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Trump Courts Evangelicals; Campaign Fundraising Examined; Conservative Radio Hosts Slam Trump Over Cruz Insults; Americans Freed from Iran Reunite with Families. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 18, 2016 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:11] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ACNHOR: Next, Donald Trump flubbing a bible reference talking about his great relationship with God. Is Trump Christian enough to win even evangelicals?

Plus, an American journalist held by Iran for more than 500 days free at last. His brother comes out front to talk about what his time in Iranian captivity was like.

And one of the richest men in the world, also one of the biggest Republican donors in the nation, who gets the Vegas billionaire tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars? Let's go out front.

Good evening to all, I'm Erin Burnett. OutFront tonight, trump and God. The Iowa caucuses just two weeks from today. And Trump and Cruz are running neck and neck in the polls. The race for Iowa could all come down to evangelical voters. Trump aggressive courting them, today, quoting the bible to 10,000 students at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Where the spirit of the lord is, there is liberty.


BURNETT: Trump drawing laughter when he misspoke while quoting the bible. But the Republican frontrunner got a lot of applause when he talked about uniting to defend Christianity.


TRUMP: But we are going to protect Christianity. And if you look what's going on throughout the world, you look at Syria, where there -- if you're Christian they're chopping off heads. You look at the different places, and Christianity -- it's under siege.


BURNETT: One thing trump did not do today, attack Ted Cruz. In fact, he never mentioned his opponent's name. Sunlen Serfaty is out front tonight, and some on this crucial question about God, is Trump winning over those must have evangelical votes? SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is certainly trying very hard to, Erin. Trump today, as you said, making the big pitch to evangelical voters at Liberty University, really trying to present himself as a deeply religious man. But this also comes as there are some considerable and notable red flags to evangelicals about Trump's record and rhetoric.


TRUMP: Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

SERFATY: Donald Trump today trumpeting his faith.

TRUMP: Well, I wrote many best sellers like "The Art of the Deal".

I always say, a deep, deep second to the bible. The bible is the best. The bible. The bible blows it away.

SERFATY: Giving the convocation at Liberty University and in an attempt to connect with evangelical students quoting from scripture.

BURNETT: 2 Corinthians, 3:17 that's the whole ball game.

SERFATY: But wrongly referring to 2 Corinthians instead of Second Corinthians drawing laughter from the religious crowd. It's one of a series of stumbles Trump has made attempting to court the powerful evangelical vote.

TRUMP: People are so shocked when they find this out. I'm Protestant. I'm Presbyterian.

SERFATY: While talking openly about his religion, his upbringing going to Sunday school and worshipping at one time in this church in Queens. Trump also admits that he has never asked God for forgiveness.

TRUMP: When we go in church and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink and have my little cracker, I guess, that's a form of asking for forgiveness.

SERFATY: Which he now explains to CNN's Jake Tapper, it's because he feels he doesn't need to.

TURMP: I like to be good. I don't like to have to ask for forgiveness. I am good. I don't do a lot of things that are bad.

SERFATY: He's not the textbook definition of a God-fearing man, with the insults, the ego.

TRUMP: That's means I'm a star. I'm a star.

SERFATY: The excess.

TRUMP: I'm really rich.

SERFATY: Three marriages and an empire built in part on greed. TRUMP: I have great relationship with God. I have great relationship with the evangelicals.

SERFATY: His pitch is resonating, the latest polls showing Trump on top among white evangelicals nationally. With only a two-point lead over Ted Cruz.

TED CRUZ, (R) REPUBLICAN PARTY: Nobody wants a puritanical scold. I'm not running to be preacher in chief.

SERFATY: Perhaps, one reason Cruz's first big hit on Trump over trump's so-called New York values was intended to sound the alarm to evangelical voters.

CRUZ: Everyone understands that the values in New York City are socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage focused around money and the media.


SERFATY: And it was certainly significant that Donald Trump today really hit the brakes in criticizing Ted Cruz back. Really treading lightly in front of that religious crowd today at Liberty University, that has is really a sharp departure of what his rhetoric is saying in recent days. Even in the last 24 hours.

Now, Donald Trump heads to Iowa tomorrow. And then on Wednesday, he'll hit another Christian university Oral Roberts in Oklahoma. Very clear, Erin, he's making this a big part of his Final message, his final push going into Iowa.

[19:05:00] BURNETT: All right, Sunlen, thank you. And OutFront now, Russell Moore is with the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the most influential religious organizations in the United States. And Pastor James Davis, he leads a 4,000 member church. He is supporting Donald Trump.

