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CNN/ORC Poll: Trump Leads all GOP Rivals Combined; Trump Under Fire for Refusing to Disavow White Supremacists; Trump Blames Earpiece for KKK Comments; CNN/ORC Poll: Clinton Leads Sanders by 17 Points; Interview with Representative Tulsi Gabbard; North Korea Shows Detained U.S. Student's Tearful Plea. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 29, 2016 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:45] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Huge lead. Our new poll is out, and it shows Donald Trump favored by 49 percent of Republican voters nationwide, more than 30 points ahead of Marco Rubio, despite a stumble over disavowing white supremacist support and growing concern with the GOP establishment. Is Trump now on an unstoppable march to the nomination?

Slug fest. From a journalist being wrestled to the ground by the Secret Service to protesters disrupting a Trump event, to unprecedented mud-slinging out there on the campaign trail. Has the Republican campaign reached a new low?

Democratic divide. A prominent congresswoman quits a top post at the Democratic National Committee to back Senator Bernie Sanders. Why now, after a big Clinton landslide? And are Democrats struggling with a split with inside -- within their own party?

And un-convincing. An American college student cries and begs the North Korean regime for forgiveness, confessing to the crime of taking down a political banner. Has North Korea turned him into a pawn in a high-stakes power play with the United States?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: It's the final chance for candidates to drum up support, turn out the vote, and sway the voters before Super Tuesday. Polls start opening hours from now. A dozen states are holding contests. Hundreds of delegates are now up for grabs. Our new poll shows that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are expected to be the nominees.

Trump's huge lead and growing momentum has sparked growing alarm within the GOP establishment and rival campaigns. We're seeing extraordinary clashes among the candidates as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz step up their attacks on the frontrunner.

Emotions are running high out there on the campaign trail, especially after Trump's initial refusal to disavow support from a former KKK leader. Dozens of protesters were ejected after disrupting a Trump speech today, and we're standing by for another Trump rally. I'll speak with a Republican congressman, Peter King, and Democratic

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. And our correspondents, analysts and guests, they'll have full coverage of all the day's top stories.

Our new national CNN/ORC poll shows that 49 percent of Republican voters now favor Donald Trump, much more than all of his rivals put together, that, along with comments Trump has made, has passions and tempers running high right now.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is out there on the campaign trail in Texas. Sunlen, we saw these emotions play out on the campaign trail today. What's the latest?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, tensions are high among Donald Trump's rivals, who are really wasting no opportunity to blast him every chance they get, knowing how well-positioned Trump is going into Super Tuesday.

But emotions also breaking out at Donald Trump's rally tonight. A raucous rally, still unfolding this evening.


SERFATY (voice-over): On the eve of Super Tuesday, a chaotic close to campaigning. Trump's raucous rally in Virginia interrupted by protesters.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Get them out of here, please, get them out. Are you from Mexico? Are you from Mexico?

SERFATY: And a violent scuffle between the Secret Service and a news photographer, slammed to the ground after trying to get a shot of the chaos, all while Trump deals with his latest controversy, refusing to disavow former KKK grand wizard David Duke and other white supremacists backing his campaign.

TAPPER: Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke, and say that you don't want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP: Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, I don't know what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don't know.

SERFATY: Trump attempting some damage control, tweeting a video from a previous press conference Friday when he did disavow Duke support, pointing to that fact today.

TRUMP: When we looked at it and looked at the question. I disavowed David. So I disavowed David Duke, all weekend long, on Facebook and on Twitter and, obviously, it's never enough.

SERFATY: All this giving Marco Rubio another opening to pounce.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You say David Duke to me, I say racist immediately. SERFATY: Rubio with his voice hoarse...

RUBIO: Trying to get my Barry White voice here.

SERFATY: ... and Cruz both keeping up their all-out assault on Donald Trump.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where was Donald in the Gang of Eight? Not only was he nowhere to be found, Donald Trump was funding the Gang of Eight.

SERFATY: Meanwhile, despite pressure from some party elders to exit the race, John Kasich says, even though he has no hope of winning any states tomorrow, he is staying put.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Marco Rubio is trailing in Florida by 17 points. You know what? Why aren't they telling him to get out and get behind me? I have a better chance of winning in Ohio than he does in Florida.

