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Kasich Drops Out of Presidential Race; Trump on Being Presumptive Nominee. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 04, 2016 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer. He's in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:12] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. The nominee of the Republican Party has already declared Donald Trump the presumptive nominee, but in his first sit-down interview since then, Trump tells me he still believes 100 percent that the system is rigged and crooked. This campaign has bitterly divided Republicans. Can he now get them to unite behind him? My interview with Donald Trump just ahead.

Dropouts. Ted Cruz is out of the race, and John Kasich is about to quit. Kasich will explain why he's dropping his long-shot bid in a live news conference that's coming up this hour. We're standing by.

And still burning. Bernie Sanders vows to keep fighting for the nomination even as Hillary Clinton pivots to a fight with Donald Trump. Clinton tells CNN that Trump is a loose cannon and says Americans can't take a chance on him in November.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, with Ted Cruz out of the race and the Republican Party declaring Donald Trump its presumptive nominee, we're standing by for a major announcement any moment now by the Ohio governor, John Kasich. Sources say he decided this morning to drop out of the presidential race, telling friends that his heart is not in it.

With Donald Trump now set to become the standard bearer of the party that he's left badly divided, I went to Trump Tower in New York today to sit down with the presumptive nominee. He says the general election campaign has already started, and he talks about his call for a ban on Muslims in the United States and how he would handle what he calls Russia's lack of respect.

Even though she's lost another primary to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton has already shifted her focus to the general election. That means she's battling Sanders and Trump at the same time, and she tells CNN that if Trump wants to run a negative bullying campaign against her, she's ready.

Our correspondents, analysts and guests, they'll have full coverage of all the day's top stories. As we stand by for the announcement by John Kasich that he's quitting the race, let's go first to CNN's Phil Mattingly. He's joining us from Columbus, Ohio. Phil, tell us how all of this came about.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as of this morning, John Kasich was actually boarding a plane at the Columbus airport to head down to Washington, D.C., for the start of a string of finance events, his campaign determined to fight on as of last night, determined to keep raising money and determined to take Donald Trump on one-on-one.

It was inside the plane where John Kasich talking to friends, talking to advisors, just decided that he didn't have the heart to go on, had a meeting with his top staff, starting spreading the word, canceled the trip to Washington, and will now in just a couple of minutes show up here in Columbus, just about three miles away from the state house, announcing that he's going to suspend his campaign.

And Wolf, this will bring an end to a campaign that frustrated a number of top Republicans, most notably Ted Cruz but was one that Kasich was committed to continuing on. He assumed, could they get to a brokered convention, he would be the candidate the Republican Party would start to gravitate towards, maybe on that second or third ballot.

Obviously, last night after Indiana, that type of event seemed so far off, so out of the realm of possibility, that, Wolf, John Kasich has decided that it's time to pull the plug.

BLITZER: He's about to make that announcement momentarily. We'll, of course, have a live reaction.

As we await for John Kasich's remarks, let's bring in three of our political experts: our CNN political commentator, S.E. Cupp; our politics executive editor, Mark Preston; and our CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Mark, let me start with you. Governor Kasich, he was really not only third; he was in fourth place as far as delegates are concerned. Why did he wait until now to drop out?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, I think last night, he saw some sliver of a path that potentially, he could be the one who would take this to a contested convention and that he would come out on top.

However, I think as the reality set in overnight, we saw the Republican National Committee come out almost immediately last night once we saw Ted Cruz drop out of the race. And they described Donald Trump as a presumptive nominee, as much as they pushed back against it last night, that being the Kasich people.

I think this morning they realized it was time to step out and from what we understand from our reporting right now, as Phil has done on the ground in there, as well as some of our colleagues throughout the network, Wolf, the idea was that this was John Kasich's decision. He didn't

have the heart in it, and he just decided to turn that plane around and stay back in Ohio.

BLITZER: Do we have any indication, Mark, whether or not he will formally endorse the Republican presumptive nominee? That would be Donald Trump?

PRESTON: Well, look, I think at this point that he will probably hold his powder. He will hold his cards as close as he can to his vest. He now has something very powerful that Donald Trump needs: his endorsement, specifically because he represents the state of Ohio and the fact of the matter is, a Republican hasn't won the White House without having won Ohio. He could be a big player for Donald Trump.

And in John Kasich's mind, you have to be wondering, Wolf, if he wants to see how Donald Trump carries himself over the coming weeks; as he goes into the convention, whether he will actually get behind him.

[17:05:11] BLITZER: You know, S.E., it was really hard, I assume, for Kasich to continue once Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party, last night tweeted out it's over. The presumptive nominee is Trump.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, there's some face saving going on here. Some might wonder if this is a little late to save face and might wonder if both for Ted Cruz and John Kasich if you're planning to go all the way, no matter what, then why drop out now? Just go all the way, make the point and maybe keep Donald Trump from clinching the nomination.

But I think at this point the writing was on the wall, and John Kasich realized there's just -- there's nowhere else to go.

He really did not have the votes; he didn't have the delegates. He really was not doing well in this contest so far.

Jeffrey, we will have my interview with Donald Trump. I was over at Trump Tower in New York earlier today. We taped this interview. That's coming up.

But this relationship that Kasich might have with Donald Trump, what do you think? What kind of relationship do they have?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, one thing that was distinctive about Kasich, compared to basically any of the other Republican candidates, is that he never attacked Trump personally.

The other candidates said things about Donald Trump that Hillary Clinton is already today using in an ad, but there's nothing from Kasich, because Kasich tried to run a positive campaign. We see where it got him.