So, Russell, let me start with you because you were listening to Donald Trump make his case today, to the 10,000 young evangelicals that were in that audience at Liberty University, him make his case today at liberty university. You were rather critical of what he said.

At one point you tweeted, let me quote you, "Trading in the gospel of Jesus Christ for political power is not liberty but slavery." What upset you about what Trump had to say today?

RUSSELL MOORE, SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION: Well, it did not upset me that Donald Trump was invited to be at Liberty. I admire Liberty for having people from across the spectrum. Bernie Sanders spoke there not too long ago. I think that's a sign of Liberty's strength. And some of the greatest leaders that I know in the country are liberty grads. It's a fine university, and that's one of its strengths.

I think the problem was, this is someone who as recently as yesterday, has said he has nothing to seek forgiveness for. Despite the fact that you have someone who has broken up two households by his own admission, and with scandalous results. Someone who has been involved in the casino gambling industry for all his life, praying in front of poor people and breaking families with that. Someone who has been using racially charged rhetoric all through this campaign against people who are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

And there should have been a moment to say, one does not -- one is not made right with God by one's boasts about not doing anything wrong. One is made right with God through repentance in faith in Jesus Christ. And I think that was missing and I think it was lamentably missing.

BURNETT: So, James, what do you say about that? That Donald Trump says he doesn't have anything to seek forgiveness for. HE says, people look at his resume, his marriages they think he's a different kind of person than he is. He says he doesn't have much to ask forgiveness for. What makes you comfortable saying that people of faith, evangelicals should vote for him?

PASTOR JAMES DAVIS, ENDORSED DONALD TRUMP AFTER CLERGY MEETING: I don't believe that Christians, especially those that identify themselves as evangelicals, are extremely monolithic in their thinking. People have the ability to think for themselves. And as such they able to get past some of the things that he says.

What's going on right now, your guest, Dr. Moore has said here is that, and even in the intro said that Donald Trump is coming across as being deeply religious. And that's just not the case, or he's trying to present the picture of being deeply or profoundly religious, and that isn't so.

What I believe is that, people are looking for someone that has the leadership capability. They're not looking for a pastor in chief. They're looking for someone that can come in and lead, especially in the area of security and with respect to the economy. And as such he's beginning to resonate with those who are blue collar. He's resonating with those that don't have college degrees as such.

So I'm not looking to even as Ted Cruz said to elect someone that is pastor in chief, I'm looking for a commander in chief. And as such, because we've been -- we see this stuff all the time with respect to the leaders that come into the pulpit. We watch Barack Hussein Obama, President Obama, on -- in clips, him sitting in church with his wife every Sunday. And look what we got the last eight years concerning the assault on our faith and as suck.

I read to have a man that is going to be bold and clear in his leadership moving forward.

BURNETT: So, Russell, when you hear that, I would bet it doesn't surprise you. I mean, we look at those national numbers, evangelicals are on national level still supporting Donald Trump more than Ted Cruz. Not the case in Iowa, but nationally it is the case.

MOORE: Well, Erin, first of all, I'm not wanting a preacher in chief either. I don't want anyone who knows the difference between Second Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. But I do want someone who has personal character. And that's one of the things that evangelical Christians have been saying for 50 years is that character matters.

If character matters for Bill Clinton, and it does and it did, then character matters for Donald Trump. And to dismiss that is unbelievable at this point.

BURNETT: So, Russell, when he says and he points out. I mean, this is fair, that his exwives support him, like him, and support his candidacy does that matter to you? You talked about him breaking up households but he has a good relationship with them. Maybe those marriages just didn't work out and it doesn't speak against his religious or God-fearing nature?

MOORE: Well, I don't think the issue is whether or not you have an army of exwives willing to support you. I think the issue is, what does this tell you about the character of this person.

It would be one thing if Donald Trump were coming forward and saying, "This is person I used to be and this is what I learned from that and this is how I turned my life around". And this are the principles with which I'm going to lead the country, including important principles of what it means to work for the stability of the family, something that we see falling apart all over America right now.

We need someone who says I'm going to work for policies that keep families together. Instead, we have someone say, "This is something of moral indifference because my exwives support me now".

BURNETT: Final word, James.

[19:10:00] DAVIS: I haven't heard him say that he's, you know, lifting up so to speak the fact he's been divorced. And I don't know as Christians, we can stand on a soapbox, and I don't want to castigate the body of Christ. But the divorce rate in the body of Christ is just as high as it is for non-believers. And as such, to look at the children that he's raised speaks volumes to the character of this man.

