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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Trump Will Skip Fox News Debate; Sanders Vs. Clinton; Pres. Obama And Bernie Sanders To Meet Wednesday; Reward Quadrupled For Escaped Inmates; "The Secret Life of G.I. Joe". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 26, 2016 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:16] JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Good evening, John Berman in for Anderson.

Today, Donald Trump did what I can't remember any candidate doing ever. Just six days before the Iowa caucuses with so much at stake where any little thing could derail a campaign, Donald Trump did more than just any little thing. He did a lot. And it could say a lot about how he sees his strength as a candidate barely two nights before another big Republican debate, this time on FOX News, he stepped up to the microphones, blasted the network, blasted one of its anchors, blasted how the debate is being promoted and said he is planning to skip the whole thing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not a fan of Megyn Kelly. I think she's a third-rate reporter. I think she, frankly, is not good at what she does and I think they could do a lot better than Megyn Kelly. And so I'm going to be making a decision with FOX. But I probably won't bother doing the debate. I see they picked me as number one. Not only number one, number one by far. But probably I won't be doing the debate.

I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We will do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We are going to do something simultaneously with the debate. But most likely, I'm not going to do the debate. I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games. I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what's wrong over there? Something's wrong.

But when they sent out that press release talking about, I said, why are these people playing games? So most likely I won't be doing the debate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Will you change your mind, Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: See, the point is that with me, they are dealing with somebody that's a little bit different. They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: All right. That's not all he said, but that will do for now. And his campaign manager just moments ago changed probably to definitely. He says his boss will definitely not attend that debate.

Joining us, CNN senior media correspondent, Brian Stelter, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES." Also, CNN political commentator Ryan Lizza for "the New Yorker." Iowa Republican party chair Jeff Kaufman and chief national correspondent, John King, anchor of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS."

John, I want to start with you because Donald Trump made this decision after FOX put out a statement this afternoon. Let me read that statement to you.

We learned from a secret back channel at the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. A nefarious source tells us Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings.

This follows Trump blasting how Megyn Kelly handling the first debate. FOX saying they backed Megyn Kelly from blasting back. FOX puts out this statement. Do you think this is real? Do you think Trump's really not going Thursday night?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this whole thing feels like we are in some sort of fantasy land or parallel universe. Because for a news organization to put out a statement like that essentially taunting the front-runner for the Republican Party is something I have never heard of.

Now, as you noted Donald Trump have been pulling out of the debate is also something we have never heard of, at a time his trajectory is good in Iowa. We are just days away from voting. And now, he is going to give all of his rivals a chance to say, we told you so. He is unhinged. He is unstable. He is a narcissist. He is in a fight. I talked to six different strategists, a couple involved in the other campaigns, asked them to take their bias hat off. None of them could figure this one out. Except to say that he is in what they are calling a childish fight with Megyn Kelly and Roger Ailes, the chief of FOX News.

Now, because everyone else thinks it's such a horrible idea, based on what has happened in the last six months, he will probably go up in the polls for doing it. But this is bizarro (ph) land.

BERMAN: It is the political twilight zone for sure.

Brian Stelter, you just got off the phone with FOX News. What's the reaction there?

BRIAN STELTER CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right now, it's a big fat no comment. For the first time today, they're saying nothing. This escalated really quickly as said in the movie "Anchorman," this escalated really quickly today.

You know, FOX says if you talks its point of view, the reason they put out that very tongue in cheek statement is because Donald Trump went on Instagram and started attacking Megyn Kelly. So it has been back and forth all day. And then we hear now, Trump saying he won't show up at all.

This is something we haven't seen before. And has 48 hours for Trump to change his mind. So we do all have to wonder now, is he bluffing or is he going to stick to his word on this? We already heard his campaign manager say we are going to hold a different event. We are going to have a fundraiser for wounded warriors instead. That is going to be compelling television right along, right against this debate possibly on Thursday.

BERMAN: How did FOX say they will handle it if he doesn't show up? They are going put up an empty lectern on the stage?

STELTER: That was my first question. You know, I believe that the rules with the Republican national committee, the agreements with the campaigns state that you can't show an empty podium. Now, FOX isn't commenting on that for sure. I believe that's typically the rules, you can't show an empty podium.

And I just heard from Sean Spicer at the RNC. He says the RNC will not intervene on this. He said, obviously, we would love all the candidates to participate. But each campaign ultimately makes their own decision.

BERMAN: All right, Jeff Kaufmann, let me go to you, chairman of the Iowa Republican party. You are hearing from the national committee that they are not going to intervene. What would Trump's absence at this debate in Iowa days before the Iowa caucuses? What would the significance be in your state?

[20:05:10] JEFF KAUFMANN, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN PARTY OF IOWA: Well, first of all, you got to love Iowa in January. There's always a surprise. You know, we have a lot of venues for these candidates to introduce their ideas, themselves, and continue the dialogue with Iowans. The debate is one of those. You know, I have to agree with the national party. The state party is going to be a part of a lot of these events, but it's ultimately up to the campaigns and the ultimate arbiters of this is going to be the people in Iowa on February 1st.

