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Stage Set For GOP Showdown On CNN; GOP Showdown Will Focus On National Security; Who Can Best Handle Terrorism?; Who Passes "Commander-In-Chief Test"?; Bergdahl To Face Court-Martial; Trump Vs. Cruz: Will The Gloves Come Off?; Cruz, Trump in Virtual Tie In Iowa; Trump Supporters Gather In Las Vegas For Rally; Cruz Supporters Get Candid; Reports: Ringleader Directed Bataclan Gunmen On the Phone. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 14, 2015 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, 6:00 P.M. here in a very chilly Las Vegas, odds are by this time tomorrow night millions of viewers will be watching the Top Republican Presidential candidates on stage at the Venetian Hotel and Casino which is behind me explaining what makes them uniquely suited to becoming America's next Commander-In-Chief. That of course is the focus on tomorrow's CNN debate National Security.

We have new polling tonight on how GOP voters already ranked the candidates. We also have the man they're hoping to follow in the job making National Security news today meaning with these top commanders then delivering an up beat message on the war against ISIS.


BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Today, the United States and our Armed Forces continue to lead the global coalition in our mission to destroy the terrorist Group, ISIL. As I outlined in my speech to the nation last weekend, our strategy is moving forward with a great sense of urgency on four fronts, hunting down and taking out the terrorists, training and equipping Iraqi and Syrian forces to fight ISIL on the ground, stopping ISIL's operations by disrupting the recruiting, financing and propaganda and finally, persistent diplomacy to end the Syrian civil wars so that everyone can focus on destroying ISIL. The ISIL leaders cannot hide and our next message to them is simple, you are next.


COOPER: Well it goes without saying that most Republicans do not believe President Obama's strategy succeeding as for who they believe can do better that is reflected in the new poll which is why we begin the hour with CNN Chief National Correspondent, John King breaking it all down by the numbers. So John, who among the Republican candidates gets the highest marks when it comes to handling terrorism? JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's take star with this one, Anderson, it's a Reuters poll that looked at all the Presidential candidates. Democrats and Republicans and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were tied at 23 percent. Bernie Sanders was actually next at nine, Marco Rubio at five. This is when Americans were asked, all the voters were asked about all of the candidates. But of course, it's a Republican Debate you're there in Vegas for. And what do the Republican voters think about the candidates?

By a big margin in our CNN polling Donald Trump is viewed as the candidate who can best handle ISIS, 46 percent, 15 percent for Ted Cruz and you see Rubio, Carson and Bush. No secret why this is happening. You just heard the President while Donald Trump has clarity when he speak, he said he was Hillary bomb the bleep out of ISIS. He has said at the President, let Syrian refugees in. He would kick them out and of course most recently Anderson. He has proposed this provocative ban on Muslims entering into the United States. So at the moment telling in to the debate Trump has a clear lead among Republicans on who is toughest against ISIS.

COOPER: And that idea of banning Muslims entering the United States, does it had seemed to have had any effect one way or the other on polls?

KING: It is one of the great examples of what we could call the Trump paradox. And let's take a look at the numbers. Brand new ABC Washington polls pull out tonight. 82 percent of Democrats think banning Muslims is nuts, they think it's a bad idea. Six in 10 independents say Donald Trump is wrong to say ban Muslims and in fact, six in 10 of all Americans say Donald Trump is wrong when he says we should ban Muslims from entering the United States.

But Anderson, it is a Republican Debate. A Republican primary he is running in right now, the Republican nomination he seeks and six in 10 of Republicans support the idea of banning Muslims, 38 percent oppose it. So on that debate stage tomorrow night, when Jeb Bush says you're wrong, when Marco Rubio says you're wrong, guess what Donald Trump can say, you're with President Obama, I'm comfortable where I am.

COOPER: And true the numbers on terrorism itself. Are the national numbers different at all when they are than they are in the early stage, like Iowa or did the state polls track the national numbers?

KING: They mostly tracked. We talked the last hour how Donald Trump is way ahead in the horse race nationally but when you get to Iowa Ted Cruz is either ahead of him or in a close race but when you look at the terrorism issues, Donald Trump is benefiting. Brandon can a P.F. university poll among Iowa, Republican is likely to go to the caucuses, who would best handle terrorism? Donald Trump at 33 percent, Ted Cruz at a distant, not too distant but distance second a 24 percent then Marco Rubio. And this is interesting Anderson.

[21:05:00] As you have the debate tomorrow nigh focusing on National Security issues, National Security Terrorism in Iowa is now the number one issue. The economy and jobs for months has been number one, post Paris, post San Bernardino heading into our final debate of the year. Look at this, terrorism, now 30 percent of Iowa Republican say that's the top issue, and Foreign Policy is third at 13 percent. Trump leads on terrorism, Cruz leads in Iowa in Foreign Policy, a nice issue to debate tomorrow night.

