Return to Transcripts main page

WOLF

Nancy Reagan's Funeral Today; Attendees At The Former First Lady's Funeral; Nancy Reagan Planned Entire Funeral; Rubio Camp Suggests Voting For Kasich In Ohio; Rubio Camp Says Vote Kasich In Ohio And Rubio In Florida; Ben Carson Endorsing Donald Trump; Trump To Speak Any Moment; The Republican Race; Trump Talks Numbers. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired March 11, 2016 - 13:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the world's news network.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Jim Sciutto. Wolf Blitzer is on assignment today. It is 10:00 a.m. in Simi Valley, California, 12:00 p.m. in St. Louis, Missouri, 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Wherever you are watching us from around the world, thanks for joining us.

And a funeral for former first lady, Nancy Reagan, begins in California one hour. Ahead of today's service, the Republican presidential candidates took part in a moment of silence for Mrs. Reagan at last night's CNN presidential debate.

Sara Sidner joining me now from Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley. So, Sara, really an incredible list of dignitaries on hand. Is it right, relatives from every -- or of every president going back to John F. Kennedy there today?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is and we've got quite a few former first lady and the current first lady expected to be here. We're expecting to see Laura Bush, expecting to see Rosalynn Carter, as well as Michelle Obama. And, of course, Hillary Clinton who is a former first lady and also, of course, a presidential candidate.

But we've been seeing people stream over the last couple of hours. We just saw Tom Selleck, so you've got Hollywood stars here, of course, as well. Melissa Rivers is here. Bo Derek is here. There are a lot of people here, including the former prime minister of Canada, Brian Maroney. We just saw him come in.

He's particularly special because he's going to be reading a letter that was written from one of the Reagans to the other Reagan, Ronald and Nancy. And these love letters, everyone is familiar with that love story between the husband and wife who happened to be the president and first lady.

So, we're expecting not a dry eye in the house because these letters are really, really touching and he'll be reading one of those. And he spoke a little bit about how it made him feel just reading it himself and that he does expect people to have an emotional reaction to that. But we are also expecting a lot of heavyweights here who will read the eulogy. Her children are going to eulogize her as well as former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw. He will also be here. And James Baker is going to eulogize her, as well.

There are a lot of people here. About a thousand guests and they are all streaming in. Many of them coming early to take part in this to show their respects and give their respects to Nancy Reagan -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: So, Hollywood and Washington coming together there. So, we understand --

SIDNER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: -- that Nancy Reagan planned today's events herself?

SIDNER: She -- to the letter. She was involved in every single decision. Who was going to be here. Even the peonies, which were her favorite flower. They were placed on the casket. Every single detail, she was involved with.

And just about six to nine months ago, we were talking to officials at the library. She went over that plan to make sure that it was exact. And we do have to mention that finally, at the end of all this, she wanted to be buried next to the man that she loved so fiercely and so dearly and that's going to happen. She will be inches away from former President Ronald Reagan.

SCIUTTO: Sara Sidner. And she'll be on the scene for us all day. And we will have full coverage of Nancy Reagan's funeral. That is at the bottom of the hour, 1:30 Eastern with CNN's Brooke Baldwin.

Some surprising comments on the campaign trail today. The campaign of Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio through down the gauntlet to try to stop Donald Trump, suggesting their supporters vote for Kasich in Ohio. Here's what Marco Rubio's communications director, Alex Conant, told CNN earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any vote against John Kasich in Ohio is a vote for Donald Trump?

ALEX CONANT, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MARCO RUBIO CAMPAIGN: Hey, and, I mean, look, there's no question that John Kasich has the best chance to beat Donald Trump in Ohio. And, right now --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you want all your voters -- all Rubio voters in Ohio to vote for Donald Trump? I mean, all voters in Ohio you want to vote for John Kasich?

CONANT: I'm just stating the obvious that John Kasich is the one person who can beat Donald Trump in Ohio, just like Marco Rubio is the one person who can beat Donald Trump here in Florida. So, if you're a voter, and Marco Rubio is not necessarily your first choice. If you like John Kasich and -- or you like Ted Cruz and you're here in Florida. You need to vote for Marco Rubio, because he's the only one who can deprive Donald Trump of those 99 delegates. And if we stop Donald Trump here in Florida, we can stop him in Cleveland. He will not be the Republican nominee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: I asked about those comments at a campaign stop in West Palm Beach a short time later, Senator Marco Rubio, himself, appeared to embrace those remarks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, if a voter in Ohio is motivated by stopping Donald Trump and comes to the conclusion that John Kasich is the only one who can beat him there, I expect that's the decision they'll make.

I can tell you that in Florida, I'm the only one that can beat Donald Trump. And whether if someone supports Ted Cruz or John Kasich, if you vote for them in Florida, you're, in essence, voting for Donald Trump. And if a voter reaches the same conclusion in Ohio, then I think that's what they're going to do as well.

