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Trump Escalates Delegate Fight With RNC; Trump Says Delegate Rules Are Stacked Against Him; Cruz Campaigns Ahead Of CNN Town Hall; Cruz Brands Trump Losin' Donald; Trump And Cruz Battle For Delegates; Trump Accepted 911 Recovery Funds; Clinton Courts African-American Vote; Clinton's Presidential Race; Interview with Rep. Gregory Meeks. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired April 13, 2016 - 13:00   ET

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


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jim Sciutto. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment today. It is 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 6:00 p.m. London, 9:30 p.m. in Kabul. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thank you for joining us.

And we're going to get to Hillary Clinton's comments on race relations in just a moment. But up first, Donald Trump escalating his fight with the Republican Party, taking his complaints to an entirely new level. Trump now accusing the Republican National Committee of conspiring to stop him from winning his party's nomination. The RNC chairman shooting back, give me a break. Trump argues he has been unfairly outmaneuvered in the delegate fight in places such as Louisiana and Colorado. Here's what he told our Anderson Cooper on a CNN town hall last night.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Colorado thing was very, very unfair. And I thought Louisiana was very unfair. I won Louisiana. I won it easily. So, I --

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: You won the popular vote.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I won the popular vote. And because of all this shenanigans that goes on and this is --

COOPER: Well, you call this shenanigans. Those are the rules. And did you know those rules?

TRUMP: You know why they're rules? I know the rules very well. But I know that it's stacked against me and by the establishment. I fully understand it. We had people out there and they weren't heard. They disenfranchise the voters. They disenfranchised all of these voters (INAUDIBLE.)

COOPER: You're saying that you don't think the RNC wants you to get the nomination?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I really don't. I mean, I -- (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Do you think they're actively working against you on it?

TRUMP: I don't know. I mean, I don't see it. It's not like it's -- I have 15 miles of proof.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: RNC chairman, Reince Priebus, was quick to respond with this tweet, quote, "nomination process known for a year and beyond." It's the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break.

CNN's Correspondent Phil Mattingly joining us now live from New York. So, Phil, is Trump, in effect, preparing his public case, if there is a contention -- contested convention?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it, Jim. I think what you're seeing right now is the Trump campaign looking forward and seeing a map, at least on the primary level, that looks very good for him over the next couple of weeks, an opportunity to really rack up delegates. His message right now of the party being against him, of the establishment being against him is one that will help rally voters in those states, starting with New York here on April 19th and going forward.

The reality though, Jim, is the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee has been tense at best, non-existent at worst over the last couple of months. This certainly not helping things. I think if you talk to officials at the Republican National Committee, they have viewed his candidacy warily for a while and all this is doing is just adding to frustration.

As Anderson Cooper pointed out, these rules have been in place in all of these states for a long period of time. It's on the Trump campaign to figure those out. That they're being out-maneuvered by Ted Cruz is the Trump campaign's fault, not the RNC's fault -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, when you talk to the campaign, is it their math that they're going to reach a majority, that magic number, before the convention?

MATTINGLY: They believe they have a pathway to get to that point. And when you look at how things are playing out, particularly in states like Colorado, or North Dakota, or perhaps Wyoming coming up in the days ahead, Donald Trump needs to secure that number before Cleveland or he could be in very big trouble on a second or third ballot.

If you look at the states ahead, again starting with New York, 95 delegates here. You move to Maryland, to Pennsylvania, to Rhode Island, places where Donald Trump is looking very good in polling right now. His team feels like there is a pathway to that 1,237 number preconvention. But if you watch, Jim, what Ted Cruz and what John Kasich are doing, not just here in New York but in those states going forward all the way to California on June 7th, it's all about keeping delegates away from Donald Trump.

Even if they can't beat him in some of these states, keeping him under that 1,237 number. Getting him to Cleveland not the nominee, that is the big fight right now, Jim, and that's what we're going to be seeing playing out over the weeks ahead.

SCIUTTO: Phil Mattingly in New York with the Trump campaign. Senator Ted Cruz's response to Trump's complaints about the delegate rules, he calls Trump a sore loser. Cruz campaigning today in Pennsylvania, ahead of that state's primary less than two weeks from today.

