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Donald Trump Speech at Liberty University; Democratic Rivals Clash over Health Care at Debate. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired January 18, 2016 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:06] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm John Berman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We're going to show you live pictures. This is Liberty University. A packed house is there today to see Donald Trump set to take the stage any minute to speak to the students and public at the Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia.

BERMAN: He's speaking at a convocation of students. You're looking at the university president. That's Jerry Falwell Jr. This university was founded by Jerry Falwell, a Christian university, big with evangelicals. While Donald Trump will be speaking at Liberty in Virginia, his audience half a country away in Iowa, where evangelicals will play a huge role.

CNN's Jim Acosta is in the house right there in Liberty.

Jim, give us a sense of what the scene is like.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Guys, Donald Trump is getting the Christian rock-star welcome you might say here at Liberty University. This is a packed audience. We should point out to our viewers, talked to some students, they are required to attend these events. While Donald Trump is known to pack an auditorium, a lot of the students are required to come. One student told me they get one skip. That is partially explaining why there's such a large crowd here.

But you're right, the president of this university, Jerry Falwell Jr, is up on stage. There was a Christian rock band playing music. It was as loud as any rock concert you might go to a few minutes ago. Running a biographical video of Donald Trump. The GOP frontrunner should be out any moment.

As you said, John, this is very much going after Ted Cruz's lane in this presidential campaign. He is making a direct appeal to evangelical voters, a very key base of Ted Cruz's support in Iowa. And with these two candidates really neck and neck in that crucial state, it's no surprise Donald Trump is making this play at this stage in the campaign.

What we're going to be listening to and I think a lot of these Christian conservatives are going to be listening to in a few minutes is how Donald Trump talks about his faith. He has said over the last few days he has a, quote, "terrific relationship with the evangelical community." He says he has a great relationship with God. He said that to Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" over the weekend. So Christian conservatives will be listening to the words Donald Trump uses.

And I think the other thing that this crowd may be listening for is whether or not Donald Trump goes back to those lines of attack on Ted Cruz. Remember, Ted Cruz is very popular with this voting bloc, and so does he go after Ted Cruz's eligibility to be president of the United States because of his one-time Canadian citizenship. Does he go after him because of the loans he got from Goldman Sachs for his Senate campaign back four years ago? And so that will be interesting to see if he does go after Ted Cruz in front of this audience, what the reaction might be.

But at the same time, we should point out, you know, if Donald Trump could perhaps carve away a slice of this electorate in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, that can be crucial for him. And John and Kate, keep in mind, this is not just a one-stop appeal to the evangelical community this week. Donald Trump is not only appearing here at Liberty University today, he's going to be at Oral Roberts University, which is another Christian conservative campus, another base of this evangelical movement that he'll be appealing to later on this week in Oklahoma on Wednesday. So this is a real big theme for Donald Trump as he makes his closing argument to voters out there heading into the Iowa caucuses -- guys?

BOLDUAN: And, Jim, this could be a very important stop for Donald Trump as you lay out. It's also a very important stop other candidates have made along the way in this election. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, go down the list. Many of these candidates have stopped here to speak to the student body.

ACOSTA: That's right, and, you know, when Ted Cruz made his announcement here, I mean, that was a huge deal on this campus. Students here still talk about it to this day. And what those other candidates did in the past that, you know, I'm interested to see if Donald Trump does, does Donald Trump quote from scripture? Is there a passage in the Bible that speaks to Donald Trump? Just a few moments ago, they were playing this biographical video about Donald Trump. And his daughter, Ivanka Trump, appears in that video talking about her dad and his values. To see Donald Trump in front of this audience might seem strange to Donald Trump's critics, who point to his personal life and how he's conducted his life in New York City, but Donald Trump is somebody who is going to talk about his faith, I think, in the last couple weeks of the campaign. We heard it over the weekend when he was talking to Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" and I heard it last Friday when Donald Trump says he has a terrific relationship with the evangelical community. He is very much trying to speak to that base. But this is a sophisticated part of the Republican Party. They're going to be listening to, you know, a certain kind of language out of Donald Trump. If he doesn't pass that test, if he doesn't speak in their language in that Christian conservative language, that could be a problem for Donald Trump. My sense is Donald Trump being a savvy campaigner, he's going to be prepared for this event but we'll see in just a few moments.