[13:05:11] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, are you joining forces with John Kasich?

RUBIO: I've never talked to John Kasich about this. I'm just -- you're asking a question. I'm giving you my observation. Clearly, John Kasich is -- has a better chance of winning Ohio than I do. And if a voter in Ohio concludes that voting for John Kasich gives us the best chance to stop Donald Trump there, I anticipate that's what they will do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCIUTTO: Well, Donald Trump, for his part, kept the momentum going, picking up an endorsement today from former Republican rival, Dr. Ben Carson. And you're looking at live pictures from St. Louis, Missouri, where Trump will be holding a campaign rally any moment now. We'll be monitoring that event there.

Earlier today, Carson, the retired neurosurgeon through his support behind the Republican frontrunner. He says the two of them have, quote, "buried the hatchet." And he says that Trump does have a plan to make America great again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are two different Donald Trumps. There's the one you see on the stage. And there's the one who's very cerebral, sits there and considers things very carefully. You can have a very good conversation with him. And that's the Donald Trump that you're going to start seeing more and more of right now.

TRUMP: Ben said it very well today. So, perhaps there are two Donald Trumps. Well, I -- you know, I'm somebody that is a thinker. I'm a big thinker. And I have my ideas and they're strong. And, you know, typically, they've worked out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash was at that Trump-Carson news conference. She joins us now live. So, Dana, you were there. Dr. Carson, he also had a message for the anti-Trump movement. Carson being someone who criticized Trump for some of his more outrageous statements in the campaign up to now. What was his message to the anti-Trump movement?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: His message, basically, was that they're wrong. That people are not understanding what's going on out there. And that Donald Trump, after Ben Carson says he got to talk to him privately, got to know him, was quite different. And, in fact, it was really striking.

I had seen that Ben Carson had said in the morning on a radio show that he believes that there are two Donald Trumps. The entertainer in public and somebody who's quite different in private. And the fact that Ben Carson brought it up again on the stage with Donald Trump was striking. And so, during that press conference, I asked Donald Trump about that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

I want to go back to the -- what Major (ph) asked and also what Tom (ph) asked about what Dr. Carson said this morning on the radio and here about the two Donald Trumps. So many people know you and like you because of your public persona. Is that the real Donald Trump or is it something that we don't see?

TRUMP: Well, it's an interesting question. I don't like to overanalyze myself. But I will tell you that I try and be, you know, who I am. I want to be honest. Certain questions are asked of me, and I give a straight answer as opposed to a politically correct answer. I know the political correct business better than anybody.

BASH: Would you answer differently if you were in private?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I'd like to -- I answer truthfully. Look, we're at a point where we have to start being truthful with our country. Like the question on Islam. I'm answering the question. And I could -- I know the exact answer.

I could have given an answer last night to Anderson Cooper which would've been perfect and nobody would have been talking about it. It would've been fine. But there is a problem. And we've got to find out what the problem is. We have to solve the problem. And you're not going to solve the problem unless you know there is a problem.

So, I want to answer questions honestly and forthrightly and even if I'm on a big stage with all of these tremendous numbers of cameras around.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (live): Now, Jim, obviously, what Ben Carson was clearly trying to say is that the Donald Trump that you see in public, the sort of bombastic guy who, you know, kind of likes to put on a show at his rallies, I think Trump would even admit that, is not the same in private. However, this is politics.

And it is likely that Donald Trump's opponents, either now or in the future, are going to use that idea, that concept of two Donald Trumps against him, since already they're calling him a conman and somebody who's not a true conservative. That he is pretending to be so to get the Republican nomination.

I should say, before I toss back to you, I'm clearly not in Mar-a-Lago (ph) anymore. I am in West Palm beach not too far away and this is where Marco Rubio had his press conference from where you just -- you just played it a little while ago, Jim. This is at a synagogue where he talked about his support for Israel -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, some of those criticisms are going to be harder to flip flop on than others. Dana, please stay with us.

Joining us from Miami now is CNN Politics Executive Editor Mark Preston. So, Mark, during last night's Republican debate here on CNN, you'll remember Donald Trump, he was asked about the recent violence, and that's what it's been, at some of his campaign events. He said he doesn't condone it, but he seemed to justify it, to some degree, claiming that some of the protesters, themselves, are looking for trouble. Let's have a listen.

[13:10:20] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We've had some violent people as protesters. You know, they're not just people saying, oh. These are people that punch. These are people that are violent people. And the particular one when I said that I'd like to bang him, that was a very vicious -- you know, he's a guy who is swinging -- very loud and then started swinging at the audience. And you know what? The audience swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: To be clear, those comments actually last night. A man attending a Trump rally has now been arrested and charged with assault for punching a protester. And we are just learning of an arrest outside a Trump St. Louis rally today. Details of that arrest aren't clear. We're going to stay on that.

