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Trump Refusing to Endorse Ryan, McCain for Re-election; Paul Ryan's Opponent Interested in Trump Refusal to Endorse. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired August 3, 2016 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:00] BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the Republican nominee is unfit.

DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He's been one of the worst presidents in the history of our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he ever release his transcripts or his admission to Harvard University?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Corey, in this answer --



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


I'm going to say something that will shock you. Donald Trump was on Twitter this morning. He wrote, "There is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than before." Because, you know, nothing says unity like the Republican nominee not endorsing the highest-ranking Republican in the country. Nothing says unity like Republicans telling CNN that Trump campaign staffers are increasingly frustrated with the candidate they're working for. With unity like that, who needs mud wrestling?

BOLDUAN: There's the question. Now in the wake of Trump refusing to endorse Ryan or McCain in their primaries, the chairman of the RNC, Reince Priebus, is reportedly frustrated with Donald Trump.

Chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, with more on this.

Dana, not so much Kumbaya for Donald Trump and the Republican party.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. The frustration was there before yesterday. But it escalated to a whole new personal level I'm told when Donald Trump refused to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan in his primary campaign in the House, of course, in his home district in Wisconsin. And the reason is because Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus are incredibly close. They grew up together in politics. In fact, Reince Priebus was the chairman of Paul Ryan's very first congressional campaign. So that was kind of a bridge too far for Reince Priebus, who felt that he had taken out a lot of political water by trying to help Donald Trump through this entire process. But a lot of people in the establishment and beyond were not necessarily happy about Reince Priebus doing that. So there's that situation.

And then there's another situation going on amongst some RNC officials. Not, I'm told, at the apparatus of the RNC, but some committee men are looking into the "what if" scenario. What if Donald Trump gets so upset and so -- in the words of this source I talked to -- is so mercurial, that he just says, enough, I'm out, and drops out before the election in November? So there's a move, again, this is a small number of people, but they are trying to figure out what would happen and what they can do if there is a vacancy. There's a rule, it's called Rule Nine -- if anybody who's kind of political nerds like us wants to look it up -- that allows for a mechanism to go into place if there is a vacancy, in case a nominee passes away, mostly, before the election. But there is a rule that people are kind of looking into.

Again, I want to emphasize, we do not have any reporting that Donald Trump is even considering this. These are just people who are looking at Donald Trump's actions, especially over the past several days, saying we don't know where he's going to go next and we got to be prepared.

BERMAN: That's the out there, the way-out-there scenario.

You also spoke of frustration from outside the campaign. But, Dana, overnight, you're also picking up some frustration from inside the campaign as well.

BASH: That's right. Look, this is not the campaign that the people closest to Donald Trump want to be running. My understanding is that the frustration is mounting with the candidate. That he is going off message in a whole number of directions. Many of them you played at the top of the hour. Never mind not endorsing Paul Ryan, of course, the most striking and stark was his back and forth with the Gold Star parents, the Khans, who did go after him at the DNC, or even, you know, screaming about a crying baby at his rally. All of those things are making those inside Trump's world, and I'm told, including Paul Manafort, who's effectively running the campaign, very frustrated, and some saying, are we wasting our time here, trying to figure out if there is a way to change this, to somehow get it back on course or not.

BERMAN: All right, Dana Bash, thanks so much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Dana.

BERMAN: Let's hear directly from the Trump campaign, senior adviser and pollster, Kellyanne Conway.

Kellyanne, you've been listening. Reporting inside the Trump campaign, extremely frustrated with the candidate, others, we're told, feel like they're wasting their time. How would you describe what's going on in the campaign?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISOR & POLLSTER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: I am in the campaign. I walked here from Trump Tower where a lot of very dedicated professionals are working really hard every day. So I would just push back on any formal report that the candidate is going to leave the race or this one is unhappy or that one is unhappy. I think that often comes from people unfamiliar with the conversations internally, folks who wish they were part of the campaign or whose advice was taken from the outside.

I think Mr. Trump operates best when he's on the attack against Hillary Clinton and President Obama's record. He tried to do a little bit of --


BOLDUAN: Is this an ebb or a flow at this moment? As Dana said, at this moment, folks she's talked to inside the campaign said this is not the campaign they want to be running now.

