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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Mitt Romney Calling for Donald Trump to Release Tax Returns; Trump, Cruz, Rubio Brawl Ahead Of CNN Debate; Potential Justice Nominee Being Vetted; Sanders, Clinton In Final Push Before S.C. Primary; Black Voters Key In S.C. Primary; Melania Trump Turns Up Volume; Melania Trump Opens Up In Rare Interview; More Of Trump Interview. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 24, 2016 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:12] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening from Houston, Texas.

Tonight, the latest on the race for the White House and my conversation with Donald Trump who has now won three states in a row. Could take many more on Super Tuesday. And whether you believe pundits, polls or prediction markets, could take it all. Which is why all the candidates sharing the CNN debate stage with him tomorrow night are now scrambling to navigate a Republican landscape he has shaken to the core after his crushing victory in Nevada.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Which gets to the heart of what his opponents face especially senators Rubio and Cruz. The said New Hampshire moderates which shown him. He won New Hampshire. They said South Carolina evangelicals would stop him. He won South Carolina. They said he couldn't win caucuses, couldn't win Latinos, could not handle Marco Rubio's in Nevada loops and warner ties. He not only won Nevada but one with more votes than Rubio and Cruz combines.

So tonight in the next two hours, a closer look at the whole Trump phenomenon. Something we've never seen before as well as Donald Trump's own take on it and my conversation. We begin, though, with CNN's Phil Mattingly covering the campaign.

Phil, Super Tuesday now less than a week away. What is Trump's strategy moving forward?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's make the south Trump country. If you paid any attention to Donald Trump's campaign schedule over the couple of months, you would notices, he continued to sprinkle in trips down south. There's a reason why, Anderson. Obviously, Super Tuesday, 25 percent of available delegates up for grabs. Over the next week, Donald Trump turning that southern priority into overdrive. He's got visits to Georgia, to Tennessee, to Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, all states that vote on March 1st. All states that are crucial to Donald Trump closing whatever door that stills remains a little bit open to other candidates and shutting it for good.

COOPER: And with the GOP debate tomorrow, obviously, I mean it's unclear whether Trump is going to be attacking Cruz or Rubio. Certainly preparing for attacks from those two. Is his campaign showing signals of how he plans to handle that?

MATTINGLY: Well look, if you watched all the debates, Anderson, you know that if he gets swung at, he will swing back. And it started with a little bit of pre-rebuttal today at his event here at Regent University in Virginia Beach taking a few swipes at Ted Cruz. Some tried and true jabs dealing with citizenship or dealing with whether or not people in Texas or Washington actually like Ted Cruz. Did the same thing on twitter today. So I think you will note that he will go after Ted Cruz no matter what.

I think the big question, Anderson, is not so much - what Donald Trump does tomorrow night. It's what the other candidates do to him as you know quite well. The GOP establishment is scrambling right now trying to figure out some way to stop this momentum that is going forward. Tonight will mark the first night and really the last major opportunity on the public stage before Super Tuesday for those candidates to really go to work on trying to stop Donald Trump, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Phil Mattingly, thanks very much.

Now Marco Rubio out of state when the Nevada results came in. According to his campaign, pretty much went straight to bed as soon as the outcome was known. He did, however, hold a campaign event here just a short time ago.

Our Jason Carroll was there and joins us now.

What's Rubio's message to voters after Nevada because at some point if he wants to beat Trump he actually has to beat Trump.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Very true, Anderson. I mean, his message post-Nevada is the same message his campaign says before Nevada which is he is the conservative that can unite this party.

I mean, look, the campaign also recognizes they are feeling the pressure of the calendar. They do have to start winning some races here. Ideally, Anderson, they would like this to be a two-man race. They want the field to narrow. They said once that happens, hopefully after Super Tuesday, they are hoping this would end up being a race just between themselves and Trump. And in their words, if they can go mano-e-mano with him in the ring again, their words, not mine, hopefully they can land some punches. Again, this coming the campaign.

Also the campaign telling us that they feel strong going into Super Tuesday. And in terms of Trump, Anderson, Rubio spoke about this a little earlier. And he basically says he does not believe Trump is as popular as some of those polls show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The majority of Republican voters in this country do not want Donald Trump to be the nominee. I think that's been pretty clear now. The problem is that they are divided up among four people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: And Anderson, Rubio also saying that he does not want this campaign to be about attacking Trump. He said in his rally a little earlier that we just came from, he wants this campaign to be something that his children can look back at and be proud of - Anderson.

[20:05:01] COOPER: In terms of the strategy for Rubio the next few days, how is allocating time and money ahead of Super Tuesday?

