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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Trump: I Most Likely Won't Do FOX Debate; President Obama to Meet With Bernie Sanders Privately; Trump Will Skip Fox Debate; Manhunt Intensifying for 3 Escaped Inmates. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 26, 2016 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:11] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news. Donald Trump moments ago in a stunning announcement saying, he will likely boycott FOX's GOP debate this week.

Plus, Hillary Clinton fighting Bernie Sanders in a dead hit in Iowa. Well, questions about her honesty haunt her.

And more breaking news, a massive manhunt on for three escaped convicts, extremely dangerous men, convicted of murder and torture. Police say, they have no idea where they are tonight. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news. Donald Trump in a bombshell announcement moments ago telling reporters he in his words probably won't show for FOX's Republican debate in Iowa on Thursday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Probably I won't be doing the debate. I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We'll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We're going to do something simultaneously with the debate. But most likely I'm not going to do the debate. I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases, toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what's wrong over there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now, Trump has been hinting for days he might skip the last debate before the crucial Iowa caucuses, saying he thinks FOX anchor Megyn Kelly is biased. The network and the Republican frontrunner been in a war of words. FOX released a statement today about the issue before Trump said this. They said, quote, "We learned from a secret back channel that the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat plan to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings."

That's obviously not the kind of thing obviously you would come out of a news organization. This is getting ugly. At the first FOX debate, you remember Kelly questioned Trump about charges of sexism, which caused a major rift between Trump and the network. Brian Stelter is host of "RELIABLE SOURCES" and he is OUTFRONT.

Brian, the statement that I just read a bit from FOX, is that what set Trump off tonight?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Apparently so. You know, earlier in the day, he asked his twitter followers, should I go to the debate? The poll basically had a 50/50 result. And until the last hour, Trump had not actually said he was really seriously thinking about skipping this debate. But it must have been that statement this afternoon that really set him off. The statement that was basically mocking him telling him to grow up.

And I can tell you, that was written directly by Roger Ailes, the chairman of FOX News, the powerful boss of the FOX News Channel. Ailes is the one organizing this debate, of course. You know, ensuring all the candidates show up. Brainstorming the questions with the moderators. And the idea that Trump is now saying he might not show up, that would throw the entire debate into disarray. Because after all, he's supposed to be center stage.

BURNETT: He certainly is. And were you surprised at all by the tone of that press release from FOX? I mean, putting aside the whole history here and who's been more childish than whom, that statement is pretty shocking from a news organization.

STELTER: Yes. No other news outlet would print a statement like that. But there's no other news outlet like FOX. In some ways FOX exists as a permanent political campaign, as well as a news organization. In this case, I think FOX is trying to make it very, very clear, they support Megyn Kelly at all costs. If Trump is not on the stage, that's one thing. But Megyn Kelly will be on the stage no matter what. After that statement came out this afternoon, another statement came out from Ailes directly saying that she has the full support of the network. Now, I believe FOX, the impression over there, this is just bluster from Trump. He's not actually going to go through with this. That he's just bluffing. But we'll find out 48 hours from now if that's true.

BURNETT: All right. We will, Brian Stelter, thank you. And I want to go now to the spokesperson for Donald Trump's campaign, Katrina Pierson, she is with me along with Bill Kristol, editor of "The Weekly Standard." Also with me, David Gergen.

Katrina, let me just start with you. What's the strategy here? Did Donald Trump say this because he was angry about that press release? It seems pretty clear that he did. He had some detail here. He said, he might host an event to raise money for Wounded Warriors instead of going to the debate. Is he really going to go ahead with this? Are you working on those plans?

KATRINA PIERSON, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: Well, I think Mr. Trump said it very clearly in the press conference that we just heard on CNN. And, you know, this is going to be his decision. He is taking back by the bias that he's witnessed on FOX News. And as you mentioned also, this is no secret, this has been going on for a very long time. And also as you mentioned Erin, that statement coming out of FOX wasn't very newsworthy. So we're going to have to wait and see. Mr. Trump is definitely considering all of his options. He's always been forceful. Even with CNN's debate on wanting to raise money for Wounded Warriors, because him being on the stage makes a lot of money for the networks. And he wants to give a piece to veterans.

BURNETT: All right. Let me play a little bit more of what he had to say about the person that he is the most angry with in all of this, and that is the FOX News host Megyn Kelly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS HOST: One of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don't use a politician's filter. You called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. Your twitter account --

TRUMP: Only Rosie O'Donnell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:05:17] BURNETT: Obviously that's what caused him to be angry and what caused this rift which then got worse and worse, Bill, overtime. Look, you're no fan of Donald Trump, you don't think he's a conservative. But is this something that could be yet another FOX -- he is a genius to skip out, he turns this in his favor or will this be a huge mistake?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": It would be a mistake to not show up this debate. This is in Des Moines, Iowa. Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of Iowans are going to be watching it. A lot of undecided Republican voters there would like to see one last time Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and the others make their case. The idea that he's going to walk away, why is he walking away? This is look, offended by something that Roger Ailes said, Megyn Kelly asked him a tough question, really? Really? He's that much of a crybaby that he can't get up on the stage and take questions from Megyn Kelly and deal with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio? It's untenable, I don't believe he'll go through it. He'll be there Thursday night, I think.

