Return to Transcripts main page


New CNN Poll: Clinton Lead Over Sanders Tightens; Trump Threatens to Boycott Upcoming Debate; Sanders Surges in Iowa; Sanders Surges in Iowa; Pair Behind Planned Parenthood Videos Now Facing Charges; billionaire Bloomberg Considers White House Run. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 25, 2016 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:14] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, breaking news. A new CNN poll releasing at this moment. Is the race between Clinton and Sanders even tighter?

This as we countdown the CNN's democratic presidential town hall tonight?

Plus, Donald Trump threatening to boycott Thursday's debate. Is he going to walk? And Michael Bloomberg for president. Could the race come down to the battle of billionaires?

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we begin with breaking news. Bernie Sanders closing in on Hillary Clinton. This is a new national poll we are just releasing here on CNN. It comes as Sanders and Clinton are in final preparations for the CNN democratic presidential town hall. You can see right there, live pictures of the stage. This will be Sanders and Clinton's last chance to state their case to voters before the Iowa caucuses. Clinton once seemingly insurmountable lead narrowing under the Sanders' surge. The race now at its closest since September. So, let's go through this poll, Clinton leading Sanders and she is leading still 52 percent to 38 percent.

And the poll shows democratic voters are sharply divided. Clinton leading among women and non-whites. Sanders though leads with men and Independents. And his lead when it comes to Independents is nearly 35 points over Clinton, as you can see on the screen there. Thirty five- point lead close to it among Independents.

And more breaking news tonight. We want to show you some live pictures from New Hampshire. In a few moments, Donald Trump is going to be appearing at that podium for major crowd of supporters. Trump speaking earlier today to CNN. He said the Republican establishment is starting to get on board with his campaign.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, look. At a certain point, you've got to make deals. We can't have a guy who stands in the middle of the Senate floor and not every other senator thinks he's a whack job, right?


BURNETT: We're going to have more on Trump in a moment. But we begin with the breaking poll news. Brianna Keilar is at the town hall where Sanders and Clinton will be tonight. And Brianna, what else stands out in this poll?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty interesting, Erin, because one of the big questions about how these candidates will fare has to do with enthusiasm. So, check out where Hillary Clinton is now compared to where she was in September. 43 percent in September. She's dropped to 37 percent. It's a four-point, five- point margin of error. So, that is at least a small dip. Bernie Sanders though, when you look at his numbers, he is largely unchanged there. But look at the number of voters who have a negative view of these candidates.

If you ask Democrats about this, 20 percent say they have an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton. Twelve percent say they have an unfavorable view of Bernie Sanders. He's doing much better. Broaden that out to all Americans. Fifty two percent say they have an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton. Thirty three percent say they have an unfavorable view of Bernie Sanders. But it's also telling Erin, when you asked Democrats who is the best on the issues.

Far and away they will say Hillary Clinton, whether it is the economy or foreign policy or health care or guns. And so, that's really the question. Does that and also this overwhelming belief that we still see in this poll that most Democrats believe Hillary Clinton will beat Bernie Sanders, does that play out in her favor enough to make up for the fact that he may have more enthusiasm than her -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. More enthusiasm and more likeability, I guess.

All right. Let's show you some live pictures now at Farmington, New Hampshire, that is where Donald Trump is going to be holding a campaign rally. Iowa just a week away. And he is looking for a knockout punch against Ted Cruz. He is also though starting to look and sound like a candidate that is focused on the general election.

Dana Bash is OUTFRONT.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First-time politician Donald Trump is starting to find a comfort zone being a candidate. Going to an Iowa church on Sunday.

TRUMP: We talked about humility at church today. I don't know if that was aimed at me. Perhaps.

BASH: Even eschewing the Trump Tower staying at a Holiday Inn in Iowa.

TRUMP: I thought it was terrific. It was clean, it was nice and the bed was good.

BASH: And the man who made his mark railing against the establishment is now making nice.

TRUMP: The establishment actually is against me, but really coming online because they see me as opposed to Cruz who is a nasty guy who can't get along with anybody.

BASH: Listen to Trump here as he talks with Wolf Blitzer today about his biggest competition now, Ted Cruz.

TRUMP: You have to make deals. You have to get along. That's the purpose of what our founders created. And Ted cannot get along with anybody.

BASH: Not to say Trump isn't also still stoking controversy with comments other candidates wouldn't dare say, like this over the weekend.

TRUMP: I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's like incredible.

BASH: As for Cruz, he is using humor to expose Trump's weak spots. Like when the billionaire stumbled quoting scripture two Corinthians.

[19:05:18] SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are standing on the promises of second Chronicles 7:14. If my people -- well, you know, two Corinthians walk into a bar.


