Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Makes Grand Return to Cleveland; Trump Staffer Takes Blame for Melania Speech; Eric Trump Previews Tonight's Speech; Sources: Trump Camp Reached Out to Kasich About V.P. Job; Day Three of Convention Focus on Making America First Again. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 20, 2016 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

[17:00:16] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much and good evening. Tonight the man who once called Donald Trump a pathological liar will speak at Donald Trump's convention. So will Donald Trump's running mate. So will Newt Gingrich, who wanted to be his running mate.

And after a day and a half of denials, the Trump campaign finally fesses up about how some of Michelle Obama's words actually got into Melania's speech.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Anderson Cooper will join me shortly, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


ANNOUNCER: Right now, Donald Trump's running mate is ready to officially accept the job.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mike Pence was my first choice. He fights for the people, and he's going to fight for you.

ANNOUNCER: It's a high-stakes performance for a political veteran teaming up with a political rule breaker.

GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Donald Trump gets it, and he understands the American people.

ANNOUNCER: In Cleveland tonight, Indiana Governor Mike Pence introduces himself to America.

PENCE: I'm a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.

ANNOUNCER: The GOP vice-presidential choice capping other high- profile speakers including Trump's fierce formal rival and the nominee's son.

ERIC TRUMP, SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I love this man more than you can possibly imagine. As a family, we are so proud of him. ANNOUNCER: The party's program building toward Donald Trump's return

on stage.

D. TRUMP: I'm so proud to be your nominee for president of the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Now CNN takes you inside the Republican National Convention. His story, their ticket, their party, and their challenge, in a presidential race unlike any other.

D. TRUMP: If I'm forced to fight for something I really care about, I will never, ever back down.

ANNOUNCER: A new political partnership is being sealed in Cleveland right now.


BLITZER: High stakes and high drama, and this time it's personal. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump battled fiercely during the primary, trading not just jabs, but haymakers and what each considered low blows. Ted Cruz supporters attempted a last-minute uprising here on Monday.

Tonight the question is this: can the runner-up set that aside in the name of party unity and perhaps another run four years from now? We're going to find out shortly.

And just in case Senator Cruz needed a reminder of who's the runner-up and who's the nominee, the nominee and his running mate provided it, complete with a Hollywood soundtrack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please welcome to Cleveland, the next president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump.


BLITZER: Donald Trump and Mike Pence with music from the movie from "Air Force One" in the background, making their grand entrance to Cleveland today.

And making her entrance for us -- sorry no soundtrack -- our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us.

Dana, the question on a lot of people's mind right now is Ted Cruz and will he or won't he finally endorse Donald Trump? I know you were doing a lot of reporting on this. What can you tell us about his anticipated speech?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The answer is we don't know exactly what he is going to say or how he is going to phrase it, Wolf.

Yesterday, I was told by a source close to him that we should not expect an endorsement and a full-throated endorsement. Today, hearing different kinds of advice and anecdotes about the kind of pressure he is getting, both from those who supported him and don't want him to endorse Donald Trump, because they don't think he is a movement conservative, the kind that they were hoping the nominee would be.

And those, for example, some of the people here in the Texas delegation where I am now, Senator Cruz's home state, saying that he better, in fact, endorse Donald Trump, because they want party unity.

There was a moment, though, today that you can't make up or script, reality TV or not, and that is Cruz was giving a speech to some of his supporters while he was talking about Donald Trump, and at that moment, Trump himself flew over him in his plane. Watch this.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our party now has a nominee. And I don't know...

[17:05:11] That was pretty well-orchestrated. The jet -- Jeff, did you e-mail them to fly the plane right when I said that?


BASH: Jeff being Ted Cruz's former campaign manager, making a joke there, obviously.

So what we're going to be listening for is how Ted Cruz phrases his acknowledgment of the reality that he is here at Donald Trump's convention. Donald Trump is being -- has been nominated, and he invited Ted Cruz to come here, we are told, hoping that he would get an endorsement, whether it will be tonight or maybe down the road. That's what we're kind of on pins and needles trying to figure out.

BLITZER: Dana -- Dana Bash reporting for us from the floor. We'll get back to you shortly.