There is a lot of unorthodox things about this campaign season and this caucus season. This is yet one of them. And ultimately on February 1st, we're going to have some answers in terms of whether this was a good move or bad move.

BERMAN: It is a heck of a move, that's for sure one way or the other.

Ryan Lizza, let me bring you into this. You have an interesting perspective here. How much of a risk do you think Trump is taking? Do you think, you know, when you're winning, do no harm. It's like you're a doctor. Do no harm should be the mantra. Is this an unnecessary risk for him?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: I don't know. On the one hand, we are going to be talking about Donald Trump from now until the debate, we'll probably be watching Donald Trump not on FOX, on other networks that don't obviously take the debates live when it's on another network. He obviously has some counterprogramming plans. So he will dominate the news cycle on the eve of the caucuses and he won't be at the debate so he won't be under fire from the other candidates.

On the other hand, there's no doubt that the FOX debate is still going to get big ratings, right. It's the number-one news source for Republican voters. And he is going to give a platform to a Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz his primary rival there in Iowa, who are going to be allowed to say what they want about Donald Trump without Trump responding. I would imagine that the FOX moderators will feel under no obligation to defend Donald Trump in any way or inject his opinions. So, you know, it's obviously a risk.

I will also say, just to step back a second, this guy is basically at war with every power center in the Republican Party. There was a rule in politics that you don't go to war with FOX News and Roger Ailes because that network is too powerful and too influential on Republican politics. And Trump has been at war with them all season and he is winning. He is at war with the conservative intelligentsia from "National Review" to every conservative columnist in opinion pages and he is winning. This is essentially a hostile takeover by Trump and his fans of the Republican Party that we're watching in real-time.

BERMAN: But John, I mean, the question here is this the alpha dog move? Is it the alpha dog move to say I'm bigger than you, I'm bigger than this debate, I don't need you? Or, you know, is it the anti- alpha dog move by saying I don't want to face Megyn Kelly?

KING: Your logic says this is an interesting and not so productive move. However, logic does not applied to Donald Trump since the day he got into the race, right. When you said, you know, they are rapists and murders, it would hurt him. When you said John McCain wasn't a hero, it would hurt him. When he first attacked Megyn Kelly, it would hurt him.

As per to Ryan's point, Donald Trump has decided I'm going the contrarian. This is going to be so unorthodox. I'm going to violate just about every rule of politics. And guess what, so far he's violated just about every rule of politics. And it happens to be at the top of the Republican pact. He is either a little ahead or in a dead heat in Iowa. He is way ahead in New Hampshire. He is way, way ahead in the national polls. We will talk more about that in a minute.

Look, he said the other day that he thinks he could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot somebody and not lose a vote. So clearly, he thinks he can skip a FOX News debate days before the Iowa caucuses and not hurt himself. That's what he thinks. We're about to find out what the voters think.

STELTER: Right. So far, debates are matter enormously in this cycle. The ratings have been off the charts. Maybe this is the moment that changes. Maybe Trump is going to show that can change. The calculation here might be that he doesn't want to be on that stage, that he believes Ted Cruz is the better debater as many believe, and that it's better for him to step off for the night, skip it and prove the debates don't matter anymore.

BERMAN: Jeff, I just have to ask you. Again, looking from Iowa, we just heard from Rick Tyler who works with the Cruz campaign who said this move from Trump is childish, just as a viewer, as an Iowa voter, do you think this looks petulant?

KAUFMANN: Well, you know, Iowa is a very unique place. It's the first caucus state. A lot of people are doing the 99-county tour. Ultimately in Iowa, it's personal. It's personal between that candidates. Sometimes it's personal in terms of one person and one person that shows up at an event. Sometime it's a mass event. But everything that happens here from here all the way until February 1st is going to be one-on-one.

In some ways all of the other, the noise, if you will, what other people are saying, what commentators are saying, really nothing matters beyond that candidate and not just Trump, but any of the 11 candidates and what happens to that electorate. And think about this with the Iowa voter. We have been doing this for a very, very long time.

I think the Iowa voter is discerning enough. And I think the Iowa voter is going to be looking at these candidates in and of themselves. I don't think anything matters but them making up their minds and what they're hearing. I think at this point, it's going to be up to Donald Trump to make his case to the people as to whether this was a good move and whether he should have done this or not.

[20:10:20] BERMAN: Ryan Lizza, you are a very special kind of reporter. You are the kind of reporter who actually reads candidates' books. You have read "the Art of the Deal." You think there is some clues inside this Trump bible into what he might be doing this week.

LIZZA: You don't even need to read "the Art of the Deal." One of his applause lines, one of his lines at least at his rallies is he talks about how his trade negotiators, if he's president, they are going to regularly walk away from the table, right? And in "the Art of the Deal," he talks about you have to know when to give up a negotiation. You have to be strong enough to be able to blow up the whole thing and then hope folks on the other side of the table come grabbling back to you.

I think in previous instances where he's threatened to boycott a debate, that's what he was doing. It looks like here, he is really not showing up. So he did blow up the negotiation. It's over. He is going to do something else.

BERMAN: And Brian, just in quick work, FOX is not coming back. I mean, Megyn Kelly is doing this debate period, right?

