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THE SITUATION ROOM
Donald Trump at War with GOP; Cruz Addresses Rally in Pennsylvania; Russian Fighter Jets Buzz U.S. Ship; Trump, RNC Chair at Odds Over Delegate Process; Sanders Holding Star-Studded Rally in Manhattan; New York Paper Criticizes Sanders for Lack of Specifics; North Korean Missile Could Reach Washington, D.C.. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 13, 2016 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[17:00:07] Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, @JakeTapper, or tweet the show, @TheLeadCNN. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, dirty trick. Donald Trump goes to war with the GOP, saying the Republican National Committee is out to keep him from getting the nomination and that the rules are stacked against him. Trump says the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, should be ashamed of himself. I'll talk to Priebus. That's coming up.
Secret meeting. Megyn Kelly, the TV news anchor who's been the target of some of Trump's sharpest attacks, is spotted slipping into Trump Tower in New York for a secret meeting with the Republican front- runner. Was Trump ready to make peace? Is Kelly's boss calling for a truce?
On the march. Bernie Sanders joins a picket line in Brooklyn, telling striking Verizon employees their company is, quote, "trying to destroy the lives of working Americans." Tonight, Sanders and Hillary Clinton both picking up big union endorsements on the eve of their CNN debate.
And Russian warning? Shocking new video shows Russian jets aggressively buzzing the deck of a U.S. Navy destroyer multiple times, coming so close the commander says it was dangerous. So what's behind this risky maneuver?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Republican front-runner at war with his own party. Donald Trump accusing the Republican National Committee of conspiring to prevent him from getting the nomination and says the rules are, quote, "stacked against me." Calling out RNC chairman Reince Priebus by name, Trump says it's a disgrace for the party, but Priebus tweets that the nomination process has been known for more than a year, and it's up to the campaigns to understand it, adding, quote, "Give us all a break." I'll speak with Reince Priebus. That's coming up.
And Ted Cruz, who's a master of those same rules and used them to corral delegates is appearing at a rally in Pennsylvania right now ahead of tonight's CNN town hall in which he'll appear with his family.
Meantime, Trump may be mending fences with Megyn Kelly. Sources say the two met today at Trump Tower. The FOX News anchor has been the target of some of Trump's most bitter insults.
And extraordinary video images show Russian fighter jets buzzing a U.S. Navy destroyer, one coming within 75 feet of the American ship. The U.S. views the simulated attack as dangerous. I'm speak with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He flew missions for the Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And our correspondents, Analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories.
Let's start with CNN political reporter Sara Murray. Sara, the Republican front-runner taking direct aim on the Republican Party; and we're learning the Trump campaign also making some significant staff changes. What's the latest?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The Trump campaign said they were staffing up, and now we are beginning to see that. They are bringing on Rick Wiley, who was Scott Walker's former campaign manager when he was running for president. He will be the new national political director of the Trump campaign. This is an operative with a lot more field experience than many of Trump's current operatives.
But he also came under some fire with Walker for what people felt like was excessive spending.
The other thing the Trump campaign is doing, a little more D.C. Outreach, but so far that does not apply to the RNC.
MURRAY (voice-over): It's war within the GOP.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that it's stacked against me by the establishment. I fully understand it.
MURRAY: Donald Trump, the party's front-runner, telling CNN he doesn't believe the Republican National Committee even wants him on the ticket.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You're saying you don't think the RNC wants you to get the nomination?
TRUMP: No, I don't think so, I really don't.
COOPER: Do you think they're actively working against you?
TRUMP: I don't know. I mean, I don't see it. It's not like it's -- I have 15 miles of proof.
MURRAY: It's clear Trump still smarting over his loss to Ted Cruz in Colorado.
COOPER: How are they stacked against you?
TRUMP: Because the Republican Party in Colorado wanted Cruz. Or maybe they wanted somebody other than Trump. I don't think anybody really wants Cruz. Why would they want him?
MURRAY: But RNC chair Reince Priebus appears to have hit his limit, firing back on Twitter, saying, "Nomination process known for a year and beyond. It's the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break."
