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New Presidential Poll Numbers; Supreme Fight; Scalia Conspiracies; New CNN/ORC Poll: Black Voters Strongly Backing Clinton in S.C.; Trump Responds to Obama Criticism; Handling of Scalia's Death Fuels Conspiracy Theories. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 16, 2016 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: firing on two fronts, President Obama vowing to pick a replacement for the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and insisting the Senate must consider his nominee. He is also weighing in strongly on the race for the White House. Why he is suddenly laying into Republican front-runner Donald Trump?

Supreme conspiracies? Questions swirling the death of Justice Scalia and the way Texas authorities handled it. Unusual circumstances, unorthodox procedures are fueling wild theories out there. Why do some believe that Scalia did not die of natural causes?

Poll position. Our new exclusive survey showing Donald Trump riding a commanding lead into the South Carolina primary, far out in front of his rivals. But our polls also reveals a potential weakness for the front-runner. Why did those numbers fall in the wake of the last presidential debate?

And Russian bombing. Civilians are slaughtered in attacks on hospitals and schools inside Syria. U.S. officials are blaming Russia for the strikes, but will Moscow face any real consequences?

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, President Obama vowing to nominate what he says will be a very well-qualified candidate to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The president speaking just moments ago saying the Constitution clearly states his responsibility and the Senate's as well.

The president also speaking out about the White House and the Republican front-runner Donald Trump, saying flatly he doesn't believe that Trump will be the president of the United States.

And there is more breaking news in the race for the White House. Our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton leading their respective races in South Carolina by double digits. The state's Republican primary coming up this Saturday. Trump, meanwhile, is holding a rally in South Carolina that is about to get under way. We're standing by to hear from the Republican front- runner.

Will he weigh in on the Supreme Court controversy? We're covering all that and much more this hour with our guests, including Trump campaign national spokeswoman Katrina Pierson. And our correspondents and expert analysts, they are also standing by.

Let's begin with the standoff between President Obama and Republicans over filling the seat of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His casket to lie in repose in the United States Supreme Court on Friday, with a funeral now scheduled for Saturday.

Our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, has the very latest on the breaking news.

Pamela, the president says the Constitution is very clear on the process.


The president staked out a tough position today, saying there is no unwritten law precluding him from picking a Supreme Court nominee in an election year and he said he expects Senate Republicans to do their part and vote on his nominee.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be the opportunity for senators to do their job. Your job doesn't stop until you're voted out. I intend to my job between now and January 20 of 2017. I expect them to do their job as well.

BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Obama sending a strong message to Senate Republicans. He will nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, no matter what.

OBAMA: I am going to present somebody who indisputably is qualified for the seat, and any fair-minded person, even somebody who disagreed with my politics, would say would serve with honor and integrity on the court.

BROWN: Senate Republicans are vowing to block any nominee until a new president is in office. Presidential campaign Marco Rubio weighed in from the campaign trail today.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our next president is going to choose not just a replacement for Justice Scalia, but at least two other Supreme Court justices possibly. We know this because at least three of the justices are near 80 years of age.

So, we know that eventually they will have to retire, or something will happen.

BROWN: Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley he has not made up his mind about whether there will be confirmation hearings for any potential candidate.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions, in other words, take it a step at the time.

BROWN: Democratic leaders came out in full force to defend the president's position. Minority Leader Harry Reid warned in a scathing op-ed Republicans risk being -- quote -- "remembered as the most nakedly partisan, obstructionist and irresponsible majority in history."


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also chimed in, firing off 11 tweets, calling any vow to block President Obama's nominee as disgraceful. The White House is expected to announce a nominee within a month.

OBAMA: I intend to nominate somebody, to present them to the American people, to present them to the Senate. I expect them to hold hearings. I expect there to be a vote.


BROWN: And we have learned the White House has already been whittling down a list of potential nominees.

But, today, the president gave no hint of who is on that short list and he said people should not make any assumptions, Wolf, that he will pick a moderate.

BLITZER: He was very forceful on those issues, indeed. All right, thanks very much, Pamela, for that.

In that news conference only moments ago, the president did not shy away from commenting on the 2016 race for the White House, both on the Democratic side and the Republican side.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. She is traveling with the president and she's in Rancho Mirage, California, for us right now.

The president was pretty blunt on those issues as well, Michelle.


