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Obama Steps Up Attacks on Trump; Col. Peter Mansour: First Time I Will Vote for a Democrat, Not Trump; Clinton, Sanders Tied in California, Harry Reid Tells Sanders to Quit. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired June 2, 2016 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:54] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Say my name. President Obama refusing to utter the words "Donald Trump." However, he is stepping up his attacks on the presumptive Republican nominee. We're told President Obama is champing at the bit to hit the campaign trail. This is just a taste.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When somebody says, like the person you just mentioned, who I'm not going to advertise for, that he's going to bring all these jobs back, well, how exactly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There's no answer to it. He just says, well, I'm going to negotiate a better deal. Well, how? How exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is he doesn't have an answer.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's discuss this. Let's bring in David Gergen, CNN's senior political analyst, former adviser to Presidents Clinton, Reagan, Ford and Nixon.


Nice to see you.


BOLDUAN: So why do you think President Obama is champing at the bit, wants to jump into this so badly?

GERGEN: It's interesting. It's almost a tag team this week, isn't it? Obama going after Trump on his economic policies, and Hillary going after him on his foreign policies. I think, in part, obviously, they've looked at the polls and see it could be a closer race than they expected and they want to land some blows early so Trump doesn't build momentum, which is exactly what they don't want. Let's say Hillary Clinton loses California -- we don't know whether she will or not -- she has a good chance of winning it, but nonetheless, they want to pin down Trump and make him unacceptable. If you can define him early in the minds of a lot of Independents who haven't made up their minds, that's a big thing. I think in President Obama's case, it's also a personal animus here. You know, the guy has been after him. He doesn't like that.

BOLDUAN: He was pushing the birther.

GERGEN: Yeah. And he has a disdain for him. He thinks the Oval Office should be reserved for certain kinds of people, of which Trump is not in the inner circle.

But the other thing is President Obama I think is fighting for his legacy. His legacy is at stake in this election. If the Democrats were to lose the election, his legacy is diminished significantly.

BERMAN: So you get the sense the president has wanted to be out there for a while and he's being held back because the Democratic primary is not officially over. Last night, he said, and I want to quote this exactly because it's hedging it here, "I think we'll probably have a pretty good sense next week of who the nominee will end up being." Which is different than saying, you know, Hillary Clinton will be the nominee next week but we'll pretty good sense. Do you think the president would go out there and endorse Hillary Clinton next week even if Bernie Sanders says, I'm taking this to the convention, and what would the impact of that be?

GERGEN: That's an interesting question. I think they're going to have to -- I would imagine the White House and the Clinton campaign will sit down and think very carefully how are we going to bring this off so that we heal the party like we need to do? How much can I give up?

One of the things, for example, is that Bernie Sanders is going to want a prime time spot at the convention, right? He's going to want to have a big place. Well, OK, Bernie, if you want the primetime spot, you know, diminish or reduce what you're demanding from us on the platform.


BERMAN: -- come out next week.

GERGEN: Yeah. There's going to be some negotiation. President Obama needs to be sort of the healing balm in the beginning, and then he'll come out swinging for Hillary against Trump.

[11:35:16] BOLDUAN: That's an interesting way of putting it, act as kind of a healing figure before -- on the Democratic side while also hitting Donald Trump. Where do you think the one area where President Obama is most effective against Donald Trump?

GERGEN: He's most effective at arousing the passions of the minority community and maybe women. But I think those two groups in particular. The turnout is going to be so significant. The turnout may go up, you know, among working class white folks, who are going to come out for Trump. We saw in the off-year elections here not long ago, when young people stay home and minorities stay home, Republicans do very well. And who is best at energizing those young people and those minorities than President Obama? He's done it twice magically. Those are big, big pillars of his support. So I would imagine that's where he'll be used again. It's where his magic works.

BERMAN: It's the million dollar question, is the Obama coalition the Democratic coalition, or does it only show up for Obama? We may learn in a few months.

BOLDUAN: That's the test case.

GERGEN: That's the big question, not only this election, but out into the future.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, David. Thank you.

GERGEN: Good to see you both. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: So he is a long-time Republican, a retired Army colonel, and a former top aide to General David Petraeus, and he says, for the first time in his adult life, he's going to be voting for a Democrat. He's going to tell us why, and that's ahead.

BERMAN: Plus, California at stake right here, and people talking about an old interview with Donald Trump. We'll discuss some of that coming up.


[11:41:11] BERMAN: At this moment, Hillary Clinton is preparing for what aides call a major national security speech, a speech the campaign says will focus solely on Donald Trump really and his national security policies. She clearly does not like them. And now at least one long-time Republican agrees, and says he's about to vote for a Democrat the first time in his life.

BOLDUAN: Retired Army Colonel Peter Mansour served as a top adviser to General David Petraeus in Iraq, and the colonel is joining us right now.

