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Trump Looks Ahead after 'Extraordinary Night'; Trump's Rivals Battle for Survival; Clinton Faces High Expectations in South Carolina; Senator Harry Reid Endorses Hillary Clinton; North Korea May Use Nuclear Weapons If Challenged. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 24, 2016 - 17:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST HOST: -- the time for clowns is past.

Supreme fight. President Obama jabs back at senators for refusing to consider anyone that he nominates to the Supreme Court. Tonight an intriguing new twist. Could he nominate a Republican?

[17:00:13] Plus, nuclear nightmare. Pentagon planners consider the deadly possibility of Kim Jong-un lashing out with nuclear weapons if he feels threatened. Could he hit the U.S.?

Wolf Blitzer is on assignment, preparing for Thursday night's Republican presidential debate. I'm Brianna Keilar, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And as we count down to CNN's Republican debate here in Houston, Texas, Donald Trump is looking ahead to Super Tuesday. His chance to deliver a series of knockout blows to his remaining rivals.

Now, Trump is also starting to answer questions about who he might pick as a running mate. The biggest hint so far: Trump says he's looking for a political insider. Pretty interesting.

And as for Trump's opponents, well, they're scattered across the country. They're attacking one another, and they're trying to convince Republican voters they have the best chance of taking Trump down.

Our correspondents, analysts and guests, including Senator Tim Scott, who is backing Marco Rubio, have full coverage of the day's top stories.

And we begin with CNN's Jim Acosta. Jim, can Donald Trump make the case that three straight wins makes him the inevitable nominee?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the question everybody is asking, Brianna, and the answer is quickly becoming possibly yes. Donald Trump is savoring his big victory here in Nevada, and he's predicting more wins next week on Super Tuesday.

Even though he only has a fraction of the delegates needed to capture the GOP nomination, Trump is sounding like he's already measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Donald Trump's first campaign event after his win in Nevada says it all.


ACOSTA: Eyeing the Bible Belt states up for grabs on Super Tuesday next week, Trump appealed to Christian conservatives by sitting down with televangelist Pat Robertson.


ACOSTA: Trump talked about forgiveness, perhaps even for his arch- rival Ted Cruz. Maybe.

TRUMP: I can forgive. Every once in a while there will be somebody that went too far over the last few weeks, and you know, things were said that were lies. But I've got to be a good person today, at least for the next hour. I'm sorry.

ACOSTA: But Trump isn't spending much time talking about his opponents, he's busy envisioning his days in the White House. The ultimate political outsider saying he would likely want a political insider as his vice president.

TRUMP: I do want somebody that's political because I want to get lots of great legislation that we all want passed.

ACOSTA: And strong conservatives for the Supreme Court.

TRUMP: Pro-life. Starts with that. Starts with that. Very conservative. Very, very smart. I mean like Judge Scalia. He was a perfect representative.

On day one of the Trump administration, the GOP front-runner vows he'll scrap Obamacare, improve veterans' health care and end the president's executive actions to slow deportations of the undocumented.

TRUMP (via phone): Especially the one on the border where people are allowed to come in and just pour into our country like Swiss cheese.

ACOSTA: Trump is heading into Super Tuesday with a lead that is ballooning quickly, five times the number of delegates as his nearest rivals.

TRUMP (on camera): The establishment, the media, the special interests, the lobbyists, the donors, they're all against me.

ACOSTA: Trump is also running a new ad warning the D.C. establishment is out to get him, and he's making the case Republicans should consider how he's expanding the party and get on board.

TRUMP: We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated. We're the smartest people, we're the most loyal people. And you know what I really am happy about, because I've been saying it for a long time. Forty-six percent with the Hispanics, 46 percent. No. 1 with Hispanics.

ACOSTA: The contenders vying to be the anti-Trump insist the race is far from over.

CRUZ: We can't get this wrong. We can't be fooled by P.T. Barnum. The time for the clowns and the acrobats and the dancing bears has passed.

ACOSTA: Cruz went back to delegate-rich Texas to secure the endorsement of that state's popular governor.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: Ted is a constitutionalist whose judgment I trust to appoint the right judges to the United States Supreme Court.

ACOSTA: Marco Rubio is urging supporters to pick a candidate who can actually win in November.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't just elect someone that's angry.

