Return to Transcripts main page


Christie Defends Trump, Ryan Accuses Trump of Racism; Rep. Lee Zeldin Talks Trump, Racism; How Clinton Clinched Democratic Nomination; Sanders Disagrees Clinton Is Democratic Nominee. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired June 7, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R), NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're friends. We talk all the time. And anything that I can do to help I'm happy to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A potential V.P. nominee?

CHRISTIE: That's up to Hillary Clinton. My relationship with Senator Booker is well chronicled. I like Senator Booker. I have great respect for Senator. We've been friend over the last, gosh, now 14 years. So I have great respect for Corey. He's a good guy and I like him. But as to whether or not he should be Hillary Clinton's vice president, one, that's a decision only she can make, and, express an opinion because if I did, I might actually hurt his chances so I don't want to do that to Corey.

Any other questions?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, at any point do you think Mr. Trump's rhetoric has go too far? Was there any point where you said, wow, that went over the limit?

CHRISTIE: I am sure if I sat back and thought about it that there would be times that I would think that there were things he said he shouldn't have said. Quite frankly, he's admitted that over time there are things that he said that he shouldn't have said. But that happens to anybody in politics who speaks their mind. If you have this many microphones and cameras in front of you on a regular basis and you're not, you know, a preprogrammed, robotic politician, you're going to make some statements at times you wish you could take back.

I have done it. He's done it. Anybody who is honest this business has done it. That doesn't make him any different than anybody else who has run for office before. And, frankly, from my perspective it's refreshing to have somebody who is willing to speak their mind and you know is not reading from a script. There's lots of things you could say about Donald. He's not reading from a script, I can guarantee you that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Lindsey Graham says --


CHRISTIE: He seems to double down. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- an off ramp and consider un-endorsing

Donald Trump --


CHRISTIE: Lindsey Graham has changed his mind about who he is endorsing and not endorsing so many times, it's hard for me to keep track. I think Senator Graham has lost any credibility he may have had at any time to give an opinion on this. The fact is that Senator Graham is for himself. It's hard for me to keep track. Then he was for Jeb, think I think Marco, then he was for Ted after he told everybody Ted could be murdered on the floor of the Senate and he wouldn't get one vote for conviction. Then I heard he said some nice things about Donald and now he's saying something else. Lindsey has lost any credibility he's had. He should worry about going back to South Carolina and trying to rebuild his base in South Carolina or he won't be in the United States Senate for much longer.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, you seem to be saying that you don't necessarily disagree with the idea that judge's ethnic heritage --


CHRISTIE: Matt, I'm not answering your questions.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What about violence at Trump rallies?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I think it's awful that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have sent their supporters there in order to commit violent acts, and it's a terrible thing. And I think that both Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton this week denounced the people, finally, who are supporters of theirs who are going to Donald's rallies only to create violence. We saw that going as far back as Chicago a couple months ago. These are people who say that they're open and tolerant and understanding of others' views, yet they stand outside and commit violent protest. Everybody is allowed to protest. You can peacefully protest wherever you want. But they don't do that. They commit violent acts and that's wrong. That's wrong for anybody to do.



CHRISTIE: And, so quite frankly -- so quite frankly, you know, secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders should in my view be more outspoken and more direct about the fact that they want to instruct their supporters not to be violent when they're protesting at another candidates' rallies. It's simply wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you worry about Cleveland --


CHRISTIE: I don't worry about Cleveland at all. Cleveland will have great Secret Service protection, as every convention I have been to has had. I was there in 2000 in Philadelphia. I was there in 2012 in Tampa. And I'm sure that Cleveland will have the same level of great protection, separate areas for protesters, and all the rest of that, that they have at every national convention, and that they will have in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention. So, no, I don't worry about Cleveland at all. I think Cleveland will be a celebration of our nominee and the official beginning of the fall campaign, and that will be a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Anything to say about Hillary Clinton now that she is officially clinched the nomination?

