Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Mourning Scalia; Hillary vs. Bernie in Nevada; South Carolina Republican Primary; Clinton, Sanders Battling for Nevada on Eve of Caucuses; Top ISIS Operative Believed Killed in U.S. Strike in Libya; White House: Obama Focusing on Scalia Replacement This Weekend. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 20, 2016 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:02]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Clinton redemption? Actor Morgan Freeman lends his "Shawshank" star power to Hillary Clinton, voicing an ad praising her career and telling CNN he has no trust issue with the Democratic candidate. Can the spot convince skeptical voters, as Bernie Sanders continues to gain ground in the battle for the nomination?

Direct strike, a rare U.S. attack on ISIS forces inside Libya killing dozens of people in a terror training camp, a top ISIS operative suspected in two bloody attacks believed to be among the dead. Did the strike thwart a terror attack on the West?

Mourning Scalia. The president and first lady pay respects to Justice Antonin Scalia, his casket lying in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House saying the president is planning to do in-depth research on potential nominees to replace Scalia this weekend.

But with a near solid wall of opposition from Republicans, can President Obama nominate anyone to even get a hearing?

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: We're following breaking news.

Donald Trump and his Republican rivals in this the final hours of campaigning ahead of tomorrow's South Carolina primary. We're standing by to hear from Trump shortly. And we're also following his surprise attack on Apple. He's calling for a boycott of the company until it helps FBI investigators unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino terrorists.

We're also following the airstrike against ISIS inside Libya. For only the second time, American warplanes targeting terrorist targets, forces inside that country killing dozens at a training camp.

Also tonight, officials believe a top operative who helped carry out two deadly terror attacks was among those killed by the U.S. We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our

correspondents, our expert analysts and our guests. They are all standing by live.

Let's begin with the Republican fight for South Carolina. All eyes right now on Donald Trump.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty begins our coverage in South Carolina, where it's primary eve.

Sunlen, all the candidates right now, they are campaigning down to the wire. What's the latest?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The candidates are spread out across this state right now making their final pitch, trying to close the deal with undecided voters. But Donald Trump tonight is focusing his fire on Apple instead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SERFATY (voice-over): A day after taking on Pope Francis, Donald Trump tonight directing his attacks at the tech giant Apple.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all, Apple ought to give the security for that phone, OK? What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such time as they give that security number.

SERFATY: Trump urging people to give the company the cold shoulder until it agrees to unlock the iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino killers. Trump's move comes as he attempts to de-escalate his feud with the pope.

TRUMP: They had him convinced that illegal immigration is like a wonderful thing.

SERFATY: Putting blame on the media instead.

TRUMP: I don't like fighting with the pope. I don't think it's a fight. I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media.

SERFATY: The Vatican today clarifying that the pope's comment was not a -- quote -- "personal attack" or an indication in how to vote, but Trump also on the defense struggling to explain his past stance on the Iraq War, BuzzFeed obtaining these comments Trump made to Howard Stern in 2002 supporting the invasion for Iraq.

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Are you for invading Iraq?

TRUMP: Yes, I guess so. You know, I wish it was -- I wish the first time it was done correctly.

SERFATY: That much different than what Trump regularly tells voters on the campaign trail, that he opposed the invasion from the start.

TRUMP: I'm the one from 2002, 2003 said you shouldn't be doing it. SERFATY: At the CNN town hall, Trump tried to explain.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you remember saying that?

TRUMP: No. But, I mean, I could -- I could have said that. Nobody asked me. I wasn't a politician. It was probably the first time anybody asked me that question.

SERFATY: And today trying to clean it up.

TRUMP: I was with Howard Stern before the war, before, like many months before. And the first guy to ever ask me about Iraq was Howard Stern. And I said, no, I don't know, I guess so.

Then I started looking at it. Before the war started, I was against that war. I was against that war.

SERFATY: Meanwhile, the most intense South Carolina showdown is the fierce battle between Rubio and Cruz, each fighting to leave South Carolina with the upper hand as the alternative to Trump.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have been through a wild, woolly election season.

SERFATY: Jeb Bush under pressure to finish strong here, campaigning with his mom.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Jeb has been a great son, great father, great husband.

SERFATY: And laying into nearly all of his rivals.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump has never shown any interest in anybody else other than himself. And the two candidates that are gifted speakers, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have shown nothing in their past that would suggest they could make a tough decision.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:05:13]

SERFATY: And Jeb Bush and his campaign have been peppered with questions all day today. If they don't do well here in South Carolina, what is the path forward? Jeb Bush himself says that for right now he is focused on today and tomorrow, but, Wolf, he certainly has a lot of pressure on his back to make a strong showing coming out of South Carolina.