ACOSTA: And John Kasich said maybe a fight at the GOP convention won't be so bad.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we end up at a brokered convention, I can't think of a better way -- better city to have one in than Cleveland, Ohio, so we'll see.


ACOSTA: Now, he may -- he may be way ahead, but Donald Trump is not slowing down. He's got a bunch of events lined up through the South and Southwest to set the table for Super Tuesday next week.

[17:05:11] And all of the early polls indicate, Brianna, that Trump has the potential to clean up on Super Tuesday and force some of these other rivals to drop out of the race -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Jim Acosta for us in las Vegas. Thank you.

And as Jim mentioned, Senator Ted Cruz is campaigning in his home state of Texas. It is the biggest single prize among next week's Super Tuesday states.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is covering the Cruz campaign for us. So Sunlen, the senator is predicting that he's going to have a very good night next Tuesday. What do you think?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he absolutely could, Brianna. The stakes are incredibly high for him. He has done absolutely nothing to tamp down expectations, and it is going to be a tough slog for him.

And I think that's part of the reason why we've really seen Senator Cruz ratchet up the rhetoric of how pivotal a week this is for him, saying things like this will be the most important day of the election, referencing Super Tuesday, of course.

Today the Cruz campaign, they rolled out a big endorsement, that of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. His support will have an incredible boost of momentum going forward here on the ground for Cruz in Texas as they inch towards voting on Tuesday.

And of course, a lot of delegates here in Texas on the table, something that Senator Cruz referenced here earlier today.


CRUZ: Texas has 155 delegates. It is the crown jewel of Super Tuesday. Texas has alone almost 15 percent of the delegates you need to be the Republican nominee. And as the men and women know here, Texas has a history of standing and leading the fight.


SERFATY: And Senator Cruz had something of a combative press conference with reporters afterwards, where he was peppered with questions over what his path would be forward if he doesn't perform on Super Tuesday. Here's how he responded.


CRUZ: I believe we are going to do well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better than 50 percent?

CRUZ: I believe we are going to do well. That is going to be up to the voters. You know, I would note, I'm curious how many reporters ask Marco Rubio, after losing four states in a row, so when do you drop out when you haven't won a state? To win, you've got to -- you've got to win states. You've got to win delegates.


SERFATY: And it can't be overstated how much the Cruz campaign strategy hinges on doing well on Super Tuesday. Senator Cruz today says that he will campaign hard. He will campaign aggressively this week going forward -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Sunlen Serfaty for us here in Houston. Thank you so much.

And joining us now, we have Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He has endorsed Marco Rubio for president.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us. These endorsements for Rubio, who you have endorsed, they're piling up now. He's seemingly gotten the establishment's blessing here. Is he able to convince voters, though?

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think he will be very effective and convincing voters in this cross-country run. The key for us is to keep gaining and accumulating more delegates. We're in a good position right now, especially when you look at where we've come from to where we are and where we're going. We're excited about the future. We're excited about this race. The longer it goes, the better it is for Marco Rubio, and I think it's going to be a cross- country run. We'll have to continue to do well, and we will.

KEILAR: He comes into this, obviously, with a record as a freshman senator. Let's talk about that. I know you two have worked together. He says that he understands the national security challenges that our country faces more than any of the other GOP candidates in this race. But can you name something that really stands out to you that he has done in his time as senator that you think will make him the best prepared, as he says that he is?

SCOTT: Well, I think if you look at his service on the foreign affairs committee or the intel committee, his knowledge on our challenges in the Middle East, his understanding and appreciation of the challenge with North Korea, his understanding and appreciation for China.

I also look at some of the accomplishments. He's led the way for reform at the V.A. He's been very successful in getting sanctions done on Hezbollah. You look at the impact of eliminating the slush fund or the bailout fund for insurance companies and Obamacare. Here are three clear examples of where Marco has taken the lead and done very well for the country. And that's -- that's good to have those legislative victories.

What's more important is he inspires a new generation of voters to take a look at the conservative principles that have undergirded the success of this nation. As long as we continue to campaign on the conservative principles that have made us successful for more than two centuries, I look forward to another American century.

