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Sanders to Release Medical Records Today; Trump Refuses to Reconsider Attending Debate, Rivals Pounce; Freed Reporter Returns to "Washington Post"; RNC Responds to Trump Missing Debate. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired January 28, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Why is this an issue? It's an issue for every presidential candidate. But Bernie Sanders is 74 years old. And something he knows the voters want to learn about.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get to Jeff Zeleny who broke this news for us. He's in Des Moines, Iowa where the Bernie Sanders campaign is. They're waiting for an event to take place.

Jeff, tell us what you know.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John and Kate, we are here at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa. Senator Sanders is going to address a young crowd of supporters.

I'm told by the campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, that he intends to release his medical records sometime today. This has been one of the questions hanging over the campaign, when this 74-year-old Vermont Senator is going to release his medical records. And I'm told by the campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, he has a clean bill of health. It will come from the Senate physician. Sanders was in the House and Congress. Jeff is telling me that these reports will show that he's a perfectly healthy 74-year-old Senator.

The question here is, all candidates are asked this, are you fit to serve? And it's a particularly important question for Senator Sanders because he's the oldest candidate in the race. We're always struck at his events how he draws the youngest supporters. He would be the oldest president if elected. He would be six years older than Ronald Reagan by the time he would take office. Later today, I'm told, again, via, the Sanders campaign, they're going to release the records.

And the race is so close in Iowa. Neither side is comfortable with the margin here. They believe it is deadlocked. That's why mobilization and turnout is the key here in the final few days of this Iowa caucus campaign -- John and Kate?

BERMAN: All right. Jeff Zeleny for us at that Bernie Sanders event, set to begin any moment. We'll check back in with you because there's a lot of energy and big decisions for the Sanders campaign.

Thanks, Jeff.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Jeff.

BERMAN: On the Republican side, this is what we know.

BOLDUAN: On the right. On the right.

BERMAN: Within the next 12 hours, there will be a Republican debate. Within the next 12 hours. there will be a big event down the street from the Republican debate with Donald Trump at that event at the same time as the debate. Trump not blinking, not debating, not on FOX, not tonight.

BOLDUAN: What's more is Trump tweeted just a short time ago, this, "Wow, two candidates called last night and said they want to go to my event tonight at Drake University. Oh, the intrigue."

So FOX is not backtracking either, but does seem to be trying to fix this, sort of. Network anchor, Bill O'Reilly, asked Trump to reconsider the boycott on air last night. Watch.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX HOST, THE O'REILLY FACTOR: The bigger picture is --


O'REILLY: -- get your message to the folks.

TRUMP: There has to be something. You set the all-time record in cable history and so did CNN and --


O'REILLY: They want to know you.

TRUMP: -- Bill.

O'REILLY: They want to know you --


O'REILLY: -- but by walking away from this debate --


O'REILLY: -- you're not giving them the opportunity to know you.

TRUMP: I was pushed away. I'm not walking away. Bill, I'm not walking away.

O'REILLY: Would you do me a favor?


O'REILLY: Would you do me a favor. I bought you so many -- TRUMP: What happened, FOX put out --


O'REILLY: I bought you so many vanilla milk shakes. You owe me. Will you just --


BERMAN: I bought you so many vanilla milk shakes.

BOLDUAN: What does that mean? Huh?

Let's ask Phil Mattingly. He's in Des Moines, Iowa, for tonight's debate.

Phil, how many vanilla milk shakes have you bought me lately?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is exactly what I didn't prepare for, Kate.


No, look, I think there's a great back story between Bill O'Reilly and Donald Trump and milk shakes, probably one that maybe an hour-long or two-hour-long a documentary should delve into.

But one of the more interesting parts of that interview is Donald Trump has stood firm. I talked to his campaign officials said the ink is dry on the venue that he'll be using tonight. They sold out tickets in two hours for that event tonight. I think a lot of people are going to be watching a split screen or a picture in a picture trying to figure out how to keep an eye on Donald Trump and the debate tonight -- guys?

BERMAN: All right. We're joined now by S.E. Cupp and Scottie Hughes to talk about this.

Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks Phil.

