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Clinton Gaining Momentum; Sanders Stumps in Minneapolis; Trump Disavows KKK Endorsement. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 29, 2016 - 13:30   ET

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


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[13:32:42] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hillary Clinton spoke just a little while ago. She wrapped up a rally in Boston. We brought you her remarks at the top of the hour.

One of the key supporters is Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. He's joining us live from Boston right now.

Senator, thanks very much for joining us.

She's got some momentum going, serious momentum going. National polls show her doing decisively better than Bernie Sanders. Is she regaining that air of inevitability? In other words, is it almost over?

SEN. CORY BOOKER, (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I've been an athlete for the better part of my life. And whatever your position is, you want to play like you're 10 points behind. When I'm with her I love that spirit. She's going to fight and earn every single vote, not relent, not give up until she earns this nomination. That's what I respect about her. So we're not looking at the polls. I think she's looking at day by day. I'm grateful for that spirit to see in her. She's quite a competitor.

BLITZER: You campaigned for her in South Carolina. She won huge there, 3-1 far margin or so. She beat Bernie Sanders almost 3-1. How important was that win in terms of generating momentum towards tomorrow, some of these other southern states?

BOOKER: Well, South Carolina and Nevada were important states because they really turn to begin to show the big-tent party that we are. Diverse populations, diverse backgrounds, diverse parts of the country. So I'm very proud that she racked up solid victories there and now has momentum going into Super Tuesday. Again, this is a contest. Nothing should be taken for granted. And so here I am in Massachusetts. People are scouring the state. I've been from Boston to Wooster, and it's amazing to see the energy on the ground for this candidate.

BLITZER: As you probably know, Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, of a Hawaii, an Iraq war veteran, she quit her post on the leadership of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Senator Sanders, saying, in her words, "The stakes are just too high." She said a Clinton presidency would just lead to more interventionist wars of regime change. What's your response to that?

BOOKER: You know, Tulsi is a friend. I love her and respect her. But again, look at the totality of Congress. In the Senate, not one Senator has endorsed Bernie Sanders. These are his colleagues. We know him. We respect him. But all of us realize that -- have come out in this race overwhelming majority see Hillary Rodham Clinton as a person. If you look at the House, majority of the House has supported -- House Democrats have supported Hillary Clinton. So these are folks who have served in Congress, folks who know the issues at hand, the complicated challenging, day-to-day battle in Congress to try to move the progressive agenda. And we put our faith in Hillary Clinton. People that know her, especially, I bumped into somebody campaigning that knew her back when she was first lady, and was telling me incredible stories about the lengths that she was going for progressive causes. People who knew her as a secretary of state around the country, fighting against female mutilation, against empowering women in Africa. People that have seen the totality of her, really know that she is primed and ready to be the president of the United States on day one, and we put our faith in her.

[13:35:57] BLITZER: In her victory speech Saturday night in South Carolina, she didn't focus much of her attention, if any, on Senator Sanders. She was already making references to Donald Trump. Is her campaign now working under the assumption that Trump will be the Republican nominee?

BOOKER: No, I think she's human. And if you're an American right now, I don't care if you're left, right, or in the center, what's going on in our civic dialogue, what we're hearing from the Republican side has got to offend your sensibilities. We are a nation based on inclusion, on respecting each other. We're not a nation of tolerance. We're a nation of love. Even if our founding documents, if you look at the Declaration of Independence, it talks about pledging to each other our lives, our fortune and our sacred honor. It's not much honorable when I'm hearing the spite and hatred and divisiveness. I know this affects her, like it affects me. I hear this from Republican leaders. What we are hearing right now in this presidential campaign -- and in January, I was overseas -- it is embarrassing, unacceptable. We need to match that darkness with light. We need to match the spiteful words with loving words. And we need to talk about what we stand for as a country. We are a nation of values. We're a nation of inclusion. We're a nation of love. We are a nation that knows, like the old African proverb, if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. I want to hear my presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, talking about that and rejecting the decisiveness like we're hearing from Donald Trump.