CARROLL: Well, they are feeling good about their finances. They feel as though they had a strong showing in South Carolina. Got a financial bump out of South Carolina. So in terms of finances, they are feeling good. In terms of strategy, look, it's going to be what some of the other candidates are going to be doing. They are going to be hitting every Super Tuesday state with a special emphasis on states like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Virginia, and also Georgia as well.

But they also acknowledge, Anderson, that tomorrow here at the debate is going to be key for them. Rubio has to perform well here tomorrow night. They acknowledge that. He cannot have another performance -- disastrous performance like he had at that debate in New Hampshire - Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll. Jason, thanks very much.

Ted Cruz picked up a key endorsement today from Texas governor Greg Abbott. The campaign's hope is to score a big win on Super Tuesday here in his home state where recent polling gives him about a five- point edge on Trump but does not take into account reaction to last night. The fear, of course, is falling behind in the six days between now and primary days.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is traveling with the Cruz campaign talking to her sources. She joins us now.

The idea that Texas, more than anywhere else is Cruz's best chance to get another win, which he obviously badly needs, how confident is the campaign tonight?

SUNLEN SERFATY, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are confident, Anderson. A Cruz adviser telling me this evening that they are very optimistic with their chances of how well they will do here in Texas. But this adviser adds that they are going to compete for every vote and making sure not to take anything for granted.

You know, Cruz ruled out that big endorsement today with the Texas governor. That goes a long way on the ground. Really sends them into voting next Tuesday with a big boost of momentum. You know, there are a lot of delegates at stake here in Texas, 155 delegates. Cruz himself today called it the crown jewel of Super Tuesday. You couple that with the symbolic nature of this state for Ted Cruz being his home state. That set the stakes very high for him to do well here.

COOPER: We heard Senator Cruz spinning his third place showing in Nevada into some sort of almost victory sounding speech. I mean, is he sticking with that rationale and acknowledging he needs to do better?

SERFATY: He is not acknowledging that in many ways. He is not acknowledging weakness or that he needs to improve. He is saying very clearly when we spoke to him in a press availability earlier today that he is going to compete for every vote. That he is going to campaign very aggressively this week.

I think it's very clear he has an understanding of the stakes, and I think that's in large part why we have seen him sort of ratchet up the rhetoric in a dramatic way saying, you know, that this is a pivotal week but not claiming that it's a pivotal week for him which is an important difference. He has call Super Tuesday the most important day of the election. You know, it can't be overstated. We've said time and time again how much Super Tuesday is such a pivotal and important date for the Cruz campaign. They have staked so much, investing in this strategy. But of course, they have got to perform -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sunlen Serfaty, we'll see.

In just a few moments a conversation with our team of political analysts and professionals about how Donald Trump has up ended the race so far and what happens on Super Tuesday and beyond.

But first my conversation late today with the candidate himself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Mr. Trump, congratulations. An enormous win last night in Nevada. You are third in a row beating your opponents nearly every category. Do you see the race for the nomination ending sooner than a lot of pundits predicts?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (on the phone): Well, I don't see it going to the convention. I think we're doing very well.

COOPER: In terms of last night, what do you read in the numbers? Because as I said, I mean, you beat Cruz among evangelicals, among the very conservative. And really among almost every category of voter.

TRUMP: I think we won just about every category. And it was just, you know, a special evening. Special people. I know the state very well. I have invested in the state very heavily and done well there. And you know, they are just great people. And we have had three in a row now. Three special groups of people. But the whole country is special to people. And it's - you know, I sort of think it's a movement. COOPER: Supporters of Senator Cruz have said it's crucial that he

wins Texas for him to even consider moving forward. Do you think you could possibly win Texas? Do you think you can beat him there?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I'll give you his answer to that next.

And later, how he response 2012 Republican Mitt Romney who today said quote "I have good reason to believe there is a bombshell lurking in Trump's taxes." Putting pressure on Donald Trump and other candidates to release their taxes, something Mitt Romney himself did not do until he fell under pressure. We'll have Donald Trump's response to that. You can imagine what it might be.

Later, a rare and revealing interview with Melania Trump about her marriage and what her life was like before it. All ahead on the program tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:13:40] COOPER: I spoke late today with Donald Trump who is getting ready for tomorrow's night's CNN debate here in Houston and he is hoping on Tuesday to turn his string of three straight victories into many more including Texas. The obstacle here, of course, Ted Cruz. Here's part two of my conversation with the Republican front- runner.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Supporters of Senator Cruz have said it's crucial he wins Texas for him to even consider moving forward. Do you think you could possibly win Texas? Do you think you can beat him there?

