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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Trump Comment on Abortion Causes Controversy; GOP Convention Rules Questioned Amid Tight Race; Leaders at Nuclear Security Summit Discuss ISIS, North Korea, Proliferation. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired March 31, 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:] DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Excuse me, excuse me, I didn't suggest.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. John Berman is off today.
Safe to say Donald Trump has had a terrible, no good, very bad 24 hours, and it's scaring the "you know what" out of his party. His campaign now in full damage control mode amid the fierce backlash over his stunning statement that women who get abortions should be punished if abortions were become illegal. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Do you think there should be a punishment?
DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: The answer is there has to be some form of punishment.
MATTHEWS: For the woman?
TRUMP: Yeah, there has to be some form --
TRUMP: That I don't know.
MATTHEWS: Why not?
TRUMP: I don't know.
MATTHEWS: You take positions on everything else.
TRUMP: I do take positions on everything else. It's a very complicated position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Trump quickly tried to clarify the statement twice, first saying states should decide, then in what can only be seen as a complete about-face saying the person performing the abortion should be the one punished, not the woman. Three positions, three hours.
Let's bring in Dana Bash for more on this.
Dana, put Trump's last 24 hours in perspective here.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Republicans who are running on the ballot in other races, whether it's Senate or the House, or at this point, maybe even for city council, in feeling like they're reliving a nightmare. When I say that, it's because you and I remember a few election cycles ago, you had a series of candidates, whether it was Aiken running for Senate who talked about basically legitimate rape. That is not what Donald Trump is talking about, but this is the kind of thing that turns off women in such in a strong and visceral way.
Now, Trump, as you said, completely did about face. He recanted and said he does not support punishing the woman in any way, shape, or form, and what he subscribed to when he recanted was what most anti- abortion groups and people out there, activists support, which is punishing the doctor or the person who performs the abortion, not the woman, that the woman shouldn't be the victim. That is why Republicans are so upset about this, and so anxiety ridden about it, particularly those who have worked for a very long time on abortion issues, fighting abortion. They've been trying to fight the perception that the woman is the victim, and they feel like Donald Trump just stepped right into that because they feel that he didn't understand the issue, didn't kind of follow the intricacies of what has been fought for and what it has meant to these groups for so long.
BOLDUAN: And the other candidates, on the other side of the aisle, even as the other people he's running against in the primary, they're speaking out. They came out strongly against it quickly.
BASH: They did.
BOLDUAN: We're going to her from John Kasich shortly. He'll be holding a press availability that's being billed as addressing recent comments made by Donald Trump. We'll be watching for that to happen. We'll bring it to you live when it comes.
Just showing you the immediate backlash Donald Trump is facing. Dana is tracking it down. Thanks so much.
There's a lot to discuss now. Let's bring in Scottie Nell Hughes, chief political correspondent for USA Radio Network, a Trump surrogate; Republican strategist, Susan Del Percio, who worked for the Giuliani administration in New York; and Barry Bennett, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, former campaign manager for Ben Carson's presidential bid; and CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro. It's great to see you all. Thank you for being here.
We'll keep an eye to see when John Kasich will be taking to the microphone to see what he says.
Barry, first to you.
It seems a lot has happened since yesterday when we spoke yesterday on this show.
BARRY BENNETT, SENIOR ADVISOR, DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & FORMER BEN CARSON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Happens every day.
BOLDUAN: It seems I can say that almost every day. It's Ground Hog Day.
BENNETT: Is anybody else running?
BOLDUAN: Yes, and we're going to talk about that. What are they running against? Donald Trump. Three different positions in three hours. This is a very serious issue.
BOLDUAN: This is also an issue that if you are running for president, especially in Republican primary, you should, you must have a clear position on. What happened, Barry?
BENNETT: Well, I think that, first of all, we got into ifs, ifs, and ifs. If there was a law, if the Supreme Court said it was OK. We're now way down the trap. Anyway, for the right to life community, and I am that, is that the law is written that the doctor would be the one violating the law for performing abortions or whoever else is performed it. And I think -- but it took three hours. But that's out there. He corrected it. That's his position.
[11:05:03] BOLDUAN: That's his position.
But first this statement, and we're going to go around the horn here. The first statement that came out from Donald Trump, "This issue is unclear." What is unclear about it?
BENNETT: I mean, I'm not familiar with that statement, so I can't tell you.
BOLDUAN: "This issue is unclear and should be put back into the states for determination."