SERFATY: A new CNN/ORC poll out today shows Trump with a commanding lead of the field nationally. Trump 33 points ahead of his closest rival, beating his four remaining components combined. Faced with this, the Republican Party establishment is now in full-on panic mode, fearing that Trump is well on his way to becoming the likely GOP nomination.

Opponents of Trump are getting an assist from late-night host John Oliver, who unleashed a 22-minute rant on the frontrunner last night.

JOHN OLIVER, LATE-NIGHT HOST: So if you are thinking of voting for Donald Trump, the charismatic guy, promising to make America great again, stop and take a moment to imagine how you would feel if you just met a guy named Donald Drumpf, a litigious serial liar with a string of broken business ventures and the support of a former Klan leader who he can't decide whether or not to condemn.


SERFATY: And that was a reference to the name Drumpf by John Oliver, what a biographer referred to as Trump's original family name before it was changed over two generations ago. Tonight, wolf, that's the Twitter hashtag, #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain is already trending nationwide -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen, thanks very much. I want to go to our political reporter, Sara Murray. She's out there on the campaign trail in another Super Tuesday state. We're talking about Georgia right now. So what's the mood over there, Sara?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he has another raucous crowd waiting for him at his rally here in Georgia. And, of course, the question is whether Donald Trump will address some of these controversies tonight: the KKK, as well as those protests we saw earlier. But one thing to remember is that, even though we're jumping, it seems

like, from controversy to controversy in the daily news cycle, the Trump campaign is also jumping from Super Tuesday state to Super Tuesday state. Places like Georgia that have open primaries, where they really feel like they could have a leg up. Because you're not just talking to Republican voters. You're talking to independent voters; you're talking to disaffected Democrats. And that's really how Trump is hoping to build a coalition that will carry him to victory in a lot of these Super Tuesday states.

It's also worth noting, Wolf, that tomorrow he is not only going to Ohio, but he's also going to be holding his Super Tuesday evening press conference in Florida at Mara Lago, just a jab in the eye to both John Kasich and to Marco Rubio as we get past Super Tuesday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen, thanks -- excuse me, Sara, thank very much. Sara Murray reporting for us. She's on the scene.

Some of Donald Trump's hardline statements and his initial refusal to disavow support from a white supremacist, they're causing deep divisions inside the Republican Party.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. He's a member of the Intelligence and Homeland Securities Committee -- Security Committees. He's also endorsed Senator Marco Rubio.

Congressman, thanks very for coming in.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: You heard earlier this morning on "The Today Show," he blamed his earpiece, saying he couldn't hear Jake Tapper appropriately. That's why he was initially refusing to disassociate himself from David Duke, the KKK, these white supremacist groups. Do you accept that explanation?

KING: No, unless maybe he's going deaf -- I don't know -- at his age. I really don't know. Seriously, Wolf, nobody accepts that. I mean, you and I have done enough television. You've done a lot more than I have. If you have a bad earpiece, you say it. Donald Trump, is he so shy, is he so afraid that he wouldn't say, "I didn't quite hear that"?

And if you watch it, it was clear he understood what Jake was saying. No, this is nonsense. It's Donald Trump saying one thing, trying to back away, sending mixed messages.

But the thought that anyone can even listen to a question about David Duke without immediately saying, "He's a racist; he's a bigot; I want nothing to do with him; I want nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan." He said he didn't know who David Duke was; he didn't know what a white supremacist is. Absolutely disgraceful.

I'm saying this as a Catholic. I know that the Klan has gone after blacks and Jews and everyone else. As a Catholic, I know all about what they did to Al Smith, what they've done to Catholics over the years. This is a vicious anti-American organization. And by him not denouncing it, first of all, it's a reflection on him. Either he's dumb or he's a liar. One or the other. And also, what it does to the Republican Party. If we get branded as the party of the Ku Klux Klan, we're going to get destroyed.

BLITZER: But you know Donald Trump. You've worked with him over the years. He's a fellow New Yorker.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: He's contributed to your own campaigns. Are you stunned? Are you surprised by what's going on right now?

KING: Yes, I don't know him that well. He has contributed to my campaigns. I know members of his family, and I've met him.