Whatever else happens tonight, it will be the first one, the party hopes, without questions on how portions of Melania Trump's speech on Monday night so closely resembled passages from Michelle Obama's speech eight years ago. You'll recall the campaign and the party have invoked everyone from Hillary Clinton to "My Little Pony" to what happened.

Tonight, none of the above. CNN's Jim Acosta is joining us now. So Jim, today the campaign finally explained their version of how this all went down.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The dam finally broke, and we got a fuller explanation as to how those portions from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech made her -- their way into Melania Trump's 2016 speech, and it was a painful process.

Even this morning on CNN's "NEW DAY," Chris Cuomo trying mightily to get campaign chairman Paul Manafort to fess up and explain what happened. Manafort was still insisting that no plagiarism had occurred and that only similar words were used from Michelle Obama's speech.

And then Donald Trump put out this tweet at 11:30 this morning, around 11:30 this morning, saying, quote, "The media spends more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania's speech than the FBI spent on Hillary's e-mails." A good zinger. Perhaps should have been saved for his speech tomorrow night.

But then about an hour after that, a statement came from a member of the Trump organization, from a woman named Marilyn McIver. She is a speechwriter for the Trump organization. We will put this up on screen. She took responsibility for what happened.

And here's what she says in this letter. She tried to resign from Trump's organization today, and they refused her. She says, quote, "In working with Melania Trump on her recent first lady speech, we discussed many people that inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she has always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama's speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama's speeches. That was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama."

Wolf, in that letter she goes on to say that she tried to resign. She offered her resignation. It was refused. Donald Trump, the Trump organization told her that innocent mistakes were made there. But Wolf, when you talk to GOP sources around this convention, the consensus view is, is that this was a self-inflicted wound that we all saw took place on Monday night.

BLITZER: And Jim, another point: When Donald Trump arrived in Cleveland today, he was greeted by family and vice-presidential nominee. It's who was missing from that lineup that was telling. Tell us about that.

ACOSTA: That's right. Notably, Melania Trump was not there. Now, we do know that, during that vice-presidential vetting process, Melania Trump was not there when Donald Trump was meeting with Mike Pence from time to time. She, we were told, was taking care of their son, Barron, but she was not there when we saw that very Hollywood landing for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump said at one time he wanted this convention to be more Hollywood. Well, he got it. Harrison Ford did not climb out of that helicopter; Donald Trump did. But when he met with Mike Pence, it was basically, you know, an official moment there for these two men on this GOP ticket.

And Wolf, I talked to a Pence advisor just a little while ago who said that this is going to be a conservative warrior that we're going to hear from later on tonight, and that he is going to sum up why Hillary Clinton should not be president and why Donald J. Trump should be.

Anderson, I'll send it back to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Wolf.

We're monitoring developments on the streets outside the arena. where protestors are out making their voices heard. This is from earlier, a scuffle after someone burned a flag. For the moment, things seem to have settled down. We're obviously going to be keeping an eye on the scene outside.

With us here, chief national correspondent, "INSIDE POLITICS" anchor John King. CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston is joining us; XM radio host and anchor of CNN's "SMERCONISH," Michael Smerconish; CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger; also Trump supporters Jeffrey Lord and Scottie Nell Hughes; Republican strategist Kevin Madden; and senior Democratic Party official Donna Brazile.

I mean, Jeff, I've got to ask, starting off, about the Trump campaign latest description of what happened with Melania Trump's speech. The fact that here we are on day three, and they have now just come out with something that they are claiming is what actually happened after days of denials and "My Little Pony" and just strange stories.

[17:10:23] JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They should have done this in the first place. I know Meredith. I feel badly that I called for her to be publicly flogged. I perhaps owe her a phone call.

And Meredith, I'm sorry if you're watching.

She's apologized. She's a really great person. She's a smart person, and she made a very simple mistake. It would have been very helpful if we just knew that right away.

COOPER: The larger question, beyond ridiculousness of all of this, is just what does it say about the campaign where the structure, the organization, that they're bending over backwards to deny that there was any problem, that there was any plagiarism, that these were just words that happened to be in the exact same order as words that Michelle Obama spoke.

