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Cruz Challenges Trump to Follow Through with Lawsuit; South Carolina Governor to Endorse Rubio; Cruz: New Poll Shows 'We're in First Place'; Democratic Race Dead Heat in Nevada; Apple Fighting Order to Unlock Terrorist's iPhone. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 17, 2016 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, sue me. Senator Ted Cruz dares Donald Trump to follow through on threats to file a defamation lawsuit because of ads Cruz is running in South Carolina. We're standing by for a Trump rally. We expect to hear directly from him. He will return fire, no doubt. Senator Cruz gets his own chance to fire back during tonight's CNN Republican presidential town hall.

Haley's comet. We're standing by for what could be a major turning point in the 2016 campaign. Senator Marco Rubio about to pick up the endorsement of South Carolina's very popular Republican governor, Nikki Haley. Will that be Rubio's ticket to the Republican -- Republican establishment's inside lane?

Nevada's dead heat. Our brand-new CNN poll shows Hillary Clinton's once big lead has evaporated. Is Senator Bernie Sanders about to punch a hole in Clinton's firewall with minority voters?

And Apple cipher. A judge orders Apple to break into an encrypted iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Apple says no. A bigger is now at stake. Should the government have access to the private information on anyone's phone, including yours?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories in the presidential race. Any moment now we expect Donald Trump to respond to today's extraordinary attack from Senator Ted Cruz. They're fighting over Cruz ads using Trump's own words against him. Trump is threatening to sue. Today Cruz said, "Go ahead. You'll lose."

We're also waiting for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to announce she's endorsing Senator Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination. It's a huge blow to Jeb Bush. And it makes tonight's CNN Republican presidential town hall even more important. Senators Cruz and Rubio, along with Dr. Ben Carson, will be taking voters' questions.

Our correspondents, analysts and guests, they will have full coverage of all the day's top stories. Let's begin with today's dramatic breaking news in the Republican presidential race. CNN's Sara Murray is covering Donald Trump, who's about to begin a

campaign event there. So what is the Trump campaign, Sara, saying about the senator's defiant news conference today?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, time will tell, Teddy. That is the message the Trump campaign is sending to Ted Cruz about whether Trump will, in fact, file a lawsuit. All of this as the fight for the Republican nomination is starting to look more and more like a court battle.


MURRAY (voice-over): Today Donald Trump upped the ante in a pitched battle with Ted Cruz.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Really, Cruz does lie. I've never seen anything quite like it.

MURRAY: And Cruz was ready.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald's lawyer sent our campaign a cease-and-desist letter. You have been threatening frivolous lawsuits for your entire adult life. If you want to file a lawsuit challenging this ad, claiming it is defamation, file the lawsuit.

TRUMP: Very pro-choice.

MURRAY: Campaigning in military-rich South Carolina today, Trump defended the use of torture.

TRUMP: Torture works, OK, folks? Don't you know, I have these guys. Torture doesn't work, OK? Believe me, it works. OK? And waterboarding is your minor form.

MURRAY: And spent even more time tearing into Cruz.

TRUMP: I'm pro-life, and he'll say I'm pro-choice. And I got a call from a reporter: "I hear you're pro-choice."

I said, "Who told you that?"


"Cruz? How can a guy be so dishonest?"

MURRAY: While Cruz made it clear he has no plans to drop his attacks, highlighting Trump's shifting positions.

CRUZ: One of the things I look forward to most of all is deposing Donald Trump. I may take the deposition myself. Getting Donald Trump under oath, under penalty of perjury, answering these questions. Well, I'll point out it didn't work out very well for Bill Clinton.

MURRAY: All of this as the latest polls show Trump with a double- digit lead in the next two nominating states, South Carolina and Nevada. Cruz is also hitting Marco Rubio.

CRUZ: Whenever anyone points to their actual record, the response of both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio is to yell the word "liar." Marco Rubio is behaving like Donald Trump with a smile.

MURRAY: As Rubio dismisses Cruz's jabs.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we've seen in the last few weeks is very disturbing. That he is willing to say or do anything to get elected.

MURRAY: Rubio today is getting a big boost to his South Carolina hopes, picking up a coveted endorsement from the state's Republican governor, Nikki Haley.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush is searching for an opening to revive his campaign, making the case that his experience trumps Rubio's in a fight to be the next commander in chief.