COOPER: Yeah they're doe chanting. Thanks. Now the best plan all round on politics also the longest interim television, CNN National Security, Commentator and former Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, former chairman of the house Intelligence committee. CNN Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger, Michael Smerconish, those have seen in Sir Smerconish as well as the Michael Smerconish program on series X.M radio.

Also three CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro, Jeffrey Lord and Van Jones and the flash reporter and the Rubio friends and friends of Trump supporter and former Reagan White House Political Director. Dan is a former top adviser to President Obama. All right, that's it. We'll take a break. OK.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN COMMENTATOR: And we'll not hold accountable. That's all with you.

COOPER: So chairman, I mean it's fascinating, you know, there were a lot of people said look, President Obama had no experience, you know, going into -- on national security or not a lot going into National Security before he became President. This time around they're going to go for somebody who is a Governor on the GOP side. Donald Trump is leading without any actual national security experience.

MIKE ROGERS, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You know, I think what you are finding happened is every time people and the president comes out and says everything is fine here, nothing to see, were doing and it's working, people know something is wrong. People know that the policy wasn't working. The strategy was not working. So when you get a Cruz or a Trump that come out and say bombastic things, we're going to carpet bomb them, were going to bomb the snot out of them, and people reacted at the sense of yes, that the leadership, that's the strength against an enemy.

COOPER: The muscular rhetoric.

ROGERS: Yes, and at some point, all of that will have to be fettered out. Bombing is a tactic it is not a strategy. And so at some point when you look at them, it really impress me about that poll is if you add a foreign policy in terrorism, its 43 percent. That means that will be the number one issue when people walk into the poll in Iowa. That will be a weighted issue.

And there's going to be a lot of time between now and the time they walk into that voting booth it's to actually get through what is their strategy on defeating terrorism and all of the other national security issues.

COOPER: That Gloria, I mean, there's already been a lot of time to talk about that. The candidates have talked about it.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yep. COOPER: People criticized Donald Trump, there's not a lot of meat on the bone other than bomb the heck out of them and take the oil. And yet voters are responding.

BORGER: They are responding, it's as much I think a reaction against President Obama as it is in many ways to support for Donald Trump. But, you know, Trump talks the talk, but also think what we're seeing is the decline of Dr. Carson, and one of the reasons we're seeing the decline of Carson and the rise of Cruz is because people don't see him as a Commander-In-Chief. And the more of this question of who's best able to handle terrorism or ISIS becomes issue number one as we see in the polls, John was just talking about.

I think some like Carson has more of a problem. I think the challenge for Trump tomorrow night is to talk about specifics. I'm sure he is going to be pressed by Wolf and our colleagues on specifics because we really haven't heard that from Trump beyond what you were talking about.

COOPER: But Jeffrey, does he need to talk about specifics? I mean he hasn't talked about them in great detail so far and again he is doing pretty well.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think he does. I mean, I really do think that we collectively are policy wonkish. I think voters out there want the basic message. They want, you know, is this somebody I can trust? Is this a strong person to go to Mike's comments? This was in many respects, as I think I've said before, the kind of thing that happened with Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan was a message guy and he used language very much like this when he was running for president and was pooh pooed by a lot of people in the day. That well he didn't do know this, I mean he was president, well. After he was president, they wrote a whole book saying he knew nothing about arms control and this was four years into his term.

COOPER: But like us where kind of is you have had a lot of former, you know, generals and stuff on our and else where coming out saying, you know, the idea of bombing the heck out of them and taking Iraq's oil, you know, that doesn't make much sense.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: And yet that hasn't dented any of his popularity thus far. I'm thinking of Jeb Bush two years ago if I'm not mistaken saying you need to be prepared to lose primaries in order to win the general election. This is the reverse of that. This will catch up with the GOP.

I mean, look at the data that you just shared where six in ten Americans say they don't agree with Donald Trump on the Muslim Immigration issue. He carries favor with the Republicans but long- term, that Dog is just not going to hunt.

COOPER: Ana, I mean you're from Marco Rubio he's gone after Ted Cruz now with calling him an isolationist, you know, basically linking kind of which Rand Paul, do you expect that to continue tomorrow night? ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'd be surprised I if it doesn't.

[21:10:00] I think they have been coming after each other, you know, Ted Cruz has been going after Marco Rubio an immigration calling him soft on that where as Marco, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush have bee after Ted Cruz on National Security the national security vote.

We haven't see it have make a dent of Ted Cruz so far, you know, it's not -- look at these poll numbers, he is number two when it comes to who can handle the National Security Issues. I agree with Michael. I think that, you know, at some point, at some point we're going to need specifics. But right now what people are looking for is a contrast with a President Obama who Republicans view as weak, as pussy footed, as you know talking a very low talk deliberative. They want somebody with bluster. They want somebody but strength that project strength, that looks like they're going to, you know, be the leader of the free world. And that is what they're seeing on somebody like a Donald Trump or a Ted Cruz, despite the lack of specifics.

