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9/11 Secrets; Ecuador Earthquake; Battle for New York; Trump: "I Hope" Convention "Doesn't Involve Violence"; Protesters Stage Demonstrations Outside Court. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 18, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN GUEST HOST: July fireworks could extend well past the Fourth. THE LEAD starts right now.

Donald Trump saying he hopes there isn't violence if the Republicans deny him the nomination, reigniting cries that he is inciting or at least not denouncing violence.

Earthshaking destruction, people searching for more victims in the rubble across oceans and continents, as hundreds killed, thousands injured in Ecuador. Where could the earth rumble next?

Plus, keeping us in the dark about America's darkest day. Should the government declassify 28 secret pages of the 9/11 report that could be hiding a close ally's role in those attacks?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in today for Jake Tapper.

We are one day away from the all-important New York primary. And now Donald Trump wants to jazz things up by injecting a little showbiz, he says, into the Cleveland convention, you know, because a contested convention isn't riveting enough. And Trump also hinting that the guy currently at the helm of the RNC, Reince Priebus, might lose his job.

CNN's Sara Murray is in New York.

Sara, Trump acting now as if the nomination is his, really, when it comes to the convention.


He's certainly not the Republican nominee yet, and he may not be the nominee when he winds up in Cleveland, but he sounds awfully confident about being able to hold some sway over what goes on in -- at the convention in Cleveland. And he certainly sounded confident today here in New York.


MURRAY (voice-over): Here in the Big Apple, Donald Trump can almost taste victory.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We love this city. You look at the other folks that are running, they couldn't care less about New York.

MURRAY: Hours ahead of the New York primary, Trump appears poised for a big night.

TRUMP: The polls are what they are. They were beyond anything that anybody has seen.

MURRAY: But his rivals keep churning on and hammering the front- runner. Today, Ted Cruz already moving on to Maryland.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Maryland is a battleground. Maryland is going to have an outsized voice as the nation is looking to Maryland to decide, do we nominate Donald Trump and hand the election to Hillary Clinton?


CRUZ: Or do we unite behind the Cruz campaign and beat Hillary Clinton?


MURRAY: While John Kasich stumped in New York, where he hopes to pick up a few delegates.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's what he does. He feeds into their anxieties and their fears. There's no question there. Does he have any solutions for how he's going to deal with it? I don't think so.

MURRAY: As the fight for the delegates rages on.

TRUMP: It's a rigged system. It's a crooked system. It's 100 percent crooked.

MURRAY: Trump says he's not interested in wooing supporters from behind the scenes.

TRUMP: Look, nobody has better toys than I do. I can put them in the best planes and bring them to best resorts anywhere in the world, Doral, Mar-a-Lago. That has nothing to do with democracy.

MURRAY: The GOP front-runner is issuing a sharp warning to the Republican National Committee to straighten out a process that has sometimes left him stumped.

TRUMP: They got to do something about it. The Republican National Committee, they better get going, because, I will tell you what, you're going to have a rough July at that convention.

MURRAY: And he's warning his supporters could be upset if a contested convention doesn't go his way.

TRUMP: I hope it doesn't involve violence, and I don't think it will. But I will say this. It's a rigged system.

MURRAY: But RNC Chair Reince Priebus is shrugging aside Trump's complaints.


MURRAY: And Trump already appears to be planning ahead, suggesting to "The Washington Post" that he may not keep Priebus around if he's the nominee and saying he wants to bring a little showbiz to the GOP convention.

With an eye on the general election, he even tested out a new nickname for Hillary Clinton.

TRUMP: Crooked Hillary. She's been crooked from the beginning.


MURRAY: Now, Donald Trump did something else that he is hoping will pay some dividends for him in the general election. Today, he met with his National Diversity Coalition. These are grassroots supporters from a number of states who are hoping to bring in more African-American or Hispanic or Muslim supporters, not just in the Republican primary, but also in a potential general election fight.

