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State of the Union
ISIS Going Nuclear?; Interview With Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; Interview With Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson; Senator Ted Cruz And Donald Trump In Bitter Fight Over Wives; Interview With Former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired March 27, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Could ISIS go nuclear? New fears as a nuclear guard in Belgium is murdered. As police in Europe hunt the terrorists, will they discover even deadlier plots?
And war of words.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.
TAPPER: And wives.
HEIDI CRUZ, WIFE OF TED CRUZ: We will not stoop to the level of Donald Trump.
TAPPER: Now Ted Cruz is accusing Donald Trump of planting a tabloid smear. Has the campaign reached a new low?
Plus, clean sweep. Bernie Sanders wins big in the West.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.
TAPPER: But is it enough to make a dent in Hillary Clinton's lead?
Sanders will be here live.
And the best political minds will be here with insights from the campaign trail.
TAPPER: Hello, and happy Easter. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is feeling the Bern.
The results from the Democratic caucuses are just in. And the state's Democrats threw Bernie Sanders a big luau yesterday. The senator won 70 percent of the vote there, crushing his competitor, Hillary Clinton. Sanders also won landslide victories in Washington state with 72 percent and in Alaska with a stunning 80 percent.
Yesterday's voting brings the pledged delegate count to Clinton 1,251 and Sanders 1,012. With his victories this weekend, Sanders has narrowed the gap, but Clinton still enjoys a lead, one that's even larger if you include superdelegates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton's lead.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: And we have...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
SANDERS: And we have -- with your support coming here in Wisconsin, we have a path toward victory.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And Senator Bernie Sanders joins me now live.
Senator, congratulations on Western Saturday. You swept all three states, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii. Those victories follow recent wins in Idaho and Utah.
I want to ask you. Back in 2008, Hillary Clinton touted her support with white voters. This year, you seem to be doing well with that group. Do you agree with Clinton's 2008 assessment that the white working-class is pivotal to Democratic chances in November?
SANDERS: I think every vote is pivotal. We are now winning in state after state the Latino vote. We're doing better now that we're out of the South with the African-American vote. We're doing extraordinarily well with young people.
And we are -- we think we do have a path toward victory.
TAPPER: What is that path to victory, sir? Because, as you know, you really need to score landslide victory after landslide victory in order to overtake her when it comes to the pledged delegates.
SANDERS: Well, I think there are two aspects to it, Jake.
As you have just indicated, the last five -- we have won the last five out of six contests, all of them in landslide victories. What we have said from day one is, the South is the most conservative part of America. We did not do well there. Secretary Clinton gained a lot of delegates. No debate about that.
We're out of the South. We're heading to the West Coast, which is the most progressive part of America. We think we're going to do very well there. But in addition to that, in terms of superdelegates, a lot of superdelegates have pledged to Secretary Clinton.
But I think when they begin to look at the reality, and that is the we in poll after poll are beating Donald Trump by much larger margins than is Secretary Clinton -- in your own CNN last poll, we were 20 points ahead of him. In the last national poll, we actually beat Secretary Clinton by a point. We started 50 points behind.
I think the momentum is with us. A lot of these superdelegates may rethink their position with Hillary Clinton. A have not yet declared. And then you have got superdelegates who are in states where we win by 40 or 50 points. I think their own constituents are going to say to them, hey, why don't you support the people of our state, vote for Sanders?
TAPPER: So, Senator, you were asked this week what it would take for you to get behind Hillary Clinton if she were to get the nomination. You laid out five specific demands. One of them was single-payer health care. If Clinton wins the nomination, but refuses to endorse Medicare for all, you would refuse to support her?
SANDERS: No, I don't think we have ever framed things in that sense.
What we obvious -- first of all, I don't want to talk about, you know. what happens if we lose. We are in this race to win, Jake. And the reason that we have the kind of momentum that we have is, we're talking about not what media gotcha the questions are about. We're talking about the real issues impacting the American people.
Why is the middle class disappearing? Why do we have massive levels of income and wealth inequality? Why are we the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people or paid family and medical leave? Why are our kids leaving college $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 in debt? Those are the issues that we need to discuss.
I have a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. I have known for her 25 years. We will see what happens at the end of the process, but, right now, our function and our goal -- and we're working hard at it -- we think we can succeed. And that is to win the Democratic nomination.
