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Conservative Plot to Take Down Trump; Ron Paul Talks GOP Convention Shenanigans; New Details on Paris Terror Suspect. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired March 18, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining me today! I'm Carol Costello.

AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan start now.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: This is more likely to become an open convention.

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: You would have problems like you've never seen before.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This time is still, you know, prevent a Trump nomination.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: His campaign is built on xenophobia, race baiting.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, A.C. 360: Conservatives calling for a unity ticket or even a third-party effort to stop him.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Trump will not be president.


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


This morning, it's either not too late to stop Donald Trump or way too late to try. New details this morning about a conservative plot to take on Trump. Prominent conservatives preparing for a contested convention and tossing out ideas of a possible unity ticket or even pushing a third-party candidate. Trump has a big rally planned in Utah.

BERMAN: All right. Meanwhile, a top Trump aide just issued a new warning about the consequences if party leaders block Trump from getting the nomination. This is Sam Clovis a short time ago here on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAM CLOVIS, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: I will tell you this, if the Republican party comes into that convention and jimmies with the rules and take away the will of the people, the will of the Republicans and Democrats and the Independents who have voted for Mr. Trump, I will take off my credentials and I will leave the floor of that convention and I will leave the Republican party forever.


BERMAN: Wow. All right. A lot going on here.

Let's bring in CNN's political director, David Chalian.

David, we seem to be at this crucial moment, this pivot point in this campaign.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: We do, indeed. We should say, of course, Sam Clovis is on a Donald Trump's payroll. Not every delegate on the floor will be. But I think he is clearly giving voice to this notion that all of these Trump supporters, if you just try to wrestle away the nomination from the guy that is clearly leading and poised to win the nomination, that sentiment is, obviously, going to ring true throughout the Trump supporters.

But, you're right, John. We have hit a moment in this campaign now that Donald Trump looks all but certain to be the nominee, which is giving new life to the force that want to desperately do anything to stop that from happening.

BOLDUAN: David, what do you make of the force that desperately want to stop that from happening? What is going to come, do you think, of this meeting of conservatives, described as secret acceptance, clearly not secret any more.

BERMAN: Worst kept secret in the world.

BOLDUAN: Worst one. There are a lot of those worst kept secrets coming out of Washington.

CHALIAN: It wasn't a secret at all. This is one faction of conservatives, faith-based conservatives, they got together. This is different than sort of when we talk about the establishment. There are all of these different wings in the party that are anti-Trump and are trying to find the best path forward. You saw out of that meeting yesterday in Washington, with a lot of those conservatives, one of the ideas put forth was this notion of a unity ticket, maybe Cruz and Kasich together. Some still talking maybe Cruz or bring Rubio back together. Of course, Marco Rubio sort of dismissed that notion yesterday. But they are talking about joining forces in some sort of unity ticket to be able to prevent Trump from getting the nomination.

I still don't understand, when I ask people, I constantly say, guys, how does that actually work and what does that mean in terms of counting the delegates on the convention floor if you have some sort of unity ticket? That is not how people get nominated. So I don't think there is a surefire path. I think one of the things you're seeing about the anti-Trump movement

hasn't had some galvanizing successful moment yet is because there is not one-agreed upon strategy here about how to take him down. You guys know he is not yet in one-on-one fight with someone who can be the vehicle for all anti-Trump movement.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, Arizona, Utah vote on Tuesday. He will probably pick up some delegates, at least in Arizona.

All right. David, thanks for being with us.


BERMAN: Sure. Yeah.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, David.

Let's bring in our panel right now. Barry Bennett is a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and formerly Ben Carson's campaign manager; and Amanda Carpenter, a CNN political commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz; and Van Jones, CNN political commentator who worked in the Obama administration.

Barry, first to you.

What do you make of this meeting of, you know, the conservative faithful? These are not the establishment guys getting together in Washington to talk about how to stop Trump. Still.

BARRY BENNETT, SENIOR ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & FORMER BEN CARSON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: There are establishment leaders in every faction of the party. But, I mean, it's becoming laughable at this point. I mean, if Donald Trump wins Arizona next Tuesday, this is over. And, you know, they can have all of the meetings they want but they can't change the laws of mathematics. He's going to be the nominee. He's going to get the 1237. He's going to go beyond 1237. And it's over.