STELTER: Roger Ailes grew up with his father in Ohio. His father taught him a lesson. He said never pick a fight with a man who likes to fight. The problem is here, Trump likes to fight and so does Roger Ailes. BERMAN: All right. John King, Brian Stelter, Ryan Lizza, Jeff

Kaufmann, thanks for being with us.

John King, stick around. Because as you mentioned, there is new polling to talk about that suggests that when Donald Trump does something like this, he has got a lot of Republican support to count on.

Plus, more breaking news. A new reward, nearly a quarter of a million dollars for these three inmates who staged a brazen jail break in California. New details on that and this manhunt ahead on "360."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:15:05] BERMAN: So at the very moment Donald Trump took the podium and trashed the upcoming FOX Republican debate, at the very moment he says he's planning to skip that debate. We already had a pretty good lead story. New polling that shows perhaps why he is in such a good position now to do things just like that.

Chief national correspondent John King joins us again breaking it down by the numbers.

John, you know, God knows Iowa Monday night could change things. Lord only knows how these stunts tonight will change things. But as of now, the national numbers, how strong is Donald Trump's hold of the front-runner status?

KING: Very, John, which is why we thought just a couple hours ago we would be saying Donald Trump was debating from a position of strength. Now we can say he is skipping from a position of strength. And we will see what happens.

Here's our new national numbers. Trump at 41 percent. That's the first time he has gone above 40 percent in CNN polling, 41. Ted Cruz half that at 19. And Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush. The top five stayed the same for the last month. But Trump moving up a little bit to 41.

I just want to show you this, John. Remember when Trump got in, everyone said, no way, this won't last. Well, he started at 12 percent. He got in in July. He went up to 18 percent. A little bit of dip here. But now, you see in November, December, right now, days before the Iowa caucus. He is at 41 percent nationally. We know he is either ahead or in a dead heat in Iowa and we know he is way ahead in New Hampshire. And now he decides he is skipping a debate. He does that from a position of great strength. Now, we are about to see the impact.

BERMAN: And John, that destined to fade argument you have heard from insiders from the beginning, I mean, from June, every month.

KING: Right. He was a one-note pony, right. He couldn't go very long. It was all about celebrity. Well, look at this. It is not just about celebrity. Thirty seven percent of Republicans who say their tea party supporters support Donald Trump, way above any other candidate, 45 percent of those who say they're too tea party neutral, so more moderates you would think, 45 percent support Donald Trump. Nearly 40 percent, 39 percent of white evangelicals support Donald Trump, higher than anybody else in the field, in the crowded field. So conservative support, moderate support, very conservative social support.

And look at this. Ask the Republicans about the issue, by 48 points, Donald Trump beats his closest Republican rival when Republican voters are asked who is best to handle the economy? By 39 points he beats his closest Republican rival on who is best to handle illegal immigration. He wins on foreign policy. And this is what drives the Cruz campaign nuts, John. And nuts is not even stronger than that.

Donald Trump even leads by four points over Ted Cruz when Republican voters are asked who do you most trust to handle social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. He, again, has a huge position of strength. Now, a very broad coalition within the Republican Party. Now, we're going to see what happens in Iowa and what happens this week at the debate. Again, he comes into this in a huge position of strength and now he's rolling the dice.

BERMAN: Yes, indeed. All right, John, we have two fascinating nomination battles going on here. Both sides of the aisle. But both about the same job. Are the Democratic and Republican races really about the same issues?

KING: Yes and no, there's a bit of a parallel universe. I was just in Iowa, too, going to Democratic events and Republican events and you see the difference.

Look at these numbers. Yes, everybody thinks Republicans and Democrats alike think terrorism is extremely important or very important. But Republicans think it's more important. It is a much bigger issue to Republican voters. Here is where there is agreement, 90 percent on both sides, 93 percent say the economy.

But look at this. Income inequality, big issue in the democratic primary, 83 percent of Democrats say that is extremely or very important. Only 39 percent of Republicans say that. And then a bit of a flip side, 74 percent. So three-quarters of Republicans say illegal immigration is extremely or very important just over a majority of Democrats. So there's some agreement on economic issues but on other issues a big gap especially when it comes to income inequality and illegal immigration, John.

BERMAN: John King, thanks so much.

Stick around with us right now because we are going to talk about the polling more. And also this bombshell from Donald Trump that he says he is not going to the debate Thursday night at FOX News.

Here to talk about it, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, CNN political commentator and Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord. Conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, a Cruz supporter who contributed to the remarkable edition of "the National Review," nearly two dozen contributor weighing in flat-out against Donald Trump. Alex, I want to start you. You have been in this game a long time.

Skipping the debate, a good idea for Donald Trump?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it's a very good idea for Donald Trump. I think Trump is playing on a different level than the other candidates. This is not about whether he offended personally. I think what all voters are seeing is this man is willing to take risk even when he is in the lead that other smaller candidates aren't willing to take. And when we have a president that Republicans think draws red lines that mean nothing and the world seems to be falling apart, Republicans want a president who as big as our fears and strong as our adversaries. Donald Trump is showing them that now.