And so some of us, again, believers are able to get past the fact he's been divorced because we have people in our congregation. I'm sure Dr. Moore has people that he serves that have been divorced and they are still successful in their current families, having gone through the divorce process.

I don't believe that's the main issue right now, was the main issue right now is security, was the main issue right now is the economy. And if the discussion had remained in the economy then I believe he would be further out in front than what he is right now.

BURNETT: All right, thank you both very much. OutFront next, Hillary Clinton under attack for her Wall Street ties. Can a candidate who has taken millions from banks convince voters she'd take them on? And Donald Trump goes silent on one major topic, yes indeed it has happened. What is it? Did he get scared? And new details of an American journalist's time in an Iranian prison. He's free tonight after more than 500 days in captivity. His brother was with him today and is my guest out front.


[19:15:06] BURNETT: And you're looking at live pictures. This is in Toledo, Iowa where Hillary Clinton campaign rally is gonna begin any moment. This rally coming less than 24 hours after that crucial debate between Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The Democratic polls rating blows over Clinton's ties to Wall Street, which is now shipping up as they defining issue in the race, neither candidate, backing down.


BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't take money from big banks. I don't get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs. I'm very proud I do not have a superPAC. I do not want Wall Street's money.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're the only one on this stage that voted to deregulate the financial market in 2000 to take the cops off the street to use Governor O'malley's phrase, to make the SEC and the commodities futures trading commission no longer able to regulate swaps and derivatives which were one of the main cause of the collapse in '08.


BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny is out front in Toledo covering the Clinton campaign tonight at that rally. All right, Jeff, the question is, she try today fight back on that issue, but how big of a problem could all of this Wall Street money be for Hillary Clinton?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it certainly is one of the issues that is resonating through this popular streak in this Democratic electorate. It's one of the things that animates the electorate more than many or the things.

And if you look at a couple of the numbers here, Secretary Clinton accepted $3.15 million in speaking fees from financial firms in 2013 alone. Right after she left the Obama administration as secretary of state. And Bernie Sanders was more than happy to point that out again and again.

She also has received some $6 million in campaign contributions to her campaign as well as her superPAC. So does those two numbers that Senator Sanders and his supporters point to, that's actually an issue? And Senator Sanders he points to a number of his own, 2.3 million individual contributors, small dollar contributors. He says his campaign is funded by those folks and her campaign is funded by Wall Street.

So, Erin, it's definitely a strong argument among Senator Sanders' supporters. But among Clinton supporters I talked to, they know she was a former Senator from that state. She represented Wall Street, so they expect it.

So I don't think it's a death knell for her but certainly makes it difficult for her to win over any of Sanders' supporters.

BURNETT: Right. And to win over perhaps Independents or, I mean, people she's going to need if she's going to win the White House. So how is the campaign pushing back? I mean, it's tough when you're looking at those two numbers. You're looking at $9 million from Wall Street.

ZELENY: No doubt about it. We got a glimpse of that last night at the debate. When Senator Sanders said for a second time her speaking fees, she embraced President Obama yet again for one more reason. And she said that she has the same position on Wall Street as he does.


CLINTON: Where we disagree is the comments that Senator Sanders has made that don't just affect me. I can take that. But he's criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street. And President Obama has led our country out of the great recession.


ZELENY: So that was one of the many examples that Secretary Clinton used to, you know, said she's like the president. She'll be extending his legacy. But, Erin, it does make it more difficult like you said Independents voters and certainly winning over any of Senator Sanders' supporters here in Iowa. He campaigns here tomorrow and it's a busy week here for the rest of the final two weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

BURNETT: All right, Jeff, thank you very much.

In OutFront now, Democratic Strategist, former Media Advisor to Howard Dean's presidential campaigns, Steve McMahon and Jonathan Tasini, a Bernie Sanders supporter, OK.

So let's get straight to this, Steve, you just heard how much money Hillary Clinton has gotten from Wall Street. I mean these numbers are big, right, $6 million in donations, $3 million for speeches that she gave. That's almost $10 million. With numbers like that, can she make the argument she would be tough on the banks?

STEVE MCMAHON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, I think she did the best she could last night by basically using President Obama as a shield, pointing out that he raises money on Wall Street and he has raised a lot of money himself there. And he was the one that was on pushed these financial reforms.

I also thought she scored some points by pointing out that Bernie Sanders voted to deregulate or defang the SEC and the regulatory agencies back in 2000.