With all due respect, Senator Rubio, your four years or five years or whatever it is as senator does not match up to my capabilities of understanding how the world works.


[17:05:05] MURRAY: Now, even though Donald Trump is far ahead here in South Carolina, he wants to ensure a victory, and he is continuing to lay into Ted Cruz here at the event tonight. He's just talking about how the senator tells fibs, tells lies. Trump just said politicians are bad people, summing up his outsider status right there for you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sara. Thanks very much. We can hear Donald Trump speaking right behind you. We're monitoring what he's saying. Once he gets to the substance, once he starts responding to Senator Ted Cruz, we're going to go there live. So stand by. Right now he's talking about other campaign issues.

Let's get some more, though, right now on the breaking news that Sara just mentioned. Senator Marco Rubio about to receive a huge endorsement from South Carolina's very popular Republican governor, Nikki Haley.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is on the scene for us. Dana, what are you hearing? Why did Nikki Haley all of a sudden decide to endorse Rubio?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's actually unclear whether or not it's really all of a sudden in terms of her decision, but obviously, this is, you know, pretty close to the primary day when it comes to the announcement and the potential impact.

First of all, on why. They are very similar in terms of their heritage. She is a daughter of immigrants. He is a son of immigrants so they have similar stories rather than heritage, I could say. They're both 44 years old, and they have similar sensibilities in terms of their conservatism and their approach to the party, the need for and desire for the next generation to take over.

And the other interesting part of this is that Nikki Haley is incredibly, incredibly popular in South Carolina, so you may think, well, wait a minute. If she knows she has a lot of power, knows she has potential impact with her constituents, with Republican voters, why wait so long?

Well, Wolf, by South Carolina standards, even though we're just a couple of days away from the primary, it actually is not that unusual, because the campaigns want to do this when you have maximum impact. They believe that Marco Rubio is on the rise, that he's got momentum here in South Carolina. And so they're hoping that this gives him a boost at a time when, actually, a lot of South Carolina Republicans are still making up their mind, even though we're just days away from the primary, Wolf.

BLITZER: And as you know, she had made it clear she was not going to endorse Donald Trump. She has been quite critical of Trump. But I know that her fellow governor, former governor Jeb Bush was really anxious to get her endorsement. It must be a huge disappointment for all of the other Republican candidates, those not named Trump.

BASH: That's right. In fact Jeb Bush has already spoken about this, even before Nikki Haley has gone out and formally endorsed. Let's listen to what Jeb Bush said just a short while ago on the trail.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: She's a great person. I'm disappointed she didn't endorse me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think it means...


BUSH: We'll find out.



BASH: So you say -- you see there he said he's disappointed. And that's probably the biggest understatement of the day, Wolf. Because when it comes to South Carolina and the goals for these Republican candidates coming out of South Carolina, there is such a battle royale between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in particular.

If Jeb Bush doesn't best Rubio, doesn't come in ahead of him, it's going to be a big blow to him in South Carolina for a whole host of reasons. But that's why the Haley endorsement was something that he was coveting as well, hoping it would help. But Haley is going to be on the campaign trail starting at 6 p.m. tonight.

In about an hour, that's when she's going to make the formal endorsement with Marco Rubio. And I'm told by a source familiar with the plans that she is going to be on the trail with him by his side pretty much from then until primary day, Wolf.

BLITZER: She's often been mentioned as a potential Republican vice- presidential running mate. She's very popular indeed among Republicans out there.

All right, Dana, we'll have live coverage of her announcement, and that's a big event for Marco Rubio, so we'll stand by for that. Dana, thank you.

We're only hours away now from hearing more from senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio along with Dr. Ben Carson. They'll be taking questions directly from South Carolina voters at a CNN Republican presidential town hall moderated by our own Anderson Cooper.

Joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Republican National Committee's communications director Sean Spicer.

Sean, thanks very much for coming in. Nikki Haley is very popular.


BLITZER: Now, this is going to really -- I assume you agree. This endorsement will really help Marco Rubio.

SPICER: I think it's big for Senator Rubio, there's no question. I understand why Governor Bush would be disappointed. She's very popular among Republicans in her state, very popular overall, but also the breadth of her support is up and down, the type of Republicans from the Tea Party, the quote unquote, mainstream Republicans. She's done a great job in South Carolina, and there's no wonder that a lot of people coveted that endorsement.