KEILAR: It seems like some of the things that you name are sort of his experience that he has serving on committees, which, you know, not to say that that isn't important. That certainly is, but you named the V.A., for instance, which a lot of people look at Congress; and they say that, you know, on the V.A. issue, you know, a lot of senators -- this is even a criticism leveled at Senator Sanders -- that they sort of missed this crisis.

You know, I guess specifically, is there something to you that just -- that really sort of stands out as sort of the primary legislative accomplishment for him or even just really leading the way on a certain issue?

SCOTT: One of the things that he did, without question, is he was one of the first folks who said that the president's characterization of ISIS as the J.V. team was inconsistent with the reality that was coming our way. He was one of the first to start voicing the concerns that ISIS was more than a J.V. team, that it was actually perhaps the greatest threat that we have from a militant jihadist perspective in the last five to ten years. He proved to be right there. But let's think about the V.A. reform that was passed. We were

talking about the fact that we gave the new secretary of the V.A. the power to fire employees. Now, what you need is a chief executive, a president who will make sure that his secretary actually uses the power of the legislation that was given to him. When that happens, when Marco Rubio is our president, we'll see more accountability in the V.A., because he helped lead that legislation past the finish line, and then we'll have a commander in chief that will actually use that legislation, and that's good news for our veterans.

We owe so much to our veterans, and yet the V.A. has been a broken, fragmented system that has not successfully taken care of our vets. We can change that and the legislation that we passed that he led on actually gets that accomplished.

KEILAR: Looking at his strategy, for instance, when it comes to foreign policy, as he is touting his creds here, when you look at his proposal combatting is, Senator, do you see something that is different from what the Obama administration is pushing as the solution to combatting ISIS?

SCOTT: Well, the Obama administration really has not had a plan to combat ISIS. It really has not had a plan for us to not just reduce or destroy, but to eliminate ISIS as we know it. The fact of the matter is that having a specific plan that encourages the military leaders to be a part of that plan and part of the process, to understand and to delineate -- delineate those necessary steps for success, we haven't seen that out of President Obama. We would see that clearly under President Rubio.

KEILAR: All right, Senator Tim Scott, stay with me. We have many more questions for you as you back Senator Marco Rubio in this race for the GOP presidential nomination. We'll be right back.


[17:17:12] KEILAR: We are in Houston, counting down to CNN's crucial debate tomorrow night. Donald Trump's four remaining rivals will be trying to make the case that they are the only alternative to Trump at the top of the 2016 Republican ticket.

And we are back now with Republican Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina. He is a Marco Rubio supporter.

And Senator, I want to play something for you that actually you said. This is from September of last year. You hosted a town hall with Donald Trump in South Carolina, and here's what you said.


SCOTT: Young people are being attracted to the political conversation because of the quality and the strength of our candidates, and Donald Trump is bringing a lot of folks.

Here's a guy who started in middle America and who worked his way through his family business, took it over and added a little steroids to it. I know that we have some amazing folks running for president, but here's a person who understands business. Would you agree? Here's a guy that brings an independent perspective to the political process. Would you agree? So why don't we welcome to the stage, Donald Trump!


KEILAR: Now, clearly, Senator, I will say looking at that, Marco Rubio is very lucky to have you in his corner, backing him up, but you're talking about Donald Trump there, and you're describing this appeal that he has.

SCOTT: Absolutely.

KEILAR: Now, you're for Marco Rubio now. How do -- how does your guy get past this appeal that even you described in September?

SCOTT: There's no doubt that, if anyone were to deny the fact that Donald Trump has been successful in business, please let me know who you are and how you came to that conclusion. Donald Trump has been very successful in business, and frankly, his trajectory in politics has been -- been outstanding.

Here's the question. Who is best prepared to lead this country to the next American century? That answer is clearly Marco Rubio. And I say that for a couple of reasons.

I've had the opportunity to host 12 of our presidential candidates in individual forums like you just saw. I went through the analysis of each candidate and came to the conclusion that it was not worth me endorsing unless I had one person who was head and shoulders above the rest in three specific categories.

The first category was commander in chief on day one. I have a brother who just retired from the Army, command sergeant major. Another brother who serves as a colonel in the Air Force. I want someone who's prepared on day one to lead the world's best military. That person at the end of my analysis was Marco Rubio. His work on the intelligence committee, as well as his time on the foreign relations committee -- foreign affairs committee will serve our country really well.