This was unexpected, delivering this withering criticism, not only of Donald Trump in particular this time, but expanded that out to stable of Republican candidates. The president periodically, he doesn't waste an opportunity to criticize Republicans, but he usually does not mention any names.

In this case, though, he was asked directly about Donald Trump, and so he used criticism of him to criticize everybody else, saying that what Donald Trump has said about Muslims, about immigration, about climate change are what the other candidates believe, just slamming what these candidates stand for and how they stand for it.

The words that the president chose, saying this is not supposed to be a reality show or promotion, he used the word pandering, saying this is serious. The president is somebody who sends people to war and has the nuclear codes. Listen.


OBAMA: I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president. And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people.

And I think they recognize being president is a serious job. It's not hosting a talk show or a reality show. It's not promotion. It's not marketing. It's hard. And a lot of people count on us getting it right.


BROWN: Now, on the Democrats, it was just the opposite. Instead of criticizing everybody, he was asked about Bernie Sanders, but took the opportunity to compliment both candidates. Listen.


OBAMA: I know Hillary better than I know Bernie because she served in my administration and she was an outstanding secretary of state.

And, you know, I suspect that on certain issues, she agrees with me more than Bernie does. On the other hand, there may be a couple of issues where Bernie agrees with me more.


BROWN: Very diplomatic there. I mean, this did not amount to any ringing endorsement of Hillary Clinton, even though he has complimented her pretty effusively in the past.

But the White House and the president have said he is not going to endorse somebody right now. He appreciates the debate, but he is going to let it play as it is for now without him being in the middle of it there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He noted that is presidential politics during this primary season. All right, thanks very much, Michelle, for that.

As the president weighs in on the 2016 primary campaigns, we have some new poll numbers from South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary in just four days.

Our exclusive CNN/ORC survey shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each leading their respective fields by double digits. On the Republican side, Trump is 16 points ahead of his closest rival, Ted Cruz. Marco Rubio in third place, followed by Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson and the Ohio governor, John Kasich.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us. Dana, what jumps out at you with these numbers?


They should be the natural constituency for Ted Cruz, but Donald Trump is crushing Ted Cruz on the question of evangelical support. Look at that; 42 percent of evangelicals, white evangelicals say that they will back Donald Trump in the South Carolina primary. Only 23 percent say Ted Cruz.

Remember, it was Ted Cruz's support among evangelicals, Wolf, that got him the win in the Iowa caucuses.

BLITZER: Now, most of the poll was taken before the Saturday night Republican presidential debate, although some of it was taken afterwards. And there seems to be a bit of a shift.

BASH: There could be, and I will explain why I'm saying could like that in a minute. But look at the numbers that you're referring to. Pre-debate, Donald Trump 40 percent, 40 percent, but, afterwards, 31 percent.


So, again, this was a poll taken over a span of four days, and this is pre-debate, post-debate. Now, the reason why I'm a little bit cautious in saying that that is an actual major plummet for Donald Trump is because the sample size is rather small when you're talking about those two days. And it's about an 8 percent margin of error.

We're not entirely sure that that is going to continue to be a trend, but it's certainly something that we will watch and obviously the Trump campaign will.

BLITZER: As I said, most of the candidates was done before the debate, so you can't really get an accurate sample just after the debate, although it could be potentially a bit indicative.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: On the Democratic side, let me put the numbers up.

We see the Democrat choice for nominee, Hillary Clinton 56 percent in South Carolina, 38 percent for Bernie Sanders. She is still dominating big-time.

BASH: She is dominating big-time.

And most importantly there has been so much of a discussion about race and about how minority voters are going to go, whether they're going to go for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Well, at least in South Carolina, where the Clinton campaign is hoping it will be their Southern firewall, she is doing quite well with African-American voters. Take a look at the numbers there. With whites, she's got 40 percent, but blacks, 65 percent to Bernie Sanders' 28 percent. So that is very, very good news for Hillary Clinton in a place, Wolf, where the black vote is about 50 percent of the Democratic electorate. We're talking about South Carolina. So that is good news.

Another piece of good news is people who say that she cares about the middle class, the vast majority say they choose her over Bernie Sanders, which is kind of interesting, considering the fact that that has been one of Bernie Sanders' calling cards.

BLITZER: An 18-point lead for Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, obviously, that is welcome news for her campaign.