TAPPER: Let's turn to a story that has concerned many Americans, the terrorist attack in Brussels.
How would the Bernie Sanders war against ISIS differ from the war that Barack Obama has been waging?
SANDERS: Well, I think, in fairness to the president, I know he gets criticized a lot.
Some of the Republicans think he hasn't been tough enough. His job is twofold, number one, to destroy ISIS. And, by the way, let's be clear. We are making, on the military field, real progress. ISIS is on the defensive. They are retreating. They have lost, I think, 30, 40 percent of the
territory they held in Iraq in the last year. So, we keep that up. But what the president is also trying to do -- and I agree with him -- is make sure that the United States, our brave men and women in the military, do not get sucked into perpetual warfare in the Middle East.
Second of all, obviously, we need better intelligence-sharing. We have got to do everything that we can to make sure that we do not have continuation of a tax against our allies in Europe or even here in the United States of America. We have got to be incredibly vigilant, federal, state, local government, international intelligence-sharing, looking at social media, doing everything we can to prevent young people from joining these fanatical terrorists.
TAPPER: Is the U.S. intelligence apparatus not doing that?
SANDERS: I'm sure that they are. But we have to do everything we can to improve our efforts.
It's not easy stuff. Look, let's be honest. Somebody who is willing to kill himself and strap a suicide belt around himself, this is not so easy to contain. But we have got to do everything we can, working with our allies, to make sure this doesn't continue to happen.
TAPPER: Well, the reason I ask is because you said this week that you agree with Hillary Clinton, who said that we have to toughen our surveillance, our interception of communication. And I just wonder what you mean by that. Toughen it to what?
What is the U.S. government not doing now? What intelligence-sharing is not taking place that you say we need to improve?
SANDERS: Well, it goes without saying that, when you have attacks that take place, when 30 people get killed in Brussels, something went wrong.
This is not a criticism of the intelligence agencies. But we have got to improve our efforts to make sure that it doesn't happen again.
TAPPER: Terrorist groups are now operating all over the world, as you know. At what point would a President Sanders order a military strike against one of those groups abroad? How would you determine if a terrorist group posed an imminent threat to the United States? Would they have to attack the United States first?
SANDERS: No, of course not.
No. Obviously, you want to prevent those attacks before they take place. I think we know who ISIS is. We know those people who are planning against our European allies and against ourselves. And we have got to do everything we can to destroy them.
Look, this ISIS is a barbaric organization. I agree with King Abdullah of Jordan, who said many months ago that the fight going on there is a fight for the soul of Islam. And at the end of the day, it will be Muslim troops on the ground -- and we're beginning to see some success there -- that destroy ISIS, with the support of the United States, the U.K., France, Russia, et cetera.
But the real battle has got to be fought on the ground by Muslims nations. I will do everything that I can to make sure that the United States does not get sucked into perpetual warfare in the Middle East. One of the big differences between Secretary Clinton and myself, I voted against the war in Iraq. She supported that war.
That war has been a disaster for us.
TAPPER: Senator, one of the things you talk about on the -- one of the issues you talk about on the campaign trail quite a bit is big money in politics.
The actor and director George Clooney is hosting a fund-raiser for the Hillary Victory Fund on April 15. We can show the invitation. A couple has to raise or contribute $353,400 for premium seating. In an e-mail to supporters, you called this obscene. Why is it obscene?
SANDERS: It is obscene that Secretary Clinton keeps going to big money people to fund her campaign.
But it's not only this Clooney event. It is the fact that she has now raised well over $15 million from Wall Street for her super PAC and millions more from the fossil fuel industry and from the drug companies.
We have, on the other hand, received six million individual campaign contributions, a record number in American history, averaging $27 a piece. So, I think what we're trying to do is run a campaign, to paraphrase -- paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, of the people, by the people and for the people, not just reaching out to billionaires and the wealthiest people in this country.
That's really a cancer on American politics. We have got to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. I believe, Jake, that we should move to public funding of elections.
TAPPER: But do you think that comparing George Clooney, who, in addition to his film work, also does a lot of humanitarian work, has brought a lot of attention to genocide in Africa, do you really think that that's comparable to the Wall Street investment banker types that you regularly bash?
SANDERS: Look, the point is -- now, I have a lot of respect for George Clooney. He's a great actor. I like him.
