Return to Transcripts main page


Clinton Speaks in Nashville; Marco Rubio Calls Donald Trump A Con Man; Confusion & Controversy Around Donald Trump's Disavowal of David Duke; Ted Cruz Calls On Trump To Release His Tax Returns; Hillary Clinton Carries South Carolina By Large Margin. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 28, 2016 - 16:00   ET


[16:00:00] HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:. We visited some places where entrepreneurs and business are getting together to create new ways of doing advanced manufacturing. Our community colleges will be a great source of skills and making sure we're ready to do that work.

And I also believe the best way to combat climate change is by creating clean, renewable energy jobs that will change the way we produce energy in the country. Now, I got to tell you, you know, that when the Republicans are asked about climate change, they all say pretty much the same thing. "Well, I don't know, I'm an scientist." Now there's really easy remedy for that. Go talk to a scientist. Right?


You know, come here, good to TSU, go to Vanderbilt. There are a lot of places you can find scientists who will explain what climate change is and why it is so dangerous. But what I don't understand about their answer -- by the way, I don't think half of them believe that. I really don't. I think they just do what the Koch brothers tell them to do. I'm actually kind of looking forward, if I'm fortunate enough to be the nominee, debating any one of them.


But here's what I don't understand. We could create a lot of great jobs in clean renewable energy. And a lot of states are -- not just states with Democratic governors; states with Republican governors. We've got states producing a lot of wind energy. Texas, Iowa, Minnesota. In fact, Iowa now gets a third of its electricity from wind. All right? We've got states putting up big solar arrays, encouraging people to put solar panels on their houses and their businesses. That's all work that has to be done right here.

There are lots and lots of jobs and, you know, some country is going to be the clean energy superpower of the 21st Century. I think it is either going to be China, Germany or us, and I intend for it to be us. And then let's do more to help small businesses. The Mayor and Tony and I stopped at a great coffee shop and met the owner there. Small businesses create about two thirds of the -- FREDERICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: All right, a seemingly very confident

Hillary Clinton there in Nashville, Tennessee, fresh off her huge win in South Carolina during the Democratic primary.

And now in Midlothian, Virginia, Marco Rubio, he's been making headlines of his own, going for the jugular of Donald Trump. Let's listen to what he has to say right now.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First I want to thank you, Governor, for introducing me. And our whole team here with Delegate Hugo and everybody else that's involved in our efforts. I thank you for all the work you've put into this.

If you'll turn around, you see that truck over there, that pickup truck with the flags and the white signs. That gentleman drives all over America in that pickup truck that, by the way, Mitt Romney bought for him a few years ago. It's got a few more miles. And he, at every one of our events, he tries to get to all over the country. The other day we were at the debate in Texas -- you might have seen it, we're going to talk about that in a minute. Now we were driving up to the walk-through, it was like five or six hours before. I look over to the right and the truck is sitting there and all I see is Wilson and his pipe sitting in the front. And let me tell you, that really gets you going on the days when you're tired. On the days when maybe you wish you had one less event or one less city to go to, just because you're tired or missing your family. And you realize that people like Wilson and others are working hard on your behalf, that's what keeps you going. And that's what reminds me every day that this election is not about me, it is about you, it is about this country, the greatest nation in the history of all mankind.


Now this is an important election. They're all important. All of these elections are important. But I want it make a proposition to you today. This election is different than the other elections we've had. More than any other election in our lifetime, this election is a generational choice. It is a referendum where we are being asked to choose what kind of country will America be in the 21st Century? And as part of that question, we are being asked to choose what kind of party will the Republican Party be?

[16:05:00] What is the conservative movement in the 21st Century going to be about? And it has to be remain about limited government. It has to remain about the constitution. It has to remain about free enterprise. It has to remain about our traditional values. It has to remain about a strong national defense. Because if we lose those principles, all of the things that made America special will be lost as well. This country needs a strong conservative movement and its home should be the Republican Party.


Our principles of conservativism work better today than they have ever worked before. We would make a tragic mistake, a historic mistake, if we abandoned those principles. And that's what is going to happen if we lose this election to Bernie Sanders or to Hillary Clinton.


Bernie Sanders is a socialist, an avowed socialist. A Democratic Socialist, but a socialist nonetheless. We do not want to be a socialist country. If you want to live in a socialist country, move to a socialist country. We want to be America.


Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be President of the United States of America. She broke the law. She put her e-mails, private, no, classified information on her private server. She thinks she is above the law. No one is above the law. But on more serious -- even more -- even more serious note, Hillary Clinton on the 11 of September of 2012, lied to the families of Americans who lost their lives in the service of our country. Four brave Americans died in Benghazi and she told them, she told their families that they died because after video and she knew it was because of the terrorist attack. And I'm telling you, anyone who lies to the families of those who have lost their lives in the service of our country can never be the commander-in- chief of the United States of America.


So we cannot lose this election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to win, Marco!

RUBIO: We are going to win. We are going to win. But we will only win if we nominate someone who is not just a true conservative but someone who can unite the party and the conservative movement and grow it. Governor Allen (ph) a moment ago talked about that, can grow it, takes our principles to people all across the country, including people that haven't voted for us before. And I will do that. But right now we're not just engaged in a fight for the heart and soul of our country, we are engaged for -- in a fight, for the heart and soul of the conservative movement in the 21st Century.

In the past, that fight has been with people that have told the us we needed to water down our principles, with people that told me not to run in 2011 -- 2010 for the senate in Florida. The establishment wanted somebody else. They told me don't run, you're too conservative. We need someone who's more like the Democrats. That's the only way we win. I didn't believe that then. I know that's not true now.

But now we face another threat. And that is the threat from someone who believes that we should have no principles upon which to build our movement on at all. I entered this race in the hope that we could have a campaign about ideas and about policy, and I will continue to campaign on ideas and about policy. But I will not allow the conservative movement to be taken over by a con artist by the name of Donald Trump.

(CHEERS & APPLAUSE) CROWD (chanting): Marco! Marco! Marco!

RUBIO: Now, some people say that's a tough term, con artist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump's a liberal!

RUBIO: Well, let me tell you -- the media always -- he said Trump's a liberal. That's what he said. Because here's what happens -- if you scream something out, I have to respond for you, right? If you say something and I don't hear it and I don't say anything about it, then later on they say Rubio didn't disavow the gentleman a hundred yards away who said, you know, whatever. I'm not disavowing that one because --


RUBIO: Now look, that's a strong term, what is a con artist? A con artist is someone who preys upon a vulnerability, who goes to people who are struggling and says to them, I've got answers.

[16:10:07] I know what to do. I've got a great deal for you. I'm very successful and I've got a great deal for you that 's going to make you successful. Donald Trump has done this before. It had a name. It was called Trump University.

Let me tell what you Trump University was. This is why I talk about it. It's not just -- the people that went there have been calling us, e-mailing us. Their stories would outrage you. They're heartbreaking. But let me explain. It was this program, there's a video, go on YouTube, you'll see it. In fact, go on my website, we'll put it on my website, So you can see it. It's a promotional video where he's saying I am the most successful developer in the history of all mankind and I am going to teach you how to be just as successful as me. We're going to have the best people, we're going to have the smartest people, and I'm going to pick them myself. And are you're going to do is win, win, win. He said all this in a video for Trump University. Sound familiar? So people signed up. And they would go in and they pay $8,000, $10,000. And they were told, if your really want to make the big bucks, you got to sign up for $35,000 course. And people signed up for that. And then they finished the course with nothing but a worthless piece of paper and a picture they got to take not with Donald Trump, but with a cardboard cut-out of Donald Trump.

Now that in itself is wrong. It's fraud. And that's why he has been sued and he's going through all that now. But here's the bigger problem. He's doing the same thing to voters in America. He's going to people, what is -- he is going to people that are hurting. People are hurting. You know it; you're hurting in your lives. You're facing it. You work harder than ever. You're running in place and here comes this guy who says I'm a strong leader, I am successful, I've made all this money and I know how to fix it. Follow me.

First of all, we have never been a nation that place our faith in people. We place our faith in an almighty God and in the Constitution of the United States. We don't have a king in America. We are a nation led by our fellow citizens who are allowed to serve us for a time in government. A government that exists not to tell us what our rights are, not to decide the course of our lives; a government that exists to protect the rights that come from our creator, the right to life, the right to liberty, and right to pursue happiness. These are our God-given rights.


So here he comes to people that are struggling and he says, I am a tough guy. He's not a tough guy. The other day he told a protester I want to punch you in the face. Donald Trump has never punched anyone in the face. Ever. OK? Ever. He got deference from the army. He didn't serve in Vietnam, he didn't volunteer, and he got deference because he got injuries from squash. All right? So he's not a tough guy. First guy that begged for Secret Service protection, Donald Trump. OK. He's not a tough guy.