I mean, it's worth pointing out that he really did terribly as a candidate, other than in Ohio. He just did absolutely no business anywhere else, but he did maintain a relationship with Donald Trump, which may lead to an offer of the vice presidency. It may lead to, you know, support from Ohio.

BLITZER: Here he comes right now. The -- the governor of Ohio. Let's listen in.


Well, thank you all for coming.

Well, of course, the first thing I have to do is to thank my great wife Karen for the fact that she has -- I mean, she has endured my political career and also, of course, accentuated it. There's nobody like Karen. She's charismatic. She walks into a room, and people fall in love with her.

You know, when she appeared on Anderson Cooper, John Weaver commented, and Beth Hanson commented that, if we'd only run Karen, we would have been a lot more successful. I happen to agree with that.

And, you know, Emma and Reese showed up. And I mean, they're unbelievable. They're just beautiful, and they've been so supportive. And they've traveled with me around the country, as well. And it was always such a delight to have the family on the road and as their principal had said, don't let education get in the way of learning and I think that they learned a great deal.

And of course, I want to thank the Worthington Christian staff and particularly Buzz Inboden for their patience and willingness to kind of look after our family. It was -- it was terrific.

Our staff, nobody has ever done more with less in the history of politics than what this staff has done. I mean, it's kind of always been this way. It's been a mystery to me, other than to say that I like to think that they think that they've been part of something bigger than themselves. And we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. And I think we do it with honesty and integrity, and as a result, I think I know, and I sure hope and pray that they -- that they feel that this experience that they have had in this -- in this campaign has improved and, in some way, changed their lives for the better.

And so I'm looking forward to being able to spend more time with them. The volunteers, just amazing. I don't know how many, 800 people we had. Is it 800 people that went to New Hampshire, people who went to Michigan, people were in South Carolina. I mean, I would show up places and there were like people I knew, and I'm like, why are you here? And -- but they were -- they were believers. And I could never thank them enough, for the long car rides and in the snows of New Hampshire they knocked on doors and in the rain of South Carolina they knocked on doors. They really gave of themselves.

My mother used to always say never forget the volunteers, Johnny. They are always the ones that have given me the octane, the fuel, to be able to -- to carry out my purpose, and I want to thank the people who gave the money, the financial resources. We never had all the money we wanted. We were probably outspent by 50 to 1, but we were never, ever daunted in that. And we just got up every day and did the best we can and, of course, a

big thank you goes to Beth Hanson, who was the campaign manager and did everything that she could possibly do.

And my dear, dear friend, Doug Price who -- well, we start getting into these names, but as I mentioned, I think Emma said, "Mr. Doug, didn't you travel with my daddy for, like, a year and a half?"

And Reese looked at him and said, "How did you ever do that?"

But we had a great time, and we're going to have a lot more fun in the future. And of course the kitchen cabinet, I look at Joanne Davidson and Bob Clavky (ph) and Tim Trapepi (ph), who -- the only guy I know that carried more luggage than an entire circus crew. I mean, it was just unbelievable.

So -- and I know I'm leaving some people out, but I want to thank every one of you. You know, I visited these beautiful, beautiful towns in New Hampshire, and people had really counted me out in New Hampshire, but when we hit our 100th town hall, it was -- it was remarkable. Those beautiful towns. I will never forget the people of New Hampshire.

We moved from New Hampshire, you know, in the far east all the way to the excitement of California, even being able to sit in traffic in Los Angeles. It was a big part of -- and I just love California and what it means to our country and the excitement that it breeds.

I remember we were in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Never knew where it was, heard about it all my lifetime. I never knew it was actually located above Wisconsin. And we landed, and I remember everybody was looking at their phones. And I said, "Would you all please put down your phone, because this is a winter wonderland. This is magical what we're seeing here, what the good Lord has given us."

To the energy of Miami Beach, Florida, for one of the last debates. And, you know, it was interesting. They didn't think I could make any debate, and I made all 13 of them, in fact, won a couple of them.

As for my beloved Ohio, the people here, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the opportunity you've given me to -- to be a leader in this state. The people of Ohio have given me the greatest professional experience of my lifetime. I've tried to pay them back, and last night in Cleveland, a woman, African-American woman, said, "You made promises, and you kept them. And that's why I'm here tonight, because I believe in you. That you brought our people together."

Well, it only happened because the people gave me a chance. And everywhere I went in America, everywhere I went in America, I told the people about our beautiful beloved state and held Ohio high, and I think gave people an impression from one end of America to the other that Ohio is a special place. And I expect we're going to have more visits as a result.

I marveled at my colleagues who held public office. They knocked on doors; they made phone calls. These are people who came from the legislature. When you are an executive and you have to deal with the legislature, it's not always -- it's not always peaches and cream. But yet, these legislators, the leaders, the speaker of the House, the president of the Senate, some of my statewide colleagues like -- like the attorney general, just incredible that they would have come out and honored me.

Frankly, I was so humbled by the fact that they -- that they came and they -- and they love me. They encouraged me.

The people of our country changed me. They changed me with the stories of their lives. But we all remember that hug in South Carolina from that young man who had found despair and then found hope somehow. And he just wanted to give me a hug and the country marveled, but, you know, that was one of a series of these things that have happened.

A gentleman showed up in New Hampshire. He said, "I don't think I've warned my son enough about the dangers of a certain type of cancer. And now he has it and I'm blaming myself." And he put his arm around me and cried.

And I said, "Sir, it's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. You are a great father. You've come here all the way from New York to tell me about this. Take the load off of your shoulders."

He wrote us a letter saying that that little conversation made a difference with him. And when we went to New York months later, standing at the rope line was that man. He said, "I want you to know my son is doing much better, and I wanted to be here to thank you for taking the time with me."