LORD: Right. I think we're on a learning curve here. You know, in truth, I have to say, I've been in government. You watched the Clinton campaign. I mean, this is a tendency among politicians.

Donald Trump is running for president. We have this whole problem with Hillary's e-mails and all of this kind of thing. I was in the White House during the Iran-Contra situation.

COOPER: Is it wise, though, for a campaign to put out surrogates to put out a message that's essentially not true? And -- and have their surrogates continually, even this morning, you know, Paul Manafort saying this wasn't the case, and then Donald Trump tweeting this thing, and then an hour later, the statement.

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the majority of surrogates could see what it was, that the rest of America was seeing that it was the same thing. The majority of the surrogates actually were not defending it, were saying, no, it is the same thing. Those that are with the campaign, though, like Paul Manafort, were the only ones who were really saying, though, you need to deny, deny, deny. The majority of the surrogates out here, like Jeffrey Lord, like a lot of us that are here on the CNN staff, we were saying, "No, it's obvious this is the same thing."

And I think when you look at -- you look at the intent. I don't think Melania was out there to intend to cause harm.


HUGHES: Or intend to do this negatively. And I think, when you're sitting there, they did hire two speech writers. We have found -- CNN found that out. They did hire two good speech writers who came across the speech back in June. Parts of that was in the speech. It looks like they had a bunch of different...

MAEVE RESTON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Five to six lines, there was many.

COOPER: Maeve, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. What have you heard?

RESTON: I mean, the original speech, the original draft speech was entirely different from what Melania read. And, you know, there were maybe five or six lines right at the beginning...

HUGHES: The introduction, very important.

RESTON: ... but nothing resembling the paragraphs that -- that were in question here.

COOPER: That initial speech was what, rejected?

RESTON: Well, it was, in fact -- the response was in the Trump campaign and to the speech that Matthew Foley had turned in, and his partner, was very, very warm; and Jared Kushner had asked them to draft the speech for her, give some ideas back and forth.

And so it was this very mysterious thing, where they turned in a draft, hear this great feedback back, and then it's just dead silence. And what we know from our sources is that, you know, Melania wanted to make it more of her own voice, and more of her own thoughts, and go in a different direction. And there were a lot of other hands along the way, clearly, in the process.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And so, again, every layer of this onion you pull back shows dysfunction in the campaign. To Maeve's point, two veteran political pros, two guys who know what they're doing, were asked to do this. So she doesn't love the first draft. She doesn't. Maybe the campaign does; it's her speech. Great, that happens all of the time, where you go back and forth with them or then they hand it off internally.

And I understand the cost is a mistake, but this woman does have past experience writing.

HUGHES: But not political. She writes for...


KING: Melania -- Melania talked -- Melania says, "Michelle Obama said this. I loved it. Michelle Obama says that. I loved it." She says she wrote it down and then didn't go back and check the speeches. She didn't have to go back and check the speeches. Melania Trump, according to the statement, read the lines and she wrote them down, and they ended up in the speech. But -- but let's not blame her, Jeffrey's point, to Jeffrey's point, even if it's an innocent thing.

Nobody checked it after that? Nobody vetted it after that? And then Paul Manafort sends a memo yesterday within the campaign, saying, "Shut this down. Stop leaking to the media. Stop talking about this. It didn't happen. There was no plagiarism. That's our story, and we're sticking to it."

This morning with Chris Cuomo, Chris Cuomo says, "You're lying."

He says, "I'm not lying about anything."

Then, one, he had said shut it down. Donald Trump tweets, this is great. Everybody's talking about this. This is amazing. All press is good press."

And then he should have stayed and said, "Yes, we plagiarized. We made a mistake." What? I mean, they knew this. They knew this that night.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: They didn't issue a statement saying yes. They said -- we plagiarized. They said -- she says, "Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes, and we learn and grow from these experiences." So it was characterized as an innocent mistake. And by the way, Trump did not say, "You're fired."

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: He kept her on, because they had to say it was innocent, right?

COOPER: We want to continue this conversation. We've got to take a quick break. After the break, we're going to focus not just on Melania Trump, obviously, not just on Eric Trump's upcoming moment on the stage tonight, but also the larger role that the family is playing all week as day three coverage continues.