BLITZER: But if it's a Trump/Clinton race, leading up to November, how worried are you that he could potentially beat her?

CORY: Bring it. Bring it. I want that fighting because America is going to have a clear choice between someone who wants to demean others and someone who wants to elevate all, between someone who wants to be exclusive and someone who wants to be inclusive, someone who wants to preach to the lesser angels of our nature and someone who wants to appeal to the higher angels of our country. I'm not looking beyond it. We have Super Tuesday, but I am so fired up by the negativity, by the inability to reject the Ku Klux Klan, by all of these strains that I'm hearing right now that are so distressing to our country and values and unity and love that has gotten our country this far. So, look, I'm not worried about that. I'm focused on Super Tuesday. We've got to earn our right in to the Democratic nomination. But when we pivot -- I don't care who that is, when we pivot to face the kind of dark, mean-spirited, cruel stuff that we're hearing from the other side of the aisle right now, which is even turning off Republicans, when we do that pivot, I'm ready for that contest. Because I believe in America. I believe in our values. I am here as the fourth elected African-American in the history of the Senate. I'm here because of a country that overcame that kind of vile from our past and I'm ready to go at for the soul of this nation.

BLITZER: I can see you are, Senator.

Thanks very much for joining us. Cory Booker of New Jersey. Appreciate it.

BOOKER: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: This Sunday, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will be meeting in Flint, Michigan, for a CNN Democratic presidential debate. That's Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. eastern, only here on CNN.

Take a look at this. We have live pictures of Senator Sanders speaking to voters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They've got their contest there tomorrow. Today, his last push before Super Tuesday. Much more right after this.

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[13:43:27] BLITZER: Looking at live pictures of Senator Bernie Sanders, speaking to voters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ahead of the state's Super Tuesday contest there. Let's listen in.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And the third part of what we have been talking about a lot in this campaign is the fact that our criminal justice system is broken.

(CHEERING)

SANDERS: I want you to think about what we are asking the American people and where Secretary Clinton and I have very strong differences of opinion about is I'm asking people to think outside of the box, to think outside of the status quo. You are living today in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. Now, most people don't know that, because almost all the wealth and income is going to the 1 percent. But you have to ask yourself, why in America, in the year 2016, do we have more people in jail than any other country on earth?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame.

SANDERS: Shame is right. Shame is right. And just think about it for a minute. China is a Communist, authoritarian country four times our size. We have more people in jail than China. We have 2.2 million people in jail. We are spending $80 billion a year to lock up fellow Americans.

(BOOING)

SANDERS: Now, is part of that insanity? We have -- we have youth unemployment in this country which is off the charts. Very few people talk about it. Media doesn't talk about it. But for white kids, between 17 and 20, who graduated high school, youth unemployment is 33 percent.

[13:45:24] BLITZER: We're listening to Bernie Sanders. We're going to continue to monitor him. He's in the middle of his speech right there. He's campaigning in Minnesota, one of the contests on Super Tuesday tomorrow, one of his final pleas before Super Tuesday voters head to the polls, right now taking place.

Hillary Clinton though is hoping to ride the momentum from her South Carolina victory into Super Tuesday tomorrow as well.

Joining us now to talk about the Democratic race for president of the United States, Donna Brazile, our CNN political commentator, Democratic strategist; and also joining us, Angela Rye, political strategist, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Donna, Hillary Clinton, by all accounts, is going to do well tomorrow but Bernie Sanders is not going anywhere if you listen to him.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This race is very competitive. As you know tomorrow there's 812 delegates at stake throughout the month of March more than 1,000, 1200 delegates at stake. This is a race to accrue delegates, not just to win states. I suspect given the strategy of both campaigns Hillary is going to do well in Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. And Senator Sanders will still pick up votes but Senator Sanders is concentrating in Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, home state of Vermont. I do suspect they will both get enough delegates tomorrow, not to secure the nomination, but to remain competitive.

