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THE SITUATION ROOM
Pope Francis at U.S.-Mexico Border; Nikki Haley Endorses Marco Rubio; Obama Moving Forward on Supreme Court Nominee; Trump: Cruz 'Raises the Bible and Tells Lies'; Reality Check: Trump's Border Wall; At Least 28 Dead in Car Bombing Deemed Terror Attack. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 17, 2016 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: breaking news.
Bring it on, Ted Cruz encouraging Donald Trump to make good on his threat and sue over a campaign ad Trump says is defaming, the leading two candidates in South Carolina now locked in open political warfare, as the candidates prepare to take voters' questions in CNN's Republican town hall tonight.
Carolina crush. Marco Rubio scores one of the biggest political endorsements of his presidential campaign. We're standing by to hear South Carolina popular Governor Nikki Haley throw her support behind Rubio just three days before that state's critical primary contest. Will her backing bring Rubio the votes he needs to stay in the race?
Holy seethe. A stunning display of anger by Pope Francis as a worshiper nearly pulls him to the ground in an outdoor mass. Tonight, the pontiff is along the U.S.-Mexico border in a symbolic and politically charged visit. We're standing by to go there live. What will Pope Francis say?
Deadly bombing. Dozens of people killed in a massive explosion in the capital city of a major U.S. ally and NATO member, the car bomb targeting military vehicles, now being called a terror attack. Who was responsible?
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news.
There are dramatic developments on arguably the most contentious day yet of this, the Republican presidential campaign. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz trading vicious attacks and legal threats three days before the South Carolina primary and just hours ahead of tonight's CNN Republican town hall featuring Cruz, Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson.
Upping the stakes for all the candidates, a major endorsement for Rubio. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley about to announce her support for the Florida senator. We're standing by for that. We're also standing by to hear Pope Francis. He's celebrating mass this hour in Mexico near the U.S. border. This is a live picture of the Popemobile in Mexico in transit. In a politically charged move, the pontiff will offer a blessing to hundreds of refugees, undocumented migrants and victims of Mexico's violence standing on the U.S. side of the border.
We're covering all that and much more with our correspondents, our guests and our expert analysts. They're all standing by live.
Let's begin with the bitter clashes rocking the Republican race for the White House.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is in South Carolina, where it's all unfolding right now.
Sunlen, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, they are really tearing into each other.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. We really saw Ted Cruz go on offense today in an unprecedented way, really channeling his old days as a lawyer, almost as if he was in a courtroom arguing the case point by point against Donald Trump, even bringing file folders of evidence and props with him, and, tonight, Donald Trump not taking this attack on him lightly.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can't lie about people like that. It's just incredible.
SERFATY (voice-over): It's a dramatic escalation, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz's fight boiling over. Their war of words now being dominated by legal threats.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the things I look forward to most of all is deposing Donald Trump.
SERFATY: Cruz outright daring Donald Trump today, saying, go ahead, sue me.
CRUZ: So, Donald, I would encourage you, if you want to file a lawsuit challenging this ad, claiming it is defamation, file the lawsuit.
SERFATY: At issue, this ad from the Cruz campaign, which attempts to paint Trump as being supportive of abortion rights, using a TV interview of Trump's from 1999.
TRUMP: I am pro-choice in every respect.
NARRATOR: We cannot trust Donald Trump with these serious decisions.
SERFATY: Trump has said he has evolved on the issue and is opposed to abortion rights now. The Trump campaign slapping Cruz with this cease and desist order to try and stop his rival from running the ad. CRUZ: I have to stay to Mr. Trump, you have been threatening
frivolous lawsuits for your entire adult life. Even in the annals of frivolous lawsuits, this takes the cake.
SERFATY: Trump today not backing down, laying into Cruz.
TRUMP: I'm pro-life and he will 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. Cruz. It's unbelievable. No, I'm pro-life. And I say to myself, how can a guy be so dishonest?
SERFATY: Marco Rubio echoing Trump's accusations against Cruz.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we have seen in the last few weeks is very disturbing.
SERFATY: Also calling Cruz a liar.
RUBIO: Ted unfortunately has proven that he's willing to say or do anything to get elected.