[17:20:07] COOPER: To Donald Trump, this means after his speech tomorrow might he will have appeared either in person or by video every single night of the convention. Another constant, of course, has been his family, Melania, Donald Trump Jr., Tiffany Trump and tonight, Eric Trump, who spoke earlier today with Wolf Blitzer about how he prepared for tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Tiffany spoke last night. She was very effective. A very

different speech from your brother, Donald Trump Jr. You're going to have a tough act to follow. His speech was very well-delivered. It was a very powerful address. What are you going to do tonight?

ERIC TRUMP, SON OF DONALD TRUMP: Yes, listen, I'm going to, I think, very much do the same thing. I really wrote my speech from the heart, and I spent a lot of time on it. I care about the subject matter. I care about him. Certainly, something I wasn't going to outsource. I mean, you just can't -- it's too important to me.

And I am going to speak from the heart tonight. I think I have an amazing speech, and I think it will be great, and I really -- I focus on the question of why. Why he's doing this. Why the country needs a person like him. And I think I answer that question, you know, very, very well, and I think I kind of give a good inside look into what his life was, what he life is going to be.


COOPER: Interesting. Eric Trump emphasizing he did not outsource his speech, that he wrote it himself. We'll have much more of Wolf's interview ahead on THE SITUATION ROOM. We are back with the panel.

And again, Donna, right before the break, we were talking about the -- really, the follow up to Melania Trump's speech, not even so much the incident itself. It's really just -- to me, it's just so fascinating microcosm of how this campaign handles any mistake, frankly. We've seen it time and time again, whether it was Donald Trump making fun of a disabled reporter and saying, "No, what you saw happen actually never really happened."

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Or the Star of David, you know, just being an ordinary, you know, sheriff, you know, cross [SIC].

Look, I think the campaign has a real problem. You mentioned Jeffrey, and I congratulated Jeffrey yesterday. And that is they don't know how to handle crisis. They double down, and then they go after. They deny and double down, and then they attack the source, whether it's the media or whether it's someone else. And when that doesn't work, you blame the Clinton campaign, and in this case, he blamed the Obamas. I mean, that's always somehow another problem.

Bless Mrs. Trump hard. I wish she -- I hope she comes back. I applauded her speech. I thought it was an inspirational speech. And when I heard she lifted some of the information, I said, "You know what? Admit it, own it, and then move on." They didn't do that, and that's what caused a problem.

But perhaps they didn't do it because she respects and admires a very phenomenal first lady. And why not? Admit that you like the first lady. Mrs. Obama is not sitting here, talking about Donald Trump and the campaign and the silliness of this political season. But unfortunately, in this world, it came to that. So I feel sorry for her. One last thing: I got to meet the Trump children. Three of them, not

all of them. The little one, I haven't met him. I like them. I like them, because I think they're astute; they're smart. They love their father. They love their family. And I do think that they're authentic.

At a time when the picture of Donald Trump is a very negative picture, it's a very negative picture. You've got to get used to that.

LORD: And Hillary's is not. Everybody loves Hillary.

BRAZILE: But this is your -- this is your week. So next week you come in, and I'll let you have that conversation.

But the portrait is not that good. What the kids are able to do, what his children are able to do, they say, "This is my father. This is who he is. He's my mentor. He's my best friend. He's the one that -- he's the one that helped me become a businessman." So they're helping us get another picture of him. I don't know if the two pictures will square, but at least we're getting a picture of a family man, a husband, and a father.

LORD: You know, one of the things that I think is going on out there in America, is they listen to all of us. Yes, there's a point here, and we've all made, I think, the immediate points. But I think there is a feeling, just reading my e-mail here, that we obsess over these kind of things. And we need to -- we need to move on.

COOPER: Right. But, look, we would have moved on days ago, in fact, that very night, had the Trump campaign actually been honest. Its lies, which is -- when people lie to your face and say you're an idiot for even thinking this and then finally...


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR, "SMERCONISH": And I think also, something needs to be said about Donald Trump allowing Paul Manafort to twist in the wind this morning with Chris Cuomo. I'm sure we've all seen that interview, where he just stood out there and said something that was completely belied within two hours by the Trump campaign.