CHRISTIE: Nothing more than I have said already. Listen, she is simply, in my view, unqualified to be president of the United States, and I think the country would move in an even worse direction than it's moved in the last eight years with Barack Obama if, in fact, Hillary Clinton were elected president. So whether she's officially the nominee or she was just assumed to be the nominee doesn't change my view of Hillary Clinton.

So thank you all very much. Appreciate it.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.


You have been looking at Chris Christie answering a lot of questions about Donald Trump. Why? Because moments ago, a stunning moment in politics, even by the stunningly high bar of the 2016 race, the Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, declaring that the presumptive Republican nominee, a man he has now endorsed, is essentially engaging in racism.

[11:05:03] BOLDUAN: Donald Trump's comment about an American-born judge of Mexican heritage has faced fierce backlash from outside and clearly inside his own party. Speaker Ryan knew, of course, that he would face this question today. Listen to how he responded.


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I disavow these comments. I regret those comments that he made. I don't think claiming a person can't do their job because their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.


BOLDUAN: Textbook definition of a racist comment. This is the top elected Republican in the country talking about the Republican nominee.

Senior political reporter, Manu Raju, was there. He is joining us live right now.

He was responding -- he also responded to questions from you, Manu, a stunning moment.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It really was. It really just shows how difficult it has been for Paul Ryan and a lot of members of Congress to get around the fact that Donald Trump is their party's nominee. Remember, he did make that endorsement last week, but he really did it not with much fanfare, writing an op-ed in his local paper in Janesville, Wisconsin, but one of the things Paul Ryan has said throughout this campaign, he said actually to me a few months ago was that he would speak against Donald Trump when he believed that conservatism in his words were being disfigured. Clearly he thought the Judge Curiel comments were -- did meet that threshold.

Now, after he made that comment, a really stunning remark saying this was a textbook definition of a racist comment, I asked him how concerned are you that if Donald Trump continues to make comments about this, it will undercut the Republican agenda in 2016? Here is what he had to say.


RYAN: I do think these kinds of comments undercut these things and I'm not going to even pretend to defend them. I'm going to defend our ideas. I'm going to defend our agenda. What matters to us most is our principles and the policies that come from those principles and our ability to give the people of this country a better way forward. A better way is what we're up to here. And we believe we have a better likelihood of passing that than we would have a president Clinton.


RAJU: And that's the worrisome thing here for Paul Ryan and for Republicans as they're trying to present a vision for this country, as they're trying to show a contrast from Democrats as they're trying to unite after primary. Donald Trump says things that their party and force them to get into this internal party civil war and could hurt their ability to hang onto control of Congress. Right here Paul Ryan tried to unveil part of his 2016 election year agenda in this low- income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., to talk about how to address poverty. But, of course, all the questions were, how do you deal with Donald Trump? And it's obviously a very difficult thing for him right now.

But one thing to note, guys. He has not yet rescinded that endorsement of Donald Trump. He said that Hillary Clinton still would be better than Donald Trump -- sorry, Donald Trump would be better than Hillary Clinton. But that's one of the things that we're going to keep looking for if he's willing to walk away from that endorsement -- guys?

BOLDUAN: All right, Manu. Manu Raju, fascinating to see Paul Ryan up there.

Let's talk about this more now with Congressman Lee Zeldin who has endorsed Donald Trump for president. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the senior elected official of your party right now, says that Donald Trump made a comment that is the textbook definition of a racist comment. Do you agree?

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: The way I subjectively define racism, I agree as well. I think that Mr. Trump made a regrettable mistake with his statement. I believe that it's a regrettable legal strategy. He's trying to win a case, and that strategy at this point has led to -- that particular calculation that has been made, to go after the judge's heritage, I think that -- we shouldn't be going after ethnicity and race with a judge to assume that they are unqualified to serve as a judge in a particular case because of it. Now Mr. Trump believes that because of his positions on building a wall that there is a connection. I don't know the judge. Maybe there's something else that can come out that I'm not aware of, but with what I know, I'm not aware of this judge being unfit to handle this case because the fact that he is of Mexican heritage.

BOLDUAN: Congressman, this is very important. You agree with Paul Ryan. You agree with this already stunning statement coming from the House speaker that this, what Donald Trump has said is the textbook definition of a racist comment. If Donald Trump, in this comment, is engaging in racism, are you still comfortable supporting him?

