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Interview with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York; Trump To Speak Near Site Of Hate Crime Killing; Preview Of Tonight's Democratic Showdown. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 14, 2016 - 16:30   ET


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a rocky past two weeks, the Trump campaign got a boost today.

[16:30:02] DAVE ARONBERG, PALM BEACH COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY: Although the facts support the allegation that Mr. Lewandowski did grab Miss Fields' arm against her will, the state will no file this case.

CARROLL: With news campaign manager Corey Lewandowski will not be charged with battery after grabbing a reporter's arm in March.

BRAD COHEN, ATTORNEY FOR COREY LEWANDOWSKI: I think he was justifiable in what he did. Miss Fields sees it a different way, obviously. Our perception is reality.


CARROLL: And, Jake, I spoke to the organizer of this fund-raiser a little earlier today. He said he spoke to Trump this morning and was unclear if Trump knew about the -- what happened with that undocumented worker, again, just blocks from here. He said the two of them did not discuss that.

He did say Trump was excited to come out here. He also said, Jake, that he had extended this invitation to all of the GOP candidates, but he said that Trump was the only one who made the effort to come out here -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jason Carroll on Long Island, thanks.

Hillary Clinton started this race as the clear Democratic front- runner, but with Bernie Sanders drawing such massive crowds, is the enthusiasm in his corner? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will join me to talk about that ahead.


[16:35:43] TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD, live from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. We are counting down to tonight's Democratic presidential debate and I am back with this mega monster panel.

Let's introduce them again. Bernie Sanders supporter Nina Turner. My host of CNN political commentators Paul -- I don't know what that means -- Paul Begala who is a pro-Clinton super PAC adviser, Bakari Sellers, who is a former South Carolina House rep, who supports Clinton, S.E. Cupp, Amanda Carpenter, whose former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, this is the abridged version, and Maggie Haberman, who's a CNN political analyst and a campaign correspondent for "The New York Times."

Let's start with you guys.

Now, I want to play some sound from Ted Cruz who's continuing to take shots at Donald Trump. He appeared at a town hall last night on CNN. Let's take a listen.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald and his team, it's almost like they are subjects in a clinical course in psychology. In the last few weeks, Donald's team, Roger Stone, his chief political advisor, was threatening to out the hotel rooms of delegates who dared to cross Trump so they could be intimidated. They're acting like union boss thugs.


TAPPER: Is that a little much or do you kind of agree with it? I'm going with you.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, OK. I don't think that's overstating. I think that the Trump campaign from Donald down has acted at times like goons.

I've been on the receiving end of some of that, but taking myself out, I think any objective look at some of their behavior, you would have to classify as intimidating, threatening, hostile. Yes, I think it's fair.

TAPPER: Roger Stone is an ally of Donald Trump but he's not a member of the campaign, Amanda. Certainly, Ted Cruz has some allies that have had questionable things.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: Yes, but Donald Trump hasn't disavowed what Roger Stone has done. OK, but let's look at what his new convention manager, Paul Manafort, was saying in his debut as the new Trump staffer he went out and promptly accused of Cruz campaign of engaging in Gestapo-like tactics. I mean, this has not -- for one Republican to accuse another Republican of doing something as loathsome as what was conducted to the Jews, it really blows my mind. But this is what they do every single day.

And the thing that bothers me the most about the Trump campaign is the way they consistently accuse people who disagree with them, threaten their power, of false crimes like they did in the aftermath of Cruz winning the Wisconsin primaries. He went out and said you're coordinating illegally, you won by fraud, and all these things, Lyin' Ted. I mean the stuff that he gets away with is incredible.

And this is why he's not going to become the Republican nominee. He's so close and there's conservatives like me that cannot go along with him because he engaged in such despicable behavior. TAPPER: Just for the record, we did invite somebody from the Trump

campaign to come on the show and that person pulled out at the last moment.

Maggie, I want to ask you about today the significance of the prosecutor in Florida announcing that they are not going to pursue charges against Corey Lewandowski, the Trump campaign manager, for the incident involving Michelle Fields. It seems like a pretty significant moment. I mean this has been really gaining steam. John Kasich, Ted Cruz, others attacked Donald Trump for what happened.

The prosecutor said there isn't enough to prosecute.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The prosecutor also suggested that something may have happened but not enough to prosecute. There was also a discussion about a draft letter of an apology that does not look like it went anywhere.

But yes, this is a great thing for the Trump campaign to have behind them. This was extremely distracting. What it did was open the flood gates toward a lot of criticism both of Corey Lewandowski and of Donald Trump, and how they have conducted the campaign. It was what led in part to this pivot moment where Paul Manafort came in and has this expanded role.