BURNETT: You think he'll be there. David Gergen, what do you say?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I really disagree with Bill Kristol about doing this. I don't think he'll be there Thursday night. I do believe had he walked away only on the Megyn Kelly question, he would look childish. On the other hand, once his press release came out, I think he gave him the excuse not to go. And that he doesn't look so childish. Rather, FOX sort of stepped over a line. The news organization typically never do in my memory. So, you know, from his point of view, why does he want to do the debate. Done a lot of them. He's ahead. You know he wants to sit on his lead. And you would understand why he would like to find a way to get out of this. And I think FOX gave him an excuse to get out and Donald will do it.

BURNETT: So, let me read again the FOX press release for you, Bill. "We learned from a secret back, you know, the Ayatollah and Putin, both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly if they meet with him, if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings." It is a pretty shocking statement, I mean, if we're going to have an argument over who's being more childish, this is pretty bad first foray.

KRISTOL: It's a little silly. But look, this debate is for the voters in Iowa, and around the country, but especially Iowa. The debate in Des Moines. The caucus is Monday night. What's the rationale for not letting the voters take a look at all the candidates on stage, including you if you're Donald Trump, because Roger Ailes put out a statement that Trump thinks and maybe other people thinks, and maybe I even think is maybe he shouldn't have bothered to put it out. But really he's so offended, he can't possibly show up there onstage.

BURNETT: Let's put a little bit more about what he had to say because he gave more of his rationale just a few moments ago in that press conference. Here's Donald Trump again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think the opponents are wonderful people. I know a lot of them. I think they're wonderful. Let's see how they do with the debate, let's see how many people watch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Katrina, are you betting that people really won't watch because he's not there? And if Donald Trump when he talks about doing something else, he is going to do something else on TV? If so, where? I mean, what's the plan?

PIERSON: Well, this is what I think, Erin. And I think we could all agree that there have been more viewers on these debates because of Donald Trump. We're talking about general election viewership of these debates because of Donald Trump. And if he's not there, they'll be looking for him wherever he is. But that statement, as you read it again, is just double shocking, because where is Roger Ailes' scathing, you know, review of the Democrats? Not doing a FOX debate? You know, all the Republicans go on CNN, they did CNBC, they do FOX News. Where are the Democrats? Why are we seeing similar statements directed at those? So, Donald Trump does feel like there is a bias there. They do treat him differently. And he feels like he might do something else. So, we'll have to wait and see.

KRISTOL: But Erin, this is not about Roger Ailes, not about Megyn Kelly, it's about the voters of Iowa. They're entitled it seems to be to take one last look at the candidates they're going to vote for on Monday night in the caucus.

BURNETT: David Gergen, do you -- yes, go ahead, David.

GERGEN: All right. Well, I just think the voters have seen an awful lot of Donald Trump and the other candidates. We've had an extraordinary number of debates already. But I think we're now down to a situation that's sort of a -- it is a Trump versus Ailes mano-a- mano kind of thing. One of them is, Trump is going to wait and see if Ailes blinks and if he blinks, he'll do it. But otherwise, he's not going to blink, I don't think. I don't think that's in his nature.

BURNETT: Isn't this, though, Bill, the ultimate anti-establishment blow by Donald Trump? He is having all these establishment traditional Republicans get onboard with him. Right? He lines up this anti-establishment Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Jerry Falwell endorsements. And then he says, FOX News, you've become too soft, I'm going to call the shots. Aren't there a lot of voters who might say, way to go?

KRISTOL: I think he's calling a shot, he's chickening out of a debate.

BURNETT: So, you say it's the complete opposite?

KRISTOL: Yes. Yes. It is. What we're talking about -- we're talking about two hours on a stage with the other candidates.

BURNETT: Well, what is he afraid on this? He debated right after the Muslim issue, which he did, what he's afraid of?

KRISTOL: He's a little bit ahead. You know, this is a little bit ahead. David, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are very good debaters. They'll going to really engage Donald Trump on his record, his support of the Clintons. All these things he's done. That Republicans may not like so much. They're finally getting a little visibility. Maybe Donald Trump would do great in responding to Cruz and Rubio.

BURNETT: Yes. Hold on. Before you jump in David, let me just interrupt for one moment.