The campaign's heated tone not going unnoticed by Trump's kids.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: It's a vicious industry, politics.
MURRAY: In a rare setting Tuesday night, Trump shared the CNN stage with four of his children and his wife, Melania, while Ivanka Trump mumped to her father's defense over how he treats women.
I. TRUMP: For me, I think, the way he raised me, the way he raised Tiffany, it's a testament to the fact that he believes in inspiring women, empowering women.
Reporter: Melania Trump wasn't about to defend her husband's late- night Twitter habits.
[17:05:05] COOPER: Do you ever want to say to him, "Put your mobile device down," that, like, that "it's 2 a.m. and you're tweeting"?
MELANIA TRUMP, WIFE OF DONALD TRUMP: If he would only listen. I just did many times. And I just say, "OK, do whatever you want." He's an adult. He knows the consequences.
MURRAY: Meanwhile, Trump may not be making peace with the RNC, but he just might be trying to put to rest another rivalry.
D. TRUMP: Megyn Kelly is a lightweight. This is a lightweight. This is not a reporter.
MURRAY: Today FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly was spotted walking into Trump Tower for a meeting with her No. 1 critic.
MURRAY: Now, a senior Republican strategist tells me the reason we're seeing this more intense pushback from Reince Priebus is because he felt like Trump just went too far by calling the party corrupt, especially in light of the fact that Priebus feels like he has gone out of his way to try to run a transparent process this year. So Wolf, it should be a very interesting interview you have ahead.
Back to you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Sara. And the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, he'll
be with me. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This will be his first interview since Donald Trump's latest attacks against the Republican Party. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, he trails Donald Trump badly in New York polls. He's in Pennsylvania right now. He's hunting delegates ahead of that state's big primary one week after the New York primary.
Tonight Cruz and his wife will take voters' questions in a CNN tow hall. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is joining us live now from the Cruz rally in Erie, Pennsylvania.
So what's the latest on that front, Sunlen?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Senator Cruz just started speaking here. And today is all about looking ahead. Looking ahead to the primary here in Pennsylvania that will take place on April 26, where polls do show him well behind Donald Trump and also John Kasich.
And it's interesting that, while this part of the campaign, this state-by-state traditional slog to try to get to the 1,237 delegates, as that reaches on, there's also this other track of the campaign going on where the campaigns are really heating up and intensifying their positioning ahead of a potential contested convention.
The Cruz campaign today tapping former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli to lead up their campaign's delegate efforts as they position themselves potentially towards a contested convention. Also, this comes after the Trump campaign recently tapped Paul Manafort.
And there was an interesting and notable shift coming from Senator Cruz today. He went after Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign's convention manager, in a radio interview just moments ago. He said in part, quote, "Donald Trump just hired an individual to be a lead person on his campaign who was a paid lobbyist for Saudi Arabia to lobby against moving the embassy to Jerusalem."
So that was certainly notable. Not the fact that Senator Cruz was opening up his profile, but the fact that he was opening up not against another candidate, but another candidate convention manager really speaks, Wolf, to this moment, this phase that we're in in this campaign, where all the campaigns are really positioning themselves, preparing for the potential of a contested convention -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a critical moment indeed. All right, Sunlen, thank you. Sunlen Serfaty reporting from Erie, Pennsylvania.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
As you probably know last night in our CNN town hall, Donald Trump dramatically escalated his fight with the Republican National Committee, basically accusing the RNC of conspiring against him in these primaries. Do you think that's happening? Is that possible? REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: No, of course not. I mean,
honestly, Trump is, like, the whiniest so-called tough guy I've seen in a long time.
I mean, you know, look, you know how to win a presidential race. You have to go out there, and you have to win the vote of people in states to win delegates and you have a delegate fight. We haven't seen anything like this, because usually by now, there's a well-known front-runner.
But this is how it's played. Nothing is new. Nothing is a surprise. But ever since Donald Trump decided to run for president, he's been throwing threats out. He's been saying he's not treated fairly. It's just constant -- I mean, I can't imagine if he's commander in chief or president, you know, having to deal with the stresses of the office every day and not being able to go and just complain about it. It's unbelievable.
