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Can Hillary Win Iowa?; Trump: "Most Likely" Won't Do FOX Debate. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 26, 2016 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:05]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Lowering expectations. Bernie Sanders now saying he can't replicate the coalition that propelled Barack Obama to the White House back in 2008. But Hillary Clinton continues to struggle in Iowa on the heels of CNN's Democratic town hall. Can she pull off a win in next week's caucuses? I'll ask her campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon.

Faking a crime. New details of a shocking story. A small-town police officer whose shooting death sparked a massive manhunt and made national headlines before it was ruled a suicide, what started the downward spiral that led to his stunning fall from grace?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Right now, we're following Donald Trump in Iowa. We're awaiting the start of the first of two rallies he scheduled tonight as he campaigns -- as his campaign goes overdrive, into overdrive ahead of the Iowa caucuses now just six days away.

Trump picking up two key endorsements and maintaining a commanding lead in our newest national poll. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, they are also back out there on the campaign trail after facing some tough questions in our CNN Democratic town hall.

Their race is tighter than ever tonight in Iowa. We're covering that and much more this hour with our guests, including Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they're also standing by.

Let's begin with the latest on the GOP race.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, is in Iowa for us tonight.

Sara, it's become a battle there between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. What's the latest?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Wolf. Over the last couple days, Ted Cruz has attacked Donald Trump on his values and on immigration, and now Donald Trump is looking to take back the narrative, picking up two key endorsements as he campaigns across Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Donald Trump on offense, even as a new CNN/ORC poll shows him with a 22-point lead nationwide, and picking up a pair of endorsements today from evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But, in Iowa, it's a tossup. A new Quinnipiac University poll puts Trump at 31 percent and Cruz at 29 percent.

Trump is hammering home his own attacks, raising questions about Cruz's eligibility to be president, telling CNN's Wolf:

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, look, I don't want to knock anybody, but he's got a lot of problems. He's got a problem with his Canadian birth. He was born in Canada. It's a real question.

MURRAY: And even beginning to refer to Cruz as the Canadian.

TRUMP: The Canadian, the man from Canada.

MURRAY: But Trump isn't limiting his attacks to Cruz. He's also reigniting his feud with FOX News' Megyn Kelly ahead of Thursday's debate.

Megyn Kelly is really biased against me.

MURRAY: That's after telling Wolf he might skip the event.

TRUMP: If I think I'm going to be treated unfairly, I will do something else.

MURRAY: Cruz firing off a warning in a closed-door meeting with pasters. If he doesn't stop Trump, no one will.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's an absolute dead heat. And if Donald wins Iowa, if he went on to win New Hampshire as well, there's a very good chance he could be unstoppable and be our nominee.

MURRAY: And using Trump's own words against him in a new campaign ad, as he tries to blunt Trump's momentum in Iowa.

TRUMP: I am pro-choice in every respect.

NARRATOR: And what does Trump think about Iowa?

TRUMP: How stupid are the people of Iowa?

NARRATOR: Donald Trump, New York values, not ours.

TRUMP: You know, my views are a little bit different than if I lived in Iowa.

MURRAY: While Trump insists his views have changed.

TRUMP: I'm pro-life, 100 percent. He knows it. Everybody knows it.

MURRAY: And dismisses Cruz's latest round of ads as lies.

TRUMP: He really does lie. He's so nervous -- hey, George, I saw him the other day, he's so nervous, he's such a mess. His polls have gone down like I would never seen polls gone down.

While Trump and Cruz lock horns, Marco Rubio at 13 percent in Iowa, is looking to capitalize.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald is not running as a conservative. In fairness, he's never said he is. Donald Trump is running as a populist.

MURRAY: Taking swipes at Trump and Cruz, while casting himself as the field's true conservative.

RUBIO: Time and again, I think you have seen Ted as a very calculated political operative. He says one thing in one place and then does something very differently.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Donald Trump kicks off his event tonight here in Marshalltown, Iowa, where we're expecting him to be joined by Sheriff Joe. But first Trump will take questions from reporters. We will bring the latest of that to you any minute now, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're going to be there, Sara, at that news conference, where he's taking questions? Is that where you are?

[18:05:02]

MURRAY: We will be here.

BLITZER: Then there are the two chairs out there on the stage, where the two men will go out there and formally address the rally. I assume there's another big crowd as well. Sara, get ready. We will come back to you.

I want to bring in Sunlen Serfaty. She's traveling with the Senator Cruz campaign right now, the Cruz campaign.

Sunlen, talk a little bit more about the growing and very bitter rivalry between these two top GOP candidates.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

I think you get the sense from the Cruz campaign that they really feel the urgency of the moment right now. Ted Cruz really feeling the pressure of these polls here in Iowa showing him neck in neck with Donald Trump. That really is the shadow of everything that he's doing and saying out here on the campaign trail, really in large part doing more to dictate his final message here to Iowa voters than his campaign would like in the end, as we have seen him all day on the campaign trail try to counter some of those Trump endorsements with some of his own today.

He traveled throughout the state with Rick Perry, former Texas governor, who endorsed him yesterday. Rick Perry out on the stump for him today, really drawing a clearer contrast with Donald Trump, saying that Cruz is the true conservative. And this is the catchphrase for this campaign right now as they started to draw this distinction with Trump.

The message that they want Iowa voters to listen to is that Cruz is a true conservative. So they're really, really drawing this line in the sand, painting Trump as a phony conservative, a phony evangelical. And that was why this statement that Ted Cruz made last night in front of those Iowa evangelical pastors, saying, look, if you want to have anyone in this race except for Donald Trump, now is the time to get on board, really making the case, Wolf, that he is the that who can stop Donald Trump in the end -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sunlen Serfaty covering Senator Cruz, thanks very much.