Ah yes, Ricardo Montalban, genuine Corinthian leather.

BASH: And Cruz is picking up endorsements he hopes will propel him to victory in Iowa. Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck and former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

FMR. GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: Ted is the leader that we need to reignite the promise of America. It's why I'm supporting Ted Cruz.

BASH: Trump helped push Perry to an early exit from the 2016 presidential race. And though Perry was never a big fan of Cruz, his fellow Texan, he despises Trump. So the enemy of Perry's enemy, Ted Cruz is now his friend. That as an old high school video of Cruz talking about his aspirations caught fire on the internet. One that speaks for itself.

CRUZ: Is that like sweat on my butt? What you want me to do? What I want to do in life? What my aspiration is to take over the world, world domination, rule everything, rich, powerful, that sort of stuff.


BASH: And Erin, the Cruz campaign is trying to laugh that off saying that even as a teenager he had a sense of humor. BURNETT: Ha, ha, ha. Al right. Dana, all right, this final debate

before Iowa obviously is Thursday, but this could be a night of drama. Donald Trump says he may not actually be there?

BASH: That's what he told Wolf today because Megyn Kelly who he famously tussled with in the first Republican debate is a moderator. Trump said, he doesn't like her. She probably doesn't like him. And he hasn't decided whether or not he's going to go. Now, he said that depends on how he's treated, but he won't say exactly what that means. So, yes, there's drama and her friends over at FOX are saying, thank you Mr. Trump for driving up a rating scene before it starts.

BURNETT: That's right. So long as he actually does show up. All right. Dana, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to the national co-chair of Ted Cruz's campaign Bob Vander Plaats along with Jeffrey Lord. The former Reagan White House political director and the author of the new book "What America Needs: The Case For Trump."

OK. So, let me start with you, Jeff. You just heard Dana talking about this drama. Donald Trump says that one of the moderators on the FOX debate Megyn Kelly shouldn't be there because of their now infamous tussle. Will he walk? I mean, or is he crazy to even threaten it? What matters more right now? Does he need them more? Did they need him more?

JEFFREY LORD, DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, as I've been trying to explain for months, Donald Trump is not crazy even though people seem to think he is. He's a very smart guy. And frankly, I have no idea what he's going to do here, but he's already building up the drama. Will he or will he not show? And if he's on stage, will he say one thing or will he say another? So, you know, if he's there, we'll all be tuning in to find out. So, he's sort of crazy like a fox.

BURNETT: Crazy like a FOX. All right. Bob, you know, speaking of this, right? This comes down to Iowa. It's now a week away, a week from today, and the latest polls shows in just two weeks Ted Cruz show, what, from a four-point lead in your state, 11 points now behind Donald Trump. Other polls also show double digit leads for Trump. Are they wrong? Are these polls wrong?

BOB VANDER PLAATS, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Well, we'll find out a week from tonight. I actually like where Ted Cruz is positioned. I've been to these caucuses before with Huckabee and Santorum. I think Cruz is going to do exceptionally well. The polls right now, they are modelling expectations of like, 250,000, 300,000 caucus goers in the Republican Party. And any serious person would say, there's no way that's going to happen. Maybe 150, maybe 160. But there's no way you can get a quarter of a million or 300,000 caucus goers on caucus night. So, I think right now the real poll is going to be a week from tonight. It's all going to come out to be a turnout game.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, and that is what it is going to come down too. I mean, these polls also show that without that extra turnout, Donald Trump does not do as well and could lose to Ted Cruz. He talked about whether he could lose Iowa earlier on CNN and here's how he put it.

TRUMP: I'd love to win Iowa. If I don't win it, I don't win it. I go to New Hampshire. We'll have a very big lead and the people up there have been unbelievably good to me. But Iowa is very important to me --


BURNETT: This is not -- I mean, just in that one little clip -- OK, it's one little clip, but for that clip it is a rather soft spoken humbled Donald Trump admitting he might not win, even though he wants to. He clearly thinks it is possible he could lose Iowa.

LORD: You know, Donald Trump is nothing if not practical here. So, he could win.


LORD: He could lose. He'll go on. I mean, that is exactly right. That is in fact what happened to Ronald Reagan. Everybody thought he was going to win. He lost to George H.W. Bush. And he went on and he won New Hampshire and he went on from there. And as a matter of fact, he lost some more states after that to George H.W. Bush. And the thing finally wasn't over until, I think, May. So, you know, anything could happen here and what Donald Trump is showing right there is a real glimpse of how realistic and practical he can be and determined. He will go on regardless.

[19:10:18] BURNETT: And Bob, you know, this weekend, you heard Donald Trump say he stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Iowan, he said it was great. Spent Sunday in church, left a hundred dollars in the collection plate. Are these the kind of things that at the last moment are really going to matter? Are going to make a difference? This is a guy who hasn't spent a lot of nights in Iowa. Right? When a push comes to shove, he is there on the ground.

