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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Candidates Clash At GOP Debate. Aired 10:55-12a ET

Aired February 13, 2016 - 22:55   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to our special coverage of tonight's GOP Debate.

We are following two major breaking stories. First, the crucial debate coming just one week before that South Carolina primary. The stakes could not be higher, and tonight's debate reflected that loud, angry, combative by all.

The GOP feels now down to six. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and Ben Carson met on the stage of the peace center in Greenville, South Carolina.

Donald Trump was the prime target on that stage tonight, and for the rest of the field they were battling to be the Trump alternative, and it got nasty. Remind to be the candidate look party establishment.

We're also following the other major breaking news story tonight, the death of Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia at age 79. He was a leading voice on the court for 30 years, a giant among conservatives, and his deaths loomed large over tonight's debate. The battle over his replacement has already begun, and joining me tonight our team of CNN analysts and contributors.

I want to turn our analysts first for a quick take from each of them on who were the winners and losers tonight. With me now are Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Political Reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, our Political Director David Chalian and CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley. It's tight seating over here because there's a lot to talk about. OK.

So, let's go down the line here, win-lose. Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it was Jeb Bush's best debate. He was combative. He participated more than I've seen him in the past. And I think -- and I'm always wrong about Donald Trump. But I think this was also the debate in which we saw Donald Trump participate the most. But I think accusing the bushes of lying about weapons of mass destruction may have crossed the line in pro-military South Carolina.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANLALYST: This was more demolition derby than debate. This was really a raucous ScreamFest (ph). And I think there were bad moments for every candidate. But, you know, Ted Cruz has decided from the very beginning that he wants to be the most conservative candidate running. I think that's what he was tonight. And that's what he wants to be.

BURNETT: All right. Nia?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I thought Rubio's rehabilitation strategy pretty much worked tonight. He didn't have any major gaffes. At times he looked a little bit robotic but at least he wasn't repeating himself over and over again. He got in I thought a good talking point around poverty. That's what the candidate I think he wanted to be originally, talking about poverty. And I think in some ways George Bush was a winner and a loser. It's hard to tell.

BORGER: George?

HENDERSON: George Bush, because some people wanted to hug him. Jeb did. Marco Rubio did and Kasich did as well. And then you Trump and then you had Trump there dumping over him.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I would agree with Gloria. I think this is Jeb Bush's strongest debate performance. I think we finally got back to that Trump versus Bush fight that we saw at the beginning of the debate series starting last summer. That sort of came back today in a very clear way. I also think the Rubio-Cruz battle was very, very important tonight as well. I'm sure we'll talk about that.

I think it was vintage Trump. I don't know. I think that I think Trump looked like the front-runner that he is tonight. I think he displayed exactly the kind of performance that has won him the support he's gotten thus far.

[23:00:04] agree with you, Gloria, about in the very military-centric state of South Carolina if perhaps he went a bit too far, sounding almost Sanders-like when it came to the Iraq war and WMD. But I don't -- that may not win him any new voters. I don't think it turns a single one of his current supporters away.

BORGER: But eventually he has to get to 50. That's my --

BURNETT: Doug?

DOUG BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think Donald Trump won the debate. He was bombastic. He was a bully. Many times you just wanted to shake the TV at him.

But in the end, he's leading by a wide margin in South Carolina and I don't see somebody pulling him down.

The other ones sort of clustered. Cruz gets some points. I agree with what everybody said. Rubio some points here.

But in the end, I think Donald Trump has to be very pleased with this performance. He came ready to rumble and he did. BURNETT: This is going to be a great conversation. Everyone can tell

what a good debate it was. I want to start and bring everyone in on this, on one of the fights which a lot of them were, of course, between Donald Trump and fill in the blank.

This one was between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

I want to bring in the rest of our panel before I play that. Jeffrey Lord, of course, a Donald Trump supporter, former adviser to President Ronald Reagan. So, a lot to say on this especially on the Supreme Court side. Amanda Carpenter, former communications director for Senator Cruz. S.E. Cupp, our political commentator, and Marc Lamont Hill, also a CNN political commentator.

OK. Tonight's debate, the angriest, as we've talked about. So, let's play this moment between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the Supreme Court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The reason principle matters sadly was illustrated by the first questions today. The next president is going to appoint one, two, three, four Supreme Court justices. If Donald Trump is president, he will appoint liberals. If Donald Trump is president --

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Excuse me, excuse me.

CRUZ: -- your Second Amendment will go away.

TRUMP: Let me tell you.

JOHN DICKERSON, MODERATOR: Hold on, gentlemen. I'm going to turn this car around.

TRUMP: Ted Cruz wanted John Roberts, Ted Cruz, with your brother, wanted John Roberts to be on the United States Supreme Court. They both pushed him. He twice approved Obamacare.

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My name was -- my name was mentioned twice.

DICKERSON: Hold on. We're in danger of driving this into the dirt.

TRUMP: You gave us Obamacare.

DICKERSON: Senator Rubio, I'd like you to -- people want to jump in here.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he called me a liar.

DICKERSON: You're on deck, Governor.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: He also denigrated one of my heroes, Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a liberal maybe in the 1950s. He was a conservative

reform governor for eight years before he became president. And no one would suggest he made an evolution for political purposes.

He was a conservative. And he didn't tear down people like Donald Trump is. He tore down the Berlin Wall. He was a great guy.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

DICKERSON: Senator Cruz, 30 seconds on this one.

CRUZ: I did not nominate John Roberts. I would not have nominated John Roberts.

TRUMP: You pushed him. You worked with him and you pushed him. Why do you lie?

CRUZ: Donald, you have to learn not to interrupt people.

TRUMP: Why do you lie?