GERGEN: Yes.

BURNETT: One moment. Because I want to bring in Sara Murray, she is with the Donald Trump campaign and she has some breaking news on this situation, what he might do. Sara?

[19:10:22] SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, Erin. We just spoke with Corey Lewandowski who is Donald Trump's campaign manager. Trump definitely will not be showing up at the debate in Iowa. And they're holding out a possibility of having a competing event in Iowa on Thursday night. Potentially with another network. Now they said they're not in any further negotiations with FOX News. He definitely won't be there. Corey also told us, that neither Trump nor anyone else in the campaign have spoken to Roger Ailes over at FOX News. They're also saying they haven't spoken to Reince Priebus, the head of the RNC. So, we'll have to see how the RNC reacts to this. But it's clear the Trump campaign wants to not only skip this debate, but try to challenge the FOX rating by holding their own event.

BURNETT: All right. So, I think it's important, Reince Priebus, if you are watching CNN, you have just learned that Donald Trump will not be showing up at the debate on FOX. His campaign manager confirming here on CNN to Sara Murray, Donald Trump, it's not likely he won't show up, he will not, he will not be there on Thursday night.

All right. Bill, that means this game of chicken is over. He said it and he meant it.

KRISTOL: Apparently. And I just say, look, Ronald Reagan won in 1980 in New Hampshire famously by showing up for a debate. Remember, I paid for this microphone, we're going to have a debate here. I believe Donald Trump, if he really doesn't show up at this debate, could lose Iowa by chickening out of the debate.

BURNETT: David?

GERGEN: Look, I'm trying to point of view. I think Roger Ailes put out a press release that was insulting to Donald Trump. And, you know, and he walked away from it. He said, you know, if you're going to treat me like this, how do I know I'm not going to be sabotaged in the debate. How do I know you're not trying to take me down in the debate? If you're going to insult me in public, you can't expect to come me and help your ratings. So, I think he's going to fairly strong re-argument for why he's not coming. And at first I totally agree with Bill in the beginning. If it was about Megyn Kelly, he had to go and it would -- to walk away from. But when the guy insult you from the other network on news organization, you have an ample reasoning to say, to hell with it.

BURNETT: Right. The head of the news organization making fun of you and saying, you would be a bad president which is what this press release said. I mean, pretty clearly. It does change things a bit.

All right. Katrina, just a quick final word to you here. We'll going to have more on this in a moment.

PIERSON: Sure.

BURNETT: But this is now confirmed. Campaign manager, you're the spokesperson for the campaign, did you just learn about it here? I mean, it seems like it was a last-second final decision here out of the Donald Trump campaign.

PIERSON: Well, it is his last-second decision, he was talking about it during the press conference, and he just made it final. But I will say, it's not just Donald Trump that was insulted. It was 41 percent of the people that support him across the country, just as shown in the latest CNN poll. This is a lot of people that have been insulted by the media, by FOX News specifically because there has been a lot of bias against Donald Trump. You also have the National Review which was a part of this debate as well. So, they do feel like it's possibly a huge setup for Mr. Trump. So, he doesn't have to do it. We could do something different and bring our Iowa voters, our Iowa viewers to maybe another network. We'll have to see what Mr. Trump decides to do.

BURNETT: All right. Well, that is a whole another layer to this. And yes, we will, thanks to all three of you, obviously this is now a major story. Donald Trump will not be at the debate on Thursday on FOX News. Ted Cruz's campaign spokesman will respond OUTFRONT next. And we will be right back with this breaking news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:17:19] BURNETT: Breaking news. We're just learning Donald Trump will not do the next Republican debate. He announced this just moments ago. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But probably I won't be doing the debate. I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We'll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We're going to do something simultaneously with the debate. But most likely I'm not going to do the debate. I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases, toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what's wrong over there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. You heard his words there, probably would skip. Well, moments after that, his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski spoke to our Sara Murray right there at that event and confirmed Donald Trump will not attend the FOX debate. Categorically would not be there. And they're simply discussing what he will do instead. He had indicated he would do something to raise money for Wounded Warriors.

I want to go now to the national spokesperson for Ted Cruz's campaign Rick Tyler. Rick, you just heard Donald Trump, he said he's probably won't do this and then moments later confirming it is done, he will not be there on Thursday night. Ted Cruz will be there. What do you think? Did he do the right thing?

RICK TYLER, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, I think it's the most childish things I've ever heard of. And we will tell you one thing, that this isn't about the country for Donald Trump, it's about Donald Trump. This erratic behavior is just inexplicable. The idea he's not going to participate in a presidential debate and let viewers discern for themselves the difference between the candidates because he has a problem with the host is just childish.