[17:20:00] The second ingredient I was looking for, for the next president of the United States, would be someone who understands how to make this economy work for the middle class.

Middle income America has not seen the type of returns that we've seen on Wall Street or in the stock market. They've seen stagnant wages throughout the -- throughout the country and specifically at home in South Carolina. I wanted someone who understands how to revive middle America's income, starting day one. That person who's lived the American dream is, in fact, Marco Rubio.

And finally, I wanted someone who would use conservative principles, not Republican principles, but conservative principles to attract a new generation of voters. That person who does that better than any other candidate we have Marco Rubio.


SCOTT: We have a very strong field and I like our field. And anyone on our side would do a better job than Bernie Sanders or Secretary Clinton. So I would be happy--

KEILAR: OK. Well, let me ask you about this.

SCOTT: Yes, ma'am.

KEILAR: Because the senator, he needs a pathway forward to victory.

SCOTT: Sure.

KEILAR: He so far has not won a state. What states can he win?

SCOTT: Here's what I will tell you. I think, as we look over the next several weeks, we'll see that Marco Rubio will win states. What we are trying to do right now, and I think we've started doing it very successfully is winning--

KEILAR: But which states do you think that he really has--

SCOTT: I'm going to finish my own statement if you don't mind.

KEILAR: Please.

SCOTT: The fact of the matter is that we'll continue to accumulate delegates, and that's what this is about. At the end of the day, we're talking about what you guys are suggesting is a presumptive nominee, and we're in the fourth or fifth state.

The truth of the matter is, we'll learn a lot on SEC Tuesday, and we'll learn more throughout March. But the truth is that this is a cross-country run. We will make our stake, and we will be successful in a number of states. And the fact is, as long as we continue to accumulate delegates, that's how you get to the nominee.

KEILAR: Can he win Florida, do you think? That's so important to win your home state.

SCOTT: It certainly will be a battle in Florida. I'm looking forward to the competition. I'm looking forward to getting down to Florida myself and being as helpful for Marco as possible. The truth of the matter is that that's yet to be determined.

I think he has a clear path. And in his lane he had a lot of competition. Now that Governor Bush is out of the race, it gives him a better position. The polling information suggests that the race is tightening. We have a long way to go. I'm not going to pretend to have a crystal ball to see what's going to happen next, but I am excited about where we're going.

KEILAR: Yes. It really is a fight ahead. All right, Senator Tim Scott, we certainly appreciate you being so generous with your time for us today. Thanks for being on.

SCOTT: Any time, Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, Donald Trump is really basking in the glow of his victory in the Nevada caucuses, and he is touting entrance polls that show him winning the Latino vote. We'll dig into this surprising statistic, next.


[17:27:17] KEILAR: We are in Houston, Texas. It's the site of tomorrow's CNN Republican presidential debate and what may be his rivals' last hope for stopping his momentum.

And joining us now, we have CNN political commentators S.E. Cupp, Ana Navarro and Hilary Rosen.

And Ana, you really say that now, the name of the game is just how to stop Trump. Can these candidates do it? How do they do it?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I really think it's important that Cruz and/or Rubio win a state. I think it's important that they win their home state, but I also think that, come Super Tuesday, it's important for Marco to win one state, any state. Pick a state, move there for the next week and win it. You know, because you can't keep having victory speeches after winning No. 2 or winning No. 3. You need to actually win something, and then I think he really needs to concentrate on Florida.

I think that, with Jeb Bush out, it makes a big difference; and Marco can be very competitive in Florida. If Donald Trump beats Ted Cruz in Texas and Donald Trump beats Marco Rubio in Florida, make that five- alarm hair fire for the establishment, which I am a card-carrying member of.

KEILAR: So S.E., to that point, we just had Senator Tim Scott on. He's someone who has so much enthusiasm, I think that he really is a very good surrogate for Marco Rubio.


KEILAR: And yet I asked him what states can he win? He just said basically he's going to rack up delegates. I said can he win Florida? It's so important to win his home state. And he didn't say yes.

CUPP: Well, no one wants to set expectations, because Donald Trump just defies all of them and throws a big wrench into, you know, common -- common wisdom, common sense, conventional wisdom. But yes, that's what the Rubio campaign has been saying, that you know, their plan is to win delegates. That is a way. That is a path.

