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RNC Responds to Trump Missing Debate; Bernie Sanders Refusing to Go Negative as Iowa Looms; Veteran Group to Trump: Keep Your Money; Zika Virus "Spreading Explosively," Could Lead to Pandemic. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 28, 2016 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, you are comfortable having Megyn Kelly on that stage, yes?

SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST & COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: 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 CNBC, the candidates made it clear that they wanted to be in direct communication with the networks regarding the criteria, the moderators and leave that kind of negotiation up to the candidates themselves. That's what we have done. That's what should be done. The candidates should be the ones that have those direct negotiations. That's what's happening now. It happened last debate in the case of Dr. Paul where he chose not to attend. And it was up to him to decide whether or not he believed FOX Business was in his best interest to attend that debate. We're just following what we've been doing sonar and allowing the candidates to have a direct communication with the networks.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Any chance -- do you think Donald Trump will show up, or how late can you decide? Will you keep the door open and unlocked until two minutes before air time?

SPICER: I don't know up until what time, but I know that FOX and the RNC have both made it clear that we'd love to have him there, and we'd love to have all the candidates there. I don't know what the drop- dead time is. But I think we'll continue to hold out hope up until the last possible moment.

BOLDUAN: One thing that the RNC has been very happy about, Reince Priebus has talked about it, and you. You've been happy about how people have wanted to watch the debates so far. With that in mind, and the goal, obviously, being is having as many voters watch these candidates, is this press helpful having one candidate counterprogram your debates?

SPICER: Again, I would like, and I think Chairman Priebus would like all the candidates here. As you mentioned, we've gone through tremendous effort to make sure that we've got a great debate process. We've got double the number of debates than the Democrats have. They're trying to add a debate, with Clinton, it's fumbling in New Hampshire and calling for an additional debate to rescue her campaign. Our process is working. But it's up to the candidates. Yes, I would like all of them. I wanted Dr. Paul at the last one. I'm glad he's back. And I'd like Trump at this one. I think Chairman Priebus has made that clear as well. But it is ultimately up to the candidates. It's not our decision.

BERMAN: Sean Spicer, thank you for being with us. You don't have an easy job. And there are folks out there not making it easier. We appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Sean.

SPICER: I enjoy it. And we have a great team. It's fun to be part of this.

BERMAN: It looks like fun, a lot of fun.

BOLDUAN: It sure does, Sean.

BERMAN: Coming up, should Bernie Sanders go negative? Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton locked in a very tight race just days before Iowa.

BOLDUAN: Plus, a veterans group tells Donald Trump, you are a loser, my friend, and don't use us to skip tonight's debate. A Navy veteran with this group is joining us live to discuss their very strong statement against Donald Trump.


[11:35:40] BERMAN: All right. This morning, just four days to go until the Iowa caucuses, a report the Sanders campaign is on the verge of making a fateful decision.

BOLDUAN: "The New York Times" reports the Sanders campaign are weighing putting up negative ads against Clinton, something he's pledged not to do up to this point.

Joining us to discuss, CNN political director, David Chalian; and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Bob Beckel.

Gentleman, start your engines.

Bob, first to you.

Bernie Sanders going negative or not, maybe. You've been in these types of meetings before. What's the conversation? What's the calculation?

BOB BECKEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I've been in Iowa for six presidential races. I've given away my age here. But Iowans are not big on negative ads. In every campaign I've participated in there, we were reluctant to go negative unless it was essential. For Sanders, this is a big risk. He's on the cusp of being able to overtake Hillary Clinton if they get a turnout that's bigger than, say, 200,000 votes. It was 250,000 when Obama ran there. I think for Bernie, it's a very big calculated risk. If he wins and goes onto win New Hampshire, maybe it was worth taking, but I'd be careful. BERMAN: Bob, one of the architects of "Where's the Beef," the brutal

attack on Gary Hart, essentially saying Bernie Sanders shouldn't go anywhere near the grill. Stay away from the grill.


BECKEL: "Where's the Beef" had two great advantages. One, it was real. It was a real ad, and it kept me on the speaker trail for 20 years.


I mean, what's wrong with that?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. What is wrong with that? I would just --


BERMAN: David, there's another aspect to this, which is the decision to go negative, and someone leaked the fact that this is a discussion. A meeting last night about do I put on the positive or negative ad. They have both cut. Strange that they're leaking those deliberations. You think?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. John, you know certain strategists in the room want their point of view to prevail, and so they leak it to the press and try to set a trial balloon and see if they can gather momentum for their side.

But remember, this story was out yesterday, and late yesterday, Sanders was asked about it in the hallways of the Senate when he was in Washington. He said he's committing to his promise that he will not go negative and run a negative campaign. That doesn't mean he won't run a contrast ad. Negative is in the eye of the beholder. He said he's never run a negative campaign and he doesn't intend to. It sounded to me like this internal debate that got leaked, I don't know that the candidate feels that torn over it.

[11:40:31] BOLDUAN: Maybe not.