ZELDIN: Quite frankly, the policies that I have seen from the Democratic Party, when you're micro-targeting a community, and you are putting blacks together and Hispanics together and certain economic messages and positions on issues, quite frankly, with the way I define racism, I see it a lot in policies and statements that has taken place. I've been in Congress for 18 months. I was a New York State Senator for four and --


[11:10:12] BOLDUAN: I'm not saying, are you now voting for Hillary Clinton, but are you still endorsing Donald Trump if you think he's engaging in racism?

ZELDIN: Yes. It's Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, and it's no- brainer, between the two of them --


BERMAN: Are you essentially saying that yes, he's a racist, but he's our racist?

ZELDIN: No, I think that Donald Trump -- as far as his character goes, he isn't making that statement because he feels like he is superior, because he is white and the judge is Mexican. I don't believe he's making that statement, because internally, he feels like he is of a superior race.

BOLDUAN: But is a little bit racist OK?

ZELDIN: Being racist ever, no one, with any policy, with any statement -- I quite frankly think that whether it is people who are running for president of the United States, people who have been in that position, people who are in Congress and state legislators, people running for office, the American public, that we all can do a lot better in the way we handle these issues, not just statements but policies as well. So being a little racist or very racist is not OK, but quite frankly, the agenda that I see and all the micro-targeting to blacks and Hispanics, from a policy standpoint, that's more offensive to me, what I've seen through the years, than this one statement, which I don't believe is a result of Donald Trump feeling like he is superior because he's white and not Mexican.

BERMAN: Sorry, though. What would you call someone who makes racist statements? What would a person who makes racist statements be? How would you characterize them?

ZELDIN: Everyone calls them a racist.

BERMAN: So if Donald Trump is making racist statements, you're saying he's a racist.

ZELDIN: So again, if he, internally, felt superior because he is white and he's not Hispanic -- if he felt superior because he was white and he wasn't black, or he was Christian and not Jewish -- you could start getting into the weeds internally as far as a person's character goes, but quite frankly, what I have seen through the years is an offensive micro-targeting on policy and rhetoric of campaigns, that people want votes -- by the way, I don't think that Donald Trump's statement was a statement made intentionally because he wants to win the president of the United States. I think it's primarily focused because he wants to win this case --


BOLDUAN: He brought it into a campaign speech. He spent minutes talking about it. He was the first person who brought up the judge's heritage. When it comes down to it, you are comfortable saying that Donald Trump, your nominee, is racist?

ZELDIN: Again, we can -- I can argue that the president of the United States is --


BOLDUAN: Here's the thing -- you can't -- don't you judge character on people's words? Isn't that the only thing -- isn't that one of the only things you have to judge a presidential candidate, on what they believe inside?

ZELDIN: I believe there's more than just words to define a person, and by the way, aside from words, there's a whole lot more to define everyone, but you can easily argue that the President of the United States is a racist with his policies and his rhetoric -- you could go back --


BERMAN: Just to be clear, you're not arguing that he's racist? ZELDIN: I'm not here to call -- my purpose here isn't to just go through the list and call everyone a racist. I'm saying that we all can up our game with rhetoric and policy, because America, we are a nation of immigrants, we are a melting pot, I'm from New York, and New York is a melting pot -- we all can do so much better.

BERMAN: I've got to say, Congressman, has Donald Trump put you in an incredibly awkward position today in this campaign?

ZELDIN: I mean, I don't feel uncomfortable at all because I'm comfortable in my own skin, being here, answering whatever questions you have. I believe that primarily, for Mr. Trump, it's a regrettable legal strategy. I don't think it's going to help his case. I also don't think it helps his politics. So it was an unfortunate statement that was made, and again, there is a lesson to be learned, there is inspiration to be found, because all across the board, this isn't just one candidate for president of the United States. We have people who are in elected office at federal level, state level, people running for office, who with statements and with policy, arguably, with the way I define racism, fit the bill.