BURNETT: Well, you say it's childish. Let me just read to you what Roger Ailes from FOX News put out about Donald Trump today. So, there has been this back-and-forth of course as you well know. But for viewers who don't -- whether Trump would go or not go. Roger Ailes puts out this press release today about Donald Trump. Quote, "We learned from a secret back channel that Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings."

Let me just ask you, Rick, if -- I mean, if something like that was said about your candidate by the head of a news organization, would Ted Cruz show up to that debate?

TYLER: Look, it doesn't matter. Roger Ailes is not running for president. I don't think the American people particularly care the back-and-forth between Donald Trump and Roger Ailes. And Donald Trump has been threatening to get out of this debate for a long time. But there's no reason to. And so, look, to me it's just erratically hater, it's inexplicable, and it's frankly childish. And Donald Trump should be there. He's the leading contender. He's the leading candidate and he's going to step aside because he's upset over something that amounts to being just petty and small. And Donald Trump should be in the debate with everybody else. Now, he did say he most likely wouldn't be in the debate. So maybe he won't change his mind.

BURNETT: Well, he did. His campaign manager, head of his campaign, Corey Lewandowski, you obviously know him said moments later that he had made a formal decision he would not be there.

TYLER: And Donald Trump could change his mind.

BURNETT: Right. He can change his mind and say, now, I'm going to do it. Right. Fair point.

TYLER: Right. Of course.

BURNETT: Here's what he said though about the debate and what would happen if he doesn't show up. Let me just play that for you, Rick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think the opponents are wonderful people. I know a lot of them. I think they're wonderful. Let's see how they do with the debate. Let's see how many people watch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Are you worried about that? Are people going to watch? Are they going to give the hearing that your candidate needs, that Ted Cruz needs, if Donald Trump isn't there, to get the eyeballs?

TYLER: Well, in the last 48 hours, Donald Trump has called my candidate Ted Cruz a liar, a wacko, nasty, on and on and on, and now he says he's wonderful? I mean, it's starting to become sort of laughable. But look, he should go to the debate. He's come to his senses and give the country a chance to see all the candidates. But look, again, again, what did he do? He point to oh, look, FOX is not going to make money on the debate. Who cares? That's not the point. The point is that the American people get to see their candidates' debate. And he's going to deny them because he wants to prove a point about raising money? I mean, that's just silly.

BURNETT: So, what, though, happens though for Ted Cruz? You know, you talk about the things Donald Trump said about Ted Cruz on the campaign trail. It sounds like in some ways Ted Cruz is prepared for Donald Trump to be the nominee. Let me just play for you something that Ted Cruz said to a private meeting of evangelical leaders.

TYLER: Sure.

BURNETT: Let me just play it for you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Donald wins Iowa, he right now has a substantial lead in New Hampshire. If he went on to win New Hampshire as well, there's a very good chance he could be unstoppable. And be our nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That was a pretty -- look, it was an honest thing, it was a genuine thing, it's what Ted Cruz really thinks. But does that mean Ted Cruz is out if Trump wins Iowa? I mean, is there point to continue if he wins and as Ted Cruz has already said, you know, he thinks he's unstoppable.

[19:22:17] TYLER: No. We're in it for the long haul. And it would be hard if Donald Trump won Iowa. But I think we've got the best ground game here. We've got 12,000 volunteers. We've got all our candidates here is activated. We got 700 people from out of state, you know, we're optimistic. We've been an underdog in this campaign since the very beginning. No one would have put us in this position. And currently, you know, we're somewhere between first and second for Iowa. Different polls say different things. We are currently second I've seen in New Hampshire. No one would have expected that.

BURNETT: Uh-hm.

TYLER: But this campaign is built for the long haul. And further we go into it, and it's a real two person race. Because Donald Trump is up against a ceiling. And he's the second most unliked candidate in the field. Ted Cruz has the highest favorabilities. So, the Quinnipiac poll, the 60 percent of the votes are between Trump and Cruz which lays about 40 percent that are not for either one. I think we have a much better chance to dig into that 40 percent than Donald Trump does.

BURNETT: And a quick final word to you. On evangelical voters, do you think Ted Cruz is going to actually be able to pull out a win with them in Iowa? Straight win with evangelicals?

TYLER: We hope so. I don't want to make any predictions tonight. We've got a little ways to go. Ted Cruz is doing 30 stops, 22 cities. He is not taking anything for granted. He's going all over to Iowa, small towns, big towns, lots of different rallies, retail stops, we're meeting voters face to face. That's what we do here in Iowa and we think the Iowa voters appreciate it, and we hope they reward us on caucus night.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Rick Tyler, it's a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much.

TYLER: Thank you. I appreciate it.

BURNETT: All right. OUTFRONT next, the breaking news, President Obama announcing he will meet with Bernie Sanders tomorrow, a private one-on-one meeting at the White House.