CRUZ: Donald, learn -- Donald, adults learn not to interrupt each other.

TRUMP: Yes, I know. You're an adult.

CRUZ: I did not nominate him. I would not have nominated him. I would have nominated my former boss, Mike Luttig, who was Justice Scalia's first law clerk. And you know how I know that Donald's Supreme Court justices will be liberals?

TRUMP: You don't know.

CRUZ: Because his entire life he's supported liberals from Jimmy Carter to Hillary Clinton to John Kerry.

DICKERSON: All right.

CRUZ: In 2004, he contributed to John Kerry. Nobody who cares about judges would contribute to John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Harry Reid. That's what Donald Trump --

DICKERSON: We're going to switch -- Governor, we're going to switch gears here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Just a taste of how contentious it was.

OK, let me start with our Supreme Court expert here. So, we're going to talk about whether indeed this is true about Justice Roberts. But, of course, this is a very, very, very big event.

TOOBIN: Yes. You know, in this mud wrestling contest, it is worth pausing to just say one of the giants of American law passed today. Whether you agreed or disagreed with Antonin Scalia, this is one of the handful most influential people in the history of American law, just including everyone.

So, that is -- that's what today is a very big deal. And we now have a very big controversy over who's going to fill that seat.

BURNETT: Right.

TOOBIN: But again, the remarkable transformation of John Roberts into the liberal that they are portraying him is so unbelievable. It is true, as Donald Trump said, that on two occasions, Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the Obamacare law, the Affordable Care Act.

But other than that he has been a down-the-line conservative, whether it's about Citizens United and campaign finance or the future of the Voting Rights Act or affirmative action or gay marriage. But this Republican Party is so conservative that John Roberts has been excommunicated because of just those two votes.

BURNETT: All right. So, I think we're going to be talking to governor Kasich in just a moment. I'll take everyone to know that that's coming.

But I'll bring you in here, Jeff, because we're getting ready for that, because of course the charge is Donald Trump would have nominated a liberal, you'll nominate a liberal.

[23:05:02] You heard that again and again from Ted Cruz, pointing at his history of supporting liberals, which of course, he admittedly he was. He was a Democrat and he's given money to liberals in political campaigns.

So, is it a fair charge?

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, no. Donald Trump, number one, is on record saying that his two favorite justices were Scalia and Clarence Thomas. So I have no doubt that he would go down that road.

I worked on the nomination of Justice Scalia when I was in the White House. He is without doubt the best Supreme Court appointment that Ronald Reagan made I think of all of his appointments together. I think he was absolutely the best. And it really is a tremendous loss for the country here. He's really going to be missed.

But no, I think that Donald Trump, you know, well knows what he's doing here and Senator Cruz did -- when I hear Jeff's talk about Obamacare was just those two things, I can tell you in the conservative community the reaction is other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play, you know? So --

BURNETT: All right. I want to go now to the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, just stepping into the spin room after the debate.

And, Governor, good to talk to you. We appreciate it.

What's your feeling about tonight's debate? GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great. Great. I

mean, I stood there -- I was just trying to not get hit with any shrapnel, you know? I actually really want to feel like it's more important for me to express the things I want to do and be positive.

You know, I'm really happy with what happened tonight. All the people on my team are very happy. You know, it was great.

Erin, I'm enjoying it more and more all the time.

BURNETT: And I know you did try to keep it positive. Obviously, we were just talking about how it was incredibly contentious. It was angry. Someone here just called it a demolition derby.

Was this the most -- I guess nasty would be the right word -- debate that you've been part of so far?

KASICH: Well, I was a little surprised with using words like "liar". I don't like that.

But look, it was a demolition derby and my car's still going around the track, Erin. It hasn't really even been dinged. So, you know, these things happen. We're down to six people who could be president of the United States. And you know, there's a lot of pressure.

Now, you know, kind of for me I didn't feel a lot of pressure. I just kind of wanted to do my thing. Somebody's going to attack me, I'm not going to take it, but I'm not out there looking to take anybody's head off.

BURNETT: I wanted to ask you about something. Planned Parenthood came up. You and I have talked about this. Obviously you defunded that in Ohio.

Donald Trump was talking about Planned Parenthood and said he doesn't like anything that has to do with abortion tonight. But he did say Planned Parenthood does a lot of good things for women's health. And he said that repeatedly.

Of course, they do a lot of good things other than abortion. Abortion is a small part of what they do.

Is he right or wrong?

KASICH: Well, I'll just tell what you we're doing. We're not funding Planned Parenthood but we are going to have very robust funding for women's health, which is not going to be put in an organization that's been largely discredited.

But women's health is important. Just like the fight we make in Ohio on the issue of infant mortality, the efforts that we make on early childhood education and most particularly women's health. We're not going to short-fund women's health.

In fact, I just heard the other day, I was reminded that we had about $40 million extra dollars in there for women's health. And I think it's critical.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Governor Kasich, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Enjoy the rest of your evening.

KASICH: Thanks, Erin. See you soon.

BURNET: All right. We'll talk to you soon.

And I want to go now. Donald Trump is in the spin room. He's with our Sara Murray -- Sara.

TRUMP: Light words. Very light words. Sometimes they're not even said. You know, you blanked out words that I didn't even say. You know that. OK? I think I explained that.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, so today you called Ted Cruz a liar on the debate stage.

TRUMP: He does --

MURRAY: What is it --

TRUMP: He does not tell the truth. They make robocalls to people and they say things about people that aren't true and they come up with a lot of statements that aren't true.