But this is the point. This is the problem with American politics, is that big money is dominating our political system. And we are trying to move as far away from that as we can.
So, if you have an event -- you know, we have events too. And our events, we charge $15 or $50 for people to come. So, it's not a criticism of Clooney. It's a criticism of a corrupt finance system where big money interests -- and it's not Clooney -- it's the people who are coming to this event -- have undue influence over the political process.
I think there are very few people, whether you're conservative or progressive, who do not understand that reality.
TAPPER: All right, Senator Bernie Sanders, congratulations again on your three-state sweep. Good to see you. Hope to see you again on the campaign trail.
SANDERS: Thank you very much, Jake.
TAPPER: Coming up: a new arrest in the Belgium terror attacks. Have police captured the man in white who escaped the airport bombing?
We will be right back.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
And you right now are looking at live pictures from Brussels, where anti-immigrant protesters have shown up at the square where a memorial for the victims of the Brussels terrorist attack has been created. Police in Belgium say they have charged a man with terrorist murder in connection with Tuesday's bombing in Brussels. Authorities have not confirmed, however, if he is the man in white seen on surveillance footage in the moments before the attack at the airport last week.
French police also have arrested a man they say was in the final stages of planning another attack. U.S. counterterrorism officials say there are additional plots under way in Europe from the same network behind the attacks in Brussels and Paris.
Let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, who is on the ground in Brussels.
Clarissa, there are some protests in the square right now. What exactly is going on there?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's incredible how quickly the mood here changed, Jake.
Just about half-an-hour ago, this was a very quite, reverent scene. People were passing through the square lighting candles, laying flowers, remembering the dead. It's Easter Sunday, so a lot of people took the time to come here to memorialize the dead.
And then, suddenly, essentially, what we saw was a march, a far right- wing fringe group associated with football or soccer hooligans, who marched on the square, a few hundred of them chanting very loudly and very aggressively anti-immigrant chants, like (SPEAKING BELGIAN), which essentially means, "This is our home," or "We're in our home."
And then you could hear other people in the crowd chanting back, "We are all the sons of immigrants." Essentially, it become this sort of dueling chants. But things did get quite tense quite quickly. We saw a number of people doing Nazi salutes.
You can see behind me, I'm sure, how the police just completely locked down the square in a matter of minutes, riot police carrying shields, wearing helmets. They have got water cannons at the ready in case the situation becomes violent.
But, really, Jake, this is exactly what authorities wanted to avoid today. They had asked people yesterday not to come out and protest en masse, not because there was any threat to a protest, but because they didn't want to have all of their resources diverted to taking care of this, instead of being out there on the hunt for the men who are still at large who are responsible for the attacks, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, a tense situation in Brussels.
Clarissa Ward, thank you so much.
We're also learning this morning more about the Americans killed in the terrorist attack.
Justin Shults was 30. His wife, Stephanie Shults, was 29. The couple moved to Brussels from Tennessee after a job transfer. They were at the airport dropping off Stephanie's mother, who was visiting them. She was not injured.
Let's turn now to Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Senator, thanks for joining us. Happy Easter.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Happy Easter to you, Jake.
TAPPER: So, you have said that there are no credible threats to the U.S. But U.S. counterterrorism officials are telling CNN that they believe there are additional plots under way in Europe.
Do you expect more attacks or attempted attacks in Europe in the coming days?
JOHNSON: Well, we're being told there are no specific, credible threats. And I have to believe the officials.
And it would make sense that there are probably more plots being hatched in Europe as we speak. Europe obviously is in greater danger. They're in closer proximity to the Middle East. We're seeing this surge of refugees.
We now know that a couple of those terrorists came into Europe with that refugee flow. So what we're unraveling or what the officials in Europe are unraveling are these cells and these plots. And, unfortunately, this is exactly what Islamic terrorists are trying to sow, what you're seeing in Brussels today, the type of civil unrest.
They're trying to destabilize different countries. And they're doing a pretty good job of it.
TAPPER: Belgian police have arrested a man they call Faisal C. They have charged him with terrorist murder. Is it your understanding that Faisal C is the man in white who got away after the airport bombing?
JOHNSON: I have no more information than you have on that one.
TAPPER: It's beginning to look as though Belgian authorities did have some knowledge of the brothers who carried out the bombing at the airport beforehand. And yet authorities failed to stop the attack.