Of course, with some of the things that Donald Trump has said in the past, they may have their work cut out for them, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Sara Murray in New York. Voting starts there tomorrow. Thank you.

Money is at the center of the fight between the Democratic presidential candidates ahead of tomorrow's New York's primary. Senator Bernie Sanders questioning Wall Street's influence on Hillary Clinton, this as we continue to wait on Sanders' latest tax returns promised any day now.


Both candidates are crisscrossing New York, fighting for votes that will determine who gets the 247 Democratic delegates at stake.

Let's bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's in Long Island, New York, where Sanders will hold a rally tonight -- Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jim, another big rally planned tonight here on the banks of the East River and another sign of that enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders, no question about it. But elections are not won on crowd sizes alone. That's why the real challenge to Bernie Sanders is that turnout here

in New York tomorrow.


ZELENY (voice-over): One final pitch in the fight for New York.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Please, come out and vote tomorrow. I will work hard for you. Thank you all very much.


ZELENY: Hillary Clinton hoping to expand her lead and extinguish Bernie Sanders' momentum.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They don't consider us fringe anymore.


ZELENY: The New York primary and its 247 delegates is the biggest prize until California in June. The winner will shape the closing chapter of the race or ensure the contest goes on.

CLINTON: I never count any chickens before they hatch. We're going to work hard.

ZELENY: And campaign hard, she did. After losing seven straight contests to Sanders, Clinton took a page from her two winning Senate elections. She danced. She preached.

CLINTON: I feel blessed and grace is all around us in the sanctuary.

ZELENY: And she dispatched her husband to cover twice as much ground.

On the eve of the primary, Sanders took to the streets of New York, too, starting with a picket line, after drawing another big crowd on Sunday on the familiar blocks of his Brooklyn childhood.

SANDERS: Our parents would take us to Prospect Park, but I was never here speaking to 20,000 people. So thank you all very much for being here.

ZELENY: But Sanders needs more than big crowds. Clinton leads by 229 pledged delegates. Sanders is vowing to fight until the convention in July, an alarming prospect for party leaders eager to unify Democrats.

On CNN's "NEW DAY," Sanders said the burden of bringing the party together is not his alone.

SANDERS: It's a two-way street. And the Clinton people are also going to have to listen to what these people are fighting for.

ZELENY: Many Sanders supporters we have talked to in New York like Hattie Weiner agree.

HATTIE WEINER, SANDERS SUPPORTER: I will vote for her, but not with the joy and that sense of courage. Bernie is bringing up that feeling of America. I wish that Hillary would kind of say, you know, I think I have something to learn from Bernie.

ZELENY: His supporters mocking her during a weekend fund-raising visit to California, showering her motorcade with wads of $1 bills. The protesters were standing near George and Amal Clooney's home, site of the fund-raiser where the highest ticket was $350,000 per couple. Back in New York, the rough-and-tumble primary playing out on a debate

stage last night in Brooklyn got downright physical on "Saturday Night Live."


ZELENY: Now, Jim, that is one of those that spoofs there that really is true to reality. Advisers on both sides have said that that is how both of these candidates feel at this point.

But Secretary Clinton has gotten used to the fact that Bernie Sanders is going to be around for a while regardless of what happens tomorrow in the primary. He's still eying staying in this race until California in June.

But, Jim, something to keep in mind for tomorrow's primary, New York has a closed primary. That means only Democrats can vote, only registered Democrats can vote, so none of the independents who have come in, which has really helped Senator Sanders in contests coming before this.

That's why the Clinton campaign is so confident about tomorrow -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Everything but the headlock. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.

Let's talk about this with our panel. CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp. She is here with me in Washington. CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill. And New York City Councilman Joe Borelli, he is a Donald Trump supporter.

Joe, if I could begin with you.