BERMAN: Amanda Carpenter, can you change the laws of mathematics. Why will this effort work when others have failed? A lot of money spent to defeat Donald Trump a few days ago in the March 15th states didn't seem to work.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The only way Donald Trump locks this up is when he gets 1,237, and every day more people uniting against Trump and getting behind Ted Cruz. I think it's certainly going to the convention in July. But anything can happen in this environment. Donald Trump is probably, to use his words, just one riot away from losing this nomination. But all of his supporters want to pretend this is over and locked up and he doesn't have to go to any debates and it's inevitable, get over it and get behind Trump. There's a solid group of people, I think maybe 30 percent, maybe 40 percent that will never support Donald Trump given his behavior in this election so far, and I probably count myself among one of them.

[11:05:46] BOLDUAN: Amanda, you're doing something pretty remarkable. You can call it what you want, but you are publicly calling out the people who endorsed Donald Trump. You tweeted this, "For me, "Never Trump" means never for those who endorse him, too." What are you trying to do?

CARPENTER: Absolutely. I think this is a question of judgment. I'm very comfortable with my judgment so far in this election, deciding not to support Donald Trump. I question anyone who is getting behind his candidacy because I think that he poses such a significant threat to the conservative movement in America as a whole. This is a person who openly has condoned violence --

BENNETT: This is crazy.

CARPENTER: -- at his rallies. Anyone who will support a man who does that, I think, will defend anything, and I can't trust them.

BERMAN: Barry, respond. Go ahead.

BENNETT: This is a temper tantrum that I expect from my 5-year-old, OK? This is ridiculous. Half of the things she says are totally untrue and the other half are made up for spin. This is crazy! Stop it!


BOLDUAN: Go ahead, Amanda.

CARPENTER: Here's the thing. I'll say here is the thing my litmus test probably last year, when Donald Trump started threatening lawsuits against reporters who wrote negative things about him, when he said that the Richard Lowry of "National Review" should be fined by the government for writing negative things, that is a line for me can't be uncrossed. You add things on top of that, like he is OK with calling women bimbos, I am not comfortable letting my daughter grow up under a Trump administration.

BERMAN: Van? You wanted to say something?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I just think that the name calling, the temper, the Trump style, that has begun to affect the political discourse. I think it's inappropriate. Here is reality. Everybody has to make their own decision. We have come to this point now it's all about the horse race and statistics and the math. At some point, ideas matter. At some point, you just have to say if this man is a president of the United States and starts a dumb war or says something horrible, do I want that on my hands? Do I want that on my heart? If you're last person at the convention and everybody is sang no, and everybody is against you? If your heart is right you have to go with your heart. We have to get past this thing where it's all calculation and all math, it's all who is going to be able to be a part of the administration for Clinton or for Sanders or for Trump or for Cruz. And people have to start speaking from their hearts again. I just want to say that, you know, maybe Amanda is right and maybe she is wrong, but she not throwing a temper tantrum and that's not inappropriate.


BENNETT: It is a temper tantrum. I will never vote for anybody like Chris Christie or anybody who stands with Donald Trump. That's too far. Never is a long time. All right? I've been angry before. I mean, I wasn't -- I swore that I would never vote for John McCain. He wasn't a Republican. You know, he didn't care about the party. In the end, I wrote a check for him and voted for him because it was important to the party and to the causes that I care about. So, I mean, we all need to calm down. This isn't the end of the world.


JONES: It might be.



CARPENTER: But I guess I'm crazy just like --


BOLDUAN: Amanda?



BOLDUAN: There are two very different views. I mean, look, Barry, you're laying out very clearly, calm down because you believe the party will coalesce around Donald Trump at some point.

Amanda, you're saying no.

CARPENTER: Right. I think Donald Trump has gone a bridge too far and too many issues important to me. He is good a couple of but largely he is Arlen Specter with more money and a worse attitude.

BERMAN: Van Jones, you're looking at this with an advantage I don't think voting in the Republican primary, not now, maybe not ever.

BOLDUAN: There is a never there. You can say never there.


BERMAN: There are two schools of thought, Van. A school of thought which is, you know, there are so irreparable damaged that the Republican Party can never heal and this can hurt them in November, or there's the it's a tough primary, these kinds of discussions out in the open make the candidate better ultimately. Which do you think it is here?

[11:09:53] JONES: Well, look, I can't tell. I think that, you know, try to make predictions is very difficult in general, especially this year. This is what I know. Democrats who think that Donald Trump is going to be easy to beat in a general election need to wake up, get a cup of coffee, and look at reality.

