person to join him and Clinton at the head table at a Friday night event in San Francisco – for candidates.

“I think it’s an obscene amount of money. I think that, you know, we had some protesters (Friday) night when we pulled up in San Francisco and they’re right to protest. They’re absolutely right. It is an obscene amount of money. The Sanders campaign when they talk about it is absolutely right. It’s ridiculous that we should have this kind of money in politics. I agree completely,” Clooney said.

But here’s the caveat, he said: The money is largely “going to the congressmen and senators to try to take back Congress. And the reason that’s important and the reason it’s important to me is because we need – I’m a Democrat so if you’re a Republican, you’re going to disagree, but – we need to take the Senate back. Because we need to confirm the Supreme Court justice because that fifth vote on the Supreme Court can overturn Citizens United and get this obscene, ridiculous amount of money out so I never have to do a fundraiser again. And that’s why I’m doing it.”

Kasich lumbers on

00:36 - Source: CNN
Was Kasich's pizza fork a political stunt?

With one win under his belt, Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t in the mood to hear Donald Trump’s complaints about the delegate selection process.

He dismissed Trump’s accusations that the GOP nomination process is “rigged,” calling on the Republican front-runner to “act like you’re a professional,” in an interview with Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Kasich said: “You’ve got to have a certain number of delegates to be nominated. It’s like saying I made an 83 on my math test so I should get an A just because I think it’s rigged that you have to make a 90 to get an A.”

READ: Kasich to Trump: ‘Act like you’re a professional’

“I mean, come on. Act like you’re a professional. Be a pro,” Kasich said.

The Ohio governor also had to explain some comments he made Friday. Kasich, the father of two teenage girls, advised a young female college student to avoid parties with alcohol to prevent being sexual assaulted.

Democrats pounced on the remark, accusing him of blaming the victims of sexual assault.

“I don’t care if they’re at a party with alcohol. I’m just saying be careful,” Kasich told Bash. “That’s what I would tell my daughters: Be careful.”

He said when alcohol is involved “it becomes more difficult for justice to be rendered for a whole variety of reasons.”

“I just don’t want justice to be denied because something comes up that a prosecutor looks at it and says, ‘Well, I can’t figure this out,’” he said.

Fields won’t rule out lawsuit

09:55 - Source: CNN
Michelle Fields says Trump defamed her

Michelle Fields, the former Breitbart News reporter who said Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her arm and yanked her backward in an incident caught on video at a campaign event, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” that she hasn’t ruled out suing Trump’s campaign or Lewandowski himself for defamation.

“I’m not going to rule it out. Do I think that they defamed me? Absolutely,” she said.

READ: Michelle Fields says Trump, aide ‘defamed’ her

Fields explained: “Corey said (on Twitter) that he hadn’t met me, he had never touched me. We know that that’s a lie. Donald Trump, after this happened, he said that the Secret Service told him nothing happened. Weeks later, Donald Trump says that the Secret Service said that I was grabbing at him.”

Lewandowski dodged a question on “Fox News Sunday” about whether he’d apologize to Fields.

“To apologize to someone I’ve never spoken to … is a little unrealistic right now,” he said.

Tom LoBianco, Sophie Tatum and Brian Stelter contributed to this report.