Number two, he's not as successful as he makes himself sound. All these buildings with his name on them, those aren't -- he doesn't even own them. He rents out his name. The ones he does own, you know who helps build them? Illegal immigrants. Even though he's Mr. Anti- Illegal Immigration. He said he's going to fight for American jobs, but in Florida and other hotels, Americans are applying for those jobs and he's not hiring them. He says he can't find Americans qualified to do the jobs my parents did -- as a maid, as a cook, as a bartender. So he hires people from abroad. That's a fraud. This is a guy who says I'm going to take on China because they're stealing our jobs. Well, that's where he makes all of his suits and ties, in China, and in Mexico, and in Indonesia. You want to start bringing jobs back to America? Bing your Trump line collection back to America and have those jobs created here.

He portrays himself as this self-made guy who's going to teach you how to make it big the way he made it big. My friends, if I inherited $100 millions from my parents, I would have made it big too. This a con job of the highest order. The problem is the consequences will not just be a picture with a cheap cut -- cardboard cutout. The consequences won't just be $35,000, which for these people was a lot of money. The consequences will be the future of your homeland and mine. The consequences will be who is in charge of the nuclear codes of the most powerful military arsenal on the planet. The consequences will be -- the consequences will --

WHITFIELD: Republican Marco Rubio repeating a similar tactic from yesterday, going after Donald Trump in Midlothian, Virginia.

[16:15:04] We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.


WHTIFIELD: Welcome back, I'm Fredericka Whitfield in Atlanta. We continue to watch Republican Marco Rubio, who is in Midlothian, Alabama (sic), right now talking about -- Virginia, rather. Midlothian, Virgina, rather. Talking - he's really on a tear about Donald Trump, accusing him of being a con artist, saying that his own clothing line and ties are made in China and Mexico, and most recently he dug deep, talking about Donald Trump not immediately disavowing the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke today during an interview with Jake Tapper.


RUBIO: Should the head of the conservative movement, should the Republican nominee, be someone that today, like Donald Trump, refused, refused to criticize the Ku Klux Klan?


He was interviewed on CNN and asked to disavow the Ku Klux Klan. He refused to do it. He was asked to disavow and criticize David Duke. He said I don't know who that is. He knows exactly who it is. He knows exactly who that is. He has not repudiated robo calls supporting his campaign telling people don't vote for a Cuban. Now look, I don't get offended easily. But this is not just against me. They are trying to take over the conservative movement. There is no place in the conservative movement for David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan, or any sort of hatred or bigotry in America.


So we have to win. We have to win this election. And we have to win this primary. And we will win if you nominate me. If you nominate me, I will unite this party and I will grow it. We are going to take our message to people that are living the way I live. We are going to take our message to people that are struggling paycheck to paycheck, the way I grew up. The way my parents had to raise us.

[16:20:07] If you give me one second, this young lady here doesn't feel well. Can you -- can we get her some help?


WHITFIELD: All right, that happened just moments ago, Marco Rubio there on a tear on Donald Trump, being very critical of him, saying he is not -- he did not come out fast enough, disavowing the Ku Klux Klan and support from David Duke. So now the search for clarity over who supports Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is intensifying.

We're talking about Donald Trump and the KKK. Trump tweeting today that he disavows the white supremacist David Duke. Trump saying, quote, "As I stated at the press conference on Friday regarding David Duke, I disavow." He also posted a clip of that press conference.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump, how do you feel about the recent endorsement from David Duke?

TRUMP: I didn't even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right, I disavow. OK? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.


WHITFIELD: OK, so that was Friday. And in a tweet today he was reminding people of his statement that he disavowed. But that wasn't the case today when he was being interviewed by Jake Tapper on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" where Trump seemingly was dodging the question about this support.


TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke. OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don't know.

I don't know, did he endorse me or what's going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But I guess the question from the Anti- Defamation League is, even if you don't know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don't want their support?

TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don't know what group you're talking about.

You wouldn't want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.

TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?

TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know.

TAPPER: OK. I mean, I'm just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but...

TRUMP: I don't know any -- honestly, I don't know David Duke. I don't believe I have ever met him. I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him. And I just don't know anything about him.


WHITFIELD: All right, so it doesn't stop there.

Let's bring in CNN's Chris Frates, who is following the Trump campaign in Alabama. He is yet to arrive there, right, to address the supporters. Is the presumption that he is going to take it a step further and talk more about disavowing the Klan, David Duke, or what he's already said and what he's already been on record as having done and said?

CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred, well, we're just getting under way here. As you can hear behind me, the national anthem is being sung. And we do expect Donald Trump to take the stage here pretty shortly.

But what was interesting about those comments, he refused to disavow David Duke and KKK with our own Jake Tapper today and said he didn't know enough about those groups. The Anti-Defamation League putting out a statement just a short time ago saying they're going to provide information about extremist groups and hatemongers to all presidential candidates, including Mr. Trump. And we're going to take a second and listen to this national anthem.

WHITFIELD: All right, Chris Frates, respectfully, thank you so much there in Madison, Alabama. Appreciate that.

All right, let's get more reaction now. Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. There were -- they were the ones calling for Donald Trump to disavow the support of white supremacist groups. He also worked in the White House as a special assistant to President Obama on social innovation.

Good to see you. So we heard Donald Trump there saying that he disavows David Duke. He said he did that in a Friday press conference, but then when he was pressed again today by our own Jake Tapper, he didn't seem to want to go as for as saying that.

So now your group says it will provide information for all the presidential candidates on hate and extremist groups. What exactly is this plan all about?

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Well, look. We at the Anti-Defamation League, for over a hundred years, has been fighting bigotry and anti-Semitism. And we don't endorse any political candidate or support any political party.

But let me be clear, it is profoundly disappointing and somewhat puzzling when a candidate for the highest office in our nation claims not to be aware of or clear about who David Duke or the Ku Klux Klan might be. I mean, let me be clear. It's time for Donald Trump to be as forthright with us as he is with his rallies and on the debates. Does he support him or not?

WHITFIELD: As you try it analyze what he has said, what he hasn't said, what do you suppose is behind, you know, the initial reticence and then admission that he did disavow on Friday?

[16:25:05] GREENBLATT: Well, I'll tell you, it's confusing when he disavows or doesn't disavow, knows or doesn't know. Donald Trump should just come clean. Does he reject David Duke and reject the white supremacists who are retweeting his campaign or giving him support -- or not? It's a simple thing to do, really. And this ugly rhetoric mainstreams white supremacists with their racism. We need to push it out of the political debate. WHITFIELD: Do you feel compelled now as an organization to provide a

list of all the documented hate groups in this country to all of these candidates so if there is another response like that, we heard from Donald Trump saying he didn't really know anything about these groups. He said present to me a list and Jake Tapper was like, you don't know about the KKK? So to further that moment of -- that I think perplexed so many, to what degree will you try to provide a list or educate all of the candidates?

GREENBLATT: Our researchers at ADL Center on Extremism right now are pulling that information together. And let's be honest, Fredricka, it's not really a mystery what the KKK is all about. It's not really a mystery -- you look who's retweeting or issuing support, like David Duke, who's probably the most public and prominent white supremacist in our country today. His views aren't exactly unknown.

WHITFIELD: And then what do you read into a candidate who might go as far as saying -- and I mean a candidate, I'm not talking specifically about Donald Trump -- but any candidate who would say that they don't want to necessarily alienate anyone? They welcome the support of any and all-Americans regardless of their point of view or persuasion.

GREENBLATT: It's hard for me to understand what Mr. Trump's motives are and I won't try to predict. But what I will say is that when we allow this kind of ugly rhetoric into the public conversation, it taints the entire affair. The bottom line is this: racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, homophobia, they have no place in our public debate or in the political conversation we're having right now about who will be our next president.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

GREENBLATT: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk more about the political fall-out. CNN's Chris Frate is following the Trump campaign today there in Alabama. Ron Brownstein is a CNN senior political analyst; Jason Johnson is the politics editor at and a political contributor at Sirius XM.

All right, good to see all of you. So, you know, it's the sequence of events perhaps that has been most confusing and you just heard that from Mr. Greenblat. You know, as he said, this is very confusing. Because you've got the disavowing and then you've got a moment of I'm not going to do that, and then reminding people that he did. So Jason, what is really at the bottom here? What is this all about?

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: How can anyone support or trust a presidential candidate who's waffling as to whether or not he wants the support a terrorist organization? That's what this is. The Klan is a terrorist organization. If he says I disavow them on Friday and if he doesn't know on Sunday, how can you trust them as a presidential candidate? I don't care if you're Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent. Donald Trump has read -- has run by saying I'm a tough guy. I'll handle ISIS, I'll handle al Qaeda, I'll handle Vladimir Putin, but he can't seem to handle an endorsement. That is something that I think that most Republicans should be legitimately concerned about.