BERMAN: A lot of debate drama tonight.

Again, S.E. is a CNN political commentator; and Scottie is chief political correspondent for USA Networks.

Thanks for being with us.

Scottie, let's start with you.

BOLDUAN: Scottie -- actually, S.E., I want to ask you a question real quick.

Trump isn't on the debate stage tonight, but he does have to perform tonight. What does Donald Trump need to do? S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He has to hope that this gamble

is a successful one. I don't really understand the strategy behind this. You're four days from the caucus, 40 percent of Iowa caucus goers are undecided. If you're undecided before you caucus, are you going to watch a fundraiser or a presidential debate where you can actually learn what the candidates stand for? It's sold out. He'll get a big attendance number there. And I'm sure people will tune in, but I don't know that this will actually work in Iowa where voters expect you to show up for them and to talk about the issues, not just sort of grand stand because your feelings got hurt over at FOX News.

[11:05:34] BERMAN: Scottie, Marco Rubio basically weighing in on this feud between Trump and FOX and Ted Cruz and each other, the triangle. Let's hear with Marco Rubio had to say.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not a show. This is serious. We cannot lose this election. We have to turn this country around now. We cannot wait another four years.


SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA NETWORK & TRUMP SUPPORTER: Sort of saying, like, come on, guys. Seriously. But it made me think, Scottie, what does Marco Rubio have to do tonight? What do these other guys have to do tonight? This poses serious challenges to every other candidate on the stage. Until tonight, the debates were all about Donald Trump who was standing there beside you. He's not going to be there. So how do they handle it now?

SCOTTIE NELL HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA NETWORK & TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, listen, even if Trump isn't on the stage, he will be the major presence on the stage tonight. In fact, if they wanted to really make circles, they should say no one can say the word Trump tonight in your answers or questions. But we know the word will be repeated several times. In the end, he won't be there, but he won't be there to defend himself.

As for Marco Rubio, they are competing for third place. If you take the total votes from New Hampshire and Iowa and add them together, you get three less than South Carolina. Rubio is going after Cruz. That is going the main play tonight. The question is, can they get out of this cloud hanging all over them, or maybe the white elephant, of Trump, who will be the constant person brought up. And the real winner will be determined tomorrow morning as to who is running the headlines, who is everybody talking about, and when the final numbers come out, that will be the end determiner as to who is winning in this situation.

BOLDUAN: No matter the ratings, the final number that matters is who turns out for the Iowa caucuses.

(CROSSTALK) BOLDUAN: This ratings game, especially four days out of Iowa, is a little bit silly. It doesn't matter who watches. It matters who turns out and what folks hear if they're going to turn in. Do you think, S.E, the candidates on the big stage can avoid talking about Trump tonight?

CUPP: I don't think they should. I think they should take advantage of this opportunity to point out how substanceless Trump's positions are without him being there.

This is a gift for Rubio. If Trump came to this debate, all eyes and attention would be on Cruz and Trump, and how badly would they go after one another? With Trump gone, then it becomes Cruz/Rubio matchup. Those two are in different lanes at the moment. I think Rubio has a great chance to contrast himself with Cruz and the rest of the field. And every other candidate up there needs to make the most of this opportunity where Trump isn't there to talk about their positions. Let's be clear, Trump is not a big factor in most of the debates. I know he says that he wins them all, but that's not his strong suit. So he takes up oxygen just for sort of being in the room. But now with him gone, I think they should really make them the most of this opportunity. It's perfectly timed for them.


BERMAN: But, S.E., it's going to take discipline. There will be a tendency, and the moderators will try to push them on.

CUPP: Yeah.

BERMAN: I can imagine a guy, say, Chris Christie, turning to the camera, saying, come on, guys, this is not what you people out there watching at your dinner tables want to hear right now.


CUPP: But Chris Christie might also be the one who says look, I showed up. I am here. Donald Trump was too scared. Donald Trump is playing victim when no one in the world thinks of Donald Trump as a victim of anyone. We're here. He can't stand up to Megyn Kelly. I would expect that line out of Chris Christy as well tonight.