MURRAY: But isn't that just politics?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. You have to be truthful. And Ted Cruz is not a truthful person. And frankly, he holds up the bible. And I hold up the bible as well as anybody. And he holds up the bible and then he lies. What he did to Ben Carson. What he did with the voter violation form in Iowa, for example, where they wrote a form that looked just like a governor paper and it said go vote for Ted Cruz, otherwise you're going to be in trouble.

I mean, there are a lot of lies and a lot of bad statements. I see it happening in South Carolina where he is -- robocalls are being made saying things that just untrue.

MURRAY: Now, you went to South Carolina, pulled out an ad against Ted Cruz. You said you want to go positive here. Do you think that's possible to do in a state like South Carolina?

TRUMP: I guess, I don't think it's South Carolina. I know the people of South Carolina. They're incredible. That has to do with Ted Cruz, not South Carolina.

And frankly, I do want to be positive because nobody has a record like I do. I built an incredible company, employed over the years tens of thousands of people. Nobody knows better than I do about health care and all of these different things because nobody on stage employed -- they probably haven't employed anybody. And I've employed tens of thousands of people over the years.

[23:10:01] But, you know, I just -- politics is very interesting. You have to be truthful. And if somebody's not truthful, you have to call them out.

MURRAY: Now, everyone was watching very closely your exchange with Jeb Bush tonight. Why Jeb? He's a guy who continues to trail you in the polls in every state.

TRUMP: You're right. He's trailing in the polls. He's doing horribly. He spent $43 million --

MURRAY: So why hit him?

TRUMP: I tell you why -- because he took $20 million of negative ads on me. And I tell people this, and I teach people this. When somebody hits you, you hit them back. He spent $20 million on negative ads on me.

He doesn't have a chance. He's a total lightweight. But he spent $20 million on negative ads. So, yes, I'll hit him on occasion.

MURRAY: You know you're in a state with a big military population. You've campaigned here before. Tonight, you said the Bushes lied about weapons of mass destruction.

TRUMP: Well, they did.

MURRAY: You referred to them --

TRUMP: Were there weapons of mass destruction? You know better than I do. The answer is no.

And when Jeb said his brother protected us, the World Trade Center came down during his brother's reign. Are people forgetting that?

MURRAY: But there's still a lot of affection for the Bushes in South Carolina.

TRUMP: I like the Bushes also. I mean, I think it's fine. I think the Bushes are fine.

But he can't lie about his brother's record. And if you look at the last three months, it was a catastrophic failure. We had a catastrophic failure. That was during his term.

He gave us Obama because nobody -- Abraham Lincoln couldn't have beaten Obama at that time or anybody else that was on the Democrat side.

So, you know, look, everybody works. Everybody tries. But the World Trade Center came down. A lot of bad things happened. So Jeb can't say that that didn't happen.

And, by the way, there were no weapons of mass destruction. We went into Iraq, destabilized the Middle East. We spent trillions and trillions of dollars. We should be rebuilding our country also.

Now, we have to go and get ISIS. Nobody's going to be tougher or better with the military than me. I'll build it bigger and better and stronger than ever before. And nobody's going to mess with us. But you have to use it properly if you're going to use it at all.

MURRAY: I want to talk for a second about the Supreme Court because, of course, Justice Antonin Scalia passed today. Who would you nominate? What do you look at as a good model of a Supreme Court justice under a president Trump?

TRUMP: I think Diane Sykes is excellent. I think there are really three or four but I think Diane Sykes from Wisconsin has a great record and I think would be very good.

But honestly, you want to take a look at a large group of people and you want to nominate somebody -- Justice Scalia was a fantastic man. You really want that person to be as close to him as possible.

MURRAY: You mentioned your sister before. Is that still on the short list for you?

TRUMP: We have a little conflict of interest there. She's a tremendous person and one of the really brilliant justices. Thank you so much.

REPORTER: Do you have a litmus test --

TRUMP: All right, Erin, back to you. You heard a very confident Donald Trump and somebody who wanted to mix it up on the debate stage tonight.

BURNETT: And he sure did, as viewers will see throughout our special program tonight.

We're going to talk about that Supreme Court justice tonight. But you just saw that interview to our table here of what's going on with Donald Trump. It was his most bombastic performance yet, and as everyone has said, that is saying something.

Amanda, did he win or lose? You had Doug say the winner, Gloria say maybe the loser. So, we've got it bookended already.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: He was the most unhinged we've ever seen him. I think that's largely the fault of the moderators who couldn't control the discussion, really failed to ask thought-provoking questions.

But Ted Cruz is the only person who went toe to toe with Donald Trump tonight. Marco Rubio didn't do it. Jeb Bush tried a few times and failed.

And the most important thing accomplished tonight for Cruz was to show voters that Donald Trump can't really explain away his support of liberal policies and politicians in the past.

You know, in the wake of Justice Scalia's death, you really have to ask if Donald Trump can be trusted to appoint the next Supreme Court justice, and the answer should be no. And I think Cruz went a long way to exposing that. And for that Donald Trump loses.

BURNETT: S.E.?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Jeb and Rubio had a good -- had good nights, but I agree. Cruz I think walked away with the winning moment. And it was that moment.

For the first time -- you know, conservatives have been saying, conservatives like me, have been saying Donald Trump is not a conservative. And his supporters haven't cared.

Right now, we have the first real world example of why the stakes are so high. And Ted Cruz, it happened late in the -- deep in the debate, but Ted Cruz was the first to really connect the dots.

Do you want to keep the Republican Senate? Do you want to keep it so that you can get Republican, a conservative judge elected?

Well, Donald Trump is not the guy to help you do that. I thought it was the most important moment of the debate and the first time voters really understand just how high the stakes are for electing a reliable conservative.

BURNETT: Marc?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Full disclaimer, I'm wrong on Donald Trump every single time I make a prediction.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: You and Gloria.

