Return to Transcripts main page


Conservative Plot to Take Down Trump; Kasich Hits Trump, Is Cruz Next Target; Obama to Visit Cuban. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 18, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Yes, but sympathizers in Brussels and they have been doing searches in Brussels across the country and working in corporation with French investigators 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. It appears they got lucky. They didn't know what they were walking into and they didn't have the armed commandos you would need --


CRUICKSHANK: -- to hem off people from being able to escape from this place. But now that they have clearly got a search around the clock to try to find them, and the worry is that Salah Abdeslam and this other guy may be desperate and they are on the run and may see no way out but to attack again.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Paul Cruickshank with this news.

Thanks so much. Appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Paul. Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Turning back to politics now. Republican rivals are taking to the campaign trail and headed out west. Contests are Tuesday in Arizona and Utah.

BOLDUAN: This, as yet another Stop Trump movement, a movement, a gathering, a group is trying to plot the GOP front-runner's demise.

Let's discuss. Let's bring in Stephen Miller, a senior adviser to Donald Trump and top aide to Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.

Stephen, thanks for coming in again. We really appreciate it.


BOLDUAN: Another adviser to Donald Trump, Sam Clovis, said this today on the question of what would happen if Trump was blocked from the nomination. Listen to this! (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM CLOVIS: 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.


BOLDUAN: Stephen, are you prepared to do the same? Are you prepared to take off your credentials and leave the Republican Party forever if this happens?

MILLER: If they give me credentials, I'll happily take them off.

The reality is that they are not just trying to stop Donald Trump from getting the nomination. They are trying to rob millions of citizens from having control over their own economic future. That is what is at stake here. Remember, the people trying to stop Donald Trump are trying to hold on to their own control over the political process. The people who have negotiated our terrible trade deals and the people who left our border wide open --

BERMAN: Stephen, Stephen!

MILLER: -- the people who enmeshed us in terrible foreign wars. They are trying to hold on to power to keep the American people from asserting their voice.

BERMAN: Stephen, would you leave the party if they blocked Donald Trump's nomination? And would you call on other Trump supporters to leave the party as well?

MILLER: I don't even think it's going to come to that. I don't think it's even going to come to that. I think we are going to get to 1,237 delegates and win the nomination. I think if we go to the convention with a large delegate lead, we will get the nomination.

But the reality is nobody cares what I'm going to do. I guarantee you this, millions of patriotic Americans are going to leave the Republican party if the power brokers, the corporate people, the people running the policies for years in a desperate bid to hold on to their power, deny millions of Americans their voice and their vote, then we will end up shrinking this party. We need to embrace the chance to grow the party and not to shrink it.

BOLDUAN: Another thing about party, about the Republican National Committee, about the convention, this is how the system has worked. A lot of folks say people might not know the way the system works in terms of the delegates and how a contest convention would work and how going to multiple ballots would happen, because it hasn't happened in decades.

Sean Spicer, the communications director and chief strategist for the RNC, he said very clearly this isn't a game of horseshoes. You get the nomination, and to get the nomination you need numbers, you need 216. And anything short of that means you're not going to -- nothing -- a bill is not going to be -- to become law. Are you going to follow those rules?

MILLER: Well, the phrase "this is how the system works" is hardly a bumper sticker that we should be embracing as a country. "This is how the system works" is why we don't have manufacturing jobs any more. "This is how the system works" is why we don't have a border any more. "This is how the system works" is why we are trapped in terrible Middle Eastern disputes that have been draining this country of blood and treasure. But the reality is -- if you want to talk about how the system works, in a normal election cycle, Marco Rubio would have dropped out before Florida and John Kasich would have dropped out before Ohio and Ted Cruz would have dropped out after getting shellacked again in another Super Tuesday. It's unprecedented that you have an effort from special interests, collectively worth trillions of dollars to try to stop Trump from getting the nomination? And why? Because people have made a killing off of our terrible trade deals and our wage suppressing immigration policies. For instance, you saw today Lindsey Graham --


BERMAN: Stephen, can I jump in?