Colonel, great to see you, as always. Thank you so much for being here.


BOLDUAN: Of course. John laid it out. You've said that are facing this decision. You have decided, for the first time in your adult life, you're going to be voting for Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. Why?

MANSOUR: I signed a letter in March, an open letter on the Internet on my website "War on the Rocks." With 120 fellow Republican national security experts it lays it out. Donald Trump does not have the character and the intellectual foundation necessary to succeed as president to the United States. By his own admission, he gets his information from the shows. And as great as you are, you're not a lifelong study of books and general articles and the sort of intellectual preparation a president needs. Then you drill down into specifics, Donald Trump would alienate America's long-standing allies around the world. He would unravel alliances that have made America strong, like NATO. He can't be trusted on the nuclear trigger. You know, you think about getting that call at 3:00 in the morning of some nuclear crisis somewhere, all you have to do is cut to a clip of his answer in the primary campaign in a debate on what the nuclear triad is, which is, of course, the cornerstone of America's nuclear response efforts, and he doesn't know what it is. He does not support free trade, which is a long-standing conservative economic principle. And finally, he would diminish America's moral standing around the world with his denigration of Mexicans and women and Muslims. And in every respect, he is just not qualified to be president of the United States.

BERMAN: That's a pretty long list you're laying out there of reasons why you're doing this. Now, there were a lot of people out there in the so-called Stop Trump or Never Trump movement, Republicans, who say similar things, but they don't go the next step that you've gone, which is to say, I am voting for Hillary Clinton. Are you happy that you're voting for Hillary Clinton? Are you saying you think she'll do a good job?

MANSOUR: You know, I'm not delighted with her as a candidate. But here is my reasoning. If we stay on the sidelines, it will be a low turnout election, and this is exactly what the Trump campaign wants. They want a low turnout election with high negative ratings for both candidates, and then in that case, they believe that their supporters will be more energized to go to the polls than Hillary Clinton's. And we can't have Trump as president, so in my book -- my logic, I need to support the Democratic candidate. It may not be Hillary Clinton. It might be Senator Sanders, but I will support the Democratic candidate as the best alternative to Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Colonel, supporters of Donald Trump say -- and we had someone on earlier in the show -- say that he is an outsider. He approaches this from a businessman's perspective, foreign policy and national security. That he is still evolving on these issues and he will bring in people like yourself, who are experts on this, to make sure he makes the right decision when faced with the nation's biggest questions. Does that give you any comfort?

MANSOUR: None at all. You know, I'm a military officer. I've participated in planning for wars and operations, and you can't simply expect everything to fall in place when the guns -- first guns sound. The idea that he would enter the Oval Office and somehow have an epiphany and become qualified to lead America and sit in the highest office of the land I think is ludicrous.

BOLDUAN: Colonel Mansour, thank you very much for your perspective. We appreciate it.

MANSOUR: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: A lot to discuss going forward.

BERMAN: He had strong opinions.

[11:45:13] BOLDUAN: Yeah.

Coming up for us, it's time for Bernie Sanders to face the math -- that's the message from the top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid. Why Senator Reid says, in his words, "Sometimes you just have to give up."


BOLDUAN: California's Democratic primary is too close to call, folks. A new poll shows Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders running neck and neck, just two points separating them at the moment.

BERMAN: California, big prize right at the end of the primary season.

I want to bring back our panel to talk about all this, Trump delegate, John Jay LaValle; CNN Politics editor, Mark Preston, joins us; Pete Seat, former communications director of the Indian Republican Party; also CNN political commentator, Errol Louis.

I want to talk about California is a second, but I want to start with what we just heard from the retired Colonel Peter Mansour, who worked with David Petraeus. Peter Mansour, a life-long Republican, says he will never vote for Donald Trump under any circumstances.

BOLDUAN: He made that very clear.

[11:50:00] BERMAN: And he listed a bunch of reason.

Errol, my question is this -- we ran out of time with him or I would have asked him. I can see Donald Trump saying, Colonel, you're part of the national security establishment that I'm campaigning against. I didn't like the decisions George W. Bush made, I didn't like the decisions that Barack Obama made, largely with the same types of people behind the scenes there. I'm just different than you. Is that why voters like Donald Trump?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, in the short tern. And I think where the colonel is coming from, in some ways, it's not incompatible. What he's saying is you're just not different from this president or the last president, you're different from the last five presidents, you're different from a couple generations of defense doctrine, people who go to school and who study and put their lives on the line and --


BERMAN: But that defense doctrine got us into the Iraq War, which Donald Trump says he doesn't support Iraq war and a lot of people are against.