There is, though, Jeff Zeleny is absolutely right. There's a populist anger in the Democratic Party aimed at Wall Street. And this is something Bernie Sanders has done very effectively since the beginning of the campaign. The question really is whether he can move outside this lane and what do this lane will be sufficient? So far, it hasn't been.

BURNETT: And, Jonathan, you know, one of the arguments she's making is actually one that Bernie Sanders is making, right? When it comes to guns, he is saying, Look, I represent a state where people cared about their right to have a gun".

[19:20:00] Hillary Clinton was a Senator from New York. It was her job to advocate for those constituents, many of whom are from Wall Street.

So wasn't she doing her job and doing it well just like Bernie Sanders when he defends gun rights?

JONATHAN TASINI, FORMER PRESIDENT, NATIONAL WRITERS UNION: Well, I think Wall Street and the money that Hillary Clinton has taken is reflect to something bigger. So I want to answer the question and I want to make two other points. And because it's Martin Luther King Day, I want to read in Martin Lurther King wrote, "We must recognize that we can't solve our problem now until there's a radical redistribution of economic and political power".

This means the revolution of values and other things a whole structure of American life must be changed. And on that stage last night, you saw one candidate who is urging a political revolution, that was Bernie Sanders, and Wall Street is a part of it. The other candidate, Hillary Clinton, represents the status quo. Putting aside the lies and misrepresentations and a whole host of issues, you can't ignore the fact that she has be -- is beholden to Wall Street.

It's one thing to come from a state. It's another thing to basically be beholden to industry that affects the whole economy. And I kind of laugh, it makes me think of the little saying, actually I used this in a book title. That, you know, when it's rain -- if you're peeing on my leg, don't tell me it's raining.

And the fact is that when you take $600,000 Goldman Sachs, there's a reason for that. They're buying your loyalty. If I sent $31 to Hillary Clinton and that the average contribution that Bernie Sanders gets, if I sent that to her and I called her up on the phone at 3:00 a.m. or whatever time she was available, she would not take my call if Goldman Sachs was on the other line.

They will have more influence. They will shape the government in economic policy. That's just a fact.

And, look, I'm not saying anything that every single American knows. The system is corrupt.

BURNETT: So, let me go to you, then, Steve. What do you say when Jonathan says that? It is a very hard argument to refute, how does she refute that?

MCMAHON: Well, I mean, what she does is what so many Democrats do. And she says, look, there's a campaign finance system that we all can find objectionable. But it's a campaign finance system that the Supreme Court put in place. And it's the one under which we operate.

And if you're a Senator from New York State, you're going to raise money in New York City and Wall Street. If you're a Democrat frankly who runs for the United States Senate in a competitive race anywhere, you're going to raise money on Wall Street.

Now, you can see that that's something that we should all object to and we should rebel against. And that's a perfectly legitimate position. But, you know, it's probably not enough to get Bernie Sanders the nomination. It's definitely not going to be enough...

TASINI: Well, I disagree with that.

MCHAMON: ... to get him the presidency. I mean, look where he is in the polls. He is 43 percent, of course, 1 to 3 points behind Hillary Clinton -- Go ahead.

TASINI: No, go ahead. Finish your point, I'm sorry. Go ahead.


TASINI: Steve, let me make...

BURNETT: Go ahead, Jonathan, we have a bit of delay on the line. So go ahead, Jonathan.

TASINI: OK, I apologize. So, Steve, two points, separate points. You're absolutely right. This is a corrupt system. But Bernie Sanders, in fact, has said he's not going to participate in that system. He won't have a superPAC funded by Wall Street and very rich billionaires. He is funding his campaign through small contributions. And he has proven that he can go toe to toe.

It's a million people who are contributing. He will be competitive through the super Tuesday primaries, those 11 or 12 states because he will have enough money to go out there. You don't have to sell yourself to Wall Street.

BURNETT: Should she say, should Hillary Clinton say she won't take another dollar from Wall Street? Should she do at this point? Would that just be disingenuous?

TASINI: You know, yeah, it's disingenuous. It's not honest. But that would be within her kind of milieu the way she does things. But I'm not suggesting, let's look at reality. Who are the people who surround her?

Bernie Sanders says specifically when he's elected president, he is not going to have people from Goldman Sachs, Citi Bank around him. One of Clinton's and Bill Clinton's closest friends, closest supporter is Robert Rubin from Citi Bank. I mean, you can go down the list, these are all part of the same elite. Bernie Sanders wants to...