Do you think that this is an example of an intelligence failure by officials in Belgium?
JOHNSON: Well, we all have the problem of, what do you do with the not guilty yet in free and democratic societies, where you have the presumption of innocence?
It's a very difficult problem. And, of course, the number of people that have flowed from Europe into Syria, literally in the thousands, are now flowing back, is obviously overwhelming the intelligence capabilities of Europe.
It's a concern here in America, which is why I always go back to, we have to address the root cause of the problem. It's the instability in Syria and Iraq. It's the fact that ISIS exists, that that caliphate is still standing.
Remember, it was 18 months ago in September 2014 that President Obama declared our goal, which I agree with, degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS. We haven't defeated them.
I listened to Senator Sanders. And, yes, we're nibbling around the edges and we're taking back territory in Iraq, but they're expanding territory in Syria. And, obviously, Islamic terrorists aren't putting down their arms. So this is a war and we have got to take it seriously. And we have got to defeat ISIS. And we have got to find terrorists wherever they exist and wipe them out.
TAPPER: What suggestion -- what are you suggesting we need to do, the U.S. government and military need to do that they're not doing?
JOHNSON: We need to just have a more robust effort. We need to assemble that coalition of the willing.
And the reason we haven't assembled them is because we have not shown the leadership. President Obama took off the table that -- the same day that he declared the goal, he basically took off the table the very ingredient that was going to be necessary. And that's American troops on the ground.
Now, I don't think we have to have that many of them. We haven't heard out of this administration a real strategy for defeating ISIS. But we actually have to show the leadership, so that the coalition of the willing will actually assemble around us. And let's face it. I think Europe is probably a little bit more primed to really join that coalition. This has got to be a long-term effort. The historic blunder of President Obama was leaving Iraq. After all the sacrifice, after the stabilization of the Iraq, we bugged out.
And as a result, that coalition disintegrated, and ISIS was able to rise from the ashes of what was a defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. We have to learn the lessons of histories. We have to be relentless in our pursuit of stamping out Islamic terror.
TAPPER: Yes, let's turn back to the terror investigation in France and Belgium.
The only surviving terrorist from the deadly attacks in Paris this fall, Salah Abdeslam, was arrested just days before the bombings in Brussels. He wasn't even questioned until the day after his arrest. And he denied knowing the men who murdered dozens of people at the Brussels Airport.
Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, said this week he would have talked a lot faster with the torture. Do you agree?
JOHNSON: What we really need to do -- and I have been down to Guantanamo Bay and I have talked to the people that do the interviews.
And the way you actually gather intelligence that's effective is over a long period of time. And what this administration has done, in their quest to close down Guantanamo Bay, we stopped capturing, detaining and questioning Islamic terrorists.
Now, we're doing some of that. We're starting to capture some of the Islamic terrorists, some of the ISIS operatives. Fortunately, we captured one that was a former Iraqi chemical weapons expert. And that individual apparently started to sing like a canary. So, we were able to take out some of those installations.
But we need a long-term facility for long-term detention. And that's really how you gather intelligence, is capturing people, detaining them, and interviewing them over a long period of time, finding discrepancies between themselves -- between their own testimony and that of their fellow operatives.
TAPPER: Let's talk about nuclear security. There's a report in a Belgian newspaper that a security guard at a nuclear plant there was murdered this week and his access pass was stolen.
Authorities discovered secret surveillance footage of a high-ranking Belgian nuclear official in the home of a man linked to the Paris attackers. Are you at all concerned that ISIS could infiltrate a nuclear plant in Europe? Or is that just too far afield, do you think?
JOHNSON: No, no, I'm highly concerned about that, but not only in Europe. Look at the attack on the Metcalf power station in California. We
have not solved that. That is a very disconcerting chain of events here. So, trust me, our critical infrastructure is vulnerable to cyber-attack, to potential terrorist attack. And we're not taking this threat seriously enough.
It's highly concerning.
TAPPER: Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, thank you so much, sir. Appreciate it. Hope you have a peaceful Easter.
JOHNSON: You, too.
TAPPER: Fiery press conferences, nasty tweets. The battle between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, it's getting even uglier. How will it affect the race?
That story next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: I don't get angry often. But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was Ted Cruz going after Donald Trump for retweeting a less-than-flattering picture of Heidi Cruz next to a nice picture of Melania Trump this week.