We were in a hall in Michigan, and a woman stood up and showed a picture of her son who had taken his life. We talked about faith, talked about her son and where he was. And everybody in that hall embraced that woman and made her feel that she was not alone.

See, stories like this occurred all across our country. And I think it's frankly because, for whatever reason, that God gave me the grace to make people feel safe and comfortable, and they came to these town halls, which were -- they were absolutely magic.

You know, I've learned something, folks, everyone here, that we all need to slow down our lives, slow down our lives and listen to those who are around us.

Look, let me be clear: we all know that economic growth is imperative to the success of our country. Economic growth gives people an opportunity to realize many of their hopes and dreams in life. And without a job the family is weaker; the community is weaker; the neighborhood is weaker; the state suffers; and our country struggles.

And I can tell you that economic growth can be achieved by our public officials if they just do their job, but they have to ignore polls. They can't focus on focus groups, and they have to overcome the fear of reelection or criticism. See, the formula is simple, and it works. It is common sense

regulations that don't crush our small businesses, because that's where our kids get their work now, increasingly. That's the fastest area of job growth. We know we need to lower taxes for individuals. And we have to cut taxes for our businesses, so they start investing in America, not some country located in Europe. And we need a realistic path to balance the budget, and frankly, nothing more imperative than a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to force the Congress to do their job.

And we have to keep in mind that we need to shift power, money and influence from government back to the people wherever we live, and we have to begin to run America again from the bottom up.

However, the spirit, the essence of America lies in the hearts and souls of us. You see, some missed this message. It wasn't sexy; it wasn't a great sound bite. But I saw a young lady -- I saw a young lady in Philadelphia, who came to me and said, "I'm a producer on a major cable show. And I watch your town halls and talk about the spirit of our country and my role." And she said, "You've affected my life. You see, I believe we all need to live a life bigger than ourselves."

Yes, we need to live a life a little bit bigger than ourselves. We need to reach out to help lift someone else because, you know what? It comes to us naturally if we let it. You see, we are, as human beings, kind of hardwired to want to give someone else a lift, give someone else an opportunity. And when we reach out it's so interesting -- and when we reach out and help someone else, you see what it does is it opens us, ourselves, to recognizing and receiving the help that we need in our lives. It's a virtuous circle. When we help someone else to rise, it opens us up to receive the things that we need in our lives, regardless of who we are.

To paraphrase an old adage, I sought the greatness of America in her harbors and in her rivers, and I did not find it. I sought it in her fertile fields and boundless forests and did not find it. I sought her greatness in her halls of Congress, and I did not find it. You see, after this campaign, I see it in us when we come together, when we lift one another with our eyes on the horizon.

Throughout my campaign I have said the Lord may have another purpose for me, and it set all the pundits atwitter. Does that mean he's not committed or he's not focused or he's not energetic? It showed to some degree how little they understand about life. You see, I have always said that the Lord has a purpose for me as he has for everyone, and as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life.

Thank you and God bless.

BLITZER: All right. So there he is, John Kasich, announcing he's no longer a Republican presidential candidate. S.E. Cupp, you were listening they carefully. What -- what did you think? CUPP: Well, it's clear that John Kasich wants voters to know that

this was a campaign that was bigger than him, and even though it's ending, it wasn't in vain. He talked about the people he met on the campaign trail and the moments that he had that we were all witness to; and he thanked his supporters for doing a bigger job than just, you know, working for him.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. Donald Trump is stunning victory in Indiana certainly has knocked both of his remaining rivals out of the GOP race. I went to Trump Tower in New York earlier today for his first sit-down interview since the Republican Party labeled him the presumptive nominee.


BLITZER: As we're speaking, I know you're very happy that Ted Cruz has dropped out. CNN has confirmed John Kasich, the Ohio governor, he's dropping out, as well. You're the only one left right now.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's good. That's good. You're just telling me this for the first time about John, and that's good. I think John's doing the right thing.

BLITZER: Ohio, you know, is an important state. No Republican has ever been elected president of the United States without winning Ohio.

TRUMP: Well, I think John will be very -- I've had a good relationship with John, and...

BLITZER: He's got a lot of government experience, in the Congress, as a governor.

TRUMP: I think John will be very helpful with Ohio, even as governor.

BLITZER: He says he doesn't want to be a vice president.

TRUMP: Well, that could be. I mean, he's said that. I've heard him say that.

BLITZER: Would he be someone you'd be interested in vetting?

TRUMP: I would be interested in vetting John. I like John. I've had a good relationship with John. I've gotten along with him well, but John, whether he's vice president or not, I think he'll be very, very helpful with Ohio.

BLITZER: Now, be honest with me. Did you ever think, almost a year ago -- it was June, in this building, you were going down that escalator -- that you would be the presumptive Republican presidential nominee?

TRUMP: Well, I hoped. I mean, look, I...

BLITZER: Did you really hope -- did you -- was that just...

TRUMP: Yes, I did. I mean, you know, we had 17 people, very capable people. I heard a lot of the pundits were saying this was the single greatest group of talent ever assembled for either party, in terms of a group. It was also the largest group.

BLITZER; So I joined somewhat after I heard that statement. And I'm saying what am I doing? I mean I'm hearing these people, you know, talk...

BLITZER: Did you really think you could win?

TRUMP: I guess, otherwise I don't think I would have done it. I'm not sure I actually...

BLITZER: Because some people thought you were doing it, you know...

TRUMP: No, that I can tell you...

BLITZER: ... you know, for some publicity...