[17:10:03] No, I -- I am surprised, because I thought a lot of the things he was saying in the beginning are things that maybe an amateur would say or someone who didn't realize they're fully in a presidential campaign. But now it seems the more the campaign goes along, the more extreme he gets. And this may be the real Donald Trump.

I -- I don't think he's a racist, quick frankly, but I think he's oblivious to what it means. He's oblivious to the evil of a David Duke. He's oblivious to the evil of the Klan. And he's just coming in as somebody, like, flying and say whatever he has to say. You know, "George Bush is a liar; John McCain is not a war hero; a disabled reporter should be mocked and laughed at." All of this stuff is just -- to me makes him unqualified to be president.

BLITZER: Now, you've endorsed Marco Rubio, but is it too late for him?

KING: It's going to be tough. I endorsed Marco Rubio last week. I was proud to do it. I think there's a chance, if we all get together and make it clear to the American people how dangerous Donald Trump is.

Listen to me, most of the people supporting Donald Trump are good people. I see it in my district; I talk to them. And, you know, they don't follow politics on a day-to-day basis. They see the overall theme: he wants to bring jobs back; he wants to make America great. And when you -- then you have to try to explain in detail how vicious some of his statements are and how incomprehendible [SIC] a number of his statements are.

BLITZER: But why Marco Rubio? Because I know you've had issues with him. he didn't support, necessarily, funding for New York after some -- Superstorm Sandy or whatever.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: You had your issues with him at the time.

Why not Cruz, for example? Why not John Kasich? You worked, presumably, with him in the House of Representatives. You know John Kasich well.

KING: Oh, yes. John's a very good guy. If we're talking about issues, I did strongly disagree with Marco Rubio as far as the aid following Sandy. On the other hand, he was the only one of the top candidates who did support the Zadroga 9/11 Health Care Act. And I give him tremendous credit for that, and that means an awful lot to New York and to America, for that matter.

Ted Cruz, I think, is too extreme. I think what he did with the government shutdown was wrong. John Kasich, I just think Marco Rubio has a better sense of winning than John Kasich, but you'll never hear me say a bad word about John Kasich.

BLITZER: Eleven Republican contests tomorrow. Can your man, Marco Rubio, win one of them?

KING: I think he has a good shot in Minnesota. I'm not into the process of his campaign. I'm not in that inner circle. But if he makes a strong showing in all the states, if he's a strong second, take one or two states, it keeps it going.

The longer they can keep this going without Trump getting a majority, the more chance there is for a rational Republican to win. And I think the most rational and the most qualified on issues like homeland security and national security is Marco Rubio.

BLITZER: This is what Senator Ben Sasse -- he's a freshman senator...

KING: Yes.

BLITZER: ... from Nebraska -- tweeted, Republican: "If Trump becomes the Republican nominee, my expectation is that I'll look for some third candidate, a conservative option, a constitutionalist."

If Trump is the nominee, could you vote for him?

KING: It would be difficult. If he's the nominee of the party, I'll have to see what happens between now and November.

You mentioned Senator Sasse. He's just not a Republican; he's an arch conservative. And so for him to come out as strongly as he did, that was really a statement of conscience. I give him tremendous credit for doing that. And it, again, shows the revulsion among people who have been following what Donald Trump is saying.

BLITZER: What about Hillary Clinton? Could you vote for her if she were running against Trump? Would you be torn, in other words?

KING: I'm a Republican. I want to vote for the Republican nominee. Let's see what happens. I expect it to be Marco Rubio, and that will make it -- I will be happy and proud to vote for Marco Rubio.

BLITZER: What if it's Trump, Hillary Clinton and Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York? Then you really would be torn.

KING: Again, Michael Bloomberg is a good friend. He was an outstanding mayor. We'll see what happens.

BLITZER: So you could see yourself not going with a Republican, going with a third-party candidate like Michael Bloomberg?

KING: Right now, I'm supporting Marco Rubio. I don't want anything I'm saying to be used against Marco tomorrow. So I'm supporting Marco Rubio. He's going to win. He's going to be the nominee. He's going to be inaugurated as president next January 20.

BLITZER: What would happen to the Republican brand, from your perspective, if Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party?