BLITZER: Her certainly does. All right, Sunlen, thank you.

We're also standing by to hear directly from Donald Trump. He's about to hold a campaign rally tonight. It's supposed to begin shortly. Stand by for that.

Our political reporter, Sara Murray, is on the scene for us. Sara, what's the latest you're hearing about Trump's plan to now

boycott Apple?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, soon after he announced that boycott, people noticed on Twitter he was still tweeting with an iPhone. So, Donald Trump took to Twitter to clear that up.

He said, "I use both iPhone and Samsung. If Apple doesn't give in to authorities on the terrorists, I will only be using Samsung until they give the info."

Now, Trump himself said in his earlier event that this was a hastily called boycott. And that certainly seems to be the case. Here in North Charleston, there are entire centers that are selling Donald Trump merchandise and they are using a number of iPads to check people out. Trump not even boycotting that at his own event. We will see if he takes this fight with Apple a step further. His event should start any minute now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we expect him to be speaking about this. I assume he will. What else do we expect to hear from Trump tonight?

MURRAY: Wolf, tonight, this is really Donald Trump's closing argument with the voters of South Carolina. The campaign feels solid here. They feel strong. They are ahead in the polls.

But, remember, even though they blew it out in New Hampshire, they got burned in Iowa and they want to make sure that they are fighting to the finish. I think what you will hear from Donald Trump is a guy who makes it clear to this crowd he's not someone who is going to back down. He's someone who is going to be strong on national security, strong on the military, big issues here in South Carolina, and, again, just prodding them not to take anything for granted and to be sure they show up and vote tomorrow.

BLITZER: Sara, thank you, Sara Murray on the scene for us.

As we stand by to hear from Donald Trump, let's speak with one of his key supporters. Scottie Hughes is with us. She's a Tea Party leader.

Scottie, thanks for coming back.

SCOTTIE HUGHES, USA RADIO NETWORKS: I did come back.

BLITZER: You are always welcome.

This boycott against Apple right now. Yesterday, he was talking about this fight he was having with the pope, today Apple. This is potentially a very big deal.

HUGHES: It is potentially a big deal, but let's talk about what's encouraging it.

You had a great panel on that talked about the logistics, the technical side. I think what Mr. Trump is addressing is the national security side. I am sorry, but when you are talking about people that came into this country, planned to kill Americans and executed their plans and 14 people are dead, I don't think they have rights.

I don't care about their rights anymore. I want to know who they had lunch with, who they talked to. I want to know every detail of their life just so we can prevent future terrorist attacks happening. This has nothing to do -- there's a difference between privacy concerns in the past. These are folks who committed crimes and killed Americans and are terrorists.

I'm sorry. I think Apple needs to be giving us every detail they can to prevent future terrorist acts from happening here on our soil.

BLITZER: Because they're fighting that court order, as you know. And as you just heard, he says he uses iPhones, uses Samsung. The interesting thing, if you boycott iPhone or Apple, Samsung is a foreign company. Apple is an American company. He always wants to support American companies. Right?

HUGHES: Well, he does. But we do have a lot of Apple parts that are being made in China right now.

I have an Apple. My entire life -- house is Apple. I think the boycott is going forward. I think what he wants is people not to go out tonight and buy brand-new Apple products and supporting them. We have to stop coddling terrorists within this country and we need to send a message to them. You come over here and hurt us, we're going to hurt you and we're going to hurt your families.

The king of Jordan did a great thing. When they sat there -- when you had ISIS burn one of their pilots alive and put that video out on YouTube, guess what's the king of Jordan did? He took one of their ISIS -- an older female and shot her and sent that video right back to them.

We don't have anymore pilots being burned alive. You have to send the message to them that we will give you back exactly what you do to us.

BLITZER: So, you, Scottie, if Apple continues to resist this court order, does not have this back door in to try to find out what was going on in that terrorist's iPhone, are you going to start getting a different iPhone, a different cell phone yourself right now?

HUGHES: I think the American people are going to call on Apple to do the right thing. In the end, that's all that Mr. Trump has been all about, is making sure that our country and our families are safe. It has nothing to do with political parties.

And if there are any future terrorist attacks that are formed or done that have links to this couple, Apple will have a lot to pay for that because they did not tell the authorities exactly what that connection was.

BLITZER: There's another development that has come up and it's causing some stir out there. Donald Trump the other day in the -- I guess it was someplace, he said that he'd be neutral in the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

[18:10:01]

Ted Cruz today really went after him on this. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The other day, Donald Trump went on TV and said he would be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians.

Well, let me be very clear. If I am president, I have no intention of being neutral. America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: People were surprised to hear Donald Trump say he'd be neutral between the Israelis and the Palestinians in this kind of negotiation.