Thanks very much, Dana, for that.

Let's get some more on the Republican race right now. It's more heated. It's getting uglier than ever tonight, as the candidates step up their attacks on each other.

Also tonight, even the president of the United States is weighing in.

Sunlen Serfaty is joining us now from South Carolina.

Sunlen, we're waiting to hear if Donald Trump will respond to President Obama. I suspect he will after taking hits from his opponents today as well. What is the latest?


Well, Donald Trump not just taking blows from President Obama tonight, but a new blow from Ted Cruz, who just released a new five-minute Web review attacking his record on abortion, the Republican race quickly turning into an all-out bloodbath.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ted holds up the Bible and then he lies about so many things. These are lies.

SERFATY (voice-over): Tonight, all-out war erupting in the Republican presidential race, and Donald Trump is leading the charge.

TRUMP: This guy is so strident and so nasty, he's going to lose every single state.

SERFATY: Trump and Marco Rubio accelerating their full-scale attack on Ted Cruz, accusing the Texas senator of being a liar.

TRUMP: I have never seen a human being lie so much. He lies about everything. He will take your record. Like, I talk to you about Obamacare, he will say Trump loves Obamacare. How do you fight that? The guys he says loves Obamacare. I hate Obamacare.

SERFATY: Rubio and Trump claim Cruz is distorting their records on a litany of issues, same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration, and health care to raise questions about their conservative credentials.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's lying and I think it's disturbing. I said that at the debate. He's now literally just making things up.

SERFATY: And Trump is stoking the fire even more, doubling down on a potential lawsuit against the Canadian-born Cruz over his eligibility to be president, unless Cruz backs off and apologizes.

TRUMP: I'm thinking about it very seriously.

SERFATY: Cruz today defiant, releasing this new Web video spending five minutes straight to camera attacking Trump's abortion record.

CRUZ: Donald Trump spent most of his adult life prior to this election enthusiastically pro-abortion, even for partial-birth abortion, if you can believe it.

SERFATY: But there's more to this Southern brawl.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: South Carolina politics is rough and tumble for sure.

SERFATY: Jeb Bush today hammering Trump's temperament.

BUSH: I will be a commander in chief, not an agitator in chief, not a blowhard in chief.

SERFATY: Jeb Bush today mocking Trump.

BUSH: It's like, in debate preparation, you all might find this interesting. The conclusion is, when you debate a guy like Trump, you have to have the last word, because he is a bully.

And you just have to keep talking through it. It's not a skill set I ever envisioned being necessary to aspire to the presidency of the United States. But I have gotten better at it.

SERFATY: And dismissing Rubio's claim that he has the best foreign policy credentials in the GOP field.

BUSH: Having dealt with world leaders is a far better experience than going to some committee hearing at the Foreign Relations Committee or something like that.


SERFATY: And Donald Trump just responded to that Cruz Web video attacking his record on abortion. He calls it a smear and goes on to defend his past stance on abortion, saying -- quote -- "Like Ronald Reagan, on many issues, I have evolved." That's from Donald Trump. "I am pro-life and have been for a long time" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sunlen, thanks very much.

[18:15:03] I want to get some more on all of this.

Trump campaign national spokeswoman Katrina Pierson is joining us.

Katrina, thanks very much for joining us.

I want to get your immediate reaction to what we just heard the president say about Donald Trump. He said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- but almost quoting him almost exactly -- he said, I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president, because I faith in the American people.

He says this is a serious job, not for promotion or marketing. He doesn't believe that an entertainer should be the next president of the United States.

KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: Well, you know, Wolf, I find that quite comical, considering how his entire campaign was basically theatrical.

But I will say this. If he believes that Donald Trump will not be president, why is he spending so much time campaign against him? I think what we're seeing now, the Hillary Clinton super PAC team is worried now that Donald Trump is going to be the candidate.

We see the crowds that Mr. Trump is drawing from a broad spectrum, including Blue Dog Democrats and minorities. They are very fearful that South Carolina is going to deliver Donald Trump as the GOP nominee, and they are prepared and they're worried. And they should be.

BLITZER: He basically said Donald Trump is a reality show host. He says the president of the United States has control over nuclear codes, whether 21-year-olds will go to war, the future of the banking system in the United States, the safety of other friendly allies.