BURNETT: Steve, you got the final word. MCMAHON: Listen. OK, this is a great argument for a very narrow

sliver of the Democratic Party. It's not an argument on which presidencies are made. Anybody who watched the debate last night, look, you know, Hillary Clinton has had problems. Anybody who watch the debate last night saw a candidate in Hillary Clinton who demonstrated the breadth and depth of her knowledge on every issue, foreign policy, and on every domestic policy issue and, you know, on gun control where there's a legitimate disagreement. I think she got the better of that.

TASINI: And this represent...

MCHAMON: I think Bernie Sanders does a great job on income inequality in that whole conversation. But, you know, this process agreement about who's getting money to the campaign...

TASINI: And she misrepresented the views about healthcare...

MCHAMON: ... it's not an argument is going to win a primary.

BURNETT: All right, thank you both, very much.

TASINI: I mean, that debate she misrepresented it but we can get -- all right...

BURNETT: What have you both (inaudible) I know there is a lot more to talk healthcare, it's own separate topic.

[19:25:00] OutFront, next, after attacking Ted Cruz as a "nasty guy", that he says no one likes, Donald Trump didn't mention Cruz today at all. Is Trump afraid he's gone too far?

And our special report on the Las Vegas billionaire courted by every Republican candidate. He gave out nearly $100 million last election but he's held back this time. Who is Sheldon Adelson? Who will get his money?


BURNETT: At this hour, Ted Cruz getting ready for his final campaign event of the day. Cruz and Trump both on the trail in full force. After slamming each other at rallies all weekend, though, they did a complete 180 today.


CRUZ: I like Donald Trump. I respect Donald Trump. If he or anyone else wants to engage in a battle of insults, he's welcome to do so. I don't intend to respond in time.


BURNETT: As for Trump, he uncharacteristically also went cold turkey on hitting Cruz. Dana Bash is out front with the Trump campaign in Concord, New Hampshire, tonight.


TRUMP: Here's a quiz are you ready? Who is going to pay for the wall?

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Mexico.

TRUMP: Trump.

BURNETT: A classic Donald Trump speech in Concord, New Hampshire, with the notable exception.

[19:30:05] No mention of Ted Cruz, glaringly absent considering how hard Trump has been going after Cruz lately.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.

BASH: But now, Trump is getting blowback from conservatives who are influential with GOP voters, like Sean Hannity.

SEAN HANNITY, THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW: In the case of Trump, you know, why are you going after Ted Cruz when Ted Cruz is loved by the same group of people that you're trying to go after? Outsiders.

BASH: Another conservative talk radio voice, Mark Levin went even further, warning Trump to cut the crap with his attacks against Cruz or he will lose lots of conservatives as supporters. It was one thing when Trump went after Republicans dislike by movement conservative, like now former candidate Lindsey Graham.

TRUMP: Because Lindsey is going to give him all of his people that voted for Lindsey. You know what that is? Zero! Zero!

BASH: Or the ultimate establishment Republican, Jeb Bush.

TRUMP: So, you have a governor who's got very low energy, named Bush.

BASH: But some say attacking Ted Cruz trusted by conservatives for picking fights with Washington could backfire.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: Going after him as a nasty guy in this birther business, he's got to worry it's going to create more negatives within his own support base. Rather than turn people off to Cruz.

BASH: When Trump targeted Cruz at a South Carolina Tea Party convention, the crowd booed.

TRUMP: You give a campaign contribution to Ted Cruz, you get whatever the hell you want. OK? Whatever you want. Right?

BASH: Cruz also campaigning in New Hampshire, fought back against the Trump Twitter tirade this weekend, but reminding voters of Trump's liberal past. SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ronald Reagan did not

spend the first 60 years of his life supporting Democratic politicians advocating for big government politics.

BASH: To be sure, several other candidates have tried and failed to take Trump down by questioning his conservative credentials. It's unclear if Cruz will have more sway.


BASH: Now, a top Cruz aid insists to me tonight, Erin, that they are getting more support from voters, from others because of the fact that Donald Trump has been going after Ted Cruz, because as you heard, in the piece they do have similar voter base. And now, one thing that Ted Cruz has said to me several times during interviews over the past several years is that there is an inverse relationship between how people are viewed in Washington and how people are viewed in the outside world.

And to Cruz, the outside world is the conservative base that he's doing well with. Again, the same group of people Donald Trump would need if he wants to be -- certainly win in Iowa even here in New Hampshire and go on to win the nomination.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Dana, thank you very much, live as we said with the Trump campaign in New Hampshire.

OUTFRONT now, the spokesperson for Donald Trump's campaign, Katrina Pierson and the co-chair of Ted Cruz's campaign, Bob Vander Plaats.

OK, well-matched. Let's begin.