VANDER PLAATS: Yes. I don't know if those optics are going to make a difference. But I think what Donald Trump is doing now, he's kind of making our case for us. He is now embracing the establishment saying he's the one who's going to make deals. He's saying Ted Cruz is nasty guy when Ted Cruz has 78 percent approval rating. So, I think the Iowa people are clear enough to see through that. What they're going to say is that we want a principled, consistent pro-family conservative, one who champion our values and one who consistently has champion our values, to be the caucus winner, to send out, to be the nominee.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, so I have to read this to you because it's heating up. It's getting exciting now. FOX has responded to Donald Trump right here, I can tell you on Twitter. A FOX spokesperson saying, quote, "We're very surprised he's willing to show that much fear about being questioned by Megyn Kelly." So, how is Trump going to respond to this?


LORD: Did Roger Ailes handwrite this out? I'd like to know.

BURNETT: I'm sure he probably did. I'm sure clearly with his approval.

LORD: You know, I mean, so there will be back and forth, there will be drama, and we will see what happens.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. We will see what will happen.

And of course, as you both point out, everyone will be then watching. OUTFRONT next, young voters flocking to Bernie Sanders. Why they are picking him over Hillary Clinton. Our report from the ground.

Plus, President Obama picks sides in the democratic race. Who is he calling a break tiny object?

And breaking news, a Texas grand jury making a stunning decision about Planned Parenthood tonight.


[19:15:50] BURNETT: And the breaking news. A new CNN poll just released at the top of the hour showing Clinton's lead over Sanders narrowing. Now, she does better among voters over 50 but Sanders is winning younger voters and clearly so and these voters may make all the difference.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT tonight in Des Moines.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bernie Sanders is the oldest contender in the presidential race, but he's drawing some of the youngest supporters on the campaign trail. This young army could determine whether he's able to slow or even stop Hillary Clinton's march to the democratic nomination.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our campaign has the energy, has the excitement, is bringing young people, is bringing working people into it.

ZELENY: But Clinton is trying to sway Sanders' supporters of all ages, at times patiently.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know some of you are still shopping. I like to shop too.

ZELENY: It's an open question whether young voters will take part in the Iowa caucuses. Sanders is challenging his followers to prove them wrong with a controversial new website. They say you don't care. They say you won't caucus. They say, Bernie can't win. As he travels across Iowa, Sanders has drown the largest crowd and heating up the democratic race. SANDERS: That's all that's coming off. Nothing more.

ZELENY (on camera): Your crowds seem younger than other candidates in this race. Why is that?

SANDERS: Because I'm a young, energetic, and vital person that's why. But really there are two reasons, I think number one, young people are by nature idealistic.

ZELENY (voice-over): He doesn't talk like them and he doesn't dance like them. But he seems to be speaking their language from free college tuition to income inequality to criminal justice reform.

KAILEY GRAY, BERNIE SANDERS SUPPORTER: The weekend before the caucus --

ZELENY: It's supporters like Kailey Gray (ph) fueling his rise. She's a 20-year-old college student volunteering night and day for Sanders.

GRAY: Bernie has been saying the same thing for decades and he really knows what's right and sticks to what he believes in.

ZELENY: The Clinton campaign is urging voters to look beyond Sanders' promises. They've brought a parade of celebrities to make the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So much change could happen. Let's go Hillary.

ZELENY: But it's Sanders who has become a pop cult figure showing up on t-shirts and merchandise of all kinds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bernie Sanders is America's uncle.

ZELENY: The loyalty has taken Sanders and his wife by surprise.

JANE SANDERS, BERNIE SANDERS' WIFE: Among young people of -- he's always been popular. When he was mayor, he was very popular among young people. But hip I never expected.


ZELENY (on camera): Is that a word that you would put to it? I mean, I see paintings of you all over the place.

SANDERS: No, I've got to admit that I'm not the hippest guy around.


ZELENY: Now Bernie Sanders may not be the hippest guy around, but if elected, he would be the oldest president. He could be six years older than Ronald Reagan when he was sworn into office. Of course that is a long ways out here. But Erin it is a central question, will all these young supporters turn out and back Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses and will that set the tone for the rest of the campaign -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Jeff, thank you. And let's go now to Gloria

Borger, our chief political analyst. And John Avlon, editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast."

OK. So, you know, there's something about him that's so endearing, right? I mean, whether you love or loathe his politics, totally separate issue. You know, you see celebrities something for Clinton. You know, she's trying to get all the young people on board. But the people staying up all night is that 20-year-old young lady who is saying, she's going for Bernie Sanders. Why can't Clinton match that excitement, John? Why is it that Bernie Sanders, the oldest guy ever, is the guy the young people love?

