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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Interview with Bobby Jindal; Former Mexican Pres.: "I'm Not Gonna Pay for that F***** Wall"; Interview with Congressman Chris Collins of New York; "Black Lives Matter" Activist Confronts Clinton; Romney: Trump's Tax Returns Could Have "Bombshell"; Report: RNC Resources To Be Used To "Discipline" Trump. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 25, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


BOBBY JINDAL (R), FORMER LOUISIANA GOVERNOR (via telephone): I think as voters take a closer look at their records, more and more of them are switching to Rubio.

[16:30:02] You saw that. You saw some Trump voters leave him in Iowa and go to Rubio. I think you're going to see that across the country.

They take a closer look at this record, as they -- as more -- as we get closer to this election and as the stakes get higher and higher, I think Rubio does well. Look, you look at the tax plans, you look at education plans, look at health care plans, Rubio is not just saying no to Obama, he's offering specific, conservative solutions that grow our economy, shrink the government. Donald Trump is not doing that.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The optimism of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal -- thank you so much for talking to us, Governor. Appreciate it.

JINDAL: Thanks.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the last Republican presidential nominee attacking Donald Trump, warning of a bombshell in his taxes. Will Trump release his taxes? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[16:35:10] VICENTE FOX, FORMER MEXICAN PRESIDENT: I declare, I'm not going to pay for that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall. He should pay for it. He's got the money.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That was former Mexican President Vicente Fox responding to Donald Trump's claim that he will build a wall and get Mexico to pay for the wall along the border with the United States.

The Republican front-runner arriving here at the debate hall in Houston earlier today.

Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Houston.

Let's bring in the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump, Congressman Chris Collins, Republican of New York.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R-NY), DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Jake, happy to be with you today.

TAPPER: So you support Mr. Trump. Here is a former world leader reacting to the comments on the campaign trail. Do you believe Donald Trump will be an effective leader on the world stage?

COLLINS: Jake, you know, tonight, I think what we're going to see with Mr. Trump, you're going to see the only chief executive on the stage, the only man who's ever signed the front of a paycheck on the stage, someone who spent four decades negotiating in the private sector and that makes him the perfect individual to be the president as he sits down with world leaders.

He's not going to have his you-know-what kicked as President Obama has. When Obama went to Cuba and found out they had one of our hellfire missiles, he went, oh, would you please give it back. I mean, that's not how you negotiate. Look at the Iranian nuclear deal where they're self-inspecting their own facilities. This has been a disaster.

Donald Trump is a skilled negotiator. He's not going to let Putin, he's not going to let the ayatollah, the folks in North Korea or Iran get the upper hand. We are the superpower.

Donald Trump knows that. Donald Trump is going to represent America on the world stage with the backing of the American people.

TAPPER: A lot of Democrats are gleeful today because "BuzzFeed" made a collection of some of the racier things Donald Trump has said about women on "The Howard Stern Show". I'd like you to take a quick listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: A person who's flat-chested is very hard to be a ten, OK?

HOST: Right.

TRUMP: I mean it has to be extraordinary.

I saw a woman who was totally beautiful.

HOST: Right.

TRUMP: She was angry that so many men were calling her. How dare they call me, it's terrible. They're all looking at my breasts.

So, she had a major breast reduction. The good news, nobody calls her anymore. And the bad news, nobody even looks. (END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: Are you at all concerned about Democrats using those tapes to hurt the Republican Party in November, assuming Trump gets the nomination?

COLLINS: Oh, you know, Jake, it's going to be a dirty election, you know that, they all are. But I can tell you the Republican response is anyone but Hillary. I don't know that Hillary would even have the audacity to take Donald Trump on on his stance with women, given her stance with Monica Lewinsky and her husband and all of the past misdeeds of Bill Clinton as she basically stood by her husband and all of his actions and in fact demonized the very victims of his actions.

I don't think Hillary Clinton would even then be as disingenuous to suggest she's going to go after bill. Again, anyone but Hillary. The Republican Party is very quick low after super Tuesday going to unite behind Donald Trump as our next president -- a chief executive who's going to bring jobs back from China to the United States. He's going to stand strong against Iran, North Korea, Russia.

He's going to fight ISIS and you're going to see the best cabinet ever assembled by a president in the history of this country with only the best and brightest as the treasury secretary, secretary of state and on and on.

Donald Trump is going to listen. That's what private sector people do. I think as you're going to see tonight, there's going to be one person standing out on that stage and that is the next president of the United States, Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Congressman, Hillary Clinton denies that she attacked any of the women who were accusers of Bill Clinton.

But let me just ask you one other quick question because we're running out of time. Mitt Romney today calling for Donald Trump to release some of his recent tax returns. Don't voters, Republican voters have a right to know and see the returns of Trump, Rubio, Cruz, just to make sure that the candidates are as vetted as possible, to make sure there's nothing in there that could hurt the Republican nominee in November?

COLLINS: Well, it will be up to Donald Trump whether he releases tax returns or not. That's a private matter. I can tell you that someone myself with very complex business dealings, there's certain things in tax returns that you don't want to release because you don't want your partners in different enterprises to be, if you will, having their financials exposed.