HUGHES: I think, you know, as we just saw these elections that happened in Israel, not everybody was behind Benjamin Netanyahu.

And I think what a President Trump would do is say I'm going to support Israel. There's no doubt that he actually supports Israel and America will stand with Israel. But he's got to make sure both that groups want to negotiate first.

It's kind of like what happened yesterday with the pope coming in not knowing all the logistics, everything we're dealing with in America and making these comments about our political process. Until Mr. Trump is actually in there, talking, being able to observe those kinds of issues, what's going on in Israel, know those Security concerns that he might not be privy to right now, I think it's very diplomatic for him to say we will -- to not sit there and just say I'm going to go guns a blazing.

And, in fact, I think that's very irresponsible right now for presidential candidates who don't know all the details, who have not talked to both sides, because even there's conflict within Jerusalem as to what parts and what issues. It's a very complicated issue.

I think all that is, is a sound bite to sit there and encourage the pro-Israel folks who are very much evangelical, who are very much a part of the Republican Party to think that Donald Trump is against Israel, which is the exact opposite of the truth.

BLITZER: Because I was surprised to hear what he said about the neutrality issue, because when I interviewed him a few weeks ago in New York at Trump Tower, I asked him, if he were president, would he move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in effect, thereby recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, something U.S. presidents have refused to do all of these years?

And he said, yes, he would do that. And then, all of a sudden, in response to the other question, he says he'd be neutral in this kind of negotiation.

HUGHES: I think this shows his maturity.

If you have been in Mr. Trump's office, over his desk is actually a gift by Israel. It's the tree of life in Israel. But I have been told that very -- only those people who have done something very good and very nice for the state of Israel is given this gift.

And it hangs right over his office. That means something. Anybody that tries to point him as being anti-Semitic or anti-Israel is truly trying to start a slanderous campaign that is false.

BLITZER: You have also now heard this clip from an interview he gave back in 2002 to Howard Stern in which he said he supposes he would support going to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, even though all these months he has been saying he always opposed going to war against Saddam Hussein.

He said it was a huge, maybe the greatest blunder any American president has ever made, referring to President George W. Bush. This puts him in a little awkward position now.

HUGHES: It does. But it's just an offhanded comment on a radio show.

Let's talk about the timeline that we keep talking about. Mr. Trump first brought it up on August 6 that he actually talked -- the biggest time that he came against the war in Iraq was 16 months after we had already invaded. That's when he said, you know what? It's destabilized. We're being irresponsible. We're going in and gutting a company and not actually doing anything responsible to make sure it's going to be successful going forward.

That was 16 months after the invasion, which he admits. Three months prior to the invasion, he goes on another network show and says, I have some real hesitancy. This president has to decide, is he going to do it or is he not? He's putting our economy in limbo right now and I think he should listen to the U.N.

Then, one week after the actual invasion, he goes to a party and offhand once again asked. He says, this is a mess.

Now, what we're talking about here, if he would have said anything that in any way would have seemed anti-patriotic or not supporting our troops with that, he would have been slandered for not supporting our American troops.

I think he actually had a very good process. But the more important point in this, he was talking during that entire time. None of these other candidates were. They waited until they start running for office before they started actually talking for or against the Iraq War.

BLITZER: Scottie, I want you to stand by, because there's more to discuss.

We're also standing by to hear directly from Donald Trump. He is getting ready to speak at a rally. Much more news coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:18:29]

BLITZER: You are looking at live pictures. We're standing by to hear from Donald Trump. He is campaigning tonight for tomorrow's major South Carolina Republican primary. He's leading by double digits, according to the polls, but his rivals are certainly battling him right now down to the wire.

Joining us to discuss what's going on, our CNN politics executive editor, Mark Preston, CNN political commentator Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and our CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Mark, who is best positioned right now going into tomorrow's primary?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: I think it's who we're going to see on TV shortly, Donald Trump. And the fact is, he's built an organization, certainly not as strong as some of the other grassroots organizations we have seen these campaigns build in South Carolina, but his appeal is just -- it just doesn't stop.

BLITZER: You were just there too.

PRESTON: I literally just got off an airplane from there. And I got to tell you, It's very nasty down in South Carolina right now. The campaigns are really bare-knuckling it.

BLITZER: Not the weather, you're talking. You're talking about the politics?

PRESTON: It's South Carolina. It's very nice down there.

No, but, listen, the fact is, Donald Trump, his message is resonating. We saw it happen in New Hampshire and it's continuing down to South Carolina. And he's hoping to take it into March 1.

BLITZER: Cruz is reportedly very well-positioned with that so-called ground game. He's got good people on the ground there helping him get the vote out tomorrow.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Cruz has a smart staff. They go well beyond the evangelical vote.