JOHN AVLON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, his campaign has turned into a cause. Because he's been liberated from the obligation to present a governing agenda, he entered this race as a protest candidate who is going to be ideologically pure. And he finally after decades in the wilderness is his moment. Why? Because millennials have live in the way for the great recession and for the first time an economic populous message is resonating. Hasn't done so in decades, it is now. And so Bernie has that lovability of a total authenticity and Hillary Clinton has that burden of being frontrunner who is running for the third term of both her husband and Barack Obama.

[19:20:14] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And you know, they didn't know Bernie Sanders. Even though he's been around forever, he's been in Congress. He's in the Senate. These young voters are looking at Bernie Sanders for the first time whereas Hillary Clinton they've seen over and over and over again.


BORGER: And she's famous and he wasn't. And so they think of him somehow as new.


BORGER: Fresh.

BURNETT: He's theirs.

BORGER: Right, exactly.

BURNETT: So, can he though when you look at the younger voter, right? This is an under 50. OK. So, if you want to define young that way, isn't he an eight point lead?

BORGER: Define young that way.

BURNETT: All right.


But if you go even younger than that, the lead gets bigger and bigger.

BORGER: Right.

BURNETT: So, is he going to actually get those people to vote?

BORGER: Well, that's, you know, that's the huge question. If these people were not participants last time around or maybe participated when Barack Obama was running, they always disappoint younger voters. And younger voters, let's look at the Iowa caucuses, they come from three major college towns --

AVLON: Uh-hm.

BORGER: Which only --

BURNETT: They live in Iowa specifically, right?

BORGER: Specifically. And that only comprises about 12 percent of Iowa caucus goers. So, what he has to do is not only get out younger voters but he had to kind of broaden that support throughout the caucuses and that's going to be difficult. It's not impossible, but it's not easy because Hillary Clinton has a very good organization.

BURNETT: Right. She has a good organization. And also, so John when you look at the poll, we asked Democrats, you'd be satisfied if Hillary Clinton won. Yes, absolutely they would be. Seventy five percent, would you be satisfied if Bernie Sanders won, 72 percent for Sanders. You know, is that a problem for Sanders, I mean, because people are fine with her? They're fine with him.

AVLON: Well, I think it illustrates something that's fascinating about Bernie. Right? A lot of people are supporting Bernie because they want to send a message not because they believe they're sending a president. And the question for a lot of caucus goers will be, do we want to send a message to the National Democratic Party or do we want to send a message about Iowa electing presidents? Putting forward presidential president. Because, you know, all their candidates are working with a net. Many of them would be very happy with Hillary Clinton as the nominee. But many have assumed that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee, that was the starting assumption, but they, you know, but Bernie has their passion. Bernie has their hearts right now, but their heads are still somewhat with Hillary Clinton.

BORGER: So yes, Bernie is making the case to them that he's electable. That he isn't just a protest candidate. Because in some of these head-to-head polls he's a bit like Donald Trump.

BURNETT: It seems like both of them stumbled into this with whatever motives and then all of a sudden found out that people actually liked them and are passionate about them and both realized a very serious candidates, happened to Donald Trump 10 months ago, right? But eight months ago but Bernie now --

BORGER: Right. And they're both campaigning on electability.


BORGER: Both of them are doing it. AVLON: Yes. And I've got to say, I mean, putting polls aside the

argument that Bernie Sanders is more electable general election candidate than Hillary Clinton, that is tough to believe in the land of reality.

BURNETT: All right. So, let's talk about women. Because some polls have shown Clinton lagging among women which I found fascinating. Now, our poll, which is a national poll, is not the case. Right? So, we've seen her lagging among women in New Hampshire. Our poll national she is still ahead. Fifty eight to 33 percent. Here's what she said about it to women voters today.


CLINTON: I think one of the best things we can do for women's rights is elect the first woman president. I think that would send a very strong signal about where we are in our world here.


BURNETT: This is something a lot of people, women, find compelling, but a lot of women don't. They find it eternal.

BORGER: Right.

BURNETT: They say why in this year 2016 would I vote for someone because she is a woman.

BORGER: That's right. And if you go back to 2008, Erin, I went back and looked and Hillary Clinton barely got 50 percent of women in the democratic primaries in 2008. So she's clearly using this because she does have an advantage among women, and it's a way for her to get younger women away from Bernie Sanders, who has those younger voters.


BORGER: When you break it down and you look at middle class suburban moms, they don't necessarily want to vote for Hillary Clinton. So, she's talking about women to younger women who really want to see a woman president.