HILL: Yes, me and Gloria always are.

But Trump lost big tonight for a few reasons. One, he got lured into Jeb Bush's trap. He beat up on the Bushes in South Carolina. That's never a wise choice.

BURNETT: A state, of course, the Bushes won twice.

HILL: That they won twice. And he didn't just say they lied about WMDs, he got lured into a conversation about impeachment. That's never where you want to be.

He got lured into a conversation where it seemed as if he was aligning himself with Democrats on entitlements.

[23:15:03] Not a good place to be.

Jeb Bush looked tough against him, or at least he held his own, which is something that has never happened before. Ted Cruz made him look like he wasn't a legit conservative. I only wish Ted had done that sooner at the top of the debate as opposed to -- it got buried. They sort of buried the lead.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: I do have to say one thing, the most important question in talking about replacing Justice Scalia comes to the Senate. And the moderators really missed an opportunity to advance the debate. The question shouldn't have been, can Obama nominate a Supreme Court justice? Of course, he can.

The question should have been to every candidate on stage, do you think the GOP Senate should block Obama's nominee?

LORD: Delay, delay, delay.

CARPENTER: Delay, delay, so that's not a stand-up, no, we will not do this in a lame duck election year. Ted Cruz was immediately out with a statement suggesting so. Marco Rubio was. The other candidates got away with saying nothing. And that's not OK.

BURNETT: All right. I want to play part of these moments between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump on foreign policy when he got lured in, as you say, into a discussion about impeachment and talking about WMD. Here's the first moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Jeb is so wrong. Jeb is absolutely so wrong.

(BOOS)

Just so understand, you know what that is? That's Jeb's special interests and lobbyists.

(BOOS)

Let me tell you something. Jeb -- Jeb is so wrong. You've got to fight ISIS first. You fight ISIS first. Right now, you have Russia, you have Iran, you have them with Assad and you have them with Syria.

You have to knock out ISIS. They're chopping off heads. These are animals. You have to knock them out. You have to knock them off strong.

You decide what to do after. You can't fight two wars at one time.

If you listen to him and you listen to some of the folks that I've been listening to, that's why we've been in the Middle East for 15 years and we haven't won anything. We've spent $5 trillion in the Middle East because of thinking like that.

We've spent 5 -- Lindsey Graham, who backs him, who had zero on his polls, let me just tell you something.

(BOOS)

We've spent -- we've spent --

(BOOS)

I only tell the truth, lobbyists. We've spent $5 trillion all over -- we have to rebuild our country. We have to rebuild our infrastructure. You listen to, that you're going to be there for another 15 years --

DICKERSON: Governor Bush, please respond.

BUSH: The very basic fact is that Vladimir Putin is not going to be an ally of the United States. The whole world knows this. It's a simple basic fact.

(APPLAUSE)

They're not taking out -- they're not even attempting to take out is. They're attacking the troops that we're supporting. We need to create a coalition, Sunni-led coalition on the ground with our special operators to destroy ISIS and bring about stability. And you can't do that with Assad in power.

TRUMP: We're supporting troops that we don't even know who they are. We're supporting troops that we don't even know who they are.

DICKERSON: Mr. Trump, I --

TRUMP: We have no idea who they are.

DICKERSON: Gentlemen, I think we're going to leave that there. We've got a question --

BUSH: This from a guy who gets his foreign policy from the shows.

TRUMP: Oh, yes.

BUSH: This is a guy who thinks that Hillary Clinton is a great negotiator in Iran. We're living in dangerous times.

TRUMP: Spent $44 million in New Hampshire.

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: This is a man who insults his way to the nomination.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Spent $44 million in New Hampshire. Give me a break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That was just one of many contentious moments between those two as well as others. One thing that stood out as people are listening to this is all the booing -- the booing that appeared to be at Donald Trump.

So, what do you make of that?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Appeared to be at Donald Trump. Marco Rubio seemed to have a lot of fans in that crowd. Jeb Bush too at times.

I think the brilliance of Donald Trump is he is able to turn these boos into an asset, right? He essentially has said that this is the donor class, this is the establishment, these are the people I'm running against, and these are the people that aren't on the side of the little guy.

So, I think -- and you heard Ted Cruz even pick up on that too and say, yes, those are the special interests as well. He's great at sort of riding the boos to his advantage.

CHALIAN: He said only his wife and his son was there. Like it was as if he was alone fighting the fight and this whole establishment was against him.

BURNETT: That's right.

And, Gloria, what do you make of the substance of that fight?

BORGER: Well, this question of should George Bush have been impeached is an interesting question to ask in South Carolina, with his brother right there. And I think in one sense, and I'll give you this, Trump did well by saying wait a minute, it took you five days to say that going into Iraq was a mistake. So he did make a good point there, which is why I might be wrong.

But then when he said you know, they lied, he also accused Cruz of being a liar, I wonder whether that was a step too far, and then Bush comes back and says, I'm sick and tired of you attacking my family, you even attacked my mother, right?

BURNETT: We'll play that.

BORGER: It went back and forth. It's sort of like bumper cars.

TOOBIN: It's just worth pointing out that the critique that Trump was making of George W. Bush --

BORGER: Was liberal.

TOOBIN: -- was one of the left of the Democratic Party.

[23:20:01] He was like Michael Moore, Nancy Pelosi, that he lied.

BORGER: Sounded liberal.

TOOBIN: That they intentionally lied about the weapons of mass destruction.

BURNETT: Right.

TOOBIN: And he went even further than any Democrat I've heard saying you, George W. Bush, are responsible for the World Trade Center attacks of 9/11.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: Which is something Democrats never even --

HENDERSON: Which he said before.