BENNETT: If you want me to fill in the gap, I would say that -- I don't know how the law is written --
(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: I don't need you to get into Donald Trump's mind but what is going on in the campaign? I mean, what is unclear seems to be what Donald Trump is trying to say first, second, and third.
BENNETT: Right. Well, I mean we have to remember that Donald Trump is not a politician. He does not have memorized talking points on every issue. He tells it like it comes off the top of his head like he believes out of his heart. And he fixed this yesterday. He now understands that the doctors, the person punished by the law. I'm sure he's probably never seen the proposed law. But, you know --
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But just to what you said -- he's not a politician. That is his stock and trade, that he says what he thinks and means what he says. He was asked a question. He answered it. Now they're trying to claim he misspoke. Basically he didn't have an answer, and it was a 50/50 shot. What do I respond? What will the people want to hear? He answered the wrong way. But that is -- that's the biggest problem that's starting to go into Trump's narrative. He's starting to look like a politician because he answered -- if you go by what you just said that he says what he means and from the heart and -- he believed that women should be punished. That's what he said.
BOLDUAN: Isn't he now a politician, Scottie? Yes, he is running for a political office. He's a politician, no matter if he is a businessman first and that he's running as an outsider, no question. Does he not need to know the range of possibility of what he is comfortable with?
SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA RADIO NETWORK: You have to talk about in this issue, who exactly in the executive office gets a decision on whether or not abortion is going to be made legal or not? The idea of Roe versus Wade being reversed would be in the judicial branch. This is not an issue that the executive office --
BOLDUAN: It is a moral question.
HUGHES: It is a moral question. And he has said I'm extremely pro life except -- there are exceptions in the case of the mother's life. That's all he needs to know. And he needs to know that he is going to appoint judges --
BOLDUAN: But that's not all he said.
HUGHES: But that's why this is not necessarily in his talking points. He's too busy standing on issues that the executive office effects. That's what's wrong --
DEL PERCIO: Doesn't the executive office nominate judges to the Supreme Court?
HUGHES: And he said I'll nominate a judge that is pro life. That's what he needs to figure out. He has. He's done that talking point.
HUGHES: That's right. That was Ted Cruz. Other people can't have it both ways. We were seeing these commercials saying, oh, he's not pro life. Now he's they say, oh, he's too pro life. Make up your minds. You're hitting him from everything and seeing what's going to stick. It's almost laughable to sit here and see what people think as they try to take him out from every side.
BOLDUAN: Ana, get in on this. Is this laughable, Ana, that people are talking about that?
HUGHES: No, about every issue they're talking about. They're throwing everything at him.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Do you see me laughing?
Look, I think this is very serious. I think it is a very sad state of affairs in the Republican primary. I think the reason that people are hitting him from every direction is because he has had every which position on this issue and many other issues.
It is not an easy feat to achieve to be able to unite the pro life and pro choice community in criticism of somebody. And Donald Trump achieved it in the blink of an eye. So I think it is serious.
I think he's a politician, and you saw the evidence of that. He backtracked in three hours. Something we have not traditionally seen Donald Trump do. I think he's realizing that he is the front runner. He could very well be the nominee. There is no point to being the nominee if you don't win the general election. And I think he realized that this could be a very bad thing not only with the pro life movement. He was not speaking their language. He tried to pander to them, and it backfired. But it would also be a huge problem with women in a general election. And we already as a Republican party have a gender gap. What he's doing is digging that hole even deeper.
What he said was just absurd. I mean, the notion that Donald Trump out of all people, is going to pass judgment on women who have had abortions is just really more absurd and more of the theater of the absurd that we have seen in this primary so far.
[11:09:50] BOLDUAN: In this state in the race, in this state of politics, it's not a flip-flop. It's not evolving on a position that people are going to take issue with. Trump himself has talked about how he's evolved in the issue. I believe in this day in our political universe, people can excuse, voters can understand changing position, if it's an evolution on position. But this -- this is -- what I'm hearing is he misspoke. There's nothing to see here, let's move on from you guys, from Katrina Pierson, the spokesperson with the campaign.
But don't words matter, Barry? This is not the first time we've heard he misspoke, let's move on. In my own recent memory he said the war in Afghanistan was a mistake, then he said he misspoke, he meant to say Iraq. But if you look at the transcript, it's impossible to understand that he was talking about Iraq in that conversation, and he said that on CNN. He also, within the span of 24 hours, reversed his position and said he misspoke about how he felt about allowing in Syrian refugees. How many times can you misspeak?