TRUMP: No, no, no.

BLITZER: ... a win...


BLITZER: ... or whatever.

TRUMP: I don't need publicity. I mean, I gave up a lot to do it. I mean I -- I was asked to do "The Apprentice" for two more years. I said, "I'm not going to do it." I -- I gave up a tremendous amount, and, you know, it got a little bit controversial for a while; and I lost certain licenses, which is, you know, not the biggest deal in my life, but it's -- Macy's didn't want to renew, because they thought I was a little bit controversial, which was, I think, a big mistake that they made, not very loyal.

But, you know, it's a pretty costly thing, what I did, not just the cost of the campaign, which is, frankly, less. It's the cost of what I do.

Now it's worked out well. I'm just very happy with the way it all worked out.

But I guess...

BLITZER: Do you pinch yourself sometimes and say, you know...

TRUMP: Well, I can't get...

BLITZER: ... this is really happening?

TRUMP: I -- I don't think I would have run if I thought I couldn't have won. So I -- I'm not sure I sat there and just said, "I'm going to win." But subconsciously, I must have thought that I was going to win, and I felt I was going to win.

BLITZER: Now in recent weeks and months, in fact, you've suggested the system is rigged...


BLITZER: ... the Republican...

TRUMP: A hundred percent.

BLITZER: ... system is rigged.

TRUMP: A hundred percent.

BLITZER: Do you still believe that?

TRUMP: Oh, sure. A hundred percent.

BLITZER: But -- but you got the nomination.

TRUMP: Yes, I don't mind. The only way I got it, I went for the knockout. You know, when I saw all these folks going out and getting delegates and they're -- they're, you know, wining and dining people and bringing them to hotels and paying for hotel rooms. It's a bad system. It's a crooked system.

And by the way, Bernie Sanders's system, that's also rigged. That's why he wins and he doesn't get anything out of it, because of the super delegates.

BLITZER: Those are the rules. Those are the rules.

TRUMP: They're not the rules; it's a dishonest system.

And who gives out the super delegates in terms of the Democrats? Who gives out the super delegates? The bosses give out the super delegates so...

BLITZER: Well, these are elected party officials.

TRUMP: ... that system -- meaning the bosses. That system is rigged.

And the Republican system is rigged, but much more -- in a much more sophisticated way. It's -- I really think -- I'm very proud of the fact that after all of these many, many decades of the delegate system, that I've been able to point out some real weaknesses. And I think they'll be changed. I think for the Republicans, they'll be changed and maybe for the Democrats.

BLITZER: Yesterday with this "National Enquirer" story. I just want you to clarify.


BLITZER: You don't really believe that Ted Cruz's...

TRUMP: I didn't say.

BLITZER: ... father had anything to do with the assassination of President Kennedy?

TRUMP: No, I don't. No.

BLITZER: Because this was the story that was...

TRUMP: Of course I don't.

BLITZER: ... in the "National Enquirer."

TRUMP: ... believe that.

BLITZER: Here's the question. You're the -- presumptive Republican presidential nominee...

TRUMP: No, I wasn't.

BLITZER: You weren't then.

TRUMP: Not at the time.

BLITZER: But you were -- last week you said you were; you thought you were.

TRUMP: Excuse me. Well, it was not announced until last night.

BLITZER: But don't you think you need a higher standard, though, than to get involved in this kind of stuff?

TRUMP: Wolf, here's what happened. Ted Cruz's father seems like a nice guy. I don't know him, but he seems like a nice guy. He made horrible statements about me, you know, pray -- praying for bad things to happen to me, OK, essentially.

I said, that's horrible. And I was on a show, one of your competitors, and they showed me the clip. I said, wow, that's horrible. This -- it's not just a one-way street, you know, where I do something. It was a horrible statement. I was actually surprised by it.

And during that and when I said how bad it was that a man would say something like that, I said, "Well, why don't some -- why don't you read the various magazines" -- because it's not only there, it was put in numerous -- "where he has a picture of himself with Lee Harvey Oswald."

I'm not saying they conspired...

BLITZER: It was on the Internet. But "The National Enquirer" put it on its cover.

TRUMP: I'm just saying, it was all over the place. I said, well, why don't you talk about that? That was it. I'm not saying he did it. But I'm just saying, it was all over the place.

BLITZER: Now that you're the Republican ...

TRUMP: But just ...

BLITZER: ... presumptive...

TRUMP: ... well, excuse me...

BLITZER: ... nominee, you have -- you have to have a higher standard than to repeat conspiratorial theories like that.

TRUMP: First of all, I wasn't, at the time. I didn't know if I was going to win Indiana or not. It ended up being a landslide. It was a tremendous victory, much bigger than anybody anticipated, including myself.

They're incredible people out there. And I -- I was -- this was in the morning.

Now, by the afternoon, it looked like I was going to win. And then a little bit later, it looked like I was going to win big. So I was not a presumptive winner at that time. I was going against them; they were going against me. But ...

BLITZER: But bottom line, you don't believe...

TRUMP: ... this was...

BLITZER: ... you don't believe in that conspiracy?

TRUMP: Of course I don't believe in that.

BLITZER: All right.

TRUMP: I wouldn't believe it, but I did say let people read it.

BLITZER: A lot of people think the general election campaign has started today, you versus Hillary Clinton. This week, she said this about you.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The leading Republican contender is the man who led the insidious birther movement to discredit the president's citizenship. We cannot let Barack Obama's legacy fall into Donald Trump's hands!


[17:30:11] TRUMP: Do you know who started the birther movement? Do you know who started it? Do you know who questioned his birth certificate, one of the first?