We're also following the big race on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders fresh from the CNN Democratic town hall. They are locked in a very, very tight race right now.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is joining us now from St. Paul in Minnesota.

Jeff, Bernie Sanders holding a rally there tonight. He must feel a little confident if he's not in Iowa, for example.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he sure is. He's going to be in Minnesota, just north of Iowa, of course. We drove up here today, actually. But Bernie Sanders, I'm told, is going to be filling this crowd behind me here, about some 10,000 people. It's not a detour, it's a key part of his strategy, showing that he can win other states beyond Iowa.

Of course, Minnesota is a Super Tuesday state. That comes on March 1. But, of course, Iowa comes even before that just in six days and Hillary Clinton there on the ground today showing new signs of confidence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY (voice-over): Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton back on the campaign trail today, a bounce in their step and a reality check for the six-day sprint to the Iowa caucuses.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because, ultimately, next Monday night it's all in your hands. No pressure.

ZELENY: Sanders, after reveling in comparisons to Barack Obama's victory eight years ago, tempering expectations today.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Obama in 2008 ran a campaign which is really going to stay in the history books. Do I think in this campaign that we are going to match that? I would love to see us do that. I hope we can. Frankly, I don't think we can.

ZELENY: Looming over the race is President Obama and Clinton holding him tight at last night's CNN town hall meeting after Sanders raised questions about her judgment and vote for the Iraq War.

CLINTON: I think the American public has seen me exercising judgment in a lot of other ways. I went to work for President Obama and he ended up asking me to be secretary of state. It was because he trusted my judgment.

ZELENY: An air of confidence from Clinton face-to-face with a young Sanders supporter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I just don't see the same enthusiasm from younger people for you.

CLINTON: I have been on the front lines of change and progress since I was your age. And you have to have somebody who is a proven, proven fighter, somebody who has taken them on and won and kept going and will do that as president.

ZELENY: It's the same argument she's making in a new ad.

CLINTON: Our children's future is shaped both by the values of their parents and the policies of their nation.

ZELENY: A sharper tone from Sanders, taking Clinton to task on her record.

SANDERS: I led the effort against Wall Street deregulation. See where Hillary Clinton was on this issue. Why did it take Hillary Clinton such a long time before she came into opposition to the Keystone pipeline?

ZELENY: It's a deadlocked race heading toward an uncertain finish, with Clinton trying to win over Sanders supporters, offering praise when asked to watch one of his commercials.

CLINTON: I think that's great. I think that's fabulous. I loved it.

ZELENY: Sanders struck a serious tone as he watched a Clinton spot.

NARRATOR: The presidency is the toughest job in the world, and she's the one leader who has what it takes to get every part of the job done.

[18:10:05]

ZELENY: He sprang out of his chair to answer CNN's Chris Cuomo.

SANDERS: This calls for a standing-up response. Yes, I do think I have the background and the judgment to take this very, very difficult job of being president of the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: So, of course, Bernie Sanders is making that argument here in Minnesota tonight, as well as when he returns to Iowa tomorrow. At this part of the campaign, Wolf, with just five more days, meaning tomorrow, both sides are working on mobilization.

They feel they have already persuaded their voters. They're trying to get them out to the caucuses next Monday night. The Sanders campaign has some 15,000 volunteers on the ground, I'm told, fanned across Iowa. The Clinton campaign has a lot as well here. This is closing very close in this campaign.

At this point, we don't look at what polls are saying. We look at what the candidates are doing. Hillary Clinton is closing confidently here. Not talking about Bernie Sanders nearly as much. She feels that the wind is at her back now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny with the Sanders campaign out there in Minnesota right now. They will be in Iowa tomorrow. Thanks very much.

Joining us now is the Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon.

Brianna, thanks very much for joining us.

First off, I want to get your reaction, speaking for the Clinton campaign, the anticipated endorsement of Donald Trump by momentarily Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University. What do you make of those endorsements?

BRIAN FALLON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, the endorsement of someone like Sheriff Arpaio just represents a doubling down on the harsh rhetoric and policies that we have seen from Donald Trump on the issue of immigration.

And I think increasingly you see establishment Republicans even resigning themselves to the prospect of a Trump nomination. And I think in turn, that means that the stakes are even higher for Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa when it comes time to make their decision next Monday.

Do they want to send Hillary Clinton forward to stand up to Republicans like Donald Trump and protect the gains we have made under President Obama such as the Affordable Care Act, the executive actions on, yes, immigration, and potentially nominating multiple Supreme Court justices?

I think Hillary Clinton is the one that we want to send forward in this nominating contest. She has a record of achieving proven results on the issues that keep people up at night.

BLITZER: Donald Trump keeps raising this issue about Hillary Clinton. He says -- he said it to me yesterday -- he doesn't even know if legally she will be able to run for president if the FBI, if the Justice Department comes down on her because of the private e-mail server. You used to be a spokesman for the Justice Department.

What do you say to Donald Trump when he makes those assertions?

FALLON: Well, as a former Justice Department spokesperson, I have no idea what he's talking about.

Donald Trump will continue to hurl personal insults and say whatever he's going to say. I think he's largely catering to the Republican primary voters whose support he's seeking at the current time. But I think that we're in a general election and Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, as we hope and think that she will, that the contrast will be clear between her and either Donald Trump or someone like Ted Cruz.