[11:05:18] CONWAY: We're happy we just put out an $80 million press release. Those numbers came out. We think that's impressive. We would like more complete coverage, if you will. In other words, Mr. Trump was on the campaign stump in Pennsylvania and Ohio this week talking about the failures of Obamacare, and we would hope it's breaking news when the 17th of the 23 co-ops failed. We're up to 16 now. Or on Monday, when he reveals more specificities of his economic plan at the Detroit Economic Club. Items like that, that are substantive, that are where the voters want the campaign on both sides to go. We would love more coverage of Hillary Clinton. There are two candidates in the race. So that's part of the frustration internally also, which is, hey, remember her, the DNC has now had -- they're up to a head-roll count of four, not summer interns, chief executives, senior people who -- you know, people aren't talking --


BERMAN: We have plans to talk about that --


CONWAY: So anyway, there's a great deal of frustration, Kate and John, in terms of just trying to get the message out in what is sometimes noise or silence.

BERMAN: So getting the message out, talking about Hillary Clinton, Obamacare and the co-ops. Where does sitting down with the "Washington Post" yesterday for 50 minutes at a golf course and telling them you don't plan to endorse Paul Ryan in the primary, where does that fit in to the campaign that you just said that you think Donald Trump should be running?

CONWAY: He didn't endorse his opponent. These reports are like he's fundraising for the opponent, he's going to write in on the ballot for Speaker Ryan's opponent. No such thing. He did a clever play on words with what Speaker Ryan had said to your Jake Tapper back in May, I'm not quite there yet. That's classic Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Is this pay back?

CONWAY: No, not at all. Payback would be endorsing the opponent and actively campaigning for him the way a lot of folks have urged him to and he has not, frankly. Not people inside the campaign, by the way, again, back to that.


And that most people are not inside the campaign, by the way. And certainly most people who are talking. But --

BOLDUAN: Do you think he will endorse --


BOLDUAN: Do you get a sense he's going to endorse Paul Ryan?

CONWAY: What I think he'll do is work closely with Speaker Ryan. They do talk. Their staffs do talk regularly. There's been a very good relationship there in -- ever since Mr. Trump became the actual nominee. And if Paul Ryan objected to Trump's candidacy, I assume he would not have had the gavel at the convention. And so I just, you know, this versus Bernie Sanders winning 22 states and over 10 million voters who would not endorse Hillary Clinton, and we were in Philadelphia together last week. His protesters -- I walked out of the hall at 1:00 a.m. with him. They're still not convinced. Again --


BERMAN: But Bernie Sanders did endorse Hillary Clinton.


BERMAN: And we're talking about the candidate. And I get your point. But, again, I go back to, if you want Donald Trump to be running a campaign about the issues with Hillary Clinton, I'm not sure how the interview with the "Washington Post" helps.

Also, you know, it doesn't seem to be what Meg Whitman is seeing, you know, what Sally Bradshaw is seeing. What's your message to these Republicans out there who say that whatever the issues are, because I think they agree with you, Kellyanne, on the issues, they can't bring themselves to vote for Donald Trump?

CONWAY: I think some people agree with Hillary Clinton on some of the issues actually and not Donald Trump and not the Republican Party as it is now.

BERMAN: Who, Meg Whitman?

CONWAY: Well, Meg Whitman is pro choice like Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is a favorite of big business and Wall Street, that's obvious. That's fine. That is Meg Whitman's right. That's why we cast our ballots in private, either through an envelope with a stamp or in the ballot box, so good for them. We're not the rank and file of the Republican, of the electorate. And I think if Donald Trump can continue to convey his message, particularly to those fence-sitting Independent voters who know Hillary Clinton completely and somehow have a problem getting to -- getting to her. I mean if all of this is true, if all of the obsessive coverage about Donald Trump actually were going to matter to the electorate, why isn't this woman at 65 percent among women --


BOLDUAN: -- good relationship with Reince Priebus is important to the Republican nominee --


CONWAY: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Then whose job is it to mend that relationship because Reince Priebus is not happy right now.

CONWAY: Well, Reince Priebus and Donald Trump talk often. They've had a great relationship. Mr. Manafort and Reince Priebus --


BOLDUAN: Not happy right now, I can tell you that.

CONWAY: Well, because he would like -- I guess he would like all Republicans to endorse all Republicans. That is true.

But I will repeat, when Paul Ryan is re-nominated in his party next week and when he is re-elected in the fall, re-elected as speaker of the House, President Trump will work with him. You won't have this gridlock in Washington that infuriates Americans and has earned Congress their 11 percent approval rating, Kate and John. You'll have a president that wants to work with Congress, shows up and addresses them and wants to get things done.

[11:10:17] BERMAN: Kellyanne Conway, great to have you with us.

CONWAY: Thank you.

BERMAN: Fresh over from Trump Tower.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for walking over.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.