COOPER: And Van Jones, despite all pundits talking about the lack of specifics when people are asked who at the temperament to be President, a Republican voters point to Donald Trump.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well and then I think I'd say something about this Republican Party. Look, if you're a Democrat and watching this, an independent and you're watching this. You're seeing something very bizarre. It seems that Republicans are chasing themselves off a cliff.

A leader describes a solution. At demagogue describes a problem and blames somebody. Trump is a demagogue. He is describing the problem very well then he blames somebody. The only he'd be leading though are other Republicans who then start to mock. It is where about imitate him in this sort of tougher and tougher position against Muslims.

I think it's very, very dangerous. I have said before as a Democrat I used to love to see Trump say this crazy stuff, and it's great, he is ruining the Republicans. I think he may be poisoning the overall electorate. I am afraid you're going to start seeing other people running for office saying these sorts of things against Muslims when a fact only a microscopic minority of Muslim are a part of any of this stuff. 1.6 billion innocent but being blamed by someone like him. I'm sorry.

LORD: I think he's going to get a lot of Democratic support. It is attracting Democrats it is like, you know Reagan Democrats are giving way to Trump, Democrats.

JONES: You know, I miss Ronald Reagan, you know, Ronald Regan, let me very clear. Ronald Reagan showed a level of level headedness on gun policy I don't see in this party. George W. Bush put his arms around Muslims and went to a Mosque six days after 9/11. I don't see any Republicans who are showing the kind of strength that you saw from a George W. Bush or the kind of wisdom on guns you saw from Reagan's. So if you want to talk about Reagan, I don't see that...

BORGER: I think that feels...

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN NEWS HOST: And I don't think that Ronald Reagan...

LORD: Ronald Reagan.

SMERCONISH: ... is nominated.

BORGER: He shouldn't get nominated.

SMERCONISH: He couldn't get nominated in this incarnation of the Republican Party. I don't think that papa Bush could win the nomination. There's been an exodus of I's from the R's. And that's what I think accounts for some of the day that.

COOPER: Congressman, do you believe that, that Ronald Reagan couldn't get nominated?

ROGERS: No. I don't believe it. It's all about leadership. It's about how you present yourself on the problems and one of the reasons I think they're attracted to the vision of Cruz and Trump right now is because they've heard this. The only ones they've heard say something that they can identify with. They can say I understand what carpet bombing is. This too, will pass. These are polls, these are temporary, this will go on. These candidates, it's really fascinating. Remember, Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, they take their job very seriously. They will weigh in to the details of their plans.

So it sells right now, maybe so but I think they're going to have to have more meat on the bone. And that becomes leadership. Yes. I think Reagan could get elected. I think the elder Bush could get elected because people identify with people who show leadership at tough times. That's what they think they saw in these candidates.

BORGER: But the field is so large now, that it's hard to differentiate when you've got, you know, 14 people. When the field gets narrower and narrower, Trump will get pressed harder and whoever survives will get pressed harder by the voters. That you don't think so?

COOPER: I feel like people have been saying that on television before.

BORGER: Well I know.

COOPER: Quite a while.

ROGERS: I remember this.

COOPER: We've heard this before. So let's...

NAVARRO: The field is so large.

COOPER: Let's put in that and let's see what happened.

BORGER: All right, all right.

COOPER: All right, everyone stay with me. We have a lot more to talk about after a quick break including how the race plays out now that Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are no longer campaign bff's. Later, why the military went against their own panel of recommendation decided to put Bowe Bergdahl on trial in desertion charges. Charges it could bring a life sentence if he is convicted.



COOPER: Well, the headline going into tomorrow's CNN debate, one frontrunner and one rising challenger. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz went practically arm in arm. They're now kind of I guess you could say mano-a-mano.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you look at the way he's dealt with the senate where he goes in there like a, you know, frankly like a little bit of a maniac, you never get things done that way.


COOPER: Senator Cruz for his part responded with this tweet and video. It reads in honor or my friend at real Donald Trump and good hearted maniacs everywhere. Includes a clip from frankly the last good movie Hollywood ever made, "Flashdance." No, were just kidding.

Get ready for tough campaigning ahead which require racers the question when will a victor emerge or even will one emerge before the convention? CNN's Tom Foreman joins us with some possible answers to that. Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, let's look at the early states. They all go off in February and their votes are divided proportionally based on the performance of the candidates. It's not winners take all. Iowa is first. They're we've been talking about at how Trump and Cruz are virtually tied they would split those 27 delegates almost evenly if the vote happens today and if the polls are right.

In New Hampshire, Trump has a bigger lead. But now look who is in second, its Chris Christie and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, bring it down to South Carolina where you have 50 delegates in play. And there Trump has a big lead but now it's Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

And over here in Nevada, another equation altogether. Here, it is Donald Trump out Front, second place is Ben Carson.