And that's why, again, I think that the stakes that will be on the line for Iowa caucus-goers who will make their choice on the Democratic side next Monday loom so large, and you see increasingly in these final days Republicans are trying to put a thumb on the scale and put Bernie Sanders forward over the hump. You see a $600,000 outside expenditure by Joe Ricketts, a known Republican businessman, trying to help Bernie Sanders in these final days.

I think that's because Republicans fear the prospect of Hillary Clinton being in the final matchup against somebody like Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Brian, I want you to stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, what's going on in Iowa, then New Hampshire, what happens if Hillary Clinton were to lose in Iowa.

Stay with us. A lot more coming up. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:04]

BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by to hear from Donald Trump, he's about to make an announcement that Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County in Arizona will endorse him. We will hear what they have to say. Stand by for that.

There's only six days before the Iowa caucuses. Tonight, Bernie Sanders and his campaign, they're trying to lower expectations of a repeat of the 2008 Obama campaign victory in Iowa.

We're back with Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon.

Brian, what happens if Hillary Clinton loses Iowa?

FALLON: Well, Wolf, it's a long road to the nomination in any case, and we have always planned multiple different pathways to the nomination.

But in terms of Iowa, we feel very confident in the organization that we have built there. Hillary Clinton's there every day this week doing events. We have had leaders from some of the top progressive organizations campaigning with her this past week, in terms of Planned Parenthood, the Human Rights Campaign, labor organizations that represent more than 10 million workers across the country. And in these last couple days, I think you have seen a shift in

rhetoric from the Sanders campaign. They were the ones that predicted victory in Iowa not too long ago. Their senior adviser said that a strong showing was absolutely necessary for them.

And in recent days, they have seemed to walk that back. People can draw their own conclusions from that, I guess.

BLITZER: What does it say, Brian, that Hillary Clinton is having such a hard time, let's say, in Iowa, and Bernie Sanders is way ahead in New Hampshire? That may be a little bit more understandable, since he's from neighboring Vermont.

But what does it say she's having such a hard time with someone who's been an independent senator, not a Democratic senator, an independent senator, 74-year-old Democratic socialist? Why is she having such a hard time with him?

FALLON: I look at it differently, Wolf.

I think the tightening that you're seeing in this contest is quite natural and was probably inevitable. You saw even back in the spring that Democratic voters were expressing their desire to see a tough- fought contest, even before they knew who all the contestants would be, if you will.

[18:20:00]

But what I do think has happened in the last couple weeks is Senator Sanders has moved from -- into a viable contender status. And as that has happened, he's started to come under scrutiny. And as more scrutiny comes, I think people are asking questions, rightfully. And so that's why you have seen him have to walk back some of his positions, long-held positions on issues like gun safety, on the details of his health care plan, et cetera, et cetera.

BLITZER: Brian Fallon, thanks very much for joining us, the press secretary for the Hillary Clinton campaign.

There's Sheriff Joe Arpaio with Donald Trump, the Arizona sheriff, endorsing Trump. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA, SHERIFF: Great patriot. And it's just easy to endorse him, because everything I believe in, he's doing and he's going to do it when he becomes president.

I met Donald six months ago in Phoenix, introduced him then, 30 days ago, back in Phoenix, introduced him then. And it's my privilege and honor to help him, to endorse him today for president of the United States.

So, thank you very much.

TRUMP: Joe, thank you. Well, I want to thank Sheriff Joe. This is a man -- when we talk

about borders, this is a man that believes in borders. And getting his endorsement means a lot to me. And he called and he said he'd like to do it.

He's actually wanted to do that for quite some time. We said, let's hold it for a little while, because we're looking at the world and we're seeing what's happening. We're seeing a lot of bad things happening. And he's the kind of guy we want on our team. He's tough, he's strong, and he's smart, and he's done an amazing job.

And he's got a great, great following of people that absolutely love him and revere him.

And, Joe, I would like to really thank you. Come here. Thank you very much.

OK. Questions?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: No deals. No deals. Joe never asked me for a thing. Sarah Palin never asked me for a thing. We got a tremendous endorsement today from, as you know, Jerry Falwell from Liberty University. Jerry's a terrific man, respected by everybody.

And I will tell you that what was so beautiful about it, no deals. Jerry didn't say, oh, could I do this, could I do that? Joe didn't say it. Sarah didn't say it. We don't make deals. We don't make deals, not with FOX, not with anybody. We don't make deals.

You have a deal maker for the country. The country needs somebody that knows what they're doing, because we're a country that is adrift. We're a country that doesn't know what they're doing at the top. When you look at the Iran deal, when you look at the Bergdahl deal, when you look at any single thing they're doing, we're adrift.

We have no idea what we're doing as a country, and it's a problem.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, that's OK. That's their opinion. Look, I'm pro-life. But that's their opinion. And if they want to do that , hey, all I can tell you is this. As you know, I'm pro-life. I have been pro- life for a long time.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: And I said -- what did I say? You didn't read it. Read the full statement of what I said. Read the full statement. No, no, you're not reading the full statement. Go ahead, get out the full statement. Read it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I know. I remember Tim Russert very well. He was a friend of mine. He was a good man.

No, no, but read the full statement. OK. Look, they're going to -- they have their choice. They can do what they have to do. I'm pro- life. They can do what they have to do. There will be many people that will be voting for me. That, I can tell you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, I question Ted Cruz. I mean, I question him very strongly.

I don't even think, based on things that I have learned over the last few days -- many lawyers are coming out saying he doesn't even have a right to run. He can't run because he was born in Canada. You have seen it, Sara.