[17:10:03] BLITZER: Tim Scott, one of the senators, he's endorsed Marco Rubio. Trey Gowdy, Republican congressman in South Carolina, has endorsed Marco Rubio. Lindsey Graham has endorsed Jeb Bush. There's a bit of a split, but it looks like it's going to be quite intense on Saturday.

SPICER: Right. And again, remember there's always that question of how much do endorsements matter. I think that if you're Senator Rubio, you've got all the right people lined up behind you. Obviously, Governor Bush has got Senator -- Senator Graham, but he also had his brother come in, the former president, who continues to be very popular.

And you know, you've got Mr. Trump out there who's done very, very well with the grassroots in South Carolina. So you've got a lot of folks that are doing well. And other folks still competing. Dr. Carson and Governor Kasich are both making a play for it, as well.

BLITZER: Have you seen this exchange today between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, threatening lawsuits on various issues, including where he was born in Canada, Cruz, on the whole issue that he's defaming Donald Trump with some of these anti-Trump ads the Cruz campaign is running? Have you ever seen it get this ugly this quickly?

SPICER: Well, I think 2008 between Hillary and Barack Obama...

BLITZER: It wasn't this ugly.

SPICER: There were accusations of racism. I think Bill Clinton mocked Jesse Jackson. I mean, so there has been clearly a point in the past where this is a point in the cycle where people really start to throw some elbows.

BLITZER: You work for the Republican National Committee. A lot of us remember all of these Republican candidates signed a pledge to the RNC saying they would support whoever the Republican nominee is. They wouldn't run independently if they didn't get the nomination.

But given the fact that Donald Trump says Ted Cruz is the biggest liar he's ever met and Ted Cruz says that Donald Trump is not really fit to be commander in chief, could you see these respective candidates eventually closing in and supporting each other?

SPICER: Again, look, if you go back to 2008, some of the nastiest things were said between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They went at it till June. And when they came out of it, they got together, they unified and they went on to victory and took the White House in November.

So look, if the name calling and the tweets is the extent to what it goes, I'll take that, because when you look at the other side, you've got the FBI talking about an investigation of Hillary Clinton, a potential indictment. Or Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old socialist that I think most mainstream Democrats would agree is not the direction that that party would ever really want to go.

So if the worst that's happening on the Republican side is tweets back and forth and some name calling, I think we can live with that.

BLITZER: It's not just tweets. I mean, they're making major speeches. You saw Ted Cruz today for half an hour really railing, bring it on, talking about the lawsuit and Donald Trump really railing against Ted Cruz. I mean, I covered 2008. I remember that exchange between Hillary Clinton, then-Senator Barack Obama. I don't remember any threats of lawsuits, and I don't remember either one of them calling each other liars.

SPICER: Well, they called each other some pretty bad names.

BLITZER: They didn't say they were unfit to be president of the United States.

SPICER: Well, I mean, look, again, at the end of the day, I'll take our guys going -- trading some barbs back and forth versus having the FBI look into our leading candidate. That's -- that's a no-brainer to us.

BLITZER: Stand by. We have more to discuss. Sean Spicer is with us. We're going to take a quick break. Once again, Donald Trump, he's speaking right now. We're monitoring

what he's saying. Once he gets into the chunk where he's talking about Ted Cruz or some of the other Republican candidates, we're going to go there. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

TRUMP: I couldn't help but do this. Well, China is doing that times 100.


BLITZER: The race for the Republican presidential nomination has become an all-out brawl. Just ahead of this Saturday's South Carolina primary. Tonight, senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with Dr. Ben Carson, they will be taking questions at a CNN town hall moderated by our own Anderson Cooper.

We have another town hall tomorrow night, featuring Governor John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump.

We're back with the Republican National Committee's communications director, Sean Spicer.

Sean, Donald Trump keeps complaining that at these Republican presidential debates you, the Republican Party, you've stacked the audience, put in a lot of pro-Bush people, pro-Rubio people or whatever. And he gets booed sometimes, and he says you don't allow any of his supporters in. Your reaction?

SPICER: Well, it's not a reaction. It's -- I think we've gotten out there and put the facts out. In the case of Charleston -- or excuse me, Greenville, South Carolina, where the last debate was, every candidate got 107 tickets. The party had just over 300, and we had ten donors there.