Relatively to the kids, I just want to say this.

COOPER: Let's play some of that, just for -- then follow it up.


PAUL MANAFORT, TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: As far as we're concerned, there were similar words that were used. We said that. But the feeling of those words and the commonality of those words, did not create a situation which we feel we have to agree with.

If you want to have that opinion, fine. You want to talk about it for the next six months, I'm not going to be here, because I've got other things I've got to talk about. (END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:25:00] COOPER: And yet, two hours later.

SMERCONISH: There were individuals who were saying, you know, if Corey Lewandowski, maybe his head needs to roll for -- for this whole Melania-gate situation, I'm saying to myself, if I'm -- if I'm Paul Manafort, and I'm standing there watching this interview now replayed, knowing that my boss knew it was all B.S., and he had to know, do I really want to continue to be associated with this effort?

HUGHES: Clearly, this is on Paul Manafort. You cannot put this back on Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump was angry. He was upset. Obviously, there's a lot of things...

SMERCONISH: He knew. You're missing my point.



COOPER: Kevin.

MADDEN: You can, and here's why. Every single campaign is a reflection of its candidate.

HUGHES: I agree.

MADDEN: This is a campaign that allows people to go out and operate as serial prevaricators with the public. And they don't pay a price. Everybody on this campaign is going to continue working tomorrow, and they're going to continue with the same exact strategy of attack the media, don't take any blame. Then when you do take blame, distract everybody from the process.

This -- and this is why this was such an unforced error, because Melania Trump's speech, by all accounts, was a very good one.

HUGHES: We're talking about 7 percent.

COOPER: We've got to go. We've got to take a quick break. We're going to have a lot more ahead. More to talk about after we take a short break. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: It's day three of the Republican convention here in Cleveland. And as we said, a pivotal moment will come later tonight when Ted Cruz speaks. Will he or won't he finally endorse Donald Trump? We'll get an answer tonight.

[17:31:15] Cruz, of course, isn't the only formal rival who hasn't endorsed Donald Trump. Ohio's governor, John Kasich, he's boycotting the entire convention. Hard to imagine a bigger snug. And now, tonight, we have new reporting on an offer that team Trump made to John Kasich a while ago. Dana Bash is joining us now. Dana, when the Trump campaign contacted

Governor Kasich's, what exactly did they say and when did they say it?

BASH: Well, we are told that, back in April and May, when Donald Trump started the process of trying to figure out who he wanted as his running mate, they were so aggressive about the notion of John Kasich being that person that Donald Trump Jr. even called one of John Kasich's top aides and said that, if he wanted the job, he could even be in charge of foreign and domestic policy, which of course, is kind of everything. It's what the president does.

That is something that we are told by a source that's close to John Kasich, that the advisor told Kasich, and they effectively kind of laughed it off as not something that's really plausible, and that that was one of several conversations that was had between the two camps about the idea of John Kasich being the vice president.

Now, the -- I just want to tell you that the backdrop of this is that the Kasich campaign and the Trump campaign are at incredible odds this week. And it escalates every single day about what you said coming to me, Wolf. That John Kasich is the governor of this state, this is, you know, the city, it is here. All of his party is here, and he is not coming intentionally, despite many overtures. And the Trump campaign has been very clear that they are not happy with that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Even the Democratic mayor of Cleveland came to the convention to welcome all the delegates.

Trump responded to all this reporting via Twitter earlier this afternoon. What did he say?

BASH: That's right. I'll read you the tweet. Trump said, "John Kasich was never asked by me to be V.P." And then he had said, "Just arrived in Cleveland; will be a great two days."

And that was followed up just now by a comment from Jason Miller to our colleague Sara Murray, saying that this whole notion of Kasich actually being offered the job of V.P. never happened, that it's false. He acknowledged that there was a conversation between Don Junior and a Kasich aide but insisted that there was never an offer made.

But again, I just want to underscore the fact that we're learning about this drama, that they're letting it be known gives you a very, very strong sense of how divisive it still is. And Ohio is the most important state for Republicans. We say it over and over again. No Republican has won the White House without the state of Ohio, and John Kasich is an important figure here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. All right. Dana, thanks very much.