So you can see the challenge in this debate. These candidates for the first rush have to not only try to knock Donald Trump down, but if they can't do that, somebody needs emerge as a strong second contender or the race could be over pretty fast. Because once you get past that first rush in February look what happens in March.

Now you have 13 states in one day with hundreds of delegates in play. We don't have great polling out here to know how the candidates are all doing. But we do know that in many of these states Donald Trump's agenda plays very, very well.

So again, that's why this debate matters so very much because it is the last face to face chance that these other candidates have to somehow stop his momentum if they want to keep this race alive and not have it over really fast. Anderson?

COOPER: Yeah, the clock is ticking on that.

[21:20:00] Tom Foreman, thanks very much. Back with the panel, Mike Rogers, Gloria Borger, Michael Smerconish, Ana Navarro, Jeffrey Lord and Van Jones.

Chairman, how do you see this going all the way to the conventional or do you think, I mean you're looking at that, that come March we'll know a lot more of where things are.

ROGERS: Everything I thought I knew about politics just went out the window. You know, Iowa is not New Hampshire. So, you know what you're seeing in the candidates now start to gel to where they think their strengths are.

COOPER: Right.

ROGERS: Chris Christie is a national security guy. He's doing a platform that's pretty significant in New Hampshire on that. It helped if you read the endorsement there, it was huge. By the way, they will endorse every day. They'll say something good about him every day. His numbers are on the way up.

That first round and to get by the way, people who do well in Iowa tend not to do well in New Hampshire and I think you're seeing that in all the polling now. That first round I think will knock a few down. I think that there will be less seats at the table. That big Super Tuesday day is where it really starts to matter because it funding wise.

NAVARRO: And I think that this angle and when this one Mike Roger's hair is looking strangely like Donald Trump's.

ROGERS: You know if I have this kind of money I have this kind of hair, all right.

COOPER: Gloria, what do you expect tomorrow night, I mean, in terms of strategies going into this because Donald Trump has -- he's done fine in debate, I mean, you know, he -- a lot of the online voting his score is very high. He would quickly tell but in there have been other people in debates who have jumped up Carly Fiorina, who then faded. Donald Trump doesn't seem to need these debates in the way that some of the other candidates did.

BORGER: He doesn't and I think honestly, he attacks on Twitter but he kind of wimps out during the debate face to face and he'll be looking at Cruz face to face and it's going to be a different dynamic. I've been talking to the Cruz people. They have no intention of going after Donald Trump whatsoever.

I think you're going to see Rubio and Cruz mix it up on national security. And I think you know, they will be calling each other, you know, there will be Rubio will be calling Cruz an isolationist, Cruz is lucky that Rand Paul will also be on the stage because he'll take some of that heat.

My question tomorrow night is what happens to Jeb Bush? I mean, he's not in the main conversation anymore.

COOPER: Hasn't that question been asked before every single debate and after every single debate? What happens to Jeb Bush?

SMERCONISH: And it's going to get on high level then.

NAVARRO: I only know that I only answered at a 1,025 times in the last six months. If you would like for me to answer it again I would be happy to so.

COOPER: What are you looking for Michael?

SMERCONISH: I'm looking at Ben Carson having a put-up kind of a moment because...

COOPER: Why do you think he has faded?

SMERCONISH: I think his faded because Ted Cruz is on the accent and I think there's a direct relationship between what's happening to Cruz's rise and Ben Carson's fall.

Look, this is not a strong suit. This is foreign policy tomorrow night. This is national security and Carson needs to stop the bleeding or I think he's really going to face it.

NAVARRO: So Ben Carson has faded because he doesn't know the difference between Hamas and Hummus and we are in a national security emergency...

ROGERS: One thing on this. So this is where real old fashioned politics counts. Ted Cruz has been running an old fashioned...

NAVARRO: Exactly.

ROGERS: ... on the ground campaign but if people on the ground...

NAVARRO: And he has the right wing media very much in his corner.

JONES: But listen, we're not talking about who I think is going to cause problems to somebody we are talking about. We talk about Rubio a lot. Chris Christie is a zombie who cannot be killed. He will not be president but he can cause real problems to Rubio.

COOPER: And he's back on the main stage.

JONES: And he's back on the main stage. Now, you would have thought that Chris Christie is done. You would thought with bridge-gate gone. He falls off the main stage into the kiddy table. He somehow comes back just in time. It just in time towards the...

NAVARRO: Because national security.

JONES: Yes but just in time to hurt Rubio. Rubio needs this moment to shine on national security. He needs to be able to say look, I'm your guy. You've got now Chris Christie back from the dead to step on him with national security and he also got a ground game in New Hampshire.

Rubio has got a problem because if he loses, and he will lose in Iowa and he cannot perform well in New Hampshire because of Christie where does this guy go.

NAVARRO: He got to win. He got to win.

JONES: He got to.

NAVARRO: But he also against Hillary Clinton, by the way, he matches up the best against Hillary Clinton.