BLITZER: As you know, the party, the Republican Party chairman, Reince Priebus, he tweeted last night. Let me read it to you: "Nomination process known for a year and beyond. It's the responsibility of all the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break."
But Trump says the system is broken. Even if you don't agree with his assertion that it's rigged, is the system broken right now? Is it fair that the candidate with clearly the most votes -- and he's got two million more votes than Cruz right now -- potentially could be denied the nomination?
KINZINGER: Well, you could ask the same thing of the Electoral College in general, you know, where you can have somebody that loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College.
I'm happy as a Republican to get together with fellow Republicans and have a discussion about how we ought to change it in the future, but it's unfair to Ted Cruz and other candidates that understand what the rules are, have played by the rules, to now say we're going to have those rules pulled out from under us.
[17:10:07] Many of these have been the case for, frankly, since the beginning of the Republican Party. The understanding that you have to have delegates, the understanding that you have to earn the support of those delegates, and that's how you go on to win the nomination.
Nothing is a surprise, nothing is new. And I think Donald needs to take a little more -- a little less effort complaining about the fact that he lost Wisconsin and a little more effort into winning delegates and winning the nomination. He's in the lead, for goodness sakes. He needs to go out and do what needs to be done to win the nomination.
BLITZER: I guess the question, though, is federal elections, national elections, presidential elections, they're governed by the U.S. Constitution. This is the Republican Party. They could come up with whatever rules they want. Shouldn't the rules be more democratic than some party insiders, party leaders, the establishment, coming together and simply dictating who the delegates should go to? That's the allegation you hear from Trump.
KINZINGER: Yes. Well, I don't think that's what's happening. Lot of these delegates are selected state by state. In Illinois, for instance, we uniquely direct-elect our delegates. You actually elect a name and who they're committed to.
Each state does it differently, and then these delegates go to a convention. These are how the parties have done it. It's how the process has been -- has been laid out. You want to change it in the future, that's great. Let's have a discussion as a party, as people, as Americans figure out how to do that.
But these are the rules. And to say, you know, "I'm going to complain, because I didn't know how to play the game, and now I'm behind." I mean, this is what Donald Trump says he brings to the office, the ability to play games like this and win.
So get out there, do what you have to do to win the nomination. And just -- I mean, this is trying to get headlines and whining the. You know, it's frankly -- it's not really, I think, indicative of who we should be electing as president of the United States.
BLITZER: You make the point that in the past, normally, when someone is ahead overwhelmingly with the most delegates at this point, clearly the most votes at this point, the party consolidates and rallies behind the front-runner. That normally is the case. I've covered a lot of these elections.
Why isn't that happening now? Why isn't the party rallying around the clear front-runner, Donald Trump?
KINZINGER: Well, there's a couple of reasons. No. 1, because he just attacks everybody and says it's not fair and complains.
The other issue is he makes outlandish statements. I mean, when you say that you don't really see the purpose of NATO, but then you try to walk it back and say, "Well, I just think other NATO members need to pay more"; and your reactions are things that are pretty outrageous. It's hard for people to consolidate behind him.
Plus, the other issue is this is still an open fight. I mean, by now in past elections you've got an idea of who was going to be in the clear -- you know, who would have a majority of the delegates going into the convention.
We don't know that now, so it's a very open process. People still have to have their voices heard. And we have some states in front of us still. It's a process that's playing out. It hasn't been pretty, but it's how it's done.
BLITZER: Is it fair that the convention rules can be completely rewritten by the rules committee the week before the convention starts in July in Cleveland?
KINZINGER: Is it fair? I don't know. It's just how it's done. I mean, people -- you each state elects two members of the rules committee. The rules committee comes together.
And again, this is where, if Donald Trump wants to get the nomination, he has to play at this level. He has to have the grassroots effort put together to ensure he gets his people on the rules committee, to ensure he gets his delegates, you know, that are unbound after the -- after the first round.
If he can't play this game, if he can't play this nominating process, I have a hard time seeing how he can put together a grassroots network to defeat Hillary Clinton. I think he was relying on this media strategy, getting on TV all the time, saying things that were going to get him headlines; and that worked to a point.
