tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN March 3, 2016 2:00pm-4:01pm PST
but he has a point, there was vote stealing going on all over. >> evan thomas, thank you so much. you can see the series tonight on sunday night. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper, turning you over to wolf blitzer in "the situation room." thanks to watching. happening now, breaking news. revenge and remorse. the 2012 republican nominee unleashes a stunning attack on the 2016 front-runner, who answers with his usual punch in the gut. will they rip the republican party apart? third grade theatrics. mitt romney slams donald trump as a phony, a fraud and calls him a greedy, dishonest bully. trump paints romney as a failure and a loser and sums him up as irrelevant. where is all this headed? splitting the vote. new information that the gop establishment is plotting to deprive trump of the needed convention delegates by a divided strategy in the
remaining primary contest. if they somehow make it work could trump launch a third-party campaign? and un-nerved as north korea is hit with punishing sanctions, kim jong-un fires back. could the next barrage be for real? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." the breaking news, it's open warfare in the republican party right now. in a stunning atartacattack, 20 nominee mitt romney calls donald trump a phony and a fraud and basically calls on republicans to dump trump at the polls. romney says trump is playing the american public, quote, for suckers. would lose a general election matchup with hillary clinton and would bring a disaster to the party and to the country. firing right back, trump says
romney begged him for his endorsement back in 2012 and, quote, would have dropped to his knees for him. trump says romney failed badly back then, chickened out of running this time around and is now irrelevant. do gop leaders have a plan or even a hail mary pass to deprive trump of the delegates he needs to win the republican presidential convention and force a brokered convention? we're getting new information. our correspondents, analysts and guests will have full coverage of the day's top stories. we begin with mitt romney's extraordinary attack on donald trump and trump's bare-knuckled counter attack. let's go to jim acosta. jim, they certainly did not hold back. >> no, they did not, wolf. in what could be the beginning of the fracturing of the republican party, former gop presidential candidate mitt romney savaged donald trump here in utah, engaging in an all-out war with the real estate tycoon. a source close to romney tells me he would not be able to look at his grandchildren's faces had
he not delivered this speech. the stop trump movement just found its most powerful voice yet, in mitt romney. >> donald trump is a phony, a fraud. his promises are as worthless as a degree from trump university. he's playing the members of the american public to suckers. he gets a free ride to the white house and all we get is a lousy hat. >> in a scathing, jaw dropping takedown of donald trump, romney warned that the american economy will tank and the nation will be less safe if the gop front-runner is elected president. >> i'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not smart. now, i'm far from the first to conclude that donald trump lacks the temperament to be president. after all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter. who attributed a reporter's questions to her menstrual cycle. who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance. who bragged about his marital
affairs and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity. >> and while romney mocked trump's business background -- >> he inherited his business, he didn't create it. and whatever happened to trump airlines? how about trump university? and then there's trump magazine and trump vodka and trump steaks and trump mortgage. a business genius he is not. >> he even went where the current gop field had not gone before. >> there's a dark irony in his boasts of his sexual exploits during the vietnam war. while at the same time john mccain, whom he has mocked, was imprisoned and tortured. >> john mccain blasted out a statement shortly after romney's speech saying i share the concerns about donald trump. add the last two gop nominees to the mounting outcry over his candidacy and trump now faces the implosion of his party, just
as he's seeking to become its own leader. >> mitt did a big, big joke. mitt is a failed candidate. he failed. he failed horribly. >> trump, who argues he's expanding the party brushed off romney's attacks as sour grapes coming from a presidential loser. >> he let us down. he let us down. mitt ran, probably it was the worst run most people have seen. he doesn't have what it takes to be president, that i can tell you. >> the real estate tycoon defended his business record. >> they don't want to talk about 92-story buildings all over the place. >> and he joked romney once courted his endorsement. >> i could have said, mitt, drop to your knees and he would have dropped to his knees. he was begging. he was begging me. >> that lovefest was four years ago. >> mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp. >> he understands that our economy is facing threats from abroad. >> times have clearly changed
for romney who looks a bit like a candidate himself, shaking hands with supporters after his speech in utah. and meeting in private with his former running mate, house speaker paul ryan in salt lake city just last weekend. asked about trump's warning earlier this week to ryan to support him or pay a price, the speaker says he lol'ed. >> i actually watched it live. i was sitting in my office watching it live and i just laughed out loud. >> our country is going to hell. >> but trump has his own loyal surrogates who see romney's savage attack on trump as just a difference of opinion. >> that's the way it goes in a primary, republicans differ with each other. but i have great respect for governor romney. i'm sure that there's others in the race that wish that he would make an endorsement and get out there and actually try to help someone. >> after his speech, mitt romney tweeted he would have never accepted trump's endorsement back in 20 12 had he known what the gop front-runner would be saying now about the kkk,
muslims and mexicans. a source close to romney tells me there are signs romney is keeping his options open, wolf. >> let's follow up on that. jim acosta, thanks very much. so what is mitt romney's strategy right now? let's bring in our special correspondent, jamie gangel, who is plugged into all this. what are you hearing about his strategy, maybe the next step, taking this one step further? >> i think what jim acosta just said is exactly correct. there is a long-term strategy. a source close to the romneys has told me that they are looking to stop trump with a brokered convention. the goal is to lock him out at the convention. now, they have to get to the convention, but that's the long-term strategy. and implicit in that, wolf, is that mitt romney could offer himself up as a white knight to save the party. there is another name that we
keep hearing and that name is paul ryan, his running mate, who he just had dinner with last weekend. what's interesting is nobody is talking about bringing back rubio or cruz or kasich. this would be get to the convention, lock the convention, and come in with a white knight. >> in other words, by any means possible prevent trump from getting the magic number, enough pledged delegates to guarantee he will be the republican nominee. but how do you do that? >> that all presumes exactly that, that's correct. and they may not be able to do that. but there is a strategy they're laying out and it's the following. number one, keep everyone in the race. and you heard romney say this in his speech today. he said if you're in florida, vote for rubio. if you're in ohio, vote for kasich. the point is keep as many of these guys in and try to keep him from hitting that magic
number. the other thing is today was the opening volley. expect the gop leadership establishment to hit harder and harder on trump and expect them to go after two things, his taxes. they're going to keep asking for him to release his taxes. there is a thought that he is not as rich or as liquid as he says he is, and they think they can undermine him by doing that. >> the magic number at the convention is 1237 pledged delegates you need. if they manage to prevent trump from getting that and they have this white knight in the background getting ready to run, whether it's mitt romney, paul ryan or somebody else, you know donald trump, i know donald trump. he'll bolt. he'll be angry. he might run as a third-party candidate. >> right. and what they said to me when i asked about that, we're willing to take that chance. it's better than having him as
the republican nominee. >> jamie gangel working her sources for us. this afternoon donald trump says he's facing a lot of incoming fire right now. there will be even more tonight at the republican presidential debate in detroit. dana bash is on the scene for us. dana, not everyone in the republican party clearly on board with mitt romney and the stop trump movement. something that's risky, especially if he wins the nomination. what are you hearing over there? >> reporter: that's exactly right. certainly i'm hearing a lot of what jamie is reporting about members of the republican establishment apoplectic about donald trump being their nominee which is why they're willing to take this to the convention, but others in prominent positions, especially on capitol hill, are saying are you kidding me? this is just proof that the republican establishment doesn't get what's going on in the country. one example is the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, bob corker. he released a statement today and in part he said the