I mean, imagine a set of scales. And on one hand, you have a bunch of, you know, 100 Republican candidates on a debate stage and on the other side of the scale, it takes one Donald Trump to balance them. We will see who gets the better ratings, but I think Trump plays by his own rules and he wins.

BERMAN: But as big as his adversaries, Alex, Dana, does this make him seem smaller than Megyn Kelly and FOX News? If you're not willing to go and face these people you have a problem with, you know, is that an issue?

[20:20:12] DANA LOESCH, CRUZ SUPPORTER: I think Megyn Kelly just cruised into first place there in the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump already came into this race with an advantage. I mean, he's a reality television star. He is a businessman. So he already had national name recognition, but what he doesn't have is national policy recognition. And that's where he could actually and his audience could benefit from this debate. Because I think there are a lot of things that need to be clarified.

But ultimately, and I really do not think that he is skipping this debate. I think he will participate. And if there's the off chance that he actually does boycott it, I think he is going to live tweet throughout the entire thing and it allows Ted Cruz who is number two to be front and center and to take all of the attention of the night.

BERMAN: Jeffrey, what about that? There are going to be these other people on stage, I guess seven other candidates on stage. Won't they just be taking pot shots for two hours at Donald Trump and Donald Trump not giving any response?

JEFFREY LORD, FORMER REAGAN WHITE HOUSE POLITICAL DIRECTOR: They are, you know, pygmies here at this stage. I'll tell you, John, exactly what this reminds me of is when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers when everybody said he couldn't do it. And secondly, when he walked away from the negotiating table with Gorbachev at Reykjavik and everybody said you can't do that, either.

In other words, the message delivered in both cases was be bold, be strong, be unique, be different. That's Donald Trump's message there in a nutshell. So if he continues with this, this is his message and he's living up to it.

BERMAN: So, Alex, if you are one of these other campaigns right now, how do you respond?

CASTELLANOS: Well, I think the interesting thing would be for one of these candidates, maybe all, to show up at the last minute at the Trump event and say, Donald Trump, you can't get away from me and let's have a debate right now. That would be a demonstration of strength as well.

Look, I hate to disagree with Dana, but this is not about issues. If anybody thinks that, you know, a difference on this issue or that is going to determine the Republican nomination, I think we're misinformed.

This is about a country in crisis that has a very weak leader and is heading over the precipice here and we want strength to pull the country back. I haven't been a big Trump fan, but you have to respect what he has accomplished here.

BERMAN: John King, there are five days left, roughly, until they vote in Iowa Monday night. You know, if you're one of these other campaigns, how do you take back some of that real estate because Donald Trump it seems just seized the next two days to be sure.

KING: And he seized a couple of days just last week with the Sarah Palin endorsement. I don't know how many votes Sarah Palin will get him. We will see how that went turns out. But he certainly took all the oxygen on cable television and social media and the conversation in Iowa.

So this is part of Trump's. I'm going to call it brilliance. He knows how to be at the center of attention and we have seen this throughout the campaign. If he had a bad debate which he has had in the past, the day after he drops some kind of bombshell. And so, we will see how this works out.

I get Alex's point completely. And I also think that the strategists from the other campaigns were saying this is childish, shows he's not willing to show. If he blinks at Roger Ailes or Megyn Kelly, what is he going to do with the Chinese or Putin? Both, you can make a case - the both arguments make sense. The voters of Iowa are going to get the first actual vote that counts on what they did.

LORD: John?

BERMAN: Go ahead, Jeffrey.

LORD: John, one last thought here. If this were the first debate, you know, maybe this would be a little different. But, you know, frankly, we have both been to these debates. We have all been to these debates. I can't even tell you what number this is. At this point, these things are starting to fade a bit in importance and relevance, I think.

(CROSSTALK)

LOESCH: John, I want to jump in. I have to say that it's kind of absurd to compare Megyn Kelly and FOX News to Gorbachev. I do disagree civilly to that point. And to Alex's point, I actually agree with that. I do think that this election has become about popularity over principles.

BERMAN: Look. Millions of people are watching these debates. Fifteen, 16, 17, 20 million people. So people are obviously still paying attention.

Dana, let me ask you quickly. We just learned Ted Cruz has challenged Donald Trump to a one-on-one debate. Ted Cruz apparently on the Mark Levine radio show saying he wants to do a 90-minute one-on-one debate with Donald Trump. You know, does this show in a way Trump is now in Cruz's head, Dana?

LOESCH: Well, I don't know if it would be Trump in Cruz's head because I don't think Cruz has been on twitter all day tweeting about Donald Trump. So I think it might be just the opposite. He also said that he changed up his tactics because Cruz started rising up in the polls.

I think it's a great idea. Who benefits from that, John? I mean, all of us do. All of this watching this debate. We would benefit because we would learn a lot about these two candidates. Even more so than we think we know now.

BERMAN: Alex, last question here. You know, debates about debates. I have covered politics for a long time. I always thought about when candidates are arguing about who gets on stage under what terms, they lose. But in this case you say no?