He doesn't think Mr. Trump has that capability.

PIERSON: But all of those things, Wolf, are exactly why so many people are supporting Donald Trump in this country. And, you know, these same attacks were leveled against Ronald Reagan because he was a Hollywood actor and they didn't want to trust him with the codes. And he turned out to be quite a conservative president, particularly in wartime.

So, what I will also say is Donald Trump's commitment is to the American family and the people of this country, no more globalist banks calling the shots, no more transnational multi-corporations calling the shots here in this country.

We are facing very serious consequences if we do not elect someone that puts this country first. Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate that did not support Obama's fast-track of those secret trade deals. And in South Carolina specifically, things like NAFTA, which eliminated one-third of the manufacturing jobs, all those candidates supported it. Donald Trump is for the American people. South Carolinians know it. And that is why, in your own poll, it shows.

BLITZER: He is way ahead in the South Carolina right now in our brand-new poll.

Katrina, stand by. We have a lot more to discuss, much more right after a quick break.



BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump.

You're looking at live pictures coming in from South Carolina right now. He is going to be making another speech. I assume he is going to be getting -- we're going to get direct reaction from him to what we just heard from President Obama as well.

In our new CNN/ORC poll, by the way, it shows him with 16 points ahead with just days to go until the state's Republican primary. There, you see 38 percent for Trump, 22 percent for Cruz, 14 percent for Rubio, 10 percent for Bush.

Katrina Pierson is still with us. She's the national campaign spokeswoman for the Trump campaign.

Katrina, let's take a closer look at these numbers. I want to get your reaction. You see he's way ahead in this poll right now. Most of the poll was done before the presidential debate. Those are the overall numbers, but some of the poll was done after.

If you take a look at the response before and after, his numbers went down after the debate, a smaller sample, but still 40 percent before, 31 percent afterwards. Cruz went down from 22 to 21. Rubio went down from 15 to 11. The only ones who basically went up at least a bit, Carson went from 4 to 11, Jeb Bush, you can see, is still 10. But there is a big sampling error in that number.

What is your reaction? Was he too tough in that presidential debate?

PIERSON: No, I don't think he was too tough, Wolf.

I think he was a little bit feisty. He is being attacked from all angles. He was just simply defending himself. And I will say this. The poll also showed that half the voters have not quite made up their mind. So, what we're seeing is a shift going back and forth and who to support.

We saw in New Hampshire, the undecided voters broke heavily for Mr. Trump. I suspect the same thing will happen, because at the end of the day, we are dealing with some very serious issues and we're going to need a candidate that is committed to people of this country.

BLITZER: I know when other candidates go after him, he responds in kind.

But his criticizing former President Bush because of 9/11, because of the Iraq War, is he going too far? Is that a political mistake?

PIERSON: No, not at all.

And I like to point out exactly what he said. You have the other side, the other candidates saying he was blaming George Bush. But that is not what he said. He said that George Bush didn't keep us safe. And there are thousands of families that would agree with that right now, because when we look at the term safe, Donald Trump launched his entire campaign on immigration, on border security.

And that is what Mr. Trump is talking about, because none of those things were in place when George Bush was president, things that could have kept the hijackers from coming out. And, by the way, Wolf, those hijackers who came into this country from hostile nations on visas trained in Florida under Jeb Bush's watch. There is something to be said for that.

BLITZER: We also heard Donald Trump complaining about the Republican National Committee. He says they're not necessarily honoring the pledge he signed.

If he feels he is not getting the support he wants, might he actually leave the Republican Party?

PIERSON: Well, I think ultimately that is going to be his decision.

But I do think it's fair to continue to point out to the voters of the Republican Party what the RNC is doing, whether it's stacking the debates or trying to capitalize off of his presence in this campaign.

But I will say it's very important that Republican primary voters know that the RNC is still trying to push the establishment over their own choice, because that has also been a fundamental theme in why that the Republican Party voters have been so upset with the party.


BLITZER: All right, Katrina, thanks very much, Katrina Pierson, the national campaign spokeswoman for the Trump campaign.

PIERSON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, Hillary Clinton courting African-American voters ahead of the South Carolina primary. How strongly are they backing her? We have exclusive new poll numbers.

Plus, the conspiracy theories sparked by the death of the Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, they are being fueled tonight by some unusual moves by Texas officials. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Donald Trump is now responding to President Obama. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at our budgets.