Joining us to continue the discussion, CNN's political director, David Chalian; CNN senior political reporter, Nia Malika-Henderson and Manu Raju; and -- I can't talk today apparently -- and senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Guys, thanks for being here.

David Chalian, my dear friend, in Trump and Priebus don't patch things up, if this don't blow over, can the RNC do anything about it?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I don't know that the RNC can do anything about --

BOLDUAN: No, right. This is their nominee. This is their nominee.

CHALIAN: They can't do anything about that. And I'm not sure that the RNC actually a bad relationship between Donald Trump and Reince Priebus momentarily, because they have had an open flow of communication for the last couple months. I don't think this will stop the RNC from its own field program in two states where they're working to not only elect Donald Trump president but protect the Senate majority, protect the House majority. So all of that motion will go forward.

I think the problem is the distraction problem, because you heard Kellyanne just say she wishes the focus would be on Hillary Clinton's answer about e-mails or about the troubles at the DNC. There's no way to focus on that if Donald Trump continues to inject these distractions into the bloodstream of the daily to and fro.

BERMAN: Nia, first of all, we're talking about Kellyanne like she's not here. She's sitting right here.


BERMAN: But Kellyanne says there's ebbs and flows in campaigns. We're both old enough to remember in June --

BOLDUAN: So old.

BERMAN: -- when the issue with the judge came up and there were Republicans saying this is it, this is the last straw, we could be looking for off ramps. Donald Trump recovered from that. He had a convention where he had a bounce. Is this, what's happening right now, these last five, six days, are they different?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I think we don't know. We don't know until November. It does seem like Donald Trump's candidacy has had a momentum of its own certainly in the primaries. I do think -- it shows up in the polls. Some of these issues have cost him. If you look at our latest poll and, again, that's after her convention, there's some troubling signs for him among Independent voters, among college educated white women, among women in general. There are some troubling signs. Again, I think his focus, sort so far in the primary campaign, he's sort of continuously fighting the last war and thinking those tactics will work in the general election. I talked to some Republican who say they've been waiting for him to, his phrase, not mine, "grow the hell up" -- I apologize for cursing on television -- but that was his phrase. And it feels like that's the constant pattern a lot of Republicans have found themselves in over these last two months. They've been waiting on that sort of presidential pivot and haven't seen it yet. BOLDUAN: Manu, Alex Burns in his article in "The New York Times"

today, he wrote this, "Republican lawmakers and strategists have begun to entertain abandoning him en masse." What are you hearing on the hill about this latest episode?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I don't think they're there quite yet. Republicans are certainly frustrated. They're willing to distance themselves from Donald Trump. They're willing to criticize Donald Trump. But you're not hear ago lot of members revoke their endorsement of Donald Trump. The big reason why, Kate and John, is because a lot of these members, particularly in tough races, they need Donald Trump supporters to come out in the fall. They can't afford to alienate a significant pocket of their own voters in key races. So that puts them in a bind. Because they need those swing voters, those Independent voters, those minority voters. They also need Donald Trump supporters. That's one reason why McCain, for instance, has not revoked his own backing of Trump. A lot of these guys are in very tough positions.

BERMAN: So, Jeff Zeleny, what's the Clinton campaign doing about all of this right now, besides just sitting back quietly, you know, and hoping it continues. I mean, other than actually -- I suppose we learned that Hillary Clinton herself called Meg Whitman, which we didn't know about, to try to get her on board.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, that's exactly what they're doing. They are making phone calls. She is making phone calls to people like Meg Whitman, to donors, to some other opinion leaders who may consider switching. Now this is not a list they publicize because the last thing they want is for this to get out and find out that some people are not either, A, answering her phone call or, B, responding how she wants.

[11:15:04] The Meg Whitman thing, look, of course, she is more of a liberal Republican from California, but look, she said she's not only going to vote for Hillary Clinton, she's going to give money to the campaign and the effort here. That's important. She also has other friends who had the same thing. So just watching this with somewhat astonishment. They still, at this late hour in a campaign, 97, some days to go, it is befuddling to them they're still not locked in on their for sure opponent. They want to run against Donald Trump now. But they would be very mystified to suddenly be running against someone else.

I think David and others are right. I think that is so much of a long shot. You talk to Republicans across this town and the country, they, you know, realize they're locked in with him. Unless something strange would happen out, he would drop out. The Clinton folks believe they're running against Donald Trump for the duration here. She's plotting forward. She's in battleground states like Colorado today, Nevada tomorrow, trying to rack up those 270 electorate votes as this sideshow, and it is a side show, continues.

BERMAN: All right, guys, thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys. What does House Speaker Paul Ryan's opponent think about all this?