And a major manhunt on for three convicts. Police have no idea where they are tonight. These men convicted of torture, murder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:27:56] BURNETT: More breaking news tonight, this time on the democratic side. President Obama just announcing he is going to meet with Senator Bernie Sanders. That meeting is tomorrow, it's at the White House. It's going to be a private meeting, just one-on-one, just the two of them in the Oval Office. Now this news comes as we're days away from the democratic caucuses in Iowa. And the race is too close to call.

Briana Keilar is OUTFRONT in Cedar Falls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the areas that I've been particularly interested in is the area of children.

BRIANA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Clinton campaign out with a new documentary style ad in Iowa.

CLINTON: No matter where they're born, no matter to whom they are born --

KEILAR: Trying to showcase a decades-long commitment to women and children. That is Bernie Sanders looks to rally union support.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a fight that we cannot afford to lose.

KEILAR: The front running candidates building on their CNN town hall appearances. A final primetime appeal before Iowans caucus.

SANDERS: I think we are touching a nerve with the American people who understand that establishment politics is just not good enough. We need bold changes. We need a political revolution.

CLINTON: You have to have somebody who is a proven, proven fighter.

KEILAR: A new FOX News poll shows Clinton with a slight lead over Sanders with likely democratic caucus goers. But a recent CNN/ORC poll shows Sanders leading, a sign of just how close the race is here. Sanders trying to push ahead by going after Clinton's record.

SANDERS: I voted against the war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq.

KEILAR: But Clinton taking a noticeably softer approach after recent sharp attacks on Sanders. And she's embracing President Obama.

CLINTON: And I had the opportunity when he asked me to serve as his secretary of state, and not only was it a great working relationship, but turned into a real friendship. KEILAR: And she found herself answering a blunt question about her

character.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've heard from quite a few people my age that they think you're dishonest.

[19:30:01] CLINTON: I've been on the front lines of change and progress since I was your age. I have been fighting to give kids and women and the people who are left out and left behind a chance to make the most out of their own lives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And some revisionist history by both candidates, Erin, Bernie Sanders talking about his record of deregulating Wall Street, glossing over his vote for the bill that actually deregulated credit default swaps, which paved the way for the financial crisis. Hillary Clinton talking about fighting for LGBT rights for decades. No mention of her '90s support for the Defense of Marriage Act or recent conversion to supporting same-sex marriage -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Brianna, thank you very much, in Cedar Falls.

Joel Benenson joins me now, the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton's campaign. He's worked on three winning presidential campaigns, Bill Clinton in '96, Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

All right. Great to have you with me, Joel.

I've got to start with the other breaking news, though, of course.

JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: Absolutely.

BURNETT: Donald Trump, his campaign spokesperson confirming to CNN he will not be at the FOX News debate this Thursday, telling our reporter this before they even told the head of the RNC.

What do you say?

BENENSON: I think, look, Donald Trump is proving that he's not just a skilled candidate for president, but he's quite a character as president. I think when you're running for president, you go to the debates, you don't get into nonsense about, are you going or aren't you going?

People want to hear from these candidates. I mean, you know it. You see the interest that's out there, on both sides right now. Both campaigns have been interesting, both campaigns have been exciting, both campaigns have been fun to watch.

I don't think it serves anybody well to say, well, I'm not going to go to this network or that network.

BURNETT: But, as you say, it's a skilled campaigner is the words you described how he's handling it.

BENENSON: Look, he's running the kind of campaign that's probably the only kind of campaign that Donald Trump could run and do as well as he's doing it. He's doing it unconventionally. He's doing it his way. If he tried to be a conventional candidate, it probably wouldn't work for him.

I don't know if it will work for him in the long run, but he certainly is demonstrating he can get 25 percent to 35 percent of the Republican primary electorate behind him in almost any state he's competing in.

BURNETT: All right. Let's talk about what happened with Secretary Clinton last night.

BENENSON: Sure.

BURNETT: Look, she got a lot of credit for a lot of things she did. She did take a tough question from one young questioner, right, about her past, about her honesty. Let me play the question.

BENENSON: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like there's a lot of young people like myself who are very passionate supporters of Bernie Sanders. And I just don't see the same enthusiasm from younger people for you. In fact, I've heard from quite a few people my age that they think you're dishonest. But I'd like to hear from you on why you feel the enthusiasm isn't there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Honesty, Joel, right? The most recent poll, we asked which Democratic candidate is the least honest? I'm sorry, this is our most recent New Hampshire poll.

BENENSON: The one I love so much.

BURNETT: Yes, 55 percent for Hillary Clinton least honest. That number is 28 percent in June. That's a pretty shocking jump. I mean, that's got to worry you, right?