TRUMP (voice-over): I could win Texas. I don't know that I will, but I could win. That's the only state where I'm a little bit down. Almost everyone - I just see Oklahoma I'm way up, and interestingly, in Massachusetts, I'm way up, almost 50. And we're doing well all over. Florida we're doing very well. And I know Alabama and Arkansas, just about every place we are going to be. Georgia has been -- in particular, Georgia has been strong.

So we are looking forward to a good week next week. You never know in the world of politics. You know that better than I do, Anderson.

COOPER: Compared to Senator Cruz, you have been fairly modest in going after senator Rubio. I just want to get your reaction to something Rubio said this morning about your win in Nevada. I'm going to play a sound bite from him.

RUBIO: A majority of Republican voters in this country do not want Donald Trump to be the nominee. I think that's been pretty clear now. The problem is that they are divided up among four people.

[20:15:00] COOPER: Do you buy that argument that the fact that there's a divided field going against you that it's allowing you to win?

TRUMP: No, I don't because actually I think I would do very well with, you know, one on one. I would almost like that. It would really be a simplification. You know, when you get up to 46 percent and 47 percent, and that's in a five-person field. So that's at a very high position. And you know, I laugh at the pundits when they say, well, you know, if you add up all of the rest, it's 53. Well, when people leave, I pick up a lot of votes.

COOPER: You are gearing up, obviously, for the CNN debate tomorrow night in Houston. What do you see as senator Rubio's biggest vulnerability?

TRUMP: Well, I think I'll save that for tomorrow night. So we have to keep some good action for tomorrow night. But we will be, you know, we will be totally prepared. You know, people have not done very well against me. So far everybody that's attacked me has gone down. Maybe that's a good thing for the country because maybe that's what our country needs.

But, you know, if you look at it, everybody that's attacked me -- Jeb Bush spent probably $15 million to $20 million on negative ads on me. Nobody reported that. But the only reason I went after him was because of that. I mean, he spent a tremendous amount. I mean, spent $150 million but he spent about $20 million on negative ads on me, Anderson, which was not, you know, very nice.

COOPER: You talked about also winning the 44 percent of the Latino vote last night. Obviously, there are some polling experts who point out there were, you know, so few people involved in the caucus in terms of Latinos, the win for you represents about one-half of one percentage of the entire Latino population in Nevada. Are you planning to make more of an outreach to Latinos and African-Americans?

TRUMP: Well, I think so. I mean, and I don't know when you say one half of one percent, I don't know what that represents. I can say that we got 46 percent of the Latino vote or the Hispanic vote and that was far more than anybody else in the field. And that's pretty good, I think, you know. And obviously, it's not the whole nation but it's what we had to deal with. We were dealing with that area and we got 46 percent of the vote. And I think that's very indicative of the nation, actually.

COOPER: I want to move on to Senator Cruz. On Monday, he seemed to toughen his talk on illegal immigration saying he pushed for ICE agents to look for, deport undocumented immigrants. It was an interview he did this past January. He said quote "I don't intend to send Jack boots to knock on your door and every door in America." Do young he's changing his stance? And if so, why?

TRUMP: He is changing his stance. He also now wants to build a wall. You know, you never heard that before. I heard it last week for the first time. I heard it from him and somebody else. You know, they are all copying me.

We have Sheriff Joe Arpaio supported me. So you know in terms of that kind of endorsement, I would say it's probably the ultimate. The fact is he was weak on immigration, and the illegals, as far as he was concerned. I mean, he was willing to give amnesty and you know that debate between him and Rubio and it went on very long and loud. But he was very, very weak on illegal immigration. Now all of a sudden he is getting tough. And he is because he's getting very nervous. I mean, I watched him the other day. He's a nervous wreck. He didn't know this was going to happen to him. And he is going down. And now he is actually in third place. He is not even in second place. So it looks like Rubio is taking over, reasonably solid in second place. And you know, I'm in first place by quite a bit, but he has very much toughened his stance because he was losing.

COOPER: You've been asked when you'll release your tax returns. On Monday you said you would do it quote "at some point." Just today you probably know Mitt Romney said quote "I think there's reason to believe there's a bombshell in Trump's taxes. Now, we should point out, Mitt Romney refused to release his taxes for quite a while. He ultimately did. Buy why not just get them out there?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: We'll have his answer to that. We will have more on my interview with Donald Trump after a quick break.