HUGHES: And you're probably right. The last minute attempts to try the get the spotlight tonight. You've seen Cruz propose a debate for 1.5 million. Carly saying $2 million, saying come debate with us and we'll give money to the veterans. Isn't that a win for all? Except one minor issue no one has mentioned. That's illegal. According to RNC policies, no unsanctioned debates can happen. And participants in the debates would be disqualified in any future RNC debates. People are desperate and trying to say give me the spotlight, even if it means risking future attendance in the debates. Don't you think they know the policy for the policy they're running for?

[11:10:10] BOLDUAN: What does this do to Ted Cruz right now? What is he doing right now, S.E.? He was preparing to go mano-mano on stage. Now he's the main target on the stage because of obvious polling in Iowa. How is he hunkering down? What's the conversation right now with his debate advisors on what do we do now?

CUPP: I think they're rewriting their study guide. I think they planned for a lot of Trump versus Cruz attacks. And I think now he no longer has to worry about defending his eligibility to become president to run for president.


CUPP: But he does have to talk to Marco Rubio a whole lot more, and everyone else on that stage. And that means more probably on immigration and other domestic issues and foreign policy issues that have put those two at odds that have been buried in the Trump, Canada, you know, stuff over the last few weeks. Ted Cruz has to have a different kind of debate, but I think that's good for Iowa voters and good for Ted Cruz. He has a lot to say on substance. There are clear differences between him and Rubio and Bush and Christie. Maybe we'll get a chance to hear all those.

BERMAN: Scottie, quickly, Donald Trump says two candidates have reached out to attend the veterans events tonight. "The New York Times" is reporting Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. At first blush, people might say people on the undercard, insignificant. With Huckabee, it's almost a one for one ratio. Every vote for Huckabee is a vote not going to Cruz. This gives him a platform and perhaps hurts Donald Trump's main opponent.

HUGHES: It does, but at the same time, we're also seeing optimism does wins. Allies do win. This is smart if this is Huckabee and Santorum's campaign, and Trump saying it's great they're joining us.

One last point, let's remember, Ronald Reagan did not attend the debate in 1980 in Iowa. He might have lost the state, but he went onto win the country. That's just speaks that he spent the time out in the folks in Iowa and not necessarily in a room full of GOP folks that they've already talked to numerous times.

CUPP: But he didn't sit out that debate because of a female anchor had --


HUGHES: But that's not the reason. He's sitting this out because he doesn't go into bad deals. And he was insulted -- he was going to do this, if the snarky remarks from FOX come out. And so he was still going to be there but the snarky remarks came out.


BERMAN: Guys --

BOLDUAN: Hey, guys.

BERMAN: Guys, Scottie, S.E., thank you very much. I hate to cut you off.

But something big is happening at the "Washington Post" headquarters. Reporter Jason Rezaian, just freed from prison in Iran, is speaking. Let's listen in.


I'm honored to be a part of this ceremony marking the next chapter in the history of the "Washington Post." For much of the 18 months I was in prisoner, my Iranian interrogators told me the "Washington Post" did not exist, that no one knew of my plight, and that the United States government would not lift a finger for my release. Today, I'm here in this room with the very people who helped prove the Iranians wrong in so many ways.

Each day since my release, I learn more about the efforts to gain our freedom, which began the moment Yeggie and I were taken from our home, and continue on in support of our reintroduction into the world. There are so many people to thank. "The Post: leadership, including Fred Ryan, Marty Barron (ph), who worked tirelessly on our behalf, along with "The Post" lawyers, Jay Kennedy (ph) and Jim McLaughlin (ph). Jeff Bezos, who not only gave me a ride home to freedom --


-- but spent the past year and a half supporting "The Post" efforts on my behalf and encouraging them to do whatever they could to get me home. Bob Kimmet (ph) and his team who led "The Post's" global outreach with foreign governments and the U.N. and others.

I'm truly fortunate to have this opportunity to thank Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Brett McGerk (ph), who negotiated with the Iranians for my release and constantly advocated on my behalf. No other country would do so much for an ordinary citizen, and I know that.

To my colleagues at "The Post," you guys are all awesome. There's so many of you who I want to talk to, and I hope we'll have time to do that over the coming weeks and months. Just knowing the lengths you went to, to keep my story alive, is humbling, and should make us all proud to be part of the future of the "Washington Post."