JONES: Well, that's why -- well look, Democrats are terrified at Rubio. My point is that Rubio must have been very happy to see Chris Christie fall off the main stage. He must be very sad to see him crawling back one. He -- Chris Christie only causes problems for Rubio.

COOPER: Jeffrey Lord...

LORD: No, the problem is...

NAVARRO: And he causes problems for Kasich and for Jeb Bush.

JONES: But they're gone, they're dead. They're gone.

NAVARRO: All of them are eating out of the same bowl in New Hampshire and I think at some point you're going to call -- you're going to see Republicans call for some unity if we start seeing that Trump or Cruz might be the nominee.

LORD: We still have the dynamic of the outsiders here. That's what the real message is. I think that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is by no means an insider.

JONES: The brilliance of this man is that he somehow got the whole world saying outsiders and insiders, not extremists which what you're guy is or just moderates but outsiders and insiders and we've all fall into that. Now, what is it -- Trump is not an outsider. He is a billionaire.

LORD: He is.

JONES: He's a billionaire. He is an extremist. He's a demagogue and they say, don't -- Obama's chair, well, because he wants the Islamic, radicalism, whatever.

[21:25:04] We're terrible because we won't call it a demagogue, a demagogue. Your guys are demagogue.

NAVARRO: Trump is a member of the establishment...

LORD: Barack Obama is a demagogue...

JONES: What?

LORD: ... but I just realize there are people who think Barack Obama is a demagogue.

NAVARRO: I think the dynamic with Ted Cruz on this outsider and insider is very interesting because he can lay claim to being an outsider despite the fact that he's an insider. The guy has been in government jobs for decades now and yet he goes to Washington and yeah, I think almost every other...

COOPER: Do you see Trump going after Cruz tomorrow in the polling is a little bit of any act on that stage?

NAVARRO: I think he's smarter than that if he's been watching and he does. If he's been watching T.V. today or listening to radio, he knows that his attack on Cruz on the maniac issue fell flat.

He's gotten some attacks from Rush Limbaugh. He's gotten some attack from Mark Levin giants of the right wing conservative media.

So I think he's going to tread carefully because he's been very effective in the attacks that he laid on Jeb Bush, on Marco Rubio, and practically for everybody else. But the right wing base likes Ted Cruz a lot and he's got a lot of credibility.

SMERCONISH: I don't think they'll stop him. I think Donald Trump will still go after Ted Cruz. I think he'll do it early. I think he'll do it often and I think that Cruz will not respond in kind. He'll have a one-liner up his sleeve and be dismissive of Trump.

BORGER: But, you know, Cruz has real support to Mike's point. Cruz has real support among Tea Party voters, evangelical, and libertarians.

COOPER: And even those who support Carson say their second...

BORGER: Choice.

COOPER: ... choice would be Cruz.

BORGER: Would be Cruz. In Iowa, if you look at people's first and second choice, Cruz has 51 percent. OK, so very important in Iowa. So if Trump attacks Cruz frontally he stands to kind of lose... COOPER: Which is Iowa matter, I mean, it didn't matter for Huckabee, it didn't matter for Santorum.

BORGER: Well, it does...

ROGERS: I don't think that the debate itself doesn't play into Trump's game plan. He understands he can take a half step back and he's going to be fine. He'll do his bit on social media. You'll pick up the phone and get on any Sunday talk show that he wants without having to show up and he has something that's different than any other candidate.

I think if they're sitting in the back room, they are probably giving an advice you just take it. You don't have to be head on. Have a good couple of one-liners.

NAVARRO: Part of the reason why Iowa doesn't matter for Huckabee because Huckabee had no money after Iowa. I would argue that Iowa did matter for Santorum. This is a guy who had practically nothing going for him, and lasted until the very end, ended up being the guy going one on one with Mitt Romney.

JONES: Cruz being able to win in Iowa is massive. It's a game changer. It does -- he goes from being somebody who was kind of down there in the kiddy leagues, now, you got a lot of people saying he might be the presumptive winner because he is -- Trump has made him look more reasonable.

Before he was the -- look, Cruz is so lucky on his national security stuff, when it comes to surveillance, Rand Paul makes him look more reasonable on his other, his blaster his right wing fostering Trump makes Cruz look more reasonable.

So Cruz is being benefited by having a Rand Paul, by having a Trump. Cruz -- it's his night...

COOPER: And Cruz seems all along to have just been waiting for Trump to fade somewhere.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: I mean, from the beginning it seems like Cruz...

BORGER: Exactly.

COOPER: ... had all -- was playing a long war. I mean, he was in a long vision.

BORGER: You know he spent a lot of his August in the south in those Super Tuesday states. After being in Vegas, he's going to go back down to the south. He has an organization throughout the south. So in a way, while he's -- Obama 3.0 with technology he's also running an old fashioned campaign. So...