Hillary Clinton. She's the one that started it. She brought it up years before it was brought up by me. And, you know, so she can talk.

Look, here's a person under investigation by the FBI. She's only going to get the nomination because it's a rigged deal. And, frankly, maybe she won't even be able to run.

Now, I think she probably will, because I think the Democrats will work it so that nothing happens to her, even though everything happened to other people that did far less.

BLITZER: But James Comey, the FBI director, he's a serious guy.

TRUMP: He's a serious guy.

BLITZER: You have confidence in him ...

TRUMP: I do.

BLITZER: If he thinks there are allegations that she may have violated -- broken the law, he'll recommend that.

TRUMP: I hope so. I hope that's true.

BLITZER: You have confidence in him?

TRUMP: I do have -- I don't know him, I do have confidence in him.

BLITZER: Let me just clarify. The whole birther thing, where do you stand on that now?

TRUMP: I don't talk about it anymore, because every time I talk about it, it becomes the story, so I don't want to waste my time talking about it anymore.

BLITZER: But she's going to raise this issue against you.

TRUMP: I don't care. It doesn't -- I'm going to raise it against her.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about another story ...

TRUMP: Go ahead.

BLITZER: ... that's come out. And I know you -- you hated this article in "GQ" about your wife Melania. Julia Ioffe wrote it. She posted Melania was dishonest, inaccurate, a very tough piece.

But since then, some of your supporters have viciously attacked this woman, Julia Ioffe, with anti-Semitic attacks, death threats. These people get so angry.

What's your message to these people when something like that happens?

TRUMP: I haven't read the article, but I heard it was a very inaccurate article, and I heard it was a nasty article. I'm married to a woman who's a very fine woman. She's a very fine woman. She doesn't need this, believe me. She was very, very successful. She did tremendously well as a top model. She made a lot of money. And -- and she's a nice person.

And I guess some of the article says that she would go in at night and she would stay -- she wasn't a party person. She, you know, that's not her thing.

But this was a very -- this is a very high quality woman who loves people and has a big heart. She doesn't need to be -- have bad things said about her. And I heard the article was nasty.

Now, I haven't read it, but I heard the article was not what it should be. They shouldn't be doing that with wives. I mean, they shouldn't be doing that.

Melania, as a top model, they sent pictures around to Utah and it wasn't even ...


TRUMP: ... you know, it wasn't even like a naked picture ...

BLITZER: ... these anti-Semitic death threats.

TRUMP: Oh, I don't know about that. I -- I don't know anything about that. Do you mean ...

BLITZER: But -- but your message to the ...

TRUMP: mean fans of mine?

BLITZER: Supposed fans of yours ...

TRUMP: I don't know.

BLITZER: ...posting these ...

TRUMP: I know nothing about it.

BLITZER: ...very angry ...

TRUMP: You'll have to talk to them about it.

BLITZER: But your message to these fans is?

TRUMP: I don't have a message to the fans. A woman wrote a -- a article that was inaccurate. Now, I'm used to it. I get such bad articles. I get such -- the press is so dishonest, Wolf, I can't even tell you. It's so dishonest. There's nothing more dishonest than the media.

And I know it better than anybody. And it's actually gotten to a point where it doesn't even bother me anymore, it's gotten so ridiculous. I mean, I've had stories over the last couple of weeks that were so dishonest, knowingly dishonest. It's not a question like they're bad reporters ...

BLITZER: But you worked ...

TRUMP: ...knowingly dishonest.

BLITZER: ...closely with the press, and it's helped elevate you.

TRUMP: It's probably overall helped me. But I just still find them to be -- I mean the lies and the deception and the way they write and I guess they do it for clicks or they do it to get people. I don't -- I don't even know why they do it.

You'd think a good, honest story would be better. And, you know, so I -- I do know that the story on Melania, first of all, nobody is going to read that -- not a lot of people would read it, except when you bring it up.

But I'd like to see my family treated, at least, fairly and nicely. She didn't -- she didn't need a story like this.


BLITZER: Just to be clear on the Donald Trump birther claim, Hillary Clinton never said that Barack Obama was born outside the United States.

Coming up, much more of our conversation with Donald Trump, including how he'd handle Vladimir Putin and Russia's string of aggressive military provocations, including a fighter jet buzzing a U.S. Navy ship.


[17:38:27] BLITZER: Let's get back to my interview now with Donald Trump and some of the tough issues facing the United States, which are sure to come up during the general election campaign.


BLITZER: Let's talk about some substantive issues out there.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

BLITZER: Puerto Rico right now, they are defaulting at $400 million. If you were president of the United States, what would you do to help the people of Puerto Rico?

TRUMP: Well, the problem we have is we have $19 trillion in debt and we have a -- you know, we have a country that's in such trouble. So we have $19 trillion, going up, as you know, to $21 trillion in a very short period of time because of the horrible omnibus budget. And I think, really, they have to solve the problem. I mean...

BLITZER: Should the U.S. bail out Puerto Rico?

TRUMP: No, I don't believe they should. I don't believe they should. And I think, frankly, Puerto Rico is better if they don't, because they'll cut the bonds; they'll cut them way down. They have far too much debt. I mean the problem with Puerto Rico, they have far, far too much debt.

BLITZER: They can't even use the ...

TRUMP: Don't forget, I'm the king of debt. I love debt.

BLITZER: They're prevented from using the bankruptcy laws, Puerto Rico ...


BLITZER: ... as opposed to all of the U.S. states.

TRUMP: So what are they going to do?

BLITZER: You've used those bankruptcy laws over the years.

TRUMP: They can't pay. I'm -- I'm the king of -- I understand that stuff better than anybody ...