But I am quite certain Corey Lewandowski will feel pretty vindicated right now. The way most campaigns would have handled a moment like this is there would have been an apology, or, there would have been, yes, I did grab her, but this was in the course of normal business. Neither of those things happened and that's what's been --

CARPENTER: This isn't about Corey, did he do it, did he not. Any normal staffer would have been fired just for lying about the event. The fact that Donald Trump kept him on staff and would put him on stage after victory to send a signal that this is the type of people I surround myself with is very disturbing.

TAPPER: All right. Let's change direction right now because I'm just told that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has just been able to join us.

[16:40:05] Governor Cuomo, thanks so much for joining us.

I know you're a Hillary Clinton supporter and you are in town to rally for raising the minimum wage. Just to tackle that substantive issue for one second, what's your response to those businesses who say they can't afford to raise the minimum wage without perhaps eliminating a job or two in their business?

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Yes, look, I don't think there's anybody who will disagree with the fact that when you raise the minimum wage, you can actually stimulate the economy. We've raised the minimum wage eight times in this state. Six of the eight times, the economy actually increased.

The question is how you do it. How quickly are you calibrating it, are you monitoring it like our system in New York does?

We have different periods of time in different parts of the state, and then we have the ability to slow it down if we think it's actually slowing the economy. But the main point is recognizing the economic anxiety, the fear, the frustration that is out there among people and actually doing something about it.

We're in the political season, so many candidates are trying to use that anger and what we're saying is actually address the problems that are generating the anger. And there is no doubt that the middle class is going backwards, the working families are going backwards. They feel nobody has their back. Nobody is speaking for them.

And the way to start that progress forward is to raise the minimum wage to a decent level so people can live.

TAPPER: So, Governor, New York certainly matters this year in a way we haven't seen in a long, long time. Why do you think Hillary Clinton is still fighting for the nomination this late in the game? Are you surprised that Senator Sanders has posed the kind of challenge that he is?

CUOMO: I think Senator Sanders has a message that resonates, especially with young people, but I'm not surprised that we're in a primary. I mean this is the Democratic Party, right? This is a diverse party, this is a broad spectrum.

We don't hand anyone anything in the Democratic Party. And this is a very heated political environment. You see it on the left. You see it on the right. You have some of the strongest political opinions that I've seen in all the time I've been watching. So, no, it doesn't surprise me at all.

I actually think that this primary process has been good for Senator Clinton. I think it's going to make her a stronger candidate in the general election. The New York primary, I believe she's going to win. We know her in New York, she was a senator in New York, and the more you know her, the more you like her.

So, we know that she's delivered for middle class working families, that she knows how to make government work. It's not as simple as just wishing good things. You have to know how to make it happen. And she does.

So, she has a big advantage in this state just because we know her. But, no, I'm not surprised that there's a tough primary. And I'm sure it's going to go right to the convention if I had to guess.

TAPPER: Governor Cuomo, just one last question for you, sir, because we do have some sort of a delay. Picking up your hometown newspaper today, I see "The New York Times" front page above the fold, right- hand column, "Five banks are still too big to fail regulators say," the Fed and FDIC saying there are five banks still too big.

Whether or not you agree that Senator Sanders is the right person for the job, is he on to something when he talks about the problems with the banks? Is it something that Secretary Clinton should be talking about more?

CUOMO: Well, the size of banks and how many banks are too big to fail, quote unquote, is a fairly arcane topic. The general point of our financial system and the regulation of the financial system and what happened during the mortgage meltdown and have people been punished for that or have they been allowed to walk away with actually making more money, how do we know it doesn't happen again, that is a totally legitimate topic.

Before I was governor, I was attorney general in this (AUDIO GAP) did a lot of work on that topic. And it's one of those issues that manifests two cents -- two tiers of justice, right?

[16:45:00] We can be very tough on criminal justice, on drugs, et cetera, but then you have white collar crimes in my opinion among financial institutions that wrap these mortgages, defrauded homeowners, and defrauded the public.

Everyone paid the price and it seems like they got away scot-free, and how do we make sure it doesn't happen again. That's not only a legitimate political topic, that's a necessary governmental topic. And it's something that we have to come to grips with, no doubt.

TAPPER: Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you so much. Really nice to have you on the show. Appreciate it, sir.

Donald Trump will speak tonight under heavy security with emotional protesters expected to challenge him, saying that he is reopening wounds of a vicious hate crime. Is that fair? We'll talk about it.