WHITFIELD: And then, Ron, how does this either undermine Donald Trump's candidacy or galvanize his candidacy?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I don't think Donald Trump does anything casually. You know, sometimes his speeches -- and you heard his rally -- seem totally free form, but I think there is -- there was something -- he does it with intention. And the fact that he did not specifically reassert his disavowal of David Duke in the interview today, I think it is significant. And the fact that he felt compelled when the other candidates came out afterwards after him to go ahead and kind of --

WHITFIELD: And you think that's the only reason why he came out with that kind of clarity?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes -- I mean --

WHITFIELD: Then what was his objective, at first, in your view?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think Donald Trump is drawing support obviously from across the Republican spectrum, but he is drawing support from the elements of the Republican coalition that are most uneasy, as we've talked about before, with the cultural and demographic change that is transforming America. And not all -- by any means, not all of those people who are uneasy are white supremacists or racists, but it does bleed over into those kind of precincts, or into those areas. And Trump I think was being very cautious about who he was willing to disavow in this interview. And obviously he's going to go further. I suspect that the comments by the other candidates are going to force him to go further.

But, Fred, all of this really underscores the gravity of where we are. We're two days from Super Tuesday, a moment when Donald Trump has the opportunity to really put a decisive distance between himself and anyone else for the GOP nomination. And really kind of underscore the extent to which he is leading the party into the electoral unknown and it may too be late, very quickly, for any of the party forces to stop that.

WHITFIELD: And then, Chris, you are in Madison, Alabama, where at any moment now Donald Trump is to address a very sizable crowd behind you. We know that some of these groups, whether it be white supremacist groups or whatever you want to call them, have been doing these robo calls asking for people to vote for Trump.

[16:30:00] And Donald Trump he said he answers to no one, he haven't accepted a Super PAC money and some of it is financed by Super PAC money, so how or would Donald Trump try to distance himself in some other way from the intention of these robo calls?

FRATES: Well, when it comes to the robo calls, he said he didn't know anything about it and he was going to walk into it. So that's one thing, we will be listening for on the stage today when Donald Trump addresses this rally. Does he talk about the robo calls? And that is not a surprise because Marco Rubio of course, hitting him on that, Ted Cruz also hitting him on his inability to disavow David Duke or the KKK so we're expecting Donald Trump here shortly Fred and we're going be listening very closely. This is Ron pointed out Donald Trump doesn't do anything by mistake.


FRATES: He purposely did -- he purposely didn't answer the question from our own Jake Tapper this morning. Many took to twitter to say that he does disavow David Duke. But he -- that is something that is a mixed message. So, we're going to see if he's going to set the record straight here in front of all these folks here today. And that's part of what we're looking for, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And then Ron, you know, this clearly only further alienates him from the GOP, that's been his mission, you know, that he is not the establishment et cetera, but when you talk about members of the GOP who are now trying very hard to stop him, this seems like a real problem.

BROWNSTEIN,: Yes, Fred. First of all, David Duke is not a mystery man. I covered David Duke races for governor and senator in Louisiana 25 years ago. I've been to David Duke's house in Metairie Louisiana. So, I mean he is not -- he is not someone who is like, you know, I guess hiding under a sheet or under I don't know what you would say. I mean you know, he has been out there and for Donald Trump to say he doesn't know who he is, I think is not fully credible. Look, but...

WHITFIELD: He's not a mythical figure -- people are familiar with him...

BROWNSTEIN: Right, right, exactly.

WHITFIELD: ...and his actions.

BROWNSTEIN: So -- exactly, so and look but the key issue here I mean, you know, Donald Trump has his piece of the Republican Coalition. And he is in position on Tuesday to do very well both in heavily evangelical blue collar states in the south and also to do pretty well in white collar less evangelical states in the north.

What this kind of controversy does though is I think deep in the doubts among the voters who have been the most skeptical from the beginning which are more of those white collar mainstream conservative voters exactly the people you saw and exactly the place that Marco Rubio was this afternoon and the challenge has been no one has been able to consolidate those voters nearly the extent Donald Trump is consolidating the blue collar side.

The question is at this time of 11th hour, will this kind of controversy allow someone like Rubio to make more progress at that? Well, you know, it's a big hill to climb but certainly this isn't -- these aren't the headlines Donald Trump wants going into the biggest voting day of the year. WHITFIELD: Interesting. And you know, Jason, look at the crowd behind

Chris there I mean, you know, it's unclear whether a lot of the people even were aware of what happened earlier today but if they were aware, the turnout there sends a very strong signal that perhaps his message or how he handle it today really does not bother them.