But now you've got to get in depth and play hard ball. And I hope he starts doing that for the sake of the party instead of just attacking people unfairly.
BLITZER: Well, he hasn't done too badly yet. He's way ahead in the popular vote and way ahead in the delegate count. He's clearly the front-runner. Yet he's complaining about some of the states.
You're a good Republican. Take a step back. What does it tell you about your party that the Republican presidential front-runner at this late stage -- it's April already -- in the presidential contest, is fighting with the head of the Republican Party over Twitter, in television interviews, et cetera?
KINZINGER: I don't know what it tells me. It's definitely a new environment, and Donald Trump is very good at playing to that. He's good at the new media. He's good at using Twitter and saying things in the media that are going to generate follow-up headlines.
Look, our party is coming together and figuring out what it is we stand for. You know, do we stand for a strong America that has a mission in the world to be an example of self-governance that's compassionate? Or are we just going to say a lot of things out there and not really know what our front-runner stands for?
So look, as a Republican it's somewhat concerning, but I do respect the voters in this process. And you know, there's a lot that still have to have their voices heard and are probably pretty excited to go do that.
BLITZER: Stand boy, congressman. We have more to discuss. We're also getting in some stunning new images here into THE SITUATION ROOM of Russian jets buzzing a U.S. Navy ship. We're going to play those images for our viewers.
[17:15:08] Congressman Kinzinger, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force -- he's a pilot -- he will assess.
BLITZER: Once again we're standing by to speak live with Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus, his first interview since the latest escalated tensions between himself, the Republican Party, and Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner. Stand by for that interview, his first since all of this occurred.
But right now we're back with Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He's a U.S. Air Force pilot. He flew missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
[17:20:06] Congressman, we're just getting in these really very disturbing, incredible images, the video of Russian warplanes buzzing a U.S. -- a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Cook, in international waters in the Baltic Sea. You served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. How dangerous is this kind of situation where these fighter jets actually come within 75 feet of the Cook?
KINZINGER: Yes, it's very dangerous. Two points on that.
No. 1, 75 feet is actually really close. And this isn't typical operating procedures. If you want a show of force, it's usually not at 75 feet.
And the other issue is they were basically simulating a strafing run on our Navy ship.
Now, I give a lot of congratulations, I guess, a lot of shout-outs to the commander for exercising discipline in this situation. But had this been, for whatever reason, a real strafing run, we would not have known that until after the first pass, so this is very serious escalation.
It's also worthy to note, I believe, there was a Polish helicopter on board. You know, in 2006 I was in Kyrgyzstan with the military, and the Russians would do this occasionally. They'd overfly our military base just as a show of force, but they would not fly over at 75 feet. And we knew they were just showing off, versus this, which is an extremely dangerous escalation.
BLITZER: Take a look at this still photo. This is the fighter jet within 75 feet of the USS Cook. Take a look at how close it is, how frightening that must have been for the members of the crew. They had to make a really critical situation within a few seconds what to do about that.
And then, as you point out, Poland, a NATO ally, they had a helicopter not very far away. So how much will this incident escalate current tensions between Russia and the U.S., the NATO alliance, if you will?
KINZINGER: Well, it risks a very dangerous and very deadly escalation. I mean, you know, look, America is stepping up its commitment to NATO, stepping up its posturing against the Russians, because the Russians have shown themselves to be untrustworthy in Europe as they continue to infiltrate their neighbors and occupy some of their neighbors between Ukraine and Georgia.
These are the kind of things that could lead to an accidental shooting war, which could broadly escalate.
Look, our Navy sailors have to defend themselves. And if at any point they feel that this poses a real threat, you may have a situation where we shoot a Russian plane out of the sky; and -- and you have an escalation.
This is very danger game Vladimir Putin is playing. He's trying to flex what relatively little muscle he really does have, and I think he's playing with fire.
BLITZER: Congressman Kinzinger, thanks very much for joining us.
KINZINGER: You bet, Wolf, see you.