COOPER: We got to take a break here. About an hour from now, Donald Trump will be speaking at a rally here in Las Vegas. We'll get a preview of what that event is shaping up to look like. Plus, we're going to hear from some of Ted Cruz's supporters about why they are backing him and what they like most about him. We'll be right back.



COOPER: Well, everyone here gearing up for the debate tomorrow night of course all eyes really on Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, both men on the campaign trail.

Today, our reporters with both of them. We begin tonight with Sara Murray is at the Westgate Hotel, the result in Las Vegas where Trump event is starting soon.

What's the latest on the ground there tonight, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think, Anderson, the interesting thing when you talk to voters here is they really don't want to see Donald Trump go after Ted Cruz.

There are a number of people here who are still split on who are they are going to support. They're looking at Trump. They're looking at Cruz. They're looking at Carson and I think it would ultimately be bad for Republicans if Trump and Cruz go head to head on the debate stage tomorrow night.

That said, a couple of people I talked to said look, if they go after each other organically, if they want to draw a contract that's up to them but they are really looking for a substance of question from the moderator, things that will illuminate where the different candidates stand on their positions especially on national security, Anderson.

COOPER: Has the campaign itself given any indication of what they expect to see from Trump tomorrow night?

MURRAY: Well, his campaign staffers are very careful about trying to predict what Trump will do impart because as we've all learned during this election cycle, Donald Trump is very unpredictable. But I think what we've seen before is we see a Trump who is much more willing to attack from this, to attack at events like this and much more reserved when we see him on the debate stage.

And part of that could be a strategy, an attempt to appeal beyond just this for a conservative to maybe more moderates who want to see that Donald Trump can sort of rein it in a little bit on a bigger stage. But I think it's a big question whether that whole interim CNN debate tomorrow night but you're also looking at a guy. Sure, Trump is leading in the national polls but in Iowa it is a very tight race and that could be what pushes him over the edge.

COOPER: Sara, is somebody actually singing opera behind you or is that a recording?

MURRAY: It's just become a part of Donald Trump's play list. It's not actually live opera. It is just very loud opera music behind me. Yeah, he likes this in a day.

COOPER: Very pretty. All right it's very nice. Sara, thanks you very much.


COOPER: Just ahead as we have been reporting, Ted Cruz is heading into tomorrow's debate with new momentum. His support's surging in Iowa where he's made big gains in several polls.

[21:35:01] Our Gary Tuchman spent time today with the group of Ted Cruz supporters here in Vegas. Here's what they told him.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nine people meeting as a Ted Cruz's Clark County, Nevada headquarters including a man holding a Cruz fundraiser at his home tonight.

You are all supporting Ted Cruz for president?


TUCHMAN: How many of you have been supporting him the whole way from the beginning to the end of campaign? So seven of the nine of you have been with Cruz from the beginning?

You, Rod, who are hosting the fundraiser for Cruz, who did you support in the beginning?


TUCHMAN: And what changed?

CORLONE: What change was he's basically saying the same things now that he said when he opened up, make America great. A lot of things have to be done to make America great, and he is not really saying what they are.

TUCHMAN: And you think Cruz is?

CORLONE: I think Cruz is a man conviction. He's got priorities and he can make America change.

TUCHMAN: Nationally, there is much conversation about Cruz's like ability.

MARILYN GUBIER, CRUZ SUPPORTER: He's very much like Ronald Reagan and knows how to work with other people but you're talking about the U.S. senate in this moment. A lot of those people you didn't want to get along with.

TUCHMAN: Does it trouble and you -- does it trouble many of you by the Ted Cruz that, you know, even a lot of Republicans say they have a tough time getting along with him? TOM DIGIACOMO, CRUZ SUPPORTER: I think they're not getting along with his principles. He's standing on conservative principles in a bold manner and he's not going to move to what he calls the mushy middle.

TUCHMAN: Do you think Ted Cruz can get along with Democrats?





TUCHMAN: Why do you think so?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because he's a good person.

CORLONE: You want to get a point across you better have your courage of conviction that's what this man has. You know, I've not offended by his...

TUCHMAN: How about you?

CASSIDY MCGOWAN, CRUZ SUPPORTER: I just personally think that Cruz is not worried about pleasing everyone necessarily. And he's - he would rather stick to his own values in what he believes in and push for conservative principles than have to go into the middle and compromise what he believes in to please everyone to get along with everyone.

TUCHMAN: And how do you feel about this?

BARBARA PERGI, CRUZ SUPPORTER: I think bipartisanship is overrated. That's not what we send the politicians to Washington to do.

TUCHMAN: I'm here to ask how important are Cruz's religious beliefs to you?


TUCHMAN: Is that one of the reasons you're supporting him?







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's part of the package, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He does what he says and it's a proven package and that's part of it.

TUCHMAN: So you don't he's just think the evangelical candidate you're supporting?







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see him as a constitutional candidate.


TUCHMAN: And these people believe he's the toughest candidate and feel it's no coincidence his poll numbers are going up in the days since San Bernardino.