KING: At best, it would be a short-term victory, as far as bringing in, maybe, some new people to the party, some of the old Reagan Democrats. But after -- on balance, it's a terrible loss. It's going to put a scar on our party which we're not going to recover from for a long time.

BLITZER: And you really feel that he would hurt the down balance, like Republicans who are running for re-election, like you and others, potentially?

KING: It definitely would. Because if we get branded as the party of the Klan, the party of being anti-black or the party that's anti- disabled people or that thinks John McCain is not a hero, go through the whole list, yes, it would make us look to be some sort of a party that's totally out of touch with the American people.

BLITZER: So let's say your candidate, Marco Rubio, doesn't win any of the states tomorrow; he waits until March 15, when the Florida primary is concerned, and the polls in Florida show he's behind Donald Trump right now. If he can't carry his own state, he's got to drop out. Is that right?

KING: I expect he's going to win Florida. So we'll leave it at that.

BLITZER: What if he doesn't?

KING: I expect him to win, Wolf. I'm not going to get into that. You get these quotes taken out of context. I expect Marco Rubio to win. And I think, once we've seen so many unpredictable things happen in this campaign. And so I still think it's far from guaranteed that Donald Trump is going to get the nomination. We've met too many people in our party that didn't take on Trump soon enough, and now they're giving up before it's over. This is far from over.

[17:15:05] BLITZER: And for you to say all these negative things about Trump, because I remember a year or so ago, or maybe even less, you were pretty positive about him.

KING: I had hope, I really did. I said I had strong disagreements with him on like the John McCain and what he said about the -- banning Muslims from entering the country, but I did think that there was the potential there for him to tap in, in a positive way, to disaffected Americans, bring in a lot of Reagan Democrats, blue-collar Americans who felt left out of the Democratic Party. But he's gone over and beyond. It's just -- he's, again, beyond the pale.

BLITZER: I don't think he's going to be contributing to your campaigns any more.

KING: I guess I've lost that.

BLITZER: You've lost that.

KING: I think it was twice he did it.

BLITZER: How much did he give?

KING: I think it was about 2 grand.

BLITZER: Each time?

KING: I think it was a thousand and a thousand, I think.

BLITZER: OK. All right. Peter King, congressman.

KING: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

We'll take a quick break. Much more coming up. We're watching several developments unfolding right now. Donald Trump, by the way, he's getting ready to address another big crowd out there, this time in Georgia. We'll see what he has to say. We'll be right back.


[17:20:17] BLITZER: As Donald Trump stretches his lead, his rivals are stepping up their attacks. And the bad blood between Trump and Marco Rubio is evident at every stop along the campaign trail. Watch this.


RUBIO: We cannot elect the dog that caught the car. The dog is always barking at the car. What are you going to do when you catch that car?

TRUMP: I have to listen to a little guy like Rubio say, "Oh, he's a con man. He's a con man." He had no choice. I guess he had to come up with something, because he's getting creamed in the polls. He's, like, 20 points down in Florida. You know, in Florida, where he comes from, this guy couldn't be elected dog catcher right now.

RUBIO: He's always calling me "Little Marco." And I'll admit, he's taller than me. He's, like, 6'2", which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who's 5'2". Have you seen his hands? And you know what they say about men with small hands. You can't trust them. You can't trust them.

TRUMP (via phone): I'm sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying. But what I heard was various groups. And I don't mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke. And I disavowed him the day before.

RUBIO: He blamed it on a bad earpiece, that he couldn't hear the question. I don't care how bad the earpiece is. Ku Klux Klan comes through pretty clearly, and he refuses to criticize it.

TRUMP (on camera): This is not a tough person, believe me. He was pouring -- it was like he just got out of a swimming pool with his suit on. Once a choker, always a choker.

RUBIO: He says that I'm sweating all the time. It's hot in here. Am I sweating now? No. All right. He doesn't sweat, because his pores are clogged from the spray tan that he uses.

Donald is not going to make America great. He's going to make America orange.

TRUMP: Marco goes out. He buys a house for $179,000. He sells it for $380,000 to a lobbyist. And by the way, the lobbyist was, I think, doing business with Florida, trying to get legislation passed, which is part of the problem we have.

RUBIO: What he's saying to people isn't true. It doesn't match his record. And yet somehow it's gotten to this point.