BURNETT: Who want to see a woman --


BURNETT: -- but also John, don't want to vote for someone because they are voting for a woman. They want to vote for the best candidate and how it happened to be a woman and that's an important distinction.

AVLON: Right. It is an important distinction and they're not going to vote for because she's a grandmother. They're going to vote for her because she's a former secretary of state.


AVLON: And a New York senator. BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: But look, I mean, that symbolism matters. And the best argument she has to turn her campaign into a cause. That magic that Bernie has tapped into.


AVLON: Make that argument to younger women, that's the best message they've got.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you.

And next, President Obama taking sides in the presidential race distancing himself from one major candidate.

And former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighing a run for president. How another New York billionaire could shake up the race?


[19:28:59] BURNETT: Breaking news. A new poll just out this hour, Senator Bernie Sanders is gaining momentum in Iowa according to a brand-new poll, this is by FOX News. Clinton's lead over Sanders is down dramatically from 14 percentage points last month. Now just at six points. It comes at a crucial moment. We are just 90 minutes away from this CNN democratic presidential town hall in Des Moines.

My colleague Chris Cuomo is going to be moderating the town hall. Chris, I know you've had a chance to speak to voters in Iowa. You're going to be in that room in just a few moments. What are they looking for tonight?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, they're looking for a chance, Erin. I mean, that's why we designed the town hall the way we did. Voters get the opportunity to directly ask what is in their heart, what is on their minds, to the candidates. And then we all get to sit back and judge those responses. You know, it's so different. You've interviewed so many big candidates, had so many big people in the chair across from you. They deal with us differently. If they don't like the premises of your question, you know, if they don't want to answer it, they deal with us one way as pros.

But with people, it's a different dynamic. And when you go around the state here, and

[19:30:00] you talk to people. They're very engaged. The caucus is a big part of the culture here, as well as the political implications and everyone feels that it's close. Regardless of what poll they're looking at, they feel that it's close. They feel that the choice is very real.

As you'll see tonight, many of the viewers are as of yet undecided and that's not by our choosing. That's just by the numbers that were involved in terms of who was submitting questions.

BURNETT: And in terms of the issues, what is the issue people seem to care about the most?

CUOMO: You know, that's interesting. I was surprised by what wasn't being asked about as much. This being Drake University, a college campus, I expected there to be a lot more of what we usually identify as those issues that go along with college campuses. You know, a lot more environmentalism, a lot more what usually falls outside the usual scope of intent.

But it really was pretty much down the line. People are very interested in economic policy, are very interested in understanding how things will get done. There seems to be an intensity around what we're hearing termed in the elections as establishment.

What does that really mean? What can you really do and how given what kind of lack of progress we've seen out of Washington, D.C.

BURNETT: Chris Cuomo, thank you very much. We will all be watching you tonight and that town hall.

Let's go OUTFRONT now to our political commentators, Peter Beinart and Paul Begala. Paul is also the senior advisor for the Priorities USA Action super PAC, which raises money for Hillary Clinton.

All right. Peter, you're with me. Let me start with you.

You just heard Chris say down the line the economy. And when you look at the CNN poll, 83 percent of people, of Democratic voters nationally say income inequality is a crucial issue. They care about the economy.

Who has the upper hand on this issue?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's no question that Bernie Sanders does. And I think the reason Bernie Sanders has been rising a bit over the last month or two is because national security has dipped since the San Bernardino attack, especially among Democrats. Republicans are more focused on it. Democrats are less focused on it.

And Bernie Sanders is weaker on those national security issues. Hillary Clinton has a big advantage on those. But as public attention, especially into the Democratic Party, has re-shifted towards the economic issues, the class-based issues, that are Bernie Sanders bread and butter, that's his advantage.

BURNETT: All right. That's his advantage, Peter. Paul, Peter says. I mean, the voters seem to agree, right? If you look at the polls that we have, Iowa and New Hampshire, when it comes to the economy, this issue of income equality, which has become such a populist rallying call among Democrats, those voters support Bernie Sanders. Where did Hillary Clinton go wrong?

BEGALA: Well, I don't think she went wrong. The campaign hasn't finished yet. Believe me.

I think she's, according to Chris, maybe getting a little traction on this argument that I've got to make this work in the real world. It's all fine to have theories, but I've got to make this work in the real world. There was I think an important comment from Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, an icon of liberals, who basically said Hillary Clinton has a better plan of the argument on this. And, in fact, a few months ago, he looked at both Hillary's and Bernie's plans on Wall Street reform and thought Hillary has a tougher plan to rein in Wall Street.

The challenge, Peter is exactly right though. I mean, on the first blush, the first sound byte, Bernie is going to win, because he's got a tight, focused message, anti-Wall Street. Hillary's message is more nuanced, it always is when you're the policy wonk in the race.