The numbers are what they are. I know, in the case of that particular debate, look, the campaigns wanted more tickets. We gave them more tickets to get their supporters in before this important primary.

And if you think about it, just the math alone, that meant that there were 500 people that were not with you, and 100 that were with you. Just if you look at what the other candidates' allotment were. And so by virtue of just how that plays out, there's going to be more volatility in the audience, more applause for other candidates that aren't the leading one.

BLITZER: Are you confident that all the Republican presidential candidates who signed that pledge to the Republican Party, including Donald Trump, will honor that pledge and support whoever gets the nomination and won't run as an independent third-party candidate?


BLITZER: Totally confident?

SPICER: One hundred percent.

BLITZER: Despite all the -- the language...

SPICER: Look, at the end of the day -- and this is both parties -- you come together. Our party understands what's at stake, especially after the unfortunate passing of Justice Scalia. There are Supreme Court justices that will alter the trajectory of this country if we don't have a Republican in the White House.

If we allow Hillary Clinton or, God forbid, Bernie Sanders to take over the White House, you know, that's a Supreme Court that's going to live on for a generation in terms of the things that can come. The economic consequences, the foreign policy consequences. Our party knows what's at stake if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders takes over. We will unify, come together and win in November.

BLITZER: You say God forbid if Bernie Sanders takes over?

SPICER: Well, I think that, look, this isn't a Democrat. This isn't a liberal Democrat. When somebody is an avowed socialist and is a leading candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination, that's a major problem.

[17:20:11] This is -- we prided ourselves in how this country was formed in terms of, you know, a capitalist society where people could come here and do better for themselves, grow individually, grow a family, grow a small business. And for someone to come in and take over the presidency of the United States as a socialist, that's -- that's, you know, unfathomable to me and I think millions of Americans.

BLITZER: He says he's a democratic socialist, and he would pattern his policies on Denmark or Sweden, some of the Scandinavian countries.

SPICER: That's great. But I think for most Americans, whether you call it Democratic socialism or socialism or whatever way you want to dress it up, I don't think it takes, you know, a Band-Aid to find out what's really underneath there.

BLITZER: Do you think he really has a chance to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination? Because I know the Republican leadership has assumed all along that it was a lock for Hillary Clinton.

SPICER: Well, look, I think with the recent revelations that the FBI is investigating her and Vice President Biden's decision to sit it out, there is a possibility that he becomes the de facto nominee.

I think he beat her squarely, 60-38, in New Hampshire. The polls right now are even in Nevada. So I think that, when you look back at 2008, no one thought that a first-term senator with a funny name, to quote the president, could beat Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama came out, ran a better campaign, and beat her.

I think for all of the people who are dismissing Bernie Sanders now, this is a similar situation to 2008. She better watch her back.

BLITZER: Do you think Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, will run as a third-party independent?

SPICER: I hope he does. Because if he does, and one of the things you've heard Chairman Priebus talk about is that brings in states that have -- that we haven't had in play before. Connecticut, probably New York, a lot of the other...

BLITZER: You think he'll take more Democratic votes than Republicans?

SPICER: There's no question. Mike Bloomberg is a Democrat. He always has been. He's a very liberal Democrat, which is great for us. We would rather run against two Democrats any day of the week.

BLITZER: Sean Spicer, thanks very much for coming in.

SPICER: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: Sean Spicer is the communications director for the Republican National Committee.

Let's take a quick break. We're watching other breaking developments right now. Lots more coming up right after this.


[17:26:37] BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the race for the White House. South Carolina's popular governor, Nikki Haley, she's very popular, especially among Republicans in the state, about to endorse Senator Marco Rubio for the Republican presidential nomination.

We're joined now by our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's in South Carolina. Our CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro; our CNN Politics senior digital correspondent, Chris Moody; and David Swerdlick, he's an assistant editor at "The Washington Post."

Gloria, Nikki Haley. She's going to endorse Rubio in an event about to begin down there in South Carolina. This is -- this is a very big deal for Rubio.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's a very big deal for Rubio. I think lots of people, particularly Jeb Bush, really were after her endorsement. She is somebody with an over 80 percent approval rating, 84 percent within the Tea Party, Wolf.