But look, I think as long as there are four other people running against Donald Trump, Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. When you're splitting up the rest, the majority of the Republican electorate amongst four other people, there's no one to coalesce around except Donald Trump.

NAVARRO: And you know, so it's almost amusing, right? So if you hear Ted Cruz, he says to you, "This is a two-man race. I'm the only other person besides Donald Trump who's won a state."

You hear Marco talking, and he says, "This is a three-man race."

KEILAR: Right.

NAVARRO: It's between Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. And you hear about Carson, and he's like, "I'm the other outsider." And Kasich says, "Wait. It's a four-man race. I'm the only governor."

KEILAR: And Hilary, what do you think about this, because these other candidates need to take on Donald Trump. But we're sort of seeing that, you know, maybe they're not always doing that as much as they -- you might think that they would to really take aim at this front- runner who has so much momentum.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, presidential politics is about two things and two things only. It's about math, getting the delegates, and the story you're telling.

[17:30:07] And right now, you know, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are caught up in a story that people do not care about. Like who's No. 2 or who's No. 3 or, you know, which one is fighting who.

Donald Trump has created a narrative for himself that people in the Republican Party like, at least a plurality likes, but he's vulnerable. I'm just shocked that none of these Republicans are going after any of his vulnerabilities.

You know, that Jeb Bush really actually nicked him in that debate when he talked about taking away that lady's house. People don't understand eminent domain, but they take -- understand an old lady losing her house. When he has made these business deals, he has actually hurt real people.

If either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz could take on Donald Trump where it would hurt, which is he is not the savior of people, he's actually hurt real people, they might have a better shot. Instead they're so obsessed with each other that they're just giving him a free ride.

KEILAR: So it sort of reminds me what you're saying, Hilary. I think back to 2012 and the super PAC that supported President Obama took on Mitt Romney over a steel worker's wife--


KEILAR: -- and health insurance that had gone away from her. In the end, it didn't even really hold -- it didn't even really stand up to a fact check, but it was certainly damaging to Romney. You think that's what these candidates should be doing?

ROSEN: Look, you know, the Republicans have gotten so deep into the weeds, thinking that this country wants to be really right wing on immigration or really right wing on abortion or, you know, building a wall and keeping out people.

And really what this country wants, the reason they like Donald Trump, I think, is not necessarily because of, you know, his most aggressive rhetoric. They like him because he's saying -- he embodies something that they appreciate. And that -- that has to happen for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. They have to take down the very thing that they appreciate about Donald Trump. That he is this kind of guy who was on their side. He's not.

NAVARRO: Listen, in fairness to Ted Cruz, and I think S.E. would agree, he has been taking on Donald Trump very strongly, particularly in recent weeks. The problem has been timing.

Six months ago, he was sucking up to Donald Trump, and you see -- and it was -- and timing matters, because Ted Cruz does have conservative bona fides. If six months ago he had tried to nip it in the bud and say -- and reveal Donald Trump for not being a conservative, it would have been much more effective than doing it now after, you know, four early states.

CUPP: I don't disagree. But the other -- I mean, the other side of that argument is, well, maybe then he would have been a Rick Perry or a Scott Walker. I mean, people who did try to take him on very early, did not last in this election.

KEILAR: At their own peril.

CUPP: They did not last as long as they -- they should have. So dealing with Donald Trump is very, very difficult. Very few people who take a swing live to tell the story.

And frankly -- and frankly, peeling away Trump voters is an impossible task. They are so committed to him. You're not going to have this moment where you open their eyes, and they realize that he's a charlatan. The best you can hope for is to consolidate the rest of the Republican electorate around a non-Trump candidate.

KEILAR: So what do -- what do you say to that, Hilary?

ROSEN: Well, I think in an ideal world, that's true, except you can't keep doing that by destroying each other. And so that mutual destruction means that that strategy, while in theory is the right strategy, in practice is the wrong strategy, because it's not going to work. He will keep racking up a majority of delegates and keep racking up wins, and so you have to change course, knowing that the other guy isn't getting out.

And so the only way to do that is to look for his vulnerabilities, which I think that people -- you're right. The road is littered with people who have tried to take down Donald Trump, but I think that they've really tried to take him down on things like he's not a real Republican. You know, he supported Hillary Clinton. Like, things that they thought would appeal to Republican primary voters but really don't.