BURNETT: Well, she's also got donations from Wall Street. She's had speaking fees from Wall Street, right? I mean, there's also that.

BEGALA: Sure. But Barack Obama, 20 percent of the money he raised when he ran for president was from Wall Street. It didn't stop him from passing Frank/Dodd, which is a pretty tough regulation of Wall Street.

But, you know, this is the conversation that I think Democrats want. I'm so thrilled, honestly. This is a town hall. It's important for them to go through the paces and have professionals like ask them questions. But there's nothing like sitting down with a voter. And, by the way, both Bernie and Hillary are really good at just talking to people. So, I think it could be a terrific exchange. It may be more substantive frankly than some of the stuffs that you see on the advertisements.

BURNETT: All right. So --

BEGALA: Advertisements that my PAC makes.


BURNETT: I can't believe you just said that.

All right, Peter --

BEGALA: We'll edit that out.


BURNETT: President Obama in the Wall Street donations, he weighed in today on why there is more momentum behind Bernie Sanders than there is Hillary Clinton. Here's how President Obama put it.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She has been in the public eye for a long time and in a culture in which new is always better and you're always looking at the bright, shiny object that people don't -- haven't seen before. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Bright, shiny object. I'm sure there's a part of Bernie Sanders that would be flattered by that, given he would be the oldest president ever elected. But still; is that fair? He's the bright shiny object. You have the president coming out behind Hillary Clinton and backing her.

BEINART: Right. I think what you're seeing here is that Barack Obama feels loyal to Hillary Clinton. I mean, they work together. They have forged a real connection. And although he said he doesn't want to endorse, this is about as close as he can come.

[19:35:03] I don't think on the substance, it necessarily makes a lot of sense. I mean, Bernie Sanders is not vacuous. I mean, he is new to a lot of people, but he has a core message that is resonating to a lot of Democrats because a lot of Democrats don't think Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama were tough enough in the wake of the financial crisis. They still feel betrayed by that, and they want someone who is going to be tougher on the powers that be in the financial sector.

BURNETT: Paul, you mentioned the ads that you've been putting out. All jokes aside, is there a part of you deeply worried and stressed by some of these recent polls that have seen such a surge for Sanders?

BEGALA: No. Frankly, the only ad we're running is one criticizing Ted Cruz. We're not attacking Bernie Sanders. We won't. That's not like, what I meant to, it's not my job.

Bernie is doing a lot of good for the party, doing a lot of good. I think ultimately Hillary Clinton will win. I'm not worried. She will, because Iowa and New Hampshire are critically important, but they are white liberals, and that's all.

And I'm all for white liberals. Some of my best friends are white liberals, I've got nothing against them. But the Democratic Party is lot more than the white liberals. Once we get more people of color, communities of color, once we get more LBGTQ activists, once we get to places that frankly look more like the Democratic Party, she's likely to really roll.

And yet, she's holding her own in Iowa right now. I'm really pretty impressed that it's basically dead even. I think Bernie has to have the advantage there because he comes out of Vermont, OK? A complicated coalition in Vermont is putting together Ben plus Jerry, OK?

Hillary comes out of New York, where you got to be multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural, and that's what the Democratic Party looks like.

BURNETT: All right. We will leave it there. I will give you credit for spinning the polls as a positive. That's why we love you, Paul.

OUTFRONT next, live pictures. This is the town hall in Iowa. The Democratic presidential contenders will be on that stage taking voters questions less than 90 minutes from now as we count you down.

We also have breaking news at this moment. Criminal charges in those appalling videos of dead babies at Planned Parenthood. You'll be shocked at who's charged tonight, though.

And Michael Bloomberg for president? Donald Trump says, bring it on.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd beat him and I would love him to do it actually. I love the competition. I love the competition.



[19:41:05] BURNETT: Breaking news tonight. A shocking turn in the investigation into Planned Parenthood. Remember those series of controversial videos that went viral? Well, a grand jury in Texas spent months investigating Planned Parenthood after an anti-abortion rights group released several videos that allegedly showed Planned Parenthood employees discussing selling aborted fetal tissue.

You'll recall this became a major flash point in the Republican race for president. Tonight, Planned Parenthood has been cleared of any wrongdoing. You hear me. Clear of any wrongdoing.

The two people behind the videos, the people who went in and got these videos, are the ones being charged. Just a shocking turn.

And Pamela Brown is OUTFRONT.

So, Pamela, tell me who is being charged and why?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this really is a stunning twist here, Erin. These are two anti-abortion activists with the Center for Medical Progress. They are charged with a second- degree felony. This was released today. The charge is tampering with a governmental record.