Donald Trump taking aim against at the RNC, this time in the person of Reince Priebus, saying if he's the nominee, he might dump him as chairman of the RNC. Is that just a threat or is that a realistic possibility?


Members of the RNC vote separately on their own for Reince Priebus. You know, that said, what has the RNC really done and been proactive in trying to dissuade the public that what is Donald Trump's chief complaint, that some of these processes in these states are rigged? What are they doing to dissuade people that that is actually not happening?

SCIUTTO: S.E., let me ask you, should the RNC be out there more kind of explaining how the whole process works?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Reince has done a great job and I think this fight has only made Reince look good and the RNC look good, and Donald Trump looking petulant and whiny for not having done the hard work of learning the system, just as Ted Cruz has.

But, look, Reince Priebus is elected. He's an elected official, and that's a fact that either doesn't matter to Donald Trump or he's unaware of it.


CUPP: But welcome to what would be the most totalitarian, opaque and punitive White House in American history, where a president simply removes an elected official who won't do what he wants. It's chilling, actually.

SCIUTTO: Marc Lamont Hill, from the other side, are you enjoying watching this?


MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I am loving every minute of it.

Every time S.E. Cupp says something that I want to say, it makes me smile. All right? Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. And part of that is that he doesn't seem to understand the rules. I think that's absolutely true.

He is just saying he's going to get rid of people, like it's an episode of "The Apprentice." Oh, I will just get rid of the Supreme Court justices I don't like. Oh, I will just get rid of the senators don't like. You can't do that.

They are actually elected. Also, Reince Priebus actually has done a solid job. I don't agree with his politics, but in terms of building research, ground games, organizing the party,building research, hard- core research against Hillary and Bernie, they have a great infrastructure and I think they are doing actually better than the Democratic Party in that way.

So I think it's a bad move and what it looks like is, if people don't agree with me, if people don't like me, I'm going to get rid of them. It's a bad thing for Donald Trump and it's going to hurt him down the line.

SCIUTTO: All right, listen, Marc, Joe, S.E., please stick around.

We're going to go to -- Donald Trump doesn't know what will happen if he doesn't win his party's nomination at the GOP Convention, but he's not sounding too optimistic.


TRUMP: Well, I hope it doesn't involve violence.


SCIUTTO: Did Donald Trump just cross the line again?



[16:15:23] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I hope it doesn't involve violence. I hope it doesn't. And I'm not suggesting that. I hope it doesn't involving violence and I don't think it will. But I will say this, it's a rigged system, it's a crooked system, it's 100 percent crooked.


SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

You just heard Donald Trump saying there that he will keep his fingers crossed, that riots do not consume the Cleveland convention. But that scenario, violence erupting should Trump be denied the nomination is something that the candidate has hinted. Some say even threatened as a possibility before. Have a listen.


SCIUTTO: I think you'd have riots. I think you'd have riots. You know, we have -- I'm representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people.


SCIUTTO: I want to bring back our panel now.

So, Joe, if I could go to you first because you're a Trump supporter, some people interpret Trump's comments yesterday and prior to yesterday as, in effect, to cloak threat, saying that, if you deny me the nomination, listen, I can't control my supporters, they are so devout, this might happen. Is that an unfair characterization?

JOSEPH BORELLI, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Look, you can interpret any way you want. But he was pretty clear in indicating that, that is something that's not going to happen.

However, he is sort of channeling the anger that a lot of people feel. Look, take Georgia, for example, 500,000 people in Georgia voted for Donald Trump on the expectation that their vote will matter and that someone who's elected a delegate in that state will go to the convention and earnestly and honestly support Donald Trump. But that's not happening.

SCIUTTO: I have to ask you, is the candidate for president be channeling anger? Is that the role of a candidate for president of the United States?

BORELLI: He has 2 million votes ahead. If the people that are sending delegates to the convention are siphoning them off and going to other candidates, yes, I think he has a right to be angry.