[11:05:03] BERMAN: So, Jim, as you say, there have been a number of candidates who have come and spoken here. This is an unlikely place to go directly after another candidate. It would be unusual and I think, again, unlikely for him to go directly after Ted Cruz at this event, but this race has changed so much since last thursday night, since the last Republican debate where Donald Trump and Ted Cruz really had begun talking about each other directly and not in particularly nice ways. You've been out on the stump with Trump over the last few days, Jim. What have you seen from him?

ACOSTA: Well, one thing we've seen interest Donald Trump in the last few days is that we know he can pack an auditorium. We know he can pack an arena. He hasn't done as much of that retail politicking, that person to person, face-to-face politicking, so we saw that -- him start doing that in Iowa on Friday. He visited a pizza ranch, which is one of the traditional stops where he went inside this small pizza restaurant, was shaking hands and pressing the flesh, doing something we haven't seen Donald Trump do a whole lot of. That is very much a new stage of this campaign for Donald Trump. You talked about that debate last week, it was like there was an undercard debate inside that debate. The focus was really on Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and I think, you know, while it may be out of place and it may be strange for Donald Trump to go after Ted Cruz in front of this large audience, I think it's going to be very tempting for Donald Trump to do that because it is so very close and the sense we got from Donald Trump back in Iowa on Friday is that he is determined to win that state. And if you talk to a lot of people in the Republican establishment right now, if Donald Trump wins Iowa, if he wins New Hampshire, if he goes into South Carolina and captures that state, it is going to be very hard to slow down that campaign. That is why this Trump campaign is making such a hard and serious play for Iowa voters right now. And I think that's part of the reason why you're seeing Donald Trump here at Liberty and Oral Roberts University. If he can just take a slice of that electorate from Ted Cruz, it could make a huge difference.

BERMAN: Jim Acosta, stand by at Liberty University.

Donald Trump about to speak there. When he does take the stage, we will get back to you. Thanks, Jim.

BOLDUAN: Let's bring in CNN political commentator, Van Jones; as well as Republican consultant, Bruce Haynes.

Thanks for joining us.

Bruce, first to you.

When you take look at the importance of Iowa, the importance of the evangelical voters, what is the importance do you think for Donald Trump speaking before Liberty University today?

BRUCE HAYNES, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, this is a moment for him of great opportunity. It's also fraught with peril. He has a chance. Again, he's neck and neck with Ted Cruz in Iowa right now. He's leading in South Carolina, my home state, a state with a lot of evangelical voters as well. He has an opportunity to maybe pull away just enough of those voters in Iowa to get ahead of Cruz, but the danger here is, you know, Trump's big stock right now is his authenticity, that he is kind of the most real, authentic, genuine candidate in the Republican race, says what he thinks. This is no place to fake your faith at a podium at Liberty University. He'd probably be wise to stick with connecting on other values that evangelicals care about like national security, like economic issues, and speak more broadly and not try to connect on theological or faith- type issues I think.

BERMAN: Interesting that you bring up the idea of authenticity. One of the things about Donald Trump is he's not subtle, right? There's not a lot of nuance there.

So, Van Jones, when Donald Trump goes negative, he doesn't just say, oh, so-and-so voted for this or believed that. He out and out says nobody likes him.

Listen to what Donald Trump said about Ted Cruz over the weekend.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: He's a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him. He's got an edge that's not good. You can't make deals with people like this and it's not a good thing. It's not a good thing for the country. Very nasty guy.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R), TEXAS & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It seems Donald has a lot of nervous energy. I think in terms of a commander-in- chief, we ought to have someone who isn't springing out of bed to tweet in a frantic response to the latest polls.