[16:40:10] I have business partners that if I reported every detail in my tax returns, I'd be basically releasing my business partners' incomes, which is not fair to them in a privacy situation.

So, there are laws. I'm sure Mr. Trump is going to follow all the laws and disclosures, but it will be up to him. And what is -- you know, his different business interests to decide whether he's going to release those details and, again, potentially expose business partners in violation of their privacy.

That's the difference in a private sector guy like Donald Trump and career politicians like Mr. Rubio and Mr. Cruz who don't have these outside business interests. It's the pros and cons of having a chief executive doing what they're doing. So, that's up to Mr. Trump to decide what he'll do on the tax return front.

TAPPER: OK.

All right. New York Republican Congressman Chris Collins, a big supporter of Donald Trump as you just heard. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it, sir.

COLLINS: Happy to be with you, Jake.

TAPPER: On the Democratic side, a huge primary just two days away in South Carolina. But has Bernie Sanders already given up on the Palmetto State?

Plus, is the Republican National Committee plotting a plan to try to control Donald Trump? We will ask the chairman of the RNC coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:45:03] TAPPER: Welcome back. You can see the debate prep going on right behind me. We have more on our Politics Lead right now. It's just two days before Democratic voters make their pick in South Carolina and the two candidates are taking two very different approaches.

While Hillary Clinton is focusing her efforts in South Carolina today, Bernie Sanders is absent. He is in Ohio and going to Illinois and Michigan instead, raising questions that maybe Senator Sanders could be giving up in South Carolina.

Hillary and Bill Clinton are not. They're holding a combined seven campaign stops in South Carolina just today, despite a substantial lead in the polls there. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in South Carolina and filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not one Clinton --

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you all very much.

ZELENY: -- but two, spanning out across South Carolina today, working for a big win in Saturday's primary, hoping to wrap up the fight with Bernie Sanders. Firing up Democrats, Clinton called out Republicans for trying to repeal Obamacare.

CLINTON: Every one of those Republican presidential candidates, they have insurance and it takes a lot of gall for them to say, well, we don't need that Affordable Care Act.

ZELENY: She also warned that Sanders health care for all plan would threaten President Obama's signature achievement.

CLINTON: We can't go back and throw our country into a contentious debate, which is what my esteemed opponent, Senator Sanders has proposed.

ZELENY: Sanders couldn't hear the criticism. He was rallying supporters in Ohio.

SEN> BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ohio, as you all know, is one of the important political states in this country. You're having a primary here on March 15th. With your help, we can win this primary.

ZELENY: He also visited Michigan, appearing at a community forum in Flint for residents contending with the city's poisonous drinking water.

SANDERS: If we are looking at children being poisoned and perhaps suffering irreversible brain damage, if that is not an emergency, I just don't know what an emergency is.

ZELENY: It's a sign Sanders is looking ahead to March, when a large share of the party's delegates will be awarded. The Clintons are taking it one state at a time. The former president urged Democrats to look beyond any criticism the primary has stirred up about his wife.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: You can't pay any attention, some of these terrible things they say about her now. They just don't want to run against her. They are scared.

ZELENY: She came face-to-face with controversy at a South Carolina fundraiser Wednesday night. Black Lives Matter activist, Ashley Williams asked Clinton to apologize for the high incarceration rate for black Americans.

HILLARY CLINTON: We have somebody saying we are -- OK, we'll talk about it.

ZELENY: It was a reference to this speech Clinton gave as first lady.

HILLARY CLINTON: They are not just gangs of kids anymore, they are often the kinds of kids called super predators, no conscience and no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.

ZELENY: But two decades later, Clinton has disavowed much of the 1994 crime bill and talks about ending systematic racism in the era of mass incarceration.

HILLARY CLINTON: We've got work to do to knock down those barriers and that includes taking on systemic racism which is still a problem in America. It includes reforming the criminal justice system. It includes providing alternatives to jail and prison.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY: Of course, Bernie Sanders, Jake, also voted for that 1994 crime bill. He was actually in Congress. But that uncomfortable moment last night was followed up by I'm told a donor who was in the room asked her to actually comment on that, why she said those words bring them to heel.

Jake, I'm told she apologized for that. She has not talked about it at all today in South Carolina. You can see people lining up behind me here for her fourth event of the day. No doubt about it, she has this commanding lead here in this primary on Saturday -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks. Let's bring in CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers. He is a former South Carolina House of Representative member and a supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Bakari, this language, super predators, has upset a lot of people in the Black Lives Matter Movement and it's one of the reasons that former NAACP leader Ben Jealous cited when he announced support for Bernie Sanders. What's your respond?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, there's no doubt that the language is beyond troubling. I'm concerned with the language as well. I mean, even when you look at the context of it when she's talking about cartels and gangs. It's words that shouldn't be used.

Hillary Clinton acknowledged that. She actually apologized for using that language. The mass incarceration bill that we talk about, the crime bill of 1994 that we talk about, the only person in this race who had a vote at that time was Bernie Sanders.