TRUMP: We're not going to be the dopey people any more. We're not going to be the stupid people any more. We're going to be the brilliant people; we're going to be the smart people.

RUBIO: I will go to all 50 states and every territory. I will continue to speak out until I literally have no voice left. I will go anywhere to speak to anyone before I let a con artist get a hold of the Republican Party and the conservative movement.


BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss what we just heard. Joining us, our CNN political commentator Peter Beinart. He's contributing editor for Atlantic Media. Also joining us, our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; and our CNN political director, David Chalian.

Dana, I guess the key question for Rubio: he's very aggressive right now. He's going personal, really attacking Donald Trump, as we just heard. But is it too late?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Who knows if it's too late? You know, the Rubio campaign sources I've talked to say that they don't feel like they had any choice, that they felt like they needed -- for several reasons, needed to position him as the guy for the establishment who is going to take on Donald Trump.

But as David and I were talking about privately earlier, what is happening here? I mean, this is going on in presidential politics. I don't let my 4-year-old watch the news and the political news anymore, because I don't want him to act like that. It's kind of amazing.

BLITZER: Have you ever seen anything like this, the personal attacks, if you will, including, you know, you just heard some of that?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, we've covered some races with real rough-and-tumble political rhetoric; there's no doubt about that. But I have never seen a presidential race get this juvenile in the rhetoric back and forth. I can't think of an example of it.

BLITZER: Peter, "The Washington Post" today, you probably saw an article. It was a very good article. Republican Party's implosion over Donald Trump. It seems to be building up or bubbling up right now. What do you expect will happen?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We may be witnessing something that, really, none of us have witnessed in our lifetimes, and that is the collapse and disintegration of one of America's major two political parties.

I think, if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, there will be some kind of third party which will try to be a conservative party which is against Donald Trump. How much support it will get, how long-lived it will get, we don't know. But we -- if Donald Trump does not win the nomination somehow, it's totally possible that he creates another party. We're seeing a really seismic change in American politics of a kind that none of us have ever witnessed. And it's very hard to predict exactly how it will play out.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: Yes. I was just going to say, you know, it's sort of -- in some ways, it's as I was saying, a little bit -- it's shocking. It's depressing. And it is, we have to admit, entertaining to watch people do what they're doing, but this isn't entertainment. This is real stuff. And I think Peter is exactly right.

[17:25:12] I have had a Republican United States senator say to me in the last couple hours that he doesn't think that the Republican Party is going to survive this. I mean, that is a huge statement. And he's not alone. This is -- this is a potential cataclysmic moment for the Republican Party.

CHALIAN: But my question is why did -- why did the party have to get to this place? This is not an unforeseen event.

I mean, I think if you look at the history of the Republican Party over the course of the last ten years, starting with the rebellion in the grassroots against the George W. Bush bailout or George W. Bush's push for immigration reform, but then into the Tea Party movement at the beginning of the Obama ministration, you saw the Republican Party make a decision to harness that energy of the Tea Party movement, because they were voters that were going to pull the lever for their folks, help them win the Congress, even though they were never perfectly aligned ideologically on a whole host of issues.

But they didn't -- the party didn't protect itself from sort of the spillover effect of harnessing that energy, wanting to court those votes. But they were unable, it seems now, to keep the arm's distance that they wanted to some of the elements that they felt -- at the time Republicans were saying this -- made them less attractive to a general election audience.

Well, now, here that moment has arrived. We've talked for years about this intraparty civil war going on in the GOP, one that a lot of Republicans rejected as sort of media bias and didn't want to discuss it. But it has now fully played out to that very thing. And that is what we're seeing in sort of this apoplectic moment among the leadership in the establishment.

BLITZER: You know, Peter, those of us who have studied American history, and some of us who have lived through parts of that American history, remember the dire warnings from establishment Republicans when Barry Goldwater became the leader of the Republican Party. Even when Ronald Reagan became the leader of the Republican Party, there were fears of a Hollywood actor taking over the leadership of the Republican Party. The Republican Party survived all of that. But you say this is on a whole different level.

BEINART: Well, what we haven't seen, what we didn't see even with Goldwater is a Republican nominee who was rejected by large elements of the Republican leadership.

Now, we still don't know to what extent that will happen. There are a lot of people who are hedging right now, if you ask them would they support Donald Trump? But sooner or later, if he moves towards the nomination, they're going to have to answer that question.

And there -- it's a terrible choice for them, because they will either have to acquiesce to Donald Trump's Republican Party, or they will have to essentially, at least for the time being, leave the Republican Party by not supporting its leader.

But what is, I think, the larger reality here is essentially an unprecedented backlash by a certain cadre of white America, especially older, white Republicans, against the demographic changes that are taking place and which are represented by Barack Obama and by a Latino population that is approaching -- will soon be 20 percent of the American population.

The Republican Party eventually will either get on the other side of that or, as that white backlash party, it will become more and more extreme until it dies.

BASH: I think it's -- obviously, there's some race to it, but I think it's mostly class and, just even blow all that out; it's just genuine anger at "the man." And "the man" is the establishment, no matter what it is, whether it's, you know, the media or, in this case, obviously, it's the political establishment.

And I had a senior Republican say to me yesterday something that I thought was very astute, that the grassroots of the party and the establishment, the donor class, they are completely at odds right now with what they want. And in the past that hasn't happened. But now it has, and it's...

CHALIAN: In the past, we've seen the donor class always win out.

BASH: That's right.

CHALIAN: And now...

BASH: They're not winning.

CHALIAN: ... what we're seeing is that the grassroots energy is actually winning out over the...

BLITZER: In our new poll, he's at 49 of these five remaining Republican candidates. So if there was some thought that, as other candidates like Jeb Bush, let's say, they drop out, their support's going to go to someone other than Trump, some of that support clearly went to Donald Trump.

CHALIAN: Very clearly. And dispense with that thought that he's got a ceiling, Wolf, or that there's some sort of ceiling. If you add up the other four candidates in that poll, they add up to 47 percent. He still beats them with all of them combined. He clearly is winning some of the support of the folks that drop out, which is why he says, you know, on an election night when he looks and he sees somebody drop out, for us to assume that that's going to go just to the establishment lane or what have you is clearly not the case.

BLITZER: All right. Very quickly, Peter.

BEINART: Look, the idea that Donald Trump's ideas are marginal in the Republican Party is a fiction. This is a party where a plurality of people have believed that Barack Obama was a Muslim since the beginning of his presidency. So what Donald Trump is harnessing here is not marginal to the Republican Party; it's something that is supported by many, many people in the party.

[17:30:07] BLITZER: All of you stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We're standing by also to hear directly from Donald Trump live. He's holding a rally in southern Georgia right now, one of the Super Tuesday states he's hoping to win.

We'll also hear from Donald -- Donald Trump's wife, Melania. She sat down for a very rare interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


BLITZER: In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton is heading into Super Tuesday -- that's tomorrow -- with a burst of momentum generated by her crushing victory over Senator Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary. Our new CNN/ORC poll also shows Hillary Clinton widening her lead over Bernie Sanders nationally, but he isn't giving up by any means.

[17:35:13] The senator has a rally tonight in Milton, Massachusetts, one of the Super Tuesday primary states. Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is on the scene for us. Brianna, Massachusetts, one of those states that Sanders is hoping he

can win tomorrow. Not very far away from his home state of Vermont.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. As is Hillary Clinton and to that point, Wolf, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton spending part of their final days in this state as they try to edge each other out here.


KEILAR (voice-over): Tonight, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are making their final push to Super Tuesday.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I need your help. I need your help to go and vote tomorrow to bring people to vote with you.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are listening to the American people and their pain and their needs rather than hustling all over the country collecting millions of dollars from the 1 percent.

KEILAR: A new CNN/ORC poll shows Clinton opening up a big lead nationally, besting Sanders by 17 points.

CLINTON: Thank you so much, South Carolina!

KEILAR: After a huge win in South Carolina Saturday, Hillary Clinton sounds like the presumptive Democratic nominee.

CLINTON: I don't think America has ever stopped being great. What we need to do now is make America whole.

KEILAR: She is no longer calling out Sanders by name...

CLINTON: I do have a difference with my esteemed opponent.

KEILAR: ... instead, crafting the message for the potential fight with Donald Trump, who she is already treating like her eventual Republican opponent.

CLINTON: I think we need more love and kindness. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers.

KEILAR: But Clinton still has one eye on Sanders, as her rival looks to rebound from his bruising South Carolina loss.

SANDERS: In politics, on a given night, sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. Tonight we lost.

We got decimated.

We got decimated; that's what happened.

KEILAR: Sanders says he is looking ahead to tomorrow, hoping to gain ground on Clinton in the delegate count. SANDERS: Tuesday, over 800 delegates are at stake, and we intend to

win many, many of them.


KEILAR: And looking ahead to tomorrow, Wolf, Bernie Sanders will be heading to his home state of Vermont, so that he certainly will be guaranteed a big win from the vantage point where he will be tomorrow night for Super Tuesday.

BLITZER: Yes, by all accounts, he'll carry his home state of Vermont tomorrow. Brianna, you also have some more, new reporting on Bernie Sanders' past. What are you learning?

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. We put out a really interesting piece today on today, Wolf, really looking at some of Bernie Sanders' writings -- writings from the late '60s and the early '70s. And these are years he doesn't really talk about.

So it was interesting to see how his idea of revolution has sort of evolved from this idea of revolting against the past generation and social norms to the political revolution he talks about now: increasing the minimum wage, providing free college.

A number of his writings where he talks about everything from sexual relations; to traditional education, which he clearly found to be very soulless at the time; to foreign policy, including Cuba, the successes and the failures that he saw there. He would eventually go to Cuba as the mayor of Burlington.

So it's an interesting look at a time he doesn't talk much about, and a time that, for him, were really hard scrabble years. So it's fascinating, because that's something that certainly a lot of the people supporting him might connect with, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brianna.

And I want to recommend that article on People want to learn more about Bernie Sanders and what he was thinking, what he was writing 40 years or so ago, plus. Go ahead, read that article.

Brianna, thank you very much.

Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. She just resigned as the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee so she could endorse Senator Bernie Sanders.

Congresswoman, we have a lot to discuss. I need to take a quick break. We're going to discuss Bernie Sanders versus Hillary Clinton when we come back.



[17:43:46] BLITZER: We're back with Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. She just resigned her post as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. She's endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders for president of the United States.

Congresswoman, why now, after that crushing loss in South Carolina? What motivated you to do it now, because some people think it might be too late?

GABBARD: Well, you know, there's a clear choice, Wolf, between our two Democratic candidates. Our most important qualifier -- quality in our president is their job as a commander in chief. As a soldier and as a war veteran, I know first-hand the cost of war. In my deployment to Iraq, I worked in a medical unit where every single day I saw and experienced that high human cost, every single day.

Bernie Sanders has good judgment and foresight to be able to make decisions about where America should deploy its military power and where it shouldn't deploy its military power. We see a clear contrast with that with Hillary Clinton, who has shown through her record, her interventionist wars of regime change.

Start with Iraq. She voted for and championed the overthrow of Saddam and the war in Iraq.

BLITZER: You served in Iraq.

GABBARD: I did serve in Iraq. And again, I saw the cost of that overseas, and we're still experiencing the cost of that economically here at home.

No. 2, Libya. She was the chief architect within the Obama administration to overthrow Gadhafi in Libya.

[17:45:05] What's the result? We see a failed state. We see chaos, human suffering, loss of life, and ISIS and al Qaeda having a very strong stronghold there in Libya. Number three, Syria. She has been a champion for and a strong advocate for the overthrow of the Syrian government of Assad, and promises to escalate that war with a so- called no fly zone if she's elected president.

BLITZER: So you don't have confident that she would be a good commander-in-chief?

GABBARD: Her judgment is the issue. And as a soldier and a veteran, I do not have confidence in her ability to be a commander-in-chief because she would, as she has stated, continue to take us into these interventionist wars of regime change that have cost our country dearly in trillions of dollars, thousands of American lives lost, but to speak of the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the Middle East.

BLITZER: What's Bernie Sanders' biggest accomplishment from your perspective?

GABBARD: Well, when we're talking about the issues of war and peace, I can speak very specifically obviously to his vote against the Iraq war, which is the greatest failure in foreign policy in my generation. And looking forward now, as he's been very vocal in speaking out against these interventionist wars of regime change because he understands what the cost is and the necessity to have foresight, to have this military mindset where you look beyond and answer the question what happens next.