But, Mark, Jake pressed Trump on this yesterday. Did Trump give a straight answer on whether he, in effect, seeds this kind of violence with some of his statements?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, Jim, you know, he certainly gave an answer that you would expect from Donald Trump, not taking responsibility. He said that he hoped that the incendiary language that he uses sometimes at his rallies, he hopes that it doesn't incite people. But he then pivoted and said that there's a lot of anger in this country and he kind of understood why this is happening, in some ways.

You know, Donald Trump, last night, probably could have done himself a lot of good Jim, by just saying, like, listen, that shouldn't happen. The protesters are disruptive I suppose but we don't want to see violence. But Donald Trump, I mean, true to his word, he kind of says what's on his mind. And for him, he thinks when these protesters come in and they interrupt these rallies, then there's a price to pay.

SCIUTTO: Well, Mark, I mean, the sort of narrative on last night's debate is that it was kinder, it gentler, it was softer. But really just in the rhetoric, wasn't it? Because on the positions, as you mentioned there, it's not like he backed off or made a sort of more general comment to say, oh, yes, that should definitely not happen, or on the Islam comments, on the positions themselves, was it really softer and gentler?

PRESTON: Well, look, I mean, there's no doubt that Donald Trump says what's on his mind. And he actually got hit for it. Listen, what he said last night about violence made a lot of Republicans cringe because that is not good for the Republican brand. And, quite frankly, it's just not acceptable for us as human beings.

When it got to the issue of Islam, when he said that, you know, Islam is terrible and like really was critical of Islam as a religion, he took a hit from Marco Rubio who said, words have consequences. Just because you're the president, doesn't mean you can go out and say things that don't have consequences. And those consequences are -- is that you still have to have relations, Jim, with world leaders around the world. Right? You have to be able to have open dialogues. And when Donald Trump says things like that, it does make, certainly diplomats and those who have to deal with trying to bridge these gaps and, you know, cause some kind of pulling together of nations against terror, it makes it a lot difficult.

SCIUTTO: As Senator Rubio also noted there, a lot of Muslim veterans who gave their lives in American wars and Muslim allies of the U.S. in these wars.

Dana, now we have this idea of strategic voting, in effect. Marco Rubio saying it makes sense for his supporters in Ohio to vote for John Kasich in the primary on Tuesday if they want to stop Trump. Trump -- I mean, in your experience, you've covered a lot of elections. Is in the kind of thing that voters might actually follow through on in numbers?

BASH: It's a great question. The fact that what Rubio and his campaign are effectively doing is releasing their voters in Ohio, saying don't worry about me. Go vote for Kasich because that's going to be good for me and us as the antitrust movement. Certainly it's been done before. Unclear how successful it will be. But you know what? In today's day and age with social media and with information, really, at people's fingertips if they want it, it is possible. I will tell you, though, Jim, that, separate and apart from the campaign's coordinating and playing a game of political chess, some voters have already been doing that. I have experienced, in this election year, going to rallies and talking to voters at a particular candidate's rally saying, are you going to vote for that candidate? And the voter saying, no, because what I'm thinking is that he really doesn't have a chance. And so, then I'm going to vote for this person because that'll stop that person. It is -- there are sophisticated voters out there.

So, it has already been happening, you know, without the campaigns endorsing it. But the fact that they are is incredibly interesting. It will be fascinating to see from, you know, talking to voters who are going to the polls whether or not that has been successful.

[13:15:07] SCIUTTO: Mark Preston, you heard Dana mention earlier that you already have some Republicans who previously criticized Donald Trump, starting to talk about, well, there are two Trumps and that actually he's kinder and gentler and so on. Manu Raju reporting that there are senators who are ready to endorse him. Is the anti-Trump movement in the Republican Party fading? Or never Trump, (INAUDIBLE).

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EXECUTIVE EDITOR: No. In fact, you know there's -- well, the never Trump. Well, Jim, it's basically the same, right? I mean I think what you're going to see that, you are going to see folks within the Republican Party that see Donald Trump as the inevitable nominee and that they're going to have to get behind him. I do think, though, you are going to see a strengthening of the anti- Trump or the never Trump movement over the next couple days.

A lot has to do what happens on Tuesday night. If Donald Trump can be stopped in Ohio or in Florida, that is going to be key. And if that can happen, I do think you're going to start seeing a lot more money put against Donald Trump. Whether that is in the way of super PACs, whether that is in the way of establishment Republicans who do not like Ted Cruz personally getting behind Ted Cruz because they see him as the only way to stop Donald Trump. It really is a game of mathematics. Donald Trump needs to win about 55 percent of the remaining delegates in order to win the Republican nomination. That's not -- not going to be an easy fete, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Mark Preston, Dana Bash, always great to have you on the race.