You look at our spending. We can't beat ISIS. Obamacare is terrible; we're going to terminate it. We're going to absolutely terminate it and replace it. I mean, you look at everything. Our borders are like Swiss cheese. This man has done such a bad job, he has set us back so far, and for him to say that actually is a great compliment, if you want to know the truth.

And we just got a call on the coming over. The bridge is, like, packed just so you understand. We were, like, in that car a long time. But we just gave -- one of the major networks called, and they wanted to respond. And I said, "You're lucky I didn't run the last time when Romney ran, because you would have been a one-term president." That was my statement to him.

And you know, I was backing McCain when he ran, and you know, frankly that was going to be a tough one to win, because a lot of things were going wrong. For a Republican to win that one was tough, in all fairness to John McCain.

We should have won the Romney one, because we had a failed president. We had a country that was failing. And we should have won that one. So I backed Romney; I backed McCain; both lost. And this is what I said very simply. I said, "We're going to do it ourselves. We're going to do it right. We're going to win. We're not going to take this stuff anymore. We're going to do it right, and we're going to make America great again."

You know, our whole theme is make America great again. And that's what the whole deal is. We're going to make America great again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, Mr. Trump, we've been fighting radical Islam for a long time. The Khobar Towers, the bombings of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania and in Kenya, 1990. And in 1998, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. If Donald Trump had been president in 1998 instead of Bill Clinton, what would you have done?

TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think the World Trade Center would be standing, I will tell you, because if you read my book "The America We Deserve," I have a whole, you know, paragraph or two about Osama bin Laden. And one of the big hosts of one of the shows said, "I don't believe it. You know, Trump was talking about Osama bin Laden two years before the World Trade Center came down."

Now, I wasn't even a politician. I was a businessperson, like a lot of you people. And -- but I've always been very interested and fascinated by it.

And I saw this guy and I watched this guy. I read about him, and I said he's trouble. He's big trouble. And believe me, I would have done something about it.

The other thing is the terrorists that knocked down the buildings, if you look, the terrorists that knocked down those buildings were in Florida and different places, and they were all working on flying and working on different things. If that had happened with me, it wouldn't have happened with me. We would have had strong policies in place where they wouldn't have been here. They wouldn't have been in the country. Certainly, many of them wouldn't have been here. We would have somehow found a way to stop it.

As far as Clinton is concerned, he had a shot at Osama bin Laden. And I assume that's what your question really refers to. And he didn't take the shot. He had a shot at taking out -- I don't know if you know this. But they were telling him -- and for some reason, and he never explained it properly -- he didn't take out Osama bin Laden. And had he done that, you would have had the World Trade Center standing. You wouldn't have lost thousands.

I have friends to this day, they're -- they're dying. They've been dying for years with the problems of the World Trade Center and the coming down of the World Trade Center. So Clinton should have taken the shot. He -- he had everything going. And for some reason he decided not to. You'll have to ask him. Very sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, it's like we keep reading every day more and more scandals with the Department of Veterans Affairs. How does the Department of Veterans Affairs look under a Trump administration, and what do you do? What's the Trump plan to take care of the veterans?

TRUMP: So nobody has been treated with less respect than our veterans. And I really mean that. These are our greatest people. The wounded warriors, the veterans, these are our great people. And I mean, their attitude is incredible.

But you look at what's going on and you look at the suicide rate, which is record-setting in the history of our country. And so much of it has to do with the scandal of the Veterans Administration. And it's corrupt; it's incompetent. It's everything that can be bad about anything. It's everything that can be bad about government.

And President Obama hasn't done a damn thing. He's poured more money, but he has people running it that shouldn't be running anything. And we are going to make the Veterans Administration so good, so proper. It's going to be run so well. We've got some -- I've got some of the best people in the world to run it already. They're talking to me about it. We need great managers.

[18:35:05] But I'll tell you what we need. When a veteran is waiting in a waiting room for six days and can't get a doctor and ends up dying, you know, it's a lot of them -- you talk about a suicide. A lot of them wait for doctors, and they die before they get to see a doctor, for what could be a simple procedure, what could be a prescription. And this is what's happening.