JOHNSON: Yes, it's not going to bother them at all, Fred. It's going be perfectly fine. Donald Trump is going to continue to be successful. He's going to do well in the South. Remember we looked at the poll numbers from South Carolina. The majority of his voters still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya. They don't want the South to have lost the war. They don't have problems with slavery, so this is not going to in any shape or form hurt Donald Trump. He's probably going to win throughout Super Tuesday and the Republican Party is going to have to do some soul searching. Because I don't think you can win with someone whose rhetoric consistently alienates growing parts of the population.

WHITFIELD: You can't win a general election...


WHITFIELD: ...when you can see the sweep of the primary caucus season?

JOHNSON: Most definitely.

WHITFIELD: All right. And Chris last word on this since you are there where it a huge crowd and they are still awaiting the arrival of Donald Trump.

FRATES: Yes. I just wanted to piggyback a little bit on something Ron said, which is that it's not believable that Donald Trump does not know who David Duke was. In fact, when he decided not to run for the Reformed Party nomination back in 2000, 16 years ago, he put out a statement that read in part, I'm going to quote him here, he said, "The Reformed Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke. This is not the company I wish to keep."

So, this idea that he doesn't know who David Duke is that he doesn't know that he's connected to the KKK, well that's just not true. And it's important to remind our viewers too that David Duke, of course a former grand wizard leader in that White Supremacist Group. So these mixed messages are something that Donald Trump really has going to have to address because you get the feeling that both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, they're not going to let this one go free.

WHITFIELD: All right, Chris Frates, Ron Brownstein, Jason Johnson, thanks to all of you, appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: All right, just two days away from Super Tuesday and we'll have complete coverage all day right here on CNN and we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:35:27] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Republican Marco Rubio has a new strategy on the campaign trail attack Donald Trump as a con man -- a con artist. His supporters seemed to love it. Today, Rubio also slam the frontrunner for not disavowing support from White Supremacist right away today.


RUBIO: Should the head of the Conservative movement -- should the Republican nominee be someone that today like Donald Trump refused -- refused to criticize the Ku Klux Klan? He was interviewed on CNN and asked to disavow the Ku Klux Klan, he fused to do it. He was asked to disavow and criticize David Duke, he said, "I don't know who that is." He knows exactly who that is. He knows exactly who that is. He has not repudiated the robo calls supporting his campaign, telling people that don't vote for a Cuban. Now, look, I don't get offended easily, but this is not just against me. They are trying to take over the Conservative Movement that there is no place in the Conservative Movement for David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan or any sort of hatred or bigotry in America.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about what's behind this new kind of Marco Rubio. Jason Rowe is a senior adviser to Senator Rubio all right, good to see you. So, explain kind of the evolution of Marco Rubio, this newer Marco Rubio with teeth and talons.

JASON ROWE, SENIOR ADVISER TO SEN. MARCO RUBIO: You know, Donald trump for about nine months has gotten away with behavior that's unbecoming of the office that seeks and I think we got to a point where if Marco didn't start calling this out and exposing the con that is Donald Trump, the Republican voters and these various primary states were not going to be aware of it.

And so it really became his challenge to talk to people about the three lawsuits for fraud that Trump is facing. You know, Trump is showing his own, I guess lack of qualifications in his unwillingness to denounce David Duke and the KKK claiming that he was unaware when we know, by the record, that he is well aware of who David Duke is.

And even if it weren't for that affirmation, the fact that he would even pretend to not know what the Ku Klux Klan is about and to just as a knee jerk push them away from him is very troubling.


WHITFIELD: So is this a strategy about Rubio trying to take down Donald Trump or is this a last-ditch effort that Rubio might be able to win some support so that he can win a race especially come Super Tuesday?

ROWE: There's no doubt that Marco is the underdog in this race. I mean, this race is in some way's been just an entertainment program to watch Donald Trump do outlandish things day in and day out. And I think now we've reached the point where we're kind of into the fourth quarter and we're approaching the end of the game and if we don't call out who this guy is, he's going to hijack our party, he's going to hijack the Conservative Movement...

WHITFIELD: But why now, why didn't that one -- wasn't that realization made many moons ago because Donald trump is the same...

ROWE: Well, I...

WHITFIELD: ...Donald Trump today...

ROWE: Yes.