They say that Ted Cruz, because of the fact that he was born on Canadian soil, he cannot run for president. Now, the first thing that's going to happen, if he ever got the nomination, which I don't think will happen, but if he ever got the nomination, the first thing that's going to happen is, the Democrats are going to sue, because there's a very real question as to whether or not he is able to run, as to whether or not he's entitled to run.

As you know, Laurence Tribe said it's not a settled matter, which is a big problem, but other people have now come back saying, this is actually a settled matter. He doesn't have the right to run.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: I think I'm convincing them. I think we have -- look, every poll says I'm ahead. And, you know, we will see what happens. I have bonded with the people of Iowa. I'm in Iowa today. I have bonded.

The evangelicals -- when I get Jerry Falwell, who just endorsed me today, who's a phenomenal man from Liberty University, when Jerry called up, I was so happy to get that endorsement, and he put it out just a little while ago.

[18:25:12]

But I have really bonded with evangelicals, with the Tea Party and with the people of Iowa. We will see what happens.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Who's that?

QUESTION: Senator Ben Sasse, who is going to be campaigning for Senators Cruz and Senator Rubio, brought up your marital infidelities on Twitter earlier this week.

Is that something that Iowans, particularly evangelicals who you're courting this week, should consider as they head to the caucuses?

(CROSSTALK) TRUMP: I appreciate the nice question. I think everybody knows about me.

Yes? Yes?

QUESTION: If your pro-life position on abortion prevails, what do you think the penalties should be for a woman who has an abortion or a physician who performs one?

TRUMP: I just don't want to talk about that right now. Everybody knows my views, and I think my views are very plain.

Go ahead. Yes?

QUESTION: For Thursday night's debate, you told FOX that you're getting tired of playing games with you.

TRUMP: Well, FOX is playing games, yes.

FOX is going to make a fortune. I told FOX, you should give money to the wounded warriors. I'm not a fan of Megyn Kelly. I think she's a third-rate reporter. I think she, frankly, is not good at what she does. And I think they could do a lot better than Megyn Kelly.

And so I'm going to make a decision with FOX, but I probably won't bother doing the debate. I see they picked me as number one, not only number one, number one by far. But, probably, I won't be doing the debate.

I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We will do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We're going to do something simultaneously with the debate. But, most likely, I'm not going to do the debate.

I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what's wrong over there? Something's wrong. But when they sent out that press release talking about, I said, what, are these people playing games?

So, most likely, I won't be doing the debate.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: See, the point is that, with me, they're dealing with somebody that's a little bit different.

They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else. So, let them have their debate and let's see how they do with the ratings. And I told them. I said, give money to the wounded warriors, give money to the veterans. They're going to make a fortune with the debate. Now let's see how many people watch.

We will have our own event. We will raise some money for the wounded warriors. We will raise money for the vets. But when they sent out the wise guy press releases a little while ago -- I was all set to do the debate. I came here to do the debate.

When they sent out the wise guy press releases a little while ago done by some P.R. person, along with Roger Ailes, I said, bye-bye. OK?

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you afraid to debate...

TRUMP: No, no, no, no. Excuse me, just so you understand.

I have done six debates. I have done six. According to every single poll, I have won every single debate, and probably the last one more than any of them. So, every single poll has me winning every single debate. I have done six of them.

And now you say, when does it stop? How many debates do you have to do? The Democrats are finished with their debates. Is that a correct statement? They're finished. They don't have anymore debates.

The Republicans go on forever and ever and ever with debates. We have people on the stand that have zero, that have 1, that have nothing. So it's time that somebody plays grownup. And then when I see a press release written by a child, like I just saw, I said, what do I have to do? Why do I have to make FOX rich?

Let me make the wounded warriors rich. Let me make the veterans rich.

QUESTION: Are you worried that's going to affect your chances?

TRUMP: Pretty close to irrevocable, yes.

QUESTION: Are you worried that's going to affect your chances in Iowa by not appearing...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: No, I think I will two great in Iowa. I love Iowa. I don't think Iowa's going to care.

I don't want to be used. Hey, look, this country needs somebody that's a deal maker. This country needs somebody that's going to make great deals with Russia and China and Japan, where they're sending us millions of cars. And we get -- what do we get, OK? What do we get?

We have deficits with these countries. We need people that know what they're doing. We don't need babies. When they send stuff out like that, they're not dealing with a baby. They're not dealing with a baby. So, we will see.

QUESTION: Do any of your share your concerns about the debate and don't want to participate?

TRUMP: I don't care. I think the opponents are wonderful people. I know a lot of them. I think they're wonderful.

Let's see how they do with the debate. Let's see how many people watch, OK? Let's see how many people watch. I said give money to the wounded warriors. I said give money to the veterans. Megyn Kelly is a lightweight. This is a lightweight. This is not a reporter. This to me is just a lightweight.

Megyn Kelly shouldn't be in the debate. I don't care about Megyn. When Megyn Kelly didn't ask me a question, she made a statement last time, I thought it was inappropriate. Everybody said I won the debate. Everybody said I won the last debate. They said I won all of the debates.

We have had six debates now. Why should the networks continue getting rich on these debates? Give some to the wounded warriors. They're making a fortune. Let's see how much money FOX is going to make on the debate without me, OK? All right. Let's see.

All right, yes?

QUESTION: Mr. Trump, with Sheriff Joe here giving his endorsement, a lot of people question the feasibility of your deportation plan, and he has raised some concerns, as well, last September. Is that something that you would seek his advice on?