BENENSON: But you're asking a poor choice question, a lot of this lines up with who people are voting for. That poll also, by the way, not to pick on it again, had more men than women in it, which doesn't mirror the electorate in New Hampshire as well. I pointed that out the other day when we saw that poll.

BURNETT: Yes.

BENENSON: But, look, more importantly here, what this election is going to come down to on our side is, which one of these candidates people count on to get stuff for them and make a difference in their lives? If you look at what's happening in this race, Senator Sanders is out

campaigning with a union today. Secretary Clinton is supported by unions that represent over 11 million working men and women in this country who desperately want a raise, desperately want a candidate who will create good jobs. They're lining up with her because they're counting on her to get stuff done.

Groups like Planned Parenthood and Human Rights Campaign are on the front lines of fighting for women's health care, for equality and ending discrimination for LGBT Americans, they're supporting Secretary Clinton. When these groups support Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders in the past kind of dissed them a bit saying, well, they're part of the establishment.

I don't think that anybody believes that Planned Parenthood and LGBT -- HRC fighting for LGBT Americans is part of the establishment.

BURNETT: Maybe a fair point, but -- and it's a good answer to my question. But it doesn't actually answer my question. But it sounds like what you're saying --

BENENSON: I do answer the question.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: It doesn't matter if people think she's not honest? They're going to vote for her?

BENENSON: No, what I said is people matter -- want to know who can they count on to get things done for them? So, there are lots of ways to ask questions about trust and who you count on and who you want to deliver. They believe she can deliver for them. That's why they're trusting her with her vote, that's why she's still leading and competitive in every state we're in. And that's what voters are going to make their decision on at the end of the day.

BURNETT: Do you feel you've -- you've worked on three winning campaigns, right? And one of them against Hillary Clinton, right? When Barack Obama surged in Iowa and took her out at the knees, you know --

BENENSON: We call that just winning the caucuses.

BURNETT: I call it taking out at the knees.

All right. But here's what happened. You know, there was a lot of high favorability for Barack Obama, enthusiasm, record turnout, all of these things. Are you sure a victory this time around?

BENENSON: Look, I'm a person because of what I do for a living because I'm also a pollster and I'm always looking at numbers. You can be confident, but you can't be too confident. Particularly in these races, Erin, early on.

The history of these things is they're never blowouts. Number two, voters, a quarter in Iowa last time in 2008 and half in New Hampshire made up their minds in the last week. So, you can go into these things, checking all the boxes, believing you've done everything on the ground, doing everything on the air and the paid media, but you never go in with a sense of -- I'm absolutely certain a week out.

That's why the last week in both these places is very important. If you remember the last week in New Hampshire back in 2008, President Obama took a surge after Iowa. And then Hillary Clinton came back and won by two points in New Hampshire.

BURNETT: She did. She had the one emotional moment that made such a difference.

All right. Joel, thank you very much.

BENENSON: Thank you.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, our special report on Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi, how she can change the race.

And the manhunt for three extremely dangerous men who have done absolutely horrific and brutal things on the run after a daring jail escape. They have absolutely no idea where they are. We're live in California.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:40:16] BURNETT: Just six days until the Iowa caucuses, Bernie Sanders telling supporters he doubts he'll be able to match the president's historic support in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obama in 2008 ran a campaign which is really going to stay in the history books. It was unbelievable campaign. I mean, in places, they ran out of ballots as I understand. The turnout was so extraordinary, nobody expected it.

So, I think in this campaign, that we are going to match that. I would love to see us to do that. I hope we can. Frankly, I don't think we can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. The presidential candidate will meet with President Obama tomorrow. It will be a private one-on-one in the White House.

Jeff Zeleny is traveling with Bernie Sanders in St. Paul, Minnesota.

And, Jeff, when it comes to Bernie Sanders talking about Barack Obama, I mean, obviously, keep in mind, Barack Obama essentially endorsed Hillary Clinton this week. But Bernie Sanders saying, I know everybody has these hopes for me, I won't be able to do what Barack Obama did. Does he really think that? Or is he just trying to lower the bar? JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Look, Erin, I think

he's trying to temper the expectations. They've really increased over the last several days, and certainly weeks. So, he's trying to do that, but he's also trying to defy expectations.

I mean, Senator Sanders is sort of coming to this a bit late in the game. Barack Obama eight years ago built an organization here for nearly a year. You can look at the counties in Iowa in which he won. Several of those Senator Sanders has been visiting again and again.

One of the differences, Senator Sanders has been focusing on colleges. Eight years ago, the college students were not in school at the time because the caucuses were on January 3rd. Now, of course, they're on February 1st. So, all of those college students will be eligible to be out there supporting him. He's going across the state to big colleges, private colleges.