SERFATY: Cruz firing back that Rubio is just taking a page from Trump's playbook.
CRUZ: Marco Rubio is behaving like Donald Trump with a smile.
SERFATY: The infighting within the top tier comes as Donald Trump is coasting above every other candidate in the polls. A new CNN/ORC poll out today shows Trump with a commanding lead in Nevada, 26 points ahead of any other candidate.
TRUMP: Beyond belief, actually. Maybe I don't even have to go there and campaign, I don't know.
SERFATY: Meanwhile, Jeb Bush is still fighting for traction, feeling energized with his family's help, sharpening his attacks.
JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.
SERFATY: But receiving a big blow today, losing out on the endorsement of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to Marco Rubio.
BUSH: She's a great person. I'm disappointed she didn't endorse me.
BLITZER: And Nikki Haley is speaking right now endorsing Marco Rubio. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
(CROSSTALK) GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: They made us strong in a way that they knew we had fight. They made us strong in a way that we knew we had grace and we had compassion, and we had acceptance.
And more than anything, we had the ability to be better when tested. So when it was time to look at this presidential race, I thought from a different perspective, that this is serious, that this matters. So I thought first and foremost as a mom who wants her children to be safe in our country, who wants her children to have the education and the opportunities so that they can be better than we were, which is what my parents wanted for us.
I'm a military wife of a combat veteran.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HALEY: I want a president who is going to have the backs of our military veterans and those in active duty. I want a president that knows that when we fight wars, we win wars.
I want a president that understands we have to stop the federal mandates that have been pushed on the states like Obamacare and the EPA.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HALEY: But I want a president who understands that they have to go back to Washington, D.C., and bring a conscience back to our Republicans.
Our Republicans need to remember what we are about, which is about balanced budgets, cutting debt, building reserves and making sure that they understand that this guy, he's all about term limits in D.C., and that's what we want to see in a president.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HALEY: We have good people in this race. We have good people running for president, and I thank them today for their sacrifice and they're willing to serve to honor this great honor and to make her better.
But my job was to find the person I thought could do it the best. So I wanted somebody with fight. I wanted somebody with passion. I wanted somebody that had conviction to do the right thing.
But I wanted somebody humble enough that remembers that you work for all the people. And I wanted somebody that was going to go and show my parents that the best decision they ever made for their children was coming to America.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HALEY: We say that every day is a great day in South Carolina. Ladies and gentlemen, if we elect Marco Rubio, every day will be a great day in America.
Help me welcome the next president of the United States. Let's go to the polls on Saturday and move that down the way, Marco Rubio!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
RUBIO: Thank you.
Well, first of all, I can't tell you how honored I am to have the support of your governor, because there's a lot of good people in this. We have a good field of candidates. Look, none of our candidates is a socialist. None of our candidates is under FBI investigation.
RUBIO: But I'm so honored that she chose to join our team, and because she embodies for me everything that I want the Republican Party and the conservative movement to be about, everything that it is about.
And I have enjoyed so much being here in South Carolina over the last 10 days, believe me. We spent a lot of time here just my family just as tourists, because South Carolina, we drive up every summer to Washington, and it's about the halfway point of that drive. And so we always stop and spend a lot of time here and a little bit of money here, too, because you're happy.
And we love being here. You have learned a lot. I have learned a lot about South Carolina. For example, I have learned very quickly, do not pick sides between USC and Clemson. I have learned that the Citadel is the finest military college in the world.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
RUBIO: And last year, the country learned what an inspiration South Carolina is for all of us, because, as the governor said, you had a tough year between floods and two incredible tragedies that were -- any other state, any other communities in the country reacted very differently to these things.
But this state came together in a way that served as an example to the nation. I want you to understand for someone that didn't live here, that doesn't live here, how moved and inspired the nation was when the families of people who had lost their loved ones in a horrible tragedy went on national television and said they forgave those killers. They forgave the killer.
It was not just -- it was about living out our faith. It was about living out our values. South Carolina taught that to the country this year. And so for me, it's been so rewarding to be here and spend the last 10 straight days here working alongside so many wonderful people on our team.