And I think what this does for Marco Rubio is not really change anyone's mind who's really for Donald Trump or really for Cruz, but you've got about 50 percent of the people here who really haven't solidly decided yet, Wolf. And for those people, this will -- this will make them give Rubio a look, and it also gives him some momentum. And you can't underestimate the importance of momentum in days before a vote.

BLITZER: Certainly can't.

Ana, you're friends with Marco Rubio. You support Jeb Bush. We know his brother, President Bush, was down there, met with Nikki Haley. The Bush family, they really wanted an endorsement for Jeb Bush. They must be so depressed.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think everybody wanted Nikki Haley's endorsement. You know, you've got a very popular governor who knows South Carolina very well, who has exhibited great leadership skills. Everybody was vying for this endorsement. And you know, I respect her for having been very deliberative about what she was going to do and when she was going to do it. I think doing it now carries a lot of oomph.

Certainly, Jeb has the endorsement and the active support of Lindsey Graham, who's been out there day and night for him.

Marco Rubio, I think -- you know, I almost see like a generational shift between one and the other. I see that, you know, Marco has got Trey Gowdy. He's got Tim Scott. Now has Nikki Haley.

You've got Ted Cruz who had very -- who got very nice words from Jim de Mint today. So I think the leadership in South Carolina is divided, as is the Republican Party.

BLITZER: Does Jeb need to come in at least third in South Carolina on Saturday order to continue effectively?

NAVARRO: I don't know if it's third, if it's fourth, but he certainly has got to have a strong showing. He's put a lot into it. You know, he's had -- he's put a lot of resources and time into it, brought in some major surrogates for him, and so I think he does need a strong showing.

BLITZER: Because he didn't get it in Iowa, a little depressed in New Hampshire. He really needs to do well.

NAVARRO: He had a fairly good showing in New Hampshire.

BLITZER: But a state not far from his home state of Florida, he needs to do well in South Carolina.

NAVARRO: You know, we have to hold on about writing narratives and writing obituaries. Let's remember that just a couple of weeks ago, we were writing Marco Rubio's obituary after the New Hampshire primary.

So I think we've got to let the process play out. I know that, in the media, we love, you know, the predictions game. But these guys are going to fight it out and duke it out until they have the will and the resources to do it.

BLITZER: We've already seen about ten Republican candidates drop out, because they didn't do well in some of these. That's what happened.

NAVARRO: They were penniless. Jeb Bush ain't.

BLITZER: He's got money. That's a good point.

Ted Cruz really ripped into Donald Trump today. They're going back and forth. A lot of people said they don't remember a time when it's gotten this ugly. You've done some research into this.

[17:30:01] MOODY: Compared to past cycles, this has not been nearly as dirty quite yet in South Carolina as we've seen before. South Carolina has this reputation for this land of mysterious dirty tricks.

I think the reason for that is because every time you go through a different state, the stakes get higher, the money becomes less and everyone gets a little more nervous about their future in the race.

In this case we've seen pretty conventional attacks so far. There have been a couple of mysterious Facebook posts that have come up, but Ted Cruz has gone after Rubio for his immigration past; and he's gone after Donald Trump for his past comments on abortion, which he has since recanted.

This is a time when they cannot let attacks slide. And so you see people back -- going back and forth a lot faster than you would in the past.

BLITZER: Who's winning all the name calling between Cruz and Trump?

DAVID SWERDLICK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think Cruz is actually winning this current round. Here's why.

I think a lot of the other candidates, whether it's Cruz, Rubio, Bush, have for too long played by these sort of marquise of Queensbury rules against Donald Trump, trying to be gentlemanly, trying to stay out of the fray. And it doesn't work against Donald Trump.

So now that Cruz is hitting back and saying, "Hey, Donald Trump, you're going to sue me? Sue me." That is showing the kind of strength that Trump has been accusing him and other candidates of not having.

BLITZER: Gloria, you're down there in South Carolina right now, talking to a lot of folks. How's it playing down there?

BORGER: Well, I think Cruz did a very smart thing today, Wolf. He got this, you know, threatened legal action, this cease-and-desist order; and instead of just tossing it aside, he decided to make a huge issue of it, because he's making a play for those evangelical voters that he's losing by 20 points to Donald Trump.