following. here's my message to the republican leaders. focus more on listening to the american people and less on trying to stifle their voice. he went on to say, to be candid, i think the american people should be angrier than they are and we should note he is from tennessee. tennessee is a state just two days ago on super tuesday that within the republican party went heavily for donald trump. and he's not alone. bill bennett, who is definitely a member of the republican establishment, he was education secretary, he is paul ryan's mentor. he also said today that he thinks that this is a terrible idea to grab the nomination from donald trump if that's what republican voters want. he said that the party has been trying to get working class people, why alienate them now? he said i don't get it. and this is sort of another important strain of the republicans not just out in the states, not just their rank and file, not just the grassroots, but people trying to understand
and echo the grassroots even in washington, wolf. >> we saw romney try to take down trump this morning, dana, but tonight his three remaining presidential rivals will get another chance to try to take him down at a debate. what are you expecting we will all see and hear in detroit? >> reporter: it is going to likely be a very bloody night, wolf. the debate that you maude yatodi accompanied you with last week woe thought was pretty raucous and it was, but the expectation is tonight will be potentially more so or even as much of a food fight as we saw, because there are only four people on the stage and the three that are not donald trump understand that the way to get to the nomination is to go through donald trump. the one person who will probably -- in fact i am told by his aides, john kasich, will take the high road because that's the way that he thinks
that he is resonating with people. he's not the nasty guy. he is going to continue to say look at these guys, they're acting like children. i look like a president, i'm going to act like a president, so expect that. i'm told even though john kasich tweeted out today support for mitt romney's message, he's not likely to talk about that unless asked by the moderators, wolf. >> we'll see if he changes his strategy. thanks very much, dana bash on the scene for us in detroit. with us here in the situation room is scottie nell hughes, a tea party leader and works for the usa radio network. scottie, thanks for coming in. let me read to you a line from mitt romney's speech today attacking donald trump, the man you want to be president. donald trump says he admires vladimir putin while he has called george w. bush a liar. that is a twisted example of evil trumps good. your reaction? >> this entire speech was a page out of the donald trump playbook. i think what romney was trying to do, he was trying to make sure that his name was the headline on the day of the
debate, two days before we have another big election day and make sure that we were talking about romney. romney built his speech on emotion and we've learned that you still have to have facts. from the very beginning when romney was up there speaking, he referenced ronald reagan's 1964 speech, a time for choosing. guess what, that speech was about barry goldwater, not about continue to keep the establishment of president johnson in office. and it just completely digressed from there. i feel like i need to send him a fruit basket and say thank you, because the response is it was obvious this was a vial attack against mr. trump. the reason so many people are involved in the election today is because of leadership and the lack thereof and the failing leadership of the republican establishment party. >> and romney started by saying he naz no desire to run. >> i think he wants the establishment still to be in control. this was kind of like a hail mary pass. but let's also remember, this might have to do somewhat with his pocketbook. governor romney, if you remember
he worked for bane capital which became known as the king of o outsourcing. mr. trump wants to bring them back home. governor romney has a nice retirement package from bane capital and others. could it also be a little personal motivation? everything was very ung hinged, very unromney-like. >> he said trump is a phony and a fraud, doesn't have the temperament to be the commander in chief, president of the united states. his foreign policies would make america and the world less safe. and he says trump never gives specifics, he just says we're going to make america great. that was the basic theme of his criticism. >> basic theme, but let's talk about it. why are we taking any sort of compliments or criticism from a man who literally for two election cycles lost and represents the five million that stayed only in 2012 are those five million that are making senator ted cruz and donald trump right now. it's that silent majority that's awoken. right now i can honestly say as
people watch governor romney, they saw it for what it was. it was the last hail mary pass by a guy who's lost the super bowl twice. >> did you vote for him in 2012? >> absolutely. was i thrilled with it? not so much. but let's also remember this. if you would have had governor romney attack president obama even half as hard as he's going after donald trump, we might not have had a second term of president obama. >> we're getting more information, much more right after this. (gasp) shark diving! xerox personalized employee portals help companies make benefits simple and accessible... from anywhere. hula dancing? cliff jumping! human resources can work better. with xerox. which allergy? eees. bees? eese.
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we're following breaking news. our special correspondent, jamie gangel, reported that mitt romney's inner circle sources tell her is exploring ways to block donald trump over at the republican national convention later in july in cleveland. we're back with donald trump supporter scottie nell hughes. you heard that report from jamie. do you think that's realistic, that it's possible that they could prevent him from reaching that magic number? he won't have enough pledged delegates and then all of a sudden a white knight, whether mitt romney or paul ryan or somebody else could emerge as the republican nominee? >> well, they still have to get voted in. you have to realize we have high record turnout which means the population is voting for mr. trump. my husband was just elected delegate in tennessee. there was record people showing up to vote for mr. trump. if they try to do that, they have lost. either way right now, this side of the republican party has lost. the question is how bad do they
want to lose? if they sit there and pull these antics and going against the people they say they represent. i can tell you, people are not going to let it happen. >> if that happens, would he run as a third-party candidate? >> i don't know if he would run as a third-party candidate because actually there at the rny you are going to have delegates that were elected for mr. trump and so you'll of an absolute upheaval. what i find is going to be interesting is the recruitment of these delegates to change their mind behind the scene. when these delegates were being recruited, they were heavily vetted. i think they were very much asked do you really support mr. trump? why do you support mr. trump? they made sure these delegates were solid trump supporters and i think that's a good thing right now. that meant they knew this could be an option for the establishment. >> looks like it could be chaotic. more than 50 republican national security figures, many of them leaders, served in government. they have now written an open letter denouncing a trump presidency. among other things they say
this. his vision of american influence of power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle. he swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence. the letter says we are unable to support a party ticket with mr. trump at its head. that's a pretty strong letter. >> now, a lot of them i respect names on there. are you more willing then to support a hillary clinton as president? >> some of them are ready to vote for hillary clinton over donald trump. >> which makes me question how really loyal they are right now. are they actually more important to sit there and risk not having pie on their face and saying they lost because of this letter and go to the other side? what are their actual motivations in this? plus a lot of those guys are your establishment guys. i put a lot more faith in somebody like sheriff joe arpaio. mr. trump said i support our men in blue, i support those people
that have to deal with this and main street, not the bureaucrats sitting up there and making those laws. while i respect those, i actually wanting to help those that are on the streets that are having to deal with the laws that are being made. i value their opinion. >> scottie nell hughes is a trump supporter. let's take a quick break. there is other developments in this race for the white house we're watching. we'll be right back. about this new car. to keep things unbiased, we removed all the logos. feels like a bmw. reminds me a little bit of like an audi. so, this car supports apple carplay. siri, open maps. she gets me. wow. it also has teen driver technology. it even mutes the radio until the seat belts are buckled. i'm very curious what it is. this is the 2016 chevy malibu. and it sells for? it starts at twenty-two five. what? oh wow. i mean with all this technology. that's a game changer.