And how do you, Bob Beckel, go from Simon and Garfunkel, go to AC/DC? What does a tougher negative Bernie Sanders look like?

BECKEL: I think that's right. The comparison is about as far as I would go. I would say Hillary Clinton has been a magnificent public servant, but here's where we disagree. I was against the Iraq war. She was in favor of it. Boom, boom, boom, boom. I think that's a pretty fair and mild negative ad. If he goes after her on Wall Street contributions, god knows, if he goes after her on Bill Clinton, it's going to backfire on him. These Iowa voters are pure voters. There's a lot of them who are going to be there who have not been there before. They may be a little less negative toward negative. But I can hear it. You're right. They leaked it last night, both sides. And they went with -- the story gets out this morning. Now that Bernie is ready to hear from all the people, the contributors and others, and make their mind up. Say go with it or don't. And you have the ten minutes before it goes up. He has a lot of options available to him, but I'd be very careful.

BERMAN: Interesting to see. And the goal is to turn out new voters.

David, one of the issues about new voters is getting them to caucus night.


BERMAN: One of the things about getting them to caucus night to make sure the weather is OK. And we're seeing the first weather forecasts for Monday night saying there could be some snow. I saw maybe one to three inches of snow in the Des Moines area. Are you hearing anything about this, and who would bad weather hurt or help the most?

CHALIAN: Well, they are watching the weather forecasts closely in all the campaign head quarters. As you know from being here, one to three inches in Iowa isn't a huge deterrent. These are tough folks here, who are used to pretty bad weather. Anything more than that could have a detrimental effect on turnout. That would not benefit Trump or Sanders. If it's a much more traditional turnout, your die hard caucus goers only showing up, if they only show up, that's better news for Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton.


BECKEL: It's also the case that both Trump and Sanders rely on young voters. And they're the least likely to show up at the polls. Older voters favor Clinton and Cruz. So my guess is that that's really where the divide is. Will young voters go out in three inches of snow? I've been out there when there's three feet of snow. But nonetheless, we've had enough. Let it stay in Iowa.

BOLDUAN: Bob, we weren't going to tell everybody. You were the one who told everybody you showed up late.


BECKEL: Two hours to get from my house, which is 20 minutes away. What can I tell you? "Where's the Beef?"

BOLDUAN: Where is the beef, Bob?

BERMAN: That's what we asked during the first 40 minutes of the broadcast.


David Chalian, Bob Beckel, thanks so much. Great to have you here with us. Really appreciate it.

BECKEL: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys.

Coming up for us, Donald Trump says he's going to raise some money for veterans tonight in his not the GOP debate tonight. But at least one major veterans group is telling Mr. Trump to keep the cash.

BERMAN: Plus, we're getting breaking news. A man carrying two guns, ammunition and a Koran just arrested at the Disneyland outside Paris. We have new details on that coming up next.


[11:47:58] BERMAN: Breaking news just in to CNN. French police arrested a man at Disneyland outside Paris near the entrance of a hotel in the amusement park. We're told he was carrying two handguns, ammunition and a Koran. He is now in custody. We'll bring you updates as we get them.

In the meantime, just hours from now, at the same time the other Republicans debate in Des Moines, Donald Trump plans to hold a special event that he says will benefit veterans.

BOLDUAN: Some veterans are furious that they think they're caught in the middle of this political crossfire. The founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is tweeting this, saying, "If offered, the IAVA will decline donations from Trump's event. We need strong policies from candidates, not to be used for political stunts."

That is one veterans group's take. Let's hear from another.

Joining us is Peter Kauffmann, a former Navy officer and senior advisor for progressive veterans group, VoteVets.

Peter, it's great to have you here today. Thank you for coming in.

The head of your group put out a very strong statement about this. It says, "To Trump, specifically, you're a loser. You're a third rate politician who clearly doesn't understand issues, is so scared of Megyn Kelly, exposing it, that you're looking to use veterans to protect you from facing her questions."

Wow. Why such strong feelings, Peter?

PETER KAUFFMANN, FORMER NAVY OFFICER & SENOR ADVISOR, VOTEVETS: We have a simple message to Donald Trump and the other Republican candidates, because now Ted Cruz is getting into this. Where veterans are not political props that they can just trot out and exploit because they don't want to answer hard-hitting questions. Donald Trump has made it clear through the course of this campaign that he's not a commander-in-chief. He's a carnival barker, a P.T. Barnum. It's very talented at it but there's not much substance. He's scared. He's afraid that Megyn Kelly is going to expose him for lacking substance. He wants to hide. That's fine if he wants to hide. That's his business. Don't do it behind veterans.

BERMAN: It sounds like you have a combination of problems here. One, you're mad that he's using veterans, you think, to get out of this debate. And two, he doesn't have much to begin with.