BLITZER: You understand that.

TRUMP: Well...

BLITZER: Should -- should Puerto Rico get an opportunity...

TRUMP: By the way, just so you understand...

BLITZER: ... to use the bankruptcy laws?

TRUMP: As a very successful person, I would buy companies, throw them into a chapter, bankrupt it, negotiate. I would do great deals.

I didn't use them for myself. I used them as a businessperson, like others do. I mean, many of the top people, people in my category, use the laws.

I know more about debt than practically anybody. I love debt. I also love reducing debt. And I know how to do it better than anybody.

I will tell you, Puerto Rico has too much debt. So you can't just restructure it. You have to use the laws. You have to cut the debt way down and get back to business, because they can't survive with the kind of debt they have.

[17:40:09] So, no, I would not bail out, if I were -- if I were in that position, I wouldn't bail them out. Puerto Rico ...

BLITZER: Well, would you let them have ...

TRUMP: ... is better off...

BLITZER: ... a bankruptcy option?

TRUMP: Well, they're -- they're going to have no choice, because if they're not going to pay the bill, they're not going to pay the bill. I mean if they're not going to pay their interest on their bonds...

BLITZER: They can't.

TRUMP: They can't -- it -- you know, you can't -- you know the expression, you can't take it out of the grape, right?

BLITZER: All right.

TRUMP: If they don't have it. So they don't have the money, they can't pay the interest, whether they officially declare or not. But ultimately, what they have to do is cut the debt way down. They're never going to pay that debt off. They have to cut it way down.

And the United States is going to be in that position very soon, because they have too much debt.

BLITZER: Let's talk about U.S.-Russian relations for a moment. In the past few weeks, on two occasions, Russian fighter jets have barrel-rolled U.S. military facility...

TRUMP: Lack of respect.

BLITZER: ... planes -- lack of respect.

TRUMP: For the United States and for our president.

BLITZER: If you were president, what would you tell Putin?

TRUMP: I would call him and I'd say, "Don't do it again." I would say, "Don't do it again." And I think I'll have a good relationship with him. So far, we're off to a good start. He said Trump is a genius, OK?

I would have a good -- I think I'll have a good relation.

BLITZER: Have you ever met with him?

TRUMP: No, I...

BLITZER: Have you ever spoken with him?

TRUMP: I don't want to say. But -- but I think I'll have a good relationship with him.

Now, I may not. And I'll know pretty quickly. But I would call him. I'd say, "Don't ever do it again. Don't ever do that again."

BLITZER: But you've seen those pictures?

TRUMP: Yes, I've seen them. I think it's highly disrespectful to our military and to our country and to our president.

BLITZER: Let's talk about U.S. relations with the Muslim world right now. In your foreign policy speech the other day, a very detailed speech, you said you want to work -- and I'm quoting you now -- "very closely with our allies in the Muslim world, all of which are at risk from radical Islamic violence."

TRUMP: A hundred percent. They have to save themselves. Now, we can help them, but they have to save themselves.

BLITZER: So how...

TRUMP: And they have to put boots on the ground and they have to save themselves. Otherwise, they are going to be -- I won't even say, but bad things will happen to them.

BLITZER: So have are you going to work closely with our allies in the Muslim world if you still want this temporary ban on Muslims coming to the United States until the U.S. can figure out what's going on in this war on terror?

TRUMP: It won't have any impact, whether or not we have a temporary ban or whether we work over in the Middle East with our Muslim friends and friends. And I have Muslim friends.


TRUMP: I have Muslim friends ...

BLITZER: ... a temporary ban?

TRUMP: By the way, I have ... I just had one who left my office, a very -- a very successful person from the Middle East. He just looked at me and said, "Donald, what you're doing is so right. You're informing the world of a problem that we have to solve." He's a Muslim.

BLITZER: But he agrees with you that all Muslims should be banned?

TRUMP: Oh, many -- many Muslims do. Many Muslims do.

BLITZER: Because I've spoken with a lot of Muslim leaders. King Abdullah of Jordan, who's a close friend of the United States, as you well know, and other moderate Muslim leaders in the Arab world, elsewhere...

TRUMP: And a good person and a good man.

BLITZER: He's a very good person, a very good man, Queen Rania is a very lovely...

TRUMP: They're friends of my daughter, Ivanka.

BLITZER: I'm sure they are.

When they hear you talk like this, they get upset. They're Muslims.

TRUMP: I don't know. I mean, look, I don't know. We have a problem. And I'll tell you, we have a really big problem where we're letting in thousands and thousands of people, supposedly from Syria, but we have no idea where they're coming from. We have no idea.

The migration is a disaster. We're letting in thousands of people. We don't -- they don't have documentation. They don't have paperwork. Nobody knows who they are, where they come from. And they're coming into this country...

BLITZER: So you're sticking with this temporary ban?

TRUMP: Until we figure out what's going on. We have to be very tough. We have to be very vigilant, yes.

BLITZER: What about another sensitive issue, Japan and South Korea? You suggested maybe it's time...

TRUMP: It's not sensitive.

BLITZER: ... to let them...

TRUMP: It's not a sensitive issue.

BLITZER: ... let them develop their own nuclear arsenal and get the U.S. out of there.

TRUMP: To me, it's not a sensitive issue. Look...

BLITZER: Why isn't that sensitive?

TRUMP: ... I have great relationships with South Korea. I have buildings in South Korea. I have great relationships with Japan and in Japan.

But our government -- and a lot of people don't even know this. You know, when I make speeches, I say we protect Germany, we protect Japan, we protect South Korea. You know, many, many people -- sophisticated people in the audience -- they didn't even know that.