MILLER: Lindsey Graham endorsed Ted Cruz because he wants to continue the same failed policy agenda.

BERMAN: We want to one question on foreign policy in here.

MILLER: Absolutely.

[11:35:1-] BERMAN: We spoke to you a few weeks ago and when Donald Trump said he was putting together a foreign policy. And asked who the advisers were then and he wouldn't tell us. Donald Trump has been on TV saying -- he was asked who he listens to on foreign policy, he said, "I listen to myself and speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I've said a lot of things." In addition to speaking to himself, who is he speaking to on foreign policy beyond your former boss, Jeff Sessions? Name names. Give us some names.

MILLER: I'm so glad you asked that question. Because Senator Jeff Sessions has actually been in the process of taking meetings and putting together a list of confidential advisers and a list of adviser to make public in the future, military experts, intelligence experts, defense experts. I just had a conversation with him the other day talking about the progress he is making. And as soon as we have an announcement to make about that, we will. But let's not downplay --


BERMAN: Not now?

(CROSSTALK) MILLER: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. Let's not downplay --


BOLDUAN: We are not downplaying anything. But why not -- what's the -- what is the hold up?

MILLER: There is no hold up. You don't want to rush into just putting out a list of name for its own sake to create chatter for cable news. Senator Jeff Sessions has been on the Armed Services Committee for 20 years! He is one of the most respected members of Congress in either party! If Senator Jeff Sessions says he is going to meet with the best, most sophisticated, most respected voices in defense, foreign policy, and intelligence issues, then we should allow him the time to put that team together, to assemble it, to meet with them, to vet them, to have that conversation.

BOLDUAN: What is your projection? When will you announce a team?

MILLER: I think we will have some names soon and more names as time goes on.


BOLDUAN: You said that last time we talked to you. When is soon?

MILLER: The last time I talked to you, we didn't have Jeff Sessions in place and --


BERMAN: Jeff Sessions had already been announced.


BOLDUAN: He had already been announced.


BERMAN: The question -- the question, the question, Stephens is, are there real people out there you're talking to --


MILLER: Yes. Senator Jeff Sessions is taking meetings every single day, putting together a team. I find it remarkable that we would say that having Jeff Sessions taking the time to put together a team isn't a good thing. We are still -- we are still months and months away from the general election. Senator Jeff Sessions is --


BOLDUAN: What we're both reacting to is, when Donald Trump is asked, and he's been asked my many folks, and he says, "I'm speaking to myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I say a lot of things." MILLER: Because Donald Trump -- Donald Trump -- Donald Trump has been

right on the major foreign policy issues of our time when everyone else was wrong. And isn't that really matters? We're always focused on the wrong thing. That is why we keep failing on foreign policy.

BOLDUAN: But you think Donald Trump --


MILLER: Hold on. Hold on a second! Hold on a second! Donald J. Trump warned of an assault by Osama bin Laden before 9/11. Donald Trump criticized the war in Iraq when others were cheerleading. Donald Trump's core instinct is --


BERMAN: Stephen --

MILLER: -- the national interest.

BERMAN: We have to go to break. We have to go to break here. But the question is, does he need a foreign policy team?

MILLER: He is putting one together as we speak and Jeff Sessions is leading the search committee, which is a wonderful thing. But what I want to leave you with -- I'm glad we are having this conversation -- is that voters have a choice between Ted Cruz, pushing the foreign policy of Lindsey Graham and reflective interventionism, which is dangerous and reckless and costly, or Donald J. Trump, who will grow the Republican party by pushing a foreign policy that puts the national interest first, and avoid forcing us into Middle East nation building that is draining this country of blood and treasure. And that is the choice the voters will have.

BERMAN: Stephen Miller -- Stephen Miller, great to have you with us.

MILLER: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: When you get names, please come back. Send them our way!

MILLER: I would love to. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Love to know when "soon" is, Stephen. We appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll have you on soon as well. Appreciate it.