They're talented organizers. I would not be surprised if he comes in second, even though what I'm hearing from the Rubio team is that they are feeling very confident.

BLITZER: But you agree with most of the polls, almost all of the polls in South Carolina that Trump is going to win tomorrow?

[18:20:01]

ROSEN: I just don't see anybody touching him. And, you know, everything he does is designed to get more attention.

Other candidates keep thinking that they are finding a soft spot, and then it turns out to be a strength, not a soft spot.

BLITZER: Even among evangelicals, according to our recent CNN/ORC poll, Jeffrey, we asked white evangelicals who they support, 42 percent Trump, 23 percent Cruz, 14 percent Rubio. Even among these evangelicals, which is supposedly the base of the Cruz campaign, Trump is doing better.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: But Trump is always in this sort of 30 to 40 range.

His huge advantage is that he doesn't have one opponent. If he were only a 30 to 40 and everybody coalesced around someone else, we'd be talking about Trump's weakness, rather than his strength, but because this field is not shrinking and because Rubio and Cruz at least clearly are not going anywhere, he's going to be continue to be in very good shape if he gets in the upper 30s.

ROSEN: That might have been true, though, but when you get into the 40s, if you add the next top two, they are still not close to him. So I'm not so sure that this actually, this conventional wisdom is true that if everybody else got out but one guy that Trump would be so far behind.

BLITZER: Because he's been ahead for months and months when there were 17 Republican candidates. And now that there are six Republican candidates, he is still way ahead.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: And he's growing.

TOOBIN: That's true. But no one has a chance unless there is a one- on-one contest. He's clearly not going below that 30 percent.

BLITZER: Does he pick up -- Donald Trump, does he pick up -- let's say somebody else drops out in the next few days after South Carolina. Would those votes presumably go to Cruz or Rubio or someone else or would they go to Trump?

PRESTON: Well, it depends. It depends who actually leaves. To the point of some kind of coalition or coalescing behind one candidate, you're looking at the Jeb Bush supporters, John Kasich supporters, Marco Rubio supporters.

You can't say the same thing about the Ted Cruz supporters. If for some reason Ted Cruz were ever to get forced out of the race, I don't think they will go with the establishment candidate. Some of them will.

ROSEN: Same with Carson.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESTON: Same with Carson as well, who, by the way, has a lot of support from evangelicals.

To Jeffrey's point, though, if the centrists can get behind one candidate, if they can get behind him, then it's going to be a different race. But I can tell you what. Conventional wisdom right now is really out the window.

BLITZER: Ted Cruz is clearly not a centrist. He's not one of the establishment candidates.

PRESTON: Absolutely not, and nor is he leaving any time soon either. He has plenty of money.

BLITZER: No. He's got money.

And Rubio is well -- your fellow New Yorker the former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he is making all sorts of public indications that he's seriously thinking of running as a third-party candidate. What are you hearing?

TOOBIN: I think it only is a serious possibility if Sanders is the Democratic candidate.

BLITZER: If Hillary is, Hillary Clinton?

TOOBIN: Hillary -- his politics and Hillary Clinton's politics are virtually identical.

He comes from a different background. He has all the billions of dollars and he doesn't have an e-mail problem. But I just think it's inconceivable that he'd run against Hillary Clinton.

But if it's Sanders, I do think it's a realistic possibility. His problem is, he's got to make up his mind in March, when the Sanders/Clinton race may well be unresolved.

BLITZER: In order to get on those ballots.

What do you think?

ROSEN: Well, I actually think he ends up taking more from the Republican nominee. And I think that he and...

BLITZER: Reince Priebus doesn't think that, the chairman of the Republican Party.

ROSEN: Of course he wouldn't say that.

BLITZER: He thinks it would lock in the Republican.

ROSEN: But Bloomberg himself has said that he is most offended by Donald Trump.

And I think if Trump, you know, keeps going down this path, that propels Mike Bloomberg almost more than anything. But I agree with Jeff. I just don't see him taking votes from Hillary Clinton or from the Democrat. BLITZER: He said this most recently. We're talking about Michael

Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York.

"The list of supposed villains we hear about is long, but the actual solutions that Americans seek have been in short supply."

He's basically suggesting that the Republicans are moving to the fringe on the right. The Democrats are moving to the fringe on the left. He potentially would be a mainstream moderate that could get things done.

PRESTON: Right. In some ways, he is correct that we're seeing the parties become more polarized on each side. But I really don't think Michael Bloomberg is going to run for president. It's a Herculean task to do so.