The only thing that voters care about is the story of who these guys are, and right now the only story that Cruz and Rubio are telling is that they're not Trump. That's just not enough.

NAVARRO: Hilary, telling any other Republican that they supported Hillary Clinton or, you know, citing some of the--

CUPP: Would have been disqualifying.

NAVARRO: -- positions would have been disqualifying. Donald Trump is in a class by himself.

KEILAR: I love this conversation. I wish we could just keep going.

NAVARRO: This is a girl power panel.

KEILAR: It is, right? Let's do this. All right. Ana, S.E., Hilary, thank you guys so much.

And coming up, Hillary Clinton, well, she isn't taking her big lead in South Carolina for granted. How is the Democratic front-runner protecting her position just three days before the crucial primary?

Plus Senator Harry Reid is making waves today. He is endorsing Hillary Clinton and reacting to Donald Trump's victory in his home state of Nevada.

[17:35:04] We'll have the details.


KEILAR: All right, you're looking at live pictures of Hillary Clinton working the room there in South Carolina. And you know, we're just three days away now from the Democratic primary there in the Palmetto State.

Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead in the polls. She's hoping that a big victory there is going to be a sign of good things to come as several more southern states prepare to vote next week on Super Tuesday.

And our senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, is following the Democratic campaign.

Give us the latest, Jeff.

[17:40:09] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I mean, Hillary Clinton campaigned this morning in Charleston, around noon in Columbia. Just a few moments ago she took the stage here at Morris College in Sumter, not because she's behind but because she wants to stay ahead.

Now, Bernie Sanders left town today. He said he's not writing off South Carolina. That was the impression left here. But Brianna, there were some 7,000 people waiting for him in Missouri. That's a sign that many Democrats think this race should go on.


ZELENY (voice-over): Three days before the South Carolina primary, Hillary Clinton is not letting her foot off the gas.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want an election about real change.

ZELENY: She's keeping her eyes squarely on South Carolina and Sanders, despite her commanding lead here.

CLINTON: Look, I believe every election or caucus has to be taken seriously. I'm taking no vote, no place for granted.

ZELENY: Facing an uphill battle in the first southern primary, Sanders headed west for Missouri and Oklahoma, Super Tuesday contests that could offer friendlier terrain.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win some states. We're going to lose some states. We're going to have good days. We're going to have bad days.

ZELENY: The fight for delegates is just getting started. Clinton and Sanders are gearing up for a long road to the nomination. But Clinton is racking up advantages, including an endorsement today from Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. He told CNN's Manu Raju it's time for the party to get behind Clinton.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I think the middle class would be better served by Hillary.

ZELENY: Wall Street is a central issue in the race, and Sanders made clear at CNN's presidential town hall he has no intention of giving Clinton a pass on paid speeches she's made to big banks like Goldman Sachs.

SANDERS: I am very happy to release all of my paid speeches to Wall Street. Here it is, Chris. There ain't none.

ZELENY: Asked by CNN's Chris Cuomo if she'll turn over those speech transcripts, Clinton said yes, but only if Republican rivals do the same.

CLINTON: Why is there one standard for me and not for everybody else, Chris? I mean--

ZELENY: Sanders had the last word, sending out a tweet saying, "Hillary Clinton believes Republicans should set the standard for disclosure of her Wall Street speeches. Aren't we better than that?"

A majority of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina is black.

CLINTON: Thank you, thank you.

ZELENY: And both Sanders and Clinton spoke directly to the concerns of African-American voters. Sanders said the Republican criticism and obstruction facing President Obama is at least partially rooted in racism.

SANDERS: And this is on top of this birther issue, which we heard from Donald Trump and others, a racist effort to try to de- legitimatize the president of the United States.

Guess what? Nobody has asked for my birth certificate. Maybe it's the color of my skin. I don't know.

CLINTON: I think it's important for people, and particularly for white people, to be honest about those and to recognize that our experiences may not equip us to understand what a lot of our African- American fellow citizens go through every single day.

ZELENY: For months, Clinton has been building an organization here. This restaurant she visited on her first South Carolina trip last year is now a campaign volunteer call center, busy getting out the vote for Saturday's primary.