Also ahead tonight, how the Democrats are tackling the run-up to the South Carolina primary and Super Tuesday as Hillary Clinton picks up a major endorsement. The latest when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:22:53] COOPER: I want to bring you more of my interview with Donald Trump. I spoke with him on the phone today, fresh off his win in Nevada. I asked him about Mitt Romney telling FOX News today that Donald Trump may be hiding something in his tax returns. Here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You have been asked when you will release your tax return on Monday you said you would do it quote "at some point." Just today you probably know Mitt Romney said quote "I think there's reason to believe there's a bombshell in Trump's taxes." Now, we should point out Mitt Romney refused to release his taxes for quite a while. He ultimately. Buy why not just get them out there?

TRUMP: Because my returns are complex. I'll make them at the right time. I'm in no rush to do it. Nobody has been bringing it up except of Mitt Romney. And the reason he brings it up is that he lost in the last election and lost very badly. So I don't know why he's bringing it up. But tax returns are very complicated. I have many, many companies. I have, you know, tremendously - you know, I have a very complex system of taxes. And frankly, I get audited every single year. So, you know, mine, unlike everybody else who never gets audited, I get audited every single year which I think is unfair. But I go through large audits. And that is the way it is. But we will make a determination over the next couple of months. It is very complicated.

COOPER: Point blank does that mean you absolutely will release them? It's just a question of when?

TRUMP: No. I will make a determination. I will be making that determine over the next, I would say, couple of months, we will make that determination. Absolutely.

COOPER: And finally, a lot of polls last night, they all said of those people who said they wanted change and, you know, wanted somebody from outside of government. Obviously that is all good for you. Once you are actually in the White House if you actually make it and become president of the United States, I'm not going to ask you who your vice president would be. Obviously, it's too early for that. You wouldn't even say if you had been considering it but are you going to look for somebody with political experience to kind of help you with Congress, to actually help you once you are in Washington if, in fact, you get there?

TRUMP: Yes. The answer to that is yes. I would. I would not do - look, I'm very political and I've been political and you've known me for a long time. And I have gotten tremendous zone changes and I have gotten tremendous, you know - over the years I have been a very political person. I have supported politicians and all. But I would absolutely not need another business person. I will have many, many business people, I mean, some of the greats. You know, Carl Icahn endorsed me. Many of them endorsed me, the best ones. But we are going to have to --.

[20:25:16] COOPER: So for vice president, you would want somebody with congressional experience --

TRUMP: I would want somebody with political skill because I think that's where I would really want that, you know, dealing with Congress, et cetera, et cetera. I also think in terms of vice president, the key is, who would be a great president. If something should happen, who would be a great president? That has to be the first. But I would really want somebody that would be in the world of politics in that case. I will keep it going really beautifully but I like the concept of politics. Not 100 percent, but I think I like the concept of having somebody that's in the world of politics for that position.

COOPER: Donald Trump, again, congratulations on last night.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A lot to talk about with our panel tonight. CNN Chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here, CNN political director David Chalian, our CNN political commentators Amanda Carpenter, former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Republican strategist Kevin Madden, Republican strategist Ana Navarro and former Reagan White House, Jeffrey Lord who supports Donald Trump. Gloria, it is interesting to hear - I mean, first of all, Trump

essentially seems to be backing off the idea that guaranteed that he is going to release his tax returns. He says he is going to sort of consider it down the road.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think that's the news here, really, in this interview. Because before he is always said, you know, it's just going to take time to get them organized and to get them together and then we are going to release them and that was, you know, that was a different story tonight when he spoke to you.

It is a little ironic I must say. And Kevin, you may want to speak to this, that Mitt Romney was the person who was asking Donald Trump to release his taxes. Because Romney finally released a couple of years of taxes when he ran but it was under a great deal of pressure from his Republican opponent.

COOPER: We should also point out that what Romney said was he was saying that Cruz and Rubio and Trump should all release their taxes. He did focus on Trump saying there was some sort of a bombshell there that perhaps he didn't earn as much money as he said or didn't give as much to charity as he previously said. Were you surprised that Romney came out on this?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think it is - he is probably not the -- he doesn't have the clearest shot on that particular issue. But I also think it's interesting because nobody knows how much of a devastating attack that was than Mitt Romney.

BORGER: Right.