fraud. with us here in the situation room, s.e. cupp, politics executive editor mark preston and the former virginia attorney general ken cuccinelli, a ted cruz supporter. thanks to all of you for coming in. jamie gangel reporting that among mitt romney's inner circle, there's one school of thought. go to the convention, maybe trump won't have enough pledged delegates to ensure that he's going to be the nominee. have an open convention, let mitt romney or maybe paul ryan, a white knight emerge. is that realistic at all? >> i don't think it's realistic that paul ryan will come in as the white knight. he's the speaker of the house. >> reluctanreluctantly. >> he was the vice presidential nominee four years ago. >> he certainly was. but we've been talking about this the last couple of days. there are definite strategies that republicans are talking about to try to deny donald trump the nomination. in fact during his speech today, he let a little of that information out when he said i'd like to see john kasich win ohio, i would like to see marco
rubio win florida, i would like everybody to start winning. >> ted cruz to win some other states. >> because by doing so he hopes that donald trump can't get over the threshold. >> what do you make of that line because it jumped out and you're a ted cruz supporter. >> i am a ted cruz supporter. mitt romney is not a great vehicle to deliver this kind of a message. >> why not? he was the republican nominee four years ago. >> you know, this is fuel for all of the wrong fires in this campaign right now. ted has got a great track record fighting the establishment, but right now what i thought has been fascinating the last day is lindsey graham's comments. well, you know, very authentic. you know, i can't believe i'm saying this, but yes, i think it may be time to get behind ted cruz. >> who's no great fan of ted cruz. >> no, no, no, but he recognizes where things are and the reality of the nomination contest and the eight bush fund-raisers who got behind ted today.
obviously all these campaigns tell sort of their version of the story. a lot of the other campaigns have been telling the story that nobody can get along with ted. here come the bush people and here comes lindsey graham. that story is shattering. >> s.e., what about this strategy to try to prevent trump from getting enough pledged delegates and have some sort of contested convention. do you believe that's at all realistic? >> i don't think it's realistic and i don't think it's a good idea. i don't think that's the spirit of democracy. look, as much as i have, you know, bemoaned a trump nomination and, worse, a trump presidency, this is the democratic process. and i feel like mitt romney coming in to say let's try to rig an alternate solution isn't really the spirit of democracy. furthermore, i don't think -- i mean i'm not surprised mitt romney goes to strategy first, right? but i don't think that's the way you change hearts and minds. this is an emotional -- >> so if it comes down to trump
versus hillary clinton, you're with trump? >> no. i can't vote for donald trump and tell my son why in 20 years. i can't do that. but i certainly wouldn't vote for hillary clinton. >> so you would look for a third party -- >> for sure. >> or some white knight. >> or i might write you in, wolf. i might do a write-in candidate. >> that would be amazing. >> but to s.e.'s point about if there is a strategy put in place by the smoke-filled room, washington power brokers, as one of them said to me the other day, as much as they would like to see trump denied the nomination, cleveland would burn. cleveland would burn. you would see like probably physical violence at the convention because you would basically be overthrowing the will of millions of voters. >> he does have the most votes by far. right now in all of these maybe 15 contests that the republicans have had, if you take a look at the numbers, he's got a lot more votes than cruz or rubio or kasich or anyone else and these are poll numbers.
these are actual people voting in republican caucuses. shouldn't their vote be heard? >> their vote is being heard and he's ahead in the delegate count. >> and he's also ahead in the popular vote. >> he's still below 50% and needs to win more than half the delegates that remain, more than half to become the nominee on the first ballot. next behind him is ted cruz and much farther back than that is marco rubio. really the -- if marco rubio believes what he's been saying, if mitt romney really believes this, the next thing for him to do is pick up the phone, call marco rubio and say what are you doing? and for the anti-establishment folks who are splitting between trump and cruz, there is competition there. ted cruz is the only candidate that competes for those votes. not beat him over the head and take them, but competes for them on the anti-establishment, i'm fed up with washington mentality that is firing them up. >> so far trump's message is resonating a lot more than ted
cruz or marco rubio for that matter. >> that's why he has more delegates and he's getting a lot more play but he's also getting a lot more attention. >> you think ted cruz is not going to get the nomination, would he step aside for mitt romney? >> i don't see anybody not in the race becoming the nominee. that will never, ever happen. >> you think so, mark? >> in virginia we have a lot of contested conventions. >> i think there's no such thing as conventional wisdom anymore. but i do have a question for you, ken. if for some reason marco rubio starts to win some contests and eclipses ted cruz, do you think that phone call goes the other way where ted cruz says, okay, i'm going to step out for marco rubio? >> that would then, of course, assume he turns a 20-point deficit around in florida as well. >> well, if he doesn't carry his own state, it's over for him. and if kasich doesn't carry ohio. >> if you can't win ohio and you can't win florida, you should get out of here. >> the bottom line, s.e., marco rubio has to carry florida on march 15th and john kasich has
to carry his home state of ohio on march 15th. otherwise it's over for the two of them. >> for john kasich i think even winning ohio, 66 delegates, is not going to be enough for his campaign. but certainly for rubio, the stakes are much higher because i think there's more of a chance for rubio. yes, i would say he has to win florida to go on. >> but from now till then. >> till march 15th. >> there's too many states under the bridge. if marco rubio is serious about stopping donald trump and he talks about that all the time. i went to one of his rallies to listen and talk to the press last sunday. and he hit that and hit it and hit it and hit it. if he really believes it, there's one way that he can meaningfully take a shot at achieving that goal and that's to get out and back ted cruz. that's very uncomfortable -- >> it doesn't look like he's going to do that before florida. there's a bunch of contests this saturday and next tuesday. how are these main guys in the republican party going to do?