Anderson, back over to you.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks. I mean, not only a fascinating story, fascinating that it was leaked on this day we're going to be hearing from the vice-presidential pick, Governor Pence, in a big speech. To read Donald Trump's tweet, "never asked by me to be the vice

president," well, OK, that's probably accurate, because that's not what this story said.

BORGER: Right. You have to parse the words. And you know that Donald Trump himself did not do it. Look, that's the way these things work, you know? Somebody calls on behalf of Donald Trump to somebody on John Kasich's staff.

COOPER: It doesn't necessarily -- because the other...

BORGER: Make the offer.

COOPER: Make the offer, it's an exploration.

BORGER: Of course.

COOPER: I've been offered jobs when I haven't actually been offered the job, but just sort of...

BORGER: That's right.

COOPER: ... people dance around and see if you're available.


BORGER: I was told...

COOPER: Nothing quite so high-level.

BORGER: I was told someone close to Kasich, that they -- "They approached us several times," and they were told, the Kasich people were told, "You can be the most powerful vice president in history and oversee," as Dana was saying, "domestic and foreign policy."

[17:35:13] Which leads us to ask, well, what would the president do? Right? Because that's the job of the president.

COOPER: Well, and -- go ahead.

RESTON: It shows how much this entire convention, in some ways, the back and forth team between Trump's team and Kasich, and then the back and forth between the Trump team and the Cruz team on rules committee, shows this being about 2020 and Kasich's ambitions in the future, Cruz's ambitions in the future, and how they balance that, to some point.

SMERCONISH: Can I also say I think it's an explanation as to why we're two nights into this, and thus far, all of the presentations, all of the presentations have been red meat to satisfy the base, and there's been no outreach, no discernible outreach to try and make the sell to the general election. When is that going to happen? It ought to happen soon if it's going to happen at all.

COOPER: Gloria, though, the Kasich team said, well, what would Governor -- what would Donald Trump as president be doing? BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: What was the response?

BORGER: Well, I don't know. I mean, "The New York Times" has reported that the answer was "make America -- make America great."

COOPER: Great.

BORGER: I don't -- I don't have that part of the conversation.

COOPER: OK. But that was "The New York Times" reporting that the response was.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Donald Trump will be making America great again.

BORGER: But I will -- but I will tell you, Anderson, this is very much -- when you talk to people who are close to Paul Ryan about his conversations with Donald Trump, his conversations with Donald Trump have been all about policy. And Donald Trump apparently, his answer is, "Let's just work to get me elected, and then you guys in Congress can do that."

In other words, "I'll delegate all of that to you. You guys pass the bills. My vice president, you run all the policy."

KING: You can read that two ways. A Trump critic says he just wants the job. He doesn't want the job. You know, he wants the job; he wants the desk; he wants the house.

But you can also say there are a lot of leaders. George W. Bush delegated on some issues, not the ones he cared about.

LORD: Ronald Reagan delegated, yes.

KING: Ronald Reagan delegated a lot of things. Some leaders point to the North Star and say, "That's where we're going," and then they hire good people to get you there.

But to the Kasich thing, there are no clean hands here. John Kasich has ambition. Just like Ted Cruz, he's thinking about 2020. So he has kept his distance. And then the Kasich camp says, "Wait a minute. We cut a deal here. We agreed to tone it down, and you guys were going to back off and not criticize us not endorsing." And Trump and Manafort have both slapped Kasich in recent days. So there's a little bit of ego ping-pong here.

COOPER: We've heard from our reporters and analysts. We're going to hear from our contributors and our partisans coming up in just a minute. We're going to take a quick break, though. Up next, did Mike Pence, now the vice-presidential nominee, get offered the same deal Team Trump apparently tried to offer John Kasich, that he'll deal with domestic and foreign policy? Details ahead.


[17:42:19] COOPER: And welcome back. Tonight here in Cleveland Mike Pence will give the most important speech in his political career, his first sales pitch, if you will, to voters as the Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee.