BERMAN: This is a particular kind, Van, of going after each other right here. Who wins a battle like this?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, so far Trump almost always wins. What Trump is so brilliant is that he finds that one word, you know, low energy, now nasty, that really does kind of surface something in a very concise way. He's a great marketer. He's branding his opposition. He's not wrong. Ted Cruz is a very hard person to like. I have met him a couple times. He's just kind of weird and strange and he doesn't relight to people in a normal way, so that's out there for him to tap into. At the same time, you know, Ted Cruz is no dummy. He knows there's an anxiety about somebody like a Donald Trump as much as you might like him at the bar, you might lick him on TV going after the P.C. crowd, do you want this guy in charge of the military. Nervous energy, however, is not as strong a counter punch as nasty. You don't ever want to be nasty. Everybody is a little bit nervous but who is nasty so I think Trump wins this one.

[11:10:14] BOLDUAN: When you said that to me the other day, you were not complimentary when you called me nasty? (LAUGHTER)


JONES: Totally different issue. Completely different thing.

BOLDUAN: Bruce, it's obvious why they're attacking each other this way. Remember, everyone, flashback to just a few weeks ago, they respected each other --

JONES: They were best friends.

BOLDUAN: -- my friend, I mean, use whatever you want.

Bruce, it's obvious why they're doing it now, two weeks out from Iowa. Will this work? It's worked for Donald Trump, but is it going to move the needle because Ted Cruz is winning right now in Iowa.

HAYNES: Well, it's not as much even about the attacks. There's two things that we used to ask about campaigns to try to figure out who was winning. One, which campaign looks like it's having the most fun and the Trump campaign sure seems like a lot of fun, big rallies. The other one is do you feel like you're running the other campaign in the race, and right now Trump seems to be the campaign that feels like it's on offense. Ted Cruz is more reacting to things that Donald Trump is saying. He's now being forced to react to the allegations around what we call birtherism. Is he actually eligible to be the president? He's reacting to the questions about his ability to get along with other people in the United States Senate and be a president that can make deals with people. You know, Donald Trump is driving the agenda right now, and when you're not only running your campaign but you're running the other campaigns in the race, that tends to be the kind of campaign that's going to win.

BERMAN: All right. Stand by for a second, guys.

Again, we're watching this speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. We'll get that as soon as it begins.

I want to shift focus to the Democratic debate that took place last night, Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders. We saw a very interesting dynamic there that played out repeatedly on the stage, but it was sort of this idea, Van, of purity versus pragmatism, and we saw it on the issue of health care. Bernie Sanders released more details of his Medicare for all plan, and Hillary Clinton was critical of it.

Listen to what Hillary said.



HILLARY CLINTON, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: There are things we can do to improve it, but to tear it up and start over again pushing our country back into that kind of a contentious debate I think is the wrong direction. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I), VERMONT & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:

No one is tearing this up. We're going to go forward. We're not going to tear up the Affordable Care Act. I helped write it. But we are going to move on top of that to a Medicare for all system.



BERMAN: Van, you really got a taste there of what the overall debate was like. What did you take away from last night's action?

JONES: Well, first of all, I saw a candidate that I had never seen before, Hillary Rodham Obama.


I have never seen Hillary Clinton hugging onto President Obama the way that you saw her last night. She -- anytime Sanders tried to advance an argument whether it was Wall Street, whether it was health care, she just grabbed President Obama and said, I love President Obama. This is President Obama's thing, blah, blah, blah. And in front of a mostly black crowd in South Carolina, the Congressional Black Caucus convened that thing, that is Hillary Clinton's firewall, and she knew how to play that crowd. She never had to really deal with the substance of the issue. She just kept grabbing Barack Obama and I think Sanders seemed to be a little flummoxed by that. I don't think he understood how to make his case to that part of the Democratic Party and that's been his challenge all along. He's been trying to rise to that challenge but she knows how to work a pro-Obama African- American crowd like nobody's business and she did it last night.

BOLDUAN: Van Jones, Bruce Haynes, great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

I think we're going to --


BERMAN: I think if we look at the stage --

BOLDUAN: I think we're going to look at the stage and head back to Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, Donald Trump -- after an introduction by Jerry Falwell Jr, Donald Trump taking the stage to speak at this convocation to students. Let's listen in.