BLITZER: We're going to have more on this developing story. That's coming up.
Also, much more coming up on the race for the White House. Lots going on. New information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. We'll be right back.
[17:27:17] BLITZER: Our top story right now: Donald Trump at war with the GOP. The Republican presidential front-runner says the rules are rigged against him. I'll speak with the party chairman, Reince Priebus. That's coming up.
But right now joining us, our CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro. Rebecca Berg, she's the national political reporter at Real Clear Politics. Our senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein. He's a senior editor at "The Atlantic." And CNN political director David Chalian.
Ron Brownstein, Donald Trump clearly blasting the RNC right now, saying in an interview with "The Hill" newspaper that the process, in his words, is a disgrace for the party and that the RNC chairman, Reince Priebus, quote, "should be ashamed of himself." But he's still the front-runner.
How unusual is it for a Republican presidential front-runner at this point to be saying that the system is rigged?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is as unusual as many other things about the Donald Trump campaign, which to say -- which is to say unprecedented.
Look, I mean, I think there's a lot of questions you can raise about whether many of the non-primary systems that are being used are conducted to a standard of excellence that is required in an election where every delegate and every state counts. I think there are going to be questions like that after this primary is over.
But the idea that this is specifically rigged against Donald Trump is kind of ludicrous on its face and is a very high-risk, I think, gamble for him to be making this argument.
Because on the one hand, certainly it does reinforce the "us against them" narrative that has energized a lot of his supporters. On the other hand, if he falls just short of the first ballot majority, which many think is a likely outcome from these primaries, he is going to need exactly the kind of people he's attacking to come to his side to get him over the top. And saying that the party is kind conspiring against him isn't exactly, I think, the normal you would try to make friends and influence people.
BLITZER: David, Reince Priebus is clearly firing back. He responded to Trump last night, saying, in his words, "Give us all a break." How stunning it to you that the chairman of the Republican National Committee right now is in such a fight with the presidential front- runner?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: As Ron said, it is kind of unprecedented. But listen, Reince Priebus is in a tough spot, right, because he has really tried to be committed this entire time to a pretty transparent and open process, making sure everyone sort of understands the rules of the road. And so he clearly wants to push back on that.
And yet, Donald Trump is clearly trying to work the refs and pump up his supporters. And I'm not sure that it is the best thing for Reince Priebus every day to be in a back and forth, to and fro, with his own party's front-runner for the nomination.
So I understand Priebus' impulse to want to make sure everyone knows that the rules of the road are clear, but I don't think any RNC chairman, this one included, really desires to be in a daily to and fro with their own candidate for the nomination.
[17:30:11] BLITZER: I think you're right.
Ana, the latest polls in New York show Trump with a massive lead right now, well into the double digits. What happens if Trump does win massively in New York, let's say gets all or most of the 95 delegates in New York state, will that change his argument?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, I think you will see Donald Trump be Donald Trump. I think you will see him tell us all how beautiful it is to win, how beautiful New York is. I think you will see him be critical of the RNC still, because it's almost like he can't help himself.
If we've learned anything about Donald Trump in the last ten months, it's that, you know, much like the stages of the moon, the ocean tides, this man is cyclical. Every so often he's got to get into a fight with Megyn Kelly. He's got to get into a fight with his opponents. He's got to cause controversy and get into a fight. This time the fight is with the RNC.
I completely agree with David. I don't think Reince Priebus wants to do this, but it's not an impulse. You know, I think Reince Priebus has no choice. He has got to defend the integrity of the process. What else is he going to do at this point?
If Donald Trump wins, if he wins big, you're going to hear him celebrate. I think it is incumbent upon Ted Cruz to accept the entreaties from John Kasich and think about a strategic coordinated approach to New York. Ted Cruz cannot win. The important thing is keeping Donald Trump from the 95 delegates. It's time those two start working together.
BLITZER: Once again, my live interview with Reince Priebus, that's going to be coming up in a little bit here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Rebecca, we got to see a rather different side of Donald Trump at that CNN town hall last night when he was there with his family. All this comes as CNN is now reporting that Trump and the FOX News anchor, Megyn Kelly, they met quietly behind closed doors at Trump Tower in New York today. What's your read on these latest moves? Because there's some suggestion Trump may be trying to make some amends, maybe soften his image.