BURNETT: And he has.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: He didn't keep us safe.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And then Rubio jumped in and said, I am really glad George W. Bush was president.

BURNETT: Well, I'm glad you mentioned Rubio. Tonight was Rubio's big night. Could he make up for the disaster of last week's debate? And there were some very contentious moments involving him. Someone called his rehabilitation tonight. We're going to take a break, and you'll see that fight, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And welcome back to our special coverage of the GOP debate. It was raucous. It was a little bit of a crazy mess as we've been talking about. There was fighting going on and some of the most heated moments came down to immigration -- immigration between Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

[23:25:00] Let me play for you one of those.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRUZ: The Rubio-Schumer amnesty plan, apparently supported by the donor class, which is why Washington supported it. The Rubio-Schumer amnesty plan passed the Senate, and it was on the verge of passing the house. House leadership intended to take it up and pass it with the Democrats overruling most of the Republicans. And the question for anyone on illegal immigration is, where were you in that fight? Where did you stand?

You are right. There is a difference between Senator Rubio and me on this.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to have to --

DICKERSON: Your reply.

RUBIO: We're going to have to do this again, OK?

When that issue was being debated, Ted Cruz at a committee hearing very passionately said, I want immigration reform to be able to pass, I want people to come out of the shadows, and he proposed an amendment that would have legalized people here.

Not only that, he proposed doubling the number of green cards. He proposed a 500 percent increase on guest workers.

(CHEERS)

Now, his position is different. Now, he is a passionate opponent of all those things. So, he either wasn't telling the truth then or he isn't telling the truth now. But to argue he's a purist on immigration is just not true.

(CHEERS)

CRUZ: May I get a response?

DICKERSON: Senator Cruz. Your response, Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: You know, the lines are very, very clear. Marco right now supports citizenship for 12 million people here illegally. I oppose citizenship. Marco stood on the debate stage and said that.

But I would note not only that, Marco has a long record when it comes to amnesty. In the state of Florida as speaker of the house he supported in state tuition for illegal immigrants.

In addition to that Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama's illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office. I have promised to rescind every single illegal executive action, including that one.

And on the question --

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: First of all, I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.

(LAUGHTER)

And second of all, the other point that I would --

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

RUBIO: This is a disturbing pattern now because for a number of weeks, Ted Cruz has just been telling lies. He lied about Ben Carson in Iowa. He lies about Planned Parenthood. He lies about marriage. He's lying about all sorts of things. And now he makes things up.

The bottom line is this is a campaign and people are watching it and they see the truth behind all these issues and here's the truth. Ted Cruz supported legalizing people that are in this country legally --

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: That is absolutely false. That is knowingly false. And I would note --

RUBIO: We'll put it on our website. MarcoRubio.com. We're going to --

(CROSSTALK) CRUZ: If you want to assess who's telling the truth you should look to Jeff Sessions, who said without Ted Cruz the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill would have passed and Ted was responsible -- you should look to Rush Limbaugh and Marc Levin that said Marco --

(CROSSTALK)

DICKERSON: Governor Bush. Governor Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So, there you have a taste of just how crazy it got.

Among the many things that happened there, Amanda, we did learn that Ted Cruz spoke more Spanish than Marco Rubio.

(LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: That is a debate they have had, they keep bringing it up. And I have to say as someone who really likes a lot of things about Marco Rubio, it pains me to see them go through this. I was there in the Senate. I have fought amnesty plans not just on behalf of Ted Cruz, also Jim DeMint, and also when I worked for human events before that.

And there's no question that Marco Rubio's misrepresenting what Cruz did with his amendment strategy during the "Gang of Eight". Long story short, as Cruz explained, Cruz was against "Gang of Eight". Marco Rubio was a champion of it.

So, I don't know why Rubio keeps running from that, saying Cruz was a liar for trying to take that bill down. But we're going to keep having this debate again and again. And I think it's a negative for Rubio because it reminds everyone they had the Schumer-Rubio bill.

CUPP: I don't think anyone's hands on r. Clean when it comes to immigration. That's because it's such a fraught issue. Donald Trump has flip-flopped on his immigration stance. Jeb Bush has had trouble defining his.

None of them have completely pure records and pure positions. And explaining the nuance of Marco and Ted's maneuverings in the Senate -- I'm not sure anyone walked away or ever walks away from this the winner or loser among voters.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Donald Trump does. Donald Trump does. Donald Trump has the clearest immigration policy --

BURNETT: Because he's building a wall.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Another point worth make about this whole immigration debate, which is that they are fighting to get farther and farther away from what most Americans believe, because most Americans, polls show they do want a path to citizenship, they don't want 11 million people --

[23:30:02] CUPP: But the majority of people on that stage, Jeffrey, agreed with them. I mean, the majority of people were running away from Donald Trump and said, we don't want to just deport 15 million illegal immigrants.

TOOBIN: Is that what you heard? Really?

CUPP: They said it. They said it over and over again.

HILL: On the one hand, no one wants to deport except Donald Trump, but they are trying to move away from the left-wing position. They've all taken in my estimation fairly reasonable positions at moments and they're calling each other out on those moments of reason.

CUPP: Right.

HILL: So, now, you have people dragging each other to the right, to the Donald Trump extreme but to the right, which is going to hurt everybody in the general election.

LORD: In other words, Donald Trump has been bringing the whole fields right.

BURNETT: He has been.

LORD: As you said, he's the one who got this out there on the table. And now, like a magnet he's bringing these people to his right.

BURNETT: Let's play a little of what happened between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush on this issue. You can see who's running farther right. Here's another one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When I announced I was running for president on June 16th, illegal immigration wasn't even a subject. If I didn't bring it up you wouldn't even be talking.