Katrina, we heard boos when Trump attacked Cruz at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention. They did not like that attack. You just heard rush Limbaugh saying Donald Trump, not a good idea. Another one saying you could lose votes if you keep attacking Cruz.

Is Trump nervous? Is that why he suddenly went silent on Cruz today?

KATRINA PIERSON, DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: No, not all, Erin. And the boos you heard in the room were from Cruz supporters. At the end of that speech, you'll see a standing ovation, cheers and everything lining up for their autographs.

And with regard to the conservative talk show commentators, I mean, look, this is the thing, they're talking about the same voter base and it's also their same audience. That's one of the reasons why they haven't gone after Mr. Trump so hard as well.

The reason why Donald Trump wasn't attacking Ted Cruz today is because Ted Cruz wasn't attacking Donald Trump. Mr. Cruz was attacking Trump over the weekend in the media and Donald Trump was responding in kind. There is no way someone's going to go out there and attack Donald Trump and him just sit there and take it. It's not going to happen.

BURNETT: So, all right, Bob, she's making the argument that Trump is counterpunching. You heard Ted Cruz today. He took a totally different tack, right? He said he likes Donald Trump, he's not going to respond to his attacks. But, he already in front of the entire nation in the debate last week slammed him for New York values, which he said included materialism, money and the media.

Can he really go back to saying he likes Donald Trump? I mean, he just pretty clearly said he didn't.

BOB VANDER PLAATS, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR FOR TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Ted Cruz has risen to this position in the polls by uniting conservatives. He's staying on a positive message, saying Washington needs real change, real leadership, competent leadership in order to get that done. So, I don't think you're going to see him intentionally attacking Donald Trump at all. I think at the end of the day, we're all on the same team.

And regarding the New York City values, Ted Cruz didn't bring that up. Donald Trump brought that up in his interview with Tim Russert. And he clearly made a distinction between New York City values and those people in Iowa.

[19:35:01] People in Iowa pay attention to that. But right now, Ted Cruz is focused on uniting conservatives. That's what he does. That's what he does best.

BURNETT: So, Katrina, Ted Cruz did respond to something Donald Trump said about Ted Cruz. And I wanted to play this, because I think everyone needs to hear your answer to this. Here is Ted Cruz.


CRUZ: You know, 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.


BURNETT: Now, Katrina, your candidate tweets a lot about everything. Ted Cruz turned that into a big negative. Does that worry you?

PIERSON: No, not at all. Considering it's pretty popular among people and it's how we engage younger voters. So, Mr. Trump has a lot of millennial supporters.

But there's a bigger is issue at hand here. You know, I know that the Cruz campaign wants to make everyone think that Donald Trump is afraid or scared. The facts are, Erin, you know Mr. Trump has always been vocal when someone attacks him. Mr. Trump did not engage the eligibility issue until the Cruz campaign engaged him. Where? On Twitter, Erin.

So, of course, this is no concern for the Trump campaign.

BURNETT: All right. Before we go, Bob, you just heard Donald Trump say Ted Cruz is nasty. Let me play that full sound bite again quickly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: He's a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.


BURNETT: Senators obviously, Bob have called him whacko bird, his Harvard professor said he was unpopular and confrontation. Does Donald Trump have a point?

VANDER PLAATS: I think he has a point. Donald Trump likes Ted Cruz. Donald Trump has told me to my face that he likes Ted Cruz.

The only reason he's fighting with Ted Cruz right now is because where Ted Cruz is at in the polls. What Ted Cruz needs to do is stay on message, keep uniting conservatives. You know, we're two weeks from tonight when the first poll is going to happen in Iowa. And I think the winner is going to be the one who can stay on message, cast a vision and show that he's demonstrating an ability to take on Washington. That's Ted Cruz.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much.

OUTFRONT next, an American journalist freed after 545 days in an Iranian prison. We have details about his time in captivity and our special interview.

And our report on a Vegas billionaire who is about to make a major impact on the presidential race.


[19:41:21] BURNETT: Tonight, we're hearing for the first time what life inside an Iranian prison was like for "Washington Post" reporter Jason Rezaian. Rezaian is free tonight. He spent 545 days in captivity in Iran. His release part of a prisoner swap.

CNN's Phil Black is in Landstuhl, Germany, where Rezaian and two other freed American prisoners are tonight. Rezaian has been in a hospital, finally got to see his family.

Phil, these Americans obviously went through some horrific things. How are they doing tonight?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, today, Erin, two of them we know have experienced a very emotional day. Experienced reunions that people involved in their cases have dreamed about and fought for.