BENNETT: This is like 100 minutes between the point that he said something and that he clarified it. He clarified it. I didn't, Katrina didn't. He did. I don't think --
BOLDUAN: He doesn't apologize, though. Apologize on this one?
BENNETT: He clarified.
BENNETT: What should he apologize for?
DEL PERCIO: What's amazing is -- and you bring this up -- is that Donald Trump did not take to the air waves or Twitter like he always does after one of these instances. Normally, he's ready to fight and say what I really meant was -- for the first time he's using surrogates to speak because they are circling. They know there was a huge mistake here. And Donald Trump doesn't like to say I was wrong or I misspoke. He likes to double down. And this is the first case where he's made one of these mistakes where he's not taken to Twitter. He didn't phone into TV interviews. He knows this is a mistake. He needs time and they have to regroup. This was a very big problem going off of a big week with him, especially with women, and the narrative going into Wisconsin where he's probably going to lose, and now the talk at the convention that he's not going to hit 1237.
HUGHES: That's why this is interesting. They're throwing everything at him. It's not like this is the only thing we've talked about this week. It's almost like morning and afternoon, we're getting something else. Not saying it's organized, but this has been the war on women week that Donald Trump --
HUGHES: You have to understand everybody is throwing stuff at him, at his campaign. This issue that obviously the issue this week is women.
BOLDUAN: I'm talking about this one issue.
NAVARRO: Welcome to the big leagues.
HUGHES: The key is, even if he's bringing up the confusion, why he couldn't give a solid answer, the pro life side hasn't had a solid answer either. If they had clear answers in all of this in legislation, they would have been able to pass it through.
BOLDUAN: This is now the pro life movement's fault?
HUGHES: I said the pro life movement is not very clear either because what we saw -- we had the best chances this fall to defund taxpayer- funded abortions but they didn't have the strategy or the communication with the sitting GOP Congress that we control to have that --
BOLDUAN: By law, taxpayer dollars don't go to the abortions.
HUGHES: It goes towards Planned Parenthood.
HUGHES: But at the same time, there was a big point we could pull the money away from Planned Parenthood. There was a large topic prior to Carly Fiorina making it a presidential issue. We actually had the momentum in the pro life movement to remove that funding, and then, all of a sudden, the big gaffe Carly Fiorina had caused this now. And every Republican Senator, including Ted Cruz, backed away from it and did not fight for that funding to be defunded. That's the action right now. There is no organization among the pro life movement to clarify the issue or else this might and dry than it was.
BOLDUAN: One final thought, Barry. Are you comfortable where things are with this campaign right now?
BOLDUAN: You are?
BENNETT: Yeah, we're going to win.
BOLDUAN: You're going to win?
BOLDUAN: This is not going to affect you at all? You're comfortable with the advice he's getting and how he's handling it?
BOLDUAN: Glad we moved this conversation forward.
Guys, it's great to see you.
Ana, we'll see you in a little bit.
Guys, thank you very much.
Moments from now, John Kasich running for governor of Ohio, running for president. That's not John Kasich's back. It's the podium. He'll be holding a news conference in New York. The reason? We're not exactly sure why, but it probably has something to do with the man he's running against, Donald Trump. We'll take that to you live when it happens.
Plus, Donald Trump is also not ruling out -- this has also come out in the last 24 hours. He's not ruling out using nuclear weapons against ISIS, even in Europe. Why he says he won't take the option off the table.
[11:14:41] And just days before the Wisconsin votes, the state's lieutenant governor is now backing and has endorsed Bernie Sanders after he was a big supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008. What changed? We'll ask her live. We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: Remember that magic number for the GOP, 1237? That's the number of delegates required to claim the party's nomination. That is where things stand right now for the Republicans. Donald Trump stands at 739 delegates, Cruz at 460 and Kasich at 145. Of course, there is a real possibility that none of the above will hit the number and that means it goes to a contested convention. That also means that the epicenter of the Republican universe will be on the rules committee that will meet and set the rules of the road for the party gathering in July.
Joining me now to discuss is one of the committee's members, David Wheeler. He's also a delegate from South Dakota.
David, thank you so much for joining me.
DAVID WHEELER, GOP RULES COMMITTEE MEMBER: Thank you for having me.
BOLDUAN: Of course.
One of the rules that, of course, is getting the most attention goes back to 2012, Rule 40, that a candidate must get the majority of candidates in eight states to be in consideration. Do you think as of today that Rule 40 will stand for the convention in July?
