Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Paul Manafort, the convention manager for Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, discussed his candidate’s quest for the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the 2016 GOP nomination.
Manafort acknowledged the system is what it is when comes to certain states’ allotment of delegates, but he criticized it as being closed and as a relic of the past.
Transcript as follows:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about it then now with the convention managers, starting with Paul Manafort for Mr. Trump.
Thank you for joining us this morning.
PAUL MANAFORT, CONVENTION MANAGER, TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Good morning.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you just heard, uh, what Jon Karl went through right there. And you’re coming off a — another tough weekend, uh, swept in Wyoming by Ted Cruz. He also seemed to pick up some delegates in West Virginia, places like Georgia, as well.
Are you getting beat on the ground right now?
MANAFORT: Well, it’s actually only picked up delegates yesterday in Wyoming and we didn’t even play there, because it was a closed system and, uh, we didn’t want to waste our money and deal with party bosses.
Um, actually, the dialogue and the narrative of this campaign isn’t focusing on the real issues. The real issue is there’s not going to be a second ballot. As your colleague just said, there is — that — many paths to 1,237 for, uh, Donald Trump be — between now and the middle of June, not July.
And we are working all of those paths.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But they have both included, as he pointed out, wins in Indiana, and, of course, a big win in California.
MANAFORT: Well, not necessarily Indiana. It does include California. But it also includes New Jersey, which is also on the 7th of June, and we’re — Trump is going to do very well.
The states that we’ve just finished, this is — this was supposed to be the time when Cruz was ahead. We finished with the South. We finished with the rigged systems that were — that have closed caucuses and don’t have, uh, voters. I mean the profiles are now starting to show the appeal of the two candidates.
And if you just look at the states that Cruz won, the states that Trump won, what do you see?
With Cruz, he wins the reddest of red states, where you have voterless primaries, where — where the — the rules favor, you know, organization versus appeal to the voters.
Trump wins in states that we have to win to win the presidency. You have — we have appealed to Independents and Republicans…
STEPHANOPOULOS: You and Mr. Trump keep talking about the rigged system. But — but, you know, so far, Donald Trump has won about 37 percent of the vote and he’s gotten 48 percent of the delegates.
You could argue that the system is rigged in his favor.
MANAFORT: No, no, no. When I say rigged system, I’m talking about closed system, a system that keeps the voters from participating, because, what this election has shown is that when voters participate, Donald Trump wins.
When the bosses participate, Donald Trump’s interests are not there, because he’s the outsider. He’s the one making the case to change the banking system, change the economy, change the political system so that the people’s interests start to get represented, not the establishment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve also said that the Cruz campaign is breaking the rules and said many times that they’re — they’re doing that, that you’re going to be filing protests.
What specific evidence do you have that they’re breaking the rules and when will you be filing these protests?
MANAFORT: Well, we have to file protests within certain periods of time and the legal cases are being put together. I mean but that is the point. The Cruz campaign, even in the closed systems like Colorado, uh, like a — like, uh, Missouri, they’re not playing their own rules.
They’re — they’re — because they’ve had to muscle things.
And we’ll — we’ll be filing protests. Missouri, we’re going to be filing protests. Colorado, we’re going to be filing protests.
And you saw in Colorado last week where the — the voters were left out of the process, the — a groundswell of support again the system.
But the point is not the rules of the national committee, the system that keeps the voters from participating in the political process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But — but you knew the rules going in.
MANAFORT: And we’re playing by them. And we’re winning. And that’s the point. And there’s only going to be one ballot.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the — going forward, if you go to Cleveland, if you do not get the 1,237 before you get — before the first ballot, I want to get a sense from you on what you think is fair game in trying to win over these delegates. There’s actually a law on the books in Ohio, a bribery law, that says, “No person shall, before, during or after any primary, convention or election, give, lend, offer procure, or promise to give lend or offer any money, office, position, place, employment, influence or any other valuable consideration for a delegate elector or other person.”
in your view, what does that rule in and what does it rule out?
MANAFORT: Well, I’m not going to get into all the arcane nature of the — of the — the various laws. We have our lawyers. They’ve told us what we can do and what we can’t do. We understand that. We’re not violating any rules. We’ve played by the rules the whole time.
And, uh, and we’ll have — we — we’ve got a delegate program. We understand how to do it. People are coming on board the Trump campaign now who have experience in the — in this process. We’re building our networks out.
And I want to point something out that you’ve stressed from the beginning of this — this interview. You talked about Ted Cruz is winning delegates and you talked about a couple of places beyond where — besides Wyoming.
Those are not votes he’s winning. Those are bodies he’s winning. And if there’s a second ballot, yes, they may…
STEPHANOPOULOS: If those bodies vote for him on the second ballot, they’re going to count.
MANAFORT: They maybe will. But if there’s no second ballot, it’s much ado about nothing. And the point is, as your colleague again said, there are many paths for Donald Trump to 1,237 before Cleveland.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you’re so confident about getting to 1,237 before Cleveland, why does Mr. Trump keep complaining about the rules?
MANAFORT: He’s complaining about the system. That’s the point that keeps getting lost here. He’s saying we’re playing by the — we’re playing to open up the process. We’re trying to let voters decide, members of the Republican Party, Independents decide who the nominee should be, not the party bosses. That’s the system of the 1920s, not the — not 2016.
And — and yes, there’s history and conventions. But that history is ancient now. It’s not a modern era presidency with the world opening up the way it has, with so — the social media world opening up the way it has.
These rules have to change. And that’s what he’s saying. As president and as leader of the Republican Party, what he’s saying is he’s going to open up the system. He’s going to end the nature that rigs it and keeps the people out. That’s his point.
He’s not blaming, you know, the chairman of the — of the Republican Party or the RNC. He’s blaming the process.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Paul Manafort, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor