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Post-GOP Debate Coverage. Aired Midnight-1a ET

Aired March 3, 2016 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:20] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. It is midnight here in Washington; the end of a night and a day unlike any we've seen in presidential politics ever began with a 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, calling the 2016 frontrunner, Donald Trump, a phony, a fraud, a conman, a potential disaster for the republican party. It ended with Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich on the debate stage for another night of fireworks. Here are some of the highlights.


TED CRUZ (R-TX) REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump, in 2008, wrote four checks to elect Hillary Clinton as president. So I would like to ask Donald, why did you write checks to Hillary Clinton to be president in 2008? It wasn't for business; and, how can you stand on the debate stage now with her and say you don't think she should be --



CRUZ: But what would you say --

MEGYN KELLY, MODERATOR, FOX NEWS: Stand by, Mr. -- stand by Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: When you wrote her a check in 2008, wrote her four checks.

TRUMP: Let me tell you something, Ted. The last person that Hillary Clinton wants to face is Donald Trump; that I can tell you.

You have to be able to have some flexibility, some negotiation. Now, sometimes you ask for more than you want and you negotiate down to the point. I may have discussed something like that with the "The New York Times" but I would never release off-the-record conversations. I don't think it's fair, frankly, to do that to anybody.

MARCO RUBIO (R-FL) REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, let me say that on the issue of off-the-record, that's not up to "The New York Times"; that's up to you, Donald. if tonight you tell the "The New York Times" release the audio, they will do it and we can exactly see what your true views are on immigration because it is a major issue in your campaign that you've made a center issue. KELLY: Will you release the tape to authorize --

TRUMP: No, I would never do that. I would not do that.

CRUZ: Donald, you could resolve this issue very quickly -


CRUZ: -- by simply releasing "The New York Times" tape because listen, maybe it's right that you didn't tell them you're misleading the American people.

TRUMP: It wasn't on the subject. Tapes were not on the subject, but that's --

CRUZ: If you didn't tell them that, the tapes will prove your innocent.

KELLY: Okay.

CRUZ: But if, in fact, you went to Manhattan and said I'm lying to the American people then the voters have a right to know.

TRUMP: No, no. You're the liar. You're the lying guy up here.

CRUZ: Release the tape.

TRUMP: You're the one. Let me just tell you -- excuse me. I've given my answer, Lionshead. I've given my answer.

CRUZ: Donald, learn not to interrupt. It's not complicated. Count to ten, Donald.

TRUMP: Give me a break.

CRUZ: Count to ten.

TRUMP: I changed my tune and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

KELLY: But the point I'm going for is you've changed your tune on so many things and that has some people saying what is his core?

TRUMP: Megyn, I have a very strong core.

TRUMP: You have to show a degree of flexibility. if you're going to be one way and you think it's wrong, does that mean the rest of your life you have to go in wrong direction because you don't want to change?

RUBIO: There is a difference between flexibility and telling people whatever you think you need to say to get them to do what you want them to do and that's what Donald has done throughout his career. Well he did; that's why Trump University is so relevant here.

TRUMP: This is a case I could have settled very easily, but I don't settle cases very easily when I'm right. 98-percent approval rating. We have an A from the Better Business Bureau.

RUBIO: That's false.

TRUMP: We have an A from the Better Business Bureau and people like it.

KELLY: The rating from the Better Business Bureau was a D-, that's the last publicly available rating -

TRUMP: Not correct.

KELLY: -- in 2010, and it was the result of a number of complaints.

TRUMP: It was elevated to an A. It was elevated.

KELLY: That's never been publicly released.

TRUMP: I can give it to you. I will give it to you. So we're listening to the all talk, no action politician and he was the primary supporters of John Roberts, who gave us Obamacare.

CRUZ: That's flat out false.

TRUMP: No, it's not. You take a look. He was the primary supporter. He pushed John Roberts and pushed him and pushed him and Bush ultimately appointed him. He got appointed and when it came his time to raise his hand and kill Obamacare, not once but twice, he let us down and he did the wrong thing. This is the man that was the primary supporter and you can read "Law Journal"; you can read whatever you want to read. I've read plenty of it. There was no stronger supporter of John Roberts than him and it was a very, very big mistake.


CRUZ: You know, Donald has a tenuous relationship with the truth. I wrote one Op Ed supporting President Bush's nomination after he made it; I would not have made that nomination. But, let me point out, Donald actually --

TRUMP: That is not what you said in the Op Ed.

CRUZ: Donald, please. I know it's hard not to interrupt, but try.

TRUMP: Yes, I know, but that is not what you said in the Op Ed.

CRUZ: Breathe. Breath.

TRUMP: Lying Ted.


CRUZ: Breathe. You can do it. You can breathe. I know it's hard. I know it's hard, but just -

RUBIO: When they're done with the yoga, can I answer the question? CRUZ: You cannot. I really hope that we don't -- you don't see yoga on this stage.

RUBIO: Well, he's very flexible; so you never know.


RUBIO: The next president of the United States is going to have eight years [00:05:01] of a mess of a foreign policy to clean up. That's why it can't be Hillary Clinton and, quite frankly, that's why it can't be someone who simply has not shown the intellectual curiosity or the interest in learning about these very complicated issues, and Donald simply hasn't.

TRUMP: I've gotten to know Marco over a period of time. Believe me, he is not a leader. We are in a very dangerous place. We have a depleted military, totally depleted. We have, by the way, our vets are treated horribly. I'm going to take care of our vets. We are going to start taking care of our vets, properly, like we should. We're going to build up our military and we're going to get the equipment we want, not the equipment that's sold to us by somebody that gave him and him and not the governor, campaign contributions. We're going to get the equipment that the generals and soldiers want. I will prove to be a great leader.


COOPER: Joining us again: John King; Gloria Borger; Nia-Malika Henderson; David Chalian; Kayleigh McEneny; Amanda Carpenter; Van Jones; Mary Catherine Hamm.

John King, I think a lot of, you know, in the last debate there was a lot of focus on Marco Rubio and his attacks against Donald Trump. Certainly, I think Ted Cruz made a strong showing tonight and a strong attempt to, kind of, take the mantle from Marco Rubio and take some of the momentum, in terms of the candidate who can lead the fight, not necessarily that he was leading the fight against Donald Trump but he sort of allowed Rubio to attack Trump and then sort of tried to weigh- in with direct appeals to voters.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well and I think Cruz may have tried to make it more on substantive issues -

COOPER: Right.

KING: -- tried to hit Trump. The question is conservatism, say he's a democrat, say he's a fraud; say he doesn't belong in the republican race because he's been a democrat all his life and he's going to go back to being that way or he's going to cut too many deals.

The question of Cruz is of timing and the calendar, in the sense that if you look at the map from South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, the states in Cruz's wheelhouse, that should have been the foundation of his campaign, Trump has won them, with exception of Texas and Oklahoma. Cruz, of course, won Iowa and he won Alaska. He is best positioned, at the moment, he's second to Donald Trump in the delegates. We have Mississippi and Louisiana coming up quickly. Can he rebound? Can Cruz get it back together, because he has to win in his base and then try to expand somewhere? But the calendar -- I think the fascinating question on this is - what? On Saturday we have Louisiana, Nebraska, Kentucky, Kansas and Maine. The other campaigns do not dispute that Donald Trump might run the board.

COOPER: Right.

KING: That would give him 15 wins. 15 wins. If you're going to stop a guy, you can't keep letting him go up. So then after -- let's say he runs the board on Saturday, gets four out of five. Then it comes down to Michigan, next Tuesday and then a week from Tuesday, on the 15th, Ohio and Florida.

I do think that -- I've talked repeatedly about the way to beat Trump now is not state by state. You have to bend the arc of the race in a big way, to either beat him outright or at least stop him from getting not only 1237 but you've got to stop him from getting close because if he gets really close you can't take it away from it at the convention. If he loses those three big states, three critical states in the nominating process, two of them huge bellwethers in November, in presidential politics; if you can make the case that we slowed Donald Trump and we beat him in Florida. We beat him in Michigan and we beat him in Ohio, I do think that could be the pause moment that gives you a new race. That's up a steep hill. He's way ahead in Florida and he's ahead in Michigan right now, and a I think he's little bit ahead in Ohio. It's a steep hill, but if the other candidates can pull that off, again, steep hill, then you have a new race.

COOPER: It also -

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: -- bending of that arch -

COOPER: But it's also very possible that all this talk by Mitt Romney and others of, you know, some sort of a behind the scenes or open deal at the convention that it's going to anger and annoy Trump supporters and embolden them all the more, and make them turn out all the more. We don't know how this is going to play out.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's likely, actually, to incite his voters to become even more loyal. So I think Romney is a smart guy going into this. He obviously knew that was a possibility and I think tonight's debate may not change things very much. I think Cruz, to your point, had a good night tonight, just in terms of trying to bring this back to the issues and the fact that he believes Trump is not a real conservative. But, this is an argument that has been waged for months. Jeb Bush waged it, maybe not as well as Ted Cruz. You point out there weren't millions of dollars of ads being spent on that item early on.

KING: And Cruz has more credibility with the conservative grassroots -

BORGER: He does.

KING: -- than Jeb Bush does BORGER: -- than Jeb Bush did.

KING: -- but for him to make it, I think, is a stronger case.

BORGER: But Cruz is doing a good job of it now, but, I think, that it's very late and what you're talking about is changing people's minds at the margins, not bending the arc, as you put it.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think Trump has been so good at getting his message into the blood-stream of his voters. You talk to his voters, even when we say that Randy Kay piece, when they showed the ads about Trump University, they had the comeback, and the person I was talking about Trump University said, well, 98-percent of the people that went to Trump University were satisfied. They know all his lines. So they've got to [00:10:03] figure out how to reverse that. They've got to get this message, that partly he's a conman, that partly he's not a real democrat into the blood-stream but also not clear if that's --

COOPER: Real Republican.

HENDERSON: Right, they've got to get that message going.

CHALIAN: And Senator Cruz did definitely try to bring it back to the issues, but he also was making a character argument tonight as well.


CHALIAN: I mean, he was calling Donald Trump, in all - for all intents and purposes, a petulant child. He said - he was sending him to time-out time, if you will, telling him to breathe. He was definitely making a character argument.

BORGER: Count to ten.

KAYLEIGH MCENENY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: And there was some really important substantive things that happened. One thing that struck me was when Marco Rubio essentially said he wanted to send troops into Iraq, into Syria and into Libya. Talk about Iraq War 2.0, potentially world war. I mean, that is a real substantive difference between Marco Rubio and some of the other candidates and he's going to be hit really hard in Florida on missing the omnibus vote, on why did you invade -- support invading Libya alongside Hillary Clinton. There's real substantive issues.

I'm a Floridian. I hear many Floridian's say to me every day that they're frustrated that their Senator has engaged -

BORGER: And their governor's not going to endorse, right?

MCENEY: Who knows; I think that could be a bombshell endorsement, if he came out and endorsed the day before. Probably would be Trump, but --

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let's stay on Rubio for a second, because, first of all, you know, this debate you finally see the Republican Party boil down to its essence; right? You have this great governor - you've got republican governors across the country have been doing a really extraordinary job. There is Kasich. you have this Tea Party conservative; that is Ted Cruz. You've got the guy that is now establishment guy, Rubio. And then you've got the sort of -- I call it the circus anger wing of Trump. That is the party.

Rubio is the establish guy. He is like Dick Cheney with a cooler name. I mean, he is as hard -- I mean, he is way out there on everything from rape to war, but he is now the moderate. That gives you a sense of how different the party is. The problem you have now with the Republicans; it took you to March just to get down to - now it's basic. It's chocolate, vanilla, you know, you have your elements now. But you took it to March to get there and the circus wing is way out in front.

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: You've also got Trump on the stage, who's supposed to be the less hawkish of the bunch, that says he's going to go kill terrorist children. I'm not sure how that works out, but - this is another example where he's all over the map.

JONES: I think for the general election, and Gloria continues to try to reminds us that no matter what happens on this Saturday and this Tuesday, at some point it's not about lanes; it's not about nominees; it's about who is going to be the president of the united states. And in a general election, this party, I think, doesn't look that great. I think this phenomenon of Donald Trump is creating some energy in the party, but the product itself, as you're looking at it, if you're a moderate is Rubio. There's -- this party has got some challenges.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMICATIONS DIRECTION, TED CRUZ: Here's the thing, I would have preferred to watch a debate where they talk about the differences in foreign policy rather than the size of certain things I don't want to mention. But, here's the thing: the task going forward in the next two weeks, the main challenge, all four of those candidates have on stage is who can be the one that unifies those four different wings of the party. Donald Trump, by his attitude alone, I think, is unable to it. Kasich just doesn't have enough to support it. So it's really, is it going to be Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or somehow, you know, a lot of people on Twitter and conservatives like Erick Erickson say those two have to get together in some kind of unity ticket. That would be a big -

COOPER: Mary Katherine, you know, you think that's -- you're shaking your head.

HAM: I think it wasn't -- I think it was a good night for Ted Cruz to have a good night. You do have some states, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, coming up where he could make some headway; but I think when you're looking at depriving Trump of Ohio or Florida, these big winner-take-all prizes, there's going to have to be some collusion there. I don't think you just do that outright.

[Cross Talk]

COOPER: But what does that collusion look like? What does that mean? HAM: Like, we're going to lay off in Florida and we're going to lay off in Ohio, the non-Trumps and then you just --

MCENEY: There's never going to be collusion though because one of the myth's is that Ted Cruz is palatable to the establishment wing and he never has been and this is the whole point is that forever they've been thwarting conservative candidates or candidates outside their circle. They've been thwarting the Newt Gingrich's and the Mike Huckabee's. So Ted Cruz is unpalatable to the establishment, which is why he would serve himself well to really position himself as an outsider. He could pick up some votes -

[Cross Talk]

CARPENTER: This is the big choice --

CHALIAN: The collusion thing is a tricky -

CARPENTER: This is the big choice.

HAM: But I'm not saying -

CARPENTER: I'm saying Republican establishment types can either choose to get on board with the Ted Cruz or maybe a Marco Rubio and make it happen, or they will surrender the party to Donald Trump. They either will do that; they will unify or they will die. That will happen in the next two weeks.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break; we'll be right back with more from the panel. Also, Tom Foreman will join us for the first Reality Check of the night, see where the candidates told the truth, where they stretched the truth and where they, well, tore it in half; that's next.


[00:18:27] COOPER: Well, there are a lot of accusations, some pretty big boasting on the Republican Debate stage tonight. As always we're trying to separate fact from fiction. It's our first reality check of the night and, don't worry, it's not about Donald Trump's claim that there was no problem with the size of his hand; that really happened. Anyway, we'll choose to focus our attention elsewhere. For that, Tom Foreman joins us now; Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well the whole name of the game tonight was to push Donald Trump off the top of the hill, but the question is, did he stumble down on his own a little bit when he brought up the 9/11 hijackers? He has argued that it's perfectly fine to go after the families of terrorists because, after all, these hijackers had wives with them.


TRUMP: The wife knew exactly what was happening. They left two days earlier, with respect to the World Trade Center, and they went back to where they went and they watched their husband, on television, flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon, and probably trying to fly into the White House; except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane.



FOREMAN: He said this before. Here's the claim: wives of 9/11 hijackers had prior knowledge of the attacks. Here's the only problem with that, the most comprehensive study we have of this whole thing was the "9/11 Commission Report" and it found that of all the hijackers only two of them were married; their wives never came to the United States, and certainly not in the days or weeks before the attacks. There is simply no evidence to back this claim. It is false.

Trump himself tried to deflect a little bit by going after other people. He went after Rubio's record and like a boss, he said this guy doesn't show up to work.


[00:20:03] TRUMP: This guy has the number one --


TRUMP: -- the number one absentee record in the United States -

CHRIS WALLACE, MODERATOR, FOX NEWS: Mr. Trump, may I ask you - Mr. Trump, I'd like to ask you a policy question.

TRUMP: -- he doesn't show up to work -

WALLACE: Your proposed tax cut -

TRUMP: -- and that's why the people in Florida do not like him.


FOREMAN: That is chaos there, wasn't it? Marco Rubio does not show up to vote in the Senate, that's what he's saying basically. Well, let's take a look at the record here.

Missed votes in the senate? The average for U.S. senators is 1.7- percent. Marco Rubio, look at that, a whopping 15-percent. That's more than any of the senators running for president and it was more than any senator last year. So, if you take that all into account, you're going to have to say this claim by Trump about Rubio is true.

And if you're upset because we haven't checked something out you wanted checked out, go to our website because we've checked a lot of things tonight, because a lot was said, cnn.go/realitycheck.

COOPER: All right; Tom Foreman. Tom, thanks very much. Back with our panel. I'm not even sure where to go from here, but I

mean, where does the race go from here? Let's look at the delegate count. Let's look at this was this incredible day. We've been focusing on the debate. We haven't really talked about what Mitt Romney came out -- that was an extraordinary moment, I think probably unprecedented in American politics, to have the former presidential candidate going after the current Republican frontrunner.

KING: And essentially instead of endorsing any one of the other rivals, essentially saying, to Mary Katherine's point earlier, if you're in Florida, vote for Rubio. If you're in Ohio, vote for Kasich. if you're in one of these southern states vote for Cruz. Huh? But he said to stop Trump has now become this complicated, multi-dimensional chess game where most people, not all, but most people have now concluded in the Republican party that it used to be clear the field, get a one on one race. That may not work because maybe Donald Trump would win in the Midwest against Ted Cruz. So let's have Rubio win his state. Let's Kasich win his state. Let's hope that Cruz can pick up -

COOPER: With the objective being deprive him of the delegates he needs.

KING: Hopefully you push Trump down into third. At least you deprive him of the delegates. When you get to Florida and Ohio you're talking winner take all, big baskets of delegates. So the Republican party has essentially said let's talk two weeks. All of you other guys win some places and then we'll think about this again. Try to slow down Trump and get to a place -

[Cross Talk]

JONES: Think about it: this is where we are. I mean, when you -- I mean, first of all, the establishment -- usually you have a rebellion and you have the establishment. You have the insurgents and the incumbents. If the rebellion splits, by math, you win. The establishment -- you have a split rebellion. You have the circus anger wing of the Trump/Palin phenomenon and you have this Tea Party, serious Cruz conservatives. They're not together. They're split, but even split, both of them are bigger than the entire establishment. How can the establishment have reformed so badly that they're being destroyed by a split opposition? It never happened.

[Cross Talk]

COOPER: One at a time.

HAM: Add to it, you have the establishment who are the insurgents. I mean, Mitt Romney has called for a revolution.

COOPER: You just called Mitt Romney an insurgent.

[Cross Talk]

HAM: The timing of the Mitt Romney attack on Trump is a perfect example of how the establishment has failed. This is a missed opportunity a thousand times over. When should Mitt Romney make a speech about this? He should do it before the Nevada caucus, when he could have an impact; but he's been hedging his bets. Everybody's been hedging their bets, didn't want him to take him on forward like that and he could have made a difference, pre-Nevada. Instead he comes out and says I have these feelings -

[Cross Talk]

CARPENTER: But also his solution -

HAM: -- too late.

CARPENTER: - to sit in some ivory tower and pretend like, oh, well, win here and then I can tell voters to vote this way in Ohio, I mean, that is craziness. The only way to change the arc of this race is to get behind one candidate and play for all the marbles. No, a broker convention

is not going to play well. I mean, we criticize the democratic party because we think the super delegate thing is so bizarre. That's essentially, probably, what Mitt Romney thinks we have right now and that's not -

[Cross Talk]

MCENEY: Trump's response so Mitt Romney really gets at, I think, Van's question, how do we get here? Why is the establishment so disliked? One of the things he said in his speech this afternoon was there are 47-percent of voters that Mitt Romney dismissed. He said there are 47-percent I'm not going to worry about because they're beholden to government; they're beholden to Barack Obama; they want free healthcare. That was the end of Mitt Romney's candidacy. So one of the things that's so appealing about Trump, and why we're seeing this high turnout is he says I'm not taking away your Social Security. I'm not taking away your Medicare. I'm bringing back manufacturing jobs. I'm not going to do these Trans-Pacific Partnership deals that hurt American manufactures.

COOPER: You know, let's just play some of what Trump said about Mitt Romney tonight on the debate stage, amid sort of what he said earlier, but let's play that.


TRUMP: Well, look, he was a failed candidate. He should have beaten President Obama very easy. He failed miserably and it was an embarrassment to everybody, including the Republican party. He went away; it looked like [00:25:04] he went away on a vacation the last month. So I don't take that and I guess obviously he wants to be relevant; he wants to be back in the game.


COOPER: Do you think Mitt Romney continues this public battle against Donald Trump? BORGER: Yes, I absolutely do. I think he decided to do it, maybe late, decided to do it and I think this is something he clearly feels very strongly about. The language in that speech was tough. He called the guy a phony.

COOPER: He did not hold back.

BORGER: He said he was basically unstable.

COOPER: He did not hold back, at all.

BORGER: He did not hold back, and I think he continues. I think the question from Mitt Romney now is, you've seen all these guys up on the stage tonight say they would support the Republican nominee, even if it were Donald Trump. The question for Mitt Romney is, would you?

CARPENTER: And that's the thing, people are saying things they can never take back. Mitt Romney can never go back in November and say okay, I'm going to support the nominee. The party is at a breaking point. It's do or die. We're going to find a new way or Donald Trump is going to take it over and ruin it all.

HENDERSON: And there were signs of this in 2012 and in some ways I think Romney recognizes that when he wanted so badly to get Donald Trump's endorsement. He partly wanted that because Donald Trump was in full birther-mode and appealing to conservatives. And in Michigan, he almost lost Michigan. Rick Santorum got 37-percent of the vote.

BORGER: Right, he did.

HENDERSON: Ron Paul got 14-percent. Gingrich got 7-percent. Mitt Romney had 41-percent and this is where he had hometown ties, and it was because he lost the union vote to Rick Santorum. So he knew that there was a troubling -

BORGER: Yes, Detroit.

KING: Yes, but there's a critical lesson in that and this is where - to point the - (a) one of Trump's strength and (b) the establishment as has been trying to keep this genie in a bottle since the Tea Party emerged in

2010. It was just the Tea Party then, and this whole race the establishment structured this race to beat Ted Cruz. They thought Ted Cruz was going to be the challenger, the Tea Party guy. Then, this populace Trump, whatever you want to call it, disruptive force, I don't know how to label it because it's not ideological. It's about strength and leadership, but to the point that I was just going to say Mitt Romney's name has some appeal in Michigan. So if he's going to follow-up, he should go to Michigan because his dad was governor there.

But, to Nia's point, what did Rick Santorum do? Rick Santorum realized, in 2012, he moved off the evangelical message and started talking about blue-collar economics.


KING: That is part of Trump's appeal too. These other candidates have failed. You hear about, you know, they balance of the budget or cut taxes and regulations that would create jobs. From a policy perspective they touch on it sometimes but they don't make the visceral connection -

BORGER: Right.

KING: -- into economic anxiety that Trump makes.

[Cross Talk]

CHALIAN: I did not get the sense that Mitt Romney, feel free to disagree with this, was talking to voters today in some persuasive way.

BORGER: Right.


CHALIAN: I think he was talking to donors. I think he was talking to the establishment leadership elite wing of the party today so buy some time and try to build up this "nevertrump", "Stop Trump" movement, rather than persuasive because, honestly, Anderson, you've been here through all these election nights. You look at the exit polls. A majority of the Republican primary voters in each of these state, -

COOPER: Right.

CHALIAN: I think, except one, feel betrayed by their own Republican party officials, --

COOPER: Right.

CHALIAN: -- the very Mitt Romney's of the world.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We've got a lot more to discuss, including more on Donald Trump and military policy and questions about whether the armed forces might actually refuse certain orders from a President Trump, such as hitting the families of terrorists. That's what a former CIA director and retired general recently suggested. Coming up next see how Donald Trump addressed that issue tonight.


[00:31:58] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump went into tonight under fire as a CEO and facing tough questions about some of what he says he'll do as commander-in-chief, such as go after the families of terrorists. Now, you may recall former CIA Director, General Michael Hayden, said the military might refuse to carry out orders if he try to make good on certain campaign promises. Trump was asked about that tonight. listen.


BRET BAIER, MODERATOR, FOX NEWS: What would you do as commander-in- chief if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

DONALD TRUMP (R) REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse me; believe me. Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East, they're chopping off heads -- they're chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They're drowning people in steel cages and he -- now we're talking about waterboarding. These animals over in the Middle East that shop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we're having a hard problem with waterboarding. We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.


BAIER: But targeting terrorist families?

TRUMP: And I'm a leader. I'm a leader. I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. if I say do it, they're going to do it. That's what leadership is all about.

BAIRER: Even targeting terrorist families?

TRUMP: Well, look, you know, when a family flies into the World Trade Center, a man flies into the World Trade Center and his family gets sent back to where they were going, the wife knew exactly what was happening. They left two days early, with respect of the World Trade Center, and they went back to where they went and they watched their husband on television flying into the World Trade Center, flying into the Pentagon and probably trying to fly into the White House, except we had some very, very brave souls on that third plane.



COOPER: As Tom Foreman just pointed out, that actually did not happen, with wives going back from the United States to, I guess he was talking about Saudi Arabia, but the larger point, I mean, it is an extraordinary thing when you have the Michael Hayden, former direct of the CIA, talking about U.S. military leaders refusing an order from the president and which is, frankly, an illegal order, according to the law.

KING: Very interesting conversation on social media tonight, just looking at my Twitter feed and looking around a little bit. A lot of veterans saying hey, you guys need to talk about that. He can't make us follow illegal orders. And other people, Trump supporters saying, this is, again, you look at this through the prism of who you support and those answers to Trump supporters is he's strong. He's a leader. He will issue the orders and they will be followed. He points to himself, a lot of people love that but it is an interesting conversation going on about -- hey, wait a minute, if it's illegal I'm not going to do it and you guys need to talk about it. CARPENTER: There's that question and then there is also the larger question, which Donald Trump always seems eager to talk about, about the use of torture. Now I think there's a lot of republicans that want to see a strong commander-in-chief, but there's a big difference between almost foaming at the mouth, being eager to torture someone, and saying you know what, I would do - I would hesitate to do that. I would do what I had to do to protect my country. Those are two different approaches and the approach that Donald [00:35:01] Trump has taken is frightening. It is scary and I think it should put the men and women in the military in a worrisome mode.

COOPER: None of this -- none of this though, when Donald Trump first started talking about his foreign policy, I remember doing an interview with him early on, he said I'm going to take the oil -- that was it. It became bomb the oil and he was going to send in Mobil and Shell, surround the oil fields to take the oil under U.S. military protection. Every general I talked to about this, who actually has experience on the ground in Iraq, was like this is ridiculous. It makes absolutely no sense. You can't do that. You know, the U.S. oil companies were actually asked to go into Iraq long ago. They refused. They don't want to do that. It's just not something -- you can't take a sovereign nation's oil. It sounds good. You can't do it. It was very popular.


COOPER: It did nothing to dissuade people from going for Donald Trump.

MCENEY: You're exactly right, but the voters aren't looking at those concrete details. They are looking at Donald Trump and they're looking around the world, where they feel scared; where they see 153 Parisians dead, people who just went to dinner and people who just went to a concert and they ended up dead. Then all of a sudden it comes to the homeland with 14 people in San Bernardino slaughtered. People are scared and they like the strength that Trump exudes.

I do think he needs to clarify about the terrorist families, absolutely, because an innocent family member, of course, we can't go after the innocent family of a terrorist. I think he need to clarify and say what he means by that. Is this someone using a family member used as a human shield? That's fair game. Something to that effect, or is this something bigger? I think he needs to clarify that, but the point is he's exuding strength at a time when people are scared and they're looking at a president that they feel is weak.

CARPENTER: But here's the core problem: he is running to be commander in-chief and he is openly talking about giving our troops an impossible mission that they can't execute. This is not responsible. He can say it and people think it's a fun idea but it's not a responsible thing to do.

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CONSERVATIVE WRITER: Many people are scared about the threat of terrorism. It's legitimate and they want to see somebody who is strong addressing that. Many people in America are also scared of a man being commander-in-chief who observes no limits on that power.

COOPER: Right; in fact, we should just point out -

MCENENY: And I don't think -

COOPER: -- the actual going after families and, like, taking the families of terrorists or -- that's actually a technique used by despites around the world, and in the Middle East. So the idea that the U.S. is going to start to adopt that, again, that's up for voters to decide, but it's -

[Cross Talk]

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One of the most important things is to take seriously what it would mean for him to be president. You don't want to become the thing that you fear. You don't want to become the thing that you hate and that's very -- it takes a level -- the great leaders that we respect, the Churchill's, the Mandela's, we have a right as Americans to hold those great standards. You want to talk about a Reagan; you want to talk about an FDR. When you have an open seat in the White House you should be able to imagine greatness in that office, a Margaret Thatcher; greatness in that office, and when you have someone who does the kind of things that Trump does it's very disturbing.

We also don't do enough to talk about the danger of our troops on bragging on torture. There's a reason -


COOPER: Right.

JONES: -- that John McCain is so hard on this, because we want to keep our troops safe. Now there are some people who are just despicable and horrible and they're going to do horrible stuff, but you want to be able to keep in that moral tug of war, even in a conflict that there are standards

that we don't go below, to put some pressure on our opponents. So it's dangerous for our troops. We don't talk about our troops enough. It's dangerous for our troops to be cheerleading for torture.

BORGER: And this is the commander-in-chief test; right?


BORGER: And I think the thing that the moderators were trying to get at in tonight's debate was, you haven't thought through these policies enough and that's why you keep changing your mind. It's flexibility or changing your mind once you learn more about the Syrian refugee problem; once you learn more about, perhaps, torture; and I think that's -- that sort of gets to the core of that important debate.

COOPER: We've got to take a break. As we mentioned, General Hayden is actually going to join us tomorrow night. We'll talk to him about that. More just ahead; we'll continue the conversation; another debate reality. check when we continue. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We're talking about the commander-in-chief question before the break, specifically with regard to Donald Trump. Marco Rubio pushed him on foreign policy tonight. Listen.


[00:43:06] MARCO RUBIO (R-FL) REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As we've seen throughout this campaign Donald Trump has not shown a seriousness about the issues of foreign policy; he just simply hasn't. Whether it was the struck of our military, even today he was asked the question about the issue of commanders not following his lead about killing the family of terrorists and his answer was if I tell them to do it they're going to do it. Now that's just not true.

The next president of the United States is going to have eight years of a mess of a foreign policy to clean up. That's why it can't be Hillary Clinton and, quite frankly, that's why it can't be someone who simply has not shown the intellectual curiosity or the interest in learning about these very complicated issues; and Donald simply hasn't.

TRUMP: Let me just say this: I've gotten to know Marco over a period of time. Believe me, he is not a leader; believe me. And --

RUBIO: That doesn't answer the question.

TRUMP: That answers --

WALLACE: He didn't interrupt you; let him talk.

TRUMP: That answers -- he's not a leader and frankly, when I say they'll do as I tell them, they'll do as I tell them. And that's -- it's very simple. It's very simple. We are in a very dangerous place. We have depleted military, totally depleted. We have - by the way, our vets are treated horribly. We're going to take care of our vets. We're going to start taking care of our vets properly, like we should. But we're going to build up our military and we're going get the equipment we want, not the equipment that is sold to us by somebody that gave him and him, and not the Governor, campaign contributions; okay. We're going to get the equipment that the generals and the soldiers want. I will prove to be a great leader.


COOPER: It is fascinating that -- I mean, Donald Trump does not have the same level of specificity that a lot of these other candidates have put forward and yet it doesn't seem to matter for his supporters.

KING: We were talking about this during one of the breaks. Primaries always, and especially republican primaries, are usually about ideology. The [00:45:01] Republican Party thought this was going to be about ideology. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party candidate; the Governor's wing of the party running; Rubio running, I wouldn't accept Van's language, but more as the neo-khan, more of a hawkish, you know, traditional interventionist foreign policy, tougher foreign policy; and then you have the great disruptor come in, in Donald Trump, who is about strength and leadership and take charge and I'll change Washington. Plus, again, I would it's not a republican. He wants to impose trade tariffs. It's not an establishment republican policy, but he talks about economics in a way that connects. He has completely disrupted this race and essentially everybody took six months to figure out we better respond to him because they thought he was going to implode, because he's not an ideological candidate. It's about strength and leadership and, at times, bluster.

COOPER: I also just want to point out, I've got some tweets about the fact check we did. Donald Trump tonight saying that some of the 9/11 hijackers, their wives were in the United States, were -- left two days before 9/11 because they had advance notice and those were people he would go after. What he was actually probably - I mean, that didn't happen. What he's actually probably referring to is that some members of -- or relatives of bin Laden were allowed to leave by the Bush Administration in the days after 9/11. That -- and went to Saudi Arabia. I'm assuming that's what he referencing, because there's no evidence of anything else. Anyway, go ahead.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think about that conspiracy theories or belief in conspiracy theories often exist alongside populism as a way to rewrite the official narrative. So I think that's what he's doing there. But I also think he did something interesting today. He was talking about getting along with Putin and he in some ways he sounded like Bernie Sanders or Ron Paul or Rand Paul because he connected foreign adventurism and militarism and foreign wars saying listen, they're too expensive. We need to invest in infrastructure here. We've got problems like Flint, Michigan. So that was a really interesting part. I mean, he almost sounded like a democrat.

MCENENY: Nia, you are so right about that. That is an excellent point. That's one of the things that's resonating with a lot of voters, both on Bernie Sander's behalf and Donald Trump's behalf. You know, you can't have a discussion of foreign policy, with respect to Rubio and Trump, without pointing out that Rubio was the guy who said let's go into Libya and topple this dictator and now ISIS is there. Trump is the guy who was opposed to the Iraq War long before Hillary Clinton and long before John Kerry was, long before any other candidates on the stage were.

COOPER: Well - yes.

MCENENY: Long before all of those. When everyone -

COOPER: I mean, just factually, he's been saying he was opposed to Iraq sooner than he was, I mean, just factually speaking.