So, that is a big part of his plan there. The meeting at the White House tomorrow, I'm also struck by that. It comes, of course, just one day after President Obama effectively expressed his support for Secretary Clinton. Not formally endorsed, but that meeting in the Oval Office tomorrow is certainly going to get a lot of attention.

BURNETT: Thank you very much. As you said, traveling with the Bernie Sanders campaign.

And now, Ted Cruz is about to speak to supporters at a campaign stop in Iowa. Candidate after candidate, very busy this hour. His wife, Heidi, though, is in New Hampshire campaigning for her husband there, where he is making a big run to try to do well in that state. Heidi Cruz, a force of her own. She worked on George W. Bush's presidential campaign. She works at Goldman Sachs. And she's a mom of two young girls.

Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In these final frenetic days before the Iowa caucuses, every operative is on overdrive, especially this one.

HEIDI CRUZ, WIFE OF SEN. TED CRUZ: How are you?

LAH: Forty-three-year-old Heidi Cruz, wife of presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, mother of their two young daughters.

The senator, more firebrand --

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The world is on fire.

GIRL: The world is on fire?

T. CRUZ: The world is on fire. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)] LAH: While she is more finesse, warmth ambassador for Team Cruz.

H. CRUZ: You will see a person who is wise, steady and unflappable.

LAH: Telling us on the trail --

H. CRUZ: That's my job and my only job in this race as the campaign goes is to help Ted win.

LAH: Along with this well-known spouse, she could be a difference maker, the daughter of Seventh Day Adventist missionary, she felt the pull of public service, after Harvard Business School, turning down a lucrative job to join the George W. Bush 2000 presidential campaign as a policy aide. It's there she met the hard-charging man she calls her intellectual equal.

H. CRUZ: I was Ted's very first fan.

LAH: Her career in Washington was taking off, a rising star in the White House, reporting directly to Condoleezza Rice at the NSC. At her alma mater in 2010, she talked about that dream job.

H. CRUZ: In the White House, you are the elected party. And your power to move things in a direction is formidable. It was fun to be part of that.

LAH: But her husband moved to Texas to pursue local office, and she followed. In his book, Ted Cruz writes that his wife's move led to her facing a period of depression. In 2005, an Austin police officer reported finding Mrs. Cruz sitting alone with her head in her hands ten feet away from busy traffic.

But Heidi Cruz bounced back to managing director at Goldman Sachs in Houston, a job she's currently on leave from. Ted Cruz's critics say that job and his wife's White House past is exactly what Cruz rails against, Wall Street and Washington insiders.

Now, the campaign brushes that off, calling Mrs. Cruz a determined fund-raising powerhouse.

LAH (on camera): Your background, how much does that come into play?

[19:45:01] Your financial background, as well as you background --

H. CRUZ: Just like any candidate's spouse, I think we can all use our backgrounds to be helpful to our husbands, as they've been helpful to us, and I've been able to help the campaign by raising some money and helping to get out the vote.

LISA NASLUND, UNDECIDED VOTER: What are your thoughts on Senator Cruz and his issues with veterans?

LAH (voice-over): Lisa Naslund traveled 60 miles to ask Heidi Cruz this question. Naslund son Sgt. Dylan Naslund committed suicide after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

H. CRUZ: As a fellow mom, there's no greater love than we have for our kids. And Ted will honor the life of your son.

LAH (on camera): Do you think she heard you?

NASLUND: Yes, I think she was listening.

LAH: Did it change your vote?

NASLUND: It has helped to persuade me a little bit more. I'm still an undecided voter.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: But on February 1st, the Cruz campaign hopes that that undecided voter, because of that exchange, that intimate exchange she had with Mrs. Cruz, she'll end up voting for Ted Cruz -- Erin.

BURNETT: We shall see. It's going to be fascinating to watch (INAUDIBLE) spouses.

Thank you, Kyung Lah.

And tomorrow on NEW DAY, Dana Bash will sit down with Heidi Cruz also to talk about her husband's campaign at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

And OUTFRONT next, fear growing in southern California, a massive manhunt underway for these three men accused of torture, mutilation and murder. What they did is horrific and they are now completely on the run.

And Jeanne Moos on the 9-year-old beside herself about seeing Donald Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:50:27] BURNETT: Breaking news, manhunt intensifying for three inmates considered armed and dangerous tonight. They pulled off a shocking and daring escape from a southern California jail over the weekend. They cut through metal, they crawled through tunnels. They repelled four stories to freedom.

This is an even more incredible escape than the one in Upstate New York which riveted the nation for weeks. Today, authorities growing more concerned that the men could be anywhere now and what they are convicted of doing is horrific, and hard to even describe.

Paul Vercammen is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The bounty on the heads of three extremely violent jail breakers jumped $50,000 for each fugitive. Orange County supervisors raised the reward to $200,000 total.