And this Sunday, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will appear together in Columbus, Ohio, at a Democratic presidential town hall. CNN teaming up with TV One to do this. Jake Tapper and Roland Martin will be moderating. That is this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

And coming up today, Donald Trump lays out the number of American troops that he'd be willing to send to fight ISIS. We'll talk to a former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to see if Donald Trump's numbers add up.

And as well, you're looking at live pictures as mourners gather for former First Lady Nancy Reagan's funeral. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:21:13] SCIUTTO: You're looking at live pictures now from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. These are guests arriving for the funeral of former First Lady Nancy Reagan. She will be laid to rest today right next to her husband. Special live coverage beginning in just under 10 minutes right here on CNN.

But first, new developments in the race for the White House. For the first time, Donald Trump is offering some specifics about how he would fight ISIS, including deploying a potentially massive U.S. ground force, both in Iraq and Syria. Here's how he responded to a question about it at last night's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, more troops?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We really have no choice. We have to knock out ISIS. We have to knock the hell out of them. We have to get rid of it and then we have to come back here and rebuild our country, which is falling apart? We have no choice --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many? (INAUDIBLE)

TRUMP: I would listen to the generals, but I would -- I'm hearing numbers of 20,000 to 30,000. We have to knock them out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel Cedric Leighton joining me right now.

So you hear Donald Trump saying 20,000 to 30,000 ground troops. Is that -- does that make sense to you?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think, Jim, it really depends on the tactics that are going to be employed here. So what Donald Trump is going to find that if President Obama's strategy is successful, or his actions are successful in Iraq and Syria, especially against ISIS, they're going to -- this rhetoric is going to look like it's overblown.

SCIUTTO: Right.

LEIGHTON: The problem that you run into is, what exactly do you want to do there, you know --

SCIUTTO: And for how long.

LEIGHTON: And for how long, exactly. So if you are going into Iraq and Syria and your goal is to eliminate ISIS, then you also have to ask that question, what comes next?

SCIUTTO: Right. LEIGHTON: And if you don't ask that question, then there's going to be a significant issue with the numbers of troops, what they're doing and also what the length of that deployment actually is.

SCIUTTO: I don't want you to ask you to speak for the entire sort of military field, but as a formal -- former commander, when you've heard Donald Trump's statements like this -- because on the flip side he's also been extremely critical of the Iraq War and Jeb Bush and George W. Bush. Do you hear consistency there? Do you hear a commander in chief who has a plan?

LEIGHTON: To be frank, no. And here's the problem. You know, when you have these kinds of pronouncements, it's very easy to say, I think the troop level should be 2,000 to 30,000 --

SCIUTTO: Right.

LEIGHTON: Or whatever the issue happens to be. The problem is, is if you tout that idea that you are going to send 20,000 to 30,000 troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, you also have to have a strategy that does that.

SCIUTTO: Right.

LEIGHTON: The types of things that he's talked about when it comes to Iraq, for example, and the Iraq War, indicate really more of an idea that he wants to get out of that region entirely. And, you know, in the past he's said he wants to leave it to the Russians. You know, let Putin take care of it, in essence. That is not consistent with the statement of putting this many troops in there.

SCIUTTO: And how many -- how many casualties are you willing as a country, you know, your supporters, to tolerate.

LEIGHTON: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Another thing that Trump said in last night's debate, and he often says, he says, we don't fight like we used to fight. In effect, saying, we're not as tough. Our military is not as tough as it was. I speak to current service members who bristle at that comment.

LEIGHTON: Well, sure. And, I mean, when you look at, you know, the brave men and women of, for example, SEAL Team Six or Delta Force, you know, some of them who've received medal -- the Medal of Honor, that's a completely different picture of the military that you get at that point in time.

I think what Donald Trump is really looking at is the quality of the leadership and he perceives basically a lack of the Patton-type figure in today's military. Well, quite frankly, we've weeded out the Patton- like figures ever since World War II. In fact, Patton himself got in trouble for doing certain things in World War II.

SCIUTTO: Right.

[13:25:00] LEIGHTON: And that kind of behavior, that brashness that is not really part of the military ethos anymore and it's not part of the real persona that -- that is out there. So there are tough people in the military. They're willing to fight and die for this country. The only issue that they have is, they need clear direction, they need a good strategy and they need to be able to really integrate that with a plan that allows for future developments, what do we do after we're done with ISIS? What do we do with other things that happen? What about Assad? None of that is answered at any of these things.

SCIUTTO: And that's always been the issue, what happens after the fighting stops, if it stops?

LEIGHTON: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Cedric Leighton, thanks very much, as always. We appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: Good to see you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: That's it for me today. Wolf is going to be back on Monday.

For our viewers in North America, special coverage of Nancy Reagan's funeral anchored by our Brooke Baldwin will start right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)