Governor Haley a moment ago talked about the decision her parents made to come here. It was like the decision my parents made in 1956. When they came to the United States, they arrived with nothing. They didn't know anyone. Didn't have any money. The first words my father learned in English literally were, I'm looking for a job, or I'm looking for work.
It was hard for them when they got here. My father stopped going to school when he was 9 years old because his mother passed away. And so he never went back to school and he would work for the next 70 years of his life. When they came to this country, they struggled those first few years.
Life was difficult. But here's what's so amazing. Less than 10 years after my parents came here with nothing, my parents owned a home. They owned a home in a safe and stable neighborhood. They retired with dignity and security and they lived to see all four of their children have a life better than their own. That's my story.
But the truth is, as Americans, that's our story. That's your governor's story. That's the story of millions and millions of people across two centuries. One of the things I am safe in saying in America, no matter what group I'm in front of -- I'm so glad all of you are here today.
I haven't met most of you in person. I don't know your stories individually and yet I know your story because I promise you that among us here today, the vast majority of you have a story not unlike that one. Yours is the story of parents who gave up everything so you could have a life they could never have.
You remember the sacrifices your father made for you and your mother. Or maybe it was the ones your grandparents made for your parents. This is who we are as a nation. This is our identity as a people. We are a nation where every generation leaves the next better off than themselves, both in their families and as a country.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to continue to watch Marco Rubio at this event.
Nikki Haley, the popular governor of South Carolina, you just saw endorsed him.
But there's other breaking news we're following right now. Pope Francis, there you see the Popemobile along the U.S./Mexico border right now. He just said mass along that border. He's now being taken in the Popemobile to the border fence and is getting ready to offer a very, very special blessing.
This is a moment that will have great significance along the U.S./Mexico border for Pope Francis as he walks over there. You see the cross.
I want to bring in Father Edward Beck. He's our CNN religious commentator, the host of "The Sunday Mass."
Explain the significance, Father Beck, of this moment in the pope's trip to Mexico.
REV. EDWARD BECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it kind of is the hallmark of his whole papacy thus far, Wolf, immigration, welcoming the stranger, the refugee.
And so here on this border of the Rio Grande, where so many lives have been lost, Mexican lives, of those fleeing to the United States, this pope is offering a blessing for those on both sides of that border. And it is symbolic because he is standing there in prayer right now saying, we have to do better.
It's not about chastising and punishing people for fleeing to something more prosperous, something more safe. And so he is saying that by being here right now and offering this blessing that we are all strangers.
Remember, when he came and spoke before Congress, he said, I am the son of immigrants. We were all once foreigners in a strange land. And this pope thinks that we need to welcome those who flee political and social oppression.
BLITZER: He's right on the border of El Paso. Thousands and thousands of people have gathered on the U.S. side as well.
You see them waving to the pontiff right now. This has taking on also, Father Beck, added political significance, given the statements of Donald Trump, for example, saying he wants to build a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. And the pope is not shy in being critical of that.
And, of course, Donald Trump criticized the pope for being political, as Donald Trump said. But for the pope, this is not merely politics. For him, this is a gospel issue. It's a gospel value. He must wade into these waters. If in the political realm, decisions are made that affect people who are oppressed, well, the pope has to speak there.
That's why the pope brokered a deal between the U.S. and Cuba, was instrumental in that. Political? Yes. But it's about gospel values. That's why he meets with the president of Iran. Political? Yes. Spoke before Congress. Some say too political. But he is speaking about issues that affect the lives of people.
So, for this pope, he said a good Catholic needs to meddle in politics, rather a striking statement, because some say, well, we need to keep politics and religion totally separate. This pope does not believe you can do that and be a messenger of the gospel.
BLITZER: He will now get to the border over there, to the fence and he will direct his prayers, we're told, Father Beck, to the thousands of people watching from El Paso on the U.S. side.
This is an emotional moment for the people who have gathered, the thousands who have gathered in Mexico, Ciudad Juarez, also in El Paso. It's a unique moment. You see that fence over there. Go ahead and explain why the pope decided this is the moment to do this. BECK: Well, remember, Wolf, Juarez was once known as the murder
capital of the world. This is where the coyotes are who do human trafficking. This is where the sweatshops are. This was one of the most dangerous and porous parts in all of Mexico.