DONALD TRUMP, (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Wow. This is so -- you get those teleprompters out of here. We're going to have some fun, right?


TRUMP: Get those teleprompters -- we have a president. You know our president, and I'm not talking about this president, I'm talking about that president -- we don't like those teleprompters.

I will say this, it's an honor to be here and especially on Martin Luther King Day. We broke the record. You know, we had the record for about three or four years the last time, and the first thing I said to Jerry and Becky when I got here, did we break the record? They said, yes, you did, by quite a bit, so we'll dedicate that to Martin Luther King, a great man, and that's a little bit of an achievement, I will tell you.


[11:15:03] TRUMP: It's an honor to be here. It's an amazing story what's gone on with Liberty University. I mean, when you think of all of the years and the early years were not easy. I have read a lot about it and I watched it and Liberty University, like a rocket ship, a really great rocket ship. What happened Jerry has done -- and I knew his father a little bit, and I have to tell you, I knew his father a lot from the standpoint of what he did, and to be compared to his father just a little bit, to be compared to his father is really an honor for me. So I want to thank Jerry for saying that.


TRUMP: You know, it was very interesting because when other -- and everybody wants to come here. They don't have this kind of a crowd, but that's OK. But I will say this, when Jerry was telling, you know, nice things about other people and he was saying this one is very smart and this one is good, this one is good, and Trump reminds me of my father, I said that's the best compliment of all. That's much better than any of the other people got. So I was extremely happy about that. I will tell you.

And you should be very proud to be here. You're going to have an amazing future. You're going to have just absolutely amazing futures.

We had a debate recently, and the debate -- who watched the debate? Everybody?


TRUMP: Very political place, OK? But it was an amazing evening for me, and we did fine. We did well. And the polls came out right after that, and we keep going up and we're so happy and I'm not going to go over the polls. Somebody said why do you always discuss the polls? One of the people I'm running against, why do you always -- now, he's in seventh place, I'm in first place. I said when you're in first place, you discuss polls.


It's true. When you're in first place, you discuss polls. But so many things have happened, and now they just keep coming out and we go up and up and up and we hit 42 percent last week. 42 percent. That's 14 or 15 people, they're dropping out rapidly. They're dropping out. When you have 42 percent, at least you know you're not totally wasting your time today, right? 42 percent is good. (APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I think I'd take 42 percent if we had three people, not 14. But it has been an experience, and NBC/"Wall Street Journal" just came out 33 percent, and CBS -- 41 percent -- CBS, 35 percent. We're really doing good. So I'm not going to bother you. I will tell new South Carolina we're at 35 percent, way, way, way above anybody else. And in Iowa CNN we're at 33 percent to 20 percent. So we're way up, and actually some other polls -- the closest is Iowa, and I love Iowa, and I'm going there right after this, going up to New Hampshire, I'm going to Iowa because I want to win Iowa. Everyone says don't say that. Just say you're going to do well. That's the closest, but I can't do that. The safe way is, I think I'll do well. I want to win Iowa.


TRUMP: Let's see. We've done great with the evangelicals. The evangelicals have been amazing. The Tea Party has been amazing and we're doing really well. We'll see what happens but we're going to give it our best and I think we could surprise a lot of people by winning Iowa and then we're just going to clean the table, we're going to go through New Hampshire, through South Carolina where we were this weekend and it was amazing. We're going to go right through the whole group. And I think we can do really something special.

And we're going to protect Christianity, and I can say that. I don't have to be politically correct.



TRUMP: We're going to protect it. You know, and I asked Jerry and I asked some of the folks because I hear this is a major theme right here, but II Corinthians, 3:17, that's the whole ball game. Where the spirit of the lord, right, where the spirit of the lord is, there is liberty, and here there is Liberty College, but Liberty University, but it is so true.


TRUMP: You know, when you think -- and that's really -- is that the one? Is that the one you like? I think that's the one you like because I loved it, and it's so representative of what's taken place. But we are going to protect Christianity. And if you look what's going on throughout the world, you look at Syria where if you're Christian, they're chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity, it's under siege.