BERMAN: Congressman, we do appreciate you coming and answering these questions. Despite what you say, I don't think it can be an easy day for you so we do appreciate your time here.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much, Congressman. Really appreciate it.

BERMAN: Just ahead for us, several Republican critics of Trump are reacting to Paul Ryan's remark and whether the speaker should now withdraw his endorsement.

[11:14:51] BOLDUAN: Plus, history made. Hillary Clinton becoming the first woman in American history to clinch a major party's nomination. She is the presumptive nominee. But as voters head to the polls, as we speak, Bernie Sanders disagrees very much with that call. His campaign manager is joining us live, next.


BOLDUAN: This is it. New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana, both Dakotas and California, all six of you are on the clock. After this, it's just Washington, D.C., left to vote as this unforgettable 2016 primary season winds down.

BERMAN: Increasingly unforgettable.

BOLDUAN: Every minute.

BERMAN: Voters head to the polls as Hillary Clinton really makes history right now. She is the first woman to become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major party. That is in the some 240 years in the history of our nation. Hillary Clinton has 2,384 delegates right now. That is if you include the super delegates, which we are including.

CNN political director, David Chalian, is here to explain how Hillary Clinton did clinch it overnight while at least some of us who have morning shows were sleeping.

[11:19:46] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Hey, guys. So, yes, as you said, John, as you know, the way we've been tracking delegates, we track these two different kinds of delegates. 85 percent of the delegate universe are pledged delegates based on the results of primaries and caucuses. 15 percent of the overall delegate universe are these unpledged delegates, so-called super delegates. They are free agents. They could decide to support whichever candidate they want at any time, right up until they cast their ballot on the convention floor in Philadelphia.

You see the split on your screen. Hillary Clinton has 1,812 pledged delegates to date. 572 super delegates compared to Bernie Sanders 1,521 and 47 super delegates. Yes, the super delegates that we're able to say those numbers, is because of our reporting over the last many months since last fall.

Our team in the CNN political unit has been reaching out to these super delegates, tracking their public statements of support, calling them and asking them who they're supporting, and we confirm that support and then that goes into our totals, but the caveat should be noted that they are free to change their mind. We have yet to find a single super delegate this season in our tracking that has changed their mind from Clinton to Sanders. There's been one super delegate in our training this season who did change his mind. He was originally a Sanders super delegate and then he switched to become a Clinton super delegate.

BOLDUAN: An important note. And if it changes, we go back to the math and we go back to the drawing board on that.

David Chalian, great to see you. Long day ahead for David. Thank you so much.

Let's talk much more about this with Bernie Sanders' campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, who is joining us from California.

Jeff, thank you so much for joining us.

So you heard David Chalian right there. Other networks have made the call as well. Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Do you have a problem with it?

JEFF WEAVER, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BERNIE SANDERS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: The problem is that the inclusion of the super delegates is a little misleading, given that this up -- super delegates don't vote until July. You have polled some super delegates and, at this point, they are supporting Clinton, but there's a long way to go between now and the convention. A lot can happen between now and then. Bernie Sanders is a much stronger general election candidate than Donald Trump and Secretary Clinton. That is a fact. The case can be made to the super delegates, as we get closer to their election, today we're having elections in six states, but the super sell gat election is in July, and as we get closer, we'll make the case that Bernie Sanders is the person who should be the standard bearer. BERMAN: It is true in the polls Bernie Sanders is doing better

against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. It is also true news organizations have made this type of declaration before. Barack Obama was the presumptive nominee based on our polling of super delegates. Walter Mondale was the presumptive nominee based on our polling of super delegates. This is the way it works. This is the reporting. You do understand that, yes, Jeff?

WEAVER: This is the way you do it, John. It doesn't mean it is the way it is. It's the way CNN and other media choose to do it --


BOLDUAN: Have done it.

WEAVER: -- states are voting today. Let those people vote and decide before the media tells them that the race is over. What's the point of suppressing voter turnout in six states across the country to have a quick news hit that could easily have been done tonight?


