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How Trump Became the GOP’s “Presumptive Nominee” With Hate-Fueled Rhetoric and Attacks on Immigrants

Four guests in New Mexico discuss Trump’s rise.

Tuesday was another big night for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In the Republican race, Trump won all five states up for grabs: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. He won at least 54 percent in every state, capturing most of the delegates at stake. John Kasich placed second in four of the contests. Ted Cruz placed second in one. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut. Sanders took Rhode Island. We begin a roundtable discussion with four guests in New Mexico talking about Trump’s rise to become, as he now refers to himself, “the presumptive nominee.” “We have seen guns coming up from Mexico,” says Sue Wilson Beffort, a Republican member of the New Mexico state Senate, who has not endorsed any presidential candidate but shares Trump’s concerns about a “porous” border. “That’s all rhetoric,” responds Diane Denish, former lieutenant governor of New Mexico, who has endorsed Clinton for president. “We are what America is going to be in a few years: We are a minority-majority state.… And the fact that Donald Trump wants to scare people and tell them that the people that are coming are murderers and rapists … that is just not happening.” We also speak with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who is running for president as a Libertarian and was the Libertarian nominee for president in 2012. He was a Republican during his two terms as governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. And we’re joined by Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a Democratic member of the New Mexico state Senate, who has endorsed Bernie Sanders.


AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Albuquerque, New Mexico, from New Mexico PBS. Tuesday was another big night for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In the Republican race, Trump won all five states up for grabs: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. He won at least 54 percent in every state, capturing most of the delegates up for grabs. In a victory speech in New York, Donald Trump called himself the presumptive nominee and took jabs at Hillary Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think the only card she has is the women’s card. She’s got nothing else going. And frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the women’s card. And the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her. OK? And look how well I did with women tonight.

AMY GOODMAN: John Kasich placed second in four of the contests. Ted Cruz placed second in one. Earlier this week, Kasich and Cruz announced plans to coordinate their campaigns in an effort to deny Trump from reaching the 1,237 delegates needed to win the primary on the — needed to win the nomination.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Connecticut. Senator Sanders took Rhode Island. During her victory speech, Hillary Clinton reached out to Sanders supporters for their help in defeating the Republicans in November.

HILLARY CLINTON: In this election, we will have to stand together and work hard to prevail against candidates on the other side, who would threaten all those rights and pit Americans against each other. They would make it harder to vote, not easier. They would deny women the right to make our own reproductive healthcare decisions. They would round up — they would round up millions of hard-working immigrants and deport them. They would demonize and discriminate against hard-working, terror-hating Muslim Americans, who we need in the fight against radicalization. And both of the top candidates in the Republican Party deny climate change even exists. Now, the other day, Mr. Trump accused me of playing the, quote, “woman card.”


HILLARY CLINTON: Well, if fighting for women’s healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in!

AMY GOODMAN: While the Clinton camp is now saying it’s virtually impossible for Bernie Sanders to catch up in the delegate race for the Democratic nomination, Sanders maintained Tuesday he will make the strongest candidate in November.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We were in New York state last week. Three million people in New York state could not vote because they were independents. Well, you know what? Those folks and independents all over this country will be voting in November for the next president of the United States. And in most cases, we win the independent vote by a two-to-one margin.

AMY GOODMAN: To make sense of Tuesday’s results and the race going forward, we’re joined by four guests here in New Mexico, which will hold its own primary on June 7th. New Mexico, if it seceded from the United States, some say, it would be the third largest nuclear power in the world. New Mexico is also one of the poorest states in the country, and it’s one of just four majority-minority states, where the majority of the state’s residents are people of color.

Joining us now are former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. He’s now running for president as a Libertarian and was the Libertarian nominee for president in 2012. He was a Republican during his two terms as governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003.

Diane Denish is the former lieutenant governor of New Mexico, who’s endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Jerry Ortiz y Pino is a Democratic member of the New Mexico state Senate, who’s endorsed Bernie Sanders.

And Sue Wilson Beffort is a Republican member of the New Mexico state Senate, who has not endorsed any presidential candidate yet.

We welcome you all to Democracy Now! Let’s go to former Governor Gary Johnson first, to — can you respond to what’s called the Acela primaries in the Northeast, the states that Donald Trump swept? You’re a former Republican governor. Your thoughts?

GARY JOHNSON: Well, I just think he is going to get the nomination. I think he’s going to get the nomination, and I think he’s the most polarizing figure among Republicans. I think he alienates over half of Republicans. And I know you’re asking me for my thoughts on Trump, but I think Hillary really is in the same category, that she is very polarizing and that, arguably, we have the two most polarizing figures in American politics today, they’re going to be the nominees. And when 50 percent of Americans right now are saying that they’re independent, well, at the end of the day, maybe the two of them represent 30 percent of the electorate.