Now, I don't often agree with Marco and I don't often agree with Ted, but I can in this case. The weakest person on this stage by far on illegal immigration is Jeb Bush. They come out of an act of love.

Whether you like it or not, he is so weak on illegal immigration it's laughable. And everybody knows it.

BUSH: So you know, this is the standard operating procedure, to disparage me. That's fine. I don't really care.

TRUMP: Spend a little more money on the commercials.

BUSH: But if you want to talk about weakness, you want to talk about weakness, it's weak to disparage women.

TRUMP: I don't disparage.

BUSH: It's weak to disparage Hispanics.

TRUMP: I don't disparage.

BUSH: It's weak to denigrate the disabled.

And it's really weak to call John McCain a loser because he was --

TRUMP: I never called him --

BUSH: That is outrageous. That's an American hero.

TRUMP: He also said about language --

BUSH: I've laid out my plans --

TRUMP: And he said about language, two days ago he said he would take his pants off and moon everybody. And that's fine. Nobody reports that. He gets up and says that. And then he tells me, oh, my language was a little bit rough.

DICKERSON: OK.

TRUMP: Give me a break.

DICKERSON: Governor Kasich. Governor Kasich. Here in South Carolina earlier this week you said the idea, the concept of deporting 11 million --

BUSH: Just for the record, make sure my mother's listening. She's watching the debate. I didn't say I was going to moon somebody.

TRUMP: You did say it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. The mooning issue, we're going to get to in just a moment.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: We did fact-check it. I want our audience to know we fact checked it.

But first on the substantive you issue of illegal immigration, Gloria, this is one of the things George Bush -- Jeb Bush, I'm sorry, because George Bush was looming so large over this debate. But Jeb Bush has talked about people coming to this country as an act of love.

He tried to back off of that tonight it seemed, right? By saying no, we get to choose who comes here, we get --

BORGER: Because he had to show strength, right?

BURNETT: Did he succeed?

BORGER: You know, I agree with S.E. on this. I don't think anyone has clean hands on this issue. If you were -- if Jeb Bush once said it was an act of love, which he did, today he's saying I'm strong, we get to pick who comes in as an act of love maybe.

You know, it just shows you that the stakes are so high, and Jeb is sort of trying to come back after a showing in New Hampshire. This was his moment, and he's got his brother coming down. He can't project weakness.

Rubio had to come back tonight. Cruz had to get back in the game, right? And so, it was -- it was a hot mess out there.

CHALIAN: I just want to say that if indeed the voters perceive what S.E. and Gloria are saying to be true, which is that everybody's hands are dirty, Marco Rubio succeeds at the immigration debate.

BURNETT: Right.

CHALIAN: Because his whole point in this is to try to muddy the water, right?

What Amanda was saying before about Ted Cruz, that's the whole reason Marco Rubio takes this fight to Ted Cruz, because he's just trying to get the hot potato off of him and muddy the water a little bit. So --

BURNETT: What we're talking about here is Ted Cruz put forth something that appeared to be pro-immigration, but he did it to try to destroy an immigration bill. So it's one of those confusing, awful things about Washington.

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: More than just trying to say everybody's hands are dirty. Even --

BURNETT: Right.

CHALIAN: I think that is a tough, tough thing to assume, that Republican voters do perceive, because I think it is much easier. And this is where I think Amanda sees a problem here for Rubio that I do think still exists for him. It is much easier to slam Marco Rubio to being with Chuck Schumer on this "Gang of Eight" bill, this total anathema to the party. That is a much cleaner argument.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Gloria?

BORGER: Rubio responded by saying that Cruz was a liar. I mean, that's a word a lot of people used about a lot of people tonight.

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: And he shot right back at him and said you're just lying.

BURNETT: So I want to get to the liar.

[23:35:00] BORGER: Which liar?

BURNETT: The liar issue, which came up from so many people.

But quickly, David, the fact check on the mooning.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Because everybody said this is ridiculous. We need to fact check it.

Jeb Bush did indeed talk about that.

CHALIAN: Yes. In an interview with the "Boston Globe" during the New Hampshire primary in the days leading up to the primary he basically was saying, I look at all those reporters in the back of the room and basically I would have to light myself on fire for them to look up from their BlackBerrys. If I dropped my pants and mooned everyone, they probably wouldn't even notice. That is the reference he was making.

BORGER: Thank you for illuminating.

HENDERSON: Which shows you how in the weeds Trump is. He's reading the "Boston Herald" and knowing that Jeb Bush is -- I didn't even know this.

LORD: Donald Trump is in Jeb Bush's head.

BRINKLEY: Everything said on immigration we've heard before. I didn't think anything was new on immigration. But the mooning is new to all. So, tomorrow, people are going to be talking about that. The comedians on Monday will.

And that was a moment that may have made Jeb Bush look a little foolish for saying kind of such a comical thing but people will make something out of that.

BURNETT: And we did fact check p because Jeb kept saying what are you talking about? He might not even have remembered saying it himself. But he did indeed say it.

All right. Coming up a nasty exchange between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz calling each other liars. There was a lot of use of the L-word, not just you're not telling the truth. It was point blank liar again and again.

And Jeb Bush tried to tie John Kasich to Obamacare.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:40:05] BURNETT: And welcome back to our coverage of tonight's GOP debate. The stakes were incredibly high, and the words were incredibly hot that were used. A lot of fighting going on, and the word "liar" was thrown around by more than one person tonight. One of them was Donald Trump in this exchange with Ted Cruz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You are the single biggest liar -- you probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are the single biggest liar. This guy lied -- let me just tell you. This guy lied about Ben Carson when he took votes away from Ben Carson in Iowa. And he just continues.