SCIUTTO: S.E., is that -- first of all, do you think that's a fair characterization of these statements? He doesn't say, go out and carry out acts of violence. He just says, hey, it's possible, it might happen, people are angry. Does he share responsibility if it happens?

S.E. SCIUTTO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course he does. He has said at past rallies that, you know, if he could back in the good old days, he'd punch someone out that, you know, protested. I think he's more than hinted at it. I'd love to know from Joe if he's so convinced that Donald Trump does not believe now that there will be violence, what changed his mind? Just a couple weeks ago he was sure there would be riots at the convention. What happened?

BORELLI: I'll tell you what changed his mind. Tomorrow, we're going to win the vast majority of 95 delegates. The other candidates might pick up one or two. After that, we're going to pivot to the Northeast where we're going to win the lion's share of 172 delegates. You see Ted Cruz already trying to adapt there and take on Maryland, which is a winner-take-all state.

By this time in two weeks, we'll be saying Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee.

CUPP: So, if you're so confident, then why all of the whining about Colorado and Wyoming and Georgia? If you're so confident, and you know there's not going to be any violence or riots or chaos, why even talk about it? Why even address the Colorado delegates that the campaign wasn't smart enough to get.

BORELLI: Look, again, Colorado didn't have open and transparent elections. South Dakota, for example, had 2,000 party voters. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but we live in a democracy and we have a strange expectation that we should be able to vote and our vote should translate into something.


SCIUTTO: Mark, I want to give you a chance to pipe in but I want to change the subject just for a moment because I think these numbers are key. We've talked a lot about the possibility that the party doesn't love the idea, many in the party don't love the idea of Donald Trump as the candidate. You have all these scenarios if there's no majority reached by Cleveland.

There's a new poll from "The Wall Street Journal" that says only 20 percent of the Republicans say that it would be acceptable for delegates to choose a nominee who has not run in the primaries. This idea of a white knight candidate, like a Paul Ryan, or a Mitt Romney or even a General Mattis, 71 percent say no.

I want to ask you, Marc, and I want to ask the others, does that kill the talk of sort of a candidate coming in to the rescue because despite dissatisfaction with Trump and Cruz?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was a nonstarter anyway. If there were a Republican politician with the capacity to speak to the extreme of the party, center of the party who everybody could agree on, then he would already be running and there wouldn't be a need for a Donald Trump in the first place.

Mitt Romney has already lost. Paul Ryan has already lost. These people are not -- there's no candidate in the wings waiting to come up. The truth here is that the Republican Party at some point has to

resolve this issue and they have to do it in a way that reflects democracy. Is it democratic for the person who doesn't get the most votes to win? Absolutely not. Is it democratic though also for Donald Trump to not win by these set of rules and then expect the fact that he happens to have a few more delegates mean that he's going to be the nominee, despite the fact that delegates do, by the rules, have a right to recast votes?

At the end of the day, Donald Trump doesn't like the rules. That doesn't mean that the rules are -- the rules might be unfair but he doesn't have to play by them in the cycle. I think Donald Trump should be the nominee based partly because I just want to see that, but also I think he's probably the person who's in front at this point and will continue to be in front. They've got to work this thing out. It's not going to come from Paul Ryan.

SCIUTTO: OK, Marc and S.E. and Joe, Joe, stay there. I want to ask about the Democrats now. In fact, we have some live pictures coming in of Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. She's at an ice cream stop here visiting with some voters in New York.

Interesting comment from George Clooney, over the weekend, who is, of course, a Hillary supporter. He called the high-dollar fund-raisers for Clinton obscene, though he said that they were a necessary evil. At the same time, Bernie Sanders, while he hasn't held a fund-raiser ties for his own campaign, he has routinely raised money for Democratic candidates, soliciting many of the same bankers and others that Hillary Clinton goes after.

I just wonder if I could ask you, S.E., and ask Joe as well to pipe in -- is there some hypocrisy there from the Sanders's camp?