We are going to give them the right. And I cover this very strongly, very, very strongly in my -- in my -- you know, we put in policy and it's covered. I think it's very simple, actually. But they are going to be able to go outside to private doctors, private hospitals, public hospitals, wherever they have to go. Because different places have different -- different ways of making you better. And we will pay for it and it's going to be a really good system. It's going to be less expensive, and they're going to end up getting greater service. And we're going to make a determination.

But it's something that's so simple. This is something that's so simple that I can't believe it hasn't been done. But they are going to get great service immediate on the spot. Folks, they're waiting four, five and six days. Can you imagine yourselves put in that position? If I have to wait 12 minutes for a doctor I'm like, "What's going on here?" These people are waiting.

And you know, sometimes they get there; and the doctors are there. The doctor leaves or they go on vacation. They go home. We can't let it happen to our veterans. We have to take care of our veterans and we're going to take care of them really well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Douglas McArthur once said there is no substitute for victory. Our current president seems to favor containment. What is your view?

TRUMP: Well, I think -- I'm always talking about McArthur and Patton, and the great generals, the relatively modern-day generals. These were great people, and we have people like that. When you go to the West Point, when you go to Annapolis or the Air Force Academy, we have these incredible young people there growing and growing and growing. And we have them all throughout our armed services. We have such talent that it's amazing. But we're not using our talent.

And we're also not running it with the generals. We're running it through the White House. We're at a war. And we're -- I mean, I've known many cases, and I'm hearing about them all the time where we're ready to knock out the enemy, and they get a call, "Do not do it. Do not do it."

Look, we're in a war where people are cutting off the heads of Christians and everybody else. This is like Medieval times. We're dealing in Medieval times. If you remember the date -- the debate from just before the last one, where they were talking about torture, and they were talking about waterboarding, and they asked Ted Cruz, who I think is totally unfit to be president, but these are minor details. I really mean that. I think this guy -- a senator just came out today, a senator from Oklahoma who's a very highly-respected senator, says he's one of the most dishonest people he's ever worked with. A hell of a statement. I've never even heard a statement like that. And a respected, one of the most respected senators.

But if you look at all the -- you know, the different things we have to do, we have to get back and we have to get back on line and we have do it right.

We're not doing things right anymore. We're not winning anymore. We don't have our right people anymore. We have great -- I love General Douglas McArthur. He's always been somebody I've studied and I respect. General George Patton.

We have to win. We have to beat ISIS. Again, it's like we're living in Medieval times. We're living in Medieval times. We never heard -- James Foley, all of a sudden, you heard a head chopped off. We haven't -- I don't think anybody's ever heard of that before. Now all of a sudden, it's routine. You see them dropping cages in the ocean and pulling them back up half an hour later, steel cages. We've got to do it.

I was against -- I should get points for vision, because I was totally against the war in Iraq, as you probably know, Van. But I was totally against the war in Iraq. I said it's going to destabilize the Middle East. And it totally destabilized it. And in 2003, 2004, they wrote about it. I would talk about it before that.

But again, I was -- you know, I was a businessman. I wasn't a politician. But I just said it's going to destabilize the Middle East. Well, it did. It did. And points doesn't matter -- you get points. But of all the people running I was the one that didn't want to do it, and I felt strongly about it.

Well, now the Middle East is destabilized. You have the migration. You look at Germany. You look at all of these countries. It's a disaster what's going on over there.

And by the way, we should build a safe zone in Syria. And we cannot take any people in this country. We have no idea where they come from. We have -- we have no idea where they come from. We can't vet them at all.

And you look at the migration, you look at all the young men, I mean, you look and there are so many young strong men. People talk about it. and very -- I mean, relatively few women and few children. This could be the ultimate Trojan horse. So we can't do it. Safe zone and get the Gulf states to pay for it. And I would lead that. Who's better at building than I am?

[18:40:10] But we cannot let these people come into the United states. One of the things that has happened is I have definitely been the focus on if you talk about illegal immigration. When I -- on June 16, I talked about illegal immigration. We're going to build a wall. We're going to have strong borders, and that sort of morphed into this, because here's another element of it, which is probably even a stronger element of it. You saw what happened with the two radicals that got -- they got radicalized. They're married. They killed 14 people, and these people gave them wedding parties and things. And they killed them. They walked in, they killed them. We cannot let this happen. We cannot let these people come in under any circumstances. It can't happen.