What are the consequences of these actions? And we have to know that before we take those actions. And that's the most important thing that we need in our commander-in-chief.

BLITZER: How hard was it for you as a woman to say, you know what, I'm not going to support -- at least at this point -- the first woman president of the United States?

GABBARD: Well, you know, there are so many different issues in this particular one. The issue of war and peace. It's not just like all of the rest. War is very real. War is the issue that we should be asking about in these candidates who are asking to be our commander- in-chief because the cost is not only on our troops, on our military families and those who are sacrificing their lives, the cost is here at home with our economy and with our ability to execute these important domestic programs and policies to rebuild our nation here at home.

So when you look at this question of war and peace, there's such a clear difference between these two candidates. The choice was very obvious for me to be able to support and endorse Bernie Sanders.

BLITZER: I'm sure he's grateful to you for that support.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, thanks very much for coming in.

GABBARD: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to take you live to a Donald Trump rally in the Super Tuesday state of Georgia. Another huge crowd getting ready to hear from him.


[17:52:02] BLITZER: North Korean television is showing a detained U.S. college student making a tearful apology.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight learning new details about how this young man, Otto Fredrick Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student, is very likely being used as a pawn by Kim Jong-Un's regime.


TODD (voice-over): He walks stiffly into the room, head bowed, flanked by his North Korean guards. Then 21-year-old American Otto Fredrick Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, appears to break down. OTTO FREDERICK WARMBIER, AMERICAN STUDENT DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA: I

entirely beg you, people and government of the DPR Korea, for your forgiveness. Please. I've made the worst mistake of my life.

TODD: Warmbier reads a statement saying he committed a crime in the eyes of North Korea taking down a pro-regime political banner from the staff area of a hotel.

WARMBIER: Please act to save me. Please. Think of my family.

TODD: CNN cannot verify if Warmbier was forced to read from a script but Kim Jong-Un's regime has made others do the same.

JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER U.S. NEGOTIATOR WITH NORTH KOREA: I think he's under great duress. He knows what's transpired in the past with other Americans who have been held for significant periods of time. He has no one to seek council to.

TODD: Warmbier was on an organized tour when he was detained by the North Koreans on January 2nd. North Korean officials say he was encouraged to steal the banner by a Methodist church in his native Ohio and by the Zee Society, a philanthropic organization at the University of Virginia whose members' names are secret. Pyongyang says the group has ties to the CIA.

The Ohio church and the Zee Society say they have no connections with Warmbier nor the CIA. The tour operator, Young Pioneer Tours, hasn't commented on Warmbier's strange news conference. Other tour operators tell CNN they pound the message home to their American clients, don't do anything to provoke the North Koreans such as taking pictures of soldiers.

JOHN TERRY DUNDON, URI TOURS: Don't take a picture with your hands in your pocket. Before we enter any museum, there is typically a mural of the leadership of the countries and tourists are expected to give it a brief bow on their way in.

TODD: Warmbier is being held at a time of high tension with Kim Jong- Un's regime following his nuclear and rocket tests, leading some to ask if tonight this student is also a pawn.

DETRANI: They are using this now to sort of get on the front pages, to open themselves up to a dialogue. A dialogue not with respect to the nuclear or missile programs and the sanctions that are being applied to North Korea, but now to a humanitarian issue. This is in their interest to change the subject.


TODD: And while Kim's regime is playing this high-stakes game, Otto Warmbier's family is making a personal appeal to Kim Jong-Un, issuing a statement saying, Otto has apologized for anything he might have done wrong, urging Kim's regime to consider his youth, and allow him to return home -- Wolf.

[17:55:07] BLITZER: Brian, at least one former North Korean detainee, an American, has made clear after his release that he made a confession under duress, right?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. This man, Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old man from California, he'd been held in North Korea in 2013 after mentioning while he was on a tour that he had fought in the Korean War. Now after his release, Newman said his confession was not made voluntarily. He said to demonstrate that he was reading it under duress, he emphasized the bad grammar, the strange language that the North Koreans had crafted for him.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you very much.

Coming up, we're standing by for a Donald Trump rally. It's getting rough out there on the campaign trail and anything can happen.