Please Credit Reference & Usage: “CNN’s Michael Smerconish”
Former Trump Adviser Roger Stone joins CNN host Michael Smerconish to discuss Trump’s campaign strategy.
FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: We start today with the inside look of the Donald Trump campaign. Exactly how has Donald Trump been able to defy the pundits like yours truly, and remain atop the pack of GOP candidates?
The answers might lie in an internal Trump campaign memo that was leaked to the media this week. It was presumably authored by Roger Stone, a Trump advisor of some 30 years who has since left the campaign. Stone says he quite, Trump says he was fired.
Either way, Stone has been a campaign fixture for decades. He famously cut his teeth working for Richard Nixon. In fact, he sports a tattoo of Nixon on his back.
Roger Stone is here to share his insight.
Do we get to see the tattoo by the end of the segment?
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: Perhaps.
SMERCONISH: If I play my cards right.
This is an amazing internal document. It quotes Roger Ailes and Ailes strategy, because apparently, Ailes said to Reagan back in the ‘80s, hey, you didn't get elected on details, you got elected on themes.
This is exactly what Trump is doing.
STONE: Well, first of all, Roger Ailes is a genius, and those who say, oh, Ailes, he is for this candidate or that candidate and trying to describe political motives - no, Ailes is about ratings. Ailes is about the success of is network.
Twenty-four million tuned in. Why? Because Donald Trump is great television. He is charismatic. He’s interesting.
And now, you contrast him with the 15 career politicians, all of whom are like trying to parse the words and be so careful. Trump is genuine. He’s spontaneous. He’s interesting.
SMERCONISH: But for how long can he get away with this advice, Roger. You know, you didn’t get elected on details. You got elected on themes. Sooner or later, he’s got to give the details.
STONE: Well, right. So, I would urge people to read his book, "Time to Get Tough", published in 2011. I was (INAUDIBLE) to work editing that book. Trump has big themes, big ideas for America. He has laid them out in writing, and I have no doubt he’s going to lay them out as a campaign progressive.
SMERCONISH: Something else from the internal Trump campaign document, "Be prepared for that first question, it could very well go to you, this would be your opportunity to set the mood for the evening."
He got that question, and he did set the mood.
STONE: Yes, he did. Look, first of all, I’m not - I’m little surprised that you have that memo. CNN and "The Washington Post" were the first to get it.
And I’m not going to characterize my direct advice to Trump or the campaign other than to say, that other than Ronald Reagan. He is the most charismatic, and interesting and kind of the larger than life figure that I have worked for.
And I think voters are seeing the passion, and they see a can-do guy. They see that he’s having a good time, and that Reaganesque self-confidence just exudes from Trump.
SMERCONISH: The internal memo prepares him for particular questions that might ask, including, will you run as a third a party candidate if you do not get the Republican nod? He is then to say, all options are on the table.
Let’s watch the way he handled that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I cannot say, I have to say that I respect the person that if it’s not me, the person that wins. If I do win, and I’m leading by quite a bit, that’s what I want to do. I can totally make that pledge if I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent.
But - and I am discussing it with everybody, but I’m, you know, talking about a lot of leverage. We want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican. I want to run as the Republican nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I don't get it.
So, in the memo, you say to him, and someone says to him, be re ready for the first question, and if you are asked, whether you’re going to run as a third party candidate, say that all options are on the table. How is that a growth strategy within the GOP? Aren't you offending all Republicans?
STONE: No, I don’t think so. Actually, it’s a nonpolitician's answer. Everybody knows what the politician's answer would be. But two of the guys, pardon me, three of them, one on either side of Trump, according to "The New York Times", were in discussion of boycotting the FOX debate and future debates if Trump were included.
In 19 states, the Republican bosses, the Republican establishment can just keep Trump off the ballot. And if they did that, if they wouldn’t give him a level playing field and fair shot at the nomination, well then, yes, he could pursue the nomination of the third party.
And if he did, you know what would happen? The Democrats would probably win, Trump would run a strong second and the Republican - right, the Democrats would run, Trump would run a strong second, and I think the Republicans would run third.
SMERCONISH: Is that a lot of bluster? Or does Roger Stone think there’s a legitimate chance that Trump runs third party?
STONE: I think this is nonsense. He’s the front-runner of the Republican Party. Why were even ask him this question.