I'm a protestant. I'm very proud of it, Presbyterian to be exact, but I'm proud of it, very, very proud. And we've got to protect because bad things are happening, very bad things are happening, and we don't -- I don't know what it is. We don't band together, maybe. Other religions, frankly, they're banding together. And if you look at this country it's got to be 70 percent, 75 percent, some people say even more, the power we have, somehow we have to unify. We have to band together. We have to do really in a really large version what they've done at Liberty because Liberty University has done that. You've banned together. You created one of the great universities, colleges, anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and that's what the country has to do that around Christianity. So get together, folks, and let's do it because we can do it.


[11:20:30] TRUMP: No matter where I go, we're having terrific crowds, and we're setting records everywhere. We went to Dallas and the Mavericks arena, packed, 20,000 people. Oklahoma, 20,000 people. Mobile, Alabama, 35,000 people. No matter where we go. It's only -- even here I understand you have rooms all over with the various equipment to show on the screens. You have a much better location than they do, but I won't tell them that. We'll just cut that off. But you have rooms all over with the media equipment, and no matter where we go, because I will tell you, this is a movement. It is a movement going on. We want to take our country back. Our country is disappearing. You look at the kind of deals we make. You look at what's happening, our country is going in the wrong direction, and so wrong, and it's got to be stopped and it's got to be stopped fast. We can't go another four years. I know that maybe Hillary will be here, and if she is -- you can play this back -- we can't have another four years of Barack Obama. We can't have another four years of Hillary Clinton.



TRUMP: We just can't do it. I watched that debate last night with the three of them. I mean, one of them is -- what's he doing? He keeps mentioning my name. He was the mayor of Baltimore. That's had his big claim to fame then he game governor because they thought he did a good job. Turned out he did a horrible job but he's in there constantly mentioning my name, Donald Trump, Donald Trump. Why does he have to talk about me? Look at the job this guy has done. The other two you have a Socialist who is here actually, but you have a Socialist and I was going to say you have a Socialist, could be worse than that, could be much worse than that, and you have Hillary, and if anybody watched that debate last night. What it means is tremendously high taxes, things are not going to happen with the military. We need to build our military so big, so strong, so powerful that nobody, nobody is going to mess with us.


TRUMP: We have to do it.


TRUMP: You know, General Odierno left and he said the military is the least prepared it's been in generations. The least prepared. We need it more now than we ever need it. And I'm in the real estate business. I'm always getting listings of different things, listings, an Army base, a naval base. Everything is for sale. If it's military, it's for sale, and we can't have that. We're going to build it big, build it strong. Hopefully, we'll never have to use it. We'll make it so strong nobody is going to want to mess. That's really what we have to do. And in the end, that's cheaper than the nonsense we're doing right now where nobody respects us. They're laughing at us. We don't know what we're doing. We can't beat ISIS, and I see, I see it on television. These generals, they get up and they talk on television. They're being interviewed. I don't want generals to be interviewed. One of the generals just recently, well, what do you think of the ISIS threat? Oh, they're very tough. Well, can we beat them? Well, it's going to take a long -- I don't want that kind of a general. I want a general where we knock the hell out of them fast.



TRUMP: And my generals, by the way, they're not going on television, OK? So the enemy can learn all about it. Oh, well, then we attack.

How about President Obama recently, we're sending 50 people over there, our finest. Why does he have to say that for? Why does he say it? They have a target on their back. They are looking for those 50 people. They are looking for those 50 people right now more than any other people. Why does he have to say it? Why can't he just do it and not talk about it, right? Why can't he do it and not talk about it?


TRUMP: When the war in Iraq started, I was very opposed to it, I have to tell you, and I came out and I was very strong that I was opposed to it. I used to take a little heat on that, but now I get a lot of credit for it, but in 2003-2004, I said if you do that, you're going to destabilize the Middle East. It's going to be a disaster, one or the other, whoever we're going to knock them out, because we can knock them out pretty easily, is going to take over. The one that's not knocked out is going to take over. We knock out Iraq. Iran is taking over the Middle East. We have totally destabilized the Middle East. And I said this in 2004. They have totally destabilized the Middle East. It's a disaster.