We have to have a strong country again. We have to be vigilant and we have to be smart. And if we're not vigilant and if we're not smart, we're going to have troubles like you've never seen before. Just look at what's happening over in Europe. It is a disaster.

BLITZER: Donald Trump continuing -- continuing to take some questions from the former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina. We're going to continue to monitor that. We'll get back to it. Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is with us. We're going to talk about all of this along with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; Republican strategist, our CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro. She's a good friend of Marco Rubio's and supporter of Jeb Bush's. Former Obama senior advisor, our CNN political commentator, Dan Pfeiffer.

All right, guys, take a quick thought for a moment. I want to take a quick break. Much more right after this.


[18:46:24] BLITZER: Breaking political news tonight: our exclusive new CNN/ORC poll showing Hillary Clinton with a commanding 18-point lead over Bernie Sanders in South Carolina. She leads 56-38 percent, a very impressive lead for Hillary Clinton.

Dan Pfeiffer, not only is she leading overall, but the African- Americans in the poll, likely Democratic voters, she's got 65 percent, Bernie Sanders, 28 percent -- more than 50 percent of the likely Democratic voters in South Carolina are African-American. This will be a big win for her if she continues to maintain this type of lead.

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. This is a critical state for her. I think the Clinton campaign should feel cautiously confident that the numbers of the African-Americans did not change after Bernie Sanders had his big victory in New Hampshire. In 2008, she was beating Barack Obama with African-Americans until Obama had his big win. So, the fact is, stability is good for Clinton.

BLITZER: And, look at this, Dana, among women in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton has 60 percent, Bernie Sanders only 33 percent. Very different situation than in New Hampshire. We saw the exit polls. Among men, she has 49 percent, 45 percent for Bernie Sanders. So, she's got a commanding lead.

The South was supposed to be her firewall, if you will. And if this holds up, that could be.


As Dan was saying, this is such an important state, not just for the delegates, but the psychological state of the Democratic.

You mentioned, as we talked about women, the African-American vote. Also the fact of the matter is that she is doing better than he is in South Carolina, he Bernie Sanders, on who would do a better job for me for the middle class. That's what Bernie Sanders -- that is a big part of what his campaign is all about. The fact that she's beating Bernie Sanders there is very good news.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, she did meet with civil rights leaders in New York today. She wants to make sure she maintains that edge over Bernie Sanders with minority voters. So, she's got a pretty good lock on that, at least for now. What does she need to do to change that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he's got to become better known. I mean, he is not very well known. He has almost no experience in the African-American community given the fact he is from Vermont, which I think is the whitest state in the union. So far, he hasn't made much progress, at least according to this poll. But we are just about to begin a run of a lot of states. And, you

know, now, it really is up to the voters. The conversation is starting to end. And the one of them that gets the most votes is going to win. I mean, it's really as simple as that.

BLITZER: And this issue of the Supreme Court is clearly going to be an issue over the next several months going forward.

Ana, how do you think it's going to play for the Republican candidates who are going to try to stop -- whoever President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court and how is it going to play for the Democrats out there?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you've seen how it's going to play. I think the last two days, three days, have told us how he's going to play. You're going to see Republicans say no way in hell, there is no way this is getting through and he shouldn't have nominated somebody. And you are going to see Democrats take outrage at that and say he is the president until January 20th, he's got every right and duty to nominate somebody and the Senate needs to do its job.

I frankly think Republicans need to be careful about this. I understand those running for president have their own personal agenda. But the folks in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, you know, I think it's a little premature before he's nominated anybody to say, hell no. Wait until he nominates somebody and find reasons to object.

BASH: But they're making it about the nominee, though. They're making it about the president.

[18:50:02] So, it's -- I mean, they can nominate anybody, and McConnell and the Republicans may have the same reaction.


NAVARRO: Maybe President Obama surprises all of us and nominate somebody that we all actually like.

BLITZER: Let me let Dan Pfeiffer weigh in.

You've been in the room when he's made these decisions. He's nominated and gotten confirmed two Supreme Court justices. Walk us through the process a little bit. What's going through his mind?

PFEIFFER: Well, I think, first and foremost, as you know, the president is a lawyer. He takes this incredibly seriously, as I think any president would, to make sure that you get the right person, because as much as almost any decision in the domestic spirit at least the president make, this one is around for decades.