It's unclear exactly what that record was. And the center's director has also indicted on a misdemeanor here of count relating to purchasing human organs. He posed as a bio technician and secretly recorded the Planned Parenthood officials.

The center released these videos last summer, as you may recall. They showed how -- the center says they showed how Planned Parenthood was trying to sell fetal tissue for profit. These videos went viral. They have been the topic of debate on the campaign trail and the center of this grand jury investigation.

All along, Erin, Planned Parenthood has denied these claims and released a statement today reacting to the indictments saying essentially these anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying and breaking the law when they couldn't find any improper or illegal activity. They made it up. Of course, reaction has been swift -- Erin.

BURNETT: This is shocking. So, what is the response? What is the reaction so far?

BROWN: Well, there's been reaction -- a lot of reaction from Texas and, of course, one of the people indicted, David Daleiden, who was the director of the center. He released a statement today saying, "The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County district attorney and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well."

Also, the Texas governor weighing in here. He's the one that really pushed for this investigation. He says Texas will continue to protect life and that today's decision will not impact the ongoing state investigation.

We're still waiting to hear from Republicans on the campaign trail who have focused on these videos, particularly Carly Fiorina who refused to back down about some of the content were no true. I imagine responses will continue to pour in -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Pamela, thank you very much.

I want to go straight now to our legal analyst Paul Callan.

All right. Pamela explained that so well. So, you have somebody who is anti-abortion, goes in, as they say, using the same techniques as investigative journalists. They get these tapes that they say show Planned Parenthood officials being willing to sell aborted fetus body parts. The charges are against the guys who made the tape.

Is that the same thing as charging a whistle-blower? I mean, how does this happen?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is. This is really as if the police set up a sting operation and now the police are being arrested, except, of course, these aren't the police. This is an anti-abortion group. It is such a turn of events, people are going to say, maybe this is a runaway jury because it looks like politics but we have a Democratic district attorney in Harris County appointed by Rick Perry, Devon Anderson. So, she's not a Republican. And the Republican governor ordered the investigation. So, it looks political.

But on the other hand, the DA said she respected the decision of the grand jury. DAs usually say that when they disagree with it, but they have to live with it.

[19:45:03] Is this a runaway grand jury that didn't do what the D.A. wanted? I suspect the answer to that is going to be yes. It's a runaway grand jury.

BURNETT: A stunning verdict. I think nobody expected whatever your side on this maybe. Again, whether you believe in abortion or not. Thank you very much, Paul Callan.

OUTFRONT next, we're counting down to the special CNN town hall even tonight. Just over an hour from now, the Democratic candidates, their last chance to make their case directly to voters in Iowa. It's a special event.

And a New York City billionaire not named Donald Trump who could self- finance a run for president and might jump in. Our special report.


BURNETT: Is the country ready for another billionaire businessman from New York running for president?

Well, the former mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, thinks they are. He's seriously considering an independent campaign, especially if the general election comes down to a race between the far left and the far right. Let's just say Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump.

Phil Mattingly is OUTFRONT with the latest.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Billionaire businessman, three-term mayor of New York, presidential candidate?

Frustrated by the poll rise nature of a race rife with anti-business sentiment --

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Who is going to be prepared to stand up to the billionaire class and wage a political revolution?

MATTINGLY: And strongly concerned about a president Trump or Sanders --

TRUMP: Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?

[19:50:03] It's like incredible.

MATTINGLY: Michael Bloomberg weighing a 2016 run as a third party candidate.

One of his advantages: having the resources to self-fund his campaign, reportedly to the tune of $1 billion. Polls showing self-financing independents have been particularly potent messages for Donald Trump.

TRUMP: I would love him to do it, actually. I love the competition. I love the competition. I would love for Michael to do it.

You know, we used to be friends. I guess we're not friends anymore. I don't think we are.

MATTINGLY: According to Forbes, in 2015, Bloomberg was the eighth richest American worth an estimated $37 billion. His wealth coming from a computer system used by just about everyone

who sets foot on a Wall Street trading floor.

Trump, who says he doesn't believe Bloomberg is worth that much, is 121st on that list, worth $4.5 billion. A Democrat-turned-Republican- turned-independent with a record of working across party lines in New York City and spending tens of millions on causes like gun control, climate change and immigration -- issues that may also be his biggest road blocks and potentially a major problem for Democrats.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So if he splits the Democratic vote -- those for gun control -- that might be good for Republicans.

MATTINGLY: Bloomberg's path to the White House if it exists at all is a tight one. One his advisers say that a strong performance by Hillary Clinton could close out entirely.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a good friend of mine, and I'm going to do the best I can to make sure that I get the nomination, and we'll go from there.

MATTINGLY: And the 73-year-old has been here before, weighing runs in 2008 and 2012.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Number one, I'm not running for president, OK? Couldn't be clearer about that.