The guy, you know, running against Paul Ryan who was just not endorsed by Donald Trump? We will speak to him next.

BOLDUAN: Also ahead, a D.C. Metro police officer sworn to protect the public, arrested and charged with trying to help ISIS. We have breaking details on that ahead.


[11:20:32] BOLDUAN: Tensions are running high in the Republican Party now. Donald Trump not only refusing to endorse Paul Ryan and John McCain in their primary races but it seems like they're actively not endorsing them right now.

BERMAN: He's not endorsing them and then he's actively not endorsing them.

BOLDUAN: Trump told "The Washington Post" in an interview that with Paul Ryan, he's just not, quote, unquote, "there yet." His words or are those Paul Ryan's words from back in May?


REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm just not ready to do that at this point. I'm not there right now.


BERMAN: All right, you know who has a keen interest in all of this? The man with us right now, Paul Nehlen, Paul Ryan's opponent in the Wisconsin primary.

Mr. Nehlen, thank you so much for joining us now.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, refusing to endorse Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. That must have been music to your ears.

PAUL NEHLEN, (R), WISCONSIN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: It's not surprising. I mean, Paul Ryan's more aligned with Hillary Clinton then President Obama on their top-three initiatives. Look at Obama's top-three initiatives, Trans-Pacific Partnership, amnesty and the jailbreak crime legislation that will release tens of thousands of people out of prison and make life difficult for all of us. So Paul Ryan's aligned with them. I'm not surprised Donald Trump wouldn't endorse him.

BOLDUAN: How is Paul Ryan more in line with Hillary Clinton than with Donald Trump? He's endorsed Donald Trump. He introduced him at the convention. He's called Hillary Clinton a liar. There is -- no one would say that Paul Ryan is in line with Hillary Clinton at all.

NEHLEN: A lot of people say he's aligned with Hillary Clinton. I mean, look at his donations. Paul Ryan is for this Trans-Pacific Partnership. It sells our jobs overseas. Paul Ryan has got a 20-year career, career politician, who is all for open borders. Paul Ryan -- we wouldn't even have borders if it was for Paul Ryan. So --




NEHLEN: That's what Tim Kaine said --


BERMAN: I feel like I've heard Paul Ryan talk a lot about security at the border. I'm pretty sure he's never said we should abolish borders. That would be a pretty extraordinary position to take. If he does say it, I'd be the first to report it.

But Mr. Nehlen --


NEHLEN: I'll tell you what, you ought to start reporting it now because Paul Ryan is not for securing the borders. Paul Ryan has --


BOLDUAN: You said Paul Ryan wouldn't have borders at all, if it was up to Paul Ryan.

NEHLEN: Yeah, I'll tell you, Paul Ryan has said America's more than its borders, it's more than this, it's more than that. We have to have a secure border, first, in order to have a nation. Paul Ryan hasn't funded that wall, that double-layered, 700-mile wall that we got through Congress in 2006. He has said that he's not for the wall. He said he's going to sue Mr. Trump. I mean, he takes every opportunity --


BOLDUAN: Paul Ryan's going to sue Donald Trump?

BERMAN: Let me pick up what you just said --


NEHLEN: Yeah, over the Muslim immigration issue, he said he would sue Donald Trump. Absolutely, he did.

BERMAN: Let me pick up on that because you have taken quite an issue with the way Paul Ryan treats Donald Trump. You said, "It is beneath the dignity of the speaker's office and morally disqualifying how Paul Ryan treats Trump."

What specifically do you take issue with?

NEHLEN: Yeah, he takes every opportunity -- I mean, this is identity politics, Paul Ryan's plan. That's what people hate with government. They hate it about the media. The people are sick and tired of being -- let's select a group and use that group as a cudgel to beat the rest of America with. We're sick of it.

Look, I'm a businessman from Wisconsin. I'm run businesses all over the globe. Paul Ryan -- Paul Ryan has ducked me on debating this Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he owns. He's the one who whipped the votes for Fast-Track Trade Promotion Authority. He's the one out there saying this is a free-trade deal. This isn't a free-trade deal. This is a corrupt crony trade deal that gives up U.S. sovereignty --




BERMAN: Again, the question we asked before, you said what Paul Ryan has said about Donald Trump is disqualifying. What has Paul Ryan said about Donald Trump that's morally disqualifying?