And this is, of course, where they cross the border into the United States, many illegally. And so you have about several hundred immigrants just 65 yards away on the other side, a little strip of land that this pope is blessing. And then also you have thousands in El Paso at the Sun Bowl Stadium watching a live feed of the mass.
And so he's extending himself to those on both sides of the border, saying, we can't be about borders, we can't be about divisions. For this pope, it's about serving humanity as one. And so that is what this blessing is so symbolic of, saying that we need to find a better way to be in service of human people seeking a better way of life.
BLITZER: Have we seen something like this before along the U.S./Mexico border by a visiting pope?
BECK: Not to my recollection, Wolf, no.
Pope John Paul II went to Mexico five times. But he never went to Juarez, as far as I know. This pope visited four diocese here in Mexico that no other pope has visited, the poorest diocese, the most dangerous diocese, the one where drug traffickers are, the one where human trafficking is occurring.
And so it's very symbolic for him here at this place, his final day. You may say he saved the best for last to be here in Juarez, because it is so symbolic of this hallmark issue of his papacy, namely, immigration.
Remember, the first thing this pope did after being elected to travel outside of Rome was to go to Lampedusa, the island off Italy where African migrants were fleeing to. And he went there to say this is one of the hallmark issues of his papacy. This is an issue, as Catholics, as Christians, as a world community, we need to be attentive to.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera is in El Paso for us.
Ed, tell us what's you are seeing there. What's the mood like there?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating, Wolf. From our vantage point, we're standing on the southern edge of El Paso, Texas. Just beyond this fence here is the Rio Grande and then into Mexico.
And that's where you saw just moments ago Pope Francis make his way up that platform and pause there briefly, offered a prayer and then looked over this way toward where we're standing. And it's over here just beyond the border wall fence, chain link fence where some nearly 400 people have been gathered here for this special moment, for that moment of seeing that blessing.
[18:20:08] Pope Francis looked over this way, the symbolism very intense. A lot
of these people that you see here in the crowd here, undocumented migrants, refugees, a large group of unaccompanied minors who have made their way and came here into the United States from Central America. Obviously, the message from Pope Francis delivering here is that he hopes these people will be treated with dignity and respect.
That's a theme that Pope Francis not only continues around the world, but it is really one of the main reasons why he came here to the city of Juarez right on the border with the United States to continue that message of the way migrants and refugees are treated with mercy, he hopes, around the world. And that's a theme.
And it's meant so much to the people here. We did a story over the last couple of days with one of the gentlemen who was in this crowd, a man by the name of Carlos Gutierrez, who was attacked savagely five years ago, had his legs chopped off by extortionists who were demanding money for him for several years.
He arrives with his family in the United States, sought asylum and is in the process of winning that asylum case hopefully at some point over the next couple of months, or at least his family is hopeful that that will finally happen. But people like that are in this crowd. In that brief moment here, where you saw Pope Francis make his way up that platform and look over here and offer his blessing meant a great deal to the people here standing just on the other side of this border fence from the city of Juarez -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, we're going to get back to you.
Clearly a very powerful moment, the pope wading into the immigration debate unfolding here in the United States on this, the final day of his visit to Mexico.
We will continue to watch the pope. We're watching all of the other breaking news happening, including the dramatic developments in the race for the White House.
We will take a quick break. We will be right back.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Donald Trump and Ted Cruz trading legal threats tonight, as they jostle for position just three days out ahead of a critical primary in South Carolina.
Our CNN political reporter, Sara Murray, is in South Carolina for us tonight.
Sara, you're there at the site where Donald Trump has been responding to Ted Cruz. What is the very latest? SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right,
Wolf. Donald Trump spoke for a relatively brief amount of time for him, only about 20 minutes, but he still managed to get in a jab at Ted Cruz, going after him for being a liar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What this guy Cruz did with Ben Carson was an absolute disgrace. What he did is, he stole. It was theft.