WHEELER: That is a very difficult thing to predict, because we don't know who the other members of the rules committee will be. And so that process is just starting now. I believe there will be a lot of support for amending Rule 40 because it is a rule that has grown over time as you've had so many conventions over the last 40 years that have presumptive nominees. The rules for a convention with a presumptive nominee are likely to be different than a rule for a convention that is an open and doesn't have a presumptive nominee. I think this rule will likely get altered because of that.
[11:20:30-] BOLDUAN: Your personal preference is that it's changed or weakened?
WHEELER: I believe so. I believe it needs to be changed or weakened. The rule itself only, Rule 40 B specifically, governs the names of candidates who get placed in nomination on the floor of the convention. And so it doesn't take away votes from anybody. It doesn't change the delegate count for anybody. But it allows candidates to be running on the floor of the convention. I think if we're going to have a truly open convention, we should have all the viability candidates have a named place in nomination.
BOLDUAN: To that point, it sounds wonky, if you will, but this is a really important topic, and all the candidates are talking about it themselves. Cruz yesterday said he thinks the rule should stick. He said if Washington dealmakers try to cook the books and try to insert their favorite dealmakers, he said I think there would likely be a revolt of voters. This seems to be one area he and Donald Trump agree. What do you say to them?
WHEELER: I don't believe Washington dealmakers are going to be controlling this at all. I haven't met a Washington dealmaker ever. I'm just a delegate from South Dakota. I'm doing what I think will provide for an open, transparent, and efficient convention.
The rules need to be written in a way that the party can nominate its candidate by showing support from a majority of delegates, and this particular rule doesn't change that. In fact, I think it actually creates a false perception that certain candidates don't have support. And whether we only have three available candidates or two, when we get to the convention, we should have them place the nomination, let the delegates vote, let the votes be counted. When a nominee gets to a majority, gets to the 1237, that person is our nominee.
BOLDUAN: David Wheeler, the whole world is going to be watching. There's going to be a lot of pressure on you guys if it gets to that point. We'll be in touch.
David Wheeler, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
WHEELER: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Of course.
Coming up for us, fresh fears that ISIS could get their hands on nuclear material top of mind as world leaders gather in Washington. This as Donald Trump says he's not ruling out using a nuclear weapon against ISIS, even in Europe.
Plus, it's the battle for home turf, if you will. A new poll shows Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both leading by big numbers in New York, but is it too early for them to add their home state to the win column? Stay with us. We'll be right back.
[11:22:34] BOLDUAN: Leaders from more than 50 nations are in Washington for a nuclear security summit. President Obama is hosting his fourth and final one. One very pressing topic this year, ISIS, how to keep the terror group, getting its own special session at the summit as world leaders look for how to prevent ISIS and other terror groups from getting their hands on nuclear material. Another topic, the growing threat from North Korea.
All of this happening as Donald Trump is suggesting that some Asian nations might need to develop their own nuclear programs to protect themselves.
Let's talk about all of this with CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, host of "Amanpour" on CNN International.
Christiane, it's great to see you.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You, too.
BOLDUAN: You had an important interview with the Turkish president. I want to get to that in a second. Because at the top of mind is really -- foreign leaders, this isn't the first time they'd have to talk about something that Donald Trump
BOLDUAN: What do you think the world view is of what we've heard from Donald Trump in the last 24 or 28 hours, suggesting to CNN it would be OK to South Korea and Japan and maybe even Saudi Arabia, saying if they create their own nuclear weapons? Yesterday, even saying that he's not even taking the option of nuclear weapons off the table against ISIS even in Europe.
AMANPOUR: Do you know what? It's almost unhinged to make those kinds of comments. Nobody talks like that. Nobody threatens use of tactical nuclear weapons. Only Vladimir Putin has been doing that. That caused a huge amount of backlash several years ago.
This is something that is so serious and it is the most incredibly dangerous set of weapons that mankind has, which is why President Obama for four years has had a nuclear security summit. The idea is to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to terrorists and other countries. The idea of allowing or suggesting that even U.S. allies, which have been nuclear free, should suddenly contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons is not anywhere close to the stream of international affairs, either U.S. international affairs or the global reaction to all of this.
What his comments on international affairs have done is seriously destabilize people around the world in terms of they don't what America is up to or what America might be up to if there was a Donald Trump administration in terms of global affairs. And there is a long- standing, rather horrified look from outside since the Donald Trump campaign at what's going on in the U.S.
BOLDUAN: Let's also talk about -- that will continue, of course, that conversation. But also this conversation you had with the Turkish president in talking about -- he was quite critical --