Tonight, Cruz and his wife, Heidi, will take questions from voters in our latest CNN town hall.

CNN's Correspondent Sunlen Serfaty is covering the Cruz campaign. She's joining us now live from Erie, Pennsylvania. So, Sunlen, Cruz seems to be answering Donald Trump's lying Ted with sore loser Don. What is Cruz saying today out Donald Trump?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. You know, Senator Cruz really does seem to be trying to capitalize on this moment where Donald Trump is really complaining about the GOP nominating system at large.

And as this race moves toward a hunt for the delegates, we've seen Cruz, in recent days, try to pick a bit at this vulnerability of Donald Trump. He says, you know, look, Donald Trump is someone who has based his whole campaign on being a mastery of issues in business, a business model so to speak, and saying his campaign right now has proven that they can't even run a lemonade stand. That's a quote from Senator Cruz who talked about this yesterday in a radio interview with Glenn Beck.

[13:05:12] Here's more of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald is a very sore loser. He doesn't handle losing well and he throws a fit. He is crying and screaming and yelling and he insults people and he curses at people and he attacks people. Donald loves to call people a loser. Donald wakes up at night in cold sweats that people will call him the Losin' Donald.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: So, there you see Senator Cruz, you hear him really saying that -- giving him a new label, Losin' Donald, and also really trying to paint Donald Trump as someone that his campaign is on a downward slope. In contrast to his campaign, who Senator Cruz likes to play up that they have shown a mastery of the very intricate delegate selection process and ability to navigate the rules. So, Senator Cruz seems to be playing that side up in recent days, and also making a small shift, but an important shift, indicating now, Jim, more than ever that they think -- he thinks this campaign could go to a contested convention.

And in that same radio interview, him telling Glenn Beck that he believes the odds are very, very high that this will go to a contested convention. The Cruz campaign feels very good going in, potentially, to that contested convention, especially if it goes to second ballot. That's where they feel strong -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, Sunlen, Cruz he's campaigning today in Pennsylvania, not New York. Is -- polls are not looking great for him in New York. Is his campaign, in effect, writing off the New York primary?

SERFATY: Look, absolutely, the polls are not good for Senator Cruz in New York. He is well behind in third place as it stands right now. They're not conceding New York. Their plan, if you talk to Cruz aides, is to go over small pockets where they potentially could pick off support from Donald Trump, more rural areas of New York is what they've been focusing on in recent days. The overall goal is to really pick delegates away from Donald Trump and keep him below that 50 percent threshold.

Of course, the polls show, right now, he is above that threshold. But, recently, his campaign manager, Ted Cruz's campaign manager, set a very high bar for Donald Trump in New York saying that, like any of the other candidates, if they can't win their home state in dramatic fashion, that's he said, above that 50 percent, they should drop out. Of course, wishful thinking on the part of the Cruz campaign but certainly an effort from them to really set the expectations and the bar very high for Donald Trump in New York -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right, thanks. Sunlen Serfaty in Erie, Pennsylvania with the Cruz campaign.

We hope to get a more personal side of Ted Cruz when he and his wife, Heidi, take part in a CNN town hall tonight.

In a Fox News interview, Heidi Cruz dismissed allegations against her husband from a tabloid magazine. She also defended herself against Donald Trump's threat to, quote, "spill the beans on her."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEIDI CRUZ: As so many things that Donald Trump says and engages in have no basis in reality. I know my track record. I know my life record pretty well. It didn't bother me a bit. I think a lot of things he throws out there that have no basis in reality, it's just garbage. This is another example of Donald Trump engaging in the politics of personal destruction, using his henchmen to go out and try to destroy others when he's losing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: We'll see more of Ted and Heidi Cruz tonight in our town hall.

I want to bring in now our panel to talk about the GOP race more. Tim Miller, he's former communications director for Jeb Bush's presidential campaign. He is now senior adviser to Our Principles. That is an anti-Trump Pac. Scottie Nell Hughes is national political correspondent for USA Radio Networks. She is a Trump surrogate.