And then they come out with a voter violation form, which is a fraud, as far as I'm concerned. And what he did with that whole thing was a disgrace. So, we're not going to let that happen anymore. We're not going to let it -- we will not let it happen. We're all watching. You're all watching. Keep your eyes wide open.
These politicians, here's a guy, he raises the Bible, and yet he tells fibs, he tells lies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: So, you see there Donald Trump certainly not backing away from this idea that Ted Cruz not only uses dirty campaign tactics, but also is misrepresenting Trump's record.
As we know, this fight has only escalated today. So, we will see if that continues this week -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara, the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, he threatened not one, but two lawsuits against Ted Cruz, one for defamation because of an ad critical of Donald Trump, and Trump basically says that he's defaming him. He can file a lawsuit on that.
And the second lawsuit raising the questions of the constitutionality of Ted Cruz even running for president of the United States, because he was born in Canada.
In the statement, Cruz -- put out earlier, he said this: "If I want to bring the lawsuit regarding Senator Cruz being a natural-born Canadian, I will do so. Time will tell, Teddy." That was the statement, part of a statement that Donald Trump released.
Are you getting any insight from some of his aides there if in fact he will actually file one or both of these lawsuits?
MURRAY: They have not said one way or another if they're actually going to file these lawsuits. And right now, they seem content to sort of let the threat hang out there.
The interesting thing is, even though the campaign says it would be legitimate, either lawsuit would be legitimate, it's very tough to see in a political climate how you file a cease and desist letter, how you take someone to task over a negative ad where it's using your own words against you.
And it's been very interesting to see Donald Trump, who, as we know, he's a billionaire, he's a businessman, he's relatively new to the political realm, sort of adapt to these attack ads. It's pretty clear he's not just going to take them quietly.
BLITZER: All right, pretty clear, indeed. All right, Sara, stand by.
I also want to bring in -- talk a little bit more about all of this with Republican strategist and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro. She's a good friend of Marco Rubio. She's a supporter of Jeb Bush. Also, our CNN politics executive editor, Mark Preston. And Sara Murray is still with us as well.
Mark, the Nikki Haley endorsement of Marco Rubio, I assume that is going to be a powerful moment for Marco Rubio getting ready for Saturday's primary.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, it is.
It is for this moment, Wolf. The bottom line is, it shows momentum for Marco Rubio at a moment in the campaign where he needs it. In addition to that, it's not so much about him getting the endorsement. It's about who didn't get the endorsement. We didn't see it go to Jeb Bush, who really tried hard to get that.
And Nikki Haley is very well beloved here amongst Republicans here in South Carolina. So, it's a good moment for Marco Rubio, Wolf.
BLITZER: Ana, you agree this is a major step for Marco Rubio, a huge setback for Jeb Bush, who really wanted her endorsement as well?
[18:30:09] ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think -- I think Jeb has been very honest about it. I think he's disappointed, and I think he did the right thing trying to get this endorsement.
But let's remember that last time she endorsed Romney, and Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina.
You know, I was struck by watching the endorsements with Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio standing next to each other how much they have in common. They're both 44 years old. They both represent diversity in a new generation of Republicans. They're both children of immigrants. So I suspect that they found a lot of commonality and a lot of themes in their lives and experiences that they -- they can share together and was part of her decision making in coming down with this endorsement.
BLITZER: Sara, the endorsements clearly have been lining up for Marco Rubio in South Carolina. Senator Tim Scott, Congressman Trey Gowdy, now Nikki Haley. Lindsey Graham endorsed Jeb Bush. But Donald Trump, he's gotten a few endorsements here, as well. And all the polls in South Carolina show he's still way ahead, right?
MURRAY: Yes, that's absolutely right, Wolf. And look, Donald Trump is not the kind of guy who's running around, trying to pick up a lot of the more traditional political endorsements. In fact, he holds these things up as an example of him as the outsider candidate. And when I've been talking to voters here, this is not something on
their radar about who they're deciding. I was talking to some who were actually undecided between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. And the name Nikki Haley never came up. They just said they wanted to see both of them live, and they felt like they got a much better sense of their personalities and what they might be like as president.