TRUMP: I would seek his advice. Look, he's been a tremendous person in terms of not only deportation, in terms of stopping and creating a border.

But I have the toughest plan in terms of border. Nobody close. I'm building the wall. And now other people are saying we want to build a wall. Where were they? Where have they been? We're talking about building a wall. We're talking about building a strong border.

Sheriff Joe understands that probably better than anybody, because he's done a great job, and he has been given very little resource. And so I think the representation of having Sheriff Joe on my side was really great. Something I appreciated very much.

QUESTION: Who do you seek advice from on immigration matters? What are some of the...

TRUMP: We have other people. No, we have other people. But I feel very strongly that immigration -- we have to stop illegal immigration.

When I announced I was running for president -- I did this on June 16 -- I brought up illegal immigration. This would not even be talked about if I didn't bring it up. Wouldn't even be talked about. Right now it's the biggest subject. And now it carries over to ISIS and all of the things that are happening with the migration and Syria and people coming in that we have no idea who they are. We have no idea who these people are. They could be ISIS. They could be some -- we don't know. And it's got to stop.

We owe $19 trillion as a country. We have people running our country that are incompetent. They don't know what they're doing. We have to create a strong border. We need security for our country. We cannot allow that to happen.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump...

QUESTION: What would be your timetable?

TRUMP: For what?

QUESTION: If elected, what would your timetable be? Building a wall...

TRUMP: I'd start right away. And you know what I'd do? I'd get the bad dudes out immediately.

We have gangs right now that are made up in Los Angeles and different places that are made up 100 percent of illegal immigrants who are rough, tough dudes. They would be gone so fast. The local police know all about it. They know who they are. They would be gone so fast.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

TRUMP: Say it again?

QUESTION: Do you believe you would need Congress's approval to either build a wall or...

TRUMP: I probably would. And I'll get Congress' approval. I get along -- you know, my whole life I've been dealing with politicians. That's what I do. I deal with politicians. Politicians are fine.

But now it's time to do it a lot better, because these politicians have turned out to be turned out to be all talk, no action. They talk. All they care about is getting re-elected.

We need to get our deficits down. We need to get -- we need to bring our country back. We're losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade with China. We're losing tremendous amounts of money in trade with Japan. We do so much for everybody else, you look at South Korea, I have friends in South Korea, I have deals in South Korea, I have buildings in South Korea. But we have 28,000 soldiers on the line, 28,000. What do we get out of all of this?

QUESTION: Do you need Congress' approval before trying to deport 11 million people?

TRUMP: I would speak to Congress. Certainly, I would at least speak to Congress.

QUESTION: ... funding to carry out that deportation...

TRUMP: We're losing a tremendous amount of money. Right now we are losing so much money each year because of the illegal immigrants. People that are in our country illegally.

Hundreds of billions of dollars. People don't realize that. They say, "Oh, well, of course it's a lot of money to build a wall."

First of all, Mexico is going to pay for the wall. And the reason Mexico is going to pay, you know, a lot of people think like some of the politicians, you can't really get Mexico -- of course you can. They're making a fortune off the United States in terms of trade.

QUESTION: Deportation, right, so on the funding...

TRUMP: They are going to play for plenty. I have great relationships with Mexico. I have great relationships with the Mexican people.

I have right now thousands of Hispanics, and you've seen some recent polls in Nevada and other places where I'm leading in the polls with the Hispanics.

They want jobs. People want jobs. I'm going to bring jobs back from China, from Japan, from Mexico. We're going to bring jobs back to our country.

Our country is starving for jobs. We're losing all of our jobs. We're losing our base. We're losing our manufacturing. China is devaluing its currency, making it impossible for our -- it's making it virtually impossible for our companies to compete.

And now Japan is doing the same thing. Japan is killing us with their yen. They're devaluing. And you take a look at what's happening to Caterpillar versus Kamatsu and some of the companies over there. It's brutal. Take a look at Caterpillar. They're getting killed because our politicians don't know what they're doing.

And now we have corporate inversions where a lot of people -- you just saw the one today, Tyco, et cetera, coming out, moving to Ireland. Pfizer moving to Ireland. They're leaving the country. We have major corporations leaving the country, because our politicians don't know what they're doing.

QUESTION: But Mr. Trump, a lot of the people who are here illegally now, they came and they overstayed their visas, so a wall would not keep them out. How do you prevent that in the future?

TRUMP: Probably 50 percent are stopped at the border; 50 percent overstay. Overstay is very easy to take care of.

QUESTION: How do you stop it?

TRUMP: Very simple. It's called management. It's called management. That's right. They fly in, they come in. They're here illegally; they stay forever. Can't happen. We either have a country or we don't. We're going to have a country again. It's called make America great. It's going to happen.

QUESTION: But how do you make sure they won't overstay?

QUESTION: The sound bite, the full sound bite from Tim Russert you said to him was, "I'm very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion."

TRUMP: Correct. Why didn't you read that -- by the way, why didn't you read that before? QUESTION: I pulled it up, the Wi-Fi...

TRUMP: But why didn't you read that before? You didn't read I hate the concept of...

QUESTION: I'm reading it to you --

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me.

QUESTION: Are you a trustworthy...

TRUMP: Excuse me. Very trustworthy, more so than you. Because you know what? You didn't read the question. See, when you quoted Tim Russert, you didn't read what you just said. Read it again.

QUESTION: I'll read it out. "I'm very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion."

TRUMP: OK. You didn't -- why didn't you say, when you asked the question before, that I hate the concept of abortion?