>> you know, i think donald trump will have to have a pretty good couple weeks. it becomes surgical now. well, he is. if we're going to go on the polls, then he's going to have a couple of good polls. he has the wind at his back. i'm not saying he's going to win the nomination but i think if you have money to put down, you would probably put it on him. it becomes a surgical strike for each of these candidates. ted cruz is targeting certain states. the same thing with marco rubio. trump -- i mean trump is all over the place. >> let's put it in this perspective. donald trump won 49% in massachusetts. my home state, your home state. we don't nominate in the republican party in massachusetts risky picks. we go establishment. i mean i went back eight contests and it was establishment pick, establishment pick. i mean we just don't go with, you know, the outside the box picks. >> in your home state of virginia he did well there too, didn't he? >> sure. >> virginia is one of those
swing states, massachusetts not so much in a general election. but virginia is critically important. >> it's a pretty different analysis in the primary than a general. donald trump is not going to win massachusetts in the general election. >> no. but even the republicans in massachusetts who never typically vote for the outsider -- >> let me ask you this question, ken. if trump is the nominee, the speech that mitt romney gave today, you've got to believe that will be used in a lot of advertising by the democrats against trump. >> sure it will and it's easy. easy to do. you know, i'm sure they were all running their dvrs today and it's an easy ad to cut. one of the super pacs that's hitting trump today is basically running think about this ad in the fall and running democrat ads against trump. and they're devastating. they're devastating. and if you're thinking about winning in the fall, if that's a priority, donald trump is a very unsafe bet. >> romney gave a very blistering attack on trump, and trump responded. what did you think of trump's
response? >> i mean it was a typical trump response, all over the place, lots of nonsequiters, throwing protesters out, very little substance. he did exactly what mitt romney said he would. offered very little in the way of policy and substance and would go after his character. that's what he did of the and you know what, that probably works. i think mitt romney handed him and his supporters a big gift today. >> do you think that romney helped trump? >> boy, i tell you, he sure didn't achieve the goal he came out to achieve. >> lots more news coming in. we're watching this truly unbelievable race for the white house unfold. other developments when we come back. kellogg's® frosted mini-wheats®... 8 layers of wheat... and one that's sweet. to satisfy the adult and kid - in all of us. ♪ nutritious wheat for the adult you've grown into
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while republican front-runner donald trump faces a revolt within the party establishment, democratic front-runner hillary clinton faces a problem of her own making. the inquiry into her e-mails as secretary of state. bernie sanders is trying to gain ground ahead of sunday's cnn democratic presidential debate. our senior washington correspondent, jeff zeleny is covering the democratic campaign for us. what's the latest out there, jeff? >> wolf, i can tell you bernie sanders is traveling to a collection of states that are trying to make up for lost ground earlier in the week. he held a rally a short time ago here in lincoln, nebraska. that's a place where democratic presidential candidates seldom visit. he did not stop drawing contrasts and distinctions with hillary clinton. did not make any comments about
her e-mail but he's after one thing, this state's 25 delegates on saturday. bernie sanders had a message today for democrats. the primary isn't over yet. >> what a fantastic turnout this afternoon. thank you so much. >> reporter: he had the campaign trail to himself from michigan to nebraska to kansas, hunting for delegates in his uphill fight with hillary clinton. after basking in the glow of elton john and katy perry at one of the clinton's biggest fund-raisers, she spent the day out of public view as questions about her e-mail returned. a former aide was granted immunity and will talk to the fbi about the private server she used as secretary of state. it became instant fodder today for riepublicans. >> assuming she's not arrested for the e-mail situation, which is so terrible. >> reporter: again and again, clinton has defended how she handled classified information. >> it is just not something
that, you know, that is going to have any lasting effect and i'm not at all worried about it. >> reporter: but the justice department inquiry still hangs over her campaign. sanders once again steered clear but wasted no time going after other parts of her record, starting with the keystone pipeline, which would run straight through nebraska. >> there is a candidate out there running for the democratic nomination who was a little bit wobbly about the keystone pipeline. >> reporter: and on trade he called her positions a disaster for michigan. >> she was very, very wrong and millions of families around this country have been suffering as a result of those disastrous trade agreements. >> reporter: he told cnn he has no time for democrats who say he should tone down his rhetoric against clinton. >> in many ways democrats can say what they want. we are in this race to win it. i don't run negative campaign ads but i do think it's appropriate that you distinguish your differences with your opponents. >> reporter: he's fighting to win the nebraska and kansas
caucuses on saturday and maine on sunday. >> on the other hand, maybe nebraska is not quite so conservative. >> reporter: still it's an uphill climb for and saers. in pledged delegates he has 405 to clinton's 606. when you factor in super delegates. clinton has 1,074 to 426. wolf, when we talked to senator sanders this afternoon, he said he has no intention of either lightening up and certainly not leaving this race. the sanders campaign believes by the end of this week they'll have three more states in their win column. the clinton campaign does not disagree. she believes she will only win the louisiana primary on saturday. of course this is a race about delegates and these states are all small numbers of delegates but we are interesting a very busy stretch here. that key debate sunday in flint, michigan, followed by another debate next wednesday, this could be an important stretch in the democrat campaign. coming up, 2012 republican presidential nominee mitt romney
slamming presidential front-runner donald trump as a phony and a fraud. does romney have a secret plan to deprive trump of the nomination? and breaking news. a day after the united nations imposes tough new sanctions, north korea fires off a salvo of missiles and kim jong-un orders nuclear warheads tor reto be rey for use.
>> the breaking news just coming in to "the situation room" only moments ago. kim jong-un's regime issued a chilling new threat. a threat involving nuclear weapons. cnn's brian todd joins us. what was this threat all about. >> it seems with each new day a new provocation from kim jong-un. just moments ago, according to north korea's official news agency, kim ordered his military to be ready to fire nuclear warheads at any time. there's a huge caveat here. weapons experts say the north koreans have not yet flight tested long-range missiles enough to ensure that they won't break up upon re-entering the earth's atmosphere. so it is not believed kim can hit the u.s. with a nuclear weapon right now. still, with all of his dangerous moves recently, including another one he just pulled, the korean peninsula is on edge tonight. call it middle finger to the
west the size of a missile. tonight leaders are discussing how to respond after north korea's young leader fired off missiles into the sea overnight. that was after the u.n. slammed kim's regime with the toughest barrage at one time. >> kim jong-un is signaling to the world that the sachks sanc will not hurt him and he'll circumvent sanctions. >> reporter: kim fired off six very short range ballistic missiles. tonight cnn learned the pentagon is watching the situation closely and calling on kim's regime to refrain from more provocati provocation. for two months now there had been nothing but provocations between kim and his enemies. he's tested a nuclear bomb and test fired a rocket with long-range missile technology. in retaliation, the south koreans shut down the kaesong industrial complex they sere with south korea. kim's fight with the outside world comes as he's dealing with
his own palace intrigue in pyongyang. kim's just replaced yet another general at the top of his military. three of the previous four generals in that position are believed to have been executed or disappeared. and since a top party official died in a suspicious car crash in late december, kim's never publicly left the capital. >> there are signs there may be security issues around the supreme leader in north korea. and one of those is him not leaving the capital pyongyang. in the capital pyongyang he's guarded by a population of 150,000 troops. there's all sorts of tunnels and secret places that kim jong-un can squirrel himself away. >> reporter: tonight as he watches his back, most observers believe kim is plotting ways to get around the u.n. sanctions. >> we fully anticipate they'll try to drive a truck through any loophole they can find. >> reporter: and again back to our breaking news just moments ago. kim jong-un, according to the north korean official news agency ordered his military to