[20:25:05] CASTELLANOS: I think it says that Trump is willing to take big risks and that demonstrates confidence and that's one thing that is just very important when you're competing for the most powerful job in the world. But I think Cruz, that's a good move on his part to challenge Trump to a one-on-one debate. Of course, it won't happen. Maybe it would be held in Canada.

BERMAN: All right.

LOESCH: Come on.

BERMAN: I think, oh, come on, is the response to that.

Alex Castellanos, Jeffrey Lord, Dana Loesch, John King. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Next, we are going to play you much more of what we have been talking about. Donald Trump unleashed, unplugged saying he is skipping the debate but said a whole lot more, too, when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:29:27] BERMAN: As if the raw effect of Donald Trump calling a news conference to go off on the next debate, go off on Megyn Kelly and Roger Ailes weren't enough, there was more. Trump kept talking. It was safe to say unlike most media events, even some of his own. Here's another collection of moments from it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I'm going to be making a decision with FOX, but I probably won't bother doing the debate. I see they picked me as number one. Not only number one, number one by far. But probably I won't be doing the debate. I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We'll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors. We're going to do something simultaneously with the debate, but most likely I'm not going to do the debate. I didn't like the fact that they sent out press releases toying, talking about Putin and playing games.

[20:30:00] I don't know what games Roger Ailes is playing, but what's wrong over there, something's wrong. But, when they sent out that press release talking about, I said, "Why are these people playing games?" So most likely, I won't be doing the debate.

With me, they're dealing with somebody that's a little bit different. They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else. So, let them have their debate and let's see how they do with the ratings.

When they sent out the wise-guy press releases a little while ago, I was all set to do the debate. I came here to do the debate. When they sent out the wise-guy press releases a little while ago, done by some P.R. person along with Roger Ailes, I said, "Bye-bye." OK? Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, are you afraid to debate ...

TRUMP: No, no, no, excuse me, just so you understand. I've done six debates. I've done six. According to every single poll, I've won every single debate and probably the last one more than any of them.

So, every single poll has me winning every single debate. I've done six of them. And now you say when does this stop? How many debates do you have do?

Megyn Kelly is a lightweight. This is a lightweight. This is not a reporter. This to me is just a lightweight.

Megyn Kelly shouldn't be in the debate. I don't care about Megyn. When Megyn Kelly didn't ask me a question, she made a statement last time, I thought it was inappropriate. Everybody said I won the debate. Let's see how much money FOX is going to make on the debate without me. OK? All right, let see.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, the sound bite, the full sound bite from Tim Russert you said to him was, "I'm very pro-choice, I hate the concept of abortion."

TRUMP: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I'm very ...

TRUMP: Why didn't you read that? By the way, why didn't you read that before? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I pulled it up ...

TRUMP: No, but why didn't you read that before? You didn't read. I hate the concept ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, I'm reading it. So now, my question ...

TRUMP: Excuse me, Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you trustworthy?

TRUMP: Excuse me -- very trustworthy, more so than you because you know what, you didn't read the question. See, when you quoted Tim Russert, you didn't read what you just said. Read it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was quoting you.

TRUMP: Oh, read it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll read it out. "I'm very pro-choice. I hate the concept of abortion."

TRUMP: OK. You didn't -- why didn't you say when you asked the question before that I hate the concept of abortion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the question from the pro-life groups, they say you cannot be trusted.

TRUMP: You were quoting Tim Russert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm quoting you. I'm quoting you.

TRUMP: Excuse me, you were quoting Tim and you were quoting me. Why didn't you read my quote the way I said it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I tried to pull it up and I didn't have Wi- Fi.

TRUMP: Well, then you have to get Wi-Fi, OK? Don't ask me questions like that. You're not a very good reporter.

OK, go ahead. That you have a question that now is a legitimate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do have a question.

TRUMP: Do you apologize? Would you apologize?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do I apologize for reading your words?

TRUMP: For not reading my words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read it.

TRUMP: No, no. You're not reading my words. No, do you apologize for not reading my words? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm appreciative ...

TRUMP: Excuse me. Do you apologize for not reading my exact words?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize if (inaudible) so I'm glad that I was able to correct the record. Mr. Trump, I corrected the record.

TRUMP: I didn't ask that. Excuse me. You quoted me and took out the main part of the quote. I'm just asking do you apologize?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even if you hate abortion, doesn't that ...

TRUMP: OK, free country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump? Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Go ahead, Sara. Sara, go ahead.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Why did a pro -- why do you think it's a cheap shot for people to bring up your past infidelities after you brought up Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton?

TRUMP: It's not a cheap shot. I've had a very good life. I've been a very good person over my life. I'm a religious person. I'm a good person. I give money to charity, a lot of money to charity. I feel you can bring up whatever you have to bring up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. Just to remind you, this is what set Trump off. FOX is taunting statement late today after Trump raised the possibility that moderator Megyn Kelly might treat him unfairly.

The statement from FOX reads, "We learned from a secret back channel the Ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president. Nefarious source tells us that Trump has his own secret plan to replace the cabinet with his Twitter followers to see if he should even go to those meetings."

So, as you saw, Donald Trump's reaction came late tonight and as you heard, CNN political reporter Sara Murray was at that news conference joins us now from Marshalltown, Iowa.