BLITZER: He said he's decimated in South Carolina. He used that word. And he did lose 3-1. She had almost 75 percent of the Democratic vote. He's 25 percent or so. But he's got a lot of money and he's got this desire. He keeps saying he's doing this to bring his issues. We just heard some of those issues before the American public. So I assume he's going to go on, even if she continues to do much better tomorrow than he does.

ANGELA RYE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST & FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: I think that you're right, Wolf. I think the interesting thing about Bernie Sanders' strategy is he continues to recall up the youth base, the Millennial and of -- he's a Millennial champion. The challenge with his strategy is the folks are not turning out. They may be so anti-establishment and political revolution, they're not realizing their power is in their vote because he's not mobilizing them in that way. It's the same thing with some of the cosmetic fixes he's made with the black community. For example, he's got semi-high-profile surrogates and he's speaking certain -- he's using certain buzzwords that resonate with the community but it's not manifested itself into real African-American voter turnout, at least not for Bernie. It's backfiring because of the Clinton relationship with the African-American community.

BLITZER: Is a long campaign -- even if she does eventually emerge -- and many expect she will get the nomination. But let's say it does go on for weeks or a few more months, does that help her going into a contest against Donald Trump or hurt her?

BRAZILE: The tone of the campaign might it shift and may get more contentious. But I do believe a long campaign is a good campaign because every Democrat wants to participant. Why not let it go on to California where we can get more energy, more enthusiasm, because that is one thing scaring Democrats.

BLITZER: You're agree with that?

RYE: Absolutely. Bernie Sanders says he intends to stay in the race.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's not going anywhere. Yeah, he's staying put.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Ladies, thank you very much.

I want to show our viewers an incident that took place at the Donald Trump rally only moments ago in Radford, Virginia. This, one of several protests that disrupted his event only moments ago. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SHOUTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The group of protesters, as you can see them there, they were among the 3,000 or so in the hall to listen to Trump. Some of the protesters chanted, "Black Lives Matter." Security came in and led the group out, among the shouts from Trump supporters, a lot of shouting going on at that time.

Donald Trump, though, is certainly dominating the Republican race for president ahead of tomorrow's crucial Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. He's facing attacks from within the GOP. Yesterday, he told Jake Tapper he didn't know enough about David Duke, formerly of the KKK, to refuse his endorsement from KKK, although he had done just that on Friday. He has disavowed his endorsement since then.

Mitt Romney tweeted this, quote, "A disqualifying, disgusting response by Donald Trump to the KKK. His coddling of bigotry is not in the character of America." Joining us to talk about the state of the Republican race, CNN

political commentators, Tara Setmayer and Jeffrey Lord. Jeffrey is a Trump supporter.

Jeffrey, he should have immediately, when Jake asked, he should have immediately disavowed David Duke, right? That was a mistake on his part?

[13:50:20] JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure, I think it was. He said he didn't quite get it because of an earpiece. But the fact of the matter, Wolf, as "Politico" reported in August, he quite specifically rejected David Duke, said he didn't want his endorsement. So you know, he's been on the record three or four times before he was, you know, on with Jake. And then, of course, he said it after he was on with Jake.

So, you know, one of the things, Wolf, David Duke is, of course, a left -- the Ku Klux Klan came out of the leftist movement in America. It's anti-Semitic. And Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism and is married to her Jewish husband, and they have -- Jared Kushner, and they have children. In other word, Donald Trump's daughter, son in law, and grandchildren are all Jewish. To think he'd line up with an anti-Semitic ex Klansman is crazy.

BLITZER: Tara, what do you think about that?