And I think sometimes we forget that when people go, and they finally cast that ballot, it is a personal feeling. When you have -- you know, when you're a voter in South Carolina, and you actually have the opportunity to see these candidates up close, that makes a big difference to a lot of voters.
BLITZER: Yes. Nikki Haley said since Donald Trump said he wanted to have a temporary ban on all Muslims coming to the United States until the U.S. government can figure out what's going on as far as terrorism is concerned. Nikki Haley has been very critical of Donald Trump. Today, Mark Preston, Ted Cruz said bring it on. He dared Trump to follow up on his threat to go ahead and sue him. But is it possible that part of Trump's plan is to get Cruz sort of off his message right now?
PRESTON: There's no question that Donald Trump is trying to rattle Ted Cruz. But what we saw Ted Cruz do today, Wolf, is that he tried to use it to his political advantage. He tried to challenge Donald Trump to say, "Come on. Bring it on. I want you to -- to sue me."
But the bottom line is we don't know, Wolf, where it's going to go. Donald Trump has threatened a lawsuit about his citizenship. He's threatening a lawsuit over the ad.
But the fact is right now Ted Cruz is at a point where he's not doing so well or as well with evangelical voters as he needs to here in South Carolina. Donald Trump has a substantial lead on that. We saw that happen in Iowa, as well. We'll see if Ted Cruz on election day is able to make up that ground. But it's clearly now a fisticuff fight between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Wolf.
BLITZER: No holds barred, if you will. Ana, I don't remember anything getting this angry with lawsuits, liar, all this kind of stuff. It's pretty brutal right now.
NAVARRO: I find it horrific. I find it sad. I think it's a deterioration of the process and of the system. I think it's not dignified and not presidential.
And I urge South Carolina voters to really think about this when they go in to vote. I find this entire cage match that's developed between Teddy and Donny a little interesting. Because look, today we saw Ted Cruz say to Donald Trump, "You've spent your entire life trying to have frivolous lawsuits."
Yes, but you know, just a few months ago, Ted Cruz was going over to visit Donald Trump and curry favor with him. And at that point, Donald Trump was already suing Jose (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He was already suing Univision. We could go on and on about the lawsuits that he had going on.
And Donald Trump received him with open arms and gave him a big warm embrace. And guess what? He'd already been born in Canada, Ted Cruz back then. So they've gone from being blood brothers to being engaged in a blood bath. And I think it is bad for the party, bad for the process and a sad, sad statement of what's happening in today's America.
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment. Donald Trump certainly has made building a border wall a cornerstone of his presidential campaign. But what would that entail? Is it even possible? Our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, has a reality check.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What would it take to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico?
You're talking about an area 1,954 miles, stretching across California, Arizona, New Mexico and right here in Texas. Just about 100 yards away from Mexico.
We spoke to civil engineers, architects and academics. They all say the wall can be built. It can be done. The question is, how?
[18:35:07] The first thing one has to do is, before you go up, you have to go down and build a foundation. This will help provide support for the wall. In order to prevent people from tunneling under it, it should be at least five feet deep.
The second thing one must consider is what do you use to build the wall? What materials do you go after? Well, how about cinderblock? The upside is it's strong; it's secure; it's readily available. The downside is it's labor intensive to have to stack every single brick in order to build the wall. So our experts say that option doesn't work.
There is another option. Using poured concrete on site. That's what they did when they built the Hoover Dam. The downside to that is when you poor concrete in warmer climates like along many of these border states, experts say what you could end up with is a weaker wall, because the concrete might not dry correctly, meaning a wall that could end up crumbling.
So what could be the answer here? The experts that we spoke to say the way to go is pre-casted cement wall panels. Those panels will be lined side by side, sort of like what you might see on a highway. Each panel would be about 20 feet high. Again, five feet below ground. About ten feet wide and eight inches thick.
Again, that wall would be stretching some 2,000 miles, and our expert says it would require 339 million cubic feet of concrete. And that's just for the panels. You're also going to need reinforced steel. At least 5 billion bounds.