be ready to fire nuclear warheads at any moment. but again, u.s. officials, weapons experts say they've not yet flight tested long-range missiles enough to be ensured they can survive re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. it does not believe that kim jong-un has the capability of hitting the united states with a nuclear weapon. at this moment, he is working on it. >> how many nuclear bombs, what's the latest assessment? how many nuclear bombs does his regime have? >> analysts say between 10 and 16 right now. at the rate he's accelerating his build-up he could have as many as 100 by the end of 2020. not far off. >> very worrisome development. breaking news we're following. also coming up, 2012 republican presidential nominee mitt romney attacks 2016 presidential front-runner donald trump as a phony and a fraud. will romney back up those words with a secret plan to stop trump at the republican convention? mme
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happening now, breaking news. civil war. republican infighting explodes with an unprecedented speech from mitt romney attacking current front-runner donald trump. romney making a scathing assessment of trump as unfit for the presidency and now set to be looking at ways to block him at the republican convention. is the party fracturing ahead of this critical election? i'll ask the republican party chairman reince priebus. seeking donations. new reporting about a major turn around by trump. a source now telling us his self-funded campaign will go after big donors after trump
secures the presidential nominati nomination. does the brash billionaire now planning a huge fund-raising scheme? fight night. the four remaining republican candidates facing off tonight for the first time since trump's slew of super tuesday victories. will marco rubio try to repeat the assault that seemed to throw trump a bit off balance in their last meet-up, and will ted cruz join in to unleash a political bloodbath? answering questions. the u.s. justice department granting immunity to a hillary clinton staffer who set up her private e-mail server while she was secretary of state. an unexpected twist just ahead of the cnn democratic presidential debate in flint, michigan. will clinton herself be questioned as part of the fbi investigation? we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
this is cnn breaking news. >> the breaking political news this hour, the extraordinary war of words between republican presidential front-runner donald trump and mitt romney. the man who was the republican nominee just four years ago laying out a blistering indictment of trump in a speech carefully designed to slow if not stop trump's momentum. it also reveals how panicked the party establishment is right now at the prospect of trump as the gop standard bearer. and tonight, cnn's jamie gangel has learned that romney is instructing top advisers to explore the possibility of stopping trump at the republican national convention. we're also following the democratic race. hillary clinton and bernie sanders preparing for a critical weekend with more than 150 delegates up for grabs at caucuses and primaries and the cnn democratic presidential debate sunday night in flint, michigan. we're covering all of that. much more this hour with our
guests, including the chairman of the republican national committee, reince priebus. and our correspondents and expert analysts are also standing by. let's begin with mitt romney's remarkable attack on donald trump today. he's firing right back in his classic style. our chief political correspondent dana bash is in detroit where trump and his rivals will be debating tonight. dana, this is quite a spectacle going on right now inside the gop. >> quite a spectacle indeed. and the fact that mitt romney declined to endorse any of donald trump's opponents gives a bit of a hint as to what his and other members of the republican establishment strategy is, which is to basically run out the clock and try to figure this out at the convention. whether or not that's going to work is to be determined. regardless, what mitt romney did today will be something for the political history books. an unprecedented takedown of a republican front-runner by a former republican standard
bearer. >> donald trump lacks the temperament to be president. >> reporter: the most extraordinary part of mitt romney's message, he wasn't just blasting donald trump as bad for the gop. he was calling him perilous for america. >> donald trump tells us he is very, very smart. i'm afraid that when it comes to foreign policy, he is very, very not smart. if we republicans choose donald trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished. >> reporter: romney's carefully crafted speech was aimed at exposing trump as a phony. >> but you say wait, wait, wait. isn't he a huge business success? doesn't he know what he's talking about? no, he isn't, and no, he doesn't. >> reporter: romney effectively called trump a loser, an attempt to undermine his core rationale for his candidacy that he's a winner. >>
we're going to win, win, win. >> whatever happened to trump airlines? how about trump university? and then there's trump magazine?
and trump vodka. and trump steaks. and trump mortgage. a business genius he is not. >> reporter: but the 2012 gop nominee is an imperfect messenger since he courted trump's endorsement just four years ago. >> having his endorsement is a delight. >> reporter: then romney even praised the business acumen he criticized today. >> donald trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works to create jobs for the american people. >> reporter: but the straight-laced romney is also clearly disgusted with trump's demeanor as a presidential candidate now. >> think of donald trump's personal qualities. the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics. >> reporter: romney even tried to preempt trump's response. >> will he talk about our policy differences? or will he attack me with every imaginable low road insult?
this may tell you what you need to know about his temperament, his astability and his constitutable ut to be president. >> mitt was a disaster. >> reporter: trump responded true to form. >> i backed mitt romney. i backed him. you can see how loyal he is. he was begging for my endorsement. i could have said, mitt, drop to your knees. he would have dropped to his knees. >> reporter: trump claimed romney didn't run for president this time around because he feared the reality star. >> mitt chickened out. the real reason he chickened out wasn't jeb it was me. >> reporter: romney's criticism of his business record hit a nerve. the billionaire came armed with a list of accomplishments. >> they don't want to talk about 92-story buildings, the bank much america building in san francisco, 1290 avenue of the americas, frankly it's ridiculous. >>
reporter: now at the end of
this whole backand forth, mitt romney tweeted the explanation for why he accepted donald trump's endorsement. he said four years ago had trump said things like he's said about the kkk, muslims and mexicans he would not have accepted his endorsement. but i have to tell you we're here in michigan. this is where the debate will be tonight. it's also where there will be a republican primary this coming tuesday. and i just spoke to a senior republican here who has not endorsed anyone who said that they believe what mitt romney did was potentially hand the nominee to donald trump because he doesn't get what's going on out in the cannot, including hard-hit michigan. >> he's doing well in the polls. dana, thank you. i want to bring in jim acosta in salt lake city where mitt romney gave that powerful speech. jim, he certainly did not mince any words when it came to donald trump. what's the latest?
>> reporter: that's right, wolf. this is as heated as mitt romney can get, and this was personal for mitt romney. a source close to the former gop candidate told me he would not have been able to look his grandchildren in their faces had he not delivered this speech. it was a stinging indictment of trump's business and personal affairs. even touching on the real estate tycoon's infidelities, sounding like the new leader of the #never trump movement. his party's current front-runner is a bully who must be stopped. here's what he had to say.
>> this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter's questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance. who bragged about his marital affairs. and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity. donald trump says he admires vladimir putin. the same time he's called george w. bush a liar. that is a twisted example of
evil trumping good. >> reporter: now romney's critics note the former massachusetts governor was all too will be to accept trump's endorsement four years ago. i was there for that. it was a controversial endorsement at the time. and it was notable, wolf, as dana mentioned that romney did not talk about this in his speech instead saying that he essentially regretted trump's support. as for the future, though, romney avoided the question of whether he'd accept his party's nomination during a fractured convention later this sumner july in cleveland. a source close to mitt romney says he's keeping his options open. that cannot sound good to the likes of marco rubio, ted cruz and john kasich who probably wish that mitt romney would stay out of this race. >> interesting stuff. jim acosta, thank you very much. let's get more on what's going on. the chairman of the republican national committee reince priebus is joining us from detroit. thank you very much for joining us. fascinating developments.