LOUIS: Very true. And there are some residual Bush supporters. There are -- Hillary Clinton herself said if one vote that I cast in 2002 is the only vote that counts for all time, then I can't get your vote. But if you believe in the principles, the doctrine, the alliances, these institutions that have kept the peace for 70 years, let's talk, and get back to that, and not blow out of proportion, is the Clinton argument, is the Bush argument, is the establishment argument, that you can get -- you can have the right principles and get a wrong outcome. But that didn't mean you get rid of the principles.

BOLDUAN: Just a final button on this, John and I want to get your take. I posed your argument to Peter Mansour and HE said it's ludicrous to think that once you get into the Oval Office that you're evolving, that you need core principles. You can't just bring people in for advice. He says it's ludicrous to think that once you get into the Oval Office everything will fall in line. Regardless, he just doesn't believe that Donald Trump can do it. If Peter Mansour, if you can't win him over, does Hillary Clinton have an argument? Is there a concern there for you?

JOHN JAY LAVALLE, DONALD TRUMP DELEGATE FROM NEW YORK & VICE CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK REPUBLICAN PARTY: No, there will be a very small percentage of people, part of the establishment, that will never support Donald Trump. But Donald Trump has the core principles. And that wasn't what I was arguing. What I was setting forth is that the way Donald Trump does business is by bringing the best and brightest in. And that's what he'll need to do. His core principal is to make America strong again, to invest in our military, to put us in a position -- even by growing our economy, making Americans healthy again, to put us in a position overall to be better, to be a better influence in the world. And by the way, he's never been an advocate for war. That's not what he advocates.


LAVALLE: He's spoken repeatedly. Regardless of what he might have said 20 years ago, he wasn't a public figure. When we walk it in to public life, that's when we're held accountable for everything that we say. He has the --


BOLDUAN: He's used that in his --


LAVALLE: Make America great again is the core principle. From there, you bring the best and the brightest in to advise you and then you make the right --


BERMAN: -- California, but at one point, he did at one point support the Iraqi invasion, support the United Nations and going to Libya, as well.

BOLDUAN: And he touts it. That's my thing. He touts his time in private life --


BERMAN: California, Mark Preston, right now. Interesting that Hillary Clinton is using this time today to go after Donald Trump four or five days before she needs to beat Bernie Sanders in California. Is this saying, in her mind, it's worth the risk of not spending a day going after Bernie Sanders to go after Donald Trump?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: How do you -- first of all, she is going to beat Bernie Sanders. In the end, she will -- on Tuesday night, she will become the presumptive Democratic nominee. The math is there. All the Bernie Sanders people out there are going to fire Twitters at me and messages and telling me I'm wrong and I don't know what I'm talking about. But for her, it's probably the smartest strategy to go directly at Donald Trump because she is assuming the role now as the presumptive Democratic nominee. And also, by going after Bernie Sanders, all you're really doing would be alienating supporters that have been with him through this entire primary, and that's not a smart play on his part.

BOLDUAN: Harry Reid seems to agree with Mark Preston. Harry Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, says, "Sometimes when you look at the math, sometimes you just have to give up." But as an outsider, looking in, what do you think of June 8th, the day after the big primary day, what does it looks like, what does the race look like for Bernie Sanders even if he wins California?

PETE SEAT, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, INDIANA REPUBLICAN PARTY: I think his supporters will try to get some concessions at the convention. That's where the Democratic race shifts to IS their convention and what will happen with the platform, how are supporters going to react when Hillary Clinton -- supporters of Bernie Sanders, how will they react when Hillary Clinton is giving the acceptance speech. What is that going to cost for her campaign moving forward for her? That's why I think today is so important for her. She wants to shift the Democratic mindset to the general election. She needs to move beyond Bernie, but she can't. He won't go away. And if you look at these polls, he's creeping up, he's getting closer. He may --



SEAT: He underperforms in polls time and time again, because we don't get new voters calculated in there. He likely will win California, I think. But she needs people to move beyond him and get to this general election if she's going to win.

[11:55:19] BERMAN: Errol, 20 seconds left. How much pressure will Bernie Sanders be under on June 8th?

LOUIS: He will be under some pressure, but before that productive conference you reference happens, there will be a lot of accusations about sort of fraud and incompetence. California has an incredibly complicated system.

BOLDUAN: We know.

LOUIS: If you are not a registered Democrat, there is a way that you can vote, but you have to ask for the extra ballot. And if people don't know that, they won't have their votes counted. And I can already hear the tweets and the accusations that it was all rigged from the beginning. But --


BERMAN: Is it @markprestonCNN?

LOUIS: Yeah, @prestonCNN.


BOLDUAN: Errol Louis --



BERMAN: Guys, thank you so much. Really nice having you here today.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, Hillary Clinton's big policy speech just a short time from now. Donald Trump says he's seen the speech and he says, surprisingly, that it's full of lies. We will bring you that speech so everyone can see it, live.