It sparked a war of words on both sides. It all started after an anti-Trump super PAC used suggestive photographs of Melania, a former model, in ads targeted at Mormons ahead of the Utah caucuses.
Let's talk it all over with the panel, who joins me now.
Stephen Miller is a senior adviser to Donald Trump. Neera Tanden is president of the Center for American Progress and a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner supports Bernie Sanders. And also with us today, Doug Heye, former Republican National Committee communications director.
[09:30:13] Stephen, I'll start with you. You're an advisor to Donald Trump. He stands by his decision to print this -- to tweet this, my wife is hotter than your wife tweet. Do you think this is presidential?
STEPHEN MILLER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: I think it says a lot about the conscience of Washington D.C. How many hours we spent discussing a retweet and it would be nice if one tenth the outrage that has been spent and indignation over this retweet had instead been spent this summer when Kate Steinle was murdered in cold blood by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco.
I was working in the Senate in the time. Congress did nothing when an American citizen was murdered and died in her father's arms in cold blood. We get wrong about what we're mad about in America.
We don't get mad when Americans are murdered by illegal immigrants. We don't get mad when people have their jobs taken by cheap or foreign workers here on visa programs. We don't get mad when entire cities are crushed by our trade policies to send jobs overseas.
TAPPER: I understand why you want to change the subject.
MILLER: A big part of the Trump campaign is that people want to get mad about the right things. That's what I am saying.
TAPPER: We're talking about something that your boss tweeted and he could have tweeted something about Kate Steinle that moment but he chose to tweet something about --
MILLER: Nobody has brought more attention to the issue of sanctuary city and Kate Steinle (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump and if you look at his twitter account he tweeted about Brussels all day long and we're not talking about that.
TAPPER: We just did a whole segment on Brussels.
Doug, let's go to you. What was your take? I know you're not a big Trump supporter. What was your take on the, my wife is hotter than your wife tweet?
DOUG HEYE, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: ... a retweet of -- I'll never be a Donald Trump supporter.
I think you're right. We should have paid more attention to what happened in sanctuary cities and that murder in California, but we also know this is part of how Donald Trump has run his campaign from day one. Create another (INAUDIBLE) whether it's my wife is hotter than your wife or some scandal in the "National Enquirer" or Lindsey Graham's cell phone or Carly Fiorina's face, it's create an outrage (INAUDIBLE) so that we do anything but talk about the fact that Donald Trump doesn't have specific answers on specific questions. The emperor doesn't have any clothes and he doesn't have any answers.
TAPPER: Let me get your take on this, Neera, because I know that Democrats think that this type of story is going to help them in November when it comes to winning over women voters. Do you think that's the case?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, if you look at polls today (INAUDIBLE) Donald Trump is doing very, very poorly.
A lot of women voters find him repulsive and it' precisely because of these attacks he makes on how women look and judging their appearance, et cetera. It's not one tweet. It's what he has done this whole election cycle. Two other Republicans including Carly Fiorina.
So, you know, I think the challenge for the Republican Party is that their debate every day is an embarrassment. It's an embarrassment to Republicans. They're embarrassed by these debates. And you see that and how many Republicans saying they're getting turned off. It's not just women. It's Democrats, independents and Republicans who are repulsed by, this is like junior high school. In fact, I'm sorry. It's below junior high school debate.
TAPPER: Stephen (ph) I'll come to you in a second. I do want to have you weigh in here. It does seem though in Stephen's defense -- in Donald Trump's defense it does seem that no matter what he says or does that defend the likes of us around panels, tables in Washington D.C. the voters, his supporters don't care and he continues to win.
NINA TURNER (D), FORMER OHIO STATE SENATOR: Jake, you hit a very important point. I mean, Mr. Trump said, he can go out and shoot somebody and still get elected. You know, he said that a few months ago. So that might be true.
I just wish him and Senator Cruz just go ahead and duel it out and let us all -- put us all out of our misery. They just go out there and have --
TAPPER: Hamilton and Burr --
TURNER: Exactly (ph) just get out there and duel it out.
TAPPER: Go to Weehawken, New Jersey?