i've covered politics for a long time. i don't remember when two previous republican presidential nominees, both seem to suggest they couldn't support the current republican presidential front-runner if that front-runner gets the nomination. have you ever seen anything like this before? >> another day, another fascinating development, huh, wolf? have i ever seen anything like this before? not really, but, you know, i haven't been around that long. so i can't really tell you. you know what? nothing surprises me anymore. but the truth is, this process is going to come to a head soon, and we're going to get to a nominee. and when we get to a nominee, this party
is going to support that nominee 100% with the best political organization that we've ever put together. so that's my position on it and i'm looking forward to the day that we've got a nominee. >> even if the nominee is donald trump? >> i don't care who the nominee is. our job is to support the person
that gets the majority of delegates and whoever that is is going to have the 100% support of the republican party. >> because a lot of republicans, establishment and maybe some not so much establishment, they are saying they could never support donald trump. more than 50 republican national security leaders, they wrote this letter today saying that if he were the nominee, they couldn't support him as commander in chief, among other things. they said he's not competent and his temperament is not ready for that. you saw that letter, right? >> well, sure. but it doesn't change the charge and the rules of the nomination process. it's no different today than 100 years ago. which is you have a process. and whatever candidate gets a majority of the delegates is going to get the support of the party. that's how it works. it's not going to be any different. there's not going to be any shell games going on. that's the process and we're
going to get it done. >> is the republican party potentially falling apart at the seams? >> no. the republican party has more people elected today across this country since 1900. you know, we've got to learn how to win a presidential election as a party. i'll give you that. but, you know, this is a long process. we've got over 1,700 delegates to allocate still. we've got a long way to go. and i think ultimately, fighting -- fighting in primaries is not indicative of losing in november. take 2008. mitt romney -- excuse me, barack obama and hillary clinton fought each other tooth and nail, tore each other's eyes out. they sued each other over delegate at the convention and they killed us. so, i mean, okay. so there's some fighting and some intrigue. that's not going to be a problem. >> it certainly wasn't as brutal as it is right now. let me read what john mccain
said. he said i share the concerns about donald trump that mitt romney described in his speech today. i want republican voters to think long and hard about who they want to be our next commander in chief and leader of the free world. how does the party come together if so many republican leaders say they can't support donald trump? >> it depends who the nominee is, wolf. obviously we don't know who the nominee is. but no matter who the nominee is, we are going to come together, we're going to talk to all those people and have months to do it. as you know in politics, weeks feel like months and months feel like years. you and i will be having an interview in the middle of july or august and not even remember the fact that you and i talked today in detroit. so, look. time heals, and it always has, and it will. and the reality is, we're running against hillary clinton who is in the ditch, who people don't like, who might be
indicted. so, look. the polls are very close. and i think that we're doing great. and i know this party will come together when it's all over. >> trump and all the other candidates signed a loyalty pledge. should they refuse, any of these candidates. let's say trump is the nominee. should they refuse to support him as the nominee with the republican national committee penalize them for breaking their pledge? >> well, i mean, they drop out, i don't know what i'm going to do to them. but the fact is what the reality is everyone has to keep in mind these candidates are competing to join the republican party. that's what this process is. the republican party always is. these candidates are competing to join the republican party. one of them is going to join the republican party in cleveland or sooner. and when that happens he'll get behind the republican nominee. of course these candidates have to sign and agree to be loyal to a party that they wish to be the nominee of. and so there's nothing unusual
about that. and there's nothing unusual about our party coming around and supporting the person that becomes the nominee after getting a majority of the delegates. >> here's the question because you've suggested and said often the republican party is the party of lincoln, the party of reagan. i'll ask you this. would you say today your party is the party of romney or the party of trump? because it clearly can't be both. >> our party is the party of lincoln and reagan. i'll put it that way. and the fact is that it always will be. it's a party of freedom. it's the party of opportunity. it's the party of equality. and that's what our party is and that's what it always will be. >> because as you know, he's gotten a lot of votes so far, donald trump. at least so far with 15 contests or so, primaries, caucuses, behind us, republicans say trump is the guy. he's got millions of votes. >> okay. great. i mean, and he very well might be. and, obviously, we're shattering
records when it comes to turnout. we're crushing the democrats when it comes to enthusiasm. >> is that thanks to trump? >> when it comes to fund-raising, infrastructure. in part it is. it's also thanks to serious presidential campaigns that have serious operations and turning out voters. so, you know, you look at any of these states, iowa, south carolina, new hampshire, there's a record across this country. there's been different winners in a lot of these states. trump has won most of them. but even in all of the states there's been records that have been shattered. that's because i think the enthusiasm is on the republican side of the aisle, and the doldrums and boredom is on the other side of the aisle. i like our chances, wolf. yes, drama. yes, intrigue. but there's enthusiasm, excitement and an opponent on the other side that looks like she's going to get in trouble with the fbi and the doj who
just gave immunity to one of her employees. and i can tell you the doj doesn't hand out immunity agreements for fun and just for games. >> let me get your reaction to what cnn's jamie gangel just reported. she reported that in case let's say donald trump doesn't get the 1,237 pledge delegates you need to be guaranteed the nomination, but gets close. he gets more than others, there could be this contested convention and maybe mitt romney or someone else could emerge, your fellow wisconsin ite, paul ryan. do you think that's at all realistic? >> not really. i mean, this is the kind of conversation that's so far away from where this process is at. there has been, you know, there are 1,700-plus more delegates to go. we have a long way before we even need to think about something like that. so i just think it's a waste of
time playing those sort of matrix games right now. >> did you have any conversations with mitt romney leading up to his blistering speech today? >> no. i mean, i didn't talk to mitt at all about it. i didn't know he was going to do it until i saw it. i've talked to mitt romney. i do talk to mitt romney. i talked to paul ryan, as you know. but certainly not about the speech today. and, obviously, didn't know about it. >> when you heard about that he was going to deliver the speech you didn't call him or talk to him? is that right? >> no, did not. >> you talk to donald trump at all out there on the campaign trail? give him any advice? consultations? >> sure. i'll see him tonight. i'll see him tonight. i talked to him on tuesday night. we talk to all the campaigns. it just -- we are down to four candidates. when you go through a process like this and we're in our tenth debate, maybe the 11th at this point, you go through things together. you talk about things that are going well. you hear about things that
people don't think are going well. you adjust. you know, you are going through quite a process together. and our job is to try to provide the best possible situation we can for our candidates but also to be prepared for one of them. so in that process, wolf, you are building relationships as you move forward. you aren't building enemies as you move forward. you aren't trying to find ways to get at each other's throats. it's the opposite. you're trying to find ways to work together and find ways so that when you do get a nominee, so that there's a feeling, you know, of cooperation that's involved when that happens. so it's a lot different, i think, than what a lot of the folks think is going on out there. it's a much tighter process than it may appear. >> interestingly, donald trump says if he doesn't get along with the speaker paul ryan, if for some reason they don't work things out, ryan is going to have to pay a big price. you heard those words from donald trump. he's the highest ranking republican in the federal
government, the speaker of the house. he'll have the gavel as you know at the convention this summer. if donald trump gets into a fight with paul ryan the way he has with john mccain or mitt romney or marco rubio or ted cruz, what will that do to the party? >> well, i'm going to chair the convention along with paul ryan, and so i don't know if that's your angle. but paul is a nice guy. he understands that there's political hyperbole and rhetoric. he doesn't care at all about that. and my guess is that trump probably laughs it off, too. so i think some of this stuff to react to every little comment that people are making is kind of just a waste of time. it's a lot of fun to talk about, but, quite frankly, i talked to paul since then a few times. it's a nonissue. no one talks about it. seriously. we don't sit around and rehash everyone's comments and say,
what do you think of that. it doesn't happen. >> you have a tough job over there. reince priebus, he's in detroit getting ready for the presidential debate. >> i love my job. >> you still love it? >> i've been in politics from high school to the college republicans to the putting up of yard signs and working for everyone you can imagine as a volunteer in wisconsin. this is being in the middle of all of this is quite an opportunity, and we're going to do the best we can in order to make sure we get to a nominee and then take it to hillary clinton so that we can win in november. >> reince priebus, thanks very much for joining us. >> you bet. see you. there's more breaking political news we're following including new details of the war between mitt romney and donald trump. the epic battle that may play out at the republican convention in july. plus, the potential major turnaround by trump. is the self-funding billionaire about to change course with a huge fund-raising spree? we have new information.