Sara, after Trump said he probably most likely wouldn't go, you spoke to Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski who said even more, yes?

MURRAY: That's right. That probably most likely seemed to solidify into a hard no. His campaign manager told us that Trump definitely would not participate in the debate and he said, in fact, they would hold their own event in Iowa.

They would do something to raise money for wounded warriors and maybe even partner with another network in order to do that, job.

BERMAN: And the RNC, what do they say about this so far?

MURRAY: We reached out to the RNC for comment. We have not heard anything back. When I was talking to the Trump campaign manager earlier, he said that as far as he knew, Trump had had no conversations ahead of this with Reince Priebus and now, of course, as you said, Ted Cruz is challenging Donald Trump to a one-on-one debate.

They are threatening to move this to a different format as well.

[20:35:02] So, this is certainly something that the RNC is going to have to work out and I can't imagine they will be very happy to see their number-one candidate not on the stage with everyone else who's running against them.

BERMAN: No, not part of their plans, nor, by the way, would a one-on- one debate with Ted Cruz be in their plans. That would blow up the model that they set up here. What about this possible event Thursday night, dueling event for Wounded Warriors? Did Corey Lewandowski have any details on that?

MURRAY: We're not getting a lot of details on this. This is something Trump has held out in past debates saying he would only participate if people gave money to Wounded Warriors. It's something he's mentioned before but it seems like they're taking it a step further this time saying they actually want to hold an event to raise money for Wounded Warriors.

They're not giving a lot of details on that and also not giving any details on whether there is, in fact, a network that has agreed to partner with them on this. You have to imagine that's going to be sort of a sticky situation also with the RNC. Of course, they've agreed to have FOX as their debate partner.

BERMAN: Yeah. To say the least. Sara, we heard you ask a question to Donald Trump about marital infidelities in his past. There's a senator from Nebraska, Ben Sass, who's been trolling Donald Trump on Twitter essentially asking him, you know, what about your past record? You asked him about it. What's going on there?

MURRAY: That's right. So he was asked previously in the press conference about Sass and Trump are kind of dismissed it saying it was a cheap shot, and so I went back at him because Donald Trump for a couple of weeks there was bringing up a lot of questions about Bill Clinton's past, his past infidelities, Monica Lewinsky.

And when I asked him about it, he basically conceded that, look, his past infidelities are on the table, it's not a cheap shot. But he said he believes Iowa voters trust that he is a good man, they know he's a good person, that he is a Christian that he gives money to charity.

So it sort of clear he's trying to push this part of his past aside and say, look, I am who I am now, I'm a family man, I have a wife, I have children, I give money to charity, and I'm the kind of person that Iowa voters can trust. So we'll see if that message resonates with evangelical voters here in Iowa from now through the caucus. BERMAN: Sara Murray, quite a moment tonight. You were right in the middle of it.

Up next, leading Democrats. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton trying to ride the momentum after last night's CNN Town Hall in Iowa. The caucuses' just days away, a look at what each trying to do right now to get their votes out.

That's when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:46] BERMAN: More breaking news tonight. President Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders will meet privately tomorrow in the Oval Office. The White House says, it will be an informal meeting with no formal agenda. Right now, Senator Sanders holding a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota, expected any minute.

These are live pictures looking out right now. Earlier today, he campaigned in Des Moines in Iowa, fresh off last night's CNN Democratic Town Hall. About an hour from now, Hillary Clinton will hold a rally in Iowa. Her third campaign stop in Iowa today with just days to go until the caucuses and the race tightening, it is, indeed, crunch time.

CNN's Senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny joins me now from the Sanders rally. Jeff, let's start with this White House meeting tomorrow between Senator Sanders and the president so fascinating coming just days after the gushing "Politico" interview from President Obama where he couldn't say enough nice things about Hillary Clinton.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No questions, John. I mean, that was definitely interpreted as President Obama putting his thumb on the scale for Hillary Clinton.

So tomorrow, Senator Sanders will have 45 minutes in the Oval Office to talk one-on-one with the president. I'm told by aides on both sides this has been on the schedule for several days, was not a result of the "Politico" interview, but it certainly has that impression.

And Senator Sanders, John, as you can see behind me here, a very large crowd in Minnesota. You may ask what he's doing in Minnesota, exactly, why isn't he in Iowa?

But Minnesota, of course, is one of those Super Tuesday caucus states, and Senator Sanders has about 10,000 people in this room, I'm told, and an overflow room with about 5,000 people in it.

So, Senator Sanders clearly trying to send a message that he wants to try to do at least some of what Barack Obama did and go beyond Iowa and win support in some of these liberal caucus states.

BERMAN: Hillary Clinton is in Iowa tonight, but she is headed back to the East coast tomorrow, so what's her campaign saying about that?

ZELENY: She is, John. She'll be campaigning in Iowa in the morning, but then she has a date in Philadelphia with Jon Bon Jovi. She'll be attending a fund-raiser there tomorrow night. It's one of the essential things, of course, she needs, money to keep her campaign afloat.