TAPPER: Donald Trump is back in his home state, but it's not exactly the kind of sweet homecoming for the GOP frontrunner that he probably wants. There's a heavy police presence and tension building in Long Island right now.

Anti-Trump protesters are holding a demonstration as Donald Trump is getting ready to speak at a fundraiser. Just steps away from what once was a crime scene where a Latino immigrant was murdered in a brutal hate crime eight years ago. Here's Reverend Alan Ramirez, the spokesman for the victim's family.


REVEREND ALLAN B. RAMIREZ, LUCERO FAMILY SPOKESMAN: It is akin to inviting Osama Bin Laden to speak at ground zero.


TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN correspondent, Sara Ganim, who is in Patchogue, New York, where this is all taking place. Sara, my understanding is that it's a coincidence that Mr. Trump is speaking near the location of this tragic murder, right? The Long Island Republican Committee invited him.

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake, yes, we're told by Republican officials here that it was a coincidence how close the Republican fundraiser for Donald Trump here tonight is to this location.

You know, there's been protests across the country, people upset with some of Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric, but what's happening here in Patchogue here today, Jake, is a little bit more personal.

The reason why is because where this fundraiser is being held is just steps from this house right here where a man, a Hispanic-Ecuadorean immigrant died eight years ago because he was attacked by a gang of teenagers who went after him because he was Latino.

That's why you're seeing these demonstrators here today. They say that they're insulted that Donald Trump would come to their community, come to a place so close to where this hate crime happened.

And continue to speak in what they believe is hate speech and rhetoric that is not helpful in a community like this one here. You can see there's about 100 people here gathered.

I talked to the brother of the man who died, Marcell Lucero's brother. He told me all he wants is for a peaceful demonstration. He said there's enough violence, enough hate speech. He just wants to show that he feels that it's insulting that Donald Trump would come to his community -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Ganim, thank you so much.

We are just hours away from the big debate this evening and you are in luck because two of the questioners at the debate will join me next and they'll give you the inside scoop. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We're straight out of Brooklyn today. This is the site of tonight's showdown between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

With me here, two of the questioners of tonight's debate who will join Wolf Blitzer, CNN's chief political correspondent, Dana Bash is here as well as CNN political commentator and New York One political anchor, Errol Louis.

Dana, you have asked the questions of both Democratic and Republican debates this cycle, some more contentious than others. What do you think the tone will be like this evening? What are you anticipating?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've asked lots of questions but never in New York and never -- which sets an entirely different tone. And more importantly, never at this point in the cycle where on the Democratic side obviously, these two are just continuing to go at it.

And just when we think that they're going to kind of calm down and lower the temperature, they raise it even more. And so it's about that, but really we think that we've seen the last debate and think that we've seen the last hurrah.

But I think in this case we really are going to see whether or not Bernie Sanders can push back against Hillary Clinton, particularly on questions about whether or not he's ready and if she can push back on whether or not she's got the credibility to be president.

TAPPER: Errol, I think one of the things that seems pretty clear is that if Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in her home state, which would be tough but not impossible, that would really up-end the whole thing.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That would change the race quite a bit. We had a poll that came out just a few days ago showing that there's a 12-point gap. Now, he's closed that, it used to be a lot bigger so he's got the momentum and direction going the way that he wants to.

Our poll was a snapshot of last weekend. We've got another weekend to go. We've got a debate tonight. If he's going to make something happen and make up those last 12 points, this is the time to make it happen.

As you suggest, it would be an entirely new race if we wake up on Wednesday morning next week and find out that Bernie Sanders won the home state of his principal opponent.

TAPPER: And as we've seen, debates matter, as we saw with Marco Rubio. Debates matter. Dana, I raised this with Governor Cuomo, but you pick up "The New York Times" and it says five banks still too big to fail according to the fed and the FDIC. Whether or not you think Sanders is the right messenger, the issues he brings to the table have really changed the race.

BASH: They have changed the race. In this case it's really the perfect storm for him because he's in New York, the belly of the beast, in the shadow of Wall Street, and this is an issue that is completely not just in his wheelhouse, but the wheelhouse that he brought to the entire campaign of talking about the banks.

The fact that this is very much in the news. You know, he certainly has had her on the defensive on this. But he also has had some issues because he's had some trouble answering what he would actually do. So the fact that this is front and center is certainly fortuitous I think for everybody.

TAPPER: Dana Bash, Errol Louis, break a leg tonight. I'm very excited. It's going to be a great debate. A reminder, tonight's Clinton-Sanders debate in Brooklyn starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. That's 6:00 for all you folks in California, Washington and Oregon.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".