They have to help us. We don't get reimbursed for what this massive amount of work and -- and energy and weaponry, what it -- what it's costing. We can't continue to do it. This isn't 40 years ago. This isn't when we were much different as a country. They have to take care of us.

Now, I think they will. If they don't, you have to be prepared to walk. You always have to be prepared to walk from a deal, including the Iran deal, which is a disaster. They should have walked.

BLITZER: But -- but you're ready to let Japan and South Korea become nuclear powers?

TRUMP: I am prepared to -- if they're not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and the police for the world. We are, right now, the police for the entire world. We are policing the entire world.

You know, when people look at our military and they say, "Oh, wow, that's fantastic," they have many, many times -- you know, we spend many times what any other country spends on the military. But it's not really for us. We're defending other countries.

So all I'm saying is this: they have to pay.

And you know what? I'm prepared to walk, and if they have to defend themselves against North Korea, where you have a maniac over there, in my opinion, if they don't -- if they don't take care of us properly, if they don't respect us enough to take care of us properly, then you know what's going to have to happen, Wolf?

[17:45:10] It's very simple. They're going to have to defend themselves.

BLITZER: Because the other day, the U.S. military commander in South Korea, General Vincent Brooks, he testified up on Capitol Hill. He said South Korea pays for 50 percent of the personnel costs for U.S. troops --

TRUMP: How much -- how much percent?

BLITZER: Fifty percent.

TRUMP: Fifty. Why not 100 percent?

BLITZER: But he also says that it's -- it would be more expensive to keep U.S. troops here in the U.S. than to keep them on bases in South Korea.

TRUMP: OK, well, I mean maybe you don't need them, OK? Maybe you don't need them. Look, we're policing all of these countries. They're not paying us. We're policing Saudi Arabia. We are protecting Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia -- I have many friends in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia would not be there, Wolf. It wouldn't be there, maybe for a month, if we took our military out. The only reason they're sort of protected and they're totally protected is because we're protecting them. Saudi Arabia was making a billion dollars a day when the oil price was high. Now they're still making a fortune. Why aren't they paying us --

BLITZER: So basically what I hear you saying is, if the U.S. is going to keep troops in Japan -- and there's thousands of them, tens of thousands in Korea, 28,000 in --

TRUMP: We've got to be reimbursed.

BLITZER: Korea or Germany, for that matter.


BLITZER: You want the host countries to pick up all the expense.

TRUMP: Of course they should pick up all the expense. Why are we paying for this? I mean we are paying to protect them. And I think it's wonderful. I think it's good. I'd rather do it rather than have them armed. I would rather do it. And, you know, it was covered, actually, accurately in "The New York Times," very accurately. And they covered -- they covered it because they talked the cost.

A lot of people like to say, oh, Trump wants Japan to arm. I don't want them to arm. I want them to reimburse us for at least the costs. Now you could say it's worth more than that. But at least reimburse us for the cost.

When you say we pay 50 percent, well, if we say we pay 50 percent, that means we pay less, OK. But we're losing a tremendous amount of money. And we have a military that's not in good shape anymore. You know that. Everybody knows that. And we have to do something about it.

BLITZER: Another military question. The former defense secretary, Robert Gates, who's a Republican, he said you -- your lack of understanding of the complexities of international affairs is worrisome. And then he added this. You don't understand the difference between a business negotiation and a negotiation with sovereign powers.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think Gates understands. And he was also very disloyal to numerous people that he worked for. You know, I don't like people that go out and write books and criticize everything. So I don't think he understands. And I don't think he understands the word loyalty. And frankly, I -- I really believe I understand it much better than he does. And our country right now is a debtor nation. We cannot go around subsidizing Japan, which is a behemoth economically with the cars and everything, Germany, South Korea. You can't order a television set unless you go through South Korea. You can't order -- I mean the ships are made now in South -- it's a economic behemoth. We cannot continue to subsidize all of these countries when we're a debtor nation. We're a debtor nation.

Now I will have great relationships far better than we have right now. Look at the relationship we have with China. They're ripping off the United States. They're taking its money. They're ruining our jobs. They're ruining so much. And yet they've built a military force -- a fortress, a massive military fortress in the middle of the South China Sea. They're not supposed to be doing that. They have no respect for our country.

BLITZER: And that will --

TRUMP: And yet -- and yet --

BLITZER: And you say that will change if you're president.

TRUMP: They will respect our country and they'll like our country better than they do now.

BLITZER: Let's talk about some important domestic policy issues.


BLITZER: American workers. You say they deserve to earn more money, right?

TRUMP: Yes. Yes. I want them to earn more money.

BLITZER: So Bernie Sanders says he wants $15 an hour minimum wage. And he has really gone after you lately for saying -- you're happy with $7.25, the current federal minimum wage. You can't live on $7.25 an hour.

TRUMP: No. And I'm actually looking at that because I'm very different from most Republicans. I mean you have to have something that you can live on. But what I'm really looking to do is get people great jobs so they make much more money than that, so they make much money than -- more money than the $15. Now if you start playing around too much with the lower level -- the lower level number, you're not going to be competitive --

BLITZER: But Hillary Clinton says she's ready to go to $12.

TRUMP: Well, she can go --

BLITZER: Bernie Sanders says $15.

TRUMP: She's only doing that --

BLITZER: Give me a number --

TRUMP: She is being brought --

BLITZER: If you were president what would you recommend?

TRUMP: No, I'm looking at it. But I -- I don't like --

BLITZER: But you're open to raising the minimum wage?