TURNER: In terms of women, you know, it's obvious that folks are still voting for Mr. Trump and that is the point that it's easy to point the finger at him and absolutely he is wrong. Senator Cruz is not much better but folks are voting for Mr. Trump and it's not just men. Women are voting for Mr. Trump as well. And so we're going to have to deal with that.
TAPPER: Stephen, you would like to be talking about sanctuary cities. You would like to be talking about immigration policies. Mr. Trump is the one who has set this table.
MILLER: I think it's a choice that the political class makes in D.C. (INAUDIBLE) what they want to focus on.
Again, if you looked at his Twitter account he was talking at length about Brussels, about immigration, about assimilation, about the problem of radical Islam and how that relates to our immigration policies. The political class in D.C. -- and I've seen this. I've worked here for years. The political class in D.C. works itself up into a feigned indignation over the things that don't really affect the lives --
TAPPER: I don't think anyone is feigning anything to be quite frank.
HEYE: There's nothing feigned here. I watched the interview with Kate Bolduan and God bless her for being as tough on you as you (ph) was (ph). When you said let's agree to disagree on sexism.
MILLER: You know what? I didn't say --
MILLER: You want to get into an argument. Then we'll get into an argument. If that's what you want you want to get into an argument then we will get into an argument.
TAPPER: Stephen, let him finish and I'll let you talk.
MILLER: You said you're going to talk over me.
HEYE: We're not going to agree on sexism.
MILLER: You interrupted me --
HEYE: We're not going to agree on --
TAPPER: Stephen, hold on one second. Let Doug --
MILLER: He just accused me of standing up for sexism...
MILLER: ... and that is absolutely -- that is absolutely inappropriate, sir.
HEYE: I am not yelling at you.
MILLER: That is inappropriate.
HEYE: If you want to yell at me that's fine because I watch what you said. MILLER: I will because you know what?
TAPPER: Let him finish.
MILLER: You misquoted me. That is a lie.
TAPPER: What did you say?
MILLER: I said in that interview what I'm saying right now which is that it is a trivial issue to be debating retweets when it is a fact that you have Americans dying every single day as a result of immigration policies. That's what I was saying.
You said that we don't have real solutions to problems I just spent the other day in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a once great American town, a thriving hub of industry. The steel industry shut down and the town is dying. Do you know why the steel industry shut down? Because the political class in D.C. didn't care about product dumping. They didn't care about foreign shooting just like Americans all over this country see their communities destroyed by uncontrolled migration.
This is not a joke.
TAPPER: I don't think it's a joke.
MILLER: You want to talk about women's issues?
MILLER: You want to talk about women's issues? Here's something we should be talking about. This is a fact. As a result of uncontrolled migration into this country, you can look this up. It's a statistic from a (INAUDIBLE) half a million U.S. girls in this country are at risk of female genital mutilation.
TANDEN: Oh my God.
TANDEN: This is exactly what happens. He says something outrageous --
MILLER: I'm not saying (ph) something (ph) outrageous.
MILLER: You don't think that statistic is correct?
TANDEN: No. I don't think so.
MILLER: You don't think that statistic is correct?
TANDEN: No. I don't think -- I don't think...
TANDEN: ... girls.
TAPPER: Let Neera --
MILLER: You don't think -- that is a statistic.
TAPPER: You let Neera finish first.
TANDEN: Do you mind if I respond?
TAPPER: Go ahead, Neera. Go ahead.
TANDEN: The fact is that we actually want to fight sexism in America I agree with Doug that the wrong way to go is Donald Trump who judges women on their looks, who says terrible things about women in every way he could possibly do. And the reality is that the reason why he is losing women in the general electorate, the reason why independent women, young conservative women say they will never vote for Donald Trump is because of what he does every day. Not a retweet. Just the things that come out of his mouth regularly.
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick. We're going to have much more. And be sure to watch Tuesday night. CNN will host all three Republican presidential candidates including Mr. Trump for a town hall live from Wisconsin. Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, all taking questions from voters in the Badger State as those voters prepare to head to the polls in that crucial contest. It will be moderated by Anderson Cooper. That town hall it's all right here on CNN Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m.
Those candidates will face-off over how to protect Americans from an ISIS attack such as the one that devastated Europe this week. Ted Cruz called for patrolling Muslim American neighborhoods. Is he trying to win over Trump voters with his tough talk on terror? We'll talk about that next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Ted Cruz who said we need to be policing everywhere that Muslims live. I don't know about you...