[11:25:09] And you look at this new Iran deal which took forever to get done. You look at how bad it is and how one-sided it is. You look at how one-sided this deal is. And yesterday, I heard we're getting our hostages back. Some people call them prisoners. Some people call them hostages. I don't care. So we're getting them back. And then I heard, well, wait a minute, we're paying a business price. They're get seven back, we're getting actually four. They say five but the other one they can't find. He's in Iran. I tell you what, that's strange. That's another thing we'll be looking into. And we're getting four back, they're getting seven. They're getting 14 off the Interpol watch list. These are real bad customers. They're getting all sorts of advantages, including free market oil. They're getting unbelievable advantages. They're going to be an immensely wealthy country and a wealthy terror country, and they're getting $150 billion.

So when our sailors were captured last week, I said that's one of the saddest things that I have seen when those young people were on their hands and knees in a begging position with their hands up and thugs behind them with guns, and then we talk like it's OK. It's not OK. It's lack of respect. We can't let that happen to this country. It's lack of respect.

And we're not going to let it happen to this country. We're going to be strong. We're going to be vigilant. We're going to have powerful borders and strong borders, and look what just happened this morning. I don't know for any of you that have been seeing the news or reading the news, three people have just been kidnapped in Iraq because they see, what the heck, we pay $150 billion for four people, three people just this morning, and this is going to take place all over. They should have come back as part of the deal three years ago when they started talking about the deal, not now. Not now.


TRUMP: And what should have happened, what should have happened is our representatives -- first of all, we needed people that negotiate properly, not a guy like Kerry, who doesn't have a clue.



TRUMP: And we will have those people. I know those people. We will have those people. But when you look at what went on, our people, all you had to do was go in and say to the Persians, very good negotiators. Great negotiators, legendary negotiators. They're known for it. They're sitting across the table. Fellows -- and in this case it is all fellows, I hate to tell this to the woman, they're behind the fact, they're a little behind the fact. They haven't figured out that women may be in certain ways much better than men.


TRUMP: But I don't want to say that because I will get myself in trouble with men. But they haven't figured this out yet but that's OK. You say, fellows, we want our prisoners back. Got to have them back. Doesn't help you, helps us. It will make a better deal. The United States, the people, they want them back. They're talking about them. We want our prisoners back, got to give them back. They'll say no, and we'll say, that's OK, don't worry about it, bye-bye. Get up, leave the room. Now you double up the sanctions. Within 48 hours, they will call and they'll say we want our prisoners back and here is your prisoners. And now you go in a second time. You don't mention this. You say, listen, the other thing I had to tell you, we're not going to give you any money, no money.

We don't have it. We're a debtor nation. We owe $19 trillion. We're not going to give you any money, and you want to be nice. You don't want to put it in their face. Just say, look, we're a poor nation. We've been mismanaged, we've been misrun. We don't know what the hell we're doing, right?


Is that true or what?



TRUMP: This isn't Jerry running our nation, that I can tell you. But we've been mismanaged. We don't know what we're doing. We have $19 trillion in debt. Going to be $21 trillion because that ridiculous budget that was approved last week which got approved so fast, that's going to add another $2 trillion so we're going to be $21 trillion. We can't give it to you, don't have it, sorry. And they'll probably be upset, but don't worry about it. A week will go by and they'll say let's start negotiating. You could you have gotten the prisoners out years ago for nothing, without giving them these people, who, by the way, deserve to have been in prison. These were serious. And the Interpol people, forget it. These are bad dudes. These are bad people. So they made like this incredible deal.

But everybody makes good deals with the United States because the world is smart and they use their smart people and they use their most cunning streetwise people, and they know what they're doing. We have people that don't know what they're doing. We want to be politically correct like Jerry Sr, would say, politically correct. We want to be politically correct, and it's just not working.