First, Amir Hekmati today, he was free happy and in the arms of his family for the first time since he was detained in Iran back in 2011. We have a photo or photos from that moment. You should be able to see him, second from the right in a black tee shirt.

And Jason Rezaian you mentioned there as well today. He was allowed to meet not just with his wife and his mother, who also flew with him from Iran. But also his brother, who has been one of his greatest champions fighting for his freedom during his entire ordeal.

Now, the fact that these reunions are taking place is really a very good sign. These people have been brought here to this facility in Germany, which specializes in trauma cases. Not just to be assessed physically, but emotionally as well. And they're only allowed to meet with their loved ones once doctors believe, have assessed and come to the conclusion that they are ready for this.

Now, Jason Rezaian, the journalist, he didn't just meet with his family. He also met with some management from "The Washington Post" and told them he is feeling good physically. But he wants to take some time to process all of this. And for these people who have been through so much, this is now the next step, really. The next long careful process of coming to terms with all they have experienced, recovering, reintegrating and coming to terms with all that has been taken from them, especially such a large portion of their lives -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Phil, thank you very much.

And Jason Rezaian's brother Ali has been fighting for his release. It was for 545 days he was fighting. And he joins me now from Landstuhl, where he was reunited with his brother, Jason.

Ali, thank you for being with me tonight. Your brother has been in the hospital. You have had a chance to see him after fighting so hard for his release. What was that like?

ALI REZAIAN, BROTHER OF RELEASED AMERICAN JASON REZAIAN: You know, it was really great to be able to see Jason, brought the whole family together, my mom is here, my sister-in-law is here, and we were able to sit down and have dinner in the Fisher House, which is here on the base. And spend a few hours together before he want back to the hospital for the evening.

BURNETT: How is he doing?

REZAIAN: You know, I think he's really in good spirits. You know, he's same old Jason. You know, there is a lot for him to work through. I think it's been a really tough time.

But he's the same guy. Loved cracking jokes, funny engaging, and, you know, tells great stories. It was great to see him. Spend some time with him.

BURNETT: I can only imagine how emotional it was and how hard it was to hear some of what he had to say. I mean, what was his life like in prison, did he tell you?

REZAIAN: You know, I think that's something we'll talk about over time. We didn't spend a lot of time fixating on that.

We talked about people. We talked about events, friends, and, you know, talked about the fact that he had been prevented from knowing what's going on in the world for the past 18 months. He was really isolated.

But, you know, there is things I think are subjects he probably doesn't want to talk about now. I think he needs to work through those. That's where there's specialists here to help him out. You know, I think we'll hear about all that when the time is right.

BURNETT: How much did you know about the negotiations over the past, you know, 14 months? I mean, did you know that the United States was negotiating for his release? Did they wait until just here in the final hours before they told you?

REZAIAN: I think I would say it was a hybrid. I was aware that were taking with the Iranians. Separately from the negotiations, for some period of time, but I didn't have those details. I didn't know what was going on there. What the specifics were.

You know, over the course of the last few weeks we have gotten rumors and information from a variety of different sources, both in the U.S. as well as from within Iran several different sources within Iran, made us feel like things were moving along. You know, they had told Jason that he would be released soon. But they had told him that before.

So, you know, we really didn't believe it until it happened.

BURNETT: Did he ever know fully what he said he did wrong?

REZAIAN: You know, he knew the charges that were against him. And, you know, he knew they were claiming were the evidence against him. He was aware of that and he was aware that it was all bogus. But, you know, he was also seeing reports in the media that were saying things about him as well over there in Iran. They were saying that he -- you know, was a spy and things like that on TV. And that really was very scary I think.

BURNETT: Is he physically seem as strong as he was before? Do you think he's going to need more time to recover before he comes home to the United States?

REZAIAN: You know, I think we'll be here for a while. The folks here at Landstuhl are really professionals. They have a process that's designed to help bring people home when they've been through traumatic experiences. And so I think we'll be here a few more days. And then try and make our way back to the United States as soon as possible.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your taking the time, Ali. Thank you so much and you know -- I don't know what the right word is. I guess my congratulations to you and your family for finally being back together.

REZAIAN: Hey, thanks, Erin. Appreciate it.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, one of the world's richest men, a major Republican donor -- who is getting his millions? Maybe hundreds of millions this year?

And Jeanne Moos on what Hillary Clinton said that made Bernie Sanders give her the evil eye.