Some people wondering how the Indiana governor went from Trump's golf partner to vice-presidential pick in just about two weeks. I'm back with the panel. We'll talk about that and also this reporting on John Kasich being -- being offered. What do you make of this Kasich offer?

LORD: You know, I just laugh at this. I mean, this is the kind of dance that goes on. I suspect Donald Trump did not offer him the job. There may have been people lower down who went back and forth.

COOPER: The story was it was Donald Trump Jr., frankly, who had a conversation.

LORD: Right, right. It really -- it really does remind me of the Reagan-Ford romance in which you had people like Henry Kissinger involved, trying to get Jimmy -- Gerald Ford onto that ticket. And Reagan finally saw this commotion and that he wanted, he wanted, in essence, to be a co-president and Reagan said, "Sorry, I don't think so," and said, "Get me George Bush." They picked up the phone, and it was done.

COOPER: But Donald Trump has talked about being, you know, a great salesman and about sort of, you know, uplifting the country.

LORD: Right, right.

COOPER: He's not a guy who gets -- I mean, there's not a lot of...

LORD: He's a great...

COOPER: ... details on the policies.

LORD: Right. He's a great chief executive. I mean, he's obviously created this mammoth company here, and he didn't do it by micromanaging everything. He calls people in. He says, "This is your assignment. I want to get this done." That person gets it done, or they don't get it done. And he goes on from there.

I mean, I -- to me, I mean, he is one of the few people -- we've had some governors here, but he was a chief executive. He didn't hold political office. But he is a chief executive and a serious one. So I don't think he would have any problem with this at all.

BORGER: But Jeffrey, in particular to John Kasich, he and Donald Trump disagreed on substance on just about everything.

LORD: Right, right.

BORGER: On trade, on immigration, for example, two of his largest issues.

LORD: Sure.

BORGER: On foreign policy, on the Muslim ban, on everything else. So how is something like...

COOPER: Is it just about winning Ohio?

BORGER: Well, there you go, but how an overture like this could have been made...

LORD: Certainly. I mean, you know, that could well be in play. I mean, I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary here for these vice-presidential conversations. Lots of people have...

COOPER: Kevin, does it seem...

MADDEN: Well, look, I think it's emblematic that Donald Trump is not really somebody who's driven by ideas. He's not driven by ideologue. He's not -- by ideology. He's not driven by issues. Donald Trump cares about winning. He cares about promoting a brand. And in his heart, I think he believes his strongest attribute is his ability to sell.

And I think that's why, in all of his dealings with folks that are on Capitol Hill and so many of the governors who or -- or congressmen or senators that support him, I think his message to them -- and I think his message to, probably, Michael Pence was the same thing, which is that "You guys figure out the ideas and what we're going to stand for, and I'll sell it to the American people. Because look at what I've done in that regard."

COOPER: Scottie.

HUGHES: But I think this is also...

[17:45:00] KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think his message to them, and I think his message to probably Michael Pence was the same thing which is that, you guys figure out the ideas and what we're going to stand for and I'll sell it to the American people because look at what I've done in that regard.


SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think it is also about that Donald Trump did reach out to John Kasich. He did have communication with him. And for John Kasich to say I'm not going to come here, I'm not going to thank the people, the 50,000 people that are in my city because I asked you to come here, that shows that there is a little bit of -- some growing up that needs to happen on the Kasich side, as well as when it comes to vice president. With Pence, him actually picking Pence --

MADDEN: But the Trump campaign keeps attacking him. So --


HUGHES: But they originally did --


MADDEN: Here's one of the things, Scottie.

HUGHES: You still have to ask -- you still have to have defense. You're attacked, you still have to take it --

MADDEN: But here's one other things. This is why being the nominee is really hard. Being the titular head of the party, with it comes certain responsibilities. And one of the main responsibilities is being able to bring people together and unite --

HUGHES: And that's why --


JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: It's not just the presidential nominee, it's governors and senators and they have to lead as well.


COOPER: We've got to get a break in.

MADDEN: That's why they call it being a president.

COOPER: We've got to get a break in here. The Secret Service investigating an alleged threat against Hillary Clinton. We'll tell you about.