[11:50:07] KAUFFMANN: He doesn't have much of a position. There's not much substance there. If you go on his website, he refers to the Veterans Administration, a cabinet level agency since 1988. He doesn't have much depth of understanding of actually what we need to do to help veterans in this country. It's almost as if the policies that he has on his website, he puts to some staffer to Google, what's wrong with the V.A., and they cut and pasted it. There is no depth of understanding, no specifics.

And when you look at a candidate like Hillary Clinton, who actually goes into painstaking detail about how we can reform the TRICARE system, how we can turn around the V.A., how we can use telemedicine, she understands these issues in a way that none of the Republican candidates seem to. Donald Trump at the head of the class there.

BOLDUAN: That gets to a point we should bring up. Your group says you endorse and support both Republican and Democratic candidates but have gone out of your way, or definitely speaking highly of Hillary Clinton's positions on veterans' policies, especially. What are -- do you support any Republican candidates that are out there right now and their positions on veterans?

KAUFFMANN: Well, we're certainly open to hearing more. But just what we have seen over the past couple days, where Donald Trump wants to hide behind veterans to skip this debate, hide from questions, now Ted Cruz is getting into the act, he's going to try to bribe Trump with a donation to a veterans' group, we don't want it. If you want to support a veterans' group, support a veterans' group. Don't bring us into this Trump, Ted Cruz. Now Carly Fiorina may be --


BOLDUAN: Would you accept a donation?

KAUFFMANN: I can't speak for my organization, but, no, I don't believe we would. I don't see them having the substance to back up what they're saying.

BERMAN: Peter Kauffmann, thanks for being with us. Really appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Peter.

KAUFFMANN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll see what happens tonight.

Coming up for us, next, a dangerous virus is quote, "spreading explosively." That's from the World Health Organization. World Health Organization has new advice now for pregnant women. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us live for important information.

We'll be right back.


[11:56:20] BOLDUAN: New this morning, the dangerous Zika Virus is, quote, "spreading explosively," and that's according to the World Health Organization. And the organization says there could be three to four million cases in the Americas in a 12-month period.

BERMAN: So this is spread by mosquitoes. There is no cure or vaccine for it. And it is linked to underdeveloped brains in children.

I want to bring in CNN's chief medical respondent correspondent, Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, right now, the World Health Organization's advice to pregnant women living in the hot zone is essentially don't get bit by a mosquito. Is that enough to fight this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, no. And obviously, it's a very challenging thing to do. I mean, this is a sort of stretches out against -- across all sectors. I mean, individuals are being given this guidance. Societies are being told to do things to try and reduce the number of mosquitoes, remove standing water, make sure there's plenty of insect repellant.

This is a unique situation. This particular virus is not something this part of the world has seen before. So we don't have immunity in our systems to sort of fight this. And that's part of the concern here. Obviously, these tragic stories of the pregnant women and children with birth defects, Microcephaly, in particular, they're trying to get a handle on the situation right now.

BOLDUAN: So, Sanjay, here in the U.S., there have been about 31 cases reported in the U.S. so far. How concerned are health officials about it in the U.S.?

GUPTA: You know, I think there's a level of concern more so for people who are traveling to places where --


GUPTA: -- so the 31 cases were all people who traveled to one of these places, came back and were subsequently diagnosed. There is no evidence that it's spreading within the United States. And that's really the thing they look for.

I'll give one example. For reference sake, you look at something like dengue fever, also spread by mosquitoes, a similar virus. And we do hear cases of dengue in the United States, but it was never the explosive spreading that you saw in some of the other countries around the world. So very different.

And I think Zika could behave the same way. We will see it probably in the United States, it may spread to the United States. But more like dengue, more in pockets in certain areas as opposed to widespread.

BERMAN: I know this is a huge concern in Central and South America. South America, of course, Brazil, hosting the Olympics coming up this summer. Is there a reason to be worried about that, Sanjay?

GUPTA: I think they have to figure out -- like, keep in mind, most people who get an infection with this will have little or no symptoms. 80 percent of people will have no symptoms whatsoever. They won't even know they had been infected with this. So for the vast majority of people, this is not going to be a concern. People who do get symptoms, they tend to be more like flu-like symptoms, joint pain, redness in the eyes, things like that. For pregnant women, though, and unless there's other guidance between now and then, that's going to be of concern. Pregnant women specifically women in their first trimester of pregnancy, who may be traveling to that country for the Olympics, hopefully, they'll be updated guidance, but right now the guidance seems to be don't come here unless you need to be here for some reason. So if you're pregnant. So we'll have to wait and see on that a little bit. But that's going to be the biggest population of people affected.

BOLDUAN: Wow. Absolutely. All right, Sanjay, a lot more to be learned about this, for sure. But pretty alarming statement coming out from the World Health Organization today.

Great to see you, Sanjay. Thank you so much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: And before we go, we do want to remind you of more breaking news. The French police have arrested a man at Disneyland outside of Paris near the entrance of a hotel in the amusement park. We're told he was carrying two handguns, ammunition and a Koran. He is now in custody. A lot more to be learned there. We're going to have more details as they come in.

Thank you guys so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.