CLINTON: ... that is not only offensive, that too is dangerous. Because we want everybody to feel like we are together on our common defense against terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responding to Senator Ted Cruz's proposal to monitor Muslim American neighborhoods in an attempt to prevent more terrorist attacks.
We're back with the panel. Let's talk about this. Doug, is Ted Cruz adopting the Trump strategy of talking more tough even if it's at the risk of being politically correct?
HEYE: Yes. I think on issue after issue you've seen (INAUDIBLE) term Ted Cruz drafting behind Donald Trump to try and get some of those voters if they peel away from Donald Trump. Trump voters are probably the most loyal voters out there. They can't be shaken away from Donald Trump. It's why even if we're going to talk about how he is at 35 percent of the polls against Hillary, that 35 percent never goes away.
TAPPER: We can talk about the narrative of the policy in a second. But Stephen, as an advisor to Donald Trump, do you see this as a blatant strategy by Cruz to try to mimic the front-runner?
MILLER: Well, I think Senator Cruz has done a very poor job explaining what he meant by his comment about patrolling Muslim neighborhoods.
Now it's not for me to say what he is trying to say but I would note that in 2013 Senator Cruz pushed an amendment to the Gang of Eight bill which would have doubled immigration including Muslim immigration. And if you look at polling by 10-1 margin, Americans, Democrats, independent, Republican, black, white, Hispanic, by 10-1 margin agree that we should raise wages for people living here instead of importing more foreign workers. So that's a very mainstream issue.
So if you look at really two issues that Cruz has been very aggressive on pushing more foreign workers and pushing off shoring and more so- called free trade deals he is far outside the mainstream of the GOP and the American electorate. So we think we're going to do very well in Wisconsin by focusing on trade and immigration issues that appeal to the broadest swath of the electorate.
TAPPER: And what's your take on the policy?
TURNER: It's outrageous what Senator Cruz is saying.
And we just got to call it like it is. I mean, to try to castigate any one group of people -- I mean, my father is Muslim, for example. I met a Muslim young man yesterday at an airport, his father is from Maui and talking about how he loves this country. You know, he came to this country when he was 15 years old. He's practicing the religion of Islam but he is very much American in how he has been, you know, when he goes through airports and people realize where he is from he is being, you know, stereotyped. So we can't do that.
Even the NYPD who is not, you know, the best police department in the nation in terms of not racially profiling sent out a tweet about how they have about a thousand Muslim officers who are protecting and serving. It is wrong and we must call it out. It cannot happen in this country.
TAPPER: One of the concerns that national security officials raise is that Muslims in this country are much more assimilated and that's one of the reasons...
TAPPER: ... we don't have scenes like the scene in Brussels as opposed to in Europe where there are far less assimilated.
TANDEN: Yes. So, that's absolutely right in the United States. In fact, it's Muslim Americans who are early warning signs of problems and have actually been working in partnership with national security apparatus and police departments to highlight problems before they begin. And actually challenge this issue. So that's why this is super counterproductive. It's actually --
TANDEN: If you care about America's security, you care about defeating ISIS. Creating this rhetoric where we're in a war -- the United States is in a war with Islam or Muslims actually hurts and it makes us more insecure in the Middle East and more insecure at home.
TAPPER: What's your response to that? Because obviously Mr. Trump has been criticized...
TAPPER: ... for saying he wants to temporarily ban any non-U.S. citizens who are Muslims from coming into this country. There is an argument from conservative national security officials that this is exactly what ISIS wants, this clash of civilizations.
MILLER: Well, part of what makes Washington so out of touch with the rest of the country is they probably haven't actually thought for a second about how the American public actually feels about migration.
And whether you're in a low income Hispanic community or low income black community or a community of any background the reality is after admitting 59 million migrants since 1965 according to Pew people are ready for a relief period. Now with respect to Muslim migration in particular we have shown that we can't effectively screen migrants. It's not just the San Bernardino case which is particularly horrifying but the immigration subcommittee in the Senate found several dozen cases since the last year of foreign born migrants involved in terrorism plots in the United States. So you have a situation where admitting people on the front end, bringing them into the country and then spending literally billions of dollars involving thousands of police officers, prosecutors and investigators trying to disrupt plots who are only taking place because of our migration policies.