BERMAN: We're just telling people what we're hearing. We're just telling people what we're hearing from the polls. Report a lot on polls. We report a lot on what voters tell us and officials tell us. You could say we're withholding information from the public if we didn't tell them but we understand your point. We want to move on to other questions.


WEAVER: Sure, of course.

BOLDUAN: You've probably become well aware that Barack Obama is likely to endorse Hillary Clinton as early as this week is the reporting. What do you say to that?

WEAVER: What I would say is the president has been very even-handed throughout this whole process, and it's greatly appreciated, certainly by the Senator and our campaign. The president is his own person, and he'll obviously do what he wants on his own time table. So I don't have much more to say about it than that.

BERMAN: There was a phone call apparently on Sunday between the president and the Senator. Can you tell us what was said during that conversation?

WEAVER: No. As I said to some of the other news people, I'm not one to repeat what goes on in phone calls or meetings or even to confirm that a phone call went on so I'm not going to be much help on that one I'm afraid.

BOLDUAN: Did the president indicate that he would be endorsing Hillary Clinton?

WEAVER: Well, I'm just -- that's good. Thanks, Kate. I'm not going to discuss what went on in a private phone call between the Senator and the president if one happened.

BERMAN: But, Jeff says, nice try there, which is nice. I do appreciate that, Jeff.

We understand after tonight, in Santa Monica, the Senator is there -- I think you're there with him -- tonight, back to Vermont to assess the state of the campaign. What are the considerations, Jeff, as of tomorrow?

WEAVER: Well, you know, one of the criteria is that the District of Columbia is voting next week. Bernie Sanders said he's going to be in this until all the voting is done. We already have a rally tentatively scheduled for Sunday in Washington, D.C., so the Senator will be going and campaigning down in the District of Columbia. Why should the people of the District of Columbia be deprived of voting? And it's a little ironic, given they've been deprived of voting for a member of Congress. So he intends to campaign in the District of Columbia. And obviously, you know, we are always assessing the campaign and what's the best way to advance the campaign and secure the nomination. So that will be a continuing conversation among the Senator and his senior staff as we go forward this week and next week.

[11:25:39] BOLDUAN: What are the chances with the assessment tomorrow -- that the assessment tomorrow is that your campaign does not continue?

WEAVER: Oh, that our campaign does not continue tomorrow? I think there's zero chance of that.

BERMAN: Is there a 100 percent chance you will fight this out on the convention floor in July?

WEAVER: Look, the Senator has said he wants to go all the way to the convention. I have been with the Senator for 30-some-odd years. If the Senator wants to go to the convention, I will certainly be there with him, but at this point, the Senator has made very clear that he wants to go all the way to the convention.

BOLDUAN: Jeff, we heard from David Chalian, and it's an important data point, that CNN has yet to find a single super delegate to switch over from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders throughout this fight. And this is after you've won states. This is after -- as you've been going up in the polls. What's going to change after today? What specifically is going to change between now and the convention that you think super delegates are going to come flooding your way?

WEAVER: Well, I think it's true of all voters, whether they're super delegates for people on the street, they focus more on the election as it gets closer and they have more information. The super delegate election is at the convention at the end of July. As we get closer, I think super delegates will focus more on the question of electability and who had help detective Democrats up and down the ballot. I think the super delegates will focus on who should be the standard bearer and who can win in November. We have to stop Trump. There's no doubt about that. BERMAN: Jeff Weaver, thank you for being with us. Whatever happens

tonight or tomorrow or this week, what you have accomplished over the last year, there are few people in the political world who thought it possible. So congratulations on that, Jeff.

WEAVER: Well, thank you very much. And I'm always glad to be on your show. I appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Jeff.

Thank you, John Berman.

BERMAN: Yeah, you know.

BOLDUAN: You know. Thank you.

Coming up next, the Clinton campaign responds live. Plus, we'll ask about Nancy Pelosi pushing for an all-woman ticket

BERMAN: And much more on our breaking news, Paul Ryan, the senior elected Republican official in the country, called Donald Trump's attack on a judge "the textbook definition of a racist comment." So now Republicans, understandably, are being asked if they're going to keep up their endorsements.