QUESTION: The question from the pro-life group say you can't be trusted.

TRUMP: No, no, no, you were quoting Tim Russert.

QUESTION: I'm quoting you.

TRUMP: You were quoting Tim, and you were quoting me. Why didn't you read my quote the way I said it?

QUESTION: Sir, I tried to pull it up and I did not have Wi-Fi.

TRUMP: Well, then you've got to get Wi-Fi. OK? Don't ask me questions like that. You're not a very good reporter doing that.

OK, go ahead.

QUESTION: Senator Sanders, is that a cheap shot, are you ready for this race...

TRUMP: It's a cheap shot, of course it's a cheap shot. You have guy like Ted Cruz who's nervous as can be. I looked at him the other day. He's a wreck. He's a nervous wreck. His polls are going down the tubes. I guess I picked up 11 or 12 points in Iowa on him the other day over a period of, like, less than a week. And he's -- you know, look, and he doesn't even know.

Now, look, I understand him. And I always got along with him fine. But I always waited, and I waited for him to do, and finally, at the last debate, he finally started knocking the people of New York in values. I thought it was a disgrace. And a lot of people thought it was a disgrace. And I'm not just talking about people from New York.

What's going to happen over the next period of time, nothing's going to be nice. Nothing's going to be easy, but Ted is a wreck, and the reason he's a wreck is he doesn't know if -- he has checked and he's a good lawyer, he doesn't know, himself, whether or not he has the legal right to run and to serve as president.

Now, how can you vote for somebody when you know the Democrats are going to bring a suit? There's a cloud on title. It's called in real estate, cloud on title. Here it's a cloud over his head. Nobody knows whether or not he can even run for office. I tend to doubt it. Some great constitutional lawyers are now saying he doesn't have the right to serve. He cannot run and serve as president of the United States. That's a problem.

QUESTION: So, Mr. Trump...

TRUMP: I also didn't like the fact that on his financial disclosure form, a big problem, he's going to be Robin Hood. He's going to protect everybody. Well, he forgot to mention a couple of little facts. The banks, right? He didn't put them in. Why didn't he put Goldman Sachs in? Why didn't he put CitiCorps in? He said he forgot.

He also didn't know that he was a Canadian citizen 15 months ago. How come he didn't? He's a smart guy. He said, "Oh, I didn't know I was." He didn't know.

He didn't know that he was a Canadian citizen. So he was born in Canada. He was a Canadian citizen, and 15 months ago he renounced his citizenship. So he probably has a first. He was the first Canadian citizen ever to be a senator in this country, a senator from Texas. But he didn't know he was a Canadian, see, he was a joint U.S./Canadian citizen. He was a Canadian citizen. He didn't know that he was a Canadian citizen?

QUESTION: ... attacked your temperament, do you think by skipping the debate...

No, I think my temperament's great. I built a great corporation, built a great company. But I think when FOX sends out their little, like, written by a child about Putin, et cetera, et cetera, then I say, let them have their debate. I'm going to raise money during that period of time for the Wounded Warriors and for the vets, and let FOX play its games.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump...

TRUMP: And I love the debates. I have to tell you. I love debating. I didn't know it. I never debated before. I'm a builder. I create tens of thousands of jobs over the years. I didn't know I'd enjoy debating. And the first debate I enjoyed. Even though I thought it was a bad -- you know, I thought she was a bad moderator. In the case of Megyn Kelly, I think she's a total lightweight.

But I have to tell you, I didn't know that I was going to enjoy the debate process. I actually love it.

And if you check Drudge, and if you check "TIME" and you check "Slate" and all of the other online polls that judge debates, almost every single -- I think every single poll, but almost every single poll said I won every single debate. That's not bad.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump...

QUESTION: Will it be fair to say you flipped your position between today...

TRUMP: Yes, by the way, I never -- I think you could say that, yes. I think you could say -- sure, it sounds like -- yes, doesn't it?

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

TRUMP: No, I've never -- no, no, I've never threatened to quit.

QUESTION: You said the...

TRUMP: No, I said with CNN, I said I think you should give money to the vets. I've always said that. Wounded warriors and vets. I think you should give money to the vets.

You have a question that now is a legitimate question? Do you apologize? Do you apologize.

QUESTION: Do I apologize for reading your words?

TRUMP: For not reading my words. No, no, for not reading my words. Do you apologize for not reading my words?

QUESTION: I'm appreciative...

TRUMP: Excuse me, do you apologize for not reading my...

QUESTION: I apologize that you felt I didn't -- I'm glad I was able to correct the record.

TRUMP: I didn't ask that. I didn't ask that. Excuse me. You quoted me and you took out the main part of the quote. I'm just asking do you apologize?

QUESTION: Even if you hate abortion, doesn't...

TRUMP: OK.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump...

TRUMP: Go ahead, Sara. Go ahead.

MURRAY: Why is it appropriate -- why do you think it's a cheap shot for people to bring up your past infidelities after you brought up Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton?

TRUMP: It's not a cheap shot. I've had a very good life. I've been a very good person over my life. I'm a religious person. I'm a good person. I give money to charity. A lot of money to charity. I feel you can bring up whatever you have to bring up.

Yes, go ahead? QUESTION: As someone who opposes abortion, do you consider Plan B,

the morning-after pill, to be abortion?

TRUMP: I'll give you an answer to that sometime in the future, yes.

QUESTION: Talked to the police chief in Marshalltown, said your immigration rhetoric is making his town harder...