And sitting in that room today with him, Wolf, it was as if he was saying, "I can't believe I'm losing with these social issue voters." And so what he was trying to do was say, "Wait a minute, he once called himself very pro-choice. Can I point this out to you, voters? Can I also point out to you that at the last debate he expressed some support for the work that Planned Parenthood is doing?" That's another red flag he was sending up.

He wants to go kind of mano y mano with Donald Trump right now, make this a two-man race. I don't know if he's going to succeed, Wolf, but I thought he was very clever in drawing this attention to himself in his spat with Donald Trump today.

BLITZER: The South Carolina polls, as you know, Ana, they show Trump way, way ahead right now, looking forward to Saturday's primary in South Carolina.

But two national polls just came out showing very different assessments. There's a Bloomberg poll which shows Trump way ahead nationally -- 36 percent, Trump 17, Rubio 15, Bush 13.

But look at this "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll, which some people are suggesting may be an outlier. Cruz 28, Trump 26, Rubio 17, Kasich 11, Carson 10. Cruz is already citing the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. I'll play a little clip.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For the first time in many months, there's a new national front-runner on the Republican side.


BLITZER: All right. So there you see he's obviously very happy. According to this NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, he's at 28. Trump is at 26. Trump loves to talk about polls all the time. I'm sure Trump will talk about the Bloomberg poll, but what do you think?

NAVARRO: I think everybody likes to talk about polls when they come out as the winner in that particular poll. This Ted Cruz that we saw right now, Ted Cruz talking about being up on the polls, in a much better look, I think, than the Ted Cruz we saw in that press conference today.

I disagree with Gloria some. I thought he looked whiney today, adolescent. He was complaining about Facebook posts. He was complaining about tweets. He was complaining about push polls.

BLITZER: You're talking about Cruz.

NAVARRO: About Cruz and the press conference he had. I think that when he projects strength -- though I will tell you he did say he would love to depose Donald Trump. And I would love to buy a big vat of popcorn, a big Coca-Cola, and sit there and watch that deposition.

But, you know, this complaining, I just don't think -- whiners aren't winners. And I think they have to be very careful on how they handle this, though it did get him a lot of free press.

BLITZER: You wanted to say something?

MOODY: I think what we saw was the debate team Ted Cruz today, a place where he was really in his element, laying out a case point by point. He had his papers across.

He also, however, did risk looking like trial lawyer Cruz a little bit. I saw some people talking about that.

[17:35:05] But I think laying out that case against Donald Trump and Marco Rubio and setting the stage for the primary coming up was some of his best moments so far.

BLITZER: We'll see, David, if Trump goes forward with not one but two potential lawsuits, one a defamation lawsuit, because he says the campaign ads against him are lying and distorting his positions.

The other one on the constitutionality of Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada, actually running for president of the United States.

Hold your thought for a moment. We've got a lot more, including what's going on on the Democratic side of the race for the White House. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


[17:40:13] BLITZER: A brand-new CNN poll shows the Democratic race in Nevada is a dead heat. Hillary Clinton once viewed as -- viewed the state as a western firewall filled with Latino and other minority voters that her campaign is certainly counting on. But Bernie Sanders is riding a wave of momentum after an overwhelming victory in New Hampshire.

Our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is following the Democratic race for the White House.

Jeff, what is the latest out there?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Clinton campaign thought that Nevada would be the beginning of a rebound following that split decision in Iowa and New Hampshire.

But now this race is tighter than ever here, and Bernie Sanders' message of income inequality seems to be resonating here in a state that's still recovering economically.


ZELENY (voice-over): A nail-biter in Nevada.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Come and caucus for me on Saturday at 11 a.m.

ZELENY: Three days before the Democratic caucuses, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are suddenly running neck in neck. A new CNN/ORC poll shows the Clinton-Sanders race at 48-47. A jump ball in a contest Clinton once expected to easily win.

Sanders' sweeping New Hampshire victory has earned him a fresh look in Nevada.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything in my political gut tells me that we have the momentum here in this stat. If people come out in large numbers on caucus day, we're going to win here in Nevada.

ZELENY: It's the party's first contest showcasing a diverse electorate, where four in ten Democrats are non-white. The outcome here and next week in South Carolina, where Clinton has a commanding lead, will help settle the split decision between her win in Iowa and Sanders' in New Hampshire.