And today, we had robocalls saying Donald Trump is not going to run in South Carolina, where I'm leading by a lot. I'm not going to run. Vote for Ted Cruz.

This is the same thing he did to Ben Carson. This guy will say anything. Nasty guy. Now, I know why he doesn't have one endorsement from any of his colleagues --

CRUZ: John, I get to respond.

DICKERSON: Get to pick from the buffet there.

TRUMP: He's a nasty guy.

CRUZ: I will say -- I will say it is fairly remarkable to see Donald defending Ben after he called him pathological and compared him to a child molester, both of which were offensive and wrong. But let me say more --

TRUMP: I just quoted his book.

CRUZ: But you notice Donald didn't disagree with the substance that he supports taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. And Donald has this weird pattern. When you point to his own record, he screams "liar, liar, liar". If you want to go --

TRUMP: Where did I support it?

CRUZ: If you want to go --

TRUMP: Hey, Ted, where did I support it?

CRUZ: If you want to go and watch the video go to our website, TedCruz.org.

TRUMP: Where did I support it, Ted?

CRUZ: You can see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I know there's laughter going on here. But I mean, the word "liar," it's one thing to say what you said is not true, what you said is dishonest. And yes, it's the same thing.

But we all know that there is a different tone that comes when you actually as you the word liar, which Donald Trump used liberally there.

LORD: One of the things that I think is very interesting here is Donald Trump has said this of Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio has said this of Ted Cruz. And, of course, we remember the whole Ben Carson situation in Iowa where Ben Carson was very upset with Ted Cruz.

I think what's happening is cumulatively there's a picture and not a flattering one. I like Senator Cruz but I think there's an unflattering picture being painted of him by several of his peers here and they're all pointing to him using the L-word in one form or another and it's not good.

BURNETT: Amanda, what do you say to that? By the way, on the robocalls, there's the latest on that so everyone understands. Ted Cruz, the campaign was saying it's not them that's making these calls, we at CNN do not know who's behind them at this point. That's the best information we can give you on the robocalls right now.

CARPENTER: Yes, when it comes to the "liar" word, I mean, Donald Trump uses it liberally, calls people names in any manner, and other people are jumping on the fact. So, you know, It's really disappointing to say oh, well, there's this narrative being painted of Ted Cruz being painted as a liar but other people have a political interest in painting him as a liar.

HILL: Yes, but undergirded by something a little different, right?

CARPENTER: No, but I think -- particularly when Marco Rubio said it, that was kind of a new level for Marco against Ted in this immigration fight. And really, I'm telling you, when I watched it, I took a step back and said, wow, because there are many conservatives, many conservative activists who are going to play a big role in this election who have good feelings to Marco Rubio, and would support him if he's the nominee.

But when he calls Ted Cruz a liar for an issue, for working on an issue they care so deeply about, that was a really bad move for Marco Rubio.

HILL: It might work, though. There's nuance to the immigration issue, I agree with you.

CARPENTER: There's no nuance to the word "liar".

HILL: No, no, I'm agreeing with you.

BURNETT: Right.

LORD: Righit.

HILL: I think in that case it's not exactly accurate. But there's already a narrative about Ted Cruz being a liar because of what happened in Iowa, because of these conversations, that it just might stick in a way it won't for other candidates. So, this could actually work for Marco Rubio.

CUPP: When it comes to a candidate who shares my values, Ted Cruz does very well on this question with voters.

I think Donald Trump's continued attempts to somehow undermine the religious authority of Ted Cruz, he's done it with Ben Carson, he's tried it over and over again. You heard him tonight saying in the spin room, "I love the Bible but Ted Cruz there, stands there with the Bible and he lies," that hasn't really worked to -- you know, among evangelicals.

So, I don't know ultimately that trying to cast Ted Cruz as a lying, you know, fake evangelical, I don't know that that's really going to work.

CARPENTER: I do know one thing. If I were just an average voter tuning in to this debate and seeing people scream liar, brawling openly with no repercussions really from the moderators or anyone else, I would have tuned out. This is not a good look for the GOP. This is not a debate I want to remember. It was the worst one yet.

HILL: Agreed.

BURNETT: And everybody -- the tenor of the conversation was definitely low. You had people saying, well, who's a grownup and who's not a grownup.

There was one thing that was said, though, as we tried to get to the fact checks that need to happen here about the Supreme Court and, well, Marco Rubio was asked about the death of Antonin Scalia.

[23:45:02] He said that he thinks President Obama should not appoint Justice Scalia's replacement.

Now, Rubio said that it's been and his words were, quote, "over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice." It's a major claim.

Is it true, though?

Well, Tom Foreman went and checked our reality check.

And what is the verdict, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, this thing was hanging over the whole evening, wasn't it? This untimely death of Justice Scalia and what happens now. And yes, Marco Rubio said the Obama administration should not do it because of precedent. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUBIO: It's been over 80 years since a lame duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: That is a big claim. Over 80 years.

Let's look back over some of the things that have happened in that period of time. Franklin Roosevelt, we know, did succeed in appointing somebody in 1940. That was an election year. It was the end of his second term. But there were no term limits then. He ran for a third term afterwards. We're not sure what to make of that.

Lyndon Johnson tried to get a justice named. He didn't succeed. But it was in the end of his term. And Ronald Reagan appointed Anthony Kennedy in late 1987. It was approved in 1988. That was Reagan's last year.

Now, are these exceptions? Are these lame ducks? The question is what constitutes a lame duck? There is no legal definition.

The other thing that complicates it is there aren't really many Supreme Court justices in the past 80 years who have died in the court in the specific window in which you might have a lame duck president.