If I thought I could win, I would. But you can't win. Thank you. I'll be very happy running my company and my foundation.

MATTINGLY: Now, Bloomberg has only a few weeks to figure out if that has changed.


MATTINGLY: And, Erin, in the last couple of months, as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have risen in the policy, Michael Bloomberg has been approached repeatedly by top business and political leaders. That's according to sources familiar with some of his meetings, all calling on him to run. That's what's driving some of this.

The big question now, at a time when the electorate is really kind of seizing on anger and emotion, can the cerebral, really pragmatic governing Bloomberg find a group to appeal to, Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil.

And OUTFRONT now, John Avlon, editor in chief of "Daily Beast", is back, and Van Jones, former adviser to President Obama.

Also, John, if they are polarizing enough in terms of Democrats and Republicans, do you think he can do it? Can he win?

JOHN AVLON, DAILY BEAST: Yes. Look, the two parties are more polarized and the American people. That's a point. And if they put forward a Bernie Sanders who may play in the debates but can't convert people in the Senate or Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, looking, running would be a civil service. I mean, talk about, you are going to have a massive disenfranchised moderate majority of Americans who are not represented effectively by the other party, particularly those nominees.

So, in that specific instance, given that 44 percent of Americans self-identify as independent and 60 percent say they want to see a third party, Michael Bloomberg's self-funding would have a shot.

BURNETT: All right. So, Van, this is a gun-heating pro-choice billionaire. The most conservative thing I think he's done is to tell new mothers that they have to breast feed. And the way he did was my big government, saying, you can't have formula in hospitals, OK? I've experienced this myself. So, I'm just saying.

This is what we're talking about. Who would his candidacy hurt more, Democrats or Republicans?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, first of all, you're 100 percent right. This only works in a very strange situation. If Hillary Clinton completely implodes, something crazy happens, she's basically unelectable.

BURNETT: Well, the e-mails. Something could happen there. Something like, OK.

JONES: You have to imagine that. And then imagine the Republicans nominate someone really like Cruz who has no redeeming qualities in the general election. Even Trump in a general election can shake up the race. You literally just have two -- you have an open highway. Otherwise, it's really an exercise in vanity and would hurt Democrats, because I think Bloomberg thinks he's seen as independent. He thinks he is seen by most people in this country as the guy trying to take --

BURNETT: Ultimate Northeast liberal opinion.

JONES: -- soda pop and your gun.

BURNETT: Yes, he took away the big gulp. He banned the big gulp. He banned baby formula. I mean, you know?

AVLON: He's a businessman. He's fiscally conservative. He's tough on crime.


AVLON: Those are aspects of his record and his belief that should appeal to the center right. Far right is never gong to give him time.


JONES: You have a billion dollars to make that case, which is true. But I think when his numbers come back, he's going to be surprised. He looks more like a George Soros than the moderate he thinks he is. BURNETT: Interesting. All right. So, Donald Trump weighed in.

Despite being frustrated by the inaccurate net worth of Michael Bloomberg.


AVLON: He's sensitive about that.

BURNETT: Here's what he had to say.


TRUMP: I would love for Michael to do it. We used to be friends. I guess we're not anymore. We used to be friends, good friends.


BURNETT: He's taking him seriously.

JONES: Well, first of all it is interesting where it's like, you know, whose stack is bigger than whose stack, that kind of stuff.

[19:55:01] So, this weird thing going on with these guys. But here's reality: fundamentally, a Bernie Sanders campaign can point to this development. So, you have two billionaires who want to buy the country. I do think it gives another talking point to a Bernie Sanders going into Iowa.

I think that in some ways if you are Hillary Clinton, the fact that he is even talking about this is a judgment against your campaign. If I'm the Hillary Clinton, I'm frustrated with Bloomberg to be coming in saying --

BURNETT: Why would he be even testing the waters if he thought she had it?

AVLON: No, look, he made a great point about the optics making Bernie Sanders' point for him. I do think that it's very clear, it's a break glass scenario, because running against Hillary Clinton would make no sense. The political profile, there's just too much overlap. And there's polling that bears that out.

But mark my words, you know, if both parties give in to their fringes, then there's a wide open --

JONES: But to your point, if Hillary Clinton is doing well and he's making these noises, doesn't it actually hurt her?

AVLON: I hear you on the Bernie thing. I'm not with you on the Hillary Clinton thing.

JONES: Good enough.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. I just can't wait until baby formula becomes a discussion in the election.

All right. We're just an hour from the Democratic town hall. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


BURNETT: And thank you for joining us. We're counting down to that town hall. Want to go to Anderson live from the Democratic town hall site in Des Moines.

Anderson, take it away.