AMY GOODMAN: Sue Wilson Beffort, your thoughts on what just took place, not only last night, Donald Trump taking five states, but also the deal being worked out in New Mexico and other states, that Kasich could take New Mexico and Ted Cruz could take other states? Your thoughts about this?

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Well, my sense was that Trump was going to take those states, had that not happened. And yet I think that the people spoke when they expressed disdain for a deal, I can imagine, if I was supporting either Trump or Kasich and then all of a sudden I heard that they were not going to be running in my state. And so, these types of maneuvers or shenanigans or whatever, I think the people are expressing, with the Trump vote, that they want access to electing their president. They want to have that first vote. They do not want delegates elected, such as Colorado, where the people didn’t even get their first vote. And so, I think that we’re seeing this type of reaction that really, I think, is earmarking a brand-new style in politics.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Donald Trump?

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: I think that Donald Trump, unlike Secretary Clinton — I think that Donald Trump is truly a nonpolitician. He has become one very quickly. And I think that the media, in particular, has been very against his candidacy, and therefore the negative questions that have been proposed to him right out of the shoot, I think, have caused some negative reactions for the way that he answered those questions. And I would speak in particular about the issue of women. I thought that Megyn Kelly’s question was slanted and biased and actually untrue. He did not say what she indicated about women. He was referring only to one spat that he had with a female comedian. And so, I thought that that was an inappropriate question for a first question for the whole country, to say this is our president — is the female issue the most important thing that this world is facing, with al-Qaeda and ISIS and the economy the way it was? I just thought that that was a very targeted, very negative question that really was formalized to back him in that corner.

AMY GOODMAN: Diane Denish, your thoughts on this? You are the former lieutenant governor under Governor Richardson here. You ran for governor. You were defeated by the current governor, Susana Martinez. Your thoughts on Donald Trump on the issue of women?

DIANE DENISH: Well, he has a long history of saying terrible things about women. And while, in agreement with Sue Beffort, there’s some very much more important issues, women, I believe, are going to flock to Hillary Clinton in droves. She’s put together a very diverse coalition of voters. If you look at Pennsylvania and Maryland last night, African Americans, women voted for her in 65 percent or more numbers across — and that’s happening across the country. Women understand when a man uses language like code language and says things about a woman’s looks, trying to position her. Hillary Clinton has proved over the years she has the experience and the temperament and the qualifications. I actually heard a Trump spokesman last night say, “No one really goes into the job of president ready to do the job.” Well, I beg your pardon. Hillary Clinton comes to the job with foreign policy, domestic experience and has been tested over 25 years against the most negative language in the country, and she’s ready to do the job. So, I think Donald Trump has — will ignite the women’s vote in favor of Hillary Clinton.

AMY GOODMAN: State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort, the comment you were referring to, the question of Megyn Kelly’s during one of the debates, she said, when it comes to women, you’ve called them “fat pigs,” “dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals.” I mean, she was quoting him.

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Yeah, I disagree with that statement in the plurality of the way that she questioned him. He was referring to a spat that he had, I think with Rosie [O’Donnell], or whomever it was, in a singular situation. And I would just like to say that I think that we’re going to see that women see through a lot of what’s been happening, the veil that has put on Mr. Trump in this election. And I think you’re going to see a lot of women saying all the things that he stands for. They want safety. They want jobs. They want all the things that he stands for. And I would expect that in his own company, that you would see that he really has honored women and has moved them up in high positions. And I had just not heard those things about him prior to that statement. And again, I go back to — that was not what you ask a presidential candidate in the first debate.

AMY GOODMAN: I guess the suggestion was that’s not what a president sounds like. I think each of those were referring to different incidents. But let me ask you something else that has concerned many people, and it was that moment in February when Donald Trump came under criticism for wavering on whether or not he wants the support of the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. He was speaking on CNN with Jake Tapper. Trump refused to disavow Duke’s support or the support of other white supremacists. Let’s just play it for a moment.

DONALD TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so, when you’re asking me a question, that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.

JAKE TAPPER: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is — even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say, unequivocally, you condemn them, and you don’t want their support?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them, and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.

JAKE TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?

DONALD TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups, and I’ll let you know.

JAKE TAPPER: OK, I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but…

DONALD TRUMP: I don’t know any — honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I’ve ever met him.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Donald Trump talking to Jake Tapper on CNN. Your response to that, Sue Wilson Beffort?