SMERCONISH: OK. But you’re not answering my question.
STONE: Yes, I learned that a long time ago.
SMERCONISH: All right. Also from the internal memo. On immigration, now, again, the Ailes strategy that you imparted to Trump is to be thematic, don't get involved in details.
STONE: You don’t need to - Trump understood this long before he met me. So, I’m not going to take credit for anything.
SMERCONISH: But I got it in black and white, so I got to refer to it.
OK. But there’s an exception to the rule, there’s an exception to Ailes rule on immigration. This, the memo says, should be issue-centric. This is a big selling point.
Why? Why detailed on this and not other issues?
STONE: Well, because it’s a signature issue, because when he came out in his announcement speech, and identified crime caused by illegal immigrants, the ruling class, the media elites, the political elites went crazy. It was so politically incorrect. It was the end of Trump. He was going to crater. This is a disaster.
Guess what? The American people completely got it, and he zoomed to number one. That’s Trump's instinct, by the way. Trump is the one who identified illegal immigration as a hot button issue, just like he is the one who identified the treatment of our veterans today.
It’s not - it’s not the some poll or some memo. It’s osmosis. Everywhere he goes, veterans said, please, Mr. Trump, I can’t - I’m a veteran, I can't get healthcare.
SMERCONISH: I like the opportunity that we are giving the viewers to go into the Trump war room and to understand this strategy. You’ve been around for a long time. How is he to work with as compared to other candidate? Does he take advice?
STONE: He takes - he considers everyone's advice, but unlike all of the other presidential candidates that they have worked for, he really is unscripted, he’s uncoached, he’s unhandled, and it is that genuineness that people are digging. That’s why he is doing so well.
SMERCONISH: Last night in New Hampshire, Mr. Trump had something to say. I want to roll the tape, and ask Roger Stone a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But Jeb Bush has $114 million, what’s he going to do with it? He’ll start hitting me with ads, I guess. You know, at some point he’s got to, because he is going down the tubes, the guy is going down tubes, there’s no energy.
So, when Jeb and Hillary and all of these other candidates start spending money, remember this, that money was given by people that have total control over them. And those people, many of whom I know very well, they don't care about him, and they don't care about the color of his hair, they don't care anything about him, and they don't care about the country in many cases. They only want whatever they want, and they’ll get plenty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: On the subject of campaign fund-raising, if you pull the FEC report from the Trump campaign, you see, he is doing it on a shoestring. It’s like a major reimbursement for his own travel expenses. Sooner or later, is he going to have to spend the dough?
STONE: Sure he is, because -
SMERCONISH: Is he prepared to?
STONE: I’m hopeful. Look, he reported $350 million in the liquid assets or cash assets in his financial disclosure. He certainly has the money. He’s also a shrewd businessman and he understands the bottom line. He has propelled his campaign thus far without massive spending.
But when the going to gets tough, he’s got the bullets if he needs to use them and I think he’ll use them. Trump is a competitor. He is not going to let a $100 million in dirty Wall Street money that’s been lavished on Jeb Bush stop him in his efforts to change the country. Right there on TV you just saw him challenged the ruling class, challenge the existing structure.
SMERCONISH: Are you still working for him?
SMERCONISH: I mean, you don’t sound like a guy -
STONE: I’m still supporting him.
SMERCONISH: But you don’t - OK. You don’t sound like a guy who either quit or was fired. Look at all these Trump books I think you’ve authored or edited.
STONE: No, I edited - I had a privilege to work on two of his books, "Time to Get Tough". And for those who say, by the way, he has no prescription for the country on issues, I urge you to go buy the book, because there's his prescription.
SMERCONISH: OK. But it seems to me there is more than meets the eye with Roger Stone parting company from the Trump campaign coming on my program and others and giving the big Trump pitch.
STONE: You media types are so conspiratorial.
SMERCONISH: No, the Stone/Trump types I think are the conspiratorial.
STONE: Unlike political consultants like the late Ed Rollins, I’m not going to go badmouth my clients.
SMERCONISH: Are you breaking news on CNN? He is still with us.
STONE: Really? You could have fooled me.
SMERCONISH: OK. And so, it goes.
Roger Stone, thank you. Appreciate very much your being here.
Smerconish airs Saturdays at 9amET and replays at 6pmET