[16:50:10]And I want to hold Hillary Clinton accountable as well, but if we're going to hold Hillary Clinton accountable, we have to do so with the same lens with Bernie Sanders. And that's all we're asking for.

And then I'm from Denmark, South Carolina. Three stoplights and a blinking light where we have back-breaking generational poverty. You couple with that mass incarceration and environmental injustices.

I need someone who is going to address those issues and that is what Hillary Clinton is talking about today in South Carolina.

TAPPER: All right, Bakari Sellers, we'll hear a lot more about this issue in the days and weeks to come.

Coming up, a bold move to prevent Trump from getting the nomination perhaps? Republican urging either Senator Cruz or Rubio to drop out of the race and the other join the other's ticket. Are they considering it? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:20]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Houston where right behind me five Republican presidential candidates will face off at tonight's CNN Republican presidential debate.

We are fewer than four hours away from the big Texas-style showdown with fewer candidates sharing the same stage. Each candidate will get more time. And it's guaranteed it will be a little more heated than ever as we head towards Super Tuesday.

Let's bring in the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Mr. Reince Priebus. Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining me.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Happy to be here.

TAPPER: The Republican field is narrowed down to five. Any predictions of whether or not it's going to get even more heated than usual?

PRIEBUS: Well, I don't know about more heated, but I think when you have more time to talk about issues and policies. I think it's going to give the candidates more time to express the detail of what they were talking about.

When we had 10 and 11 people on the stage, very difficult. But now you're getting to the place where there are few people on the stage and we can have a real conversation about what people's plans are, what these candidates' plans are for this country.

TAPPER: The 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, calling for all of the candidates, not just Donald Trump, but all of them to release at least a couple years of past tax returns.

So in case there's anything out there, Republican voters can see it and weigh in and make their decision instead of waiting until there's a nominee and then there's a bombshell before the general election.

PRIEBUS: Yes.

TAPPER: Good idea? Decent proposal?

PRIEBUS: The candidates eventually are going to have to do this, right? I don't think -- I don't think it's uncommon. But, you know, when they decide to do that and what the timing is, you know, it's up to them. Whether those decisions are helpful or hurtful to them, those are the campaigns' decisions that they need to make.

TAPPER: But for the fairness of the voters, wouldn't it be better for them to do it while voters are still voting?

PRIEBUS: That's up to the campaigns to decide. They gain or suffer based on those decisions, right. If it's a bad decision to wait, they'll suffer. If it's a good decision to wait, then they'll benefit from the decision. That's the truth.

TAPPER: So "Politico" has a report saying you're considering holding back resources from the Republican Party to possibly, quote, "discipline Donald Trump." This is "Politico's" report.

PRIEBUS: "Politico" is the key word in the whole thing.

TAPPER: Dangling access to these resources, Priebus thinks he can steer Trump toward policy wide policy goals and away from the rhetoric Republican officials see as divisive and dangerous.

PRIEBUS: Actually I read the headline and I didn't even read the whole thing.

TAPPER: Is it true?

PRIEBUS: Well, when I was quoted in the article, I never actually spoke to the reporter. I thought that was a little odd.

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. There's nothing about it that's true. But that -- beside the point, though, put that article aside for a second. I think it's important for people to realize what's happening here.

These folks are competing to join our party. We have a nomination contest for the Republican Party and our party is going to choose someone to join our party. We're not joining a candidate.

They're competing to join us and that's what happens in a nomination process. So they're joining the party that's built up the resources, the mechanics, and the ground game that they're going to need in order to win in November. So it's a team effort ultimately when it's all done.

TAPPER: Speaking of winning in November, after the 2012 loss, you issued what became known as the autopsy about what went wrong. One of the conclusions was that the Republican Party needed to do more outreach and be more welcoming to Latinos, women, other groups.

PRIEBUS: Yes, that's right.

TAPPER: Can your party win with a nominee who has an 80 percent disapproval rating among Latinos?

PRIEBUS: Well, obviously you have to improve. You know, one of the things member about that growth and opportunity report as far as our role in that report is that we need as a party to be more active in black and Hispanic and Asian communities, which we did.

We did in an unprecedented way. I think people are being objective and can see that the RNC is a couple times bigger than the DNC. We've put our money where our mouth is when it comes to engagement in black and Hispanic --

TAPPER: And yet --

PRIEBUS: Look, these are things that candidates have to deal with and tone matters. Sometimes our mothers have told us it's not sometimes what you say, it's how you say it, but it's also what you say. So tone matters. Dignity matters and engagement matters. All that together, I think we can do much better. We did much better in 2014 than we did in 2012.

TAPPER: Good luck. Hope it's a great debate tonight. Mr. Priebus, good to see you as always.

Once again watch the last Republican debate before Super Tuesday only here on CNN, 8:30 p.m. Eastern. That's it for THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper. I turn you over to Chris Cuomo and Anderson Cooper, who are manning "THE SITUATION ROOM" for Wolf Blitzer.