It's not even a money issue for him, because he has the money. But in order to get on the ballots, it's extremely hard, and it's never been done in the history of the United States. It just hasn't been done. Look, he can make all the waves he wants, he can make all the noise he wants. He can generate all the headlines he wants. I just still don't think he's going to run.

BLITZER: All right, guys, stand by. We have more to discuss.

Once again, we're waiting for Donald Trump. He's supposedly is going to be speaking momentarily. You're looking at live pictures over there. Much more coming up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:29:24]

BLITZER: We're following the final hours of the Democratic campaign in Nevada, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a very tight contest right now , just ahead of tomorrow's caucuses.

Our senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, is in Las Vegas for us tonight.

Brianna, the stakes for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are very, very high. What's the latest over there?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they sure are high stakes, Wolf.

Polls show Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton neck and neck. And the Clinton campaign is afraid that this caucus format here in Las Vegas will favor Bernie Sanders. That's part of the reason she's concentrating on South Carolina and black voters there.

But Bernie Sanders is, too, telling BET that Hillary Clinton is aligning herself with President Obama really just to court African- Americans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Show the world that democracy is alive and well here in Nevada.

KEILAR: Today Bernie Sanders is making a final pitch to Nevada voters before Saturday's caucuses.

SANDERS: The issue is not just who wins the Democratic nomination. The issue is whether Nevada will play a leading role in moving this country toward a political revolution which transforms this country.

KEILAR: As Hillary Clinton tries to tighten her grip on South Carolina, eight days before the first-in-the-south primary. Scoring a big Palmetto State endorsement from Jim Clyburn, a former civil rights activist and the highest-ranking African-American in Congress.

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: My heart has always been with Hillary Clinton.

KEILAR: Clinton is also running a new biographical television ad, featuring the iconic voice of actor Morgan Freeman.

MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR (voice-over): Her life's work has been about breaking barriers and so would her presidency.

KEILAR: One day before Nevada Democrats caucus, Clinton is still in search of potential supporters, courting all-important union support in the Silver State.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am no Johnny or Janie come lately to this. I did not just discover that unions were under pressure from the Republicans and the right.

KEILAR: Suggesting that Sanders is unrealistic in his promises.

CLINTON: I'm not just making speeches. I'm not just promising free this and free that and free everything.

KEILAR: Clinton and Sanders both facing fresh scrutiny at a Nevada town hall last night. Clinton on whether she would release transcripts of speeches she's given to financial institutions.

CLINTON: I -- I am happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups, including Senator Sanders.

KEILAR: Sanders was pressed to respond to comments he made in 2011 raising the possibility of a progressive primary challenge to President Obama's reelection.

SANDERS: Overall, I think that the president has done an outstanding job. And the idea that there can be a primary where different ideas get floated and debated, I don't think that that is terrible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Meanwhile -- meanwhile, Bernie Sanders' brother, Larry, taking aim at a former president. That would be Bill Clinton. He said he was a dreadful president for poor people. But about Hillary Clinton, he said that Bernie Sanders, while they're not friends, he worked near her, and he does have respect for her -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for that. Brianna in Las Vegas for us.

You know, it got a little testy last night, Hilary Rosen. Hillary Clinton raising questions about Bernie Sanders' commitment to being a Democrat to begin with. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I know that Senator -- Senator Sanders has also attacked President Obama. He's called him weak. He's called him disappointing. He tried to get somebody to run against him in the 2012 election in the primary.

And, you know, I just don't know where all this comes from. Because maybe it's that Senator Sanders wasn't really a Democrat until he decided to run for president. He doesn't even know what, you know, the last two Democratic presidents did. And I'm -- you know, I'm -- well, it's true. It's true. You know it's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You heard some members of the audience there booing. Others were applauding her. But those were pretty tough words.

ROSEN: Well, I mean, they were just factual. Let's just say, he still is an independent. He caucuses with the Democrats.

Look, I think he's certainly Democrat enough to run in the Democratic primary. I don't think there's a big question about that. I know Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the party, said that this afternoon. I agree with her.

But the point that he is making about President Obama, he is attacking Hillary Clinton for aligning herself with President Obama and saying that it's only because she's pandering to the black vote. I think that got Hillary Clinton a little insulted, and it was an insult to Barack Obama. He's actually the president of all the people, not just African-Americans. And, you know, she has been a -- sort of a loyal person in his administration. So, you know, that was kind of a low blow. I think Hillary got a little insulted and pushed back.

BLITZER: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is neutral right now. She's also the chair of the DNC, the Democratic National Committee. She's a congressman from Florida. She says she doesn't even think Bernie Sanders right now is a registered Democrat. He's always been an independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats.