And lastly I want to thank my family, my heroes, my mom, Mary; my brother, Ali; and my wife, Yeggie. You guys mean everything to me. And I'm just happy to be home with you.

Thank you very much. Thanks.


[11:15:46] BOLDUAN: Wow. Let's just listen in.


FRED RYAN, PUBLISHER, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you, Jason, for those heart felt words. I know I can speak for everyone in the "Washington Post" that not one of those 545 days went by when you weren't top of mind, in our hearts and prayers. Wonderful to have you back.

REZAIAN: Thank you. RYAN: Instrumental in securing Jason's release was Secretary --

BERMAN: That's Fred Ryan, I believe, the publisher of the "Washington Post" speaking quickly after Jason Rezaian.

BOLDUAN: Mr. Rezaian. You saw it. I think you heard him say, apologizing for how clearly nervous he was to be speaking in a large group of people because he hasn't spoken in front of anyone in a very long time. And also so visibly emotional. Just thanking everyone for being there, thanking the "Washington Post," thanking Secretary Kerry, who we're seeing taking to the podium right now. Let's listen in.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I received the invitation to come here weeks before we knew whether or not Jason would be able to be released and the others. I look forward to being here for this celebration, a special celebration of the opening of the building and the moving of the "Washington Post," but obviously, this is particularly sweet for everybody now that Jason is home.

In the military, as you all know, and in other dangerous callings, the most sacred pledge you can make is to never leave a buddy behind. Like most pledges, it's a lot easier to say than to do. Carol Morello (ph) wrote a wonderful story in Cambodia about the efforts of Bill Gojery (ph). So no matter how great the effort - and it was really special. Your folks here at "The Post," the senior leadership, did an absolutely remarkable job everywhere, and they were everywhere, and consistent.

And, Jason, you have the best bosses you could have in that regard.

But despite all of that effort, for everybody, this gnawed at us because we sensed the wrongfulness. And we knew that Jason and others were living the consequences, 545 days.

So I will tell you, frankly, that a week ago, on Saturday, was really one of the days that I enjoyed the most as secretary of state. It was also, perhaps, the most nerve wracking. I have to tell you that we had 12 hours of delay working through complications on implementation day, last-minute negotiations, and then after we had announced implementation day, I came out of that announcement and Javad Zarif came up to me and said, we can't find his wife and his mother. Now, you know, from some people, that might make sense, but Iran couldn't find the wife and mother?


So, you know, there was an enormous amount of activity, very, very, very quickly. And to the credit of Javad Zarif, he moved and moved rapidly. He got a number of people moving in Iran, including the president's brother. They woke up a judge in the middle of the night, got papers signed that needed to be signed to release Yeggie, and now we know the end of the great story.

The same gnawing and anxiety is true for the other families, for Saeed Abedini, for Amir Hekmati. And it remains true for the family of Bob Levinson. And we will continue and do continue to make the same efforts that we have made for everybody else in order to find out what has happened there.

These detentions, each and every one of them. define for us an injustice. And the time lost --

[11:20:15] BERMAN: Very emotional Secretary of State John Kerry.

BOLDUAN: Not a man that gets emotional.

BERMAN: No. At the "Washington Post," tearing up, choking up, when he talked about the sacred pledge to leave no friend behind, recounting how negotiations helped free Jason Rezaian.

BOLDUAN: He called this particularly sweet and one of the days he's enjoyed most as secretary of state, and telling in more detail than many of us -- any of us have really heard of the nerve-wracking 12 hours with challenges and complications and trying to get them, Jason, his wife, and mother, on a plane to get out of Iran.

BERMAN: And Jason Rezaian himself, before Secretary Kerry spoke, said, "No country would do so much for an ordinary citizen, I know that."

BOLDUAN: Truly amazing to hear it.

Let's bring in Brian Stelter. He's been following this.