WHITFIELD: ...that he revealed when he first entered the race?

ROWE: Well, it's been Marco's intention to run the campaign, it's about Marco Rubio's vision for America, but unfortunately we haven't been talking in the media about who these candidates are necessarily. We've been covering a horse race and covering this like it's the NFL playoffs. You know, we need to vet the candidates. And the campaigns have the responsibility of vetting their opponents. The media has a responsibility to vet each of these candidates.

And unfortunately, the vetting of Donald Trump has just not happened in a meaningful way and so it became the Rubio campaign's responsibility to inform Republican and Conservative voters who the con man is that is trying to steal the nomination and hopefully people - will sober up and realize that while this has been entertaining in some level, we can't risk the most powerful position in the world to this con man.

WHITFIELD: All right and this was sort of the unveiling of the new Rubio yesterday at the rally.


RUBIO: He's flying around on Hair force 1 and tweeting...


RUBIO:, here's the one Tweet he put out -- he put out a picture of me having make-up put on me at the debate which is amazing to me that a guy with the worse spray tan in America is attacking me for putting on make-up.


RUBIO: Donald Trump likes to sue people; he should sue whoever did that to his face.


WHITFIELD: So, Jason how people understand why this is effective it is more kind of mudslinging, it's the Hair Force 1, it's the spray tan but Rubio didn't necessarily elaborate on any specific plans or even undermine Donald Trump's plans or lack thereof instead, you know, it was much more personal and kind of surface. ROE: Well, I think the clip that you use there is one in which Marco

is just having fun at a rally at Donald's expense. But the reality is if Marco at that point was giving a speech about his tax plan, you wouldn't be showing a clip of him. I mean the media has got some responsibility here...

WHITFIELD: But he didn't talk about the tax planning...

ROWE: ...that the mob flock to is the outlandish behavior and at some point, we've got to all stop the lunacy and adults have to get back and charge of process of nominating the President of the United States.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jason Rowe, we're going to leave it right there. Thank you so much.

ROWE: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


[16:45:47] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. So Ted Cruz went on ABCs this week, this morning calling on Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to release his tax return and he suggested Trump could be hiding connections to the mafia.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's clearly hiding something. On the other hand, it could be donations to Liberal groups like Planned Parenthood. At every debate, it seems he praises Planned Parenthood maybe he has written them a bunch of checks. Or, you know, maybe there are other issues, you know, for example there have been multiple media reports about Donald's business dealings with the mob, the mafia. Maybe his tax return shows that those business dealings are a lot more extensive...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Business dealing with the mafia?

CRUZ: ...we don't know, indeed ABC has reported that. You guys have reported he's done deals with S&A concrete which was owned by two of the big crime (ph) families in New York and that he's had in Atlantic City. Maybe that's what his tax return show, we don't know.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk more about this politics editor, Jason Johnson is with me here in Atlanta; CNN Senior Political Analyst, Ron Brownstein joins us from Los Angeles, and our Chris Frates is in Madison, Alabama where Trump is expected to speak very soon in the next hour.

So, first you Chris, how is Donald Trump responding to this latest charge? FRATES: Well, I tell you Fred, he's been responding the same way since

the CNN debate when he was first challenged on this saying that his taxes are being audited and that he doesn't want to put his tax returns out until those audits are finished. Let's take a listen on what he told CNN, Jake Tapper just this morning.

Trump: It's very unfair. I've been treated very unfairly by the IRS because I've been audited almost every year for 10 or 12 years. And I have friends that are very rich people, they never get audited and so I think I've been really singled out. I don't know why I'm singled out maybe because I'm very conservative...

FRATES: So, there you have Donald Trump saying that, well maybe because he is conservative that's why he is being audited. Now, the IRS of course that anybody is free to release their own tax returns whether they're being audited or not, Donald Trump still refusing to do that.

It's worth noting here also, Fred that both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz put out their own tax returns just last night. But it's also important to note, Fred that those were just summaries. We didn't get the full returns showing how they made all their money and all of the itemizations and deductions, so they're just really two-page summaries, they're calling on Donald Trump to release all of his taxes, neither Rubio or Cruz have done that.

Now Rubio says he will release his taxes in full he just wanted to get his summary out quickly. If Ted Cruz as well as Rubio releases all his taxes, he will do it too. So, this tax issue is going to I believe keep going on and they're trying to continue to apply that to first to Donald Trump, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So, then Jason, would it suffice if Donald Trump will just say, OK you only have released the summaries, I'm going to release the summaries too. Will that end the conversation?