PRESTON: Yes, you know, in some ways, though, isn't he more pure as a Democrat? You know, he's so far -- we talked earlier about the fringes of the parties. You know, the left becoming more powerful and the right becoming more powerful. In many ways, Bernie Sanders probably relates to a strong part of the Democratic base right now, more so than a lot of Democrats do in Congress. You know, he's very liberal. Liberals make up the base of the Democratic Party.

[18:35:18] I think this is really -- it doesn't matter. I mean, the fact is, he does caucus. He has always caucused with the Democrats. And, quite frankly, there's probably a large part of the Democratic Party that thinks that he represents them better than a lot of his colleagues.

BLITZER: When she says, Jeffrey -- when Hillary Clinton says that Senator Sanders wasn't really a Democrat until he decided to run for president, he doesn't even know what -- you know, what the last two Democratic presidents did. One of those last two Democratic presidents being her husband.

TOOBIN: This just underlines the problem Hillary Clinton has had finding a line of attack against Bernie Sanders that works.

There's a lot to work with, with Bernie Sanders. I mean, this is a guy who didn't hold a job until he was in his 40s, who -- so, you know, is a socialist, which is not something that, you know, most Americans support.

The problem is, she doesn't want to alienate his supporters. So finding an argument that works to get his supporters without alienating him is something she has not been able to do quite well yet.

BLITZER: Because if she gets the nomination, Jeffrey is 100 percent right, she wants that -- those young people, those enthusiastic Democrats who were showing up and voting for Bernie Sanders. He crushed her in New Hampshire, for example. She wants that support. She doesn't want to alienate them.

ROSEN: You know, I think, actually, both of them have been very vocal about this when asked. They both are supportive of each other's supporters. They both talked about unity eventually. I just don't think that's going to be a big issue. But there's no question that they're both looking now for points of differentiation as they are going in these kind of razor-thin primaries.

BLITZER: Do you think he should be going after her, responding to some of the critiques that she delivered that former president, Bill Clinton, delivered? Should he be more assertive in his response?

TOOBIN: You know, if I'm Bernie Sanders, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Here's a guy that was 50 points behind a couple months ago. He's now virtually tied in many places in the country. I think what he's doing is working. So I wouldn't look for big changes in the Sanders campaign.

BLITZER: Set the scene for Nevada for the caucuses. The Democratic caucuses tomorrow in Nevada. They close the caucuses, basically, around 2 p.m. Eastern Time, 11 a.m. out there in Nevada.

PRESTON: Don't get mad at me, Nevada. But let me use two words: confusion and chaos. And the reason why I say this is that it's still -- it's a state that has not been able to perfect how to run a caucus yet, as we have seen in Iowa, which has done so since the early '70s, perhaps even before then.

We'll see what happens. I do think that there will be some disagreements about who has won and who hasn't won. We saw back in 2008, as Hilary and I were talking about off-camera, about how Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote, but Barack Obama had scored more delegates, just because of how it all worked out.

It will be really interesting tomorrow. But to the point is that, if Bernie Sanders can come out of Nevada with a win, whether that's through the popular vote or with more delegates, that is going to be very helpful to his campaign. If he comes out with a loss, then it could be -- you know, it could be a problem.

BLITZER: What are you looking for in Nevada tomorrow?

ROSEN: Look, I think I agree with Mark. I think, if Sanders wins, they're splitting states for a ways to come. She needs some momentum coming out of Nevada.

On the other hand, he has the money to stay in this for a long time. The Clinton campaign is anticipating another two months of slogging this out state by state.

BLITZER: Because we remember eight years ago it went all the way until June before then-Senator Barack Obama nailed down, she conceded after Puerto Rico and all of that. It was -- it went on and on and on. You think it could happen this time?

TOOBIN: Absolutely, especially with two excellently financed candidates. You look at the Republican race. You look at the candidates who drop out. Mostly they drop out because they don't have any money left. And it may happen to Jeb Bush who went through more money than anybody in this campaign, but look where he is in the polls.

BLITZER: All right. Let me shift gears dramatically, talk about something else very important. "American Crime Story: The People Versus O.J. Simpson." That's been airing on FX. This is based on what -- you covered the O.J. Simpson trial. A lot of us remember that trial very, very vividly. There's a dramatic scene in which you are portrayed by an actor...

TOOBIN: Chris Connor.

BLITZER: He does a very good job. John Travolta plays Robert Shapiro. I want to play this little clip. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CONNOR, ACTOR: All the blood evidence, somehow these cops, all the racist police officers, planted it, from the murder scene to the Bronco to Rockingham?

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: Who else could have? Take a step back. Doesn't it seem odd that this glove just happened to be at Rockingham at the same time that Detective Fuhrman just happened to find it? CONNOR: It isn't odd if Simpson dropped it after he climbed the wall

to avoid being seen by the limo driver.