Scottie, if I could begin with you. You heard the criticism from the Cruz campaign. But to be fair, Donald Trump is, as he reminds us often, all about the art of the deal and how he can get the best deal and negotiate, et cetera. Does -- do his complaints now that the system's rigged against him and that's the only reason he lost to states like Colorado. Doesn't that fight the narrative that he can always make it work, no matter what's thrown up against him?

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA RADIO NETWORKS: Well, I think he is making it work. I mean, he is still in first place and has been in first place basically since he announced back in June. So, this idea of Heidi Cruz saying now that he's losing, he is far from losing. He's winning in delegates. He's winning in popular vote. He's winning on every single front.

On these individual states where the ground games are very important, what this is proving is that Senator Ted Cruz is the establishment. He is the one that everything he's campaigned up against saying that he is a conservative and he is a voice of the people, he is now proving he's not as he continues to lose.

SCIUTTO: Yes, but why does having a -- why does having a ground game prove that you're just a member of the establishment? A ground game is just part -- you know, a fact of life when you're running for president.

HUGHES: No, I agree. And he's done a great job with it, as we saw in Colorado. But the -- what we're finding out, though, is he started this ground game almost a year ago, practically a year and a half ago. He started building his coalition exactly what he's campaigned against to where it's more about playing a chess game than necessarily listening to the voice of the people.

[13:10:09] These same folks -- it's that same folks that have made Mr. Trump at the top of the spot. They're tired of the status quo Washington, D.C. politician that as this campaign trail continues to be, it proves that Ted Cruz is more of one than any of us ever suspected from the beginning.

SCIUTTO: Tim, I want to ask you, because you hear the Donald Trump complaint, really the accusation that the party doesn't want him. And the fact is that there are many establishment Republicans who don't like him. You have the never Trump movement going. One is -- which you're very involved in. I mean, is there some truth to what Donald Trump is saying that the, quote, unquote, "establishment" is doing everything it can to keep him from having that majority when we get to the conventions this summer?

TIM MILLER, SENIOR ADVISORS, OUR PRINCIPLES PAC: Well, so, here's what's absolutely wrong about what Donald Trump and what Scottie was saying there is, no. What it proves is that rank and file, grassroots Republicans don't like Donald Trump. Your party regulars, the volunteers, the people that show up to party conventions and caucuses.

What Scottie is describing that Ted Cruz has done is run a campaign, run a ground game. That's exactly what we're going to need to beat Hillary Clinton. And Donald Trump's been completely incapable of demonstrating that he can do that. His campaign has absolutely no organization and that's just one of a myriad of problems that he has as a general election candidate.

SCIUTTO: Scottie, I've got to give you a chance to respond to that.

HUGHES: Well, gosh, forbid, he's not a politician. He doesn't know how to play the chess game of politics. He actually relies on a person's vote actually counting to help get that person in office. Maybe that's why we have continued to lose as Republicans and we've lost Washington, D.C. It's because those folks believe that if they play the better game, they get elected rather than listening to the people who they're supposed to representing. That is what is wrong with the Republican Party and politics today and why people don't trust either one.

MILLER: That's -- what you're describing is Donald Trump's whole brand. You -- he says he's a great negotiator. He's tweeted out this fake Albert Einstein quote like seven times in the past three years about how you learn the rules of the game and then you win at the game within the rules. Well, Donald Trump was incapable of doing that.

And when it comes to hearing the voice of the people, last year, when we were discussing whether or not Colorado would have a primary vote, Jeb Bush's campaign and the establishment was the one that wanted there to be a primary vote, that wanted a larger vote. Donald Trump was nowhere to be seen. And so, you know, all these kind of cry baby complaints after it's all over are just part of his spin and it's not going to work.

SCIUTTO: Scottie, I want to come to you because the never Trump Pac is out with a new ad that accuses Donald Trump of accepting money that was meant to help small businesses after 911. Let's play a short clip and I want to get you to respond.