MCENENY: But sooner than everyone else turned against it, then many of the democrats turned against it, and that's the important point. And, you're right to say that's important to the elector rate and it's resonating with Bernie Sanders voters as well.

COOPER: We've got to take another quick break. We'll be right back with another Reality Check grading Trump University. We'll be right back.


[00:51:41] Before we get another Reality Check we've got a quick time check; how long each candidate spoke on stage. "Politico" did the timing. Donald Trump led the pack with 27 minutes 54 seconds. Followed by Ted Cruz with a little less than 20 minutes; then John Kasich and Marco Rubio.

Time now for Tom Foreman who's got another Reality Check; Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson; Marco Rubio went after Donald Trump over Trump university saying, basically, this is a scam based on the Better Business Bureau rating. Listen.


TRUMP: We have an A from the Better Business Bureau. You're going to see. You're going to see. You don't know.

RUBIO: It's a D-.

MEGYN KELLY, MODERATOR, FOX NEWS: Go ahead, Senator Rubio.

RUBIO: It's a D-.

TRUMP: No, no. The only reason it was a D was because we didn't care; we didn't give them the information. When they got the information it became an A.


FOREMAN: So through all of that noise you have Rubio saying it's a D- ; Trump is saying it's an A. The bottom line is just a short while ago Donald Trump sent out some documentation, a paper from the Better Business Bureau showing that this was given an A rating. Now before that the only thing we could find is back in 2010 when it had a D- rating. We know that the school has also been investigated by the New York Attorney General; and we know it's involved in the $40 million lawsuit. So who's right in all of this? Well, the bottom line is neither one of them is right because the school doesn't seem to exist anymore. We talk about it as if it is, it's just not true. False. False.

On another subject, Ted Cruz basically said you can't trust Donald Trump because his party allegiance does not seem so strong. Look at the way he's donating money.


TED CRUZ (R-TX) REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump, in 2008, wrote four checks to elect Hillary Clinton as president. So I'd like to ask Donald why would you write checks to Hillary Clinton to be president in 2008? It wasn't for business. And, how can you stand on a debate stage now, with her, and say you don't think she should be --

TRUMP: Actually -


FOREMAN: So listen to the numbers he was talking about there. We went back and looked at some of the records here, and, you know what? We did find that in 2007 Donald Trump did donate $600 to Hillary Clinton. The same year, though, he gave $1,000 to John McCain. And, like a lot of business people, he's donated a lot of money over the years, to different people, democrats and republicans. He donated money to Hillary Clinton all the way back to her senate days but we can find no evidence of this idea of four checks in 2008 going to Hillary Clinton. That claim is also false. Anderson?

COOPER: All right, Tom; thanks very much. Want to get some quick final thoughts from our panel. Mary Katherine?

HAM: Look, I think this race is really weird and it's going to take something really weird to change the dynamics of this really weird race. I mean, that's the bottom line. You have this situation where you have the frontrunner with this plurality and this split field and I don't see unification coming any time soon and therefore, to change the dynamics we're in a tough place. There's an outside chance that folks looked at Trump tonight and said, he doesn't have a lot of details about this stuff, but I'm not sure that's going to change anything.

JONES: I keep using this analogy of being a kitten on the train tracks and saying look, that train is getting bigger but I'm sure it's going to get smaller. It's getting bigger, but I'm sure it's going to get smaller. Splat. That's what happened with the republican establishment. I think that that's going to happen with the establishment period. This train is getting bigger. This populace -- this is not a candidacy; it's a rebellion, and it's only growing.

HAM: I can't believe Trump and Bernie did that to a kitten.


COOPER: Amanda?

CARPENTER: I think you're going to find, tomorrow morning, a lot of republicans are embarrassed about that debate. If they're embarrassed they [00:55:02] should be asking themselves, why. I think the talk time and the graphic that we just showed explains why. Donald Trump dominated that debate. He almost had a half hour by talk time. If you are embarrassed by Donald Trump, you have to find a way to beat him? Play for all the marbles in the next two weeks. Let's do or die.

COOPER: Kayleigh?

MCENENY: I think we saw Trump start to adapt a more presidential tone for the first time on stage. He actually complimented Cruz and said, hey, I respect the filibuster; however, you need to compromise. He also, at one point complimented Rubio. He looked magnanimous in those instances and he only really attacked others when he was attacked himself. I think we're going to see more of that going forward, and tonight was night one of that.

COOPER: All right; David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I saw no change in the Rubio/Cruz/Kasich dynamic, in the sense that I don't think anyone one emerges with the strong rationale to explain to the Republican voters we're not with Trump; that they all need to get behind one of them. I just didn't see that.

COOPER: We're almost out of time. Nia?

HENDERSON: Yes, Donald Trump he's reached out to Paul Ryan; he's talking about flexibility and apparently talking about, in the general election, taking donations. What does that do to his brand, as he seems to become more of a general election candidate and more of a politician?

COOPER: We've got to leave it there. No doubt we'll be all together again on another day, probably even tomorrow; how about that? We'll be right back.