TAPPER: Yes. TANDEN: I just think it's odd to say you believe in the constitution, you believe in freedom of religion and then say we're going to target just one group. One group based on their religion. All that can be true and we shouldn't just target Muslims. We should look at all of these issues.
TANDEN: We should look at our migration policies without looking at religion.
TAPPER: All right. We --
TURNER: ... homegrown (ph) terrorist too, Jake. I mean, we cannot continue to scapegoat one group of people.
MILLER: ... terrorist who have made it to the west and has not made it to the United States.
TURNER: I mean, my God.
TAPPER: We have to leave it there. Thank you for all being here and bringing your passions to the table. I appreciate it.
Coming up, secret prayer sessions at the White House? This Easter Sunday, an insider reveals how faith has lived in the quarters of power.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
The job of White House press secretary is typically so combative. Whomever departs that role leaves a flap jacket behind for the replacement. The income fire was perhaps never sharper than during the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal when then White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry was behind the podium. But this Easter Sunday we're going to take a look at how McCurry has traded in the battle armor of his old job for a new role in the church.
TAPPER (voice-over): It might seem like a long road from spinning the news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean by an improper relationship?
MIKE MCCURRY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY, 1995-1998: I'm not going to parse the statement. You all got the statement I made earlier and it speaks for itself.
TAPPER: To sharing the good news.
MCCURRY: Let's open with a moment of prayer.
TAPPER: But Mike McCurry, White House press secretary to President Bill Clinton during the heights of the Monica Lewinsky...
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.
TAPPER: ... says he always sought refuge from the podium in prayer.
TAPPER (on camera): Was it part of your life when you were the press secretary for Bill Clinton during that tumultuous era or did you compartmentalize that?
MCCURRY: You know, very interesting. Totally compartmentalize. Rahm Emanuel, people may not believe this but he used to have his rabbi come in on Saturdays to read Torah together but it was done almost (INAUDIBLE). You know, people were not really -- were openly professing about it. I don't know whether that's a true Democratic White House because maybe it's different in a Republican White House but open professions of faith weren't very common. Part of what I'm working on now is to say we should be more open about that (ph).
TAPPER (voice-over): McCurry's new role takes him out of the briefing room and into the classroom directing the Center for Public Theology at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C.
TAPPER (on camera): So you want to train a new generation of religious leaders, ministers to help them with people in their public life.
MCCURRY: I want them to be comfortable talking about politics. I think most pastors, most rabbis and most imams probably avoid politics because they're afraid they're going to offend half of their congregation one way or another.
But I think churches are places where there are diverse points of view and people can have much more civil conversations about the things that matter. So I would like church leaders to be equipped to guide those conversations, not to impose points of view or theological doctrine but to really draw out people who will maybe converse with their better angel in them.
TAPPER: Do you think that you did anything when you were in that job that was contrary to your believes? Is this penance in a way?
MCCURRY: Yes. I do. I mean, famously there was one time when I kind of accused Newt Gingrich for something he had said about social security probably wanting to see old people shrivel up and die.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCURRY: So the reason they're trying to slow the rate of increase in the program I suppose is because actually they've like to see the program and just die and go away. You know, that's probably what they would like to see happen to seniors too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCURRY: It was bad enough that Gingrich called President Clinton and said he wanted me fired that day. I patched things up with Newt Gingrich but I came pretty close to creating exactly the thing that I think was wrong and broken about politics now. So I do think there's some penance involved in seeing if you can try to make things better.
TAPPER: What do we need to do to make it better? Because it sure seems uglier than it's been in a long, long time.
MCCURRY: Well, that's a hard question. And you know, (INAUDIBLE) for me to say, how do you structure things (ph)?
But finding those gentle voices that know how to disagree and make points that don't inflame passions and that's not easy to do because, you know, sometimes the most news worthy, the most exciting people are the people who are going to exacerbate some of those differences. And I think that's exactly why I would like to see church leaders and people of faith calling on the political world to lift the debate a little higher.
TAPPER: Our thanks to Mike McCurry and his students for sharing their time with us.
And our wishes to you for a joyful and peaceful Easter Sunday.
You can catch me here every Sunday and weekdays on "THE LEAD" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
You can go to CNN.com/SOTU, STATE OF THE UNION, for extras from the show.
I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.
"FAREED ZAKARIA" is next. Have a lovely day.