It's clear that whatever happens in Iowa, whatever happens in New Hampshire, this campaign is going to continue longer than anyone on her campaign thought, so she needs to do fund-raising.

But John, one sign that she wants to get back to Iowa, she knows she needs to, she canceled fund-raisers in New York City on Thursday and she'll be flying back to Iowa to campaign.

And it's not just her, Bill Clinton will be there throughout the weekend as well. But I can tell you, John, neither of the Clintons draw out crowds like this. It is one of the biggest crowds that Bernie Sanders has had and he's been doing that across the country.

The question is, will all of these voters actually come out and support him on caucus night starting in Iowa in just six days' time? John.

BERMAN: A huge crowd right there behind you in Minnesota, but Minnesota is, not Iowa. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.

So, it's hard for some election watchers not to hear echoes of President Obama in 2008 or in the Sanders campaign in 2016 or by contrast, wonder whether Bernie Sanders is tapping into some of the same anti-establishment wellspring that Donald Trump is.

No one is better to explore that than our Senior Political Commentator and Former Senior Obama Adviser, David Axelrod. I spoke to him just a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Is Bernie Sanders tapping into the same type of anger, the same type of displeasure that Donald Trump is in a way?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think he's tapping into great anxiety about what's going on in our economy and many in the Democratic Party and in the other party are feeling that.

I think the Democratic Party is somewhat different than the Republican Party, however, because there is an incumbent president. He's affected a great deal of change. Democrats are, therefore, less dissatisfied with that element of things than the Republicans are.

They're not trying to upend the government. They're trying to protect the progress that's been made and they want to build on it.

And that's really the distinction between Clinton and Sanders because what she's saying is I'm a tenacious fighter who will consolidate the gains we've made, and build on them and he's saying we need more.

[20:45:00] BERMAN: You know, you wrote in a column for "The New York Times" that sort of touches on this subject the headline was "The Obama Theory of Trump."

I want to read you some of what you wrote just to jug your memory. You wrote, "Open-seat presidential elections are shaped by the perceptions of the style and personality of the outgoing incumbent. Voters rarely seek the replica of what they have. They almost always seek the remedy, the candidate who has the personal qualities the public finds lacking in the departing executive."

So, on the Republican side, do you think that is what is happening with Donald Trump? Donald Trump is a reaction to what aspect of the Obama presidency?

AXELROD: Well, I think I wrote a memo to Barack Obama nine years ago when he was thinking of running for president and I advanced this theory that the sort of replica remedy to repeat was never choose the replica of what they have. They always choose the remedy and it goes more to personal qualities, style of leadership even than ideas.

And Obama was the perfect counterpoint to Bush who was -- to George W. Bush who was seen as impulsive, not very reflective, who was, you know, seen as divisive at that time. And Obama had, was more than any other Democrat the counterpoint to that.

When you think about today, and the complaints that particularly his opponents have about him, the fact that he's cool, maybe detached in their view not strong enough and robust enough, not confrontational enough, who is more of a counterpoint to Barack Obama than Donald Trump?

And when you look at it through that lens, his success to date isn't all that surprising. He is sort of the antithesis of Barack Obama and in the Republican Party, in particular that sells.

BERMAN: What about on the Democratic side though? If you're talking about remedy versus replica, Hillary Clinton over the last week has done everything but just give Barack Obama a giant hug and a big sloppy wet kiss.

I mean, on the stump, every time it's I love this White House, I love the president. But seriously, she's doing it. If you want a remedy, not a replica, does she run some risks there?

AXELROD: Well, no. You know, I think, again, it goes to style and, you know, the complaint about Obama and it's -- and remember, 90 percent of Democrats are favorable toward Obama. He's very well liked in the Democratic Party.

So the risk in these primaries is nil. But, it's also true that Hillary Clinton has a different style than Barack Obama. They may agree on a whole bunch of issues, but she's far less, you know, she comes across as less nuanced.

She's much more of a forceful presenter at times of her point of view. She's much more steeped in politics than he was when he became president. She's a different personality than Barack Obama and I think for that reason, she -- this is actually a more favorable environment for her to run than it was in 2008.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

AXELROD: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Up next, more breaking news. Three escaped inmates each accused of gruesome crimes, the latest from California when "360" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:30] BERMAN: All right. Breaking news, the manhunt for three escaped inmates in California intensifying. Authorities now offering $200,000 for information leading to their capture.

Their escape four days ago from a maximum security jail as sophisticated as it was brazen.

Gary Tuchman has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Three men accused of horrifying crimes. Vietnamese gang member Jonathan Tieu charged with murder and attempted murder. Bac Duong also with Vietnamese gang affiliations charged with attempted murder. And the likely ringleader of the trio, Hossein Nayeri charged with torture and kidnapping allegedly blow torching a marijuana dispensary owner and cutting off his genitals. The victim survived.

All three were awaiting trial but are on the loose after escaping from the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana, California.

LIEUTENANT JEFF HALLOCK, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: The inmates cut through half-inch steel bars to facilitate their escape. The information and evidence also suggests that the inmates cut their way through the plumbing tunnels and ultimately gained access to an unsecured area of the roof.

