January 14th, 2016
06:44 PM ET

Priebus on Cruz: "he is eligible" to be President

the lead

Today on The Lead with Jake Tapper, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus joins the show on the day of the 6th Republican Presidential Debate in North Charleston, South Carolina. Please see below for a full rushed transcript.

Visit http://www.cnn.com/shows/the-lead for additional information.

Please credit all usage to CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper

 

Text Highlights

 

Priebus on Cruz’s eligibility to be president: “He is eligible, and I said that. This story you're referring to is three days old which, you know, is like three months ago. And, I've done many interviews, and I have said that he's eligible. All of our candidates are eligible. But, you know, the fact is, you know, what you're referring to is sometimes my knee jerk reaction to a lot of these things when I just say, look, I'm not getting in the middle of this - this argument, but as far as that question, my opinion is that he is. So, there you go.”

 

Priebus on conservative backlash following Gov. Nikki Haley’s rebuttal to the State of the Union: “. I was hearing from a Governor who's gone through some enormous tragedy, and a lot of things down here in South Carolina has led the way. Not just here, but our entire country. I also remind people - and I think everyone involved, all of our candidates would agree with this too, and I'm sure Donald would too. You know, there's really only two doors people could walk through. It's the Republican door, or the Democrat door. And, the people that walk through these doors, they're just not going to agree with each other on everything. And, they shouldn't…we have to accept the fact that we're a huge party, and the Democrat party's a big party, and people have differences of opinions. And, that's going to happen, it's going to continue to happen.”

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to The Lead, we're going to stay with our politics lead right now. It's the giant elephant hanging over all the elephants to take the stage tonight. Sorry about that metaphor.

 

Is the guy standing next to Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, is he even constitutionally eligible to be president? Let's talk about tonight's debate in the Republican race with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus.

 

Sir, thanks for joining me. I appreciate it.

 

RNC CHAIRMAN, REINCE PRIEBUS: Yeah, we miss you. I thought I was going to be seeing you right now, but it looks great in here, and everybody's excited. We're looking forward to a good night.

 

TAPPER: Well, let's start with one of the issues that will definitely come up tonight. Donald Trump keeps bringing it up, over, and over, he says Senator Ted Cruz might not be constitutionally eligible because he was born in Canada to only one American president. You have said that you are not going to get in the middle of all these candidate issues. Quote, "It's a bad place for me to be. I'll let all these folks argue about this stuff." I'm going to stay out of it.

 

I have to impress you on this, Mr. Chairman. Don't you have an obligation to say if the candidate, second place nationally in the polls, first place in Iowa, who could very possibly be your nominee. Don't you have an obligation to say whether he's eligible to the office?

 

PRIEBUS: He is eligible, and I said that. This story you're referring to is three days old which, you know, is like three months ago. And, I've done many interviews, and I have said that he's eligible. All of our candidates are eligible. But, you know, the fact is, you know, what you're referring to is sometimes my knee jerk reaction to a lot of these things when I just say, look, I'm not getting in the middle of this - this argument, but as far as that question, my opinion is that he is. So, there you go.

 

TAPPER: OK, thank you for settling that. The debate tonight is in South Carolina. Governor Nikki Haley's backyard. She obviously delivered something of a rebuke of Donald Trump in her State of the Union response telling voters to tune out the, quote, "Siren call of our angriest voices."

 

Now, I know you don't like to get in the middle of these things, but in retrospect, given your brothers (ph), would you have had your State of the Union responder criticize your presidential front runner?

 

PRIEBUS: You know, look, my belief is that we ought to adhere to Reagan's 11th commandment. But, you know, when I listened to that I wasn't hearing that from Nikki. I was hearing from a Governor who's gone through some enormous tragedy, and a lot of things down here in South Carolina has led the way. Not just here, but our entire country.

 

I also remind people - and I think everyone involved, all of our candidates would agree with this too, and I'm sure Donald would too. You know, there's really only two doors people could walk through. It's the Republican door, or the Democrat door. And, the people that walk through these doors, they're just not going to agree with each other on everything.

 

And, they shouldn't. This isn't Italy, we don't have 28 parties where everyone, kind of, holes up with people that believe the exact same thing they do. So, we have to accept the fact that we're a huge party, and the Democrat party's a big party, and people have differences of opinions. And, that's going to happen, it's going to continue to happen.

 

TAPPER: Of course, but of course. Nikki Haley saying something like that - not just in South Carolina, but...

 

PRIEBUS: Well, what was it that was saying - you know, I think this is much to do about nothing. I think we are in a pretty, pretty strange place right now on this issue.

 

TAPPER: OK, let's move on. The RNC is launching a brand new ad campaign, it focuses on field organizers, and how they are working to get out the vote for Republicans. But, I want you to listen to Rush Limbaugh yesterday talking about Governor Haley.

 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

 

LIMBAUGH: I think it's proof and it's an example of so much. For one thing, it's almost absolute proof of what I have been saying for the last couple of years now, that the Republican party's trying to drive conservatives of the party."

 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

 

TAPPER: Now, that's probably the most influential conservative talk show host in the country telling conservatives that they Republican party doesn't want, or care about them. How do you, as the head of the RNC - how do you combat that kind of narrative?

 

PRIEBUS: Well, it's completely false, and you know, there's no base in fact to it. I mean, the truth is no matter who you're for, whether anyone of the 12 candidates, the one thing that we have to have is a national party that has its act together when it comes to the mechanics, the ground game, the data operation, the thousands of people that we pay across the country to register voters, and to make sure that no matter who wins that we're a heck of a lot better than we were in 2012.

 

Now, I can't think of a single controversial thing about that, so, you know, no matter who wins, if you don't have a Republican National Committee that's really good they will lose, for sure.

 

So, we win if we have a good nominee, and a good national party. We lose if we don't. It's pretty simple.

 

TAPPER: RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, thank you so much. We look forward to tonight's debate. Hope it goes well for you sir.

 

PRIEBUS: Thank you.

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