TRUMP: I am open to doing something with it because I don't like that. But what I really do like is bring our jobs back so they're making much more than the $15.

BLITZER: Because if you want some of those Bernie Sanders supporters out there -- and I know you want them.

TRUMP: I think I'll get them.

BLITZER: In a general election, let's say against Hillary.

TRUMP: I think I'll get them.

BLITZER: You're going to have to do something about issues like that.

TRUMP: Well, I told you how I feel. I'm going to bring jobs back to this country. Nobody can do that like I can do it. I understand what's going wrong. Hillary doesn't have a clue. Bernie Sanders is a socialist or more than that. He could be beyond a socialist. I mean I'm looking. But it doesn't matter because --

BLITZER: But you want his supporters?

[17:50:01] TRUMP: Yes, I'm going to get -- I think I'll get a lot of his supporters. Do you know in the last election that I won in a landslide in New York, the Democrats went in, they all wanted to vote for Trump. The people at the polling booth said this is the most incredible thing we've seen. Now you -- you couldn't do it because it was a closed system. But the Democrats went in and they said to the people that run the polling booths -- it was all over television, local television. They said we want to vote for Trump. They didn't want to vote for Hillary, they wanted to vote for Trump. When the election comes, they're going to be voting for me.


BLITZER: We have a lot more of my interview with Donald Trump coming up. But I want to bring back our experts to discuss what we've just heard so far. Once again our CNN political commentator SE Cupp is here, our politics executive editor Mark Preston and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Mark, looking back, when Donald Trump rode down that escalator at Trump Tower last June, announced his candidacy, did anyone seriously expect that, what, almost a year later he would effectively be the Republican nominee?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Absolutely not, and I don't think he thought he would be either. Maybe as you said somewhere deep inside he believed that, but the fact of the matter was, I mean, that was such a spectacle of him coming down the escalator.

Now, you know, Wolf, we do have to give him credit for winning the Republican nomination, he did win it handily. But some of the things he said there were puzzling at best. But it goes to his strength. He speaks with confidence. He really expresses what's on his mind and that's what has gotten him where he is today. For instance, he talked about the birther issue, there's no truth to that about Hillary Clinton bringing it up. He talks about how Ted Cruz's father was saying bad things about him, so he decided to roll the hand grenade out there and said that people should be allowed -- or should at least look at the "National Enquirer's" story, even though he didn't believe it. This is the kind of confidence, though, that in some ways helps Trump but potentially is going to hurt Trump in the general election.

BLITZER: SE, he did bear -- he did beat 17 pretty qualified Republicans.


BLITZER: With a lot of political experience. How did he do that?

CUPP: Well, I mean, strategically there was the plurality that he exploited for a really long time. I think certain people stayed in probably longer than they should have and that helped Trump. But you have to remember that over the past four, five, six years, Republicans like Ted Cruz have been bashing the establishment. That creates a lot of animosity toward the establishment. Donald Trump comes and says well, I am even less establishment than you, Ted Cruz. So they just created a feel -- you know, a mile marker that he just stepped one foot behind to sort of maximize and exploit the sentiment.

People are right when they say these candidates didn't understand the anger. They understood people were angry, but they thought they were angry at President Obama. Actually they're angry with Republicans, too. And Donald Trump realized that.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, there were so much of an effort among the Republican establishment to try to destroy Donald Trump with all those negative ads, millions of dollars of negative ads, and look where he is right now. You've got to give him credit.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And look what he is saying. What really struck me in your interview was when he talked about, you know, getting our troops paid for in Japan, in South Korea, in Germany. You know, it's been a bedrock principle of the Republican Party for decades that we have to project American strength around the -- around world. That's part of our national interest. And we are happy to pay for that. And Republicans have always pushed for a large defense budgets.

He is taking a completely different view. And this is one reason why the Republican Party is so divided now because that's a really important fundamental issue. And he has departed from the Republican establishment tradition in the most explicit way possible.

BLITZER: But, Mark, he's been remarkably, Donald Trump, consistent over the past year. Did you get any sense from what we've heard so far and much more of that interview is coming up that he is going to pivot or change in the general election either against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders for that matter?

PRESTON: I think he has certainly a little bit in the last 24 hours. Now let me pause on that. Things could change in the next 24 seconds with Donald Trump because that's how he has run his whole campaign. But if you look at the cadence and the tone in how he's delivering it right now, he is not using words like Lying Ted. He seems -- if I could use his word, in some ways humble for Donald Trump as he's answering these questions.

When I say humble, the volume isn't raised. He's not throwing his hands around. We'll see, though, heading into the convention in July and onward into the general election, can he keep that up.

BLITZER: What do you think? Can he, SE?

CUPP: I mean, what I heard, and you asked some great questions in those interviews. What I heard was a guy who has no plans to shift tactics. You know, you gave him multiple opportunities to tell his supporters, enough with the death threats against reporters, for example. He's had opportunity after opportunity to tell his supporters, don't punch people. Quit with the -- he doesn't take it. He really prefers to allow that volume, that rhetoric to keep fueling his campaign.

[17:55:06] BLITZER: All right. Everyone, stand by. Coming up, we're going to have much more of my interview with Donald Trump, including the qualifications he's going to look for in a vice presidential running mate, and which traditionally Democratic states he says he will target in a general election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Happening now. Breaking news, presumptive nominee Donald Trump, the last man standing in the Republican race, and now the party's all but certain candidate for president in November.

I sat down with Donald Trump today for his first on-camera interview since the Indiana primary victory that cemented his position. What is his strategy for the general election?

Calling it quits. Surprise announcement by Trump's last two remaining rivals.