Nonetheless, there are very few instances where it has happened. So, we are going to have to say no matter how you slice it up what Rubio said was mostly true.

And, of course, you can find out more about how we decided all this, Erin, and many more things that we checked by going to CNN.com/realitycheck -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Tom. Thank you very much. So mostly true, the verdict, on what Marco Rubio had to say.

Jeffrey Toobin, you think something Ted Cruz said was much more problematic on this front.

TOOBIN: Yes, it was early in the debate, and John Dickerson really called him on it because Rubio said it has not happened that a Supreme Court nominee has been approved during a president's last year in office.

BURNETT: This is Cruz.

TOOBIN: Cruz, I'm sorry. Cruz said that.

And Dickerson said, well, what about Anthony Kennedy? And he was -- and Cruz just sort of blew him off. I mean, he was simply wrong about that. Because Anthony Kennedy --

BURNETT: Well, he blew him off in a rather I know way more than you know way too. He was sort of who are you to challenge me on this?

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: Kennedy was nominated in November 1987, and I looked up the nominations by Reagan and he was confirmed the next year.

TOOBIN: That's right.

CARPENTER: It wasn't purely a lame duck nomination.

BURNETT: OK. Yes? LORD: I was involved in that. Adjusts Kennedy was nominated because Douglas Ginsburg was nominated and had to drop out because he smoked marijuana in law school. And Douglas Ginsburg was nominated because of Robert Bork. And Robert Bork was nominated in July of 1987. I was involved in all three of those.

So, most assuredly at the time, the Anthony Kennedy nomination was seen as a successor to the Bork nomination from July, not as a lame duck, not as like the Lyndon Johnson --

BURNETT: OK.

TOOBIN: But there's also another significant difference between the current situation and any of these others. In all these other situations in '87, in '88, there was a full complement of Supreme Court justices. Lewis Powell announced his resignation, but he wasn't going to leave until his successor was confirmed.

Here there is an actual vacancy on the court now because of the death of Antonin Scalia. So, the court is looking at if the Republicans refused to act on an Obama nominee, well over a year being short- handed because it's -- the new president in January will only then begin looking for a nominee and nominating someone and then having hearings.

BURNETT: It's a very long process.

TOOBIN: Yes. So if in fact the Republicans don't act on anyone Barack Obama appoints, you're looking at a year and a half to two years of an eight-justice Supreme Court, which is really without precedent in modern American history.

BURNETT: And that perhaps is the most important takeaway from all of this.

All right. Coming up next Donald Trump talks about using dirty words on the campaign trail. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[13:52:48] TRUMP: On occasion, in order to sort of really highlight something I use a profanity. One of the profanities that I got credited with using that I didn't use was a very bad word two weeks ago that I never used. I said you and everybody said oh, he didn't say anything wrong. But you bleeped it. So, everyone thinks I said -- I didn't say anything. I never said the word.

It is very unfair, that criticism. Now, I will say this. With all of that being said, I have said I will not do it at all because if I say a word that's a little bit off color, a little bit, it ends up being a headline.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Sean Spicer joins me live from Peace Center Performing Arts Center in Greenville, South Carolina. Of course, spokesman for the RNC.

Sean, you know, obviously you're smiling a little bit, as is our entire panel. But this is not necessarily funny. I mean, the tune tonight, there was a lot of fighting. The word "liar" was used by multiple candidates, multiple times. This was as down and dirty as we have seen it.

Do you think the tone of the debate was too negative?

SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMM. DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATL. COMMITTEE: Well, I think we're entering a critical face of this cycle. We've got two contests down. We're heading into the third. I think this is when South Carolina voters tend to want to see these candidates throw a punch or two, see if they can take, it see what they're made of.

And so, you know, again, you've heard me say this before, Erin, I'd rather have candidates talking about their vision and speaking positively and focusing their attacks on the Democrats, but the reality is politics is a contact sport. We understand that's part of what has to happen. You have to be able to show each -- how you differentiate yourself. And that you're ready for the general election.

BURNETT: So, you had Marco Rubio called Ted Cruz a liar. You had Donald Trump call Ted Cruz a liar. Those were just a couple of the moments where we saw this. And, of course, you just heard Donald Trump there talking about profanities. But are you concerned? You talked about it as a contact sport.

But are you concerned that they're now turning so much fire onto each other that your final nominee is going to be too damaged for the general election? If your own party is calling you a liar?

SPICER: I can deal with a couple people calling each other names and tweeting at each other as far as our party goes.

The other side, you've got a party who's got a 74-year-old socialist as one option and somebody who the FBI said is under criminal investigation as the other.

[23:55:08] So, I can handle a couple people name-calling each other and sending nasty tweets at each other can if that's the choice between the two parties, because our guys are out there trying to distinguish themselves. The other party has a choice of whether they're going to go with a self-avowed socialist or somebody the FBI's opened an investigation on.

BURNETT: Before we go, I have to ask you about Antonin Scalia, obviously looming large today, as a giant in the legal field and now a giant in the political discussion.

Do you think that it is right for them all to sit on that stage and talk about how they're going to stop Barack Obama from nominating someone? It would leave the Supreme Court without someone from an unprecedented period of time as Jeffrey Toobin just said. And every one of them would nominate someone if the roles were reversed.

Are they making a mistake?

SPICER: I think each of those -- that's the point of the debate. Each of them is supposed to articulate how they would act as commander in chief and what they think -- who the kind of person they would replace Justice Scalia with. And I think that's -- people had an opportunity tonight to hear each one of those candidates give their version of that. That's what tonight was about.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Sean Spicer, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

We're going to take a brief break, and our special coverage of the GOP debate continues on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)