BERMAN: We'll be right back.


[11:42:44] BERMAN: Conservatives right now many of them working behind the scenes to figure out a way to stop Donald Trump. His last two Republican rivals, meanwhile, on the campaign trail, are going after him the old-fashioned way -- on Twitter. John Kasich went directly at Donald Trump tweeting, "Donald Trump's implicit acceptance of violence is the kind of rhetoric that is pulling people apart."

BOLDUAN: The nice guy going not so nice against Donald Trump. Why then hasn't the Ohio governor gone after Ted Cruz at this point as well?

Joining us to discuss this and the state of the race, Jackie Kucinich, senior politics editor for "The Daily Beast"; "New York Times" columnist, Charles Blow; and Kellyanne Conway, Republican pollster and president of the Ted Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise.

Guys, great to see you.

Kellyanne, Marco Rubio, let's start there. He's back on Capitol Hill and was asked about the speculation about kind of looking at -- and thinking about the speculation that he will, at some point, endorse Ted Cruz, and he said this. Listen.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Clearly, I mean, Ted' positions on issues are conservative but I don't have anything further to elaborate on or anything to announce today.


BOLDUAN: He is not announcing anything today but told reporters that Ted Cruz is the only true conservative left in the race. Is this eminent?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & CEO, THE POLLING COMPANY: We hope so and welcome it and we're happy to have received endorsements from Senator Lindsey Graham and Governor Nikki Haley, from South Carolina, who endorsed other candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, respectively, not to come together and not stop Trump, but come for Ted Cruz. That's the second part. You can't stop Trump, but you have to do it with another vehicle, another candidate. So we welcome Senator Rubio's endorsement. I believe Senator Cruz himself on Tuesday night, after Senator Rubio announced he would be suspending his campaign, he said that we welcome anybody who supported Senator Rubio to come to us. Senator Rubio has about 168 delegates or so. 90 of them are bound him, somewhere around there. He definitely has more than John Kasich, who is still in the race and cannot win. It's mathematically impossible. But I think you'll see more of the United States Senators rally around Senator Cruz as a way to stop Trump and a way to coalesce and start focusing on the fall.

BERMAN: Jackie, it's interesting what we hear from Cruz himself and Cruz supporters, like Kellyanne, that it's unfortunate that John Kasich is in the race and he doesn't have the math to get there, but you don't really hear Cruz going after John Kasich or his policies. And you don't remember Kasich talking about Ted Cruz now and his policies. What is going on between these two? Should they be complaining a little bit against each other in the states they are competing in right now?

[11:45:23] JACKIE KUCINICH, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: I don't know that it serves either of their purpose to do that, because if they continue to split the delegates between Trump and the two of them there is a better chance for a contest convention and a better chance they could win on the floor, especially because, you know, if the first ballot -- if Trump can't win on the first ballot, that second ballot is a free-for-all. The delegates can vote for whoever they want. If they keep dividing this delegate count, maybe Trump won't get to the magic number by the time we get to July.

BOLDUAN: Charles, let's talk about the man in the White House right now and his role looking ahead at the general election. "The Washington Post" had a fascinating piece today about the role of Obama and Biden in this election and they wrote this, "Obama is poised to be the most active sitting president on the campaign trail in decades."

What does that look like and what risks does that come with?

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I don't know what downsides there are. He has kind of transformed what it means to be a lame-duck president, and the last kind of domino in that is the Supreme Court nomination. May not ever get a hearing, but the idea that he is so active in this last year has transformed what it even looks like. And once you get -- you narrow it down and figure out who is going to be the Democratic nominee -- there was a report yesterday that he was already kind of tipping his hat to Hillary. If that is true, that means that he will be really active. He is a strong counterpoint.

So what you have to understand about every election is that it is a referendum on the person in the office now.