TRUMP: What can I tell you? I can tell you that most people in the country, most people in the country agree with me, and they agree with me having to do with illegal immigration. They agree with me when we mention the words radical Islamic terrorism, where the president of the United States refuses to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism," refuses to use it.

Why? You'll have to ask him. But you can't solve a problem until you're willing to discuss the problem. So why, you're going to have to ask him. Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Evangelicals, in our CNN poll you were ahead of Ted Cruz and on evangelicals...

TRUMP: Say it loud because I'd like everyone to hear that.

QUESTION: Why do you think that Ted Cruz has not been able to consolidate the evangelical vote here in Iowa...

TRUMP: Why is it that I'm leading Ted Cruz with the evangelicals, and why is it that here I'm leading him, and I'm leading him big nationwide, because he's really a nasty person. People don't like him. Senators don't like him. The people he works with don't like him.

You have to have -- you know, we can all be rebels. I'm a little bit of a rebel. But you have to be able to get along with people. We have to build up our country again. Our country is absolutely falling apart. Nineteen trillion dollars in debt, tremendous deficits.

Our -- believe me, the real number in jobs is not 5.2 percent. It's probably in the 25 percent category, because when somebody gives up looking for a job, as you know, they're statistically taken off the rolls, taken off the rolls.

So we have to build up our country. To do that, you have to get along. At least you have to have a semblance of something. People don't like Ted Cruz. They don't like him. And when you say, why am I doing better with the evangelicals than Ted Cruz? Because they like me better than Ted Cruz. And they understand I am a Christian. I'm a good Christian, and the evangelicals have figured that out very easily and very quickly.

OK. How about one more -- go ahead, Tom.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump, on the evangelicals, Christianity, yesterday Cruz alluded to the fact that you have a messiah complex. What do you say to that? TRUMP: I don't at all, no. I just want to make America great again.

You know, I've had a great life. I've employed tens of thousands of people. I've given them jobs. That means education. That means health care. I'm very proud of it. I've built an unbelievable company, just an unbelievable.

When I filed with the FEC, people -- all of you people ran down, because you were trying to say maybe he's not as big as people think. And it turned out it was much bigger. I have some of the great assets of the world. I have very little debt and tremendous cash flow.

And I say that only because that's who our country needs, Tom. That's what our country needs. Our country needs that kind of thinking. We have $19 trillion, $19 trillion, think of it, trillion, $19 trillion in debt with a horrible budget deal that was just made, horrible deal. That's adding another, at least another $2 trillion. We're going to be at $21 trillion in debt.

We're spending money like, like a bunch of people that don't have any clue as to what's happening. We have leadership that's incompetent. We have leadership that in many respects is stupid.

When I hear Kerry the other day say that, well, some of the $19 billion, OK, some of it is going to be spent -- the money that they got back, the $150 billion, some of it's going to be spent for terror, like routinely, it's going to be spent for terror.

And you know, it's interesting. They ordered, supposedly, I read today, they're spending all their money in Europe, Iran, spending all of this money in Europe. They ordered 114 Airbus jets made in Europe.

[18:45:00] Where's Boeing? Where's Boeing? Why aren't they buying Boeing? Why don't we have provisions where they have to buy our product?

So, when I look at the stupidity of our leadership in this country and that goes from the border, to trade, to health care, to everything, I say, I have no choice, I love my life, I've enjoyed my life, I have a great family, I have a great company, but I had to do this. We're going to make America great again.

Thank you, all, very much. Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Donald Trump basically making it clear, at least for now, he's not planning on participating in Thursday night's Republican presidential debate hosted by FOX. He doesn't like the way FOX has been reacting to statements he made including in an interview with me yesterday when he said he wasn't 100 percent convinced he should attend the debate. He told me he probably will, but since then, FOX he says has been making fun of him, especially the references to Megyn Kelly, one of the co-moderators of that debate. Now, most likely, he says he probably won't be attending that debate.

David Chalian, that's huge political news right now. Donald Trump is not on that stage with the other Republican presidential candidates. That's going to be very, very significant.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Absolutely, Wolf. If the crowd size behind me or the poll numbers weren't evidence enough that Donald Trump is in total command of this Republican nomination race right now. He's now dictating a massive event with this big pre-Iowa FOX debate threatening not to show up. That is going to be a bit of an earthquake in the race in these closing days.

I usually don't make predictions, Wolf. I would bet Donald Trump will end up showing up on that debate stage because I don't think he wants to risk not continuing to be the driving force in every one of these days between now and Iowa caucus day on Monday.

BLITZER: Donald Trump at least for now suggesting he will not, repeat, not be participating in the Thursday night Republican presidential debate because he doesn't like the comments, the official statements put out by FOX News.

Let's take a quick break. There's a lot to dissect as a result of this. Much more coming up on the breaking news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:55] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Donald Trump just announcing moments ago he most likely, he says, will not participate in Thursday night's Republican presidential debate hosted by FOX.

We're getting more reaction, our experts are standing by. The Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker" magazine, our political commenter Ryan Lizza, once again our political director David Chalian is here as well.

It's one thing to threaten, but in this particular case, Ryan, he said almost certainly he gave the impression he has decided he's going to do an alternative event Thursday night to raise money for veterans. And he's not going to participate in that Republican presidential debate. He's angry at FOX, not only because of Megyn Kelly, but also because of the comments FOX News put out after he told me yesterday he probably would attend the debate, but not certain.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. They mocked him. In "The Art of the Deal", Trump has a whole line about how you have to be able to blow up a negotiation, walk away from the table. At his rallies, he often talks about his trade negotiators if he were president would walk away from the table, and the people on the other side of the table would crawl back to the table begging to make a deal.