TRAVOLTA: Jeff, you look like a smart kid. Don't rush to judgment. We will show that it is impossible for a black man to get a fair shake with the LAPD. We will prove this.

CONNOR: So you're going to say this case is all about race?

TRAVOLTA: Yes, because it is. I'm just simply shedding a light on it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He does look a little like you, Chris Connor.

TOOBIN: A younger version, yes.

BLITZER: That was a -- that was a dramatic moment in your career. You were a young reporter for "The New Yorker" magazine. You were sent out there to cover the trial. You went out there with one goal, but he convinced you to take a look at something else that really shaped your career.

TOOBIN: Well, it really did. I had a tip from Alan Dershowitz, who was my criminal law professor in law school. And he said, "Look at Mark Fuhrman." And I went to the criminal courts, the record of the civil litigation. I went down to the basement, looking in those pre- Internet days. I found the files. And then I showed up at Shapiro's office uninvited, and he talked to me and then gave that story.

I happened to be on the set this summer when they shot that scene. And it was, like, a very surreal experience.

BLITZER: The series is based on your book, as well.

TOOBIN: It is.

BLITZER: And you were a consultant.

TOOBIN: I was a consultant.

BLITZER: Everybody who has seen it has said only positive things about it.

TOOBIN: It's...

BLITZER: You guys have done a very, very good job.

TOOBIN: And they picked an actor who is better looking than I am, which I really...

BLITZER: Did you wear glasses like that usually?

TOOBIN: I did wear glasses just like that.

BLITZER: Wireless.

TOOBIN: I still wear glasses, but I forgot them in New York.

BLITZER: You should have worn them today.

TOOBIN: I know. For old time's sake.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Stand by. We've got a lot more coming up.

Just ahead, a very other -- different story we're watching. We're getting new details right now of a very rare U.S. airstrike against ISIS in Libya. Did it take out a top terrorist operative?

And we're also standing by to hear from Donald Trump. These are live pictures coming in. He's campaigning in South Carolina right now just ahead of tomorrow's Republican primary. What will he say about his latest call to boycott Apple?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:46:28] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're learning more right now about a U.S. airstrike on an ISIS training camp inside Libya that killed more than 40 people possibly, including a senior terrorist operative believed to have been responsible for two devastating terror attacks.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been working the story for us.

Barbara, you have new details. What have you learned?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.

U.S. officials believe they were able -- at this point, they were -- all the indications are they killed the operative they were going after, but this was anything but a typical terrorist training camp.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): A suspected ISIS camp in Libya now destroyed by U.S. warplanes on the orders of President Obama. U.S. intelligence believes foreign fighters there were training to launch an attack, possibly in Europe or Africa. It's only the second time the U.S. has gone after ISIS inside Libya. This time just days after the president warned the U.S. would strike.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will continue to take actions where we've got a clear operation and a clear target in mind.

STARR: With 5,000 ISIS operatives in Libya, the threat of an attack from there is growing.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president will make good on his promise to continue to apply pressure to ISIL leaders who threaten the United States and our interests. STARR: Two U.S. F-15s from the U.K. and drones from Italy flew to

Sabratha on the North African coast of Libya. This video claims to show the aftermath of the U.S. dropping bombs on four buildings that the U.S. said housed 60 ISIS operatives.

U.S. military and intelligence agencies had watched the camp for weeks. Aerial reconnaissance flights saw advanced weapons and tactics training.

A top ISIS operative Noureddine Chouchane at the camp was targeted and killed. He is said to be responsible for two deadly attacks over the border in Tunisia last year.

EARNEST: This individual is a known ISIL leader, a facilitator, and an individual who has facilitated the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across North Africa.

STARR: Tonight, U.S. officials believe, Libya, with no central government in control, has become a fully functioning third front for ISIS, along with Iraq and Syria, a place from which they can plot new attacks against the West.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: The military had given President Obama a number of secret options for bombing Libya several days ago. Look for more strikes when the U.S. can find very specific ISIS targets that pose a threat there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: May only just be beginning.

All right. Barbara, thanks very much.

Let's dig a little deeper right now with our global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, who's here with me.

Why has ISIS been expanding now from Iraq and Syria and obviously they've got a major foothold in Libya right now?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A major foothold, about 5,000 fighters, some estimates. I mean, as the U.S. is going after them in Iraq and Syria, it's getting harder to operate there. They're getting squeezed in Raqqa, their proclaimed capital, so they're moving over to Libya. Now, with the government basically not functioning at all, it's pretty lawless, so it is a full safe haven for them.

The U.S. is growing increasingly concerned about it. As they try to get a government together, this drags on.