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: You know, again, Mr. Trump has not been a politician. He has not been used to, what I would say, “gotcha” questions that many politicians that have been very carefully coached over the years know how to react to press and that sort of thing. I think the name of —

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, he is very quick on his feet. He does respond quickly.

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: He is. He is. But I think that the name of the group that was mentioned, not the David Duke name, but the name of the group, I probably wouldn’t have known what that group was, either, if I was just asked on the side now what — if he was — if he was probably better prepared, he would have handled that question better.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Jake Tapper did say to him, “I’m talking about the Ku Klux Klan.”


AMY GOODMAN: So, let me ask Jerry Ortiz y Pino —

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: No, no, no. It was another — it was another group that said that they had endorsed — anyway. And so, I think that that was an error of Donald Trump. And again, I hope — I think that as he matures, that he will be much better prepared for questions that come out of that nature. And I’m sure that he probably wishes that he had just immediately answered it differently, because I do not see him as a prejudiced person or a person that doesn’t like certain groups. And I just — I just think that that was probably a low point for his answering.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me go to another state senator here in New Mexico, across the aisle and across the table from you, Jerry Ortiz y Pino. Your response to these comments of Donald Trump, from women to the hesitation to disavow the Klan?

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: I think what we’ve seen from Donald Trump throughout this campaign has been an incredible ability to say outrageous things and to get more popular support as a result of it. And unfortunately, he mines — he’s able to tap a vein within the voting public that just frightens me for the future. The kind of debates that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have had during this whole month-after-month lead-up to the nomination have been very interesting, very exciting. Issues have been discussed. Differences have been clarified. When the Republicans debate, because Trump is so polarizing, they talk about each other’s wives. They talk about, you know, just insults, name calling. I really fear for this country during a presidential election in which Trump is the nominee on one side, and I think our chance to explore issues will pretty much be over when the Democratic convention ends. After that, it’ll just be who can paint the other opponent as the nastiest person possible. And if that’s the deterioration of our political debate, there’s no civil discourse going on with that kind of a candidate. So, I’m really hesitant to say that, you know, maybe he’ll mature, maybe he’ll get better, maybe — I mean, I think he knows exactly why he is popular: because he isn’t mature, because he doesn’t get better. He just says outrageous things and uses it.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it’s interesting. Donald Trump said he wasn’t familiar, for example, with David Duke, but he had spoken about him in the past. The New York Times quoted Trump in February of 2000 as saying, “So the Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani. This is not company I wish to keep.” He was very definite then.

GARY JOHNSON: I have to say, as a border state, I’m just incensed over the things that he says. That he’s going to deport 11 million illegal immigrants? That’s just crazy. That he’s going to build a fence across the border? That’s just crazy. That he’s going to kill the families of Islamic terrorists? Every time he says one of these things, it just gets crazier and crazier. Banning Muslims from the United States? Says he’s all for free market, but then in the next sentence he says he’s going to force Apple to make their iPads and their iPhones in the United States? And then, just a couple of weeks ago, these comments about abortion — “Well, the women should be punished” — and then a couple of hours later talking about, “Well, gee, let me clarify that: The doctors should be punished.”

Amy, I’ve been in New Hampshire. I’ve been in the Midwest running for president as a Republican, before I made the switch over to Libertarian. What I’ve seen is that 30 percent of Republican voters believe the scourge of the Earth is Mexican immigration. And it was my voice out there that was saying, “Look, they’re not — first of all, they’re cream of the crop when it comes to workers. They’re not taking jobs that U.S. citizens want.” It’s not an issue of lower pay, unless it’s an issue of language, and they’re the first ones that want to overcome that. And then, on top of that, I get this pitch that Trump is making to the country. So that’s 30 points of his 39 percent support. The other 9 percent is, people are picking up on the fact that, “Hey, I’ve run this successful business. I’m going to apply these business principles to government, and just watch how well it works,” which, by the way, was the same pitch I made to New Mexico when I ran for governor.

AMY GOODMAN: State Senator Sue Wilson Beffort, do you think your former governor, Gary Johnson, is representing Republicans’ point of view? Your thoughts on immigrants, on the border, and setting up a wall, preventing Muslims — in another policy statement he has made, saying Muslims should be banned from entering the United States?

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Well, of course, Governor Johnson was a breath of fresh air. We all —

GARY JOHNSON: Others describe that as a different scent, by the way. But anyway.