So, maybe this is just traditional Trump bluffing. As David pointed out before the break, maybe he just wants us to talk about this for the next two days, and he will indeed be at that debate.

The one thing that makes this a little different is he's promised to do some kind of veterans event. He can't just throw that out there and not to it. And frankly, right, if he does some counterprogramming event, the other networks, like CNN and MSNBC are probably going to be interested in covering that, because they can't broadcast the FOX debate.

BLITZER: If he has --

LIZZA: So, either way, Trump is going to be talked about for the next 48 hours before that debate. Either way, as usual, Trump wins.

BLITZER: David, it's a huge development, I've got to say. When he said it as hard as he did, he didn't say absolutely certainly, but he's almost certainly -- he most likely he said would not be participating in the event, doing an alternative event at the same time. I don't remember a time we've heard that kind of talk.

CHALIAN: That's right. When he has threatened not to show up at debates before, he then said, you know what, I'm the front-runner, I really can't avoid the debate. People would start calling me into question. He's obviously feeling like he's in a different position, a stronger front-runner position than he was in the fall when he made these threats. And perhaps that's why he's saying, I may deliver on this and not show up.

LIZZA: I think there's a risk here, though, if he really does cede that stage to his rivals, like Ted Cruz, who's neck and neck with him in Iowa, maybe a couple of points behind him, and Marco Rubio who's moving into third place, does he really want what will still be a large audience to see a bunch of his opponents on that stage? Probably attacking Trump, Trump not there to defend himself and probably getting their best opportunity to be in front of a large audience without him interfering? So, I think that was the big downside if he drops out.

BLITZER: David Chalian, if he doesn't show up, I wonder if FOX would have empty lectern up on that podium to underscore that Donald Trump is not attending that debate.

[18:55:09] You notice also, it got personal with him not only with Megyn Kelly, but also with Roger Ailes, the head of FOX News. He mentioned his name as well, David.

CHALIAN: He did. Those are two titans of the New York business world, Trump and Ailes. And he clearly is having a back-and-forth with him right now out in public. That's going to play out over the next couple days, Wolf.

But to Ryan's point which I think is key, it's not so much the empty lectern that maybe up there, but it is that if he doesn't show up, FOX is probably going to allow all of his opponents to take some shots at him. They're not going to make him feel that can't happen without him on the stage. That is so danger so close to the caucuses.

BLITZER: Breaking news here. We're following that. We'll get more on that obviously throughout the night.

I just want to alert our viewers, we just got word from the White House press secretary that President Obama will meet with Senator Bernie Sanders tomorrow informally, the White House says, at the White House. We'll follow that as well.

There's another major story we're following, a CNN special report later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, about a small town police officer whose death became a national story with a stunning twist.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is here with a preview.

Pamela, you covered this story extensively from the beginning to the shocking end. Update our viewers.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And we have learned through the course of covering this story, that Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz, who was held a hero at the beginning after he was found dead, that he was at that site of his death for nearly 30 minutes before he radioed in to dispatchers. This is based on phone records, the FBI looked at and GPS tracking of his car.

And that raised immediate questions about what he was doing in that time frame. Investigators now suspect he may have been staging his eventual death. His voice on the radio dispatch sounds eerily normal. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LT. JOE GLINIEWICZ: I'm off the gravel road that runs between the cement plant and Honing Road.

BROWN (voice-over): It's a marshy area, thick with tall reeds and dense brush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of this was just greenery. I mean, you couldn't see through it at all.

BROWN: No one can find Lieutenant Gliniewicz.

DISPATCHER: 6740, your status?

Fox Lake unit 6740 checking your status.

Fox Lake units on Honing, checking status on 6740.

OFFICER: We don't have him right now. We're looking for him.

BROWN: Then, a distinctive bang.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One officer was military says I think that's a gunshot.

BROWN: Officers on site charge into the thicket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They all go into the woods, straight down. It took them a little while to get down there, because they were going through some thick brush. They weren't even sure where they were headed.

BROWN: And they still don't see Gliniewicz. CENTRAL COMMUNICATIONS: FoxCom from CenCom, have you made contact

with your officer?

DISPATCHER: Cencom, that is negative.

OFFICER: 792 on location, try him on his cell phone, please.

BROWN: At 8:09 a.m., the radio transmission, no officer wants to hear.

OFFICER: Officer down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: That is when they found his lifeless body right near the swamp. Initially they believe that the three men he radioed into dispatchers about had killed him and a manhunt ensued. But we have learned within a couple of days of his death, investigators began having doubts that he was actually murdered.

And then, through the course of the investigation, they looked through his personnel file and found startling accusations, including a sexual assault lawsuit from several years ago, and then the FBI uncovered 6,500 pages of text messages showing he was embezzling money from an account for the Explorer Post of these kids he was training to become law enforcement officers, he was stealing money over the course of seven years. And also, Wolf, he wanted to take a hit out on the village administrator.

So clearly, this is someone who had a dark secret, another life. And we're going to be exploring that in the upcoming documentary.

BLITZER: Yes, and he was hailed as a hero at the memorial service. A lot of us remember that, even though as you point out, there were deep suspicions by some all along.

Pamela Brown, thanks very much for that report. And please, to our viewers, please tune in to Pamela's special report later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. You will learn about this case.

Remember, you can always follow me on Twitter, please go ahead and tweet me @wolfblitzer, tweet the show @CNNSitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.