So what about the estimated cost? Because it hasn't been done before, let's use those highway panels as an example. They cost about $40 a square foot. That would end up costing about $10.5 billion. Sounds like a lot of money, is a lot of money, but again, remember, Donald Trump says the U.S. government wouldn't end up footing the bill on this one. It would be Mexico.
And what about the timing on all of this? How long would it take to build? According to our expert, if you're ambitious, you could get it done within a presidential term, four years.
BLITZER: Jason Carroll with an excellent report there. I learned something.
It's fascinating the whole notion of a wall. Obviously, it can be done, but it could be four years, what, $10 billion or whatever.
NAVARRO: Well, you know, the good news is that Donald Trump says he's worth $10 billion. If he'd like to build that wall now, he can go ahead and do it with his own money.
BLITZER: He says Mexico is going to pay for that.
NAVARRO; Good luck with that. Maybe he can get a little contribution from El Chapo for a good deal.
BLITZER: The only down side of that wall, it goes down five feet. You could easily build tunnels underneath that five feet and get people still sneaking in through the -- through tunnels into the United States, right?
Look, Wolf, when they are fleeing desperation, when they are fleeing political oppression, you know, build a wall, they will find a way to cross it. If it takes catapulting over that wall, that's what will happen. But we see desperate people take desperate measures. And certainly, that decision of leaving your country is not an easy one. It's based on desperation for most people. And I think you can try to build a wall, but the likelihood is they'll find a way through it.
BLITZER: I heard Trump over the weekend say his wall would cost about $7 billion and he's still confident given Mexico's interest in maintaining a strong relationship, a trade relationship, a business relationship with the United States, the Mexican government will write the check.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very, very much.
There's more breaking news we're following. An apparent terror attack killing dozens of people in the capital of a major U.S. ally. So who's behind this latest terror?
[18:43:14] BLITZER: The race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders now tighter than ever in Nevada. Our senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns has the latest on the Democratic race.
Joe, according to our latest poll, it's neck and neck in Nevada.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is, neck and neck, and, Wolf, we've seen some signs of that over the last several days. The Hillary Clinton campaign started redoubling their efforts in Nevada over the weekend.
Now what we're hearing from the campaign is they do expect it to go down to the wire. Nonetheless, they say they believe that their organization is the thing that's going to put them over the top.
JOHNS (voice-over): Tonight, a Democratic dead heat in Nevada.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When we stand together, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.
JOHNS: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton suddenly locked in a close battle with just three days to go until Saturday's caucuses. A new CNN/ORC poll shows Clinton and Sanders with a 48 to 47 percent split.
SANDERS: Thank you, New Hampshire.
JOHNS: Sanders is trying to build on his momentum following a big win in last week's New Hampshire primary.
SANDERS: Everything in my political gut tells me that we have the momentum here in this state. That if people come out in large numbers on caucus day, we're going to win here in Nevada.
JOHNS: But Clinton remains confident.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to go 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.
JOHNS: The primary fight is shifting to states with more diverse electorates.
[18:45:03] In Nevada, four in 10 Democrats are non-white, and the state is also home to a heavy union presence. Both groups are crucial when it comes to winning the nomination and in the general election battle this November.
Clinton still commands a strong lead in South Carolina. Tonight, Clinton is keeping up her outreach to African-American voters, campaigning in Chicago with the mother of Sandra Bland, the Texas woman found dead inside a jail cell following her arrest last year.
CLINTON: My core emphasis and commitment is to knocking down the barriers that hold back African-Americans. JOHNS: A high profile Sanders back, the rapper Killer Mike has
stirred controversy over comments he made at an Atlanta rally Tuesday night, repeating what he said was a quote from a woman speaking about her support for Sanders.
MICHAEL "KILLER MIKE" RENDER, RAPPER/ACTIVIST: A few weeks ago saying, and Jane said and Michael, a uterus doesn't qualify you to be president of the United States.
JOHNS: The Clinton campaign seized on the remark, calling it disappointing.
BRIAN FALLON, CLINTON CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, if the suggestion there is that Hillary Clinton is asking anyone to vote for her based on her gender, that's completely off base.