When he talks about his quote, "carpet-bombing ISIS", do you all got that?




TUCHMAN: Will you think that will work?

CORLONE: I think he also says on the front end of that he's going to listen to his generals.

TUCHMAN: We're in Nevada, so what do you think the odds are being in Nevada that Ted Cruz will become president? Real quick, let's see numbers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I'm going to say 50/50.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm going too early to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's going to be strong.

TUCHMAN: It's Nevada they put out everything right away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think 100 percent.


COOPER: Did -- Gary Tuchman joins me now. Did anybody say who they would support as their second if Ted Cruz was not in the final race?

TUCHMAN: Two other people said Cruz is the only man they're supporting. They're not considering him not winning. They're going to support him no matter what.

The other seven people said they would support Trump but they're not nearly -- anywhere near as enthusiastic about Donald Trump is there about Ted Cruz. They do say if Donald Trump would run as an independent candidate they would support whomever ran as a Republican standard.

COOPER: Gary thanks you very much.

Just ahead, Bowe Bergdahl, decision today to court-martial him. He was a prisoner of the Taliban, as you know now he could spend life in a U.S. prison. Details ahead.



COOPER: The army has decided that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl will face a court-martial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. He could face life in prison if convicted.

In 2009, he disappeared from his base in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban. In 2014, he was released in a controversial exchange for five detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

Joining me is David Rhode who was kidnapped, himself, by Taliban affiliate, escaped. He's also a CNN global affairs analyst.

Also joining us is Retired Major General Spider Marks, he's a CNN Military Analyst and Executive Dean of the University of Phoenix. And Patrick McClean, he's a Military Law Attorney - a Military Law Attorney and a former Military Judge.

Patrick, this court-martial that Bergdahl is facing, can you just explain how it differs from a special court-martial which was the original recommendation?

PATRICK MCCLEAN, MILITARY LAW ATTORNEY: A special court-martial is like a misdemeanor court. A general court-martial is like a felony court. Special court-martial has a limit of punishment of 12 months confinement and bad conduct discharge. A general court-martial is going to give the maximum punishment allotted for any offense. In this case, with the misbehavior before the enemy is life in prison.

COOPER: And General Marks, what do you make of this decision? I mean, should Bergdahl face a general court-martial?

JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, he can surely. In fact, the special court-martial was recommended. The general court- martial is what the Commanding General who oversees the proceedings, make the decision to take that to that level because it gives him a broader set of options.

He communicates not only internally to the army, saying, "Look, justice is going to be served." But he also talks to the outside which says as well, "I am going to try to ensure that justice is served here and I have a broader range options in terms of punishment." And he also upon the delivery of the juries decision on sentencing, he then has the option to lower it if he decides to. So it gives him a broader set of options.

COOPER: David, I mean, how do you square this decision with this fact that the army's own investigating officer is testified earlier, a jail sentence would be inappropriate?

DAVID RHODE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He did. And that's been the most thorough investigations today. That was General Bergdahl's investigation. He did 57 interviews. He had a team of 22 people. They spoke to members of Bergdahl's unit. They spoke to his family, his commanders. They found, you know, huge fault with his decision to walk off this base.

General Bergdahl thought he was delusional. But they, you know, in making that decision. But they did feel he was truthful and the descriptions of the suffering he endured, there was also a Military Expert on. They train soldiers on how withstand in captivity. They felt it was the worst treatment meted out to an American prisoner of war since Vietnam -- the five years he was in captivity.

COOPER: Well, Patrick, given the terms of sentencing, what could Bergdahl be looking at?


MCCLEAN: Well, again, misbehavior before the enemy carries life imprisonment. If he was only convicted at the desertion to avoid hazardous duty, which is -- is what the second charge is. He could face a maximum of five years. But I really think that what the general who sent this to a court-martial, to a general court-martial, General Abrams wants is to have a free ranger options like General Marks told you just a moment ago.

In other words, it's true that even the preliminary hearing officer Lieutenant Colonel Vister who gave him advice about what to do. He said send this to a special court-martial. But by sending it to a general court-martial it permits him to negotiate with the defense and not tie his hands and his options into all the facts throughout. But the facts certainly seem to be a lot different them already (ph).

COOPER: And General Marks - I mean, you've had some experience with military trials, how does it differ from a civilian trial? Are the procedures basically the same? I mean how was it actually orchestrated?

MARKS: Well, clearly, in my experience not as a lawyer but as somebody who either was in paneled set on the jury or as a Commanding General who had general court-martial authority. I can tell you that the Article 32 or the investigation not unlike a grand jury is an extremely exhaustive process that really gives the defendant an amazing number of rights. So counter-intuitively or what general public might understand is that military uniform court's military justice is extremely procedural and really looks at the defendant in what that individual soldiers or service member's rights are. So this is a very fair, very just, every thorough process.

COOPER: David, I know you've been in-touch with Bergdahl's attorney. How are they reacting to the news?