And speaking of asking you who last night's speakers talked more about, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, what would you say? Well, we'll give you the answer. I think you might know the answer and what it might mean for the general election ahead.


[17:51:02] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In a moment a conversation about the intensely anti-Hillary Clinton tone here at the convention and whether any of it goes beyond the pale and whether, as Michael Smerconish said earlier, it alienates independents and moderates.

First, though, the breaking news along those lines. An adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign now being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service after he called for Secretary Clinton's execution.

Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire state representative, told a radio host yesterday that Clinton, quote, "should be put in the firing line and shot for treason." That statement, of course, is extreme. However, certainly is clear that Secretary Clinton has come under a lot of heavy verbal fire here in Cleveland. Hillary Clinton's name mentioned 79 times in speeches last night alone. That's 18 more times than Donald Trump. An all-you-can-eat buffet of red meat seasoned with a lot of anger and

outrage. A recipe that worked for Donald Trump in the primary election. But is it the right tone for the general election?

Joining us now, CNN's Jake Tapper and CNN political director David Chalian.

Jake, we heard words like liar, Lucifer, lock her up. You heard all of that. I heard all of that. The tone, is it a surprise?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It is a surprise because I think -- look, obviously, these are the two least popular presidential nominees in modern history and the only thing Hillary Clinton has going for her with her very high approval ratings -- disapproval ratings is that Donald Trump's are even worse. So for him to try to drag her into the horrific disapproval rating territory is to be expected. So it's not a surprise.

I do think that they are missing opportunities by going so negative on occasion and also by not presenting more positive vision. I think there are probably a lot of Americans -- I know just as an observer of politics, I was waiting to hear make America work again. I wanted to hear more about jobs, I wanted to hear more about trade. I wanted to hear about Donald Trump's business acumen and how that was going to bring more jobs. And I didn't hear a lot of that at all.

BLITZER: That was the theme last night, make America work again. And Jake is right. We didn't hear a lot about it.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No, we didn't. And it was supposed to be not just jobs but as you're saying also make the government and country work for the people again. So it was sort of put people back to work and deal with this incompetence or the gridlock in Washington. That was not a big theme.

I agree with you, Jake, I am looking in these next two nights to see if and how they make the turn because Donald Trump's brand has been so solidified over the course of the last 13 months as the bravado, the brash, the strong man. And I think, in talking to Trump sources in advance of the convention, they did want to really flesh out his character a little bit and bring in some different tones and colors to the whole picture of Donald Trump that has been out there so far. And I just don't think they've done that fully yet. It's just been a little fits and starts.

TAPPER: Yes, it's been a missed opportunity.


BLITZER: And Dr. Ben Carson doubling down this morning on the whole Lucifer comment about Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Well, the Lucifer comment is that she is a student of Saul Alinsky, the legendary and controversial organizer, whatever you want to call him. And I believe Alinsky, among other people, dedicate -- or among other deities or whatever you want to call it, dedicate his book to Lucifer. So I think that's the connection. That's just red meat. I mean, that's red meat for people for whom the name Saul Alinsky means something. The talk radio listeners, the readers of conservative blogs, et cetera.

I don't think it meant much of anything other than kind of like a nod to them. But again, a missed opportunity. We're sitting here talking about Saul Alinsky and Lucifer instead of talking about this moving anecdote or this interesting story we heard about Donald Trump.

Whatever you think about Donald Trump, he has friends. He has had successes. Let's hear about them.

[17:55:01] BLITZER: And we kept hearing also that phrase, "lock her up, lock her up." You heard references to put her in jail the night before. Tough stuff.

CHALIAN: It is tough stuff. It is the rallying cry that unifies the party. And I know, you know, Senator Jeff Flake and others said hey, let's not jump the shark here. That may have been a bit too harsh. But that is what brings this fractured Republican Party together is the anti-Hillary sentiment. And to Jake's point earlier, you have these two high negatives and that is their vulnerability. So they're going to continue to double down on those negatives.

BLITZER: All right. David and Jake, we'll be right back. Stand by.

Also coming up, in our next hour, pomp circumstance, as high drama. Donald Trump's grand re-entrance. Ted Cruz's high stakes, high wire act on stage. And my conversation with Eric Trump.