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there's more breaking political news tonight. a possible, possible major turn around by donald trump. a source telling cnn the gop front-runner who boasts of funding his own campaign will in fact, turn to major donors to finance his white house bid if and when he secures the republican presidential nomination. our political reporter sara murray broke this story for us. trump has repeatedly berated his rivals as beholden to donors, but you're learning that that strategy if he gets the nomination could change. >> reporter: that's right, wolf. this has been a big selling point for donald trump on the campaign trail. the idea he's self-funding his campaign. he'd answer to no big donors. a source tells us in private
conversations donald trump is acknowledging that he will fund-raise in a general election. he's realizing that's the republican party, as well as himself, they need to be well-funded if they'll be up against hillary clinton in a general election and her beheme oths political organization. right now donald trump prides himself on running an efficient shoestring campaign with just a couple of aides. that's not the kind of thing you can maintain in a general election. they'll continue working alongside the rnc. when i spoke to the campaign about this, they weren't particularly thrilled about this story in light of trump touting his self-funding so far. his campaign manager says right now donald trump is focused on the primary, he's self-funding and they've not had conversations about the general election. >> sara, thanks very much. our chief political analyst gloria borger is here, mark preston is with me. joining us as well is our cnn
senior political commentator, former obama senior adviser david axelrod. mark, he always boasts, doesn't need anyone else's money. won't be beholded to k street, special interest, big money. if he gets the nomination, he could change that. >> quite a story by sara today to actually get this out there at a time when the wind seems to be at his back and a big fight between donald trump and the republican establishment. but let's not be surprised by this. david will remember this. go back to 2012. $1.4 billion was spent between mitt romney and barack obama. obama had spent $737 million. mitt romney $483 million. if donald trump is such a great businessman as he tells us over and over again, a great businessman would rather have somebody else pay for his campaign than pay for it himself. but he'd be very smart to take that money from the rnc or raise money and put it into the united states senate and pay for the
campaign himself. >> what do you think of all of this, gloria? >> i think donald trump is going to have to become a party candidate at some point if he's the nominee. he's going to have to work with the rnc. he's going to want their money. he's going to have to fund-raise. it's going to be tricky to navigate this notion of, i haven't been bought. nobody -- nobody -- i'm not corrupted by big money. and he's going to have to figure out another way to thread that needle. i think your idea is terrific because all of these senate candidates are so worried about running with donald trump at the top of the ticket, particularly if they are in blue states. if he starts funding them, they might sing a different tune. >> you know something about presidential candidates and fund-raising and money. what's your take? >> well, one of the questions about donald trump from the beginning is, does he have the liquidity that he claims? could he actually fund a campaign at that scale? and a lot of people think not.
so the problem for him is that his stock in trade is i tell it like it is. i'm not like other politicians. this would be a major flip-flop and will take a marketing wizard like donald trump to justify a switch of this magnitude. >> let's talk a little bit about this extraordinary -- this really extraordinary war that is now under way between mitt romney and donald trump. romney blasted david. he blasted trump today but only four years ago. this is what romney said about trump. listen. >> being in donald trump's magnificent hotel and having his endorsement is a delight. i'm so honored and pleased to have his endorsement. donald trump has shown an extraordinary ability to understand how our economy works to create jobs for the american people. he's done it here in nevada. he's done it across the country. he understands that our economy is facing threats from abroad. he's one of the few people who stood up and said china has been cheating. they've taken jobs from
americans. they haven't played fair. we have to have a president who will stand up to cheaters. >> that was then, four years ago. today romney tweeted after his blistering speech, if trump had said four years ago the things he said about the kkk, muslims, mexicans, disabled, i would not have accepted his endorsement. here's the question. is this war that has been unleashed now against donald trump actually going to help trump? >> it may well. look. donald trump is involved in a hostile takeover of the republican party. mitt romney is a member of the board, and they are desperately, frantically trying to fight this off. but trump's supporters may be energized by what they saw today. the question is whether romney and others who are launching these attacks can hold off other republicans from enlisting in trump's cause and create enough of a resistance that trump falls short of the number of delegates he needs to be the nominee. >> gloria? >> you know, that's romney's
entire strategy. you heard him very clearly today, you know, the headline basically, saying if you are in ohio, vote for kasich. in florida, vote for rubio. in texas, you vote forward cruz. but he wants to drag this thing out and get potentially to a contested convention. i'm not sure what would happen if that were the case because i am not so sure you can tell millions of republican voters that suddenly the establishment of the republican party is going to disenfranchise now and decide perhaps to nominate somebody else at a convention. but i think that at this point that seems to be the only option they have to fight donald trump because they're not coalescing around any other particular candidate. >> it's fair to say there's a civil war brewing inside the republican party. >> not even brewing, wolf. it's brewed. >> stand by. there's a lot more we need to assess right now. we're also getting more information on this extraordinary development today.
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least exploring the possibility of a fight against trump at the convention. you heard reince priebus, the chairman of the republican party, say he didn't think it was going to come down to that. >> we've been hearing this for several days that they are looking for ways to try to stop trump. one is to run a third party candidate. one is to try to deny donald trump the amount of delegates which is surprising is that mitt romney is now inserting himself in the process and have his team choose a small group of advisers that would be looking at this which only leads to the speculation, does mitt romney want to end up in cleveland and be crowned the nominee? but the way this would work, very simple for our viewers is you need 1,237 delegates to be the nominee. what mitt romney was telling people today is he hopes the governor of ohio john kasich wins ohio. that way it would prevent 66 delegates going to donald trump. same thing with marco rubio in florida. 99 delegates.