RHODE: Well, they're disappointed. And they're saying they're not questioning the military at all in the way they've handled this. They were very happy with the preliminary investigation. They're very upset that last month Senator John McCain said he would hold a hearing if Bergdahl was unpunished at the end of this procedure.

And the problem with that is that the four-star general who will make the final decision in this case, when he comes up for promotion next that promotion will be reviewed by McCain's own committee. And so today, Bergdahl's lawyer told me he was appalled that Senator McCain had done this. That it was sort of undue influence for members and congress to be openly talking and pressuring people in the middle of a criminal trial.

COOPER: David Rhode, Spider Marks, Patrick McClean, appreciate you for being on. Thank you very much.

Coming up next tonight, a shocking report. We're going to tell you what it suggests to the ring leader the Paris attacks was doing outside the Vatican Concert Hall while the terrorists we're massacring people inside.



COOPER: A disturbing new report on the Paris attacks suggests that the ringleader was actually on the phone outside the Bataclan Concert Hall directing the terrorists as the massacre went on inside.

The CTC Sentinel of terrorism studies journal broke the story. Paul Cruickshank is the editor in chief to journal and the CNN terrorism analyst. I spoke to him earlier.


COOPER: Paul, what more are you learning about how this ringleader orchestrated these attacks?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, EDITOR IN CHIEF, CTC SENTINEL: Well, Anderson, we're learning stunning at new details about the role of the ringleader Abdelhamid Abbaoud that night. We're learning that he spent about an hour outside the Bataclan Concert Hall while the attack was ongoing inside the concert hall. Apparently, stage managing the attack inside via his cell phone. There was a witness that saw him very, very near the concert venue speaking in a very agitated way into his cell phone. It was a hands free cell phone. So he was speaking in that fashion with an ear piece and the supposition, Anderson, is that he was giving orders for this slaughter inside the Bataclan Concert Hall in real time.

All of this after earlier in the evening he had been in phone contact with one of the stadium attackers right until the point when the stadium attackers started blowing themselves up.

All of this creating a picture of a ringleader coordinating this terrorism operation in real time the night of the attacks, Anderson.

COOPER: What's even more incredible about this is, you know, all along we've been comparing this to the Mumbai attacks back in 2008 which later on it was learned there was a central controller who I think was in Pakistan at the time in phone communication with the terrorists who were attacking the various locations.

This is yet another similarity now with Mumbai. Were you -- I mean he was actually on the scene but giving direction and the fact that he chose not to get himself killed in the initial round, is it clear now that he was saving himself for a second wave of attacks?

CRUICKSHANK: That's exactly right, Anderson, that he was saving himself. There were plans that he had to launch a second wave of attacks against an upscale shopping mall in La Defense area of Paris.

He had tasked his female cousin with buying too expensive suits worth more than $5,000 for him and another male attacker who hasn't been identified yet and their plan was to go into this shopping district, dress very, very sharply to blend in and the to launch a gun and bomb attacks in the shopping district.

Obviously, they would have the element of surprise because no one would expect somebody dressed that way to start on a killing spree, Anderson.

COOPER: The fact that he wanted command and control during the attack is really -- I mean, again, I got to come back to it. I just think it's really fascinating. It's going to be now a big cause for concern for western security officials as something to look for in future attacks.

CRUICKSHANK: Absolutely right. And it really raises the bar of what ISIS can be capable of because if you've got somebody on the ground who is coordinating between all these different attack teams, it means that you can launch multi hour attacks, rolling attacks against multiple targets.

[21:55:07] You have a certain amount of flexibility. You can improvise. That's what ISIS is trying to do. It's trying to launch attacks with the maximum possible impact, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Paul Cruickshank. Paul, thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Some key developments, as well, in the San Bernardino investigation as you know the FBI has been working with cell phones found either at or near the killer couple's home.

So far, they've been unable to recover anything from a pair of them that were smashed apparently by the terrorists. They were able however, to retrieve some data from two other phones found at the shooter's home which lead them to search a nearby lake.

FBI divers finished with that over the weekend but apparently have come up empty that is according to a law enforcement source to CNN.

We'll be right back from the Venetian here in Las Vegas where tomorrow night Republican presidential candidates will take the stage.


COOPER: Footnote on the campaign before we hand it off here in Las Vegas. This is a primary race that is by any measure defying all convention. One where we see something new to put up by nearly every day and it's in that spirit that we leave you with this today from Donald Trump's long-time personal doctor.

In a press released, I'm sure Donald Trump fashion that doctor said Mr. Trump's blood pressure, and that's his lab results are, quote, "astonishingly excellent".

[22:00:00] He added that the 69-year-old's physical strength and stamina are, quote, "extraordinary" and as a coup de grace, added unequivocally that Mr. Trump if elected, quote, "will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency," unquote. You are welcome. That does it for us in Las Vegas. Time to hand things over to our friend Don Lemon. CNN TONIGHT starts now.