JOHNS: Hillary Clinton has three fundraisers here in Chicago, then back to Nevada for closing arguments -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It would be a very, very tight race in Nevada. All right. Thanks very much, Joe, for that report.
There's other breaking news we're following. We're just learning some new information about a deadly car bombing today now being labeled a terror attack.
[18:51:07] BLITZER: We're seeing what may, repeat, may be the first cracks in the Republican wall of opposition to President Obama's nominating a new Supreme Court justice. While top GOP officials continue to insist the seat of the late Antonin Scalia be filled by the next president, some Republican senators are now less adamant.
Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is working the story for us.
The president, meanwhile, is going forward with trying to select someone.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The nomination process, Wolf, is ramping up, as well as the political fight. Today, Democratic senators and special interest groups joined forces to push the president's message that a vote needs to happen.
BROWN (voice-over): Back at the White House for the first time since Justice Scalia's death, President Obama is meeting with his legal team to decide who will replace the conservative giant.
On the heels of the president demanding the Senate do its job, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest admitted today that Obama regrets joining fellow Democrats in the Senate in 2006 in trying to block a confirmation hearing for now Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Looking back on it, the
president believes he should have just followed his own advice and made a strong public case on the merits about his opposition to the nomination that President Bush put forward.
BROWN: Today, some Senate Republicans are taking a softer approach, saying it's too soon to make such decisions. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley suggests he may be open to hearings and Senator Thom Tillis is warning fellow Republicans not to look like obstructionists.
But that didn't stop Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, from blasting Republicans who are threatening to block any nominee.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The level of obstruction we've seen since Saturday is mind boggling. The grassroots voices are going to be the key in getting Senator McConnell to back off and let the Senate do its job.
STEVE VLADECK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The interesting question is whether the American people will react to what President Obama is expecting them to. Is there a political backlash if the Republicans refuse to even provide ordinary confirmation to a candidate who's qualifications are in question?
BROWN: As the high court prepares to be back on the bench Monday, with Scalia's chair draped in black, court watchers say any announcement on a replacement will likely wait until after the justice is laid to rest this weekend.
VLADECK: As soon as the White House believes the mourning period has ended, that it won't look (INAUDIBLE) to proceed with this process, I think they're going to move as quickly as they can.
BROWN: On that note, Press Secretary Josh Earnest says that President Obama and the first lady will pay their respects on Friday at the Supreme Court where Justice Scalia's body will lie in repose.
BLITZER: The funeral will be on Saturday. The president apparently will not be attending the funeral, right?
BROWN: But Vice President Biden will be.
BLITZER: OK. Thanks very much for that. We're counting down to the first of two CNN Republican presidential town halls. Tonight, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson. They're now getting ready to answer voters' questions.
[18:58:29] BLITZER: We're following breaking news in Turkey: a car bombing that's killed at least 28 people. The Turkish military is calling it a terror attack. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is working the
story for it. Has anyone claimed responsibility yet?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No claim of responsibility yet. And Turkish authorities calling it a terror attack, but not identifying a suspect.
For context, the last two major attacks in Turkey, both have been claimed by ISIS, but at this point they don't have a responsible party. Twenty-eight dead, that's the death toll now, 61 injured in an attack right at the heart of the Turkish capital, Ankara, targeting military vehicles as they stopped at a stoplight. What's believed to have been a car bomb really erupting in a ball of flames with all these deaths there.
Wolf. Just to remind our viewers, it was only a couple of weeks ago a bombing in the capital of Istanbul targeted German tourists. That was blamed on ISIS and then earlier on a peace protests, more than a hundred killed also. That's blamed on ISIS. But in this case, they have not identified the perpetrator.
BLITZER: And presumably, they're worried this is going to go on and on and on.
SCIUTTO: They are. And for Turkey, it's really been a shame. I mean, you've seen the war in Syria in effect spill over the border and ISIS now targeting the Turkish state for its military action inside Syria.
BLITZER: There's been some fear maybe Kurdish terrorists, but most suspect ISIS given the history.
SCIUTTO: They do suspect with no certainty yet. But that is the presumption, given the history.
BLITZER: A horrible situation. All right. Jim Sciutto, thanks for that update.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.