CUPP: You know, maybe a little, but I've got to tell you -- as bad as we have it on the GOP side, we've got it bad, this is a pretty shameful debate to be having. I don't think -- I mean, if Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton really thinks that this is the issue that voters care about, which Democrat, which candidate has spent more raising money for other Democratic -- I mean, that's just not -- that's not where voters are.

So both of them, I don't think this is a good look for either candidate to engage in this particular debate. Go back to the issues.

SCIUTTO: OK. Marc Lamont Hill, S.E. Cupp in Washington, Joe Borelli -- thanks very much.

Be sure to tune in to CNN tomorrow for special all-day coverage of the New York primary.

Part of President Obama's signature immigration policy in jeopardy is as the Supreme Court hears arguments that could split the court and split apart many families.

Then, President Obama's visit to Saudi Arabia already being overshadowed by 28 pages of classified material in a 9/11 commission report. What does documents could say about Saudi Arabia's possible involvement in the attacks.


[16:26:34] SCIUTTO: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Today's national lead, a pivotal Supreme Court case over immigration and the powers of the president. Outside, protesters on both sides staging demonstrations, inside, we heard justices weigh in and perhaps signal which way they are leaning in oral arguments.

CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown joins me now.

So, Pam, the president thought that his policies would be the centerpiece of his second term. But now, you have 26 states in total challenging it.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this really is a case that tests the boundaries of presidential powers. And inside that courtroom today, Jim, the justices seemed closely divided on this immigration issue and if it does end up being a 4-4 split following the death of Justices Antonin Scalia, that would be bad news for the president and millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. because the president's programs would remain blocked.


BROWN (voice-over): The fiery debate over immigration played out on the steps of the Supreme Court with hundreds of protesters from all across the country. Inside, the justices listened to intense arguments over whether the president has the authority to not only shield more than 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation but also grant them the right to work and receive benefits like Social Security and Medicare.

The eight justices appeared divided along ideological lines. The conservative justices seemed to side with Texas and the other 25 states suing the administration for executive overreach. Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "It's as if the president is setting the policy and the Congress is executing it. That's just upside down."

SCOTT KELLER, TEXAS SOLICITOR GENERAL: It transforms unlawful conduct into lawful conduct. I think if the executive, the president has the power to do that, I think that should trouble every American.

BROWN: The liberal justices seemed sympathetic to the administration's arguments. Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg noting there are 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. said inevitably, priorities have to be set.

Antonio Campos is one of the undocumented immigrants the president is trying to help. He came to the U.S. from Mexico illegally in 1995. He had two children here who are U.S. citizens and has spent many years as a community volunteer in Sacramento.

ANTONIO CAMPOS, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: When I came here, I came with my uncle and that was it and the hopes I can bring a better life to my family. As a man of faith, I have the illusion that this is going to be the beginning of a better society.

BROWN: If the administration loses this case, Campos and million other immigrants will remain in legal limbo.


BROWN: And it was clear from oral arguments that several justices grappled with the question of whether the states even have the legal grounds to bring this case forward. Texas said it would cost it millions of dollars to issue driver licenses to the protected immigrants and that claims that the state -- that that gives the state standing to sue. The administration disagree, saying Texas doesn't have to subsidize these licenses. If the justices decide the state do not have the standing, Jim, and the president's programs would be able to go forward.

SCIUTTO: So, 4.3 million undocumented immigrants covered under this case. If the case is lost, the president loses the case, do they get sent home?

BROWN: Well, not necessarily. So, most of these 4.3 undocumented immigrants are considered low-priority targets. So, right now, DHS is really focused on high priority immigrants, like criminals, people who recently crossed the border. And so, most likely, they would just remain in the status quo, whether they're in the United States or DHS focuses on those high-priority targets. If the programs aren't upheld, you know, they won't get those benefits, the work authorization and it really would be a setback for them, in their view.