Playing there, money made available to help small businesses. I mean, this gets right to Donald Trump. First of all, it's very close to the heart of New Yorkers as well. I'm a New Yorker as well. Of course, Donald Trump is -- has talked about 911 often before. How damaging is this ad, do you think?

HUGHES: I don't think it's very damaging because, once again, it's coming from an entire organization that their pure goal is negative. Everything that comes out about them is to be negative and to actually tear down the people, insult folks and tear down a candidate who happens to represent millions of people right now.

And so, maybe -- I just wish that people, like the never Trump group, would maybe start talking about the positive side and why it's great to be an American and why they would support. They offer problems but they never offer solutions.

That ad, right there is definitely skewed. It's definitely spun. It's taken the numbers that have nothing to do with Mr. Trump and created it. And I think, once again, it's just meant to create more turmoil and never give a solution which is what the never --

SCIUTTO: And, Tim, a --

HUGHES: -- Trump campaign is all about.

SCIUTTO: -- final word from you.

MILLER: Yes, that is a -- yes, that isn't our group's ad. But you notice, she didn't respond to the substance of the complaint which is that Donald Trump took a $150,000 grant that was supposed to go to victims of 911, small businesses who were victims of 911. He wasn't one. He wasn't a small business. He took the $150,000 anyway. This is what he's done throughout his life is take money to enrich himself than -- rather than worry about regular people --

SCIUTTO: Tim and Scottie, --

MILLER: -- and I think that's important.

HUGHES: It wasn't Donald --

SCIUTTO: -- Tim and Scottie, we're going to have to leave it there. We're going to have to leave it there.

HUGHES: Real quick, it was not Donald Trump that took that money. It was actually an organization underneath him, one of his many businesses that he started that employ people.

SCIUTTO: It was not Donald Trump, himself.

MILLER: Right. So, his organization.

HUGHES: There's a very -- one of the organizations underneath his parent company.

SCIUTTO: OK. We're going to have to -- we're going to have to leave it there. Scottie and Tim Miller, thanks for taking the time.

Be sure to watch CNN tonight for the final GOP town hall event. Senator Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, talking to Anderson Cooper, taking questions as well from New York voters. That is tonight, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

And coming up, Hillary Clinton courting the African-American vote with a speech in front of civil rights' activists. Can she reverse the criticism she's received for a comedy skit dubbed racially insensitive?

[13:15:11]

And Bernie Sanders showing his support for union workers by hitting the Verizon picket line. Will the move resonate as he tries to catch Clinton in the delegate race?

Plus, details of his first Senate endorsement. That's right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: One day before CNN's Democratic debate, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is in New York speaking at the National Action Network's 25th anniversary national convention. Just moments ago she detailed her plan to target investment to African-American communities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now we need a truly comprehensive approach to how we lift everybody up. That's why I'm proposing a major $125 billion breaking every barrier agenda, to revitalize and empower communities of color and places where unemployment and poverty remain stubbornly high.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Joining me now is New York Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks. He's chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and he is a Clinton supporter.

[13:20:03] Thanks for joining us, Congressman Meeks.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS, CHAIRMAN, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS PAC: Hi. And that's the Congressional Black Caucus' PAC.

SCIUTTO: PAC. OK, fair enough.

So, Hillary Clinton has had a string of losses here, smaller states. She's ahead in the polls in New York. How much does she need New York, not so much in the delegate count, because we know of her substantial need there, but just in terms of the narrative of ending this losing streak?

MEEKS: Well, let's be clear, because, you know, comparing the states of which we say she lost and New York and the states in which she won were the most -- they're large, they're diverse, they are also states where you have primaries. Bernie Sanders wins when it's caucuses. So this is tremendously different. And I think that as you get into New York and Maryland and Pennsylvania, diverse, large, primary states clearly Hillary wins and she wins big. And I think that that's what you're going to be seeing in the next few days.

SCIUTTO: In the last several days, the Clinton campaign has had some difficulty and embarrassing moments with the African-American community. You had Bill Clinton shouting down the Black Lives Matter protesters, which he then apologized for. But then you had this really just awkward joke using a racial, you know, despairing comment, as you know. I don't need to repeat the joke at this point. Why -- first of all, why? And, second of all, what does Clinton have to say now? What does the African-American community have to hear from Hillary Clinton to put this behind her?