The prosecutor handling the terrifying torture case of escape Hossein Nayeri wonders why this ex-con with a history of escape and his fellow fugitives with gang affiliations were not somehow isolated.

HEATHER BROWN, ORANGE COUNTY DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I'm not in charge of the jail and don't want to second guess what they do. But it's disconcerting to learn that they were with these other hardened criminals who could collaborate and conspire to escape.

VERCAMMEN: The Orange County district attorney chastises his deputy in a statement saying her comments were, quote, "inappropriate, uninformed, and rash and do not reflect the position of the OCDA.

LT. JEFF HALLOCK, SPOKESMAN, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: I will say that he was housed at the central men's jail, which is a maximum security jail. There's many other inmates with very similar charges to Nayeri, so there's a very sophisticated classification system that every inmate that comes into the jail goes through. He met the criteria to be housed in that particular location.

VERCAMMEN: Little clues keep trickling out about how the trio escaped last week. Authorities say clothing may have been intertwined with linens in their makeshift ropes. The three apparently cut through steel bars, made their way through plumbing tunnels and repelled off a roof. And perhaps a big clue as to why Nayeri, Jonathan Tieu and Bac Tien Duong escaped, they all faced long sentences, potentially the rest of their lives in jail.

HALLOCK: When they get out on the street, there's desperation they'll lean on. As far as where they'll go, what means they will go to evade law enforcement. It was evident by their attempt and eventual success to escape.

VERCAMMEN: CNN has learned that Duong was almost sent out of the country back to his native Vietnam. Immigration and custom officials say a judge ordered him removed for unspecified immigration violations. But after an appeal and a year in incarceration, officials say Duong remained in the U.S. on an order of supervision.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And Paul, this is pretty incredible. When you think about what happened in New York, everyone was talking about, oh, how they went through this tunnel, how could they have cut through the manhole? This escape was way more difficult, so many tools required, a lot of help probably required. Do they have any idea how they pulled it off?

VERCAMMEN: Yes. Timing was a big factor. At 5:00 a.m. in the morning, they have a check here, a head count. After that, they suspect they left, it would still be dark here in California even in winter.

The next head check, not until 8:00 p.m., and Erin, sometime around there, there was a disturbance, a fight, it distracted guards. It delayed the head check further and gave them a tremendous amount of time to escape, possibly even to Mexico. And, clearly, somebody else was involved if they knew who staged fight during the second head check, Erin.

BURNETT: It's pretty stunning, and stunning that it could happen again given what the nation watched in Upstate New York last spring.

Paul, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT next, Jeanne Moos on the surprise trip that brought this little girl to tears of joy. It was Disneyland, folks, no. It was the Donald.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:57:50] BURNETT: A 9-year-old loses her mind at the thought of seeing some very, very, very famous person. Who is it?

Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was a reaction best described as Trump-tastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guess what we're going to do Monday?

AVA LOVELY, 9-YEAR-OLD: What?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to see Donald Trump in person, in New Hampshire.

LOVELY: Are you serious?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LOVELY: Oh my God!

MOOS: The prospect of seeing the Donald left 9-year-old Ava Lovely (ph) in tears.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Thank you, mom.

MOOS: Donald Trump has given kids rides in his chopper. They sing him ditties. President Donald Trump knows how to make America great

When a kid asks a good question --

UNIDENTIFIED KID: You're going to build the wall? What's it going to be made out of?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh.

MOOS: Trump brought him on stage. They're far from the stage when they can vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you upset?

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: That I can't vote for Donald Trump.

MOOS: "What are they doing for their brain?" wrote one commenter. But Ava dragged her parents to the rally, not the other way around. Mom and dad hadn't even settled on a candidate.

Outspoken Ava says she likes outspoken Trump.

LOVELY: I was just, like, freaking out. I was so excited.

MOOS: Not to mention --

LOVELY: I love his hair.

MOOS: She got him to sign her "Trump is number 1" poster, even wrote a number 1 on her hand. Just think, four years ago we were making a fuss over a 4-year-old for having a meltdown because she was sick of politics.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I'm tired of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's why you're crying? Oh. It will be over soon, Abby.

MOOS: Then there was the kid who had a tantrum when Hillary announced she was running because he thought it meant he couldn't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wanted to run for president.

MOOS: Upon watching 9-year-old Ava's video, one person commented, she may be one of Trump's more mature supporters. And even the Donald's opponents might agree with this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got a hunch (ph) that it was like going to Disney.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos.

LOVELY: I love you, Trump.

TRUMP: I love you, too.

MOOS: CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Put that in the category of things you cannot make up.

Thanks for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to report OUTFRONT so you can watch the show at any time.

"AC360" starts now.