[18:50:04] They're going to continue to grow. The U.S. also very concerned that they'll try to go -- ISIS will go after Libyan oil fields to make up for some of the revenue that they're losing when the U.S. is bombing oil fields in Syria.

BLITZER: That could be a source of huge revenue for ISIS as well, which raises the questions airstrikes from F-15s or F-16s, or whatever, from drones, one thing. What about U.S. ground troops going into Libya?

LABOTT: I don't think you're going to see ground troops, definitely not. I don't even think you're going to see a protracted air campaign like we've seen in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. is still waiting for that government to get in there, so that they can work with the government, help build out their capacities.

But the U.S. is, you know, looking to other countries like Italy, the ISIS envoy Brett McGurk was just in Egypt this week, presumably talking about this operation. They're increasing their covert special operations.

So, I think you'll continue to see these kind of one-offs targets of opportunity like we saw in November when they went after the leader of ISIS in Libya, but I think the U.S. really wants to get that government in there and try to work that way.

But, you know, these one-offs are not really going to solve your ISIS problem. It kind of reminds me of the debate in Syria where the debate dragged on and ISIS grew. Right now, we're seeing 5,000 operatives in Libya. It's going to continue to grow while this debate goes on.

BLITZER: It wasn't supposed to happen after Gadhafi. The U.S. and others got rid of Gadhafi. The Arab Spring, it was supposed to be a whole new North Africa. It's turned out to be, so far, in Libya, a disaster, a failed state, an ISIS foothold not far from southern Europe, as we all know.

All right, Elise. Thanks very much.

Just ahead, President Obama mourning Justice Antonin Scalia as he prepares his search for a replacement on the U.S. Supreme Court.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:18] BLITZER: The White House says President Obama will be doing extensive research this weekend on potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees to replace the Justice Antonin Scalia. You're looking at live pictures of people going over there, paying their respects.

The video that we're just getting in President Obama returning to the White House residence with a large binder full of information about possible picks for the high court. Also tonight, mourners continuing to file past Scalia's casket inside the Supreme Court, just ahead of the funeral tomorrow morning.

Our justice correspondent Pamela Brown is working all of these developments for us.

Pamela, what is the latest?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Obama was one of more than 3,000 people who have come here today to the high court to pay their respects. As you can see behind me, people continue to file in. They'll be able to do so until 9:00 tonight.

And while not everyone who came here today to pay their respects agreed with Justice Scalia's conservative ideology, they said they wanted to come here because he was such an influence on the bench and changed the way the justices see the law. He's someone who's dedicated 30 years of his life to public service.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): A somber day at the highest court in the land. President Obama and the first lady arrived to pay their respects to Justice Antonin Scalia. The first couple paused at the flag-draped casket as Scalia's former clerks stood guard. They'll be taking turns through the day and night.

One of his clerks, Jamison Jones.

JAMISON JONES, FORMER SCALIA CLERK: It's a really touching ceremony this morning. Justice Scalia was both a brilliant mentor but also just a warm, and kind, and generous person.

BROWN: This morning, Supreme Court police officers carry the conservative legal icon on his final journal to the high court. Behind the casket, some of Scalia's favorite former law clerks. Dozens more lined the marble steps, waiting at the massive bronze doors of the court, Scalia's children and grandchildren and his son, a Catholic priest.

Father Paul Scalia led the casket into the Great Hall, where the eight remaining justices said goodbye to their colleague and friend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My brothers and sisters, Jesus says come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

BROWN: When the private ceremony ended, the high court opened its doors to the public. Two people of particular note Patty Millett and Srinivasan, considered top contenders to be the president's nominee to replace Scalia.

Another striking moment, the actor who portrayed Scalia in the play "The Originalist" teared up as he stood at the casket.

Outside, members of the public braved the cold for their opportunity to say goodbye.

JEFF DALEY, ATTORNEY: As attorneys, as the officers of the court, I think we have an obligation to come pay our respects.

BROWN: At a memorial outside, a tribute to the justice's sense of humor on the bench. A jar of apple sauce and broccoli refrencing Scalia's colorful metaphor during the Obamacare case.

ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Could you define the market? Everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so you define the market as food. Therefore, everybody is in the market. Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sad time for me personally and for the country, and it's tough to imagine this court without him, without him sitting up there for the next (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: So, dignitaries have come here today to pay their respects. Tomorrow will be the funeral mass for Justice Scalia. We know Vice President Biden will be there.

The president is not expected to attend. The White House pushed back on criticism saying it felt like this was the appropriate way to pay respects and Vice President Biden has a close relationship with the Scalia family. There will be other dignitaries there including the Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and following that will be the private burial.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thanks very much.

That's all the time we have right now.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.