NEHLEN: He came out on the wrong side of this Khan thing. Paul Ryan did not need to weigh in to that. Paul Ryan could have debated me instead of taking shots at our party's nominee. Paul Ryan is the top Republican in our party. He should be finding ways to unite this. Here's the circle of trust, Paul Ryan's out here. Nobody can trust Paul Ryan because, every opportunity he gets, he shoots at Donald Trump from the side, from the back. He is no different than Hillary Clinton. That's the fact.

[11:25:19] BOLDUAN: How much contact have you had with Donald Trump's campaign?

NEHLEN: None, other than he tweeted at me the other day. I thanked him for it. I mean --

BOLDUAN: Have you --

NEHLEN: I'm running my own race here.

BOLDUAN: Do you want his endorsement?

NEHLEN: -- I'm counting thousands of -- I haven't asked for endorsement at all, no.

BOLDUAN: Have you asked him to campaign for you?

NEHLEN: If he gave me his endorsement, I'd be flattered by it. I'd be humbled by it if he gave me his endorsement. But the last thing I'd want is for him to screw up the presidential race.

Look, I am absolutely in lock step with Mr. Trump --


BOLDUAN: -- by "endorsing you," what do you mean? NEHLEN: No, I have no idea. Why are we even talking about this? Why

are you asking me about that? Why aren't you asking Paul Ryan on air why --

BOLDUAN: We're asking you because it's your campaign, Paul.

NEHLEN: -- he supports Trans-Pacific Partnership?

BOLDUAN: We're asking you because it's your campaign.

NEHLEN: I'm telling you -- absolutely. My campaign is on good trade deals and securing our border. Paul Ryan wants to pass a terrible trade deal and he wants open borders. He wants amnesty. Paul Ryan is not for closing our borders. If he was, he would have talked to those Angel Moms that called him that wrote him that tried to get a hold of him in D.C., and went to his house. Because they looked to me as an advocate. They said we can't get a hold of Paul Ryan. He won't listen to us. They wanted to give him a letter. In that letter, it said, "Mr. Ryan if you cared as much about our family as you care about your special interest donors, our children might still be alive." You know, Paul Ryan came out of his house, hopped into an SUV and was whisked away to a fundraiser. I mean, you ought to be asking Paul Ryan that.

I mean, I'm running a race and knocking on thousands of doors here in Wisconsin, on behalf of Wisconsin voters, on behalf of Wisconsin jobs, on behalf of America's jobs. A vote for Paul Ryan is a vote for Trans-Pacific Partnership. A vote for Paul Ryan is a vote for amnesty.


BERMAN: We'd love to have -- we'd love to have Paul Ryan on the show, we have a whole bunch of questions, if and when he comes on AT THIS HOUR.

Mr. Nehlen, do you feel like Donald Trump is using you to get back at -- Donald Trump? Do you feel like you're a pawn in a battle between Donald Trump, especially if he won't endorse you? He went out of his way to tweet you, as you just said. Did you think he's using you?

NEHLEN: No. I mean, when somebody holds the door open for you and you say thank you, is that using somebody? That's absurd. That's an absurd assertion on its face. I mean, I wrote something that was well researched and put it out there and Mr. Trump thanked me for that. I thanked him for thanking me. I said, "No problem." So how does that turn into -- if somebody sneezes and I say god bless you, was somebody used in that transaction? I don't understand, how does this wedge- driving help. It doesn't help.

I mean, Donald Trump's trying to get elected. I'm trying to get elected. I'm working on behalf of American jobs. Donald Trump is working on behalf of American jobs. He is, right now, taking on special interests, the same people that I might add are funding Paul Ryan's campaign. Paul Ryan put zero dollars in his own campaign the last time I looked. He's got $10 million in his campaign coffers. I put $100,000 of my own money. I started out in a factory at 18 years old, took me 12 years to get my engineering degree at night. I've run factories all over the United States and all over the globe. And Paul Ryan -- and I just raised $1 million. You know, I put 10 percent of my own money in. Let's see Paul Ryan put $1 million of his own dollars in. He won't do it. Paul Ryan's bought and paid for. We don't pay him enough in Wisconsin's first district to vote on our behalf. He's voting on behalf of his special interest donors.


BOLDUAN: The voters of Wisconsin's first district will have their say on Tuesday.

Paul Nehlen, thank you for coming on.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

NEHLEN: Thanks. Have a great day.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: OK. We have some breaking news right now. Serious news. A D.C. Metro officer sworn to protect the public arrested and charged for helping ISIS. We have details head.

BOLDUAN: Also this, reports of $400 million in cash airlifted to Iran. The State Department says it had nothing to do with the release of Americans held in Iran, and release at the very same, the cash was delivered. We're going to be hearing from the White House this hour.

Be right back.