Here is reality. This guy is Trump-zilla. He's a massive force that went crunching through the Republican village, stepping on Senators and government like it's nothing. He hasn't spent hardly any of his own money. This thing is going to be very, very difficult. If he gets a nomination, this is going to be the biggest fight Democrats have ever seen, thought of, or heard about, and we need to take this guy very, very seriously.

And, also, this idea he cannot win minority votes is total crap. 70 percent of African-Americans don't like him. That means 30 percent do. If he gets half of that, 15 percent of the black vote, he is president.

This guy is a serious threat and people -- the whole society is now doing what Republican establishment did and taking him light and waiting too long. Everybody needs to say "Never Trump," not just Republicans.

BERMAN: When he said Trump-zilla, saying he's a serious threat, I think you both agree he should be taken seriously. I think one issue everyone here agrees right now.



BOLDUAN: Barry, Amanda, Van, let's continue the conversation.

Barry, are you and Amanda in the same city? You two need to have a conversation. If you're in the same city right now?

CARPENTER: I don't know. I'm having a temper tantrum. I don't know if I can calm down enough to talk about it.

BOLDUAN: All right. You two, fight!

Thanks, guys.


BERMAN: We will talk about the convention right now. We'll speak with a man at the center of a very infamous battle at the convention.

Ron Paul joins us live. Whose side is he on here when it comes to convention shenanigans?

BOLDUAN: Shenanigans!

Plus, no most Mr. Nice guy. John Kasich is taking shots at Donald Trump now. But why then, if he is no more Mr. Nice guy, and the gloves are off, why is he still holding off on Ted Cruz?

And breaking news. We're getting word that fingerprints of the Paris attacker still on the run have been discovered inside an apartment in Europe. Brand-new details on the now renewed frantic manhunt just ahead.


[11:16:05] BERMAN: All the talk this morning is will there be a contested Republican convention. What will that mean for the party? What will that look like in Cleveland? How will team Trump react?

BOLDUAN: Let's bring in one man who knows something about this and has been at the center of what a lot of folks would say are convention shenanigans, former president and presidential candidate, Ron Paul.

Congressman, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for coming on.


BOLDUAN: As we said, you've been at the center of wild convention happenings. When you see that this race is looking more and more likely that it's heading to a contested convention, what do you make of it?

PAUL: I think it's the same old stuff going on. It's been going on for a long time. And it did come up in the last election, but I didn't have quite as many delegates that we would had seated than Trump has. He is much more in the driver's seat. So, therefore, the Republicans are risking a lot more.

But this type of thing has gone on for a long time and it will continue. But it's going to be very damaging, if anybody cares about the Republican Party, which is down on my list. They should be concerned what is going on. I care about the threat of violence and the type of things that are going on already where saying, you know, this could lead to a lot of violent reaction to this.

But people changing rules is sort of our culture. Congress does it all the time. You know? They change rules and they don't follow the Constitution. They let the presidents to write executive orders. It goes on and on. So for the political parties to act like the politicians who are already in power, doesn't surprise me one bit.

BERMAN: So four years ago, there was something called rule 40. This was also known as the Ron Paul Rule. The Romney forces, what they did is they made it be that your name couldn't be placed in the nomination unless you won a majority of eight state delegations. This was largely to keep your name from being placed in nomination. Now, Republicans are suggesting maybe they should do away with the rule. This time, it's to hurt Donald Trump. Where do you come down on the whole thing?

PAUL: I think it's a bit of an irony, and they deserve the problem. But that is it's actually right. They did not want my name to come up and so they changed the rules because we had the votes but they would, you know, disallow some of the delegates. So some of the things, the delegates we had, they were taken away from us. And we had the numbers to allow my name to be put into nomination. But they wouldn't do it. So they are terrified of competition. Now the establishment has competition that really looks strong. There's a lot of people behind Trump, so this is a big problem for them, for the party, and I think it will probably go to the floor. But I think Trump is going to win. And I wouldn't be surprised if that happens that you're going to see another individual running, a third-party candidate, somebody supported by the establishment-type Republicans and those who can't control Trump. So that is what they have to look forward to --


BOLDUAN: If you say third-party candidate, you, yourself, has run as a third-party candidate. Do you support that idea of a third-party candidate coming in or even not thinking of it as a third-party candidate, but what about a late entry, a Paul Ryan or even a Mitt Romney coming in at the convention if someone doesn't get the numbers -- they bring in as their nominee, as an option?