BLOW: The sitting president is always on the ticket, whether or not they are on the ticket or not. So they are running against him. And he is a -- one of the things he is best at and what he loves is campaigning. The idea that he would be campaigning for whoever the Democratic nominee would be, he would love the idea of that.

BERMAN: Kellyanne?

CONWAY: I think the irony is that, for a while, I viewed Secretary Clinton as running for Bill Clinton's third term and trying that. I think she has leaned into running for Obama's third term, particularly with Vice President Biden not running for the third term of Obama/Biden. She stepped into that breach. I think Hillary Clinton needs Barack Obama on the trail with her. There are people, voters that were excited about him, who have not been turning out. The turnout that has clearly favored the Republican side this year, not necessarily the Democratic side with those kinds of numbers. They haven't seen the kind of turnout you saw in 2008 when President Obama --


BOLDUAN: Ted Cruz would love that image of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to run against, I'm sure. BERMAN: Thank you, Kellyanne.

Charles, thanks so much.

Appreciate it, guys.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

President Obama, he's getting ready for a historic trip to Cuba, calling it a bright new chapter in relations with the former Cold War enemy. But how do the Cuban people feel about the president's visit? The emotional reactions, just ahead.



[11:52:27] BILL WEIR, CNN HOST, THE WONDER LIST: How is life in Havana these days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really hard, man.

WEIR: It's hard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Some people think change is crucial. I hope so.

WEIR: You hope so? You don't think so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe change for business. But for the people, I don't know.


BERMAN: "The Wonder List" is back. Bill Weir is back. Going to some of the most important places on earth talking to the most important people about the most important subjects.

Bill Weir, you went to Cuba. And President Obama headed there, the first president to go there since Calvin Coolidge. He is heading there on Sunday. How will he be received?

WEIR: They will love him. They will love him to a person. They are so warm.

I went down there sort of with -- I don't remember much of the Cold War. You grew up hearing stories about the missile crisis and duck- and-cover, and wondered how we would be received. So open hearted and warm. They are so excited about the change in relations. For 50 years, they have seen the blockade, as they call it, as the impediment to a better life. The society that developed as a result of that hardship is one of a kind. I had such a blast down there. They welcome it.

But what they fear is that American corporations may come down and turn the place in to Cancun or Key West and they might lose a bit of their soul along the way.

BOLDUAN: You also talked to tobacco farmer about what lifting of the embargo would mean for them. Are they ready for the demand for Cuban cigars?

WEIR: We went to a region that is like the Napa or cigar region. I met a farmer and said, if this opens up, will you be able to keep demand, will you have to stop growing food to grow cigar leaf? They are not sure yet. They are sure about a lot of things, the water, infrastructure, power, communications systems. They're really as old as the '57 Chevys you see there. They need billions in infrastructure investment.

But the spirit, the welcoming spirit is there. The biggest brand right now, the buzz, isn't whether Starbucks or McDonald's is coming. It is AirBNB. Since the Castros allowed people to open up little bed and breakfasts in their homes, it is their first taste of capitalism in 50 years.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating.

BERMAN: Incredible changes.

Bill Weir, thank you so much for being with us.


WEIR: You've got to see it.

BERMAN: You can watch the premier of the CNN original series "The Wonder List" with Bill Weir, Sunday night at 10:00 eastern. Don't miss it.

BOLDUAN: Nice picture, Bill?

[11:55:11] WEIR: Thanks.



BERMAN: This week's "CNN Hero" once had a brush with the law, but he went on to become an elite chef.

BOLDUAN: Today, Brandon Krushouski (ph) is helping other ex offenders get back on track. Take a look.


BRANDON KRUSHOUSKI (ph), CNN HERO: Coming home from prison after someone's done their time, everyone deserves that fair and equal second chance.

My right hand moved. My left hand followed.

I can see the opportunity that someone deserves. I can see it and I can feel it. And I have been given the gift to fight to make sure that door does get opened.


BOLDUAN: Find out much more about Brandon's story at and nominate someone you think should be a 2016 "CNN Hero."

Thank you all so much for joining --