>> march 15th, winner take all. ted cruz would win a few states here and there and trump would not be able to get to 1,237 heading into july. >> that's the magic number. gloria, your take? >> i think the question really is, i mean, look. romney announced today i'm not a candidate. you have to take him at his word. if he had a perfect world, and it would be paul ryan for mitt romney. he hired ryan as his junior partner when he ran last time. he loves paul ryan. i think the generational shift. i think we have to wait and i think romney's feeling is from talking to his people that, you know, you have to see how this plays out a little bit after these winner take all states. and see where the race is. as john king does his delegate numbers, the math is the math. and you have to see where that winds up after the 15th. >> david, senator lindsey graham spoke with you about a possible
contested convention. i want to listen to what he had to say on your ax files podcast. >> there's been this thing floating around this town that maybe we can stop trump and have a so-called brokered convention. >> not really. that's not fair to him. it's not fair to those -- >> what would happen if that was attempted? >> he'd leave and have a right to leave. >> and his voters as well. >> yeah, if he got two-thirds of what he needs, which he's well on his way to doing, for us to steal it from him is not going to help the party. >> all right, david. your reaction? >> well, what made that most remarkable was lindsey graham's critique of donald trump was no less gentle than mitt romney's, or no more than mitt romney's. he blistered him in that conversation, but he's right. if they try and deny romney the -- if they try and deny trump the nomination, they'll have a walkout of the base of the party that's been driving
them. reince priebus who deserved a medal for valor for showing up on your show today and trying to explain all of this, you know, said we're having record turnouts. donald trump is driving a lot of that. and a lot of those folks are not going to follow the republican party if donald trump is leading going into the convention and they hand the nomination to someone else. >> hold on. i want to remind our viewers they can listen to the ax files podcast on cnn.com/podcast. >> what you are seeing is so remarkable. you're seeing the establishment of a party think about leading an insurrection against its own base. it's called eating your own. and this is a base of the party that has shown up to vote in record numbers. they believe they have finally found a voice, and for the establishment to then say to them, eh, sorry. it's not the right voice. i think is really, really
difficult. >> you agree reince deserves some sort of medal for showing up? >> he deserves two medals. the fact he'd go on national television and have to be the arbitter between a warring party right now that is coming apart at the seams, yeah, i give him a lot of credit. >> david axelrod said to me, reince priebus, he doesn't remember ever seeing anything like this. do you? >> well, i'm a little older than he is. in 19 -- gloria mentioned this the other night. she read it in history books, i'm sure. in 1964, in 1964, you saw the same kind of thing happen in the republican party when barry goldwater was nominated and the establishment of the party walked away from goldwater. george romney, the governor of michigan, mitt romney's father was one of those very d dissatisfied with that development. >> you remember 1964, david? >> i do. >> or did you just read about it
in the history books? >> no, no, i was -- >> brush up on it. >> he's right. in 1976 a lot of establishment republicans who were worried about ronald reagan emerging. he didn't in '76 but did in '80. that's a date many of us can clearly remember. >> it's so interesting that w t was george romney who at the convention was one of those standing up against barry goldwater, and now you have mitt romney earlier, of course, standing up against someone who looks like to be very much a potential nominee in donald trump. >> that was a blistering speech, though, today. i heard a lot of mitt romney's speeches. i never heard him speak like that. >> we were talking before we came on. and it was blistering but only delivered in a way that mitt romney could deliver which was very awkward in many ways. forceful, but awkward. i have to tell you, the most important thing that stood out to me is that he called into question his ability to lead the
country in his temperament which again, i go to this all the time and say code word don't give him the nuclear codes. we can't trust him because of his temperament. >> i think this is one of the more, or maybe the most memorable speech of mitt romney's career. and it's ironic he delivered and he is not a candidate for president. >> not a candidate now. we'll see what happens down the road. thanks very much. don't go too far away. straight ahead, hillary clinton and bernie sanders are battling for delegates in a series of weekend primaries and caucuses and preparing to face off sunday night in the cnn presidential debate. what's at stake for the democratic candidates?
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a critical weekend coming up for hillary clinton and bernie sanders with more than 150 delegates up for grabs in primaries and caucuses on saturday and sunday. our senior political correspondent is joining us now with the latest on this democratic race. what is the latest? >> the clinton campaign is shifting its focus to donald trump. they're confident clinton can beat bernie sanders. hillary clinton raking in the cash she needs. >> good evening, everyone. >> reporter: for the general election at a star-studded fundraiser in new york.
with a lineup featuring katy perry, julian moore, jamie foxx, and sir elton john. >> even in the face of fear tactics and smear tactics, she has the grit and the grace to look back and laugh. >> reporter: heshe's taking a break from the trail today. she shifts her rhetoric, positioning herself as the compassionate alternative to donald trump. >> america has always been great. we do not have to make it great. what we have to do is we have to make america whole and that means working with one another. >> reporter: she's fundraising on a promise to keep trump out, but bernie sanders is trying this tack as well. >> almost all of the major polls that have come out have me beating trump. >> reporter: in the labor stronghold of michigan where democrats hold their primary tuesday, he's attacking clinton
on trade. >> she has supported nafta. i opposed nafta. she supported trade relations with china. i oppose that. >> reporter: clinton may have another distraction to deal with. the justice department has granted immunity to the staffer who set up her private e-mail server. it's part of the investigation into whether classified e-mail was mishandled due to the setup. >> she was willing to answer any question. so have all of her aides been. we wanted brian to, but we're pleased he is cooperating. >> reporter: donald trump is promising to keep the issue alive should he and clinton square off in the general election. >> i'm not going to let go of
the e-mails or benghazi of course. >> reporter: you will recall when bill clinton was heading out on the stump it was around that time hillary clinton said donald trump had a penchant for sexi sexism. he undermined bill clinton's ability to have an effective surrogate for his wife. >> the democratic contest moves to the midwest. the next debate once again live from flint, michigan. the cnn democratic presidential debate this sunday night 8:00 p.m. eastern only here on cnn. just ahead more attacks on donald trump from inside the gop. what top national security experts are saying about the republican frontrunner.
it's not just mitt romney blasting donald trump. a group of republican foreign policy and national security leaders has written an open letter condemning trump and pledging to oppose his candidacy. we have more on the scathing letter and a lot of familiar names. >> that's right. they run the gamut from really conservative to moderate republicans. they started the day with 65. now they have 100 signatures or so. these are former retired military officials, top cia, state department, ambassadors, a cabinet secretary, and a former world bank president all saying that they believe the foreign policy vision laid out by donald
trump is dangerous. they are citing his threat to wage trade wars, the talk of use of torture. a lot of anti-muslim bias and the charge he'll make mexico build a wall very dangerous sending a very threatening to u.s. allies around the world. i want to read a quote that really gets to the heart of it. mr. trump's own statements lead us to conclude that as president he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make america less safe and which would diminish out r standing i the world. today i interviewed mary beth long who had a dire warning about what would happen and what message it would send if donald trump was elected. >> the problem is we'll have an incredibly weakened president who already has skeptics abroad as to his personal seriousness, the seriousness of the presidency, and therefore the seriousness of our foreign
policy. our enemies must be delightfully wringing their hands saying this is not a thoughtful person. this is not a person who will lead the most incredible army and bureaucracy and government workers in the world against us and defeat us. >> now, of course, a lot of these officials are risking their future careers by speaking out in the event that trump was elected. but wolf, they're saying they felt they needed to take a principled stand. donald trump dismissing this as a lot of sour grapes as officials working for losing campaigns and campaigns that have really failed in the past. >> they clearly are hoping this letter will convince a lot of voters out there not to support donald trump. thank you very much for that report. the democratic contest moves to the midwest. the next debate is live from flint, michigan, the cnn democratic presidential debate this sunday night 8:00 p.m.
eastern only here on cnn. anderson cooper will moderate. you can always follow us on twitter. please tweet me @wolfblitzer. join us tomorrow. "erin burnett outfront" starts right now. next, the grand ole party in an all out war. mitt romney calls donald trump a fraud. is the gop melting down? the anti-trump forces pouring millions and millions into one state. is it working? an american astronaut runs from outer space and he is two inches taller. what happened? let's go "outfront." good evening. i'm erin burnett. we begin outfront tonight with the breaking news. gop meltdown. chaos today erupting in the republican party all on live television. mitt romney, the 2012 nominee,