JOHNSON: You know what, Fred it's not going to end the conversation. But think of that crowd we just saw, do they care about any of this? No. They don't care about Donald Trump's tax returns. They don't care if Donald Trump has the support from the terrorist organization like the Klan. They don't care if Donald Trump says offensive things, that's not what regular voters are talking about. That's not what regular primary voters on the Republican side are talking about. They want someone who talks about jobs, immigration and keeping this country safe and that's what Donald Trump has been doing...

[16:50:00] WHITFIELD: And so Ron, we saw something very similar from Mitt Romney, a delay in the release of his tax information. So, there is a common trend here, is this a great detriment to a Donald Trump?

BROWNSTEIN: No, I agree. I don't think -- I don't think this is going to be the big problem. I, you know, Ted Cruz this morning was a little bit of throwing the plate of spaghetti against the wall and hoping, you know, not really questioning -- not really caring which one -- which strand might stick and kind of throwing the whole series of allegations that can't be answered as long as the taxes are out. I just want to kind of button up the earlier conversation. I mean, you know, Donald Trump is appealing across a broad range of the Republican Party by no means are all of his supporters driven by racially -- racial motivations or racist motivations. But there's no question that his candidacy is energizing a lot of White Nationalist group.

You see in the reporting by CNN, you just run it and we've seen it and reporting by the New Yorker and he has been somewhat oblique in how he has dealt with that. And I think what all of this does and to some extent what taxes do as well is really kind of underscore the Republicans how big elite into the unknown they are taking.

He is poised so I think he become (ph) put himself in an almost insurmountable position on March 1st and March 15th and it is turning over this party to someone that, you know, there's still a lot of questions about and I think that is the going to be the core question that Marco Rubio in particular is going to try to frame whether it's enough for the same reasons you've been talking about is something else. But I think that is the key issue over the next two weeks.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ron Brownstein, Jason Johnson, Chris Frates, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: All right, and tomorrow night, Anderson Cooper interviews Donald Trump's wife, Melania. You can see that on "AC360" tomorrow at 8 o'clock Eastern and we will be right back.


[16:55:00] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got decimated, George. We got -- we got decimated -- the only positive thing for us is we won the actually -- the 29 years of age and younger vote. And that was good. But we got killed...

WHITFIELD: All right, that was the music to the ears of Hillary Clinton after losing New Hampshire and eking out a win in Nevada she had to carry South Carolina and carry it big and that's exactly what happened. Today, she has been in Nashville addressing the many critical issues facing the country.


CLINTON: I want you to just remember what's going on in Flint, Michigan a city of about a hundred thousand, mostly poor, mostly African-American where the people there, including babies, have been drinking lead-contaminated water for nearly two years.


WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Zeleny is with the Clinton campaign today. So Jeff is, you know, Clinton exhibiting a certain amount of confidence going into Super Tuesday?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Sure is Fredricka. There's no doubt that there was a just a bit of a sort of a glow about Hillary Clinton today I think a sense of relief after those first four contests are over. And boy, she was not expecting the win that she got in South Carolina from 74% of the voters there supported her. So, that really gives her a big sort of boost of energy going into this Super Tuesday states.

So, right now, the campaign is clearly operating on a dual track. She is still, you know, saying she is fighting for every Democratic vote and of course she is because she needs those delegates, this is after all a delegate fight. But wait Fredricka it was clear from her speech a few moments ago in Nashville that she is turning her attention to Republicans. She did not mention Bernie Sanders once by name. She barely even alluded to the fact that she has a primary opponent anymore. So, we are seeing a shift in this race.

Now, you know, things could always shift back. There's no question -- 56% of the delegates are picked in the month of March. A lot of contests ahead in this week a little more than a dozen but it's clear that she is sensing a shift and she was stopping by a national coffee shop a couple hours or so ago and a reporter asked her about the comments that have been making news all day long with Donald Trump.

And she says, "Oh that is pathetic." So she did not weigh in on that with her speech today, but she did do it privately and I certainly would not be surprised if she did it more in the days to come. But she is now heading it Arkansas, to Fayetteville (ph) Arkansas of course a state so familiar to her, also voting on Super Tuesday, so that's certainly the place where she is hoping for a big victory as well, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Jeff Zeleny thank you so much, appreciate it from Nashville. Thanks so much for being with me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We have much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow, after this.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 5 o'clock Eastern top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with us just two days before the critical Super Tuesday primary.