TUCHMAN: That unsecured area of the roof is about 80 feet above the ground. You can see right now, sheriff's deputies on the roof behind the barbed wire. That's the barbed wire the inmates cut right next to the building. They tethered bed sheets together and then repelled to the ground. And when they got here, they took off.

Authorities believe someone helped the inmates get access to the tools they used to cut through the steel bars and barbed wire. They do not know if that person or persons work inside the jail.

This grainy video captured by a camera on the roof of the jail shows flashlights they used as they were escaping sometime before dawn on Friday.

They were last seen during a 5 a.m. physical body count and weren't discovered missing until the next body count on Friday night.

Sandra Hutchens is the Orange County sheriff.

What it looks like is, they had about a 16-hour head start.

SANDRA HUTCHENS, ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF: Right. That's what it looks like today.

TUCHMAN: And will that not be allowed to happen in the future, that you can go that long without spotting someone?

HUTCHENS: That will not be allowed to happen in the future, I can tell you that.

TUCHMAN: But in the present, authorities have their work cut out for them, no sign of the inmates as of yet. And with the 16-hour head start, the inmates could be anywhere.

In Orange County's little Saigon neighborhood, there is fear because authorities think the two Vietnamese men could be hiding out here.

Have you ever seen these two guys in the community before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never.

TUCHMAN: The authorities are saying these guys may be here in this community. Does that scare you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: But authorities admit they don't have any solid leads where the men are hiding out.

Hossein Nayeri is scheduled for trial next month in that brutal kidnapping and torture case. His lawyer says his client wasn't there when the attack happened. And he says he hasn't heard from Nayeri since the escape.

If he did reach out to you, what would you advise him?

SALVATORE CIULLA, HOSSEIN NAYERI'S ATTORNEY: Well, I think I would have to advise him to come in. I couldn't advise him to stay out there. It's just not -- it's too dangerous for him. It's dangerous for everybody else.

TUCHMAN: So would you tell him it's just stupid what he did, because it is?

CIULLA: Well, it's against the law. I can't advise him to commit a crime.

TUCHMAN: But you think this is stupid, right?

CIULLAL: You know, the odds of getting away totally are so remote that it probably is not a very smart move.

TUCHMAN: If and when these inmates are caught, escape charges at the very least will be added to their rap sheets. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Sadly, at this hour, authorities still have no idea where these three inmates are. Alerts have been given to police departments all over the United States. And the Mexican border is only 100 miles away from here.

So at this point, authorities are hoping that they get a tip that leads to these guys ending up back in this jail. John?

BERMAN: All right. Gary, thanks so much.

Just ahead, the stunning truth about a popular officer who had everyone fooled in the town, now struggling to make sense of it all.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:57:18] BERMAN: Coming up at the top of the hour, a truly mind- bending CNN special report, "The Secret Life of G.I. Joe."

Last September, investigators north of Chicago were trying to figure out who killed the police officer known likely as G.I. Joe Gliniewicz.

By October, they say they discovered thousands of erased texts revealing disturbing information about the man everyone had considered a hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The messages that interest investigators the most are the ones that suggest Fox Lake's hero law enforcement officer may have tried to arrange a hit on the new Village Administrator, a woman named Anne Marrin.

When you read the text, you saw he wanted to put a hit on the Village Administrator, what was your reaction to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy crap.

BROWN: Commander Filenko is talking about a Facebook message from early April of 2015. In it, Gliniewicz writes to a woman, "Being forced to retire by new village administrator. Work life has been a living hell the last two months. Close to entertaining a meeting with a mutual acquaintance of ours with the word white in their nickname." Investigators claim "White" is code for a high ranking gang member.

Authorities say, when they interview the woman, Gliniewicz was messaging, she says that lieutenant told her, he wanted a gang member to make a hit on Marrin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Pamela Brown joins me now. So Pamela, when did investigators start suspecting the Gliniewicz's death might actually be a suicide?

BROWN: The very first week, John. FBI, investigators, others, started having doubts but he was actually murdered by these three men that he radioed in about because of some inconsistencies at the crime scene.

There were signs of a struggle because his equipment had been dropped, but yet his uniform was in perfect condition. His body didn't show signs of a struggle. In addition, phone records show that he was at the scene of where he died nearly 30 minutes before he actually radioed in to dispatchers.

And so they were wondering, what was he doing in that time? Then they looked through his personnel file and there was a several accusations where he had drinking problems, there was a sex assault lawsuit, but really the game changer here, John, for them to reach this decision of suicide, was when they looked at those deleted texts.

They saw that he wanted to put a hit out on the Village Administrator, that he was stealing money from the explorer account, this is a group of teens that he was training to be law enforcement officials. And that he'd set up a sham marriage for his son. Clearly this is not the man that they thought he was.

BERMAN: Yeah, I guess not. And clearly the investigation not over yet.

Pamela Brown, thanks so much. Cannot wait to see this special. Such a fascinating story. I know we covered it here on "360."

That does it for us. A lot going on tonight.

[21:00:00] Thank you so much for watching. We'll see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern for another edition of "360." And CNN's special report "THE SECRET LIFE OF G.I. JOE.'' Starts right now.