And so, he's going to take this very seriously. He's going to look into the last two nominations, he was reading case law, reading decisions, looking at this very carefully. And he'll do that here.

And I will say, I agree that the Republicans made a tactical mistake by opposing the idea of even a nomination, as opposed to waiting until there's an actual nominee. Because this is kind of a layup for Democrats, if the argument is just going to be, just do your job over the next many months.

BLITZER: Are there political calculations going through his mind as well, in addition to the constitutional responsibility he has?

PFEIFFER: Well, I think there are confirmation considerations. You want to make sure you nominate someone -- you want the best, qualified justice you can find who can get confirmed. So either you look at that, you look at to see how they would perform through the confirmation process, what kind of support could they have, what sort of validation will they get from the other side of the aisle, all those things would go into.

So, I wouldn't say it's political, in terms of you're trying to influence the politics, as you're looking at the confirmation prospect of your nominees.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by.

We have a lot more coming up.

Just ahead, the way Texas responded to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia giving rise to some really wild theories out there. Why some are insisting that he did not necessarily die of natural causes.


[18:56:27] BLITZER: The unexpected death of Antonin Scalia spawning some really wild conspiracy theories out there.

Let's bring in Brian Todd.

Brian, tell us what's going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today, we've spoken to a former D.C. homicide investigator who says he thinks there was something strange going on in Texas after Justice Scalia was found death. From that former police officer's take to conspiracy theories, which range far and wide, there are a lot of questions swirling around tonight over Justice Scalia's death, and most of it is due to the peculiar nature of how it was handled at the scene.


TODD (voice-over): The sudden death of a senior associate justice of the Supreme Court and what some see as the bizarre handling of it afterward are leaving lingering questions. After Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead in this room at a Texas ranch on Saturday, it reportedly took hours to find someone to pronounce him dead. Finally, when local Texas judge Cinderella Guevara said justice Scalia died of natural causes, she did it by telephone, without seeing the body and without ordering an autopsy. That's allowed under Texas law.

Judge Guevara told "The Washington Post" she said she made her determination only after talking to investigators on the scene who said they saw nothing suspicious. And tonight, a U.S. law enforcement source tells CNN there were no signs of foul play.

Still, some are critical, given Scalia's high profile.

WILLIAM O. RITCHIE, FORMER DC HOMICIDE COMMANDER: Well, I don't think a very good job was done with the death investigation.

TODD: Former Washington, D.C. homicide commander, William Ritchie, believes Justice Scalia did die of natural causes, but he says Judge Guevara or a medical examiner should have been there in person to pronounce Justice Scalia dead. He says there were things investigators should have looked for at the scene.

RITCHIE: If they'd looked for signs of particular hemorrhage in the eyes and in the lips and smelling the breath for any unusual type of odor, removing the underclothing to see whether there was any trauma anywhere on the body, any injection sites, and there's no indication that any of that was done.

TODD: Checking for those traces of hemorrhage or odor, Ritchie says, could have told investigators if Justice Scalia was suffocated or poisoned.

Conspiracy theories fueled by comments made by the owner of the Cibolo Creek Ranch. John Poindexter told a Texas newspaper Justice Scalia was found with a pillow over his head.

Donald Trump weighed in.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a horrible topic, but they said they found the pillow on his face which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.

TODD: John Poindexter now tells CNN, quote, "The pillow was against the headboard and over his head when he was discovered. He looked like someone who had had a restful night's sleep. There was no evidence of anything else."

Law professor Jonathan Turley doesn't believe there was anything suspicious about Justice Scalia's death, but said more answers are needed.

JONATHAN TURLEY, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: You have a Supreme Court justice who passes away, you don't have the same leeway, the same ability to make assumptions. You have to be held accountable to the public and to history. That's why an autopsy should have been done.


TODD: Texas Judge Cinderella Guevara told "The Washington Post" she spoke to Justice Scalia's doctor who she says told that he suffered from several chronic conditions. The Scalia family which asked that no autopsy be done did not respond to CNN's request for comment on why they made that request -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right. I'm sure the conspiracy theories will continue.

TODD: They will.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.

Remember, you can always follow us on Twitter, please tweet me @WolfBlitzer, you can always tweet the show @CNNSitroom. Please be sure to join us again right here tomorrow in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for watching.

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