ZELENY: And Saturday's primary is a key time for the Clinton campaign to regain that confidence, continue that confidence they gained in Nevada.

And Brianna, there was a finance call for top donors today, and I am told that that was the most optimistic they have been in weeks, if not months. So the Clinton campaign thinks good things will come here in South Carolina -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, this is the time they are certainly enjoying. Jeff Zeleny with Hillary Clinton, thank you so much.

I want to get more now on the new developments in the Democratic race. Senate minority leader Harry Reid endorsing Hillary Clinton today during an interview with CNN. And our senior political reporter Manu Raju is the one who conducted that interview.

So Manu, why do you think Senator Reid waited until now to make this endorsement? Why not endorse before the caucuses in his home state of Nevada where it was really kind of up in the air whether or not she was going to succeed there?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Harry Reid wanted it to look that he was being as neutral as possible. Because he really controls the state's political machine. He didn't want to make it look like he was being unfairly tilted to Hillary Clinton.

Now what we know is, during the Nevada caucuses, actually, Harry Reid was on the phone with casino executives, saying that they should let their casino workers come into the caucus sites, also with the very powerful culinary workers union. He urged them to get more involved in the caucuses. And both of those things were viewed as helping Hillary Clinton.

But he -- I asked him specifically about that, and he said he was not doing that to help Hillary Clinton. He said he wanted to be neutral in this race. And he also told me that he had a phone conversation with Bernie Sanders right before he made his announcement. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REID: I talked to Bernie Sanders yesterday. It was a really wonderful call.

[17:45:01] He was so magnanimous. He was kind and courteous to me. I explained to him the reasons and he understood. Bernie has been a great senator and I've enjoyed my relationship with him very much.

I think the middle class would be better served by Hillary. I also think that she's the woman to be the first president of the United States that's a female.


RAJU: Now clearly Harry Reid wants the party leadership to start to consolidate behind Hillary and becomes the highest ranking Democrat to support Hillary Clinton.

Now when I asked him how long he thinks this race could go on, he still thinks it could take a very long time. He told me in a separate interview a couple of weeks back that this could potentially go to the Democratic convention in July, but clearly, Brianna, they hope that they can get this race settled well before then and that Hillary Clinton will start to separate herself from Bernie Sanders in South Carolina this weekend.

KEILAR: Yes. Even separating herself, she still needs to do all that work to get these delegates. I know that you asked Senator Reid about how Donald Trump just dominated in Nevada. What did he say about that?

RAJU: Well, clearly that there's nothing that Harry Reid would like more than seeing Donald Trump becoming the Republican nominee. And if he doesn't, he wants to tie Donald Trump to the rest of the Republicans running for president.


REID: Well, I've said on the floor the last week or 10 days, the party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump and that says it all.


RAJU: Now we'll see exactly what happens from here on out, Brianna, but clearly there's a sense of confidence that if Donald Trump becomes the nominee, it will help Hillary Clinton. I asked Harry Reid if he's worried about the e-mail issue hurting Hillary, the trustworthiness factor hurting Hillary, he said look at what's happening on the -- on the Republican side. I think we'll be fine at the end of the day.

KEILAR: All right, we'll see. Manu Raju, great interview. Thank you so much.

And coming up, Donald Trump is on a roll, as we've been talking about. He's won three out of the first four Republican contests and he continues to dominate in the national polls. Can he be stopped?

But first, we're receiving disturbing analysis on North Korea from a top American general. Is Kim Jong-Un prepared to use a nuclear weapon against the United States if he feels threatened?


[17:51:43] KEILAR: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un has always made provoking the United States a central piece of his international policy but a disturbing new assessment from a top American military official suggests that Kim is serious about following through on his threats.

Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott has been tracking this story. What are you learning, Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Brianna, top U.S. commanders in Asia warn Kim Jong-Un is working aggressively to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States and would use it if he had to save his regime. With tensions on the Korean Peninsula at their highest level in decades, they say they fear the erratic young dictator will spark an escalation that could lead to an armed conflict, akin to World War II.


LABOTT (voice-over): It's a nightmare scenario. North Korea launches a nuclear-tipped missile at the West Coast of the United States, and tonight it's being taken seriously by the Pentagon.

A top U.S. military commander warning Kim Jong-Un would be will to order the ultimate attack if he felt threatened and had the capability.