MEEKS: Look, number one, it was this inner circle show, which is a parody --

SCIUTTO: Right.

MEEKS: Which folks playing all kinds of games and it's supposed to be comical and people talking about one another. And I think that the mayor of the city of New York has already said that he was responsible. You know, he did not write the skit, but he approved it and he is -- you know, so it was in context of that. So you've got to look at the perspective of the context of where it was in.

SCIUTTO: But we know -- we know the Clinton campaign was pretty hands on. I have to think they were shown the script of that joke before as well.

MEEKS: Well, I'm just going by what the mayor said.

SCIUTTO: OK.

MEEKS: And the mayor was very clear on that, you know, the other night in the couple -- last few days. But I think the what the African- American people are looking at is Hillary's record, as well as what Hillary is looking to do, which she just talked about at the Action -- National Action Network. When you talk about her as a senator -- you know people forget that it was Hillary Clinton, you know, back when she was running for the Senate, it was Rudy Giuliani who was threatening to run against her. And it was Hillary Clinton who was going against his policies, talking about how we're going to end racial profiling, talking about how we have to revise the criminal justice system. It was Hillary Clinton who stood up strong against Rudy Giuliani. The African-American community remembers that.

The African-American community remembers the fact that it was Hillary who first -- it was Hillarycare before it was -- we got to Obamacare and when they stopped it, that she continued to fight to get 8 million children health care. It was Hillary Clinton that has been with us as we go around the country in trying to elect more members to the Congressional Black Caucus, to -- as Democrats, et cetera, so that we can have power, not only in the presidency, but also in the Senate and in the House, which helps move the agenda forward that will help the African-American community.

SCIUTTO: So you say they'll focus on those issues, not on moments like this.

I want to ask you about the tone in the Democratic race because it got dirty between Clinton and Sanders and then they seemed to declare a 24 hours truce and then it got -- it got rough again. What kind of tone do you expect to see in the debate tomorrow night?

MEEKS: Well, I would hope that Senator Sanders does not use the Republican talking points anymore, because that's what he's been doing. You know, Senator Clinton is so good that the Republicans knew -- and some of this came out when Congressman McCarthy, you know, it slipped. He might have been speaker today had he not slipped and told the truth, that the Republicans came up with the Benghazi committee just to try to discredit Hillary Clinton. And they couldn't do that when they had the hearing. She just showed everyone, after the 11 grueling hours, that she was a competent, strong, well organized, thoughtful person.

So I hope that the Republican talking points that Mr. Sanders has been utilizing recently, that he does not use it in the debate and let's stick to what he said initially, let's talk about the issues that are important.

SCIUTTO: Final question before we go. Chances of a contested convention on the Democratic side? Will Hillary Clinton have a majority by convention?

MEEKS: Yes, I think it's clear, you know, she's a clear winner in the pledged delegates. She's going to have -- wont' need, but it will just show the unity with the super delegates. I think that, in fact, is -- you know, is funny because initially folks would talk about super delegates. It's Bernie Sanders now that's concerned and said he's going to flip super delegates. Hillary will have the pledged delegates and the super delegates and I hope Mr. Sanders then comes on board and we have unified Democratic Party because the real enemy is -- and I shouldn't use the word "enemy," but the opposition is Mr. Cruz or Mr. Trump or whoever the Republican nominee is.

[13:25:03] SCIUTTO: Right. Congressman Meeks, thanks very much for coming on.

MEEKS: My pleasure.

SCIUTTO: A fantasist (ph) whose passionate about a war with reality. Bernie Sanders gets slighted by a New York tabloid ahead of the state's primary. Coming up, what impact could it have as he tries to close the gap with Hillary Clinton in New York?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCIUTTO: This was the raucous scene last hour when Senator Bernie Sanders arrived in Brooklyn to picket with union workers. The show of support comes as he lands two new endorsements.

[13:30:06] Earlier this morning he was endorsed by a New York -- major New York transit workers union.