This also comes on an important day for the "Washington Post," but amazing to hear from Jason.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: They happened to be having a celebration for their new headquarters. This was scheduled months ahead of time. On the day Rezaian was able to get on the plane, I wondered if he would be in a condition, if his health would be strong enough to be back in the U.S., and he is. He visited the news room yesterday more quietly. He was greeted with a standing ovation. Now today, able to speak for the first time. There was a time when "The Post" editors thought he might be behind bars for many years. The moments of optimism were very few and far between. To see him there today at the grand opening is incredible.

BERMAN: He said at the beginning of the statement, he said his interrogators told him there is no "Washington Post," no one is talking in the United States knows about you, know one is talking about your plight, and he said, I know how untrue that is.


STELTER: That's why, when he was on the flight home, first to Germany and then to the U.S., what he wanted was his mom's iPad. He was scrolling through news stories about himself. He was discovering that the whole world was paying attention to his situation. Now he's grateful for that.

BOLDUAN: 545 days. Jason Rezaian, you're seeing the video, speaking before his colleagues at the "Washington Post," saying you guys are all awesome. I think that sums it up.

And important to note, Jason is free. Jason is back. And Secretary Kerry also noting there, Bob Levinson, who they still are not sure about his whereabouts, a former FBI contractor. They say their efforts continue to try to locate Bob Levinson. An important note from Secretary Kerry.

Brian, thank you.

A huge occasion. Great we could bring it all to you.

A lot more ahead for us. AT THIS HOUR, the Republican National Committee, which hosts all the Republican debates with media partners, they're going to respond here to Trump's boycott of tonight's debate. What now? If Trump would show up last-minute, will they let him on stage?

BERMAN: Plus, a veterans group tells Donald Trump, you're a loser. Don't use us to skip tonight's debate. A Navy veteran with this group joins us live.

And a disturbing warning about the mosquito-borne virus infecting pregnant women. Officials now say it is, quote, "spreading explosively." Moments ago, the CDC issued a brand new update.


[11:27:23] BOLDUAN: Well, the show must go on. Or that's what they say. It's just that right now there will be two shows in Des Moines, Iowa. Tonight, hours from now, Republican presidential hopefuls will take to the stage. Front runner, Donald Trump, will be down the street hosting a rival event at Drake University. That's Trump's plan and, so far, he's sticking to it.

BERMAN: Joining us now, Sean Spicer, chief strategist and communications director for the Republican National Committee. He joins us now.

Sean, you have spent much of the last year negotiating, planning, organizing, orchestrating these debates. Tonight, is this just how you planned it?

SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, obviously, I'd like all the candidates there. This is an important time the in our process, right before the Iowa caucuses. But what we planned was to give our candidates a robust number of debates with a schedule that was predictable. We've given it to them. It's up to them to attend or not to attend. It's for us to determine the strategy of the campaign but to give them the best debate process possible. And I think we've done that.

BOLDUAN: What do you say to Donald Trump?

SPICER: I don't. I don't think it's my place or the RNC's place to tell Donald Trump or any candidate, for that matter, how to run their campaign. They've all decided how -- what their messages are going to be. The issues they're going to fight for, the way they're going to communicate them, the places they will go or not go. Our job is to give them the opportunity and the platform and the format to do it. It's up to them to decide whether or not to utilize some of those platforms or resources.

BERMAN: Sean, you don't tell the campaigns what to do, but you have told people involved in the debates what to do. In some cases, you said don't show up. You pulled the debates from NBC. You pulled "National Review" from the debate. Explain to me why you think, in this case, Megyn Kelly is different? I'm giving you Donald Trump's point of view. He says that her questions and how FOX has been treating him is unfair. Why do they not qualify for the "National Review" or NBC treatment?

SPICER: Right. Well, I think every candidate has an opportunity to decide whether or not a moderator's questions are fair or unfair, or whether they deem them appropriate. There's a difference between a difference with a moderator and a bias by an entire debate partner or network. In the case of coming out pro or con, one particular candidate, that's vastly different than a disagreement with a particular moderator over the tone and tenure or type of question they ask.

BOLDUAN: So, Sean, you are comfortable having Megyn Kelly on that stage, yes?

SPICER: Well, it's not a question of being comfortable or not. There's two things that are important. One is the networks choose the moderators. Two is after November of last year, when we had the issues with --