REBECCA BERG, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, sure. And we've see Donald Trump try to do this at different stages in the campaign, right? He has tried to soften his tone at various junctures. And then will go to his rallies and be just as aggressive as he always been, just as bombastic. And so it is like Ana said, he really is cyclical. And maybe you could even call it inconsistent.
So he can try to soften his image but then reverts to his very natural showmanship that we have seen throughout this campaign. And so my question would be can this last? I s Donald Trump focused enough on softening his image in the long term; or is this just a phase for him, and we'll see.
BLITZER: We certainly will. David, several Republicans, they say they're now planning on skipping the Republican convention in July in Cleveland. What does that say to you about the state of the Republican Party right now?
CHALIAN: I think the Republican Party is pretty stressed out at the moment, and you can see that when our Manu Raju and Deirdre Walsh talked to these folks on the Hill about whether they're going to show up on the convention. They even bumped into Jeb Bush and asked them, Wolf, and he said he didn't expect to be there either.
Listen, this is a party that is trying to figure out a path from here to November, with knowing that it is at this very tense moment where it could be breaking out into open chaos on the convention floor, where the nominee may be somebody that clearly is going to bring down the rest of the ticket in certain places.
So if you are up for election for a Senate seat in a pretty contested battleground state and it's a risky election for you to begin, with I don't think tying yourself to any of the chaos in Cleveland is probably a good idea, which is why some of these folks are going to stay away.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, everyone stand by.
I also want to remind all of our viewers to stand by to watch tonight's special CNN town hall with Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his family. Please join Anderson Cooper in New York tonight, 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Once again, we're standing by to speak live with Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. We're also getting new information on the Democratic race for the White House. Much more coming up right after this.
[17:39:05] BLITZER: Bernie Sanders is in New York tonight. He's trying to make up some ground on Hillary Clinton with a familiar tactic: a massive star-studded rally right in the heart of Manhattan.
Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us now live from the Sanders event. That's at Washington Square here in New York. It's not far from NYU.
Jeff, it looks like that crowd is getting bigger and bigger. What's the latest?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. The crowd is growing, much like Senator Sanders has been seeing all week across New York. He has literally addressed more than 25,000 people by our count just in the last four or five days or so. That could double tonight here in Washington Square Park.
You can see the crowds behind me that are gathering. There's going to be a concert tonight, and then Bernie Sanders is going to say why he's the best choice for New York.
ZELENY (voice-over): From the union hall...
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is too late for the same old, same old establishment politics.
ZELENY: ... to the picket line. Tonight, Bernie Sanders is fighting for New York, saying it's not too late to slow Hillary Clinton's march to the Democratic nomination.
[17:40:10] SANDERS: We're on a roll, and your support today is enormously important to taking us a step further.
ZELENY: On the eve of their first debate in five weeks, Clinton is striking back, hoping to fortify her lead by maintaining a strong edge over Sanders with black and Latino voters. The best way to fire up Democrats, Donald Trump.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I have said frequently about Donald Trump, basta. Enough with the prejudice and bluster and the bigotry and all of the appeals to fear and anxiety and anger.
ZELENY: And today Clinton proposed creating an Office of Immigrant Affairs to help newcomers navigate bureaucratic red tape.
CLINTON: Despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America's long struggle with racism is far from finished. And we are seeing that in this election. ZELENY: She is working to keep a diverse coalition of voters on her
side in next week's New York primary.
CLINTON: I'm running this campaign to knock down all the barriers that stand in the way of people getting ahead.
ZELENY: For Clinton to get ahead and move beyond the lingering Democratic contest, she's hoping for a big win in New York, to expand her delegate lead over Sanders.
"The Daily News" put its thumb on the scale for Clinton in an editorial today, calling her "a super prepared warrior realist," diminishing Sanders as "a fantasist who's at passionate war with reality."
But Sanders picked up the endorsement of his first fellow U.S. senator, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who spoke to CNN's Manu Raju.