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm encouraged to think that Jeffrey admitted something Donald Trump never does, it was a mistake. He is allowed, Donald Trump alone, not the establishment, not the media, not the boogie man, not anyone else has created this rumor, but Donald Trump himself, because he refused, perhaps he was pandering, perhaps he was, you know, catering to the elements of the south that we don't like to discuss, that actually think the KKK is OK. I don't know what Trump was doing. But there is no excuse for him not to come out just as clearly as he has in other cases. He brought this up in 2000 when Donald Trump was flirting with the Reform Party run, that he didn't want anything to do with the reform party because of people like David Duke. So for Donald Trump to come out and just lie and say he doesn't know who he is and act, all of a sudden, outraged at someone would ask him such a question and no, no, no, it was the earpiece. This is the kind of lack of integrity people are concerned about with Donald Trump. One of many things. But when he is unable to take responsibility for what he does, he flies off the handle irrationally and blames other people for those problems. This is something we've seen even in his business career throughout over the 40 years of his business career, we see this also. He does not take responsibility for what he does and then blames everyone else.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: So this is a problem and it should be very concerning for someone who is running to be president of the United States, unacceptable.

BLITZER: He's getting some endorsements, Donald Trump. He got Senator Sessions of Alabama, as you know, but increasingly, a bunch of Republicans out there are beginning to say if Trump were to get the Republican nomination, they couldn't vote for him. What's been the reaction from the Trump campaign to that?

LORD: Well, you know, frankly, I don't know, Wolf. I haven't talked to the people who say this. But certainly, my opinion is this used to be said about Ronald Reagan, too. And I might add this is exactly what's wrong with the Republican party. I mean, it's either my way or I'm going to take my marbles and go home. This is what they do all the time. They always talk that we have to have unity, rally behind the nominee. They've done this in Senate races, presidential races. They did this with Barry Goldwater. John Anderson went out after losing to Reagan and ran against him as the third-party candidate. They always do this. They always do this. They act like spoiled brats.

(CROSSTALK)

LORD: And I think, if that's their point of view, say hasta la vista.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: I'm sorry, but did you just describe everything Donald Trump has done and threatened to the Republican party? He's threatened to leave the party and run as an Independent if he isn't treated nicely or fairly.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: He's the one that's complaining and saying he's going to take his voters and go somewhere else.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Donald Trump is the one who acted like a spoiled brat throughout this whole thing any time any challenges his record. Words he says out of his own mouth, he disputes them, and he's the one that acts like that. This is like the world turned upside down here. Can we look at what's really going on here?

LORD: This latest business --

(CROSSTALK)

LORD: This latest business --

SETMAYER: I mean, come on --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, hold on, hold on.

SETMAYER: What is going on with Donald Trump? He is --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey. (CROSSTALK)

LORD: He is bringing new people into the Republican party, just as Ronald Reagan did. And this business with the Klan and the GOP establishment and Mitt Romney ought to be ashamed of himself, playing the race card. This is what liberals do. This is not what Republicans do. And there is Mitt Romney, of all people, playing the race card against Donald Trump. That is disgraceful.

SETMAYER: You're blaming Mitt Romney for Donald Trump's own mistakes here? This is kind of thing I'm talking about, the insanity --

(CROSSTALK)

LORD: He is well on record, Tara, against David Duke. To pretend otherwise --

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Why didn't he just say it flat-out on Sunday instead of giving fuel to the fire?

(CROSSTALK)

LORD: Tara, he is on record repeatedly, repeatedly --

(CROSSTALK)

[13:55:18] BLITZER: Hold your thought, Tara, stand by.

Unfortunately, we're out of time right now. But I know this debate, this discussion is not going away by any means.

Tara, thank you very much.

Jeffrey, thanks to you as well.

LORD: Thanks, Wolf.

Thanks, Tara.

SETMAYER: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Tonight, you can catch Donald Trump's wife Melania, on CNN. She'll talk to our own Anderson Cooper, tonight on "A.C. 360" at 8:00 eastern, only here on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back at 5:00 p.m. eastern in "The Situation Room."

For international viewers, "Amanpour" is next.

For viewers in North America, NEWSROOM with Brooke Baldwin starts right after a break.

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