[19:51:01] BURNETT: Tonight's "Money and Power", Sheldon Adelson. He's the $22 billion man. Last presidential election, the Las Vegas billionaire gave more than $90 million to Republican candidates and causes, but he hasn't picked a candidate yet this time.

Sara Sidner is OUTFRONT.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's one of the richest men in the world, and wants to be a major factor in the next presidential election, as he decides who in the Republican Party he will throw millions of dollars behind.

SHELDON ADELSON, TOP CASINO MAGNATE: I usually misquoted too often. That's why I don't --

SIDNER: That's 82-year-old Sheldon Adelson. A top casino magnate in Las Vegas, he built the Venetian Resort on the Strip, the world's second largest hotel, and the $2.4 billion Venetian Macau, the largest casino in the world.

The self made billionaire also owns two 747s, an Israeli newspaper, and he just purchased "The Las Vegas Review Journal".

JON RALSTON, POLITICAL ANALYST: His influence, of course, is great in both politics and business. He's the guy most sought after by Republicans running for office.

SIDNER: "Forbes" estimates Adelson is worth nearly $22 billion and he uses his massive wealth to influence the Republican Party.

In 2004, he put some $250,000 behind George W. Bush. By 2012, he and his wife were giving $20 million to help Newt Gingrich take the presidency. But Adelson switched his allegiance to Mitt Romney, throwing $30 million into his pot through Romney's super PAC. By some estimates, in 2012, he may have spent close to $100 million on political issues and politicians, but he still couldn't ensure a presidential winner.

So far, Adelson has been silent who he will back in this presidential election, but nearly all of the top GOP contenders have flown to Vegas to meet with him. Just last month, his casino hosted a CNN GOP debate and he met privately with Donald Trump.

RALSTON: You know, a lot of these candidates have come to Nevada for various reasons and most have gone to kiss Sheldon Adelson's ring. But he wants to be with a winner.

I think right now he would like to see Marco Rubio do well, but he's not going to invest serious money until the voting begins.

SIDNER: Analysts say he wants a Republican who shares his love of Israel.

RALSTON: Ted Cruz is a favorite of the Adelson family. I think they like where he stands on Israel, which is Sheldon Adelson's number one issue by far. There is no number two. There is Israel and then there's everything else. So, he likes where Cruz is on Israel, but I think he's concerned as many Republicans are about Cruz' viability in a general election.


SIDNER: Now, we reached out to Sheldon Adelson to see if he was ready to reveal who he backs. He did not return the phone call. But you can bet, Erin, he's watching and waiting to see who he'll put his money behind -- Erin.

BURNETT: That's right. And certainly he wants to pick a winner this time as Sara is pointing out.

Thank you so much, Sara Sidner.

And OUTFRONT next: Jeanne Moos on what Bernie Sanders -- well, what was this all about? You'll find out.


[19:57:56] BURNETT: Bernie Sanders had a lot to say at last night's debate but the most popular moment is when he didn't say anything at all. Here is Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You can't deny it, Bernie.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To get the Affordable Care Act passed.

MOOS: Your reactions to Hillary were written all over your face, in your head shaking, in your smile. As "Politico" put it, Bernie was making faces.

He made the one that vent viral while Clinton was accusing Sanders of dissing President Obama.

CLINTON: Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing.

MOOS: It was variously described as the evil eye, side eye, the stink eye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see this guy over at the pizza box is giving me the stink eye.

MOOS: Someone tweeted Sanders is like your grandma that yells and makes funny faces at the dinner table. At one point, he exhaled like a horse.

CLINTON: He voted for what we call the Charleston loophole. MOOS: Blowback to the infamous Al Gore sigh.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: That's what a governor gets to do. There is differences.

MOOS: But you know who Sanders faces reminded people of? Bernie, you're probably not going to like this.

Bernie Sanders is channeling his inner Donald Trump with those faces tweeted one progressive.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He gets his foreign policy experience from the shows.

MOOS: Though, the Donald is more dismissive and more explosive.

BUSH: But he's a chaos candidate.

MOOS: The die-hard capitalist and the Democratic socialist share the wealth when it comes to facial expresses.

But when CNN fact-checked what Hillary was saying while Bernie was making all those faces, it turned out what Hillary was saying was judged to be mostly true.

CLINTON: He voted to let guns go on Amtrak, guns go into national parks.

MOOS: The fact-checking didn't stop Hillary detractors from enjoying the sweet smell of stink eye. "Exactly, Bernie, we feel the same way when Hillary speaks."

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: Thanks so much for joining us. Be sure to set your DVR to record OUTFRONT so you can watch the show anytime.

"AC360" begins right now.