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: He has been in the battlefield fighting clearly on these issues in a way that I think is the boldest, most powerful voice.
ZELENY: Sanders also won support from the New York Transit Workers Union.
SANDERS: I am grateful to have the support of this fantastic union. Thank you so much.
ZELENY: He's winning over thousands of New Yorkers, one big rally at a time, and urging Democrats to follow their convictions.
Sanders is also turning to Democratic Party history, visiting the home of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in the Hudson Valley. He said Americans need a new leader to stand up to the special interests.
SANDERS: People that he called the economic royalists. The people I would call the billionaire class today.
ZELENY: Now, the Sanders campaign is also hoping for some help from the Occupy Wall Street movement. They are working hand in hand with the campaign, trying to get voters out across the city and the state.
And Wolf, just a few moments ago, Hillary Clinton also met with those striking Verizon workers here in midtown Manhattan. She'll be holding a rally of her own tonight in the Bronx -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Lots of rallies going on in New York.
Let's get back our experts for some analysis. Ron Brownstein, as you see Bernie Sanders holding another major rally in New York; there's going to be a huge crowd there tonight and obviously very impressive.
Hillary Clinton still, though, way ahead of Bernie Sanders when it comes to actual votes. We did some checking. Right now the raw vote, Clinton, she has more than 9,300,000. Bernie Sanders 6,900,000. She's at 56 percent; he's at 42 percent.
Here's the question. Why can't he turn these huge crowds he's getting, often a lot bigger than Hillary Clinton's crowds, into actual votes?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think he has in many cases. But what he hasn't done is been able to win the big states. And that is her -- the source of her vote advantage.
The passion for Sanders, I think you see most clearly reflected in his dominance of caucuses, which require a lot of organization and require people to really put in a lot of time.
Look, Bernie Sanders has advanced further from where he started than probably even his campaign expected. He started on the beachhead of basically a candidate of young voters and kind of Volvo white-collar liberals. He's expanded, Wolf, way beyond that. He's now won white voters in nine of 11 states outside of the south in the exit polls, every state except Iowa and Ohio.
In national polling, he is essentially even with Hillary Clinton, which is something that is virtually unprecedented for the candidate trailing in the polls -- trailing in the delegate count this late in the -- in the race.
But what he hasn't done is two things. He has not crossed the threshold with self-identified Democratic voters. They still prefer Clinton by big margins, both nationally and the exit polls. And he has not cracked the African-American community at anything better than a 2-1 advantage for Clinton.
His problem is the coming states for the rest of April are exactly at the intersection of those two trends. They tend to be closed primaries with big African-American populations in places like New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. So he's got a tough few weeks ahead of him before he gets back into better sailing in May.
BLITZER: Yes. Once it heads out west.
As you know, David, Bernie Sanders, he struggled to answer some questions in that editorial board interview with the "New York Daily News" about his plan for banks and more. How important will it be for him to be much more specific tomorrow night
[17:45:01] in that presidential debate in Brooklyn with Hillary Clinton.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think the Sanders folks are clearly aware that the Clinton campaign has used that "New York Daily News" editorial as sort of a weapon at the end of this campaign in New York here and I have no doubt that they're coming prepared to answer questions or put some meat on the bones. We're starting to see them roll out some more in-depth policies around Wall Street and the banks, some of the things that he left a little vague in that "Daily News" interview. But I expect that Senator Sanders feels prepared to offer specifics,
but not -- he's not going to do it instead of. He'll do it in addition to. He still is one of the most on message candidates with his broad appeal, economic populistic appeal, that has been working for him and I don't think he's going to get off of that to get down in the weeds time and again.
BLITZER: All right, everyone, stand by. Just to remind all of our viewers, tomorrow Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, they will face off for the final time before the critical New York primary. I'll be moderating CNN's Democratic presidential debate live from Brooklyn tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
Coming up, Donald Trump says the head of the Republican Party should be ashamed of the GOP's delegate selection process. The chairman, Reince Priebus, he will respond to Donald Trump during a live interview with me. That's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Plus American officials fear North Korea's Kim Jong-Un may be preparing to launch a missile with far more power than his regime has ever tested before.