She's campaigned from coffee shops to casinos.

CLINTON: Saturday.

ZELENY: Even posing for pictures with cocktail waitresses.

CLINTON: Thank you so much.

ZELENY: Both sides are working hard to get out the vote.

One wild card: same-day voter registration, which many Democrats here believe could help Sanders among younger and first-time caucus goers.

SANDERS: We surprised a lot of people in Iowa. We surprised a lot of people in New Hampshire. We're going to surprise a lot of people here in Nevada.

ZELENY: Sanders won big with young women in Iowa and New Hampshire. Planned Parenthood is trying to prevent that from happening in Nevada, launching an ad today for Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hillary Clinton is a champion for women's health care.

ZELENY: A top Sanders supporter, the rapper Killer Mike is under fire for a comment he made at an Atlanta rally Tuesday night. He said he was citing a conversation with a feminist.

MICHAEL "KILLER MIKE" RENDER, SANDERS SUPPORTER: Jane (ph) said, "Michael, a uterus doesn't qualify you to be president of the United States."

BRIAN FALLON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: If the suggestion there is that Hillary Clinton is asking anyone to vote for her based on her gender, that's completely off base.

ZELENY: In Nevada Clinton still holds strong advantages across the board, the new CNN poll finds. On foreign policy, immigration and health care she holds double-digit lead over Sanders. But on the economy, Sanders and Clinton are nearly tied.

CLINTON: We're going out, and we're going to convince people to caucus on Saturday. Then we're going on to South Carolina. Then we're going on to the March states. Then we're going to wrap up the nomination, and then we're going to win this election.


ZELENY: Now, Wolf, it may take longer than that to wrap up the nomination, particularly if Sanders has a victory or even a draw here in Nevada. This could draw this out even farther.

Wolf, a couple of interesting things about the Nevada caucuses. They take place on Saturday at 11 a.m. The big question is who turns out for this? Who comes during the day to caucus?

Both sides are working intensively to try and draw voters out, particularly those casino workers, and that is an open question here, who actually turns out on Saturday at that appointed hour.

BLITZER: We will, of course, have full coverage all day Saturday on the Democratic caucuses in Nevada. The Republican primary, which is also this Saturday, so stay with CNN for all of that.

Thanks very much.

Gloria, how did this happen? All of a sudden Hillary Clinton was way ahead among Democrats in Nevada. Now it's neck in neck.

BORGER: You know, the old saying is nothing succeeds like success. Bernie Sanders had a lot of momentum, I think, coming out of New Hampshire. He's also got passionate supporters, Wolf, and when you're trying to get people to a caucus site, it's a little bit different from a primary. Passion helps, commitment helps.

And I think the one number that Jeff just pointed out is also very important, that on the issue of the economy, which is how people usually vote, Wolf, Bernie Sanders beats Hillary Clinton on people who care about the economy the most and I think when you see people who go out to caucus in the Democratic party, the economy, their pocketbook really matters. And that's why this is so neck in neck.

[17:45:02] BLITZER: And, David, certainly Nevada, in terms of the population, is more diverse than, let's say, Iowa or New Hampshire.

DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And up to this point I think the conventional wisdom has been that Clinton is doing better among Latinos and African-Americans and she still is. But at this point because of his momentum Sanders is not conceding the Latino or the African-American vote. He's fighting for every black and Latino vote.

And what's also helping him in Nevada I think is that it's a heavily labor state. Right? It's a state where organized labor still has a lot of pull and his message is resonating with unions, even though a lot of unions early on endorsed Secretary Clinton.

BLITZER: You heard Sean Spicer earlier, Chris, he really railed against Bernie Sanders as a Democratic -- you just went to Denmark to take a closer look at what democratic socialism is all about. Let me play a little clip on from what you posted today at Watch this.


CHRIS MOODY, CNN POLITICS SENIOR DIGITAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's Moody. I think we really need to start learning about democratic socialism.


MOODY: What do you think about me going to Denmark?

BLITZER: All right, Moody. I just -- you do you. Go ahead.

MOODY: OK. You got a toothbrush? We're going to Copenhagen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome to Denmark.


BLITZER: It's really a great piece and I want our viewers to go to and watch it. What did you learn about democratic socialism as practiced in Denmark?