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: He was a nonpolitician, as well, and did some great things as a nonpolitician. I think, as a border state, New Mexico really does present the issues that this country is facing. I would say that, first of all, most of the other candidates don’t take ad hoc interviews from the press, and so they’re better coached and don’t get these types of questions. And I think he’s learned a lesson that he probably should be a little more specific about what types of interviews that he’s going to do, just for these questions. But in terms of the border, for instance, New Mexico is extremely porous, and we have seen guns coming up through Mexico. We know that they have been landing in northern New Mexico and distributed. We’ve seen the drugs. We have one of the highest drug overdose per capita in the whole United States. And I don’t think that Trump is planning to have police go and pull people out of their houses. He will have a very sophisticated plan of encouraging people to go and come through the correct way. And I think that if you were to talk to the ranchers down in southern New Mexico, you would see why they are scared. Just last week, there was a report where ISIS said that they were going to come up through Mexico. I mean, these are things that are actually coming in the press. So —

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, Diane Denish?

DIANE DENISH: Well, I think — I think what Senator Beffort is saying is just exactly what Donald Trump — he’s dangerous, he’s divisive, and he wants people to be scared. And obviously that’s worked with Senator Beffort. We don’t have any proof that guns are coming to northern New Mexico. You know, that’s all rhetoric. New Mexico has been a multicultural state. We are what America is going to be in a few years: We are a minority-majority state. We’ve had integrated, mixed, very mixed, Hispanic leadership and Anglo leadership. And the fact that Donald Trump wants to scare people and tell them that the people that are coming are murderers and rapists, we don’t have any instances of that in New Mexico. That is just not happening. And so, it’s just not accurate. It’s not fact-based.


GARY JOHNSON: The rate of — the rate of crime among immigrants — illegal, legal — is much lower than U.S. citizens. They’re walking on eggshells. What’s not being acknowledged is that these workers, these immigrants, are cream of the crop when it comes to workers. And really what needs to be done is just make it easy as possible to get a work visa. And a work visa should entail a background check and a Social Security card, so that applicable taxes get paid. Just make the line moving. You’ve got people in Juárez — you’ve got Mexicans in Juárez that see jobs that exist in El Paso. They can’t get across the border. There’s no moving line to get across the border illegally — or legally, so they have to cross illegally to get the jobs that they see are there. And right now, by the way, there’s this reverse migration taking place, because there are more jobs right now in Mexico than there are in the United States. And how much of that border violence has to do with drug prohibition?

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean? Well, wait, let’s talk about that in our segment, but I want to get a last word in from State Senator Jerry Pino — Jerry Ortiz y Pino.

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: Well, I think the issue really is that when you attack immigrants, you become very popular. And that’s what Donald Trump is doing. That’s what Susana Martinez has done in the state.

AMY GOODMAN: The governor right now.

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: Our current governor. And even though there’s no evidence. And Governor Johnson is absolutely right, there really is no evidence that there’s a higher crime rate among immigrants or that they pose a greater danger than the rest of us. By attacking them, you’re attacking somebody, A, who can’t vote, and, B, who’s competing for jobs at the lowest rung on the ladder. And so, you’re able to paint them as the bogeyman, you’re able to paint them as the cause of all problems, and get away with it, because you don’t have to pay the consequences.


SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: They will not vote against you.

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: Well, let me clarify that issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Sue Wilson Beffort?

SEN. SUE WILSON BEFFORT: First and foremost, I don’t think that he was implying that all immigrants — we have wonderful immigrants working in New Mexico and California and the such. However, when you sit in a formal legal committee in New Mexico, a standing committee, as a legislator, it’s not hearsay when you have the reports from public safety talking about the issue of the dangerous nature of guns coming through. It is not hearsay when they tell us about the overdose problem and what has plagued our wonderful communities here in New Mexico. So, yes, the green card — the government has caused a big problem. They should have been issuing these green cards readily. They should have allowed that. But since for whatever government red tape or whatever that hasn’t occurred, it’s caused this problem. But I did want to clarify the fact that when you hear the officials when you’re in a committee hearing, that is not just scaring the public.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. We’re talking with two New Mexico state senators: Republican Sue Wilson Beffort and Democrat Jerry Ortiz y Pino. And we’re speaking with the former lieutenant governor of New Mexico, Diane Denish, who ran for governor. Gary Johnson is also with us. He was a Republican governor here in New Mexico, and now he is running for the Libertarian nomination to be the Libertarian candidate for president. When he ran in 2012, he got more votes — what was it? One-point-three million votes —

GARY JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah. The bronze medalist.

AMY GOODMAN: — than all the other independent candidates combined. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with you in a minute.

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