PAUL: Well, it's good theater. It would be good for you and the media. It would be a lot of fun with that. But it has nothing to do with our problems and nothing to do with our solution. It's just a total distraction. So, you know, I don't -- I can't see that happening that they would put another candidate. You are going to try anything but it will make absolutely no difference whatsoever. And there is not going to be any difference whether you have Trump or Hillary either, because they support the big issues. They are very much into the internationalism in our foreign policy and they support the Federal Reserve --


PAUL: -- they don't challenge spending.

[11:20:24] BOLDUAN: But on the convention, do you -- do you -- do you -- do you support them dropping rule 40?

PAUL: Well, I support getting rid of all of those rules and going to Roberts Rules of Order, because I think 1,500 pages of rules, it's all a game they play. Nobody understands. Even with our smaller campaign, we had to have lawyers trying to help us to figure this out and see what the rules were. But they still were able, because they had the power and authority to change rules. You know, they rolled over us. No, they don't need all of those rules. It's more complex than running a government, but it's on purpose. They don't like to see any challenges and they are terrified of competition, especially if it's a principled competition that they are up against.

BERMAN: Congressman, am I wrong in detecting a tone of glee in your voice? Is there a shot that the party and the people running this convention are having some issues?

PAUL: Did you say greed or what?

BERMAN: Glee. Glee. G-L-E-E.


PAUL: Oh, no! Well, it doesn't bother me. Actually, I'm not very gleeful ABOUT what is happening in the country. But because the parties are disrupted -- Democrat party's in terrible shape. Here, they have a candidate that might be indicted, and if she doesn't get indicted, she will have some baggage. And then you have Trump who -- I want to see the disruption of the status quo because the status quo has been running both parties for so long, and that is why we are in this mess, and nobody is addressing that. They are just saying, well, it's Trump or it's Romney, and this is it, it's personality. But it's much bigger than that. It's a cataclysmic climate we have in our economy and they are not dealing with that. So the more we can talk about Trump and changing the rules, the better it is for the individuals to avoid the real issues, because they will not talk about how serious our economy is and what is going on in this country, the undermining of our liberties. I mean, this is the kind of thing I think they purposely avoid. Because if they can talk about personalities, there is no need to try to solve the problems or even describe the problem that many of us think are out there and deserve attention.

BOLDUAN: Ron Paul, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

Coming up for us, a hacker group says it has breached the personal information of Donald Trump and his family. Why this may show how vulnerable Trump and other candidates are.

BERMAN: Just in, we are getting word the Air Force is investigating members of the Nuclear Weapon Security Force over drugs. We have news from the Pentagon. That's ahead.


[11:27:35] BOLDUAN: Breaking new details on the terror front. Belgian counterterrorism officials telling CNN the fingerprints of fugitive terrorist suspect, Salah Abdeslam, were found in a Brussels apartment raided by authorities this week.

BERMAN: It's believed he was hiding out in this apartment as a hideout following the November 13th Paris terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

CNN terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank, is here.

Paul, you have details. Exactly what was going on in that apartment and what is the latest on the search from Abdeslam?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Police go in to raid this apartment on Tuesday. They didn't believe anybody was there at the time. Salah Abdeslam. They had a firefight and killed one of the terrorist but two of the terrorists escaped through the roof and still at large. They believe Salah Abdeslam had been may have been at that apartment and may have been one of the people that escaped on that day. They found DNA of his and fingerprints. They believe he was there recently. A big manhunt going now on in Brussels to try and find him. The concern is he's armed, he's dangerous, he could carry out another attack, that he is with at least one other person.

The big other news that dead terrorist that Belgian police sniper killed, well, that, it appears, was the senior kingpin in the entire Paris attacks conspiracy, a guy they have identified as Mohamed Belkide (ph). They've been looking for him for months. There is his picture on the screen and that was circulated by the Belgian police on December 4th. They haven't been able to find him since then. He was giving order on the phone during the time of the Paris attacks to the ringleader in Paris but not the overall ring leader of the conspiracy, Belkide (ph), who has now been killed, it would appear.

BOLDUAN: Paul, it was thought that Abdeslam had gone to Paris and was he in Belgium the entire time?

CRUICKSHANK: Every indication he has been in Belgium the entire time.


BOLDUAN: Isn't that troubling?

CRUICKSHANK: They know that now for sure. Troubling? Yes, but sympathizers in Brussels, and they have been doing searches in Brussels across the country and working in corporation with French investigators to try to roll up this whole network. They have made 11 key arrests, 11 people in custody suspected of being part of that conspiracy who now await a trial. But some of these key figures, they hadn't got until now. This was a key intelligence breakthrough.