MOODY: Well, first of all, I was surprised that the Danish are following our election very, very closely. They know about Super Tuesday, about the Iowa caucuses, about the New Hampshire primaries. But what I learned is that Bernie Sanders talks about Democratic socialism and he's right as far as the Danish model having free access to health care, to education and to other services. But they also have very high taxes.

What might not fit into Bernie Sanders' policy platform is that Denmark also has very low corporate taxes, minimal tariffs and things like that. They also have no minimum wage, although the Danes are paid very well.

Also there's major differences, of course, between Denmark and our country. We talked to a lot of people about whether Denmark -- the Danish system could work in the United States, but it's a very homogeneous country, very small, just about 5.6 million people versus our 300 million very diverse population.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: So over a lot of beers, did you find out who would win the Denmark primary if one was held?

MOODY: Definitely not Donald Trump. I mean, so -- they know Donald Trump.

NAVARRO: Well, there's one place where I might seek exile.

BLITZER: All right. Very good report, guys. Don't go too far away.

By the way, to our viewers, you could read all about Chris's trip to Denmark, you can watch the video, what he learned about Bernie Sanders and democratic socialism. Go to You will enjoy it.

Coming up, we're standing by for an endorsement that could shake up the race for the Republican nomination in South Carolina. Three days before that critical primary contest, the popular South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, she is about to lend her support to Senator Marco Rubio.


[17:52:20] BLITZER: The federal government is clashing with Apple after a judge ordered the tech giant to help the FBI unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Apple is refusing to cooperate calling the order unprecedented and vowing to protect the privacy of all of its customers.

Brian Todd is looking into this for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight we are learning this is shaping up to be a nasty fine between America's richest company and the federal government. But it's also a battle that could affect our phones and the sensitive information that we all store on them. And at the center of it all, this man, notorious San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook and his iPhone code that the feds have been desperately trying to crack.


TODD (voice-over): A devastating terror attack in San Bernardino and a key question still unanswered. Did shooter Syed Farook communicate with terrorists overseas? The FBI has been frustrated that it hasn't been able to find out.

JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: We still have one of those killer's phones we've not been able to open. And it's been over two months now. We're still working on it.

TODD: Tonight the FBI could be closer to unlocking Farook's iPhone. A federal judge has ordered Apple to help the bureau break into his phone.

(On camera): Worth it to try to find out what that terrorist was doing?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, certainly, if you want to know. You know, you can't -- you know, the old saying of connect the dots. You can't connect the dots if you can't collect them. And that's the problem here.

TODD (voice-over): Apple doesn't hold the key to unlock Farook's iPhone. The only way to do that is with his pass code, which isn't stored on Apple's servers. The FBI could have tried to guess his pass code but there are 10,000 possible four-digit PIN numbers. And if agents guessed wrong 10 times all the data, all the content could be permanently erased from Farook's phone. Potential evidence lost.

So tonight the FBI wants Apple to design software that would allow investigators to guess a pass code as many times as they need to, to break in. Apple is angry with the judge's order and is trying to prevent the FBI from accessing phones like Farook's but also phones like yours.

In a letter, Apple's CEO Tim Cook says, quote, "The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers."

A top private advocate says there are all kinds of vulnerabilities once the FBI can unlock encrypted phones. MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: Once you build

in this backdoor it's not necessarily the FBI agent acting pursuant to the warrant and gets access. It could be a criminal hacker, it could be the Chinese government, it could be your industrial adversary. So you really don't know.


TODD: This new model is based on the idea that customers like us put our credit card numbers, our health information, all kinds of personal data on our phones because of the fact that they are encrypted and no one, not even Apple, can touch them.

[17:55:06] Now Apple is expected to appeal the judge's order and this could go all the way to the Supreme Court -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But unlocking the pass code, Brian, in a suspect's phone is often just one piece of the puzzle, right?

TODD: Absolutely, Wolf. Law enforcement experts say even if Apple helps the FBI unlock phones, investigators may still not be able to read the content of some suspect's texts. Especially if the suspects use encrypted third party apps like this one, Telegram, which they've been known to use some times. The messages on those apps are so well- protected they could be programmed to self-destruct in five seconds.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you.

Coming up, we're standing by for an endorsement that could shake up the race for the Republican nomination in South Carolina. The governor there, Nikki Haley, she's about to endorse Marco Rubio.