[17:51:02] BLITZER: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has dramatically expanded his nuclear and missile capabilities during his four years at the head of the regime. And American officials now fear Kim Jong-Un could be planning an unprecedented show of force.
Brian Todd is tracking the latest developments for us. Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, Wolf, new concerns about Kim Jong-Un's nuclear weapons and his missile capability. Just moments ago the top American military commander in charge of shooting down any North Korean weapons that are fired toward the American homeland said the probability of Kim being able to hit the U.S. with a long-range missile will likely grow.
It's got America's top spies and commanders watching closely tonight to see what the violent young dictator will do next.
TODD (voice-over), CNN has learned America's intelligence and military leaders are watching Kim Jong-Un with growing unease. Fearing the young North Korean leader with questionable stability and a penchant for violence may have now perfected building a nuclear weapon and may be preparing to test it.
CNN has learned Kim's regime could be preparing to launch a mobile ballistic missile. Something it has never done. One long-range missile which the Koreans could fire could hit American territory on Guam or the Aleutian Islands. But there's another more frightening possibility. RICH FISHER, INTERNATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND STRATEGY CENTER: A scary
scenario is that North Korea may launch its KM-14 ICBM. We've just learned they've tested the ICBM engine. It may have new fuels that give it far greater energy and range. And with that range, the KM-14 can possibly reach Washington, D.C.
TODD: The North Koreans would first have to flight test that missile which they likely haven't done yet. But the concern tonight is that the regime is accelerating its nuclear weapons and missile capability under a leader who's becoming more war-like each week. A U.S. intelligence official telling CNN Kim is challenging his international rivals with provocative and threatening behavior.
Could he be ratcheting up his weapons program because he's under threat from inside?
PATRICK CROSS, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Kim Jong-Un has to be under enormous internal pressure from political and military elites. He has to demonstrate that he is a credible strong, unifying leader. He's trying to do this by having unprecedented weapons. He's killing people. He's eliminating opponents and that incurs a price.
TODD: A top senator on the Intelligence Committee asked by Wolf is Kim is rational said unequivocally, no.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The kinds of things that he's doing, you'd wonder whether they have a death wish.
TODD: Most analysts won't go as far as saying Kim is crazy, but they worry that in his zeal to fight off his enemies and project his power, he'll miscalculate.
CROSS: He is potentially reckless. He is divorced from reality. Both of those attributes could contribute to war. So we don't have to make a judgment psychologically as to whether he's crazy or sane. He's dangerous.
TODD: And tonight there is real concern among U.S. officials and analysts that another provocative move by Kim is imminent. Less than 48 hours away, the birthday of Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, the founder of North Korea, who the young Kim is said to be obsessed with emulating. Analysts believe many of Kim's bold moves recently were designed to show North Koreans that he is of equal or greater stature than his grandfather -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting. Brian, why is he so obsessed with his grandfather and not his father?
TODD: That's a very good question, Wolf. I've asked this about analysts in recent weeks. Experts tell us -- experts tell us, excuse me, his father Kim Jong-Il, the man in the middle here, well, he's associated with failure. The North Korean famine, the loss of Russia's huge support of North Korea, the collapse of the nuclear deal with the U.S. They all happened under his father Kim Jong-Il. A failure in so many eyes in North Korea.
But the grandfather, Wolf, he is known for establishing North Korea, for attacking his enemies in South Korea and for a time when North Koreans were actually better off economically than South Koreans decades ago, a time when North Koreans were not starving.
[17:55:14] BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Brian, thank you very much.
Coming up, Donald Trump, he's at war right now with the GOP saying the Republican National Committee is rigging the rules to deny him the presidential nomination. Trump says the party chairman Reince Priebus should be ashamed.
Just ahead, Reince Priebus will join us live. He will respond.
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Ashamed. Donald Trump calls out the chairman of the Republican Party saying Reince Priebus should be ashamed of the party's delegate system which Trump claims is stacked against him. Trump now in an all-out war with the GOP.