MADDEN: What the Obama campaign did by constantly asking and pressuring. After he released the two years, they said why not release 10 years, why not release 15, why not release 20? And when they didn't, what the Obama campaign did was frame it as, a, he has something to hide. And when you have something to hide you should worry about his character. And that's the risk for Donald Trump or I should say it's the risk for most candidates. Donald Trump is not most candidates. So that remains to be seen.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think it's a risk for Donald Trump at all. We know that Donald Trump gets judged with a different measuring stick than everybody else. And one of the problems that Mitt Romney had, and God Knows he has grown on me in the last three years, but one of the problems he had is that he was very awkward about his wealth. Donald Trump is not. He has says to everybody he can in the loudest voice he can possibly muster. I'm rich. I'm very, very rich.

COOPER: It is also -- Donald Trump said just tonight and I try to pay as little taxes as possible. So sort of getting that out of the way saying look, I'm not -- if I can, I pay as little as possible.

NAVARRO: And who amongst us doesn't? AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER CRUZ COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I got to say,

I think it is sort of an interesting question. We know that Donald Trump is a walking exaggeration. But the one thing he does value is his wealth, how much money he is worth. And so frankly, I do think it's interesting to actually find out how much he is worth because he take that as such a large measure of value for himself and for a reason why he should be --

MADDEN: And he was also dodging and weaving on the question because the - what happens is most candidates release two years of their last returns. So he keeps saying they are very complex and it takes a lot of time to put together. Those returns are already filed. He can release them today.

COOPER: But that story, though, Jeffrey, on this is that I mean, there are - you know, he put out a financial statement saying he's worth $10 billion who would serve his analysis. Bloomberg has had a much lower figure, as has Forbes, which Donald Trump has always contested.

JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: In that words of (INAUDIBLE), a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon it adds up to real money.

You know, I just -- the American public has seen him for, what, 30, 40 years. He is a pretty looming figure in American culture. I honestly don't think at this stage they care.

COOPER: Whether he has $2 billion or $10 billion?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: But he is sensitive about it. Over the years, we have seen this issue come up again long before he was a presidential candidate just talk about his net worth. And it's something that he is particularly sensitive about. We don't see that a ton on the campaign trail of things that really get under his skin a little bit. So I think watching under the glare of the presidential election, him deal with an issue that does get under his skin --

NAVARRO: Really the only time I remember any issue getting under his skin was in the debate and it was the eminent domain issue when Jeb Bush went after him. I think tomorrow might be a very interesting opportunity for Marco Rubio who is going to release his tax returns this weekend --.

[20:30:00] ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Really the only time I remember any issue getting under his skin was in the debate and it was the eminent domain issue when Jeb Bush went after him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

NAVARRO: I think tomorrow may be a very interesting opportunity for Marco Rubio, who's going to release his tax returns this weekend, as announced though, to come at him and say, you know, "You should do the same. You know, I'm poor little me from West Miami whom, you know was raised paycheck to paycheck. My mother was a housekeeping, my father was a bartender. I'm releasing them. Well how about you?"

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah.

BORGER: Well, that's it. Who is going to start saying that to Trump?

CHALIAN: Yeah.

BORGER: If it's Marco Rubio, good for him.

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TED CRUZ: Yeah.

BORGER: If it's Ted Cruz ...

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFREY LORD, TRUMP SUPPORTER: But if Marco Rubio ...

CARPENTER: ... moves the ball from Marco Rubio to Ted Cruz. It's one thing for Mitt Romney to say it which I think is a little bit sour grapes. I had to do it. So you should. And plus, the rich people like to compete. There's a lot of that going on.

BORGER: Yeah.

LORD: If it turns out to be Marco Rubio who is doing this, I don't know, Ana, you would know better than I. But has he spent all of his career in the public sector? In other words, where these dollars came from would matter.

Donald Trump is from the private sector in a year in which the federal government and government is not in favor earning whatever wealth you have from the public sector would be, I think ...

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Although it's interesting on Marco Rubio. I mean there have been a lot of questions about his finances, about his abilities to, you know, the loans he took, the expenditure ...

NAVARRO: Absolutely. But, you know, to his benefit, it all got kind of aired out months ago. So, now it's really an old story. I mean this is a story that's been chasing Marco since he's been running for the U.S. senate and before. And I think there's very little new news there. We all know that he have ...

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: If he goes after Donald Trump on taxes, I don't think it's going to be an old story to Donald Trump that tuck in air the Republican Party critical in tax.

NAVARRO: But who's going to go after Marco Rubio about not being able to, you know, live within his means? The billionaire? Or the guy married to the Goldman Sachs employee? I mean, you know he's in good state ...

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: ... to make this argument on Marco Rubio.

BORGER: Inoculated himself to a great degree with Mitt Romney. It turned out he paid, what, 15 percent in taxes because it was investment income.

CHALIAN: Right.

BORGER: And that's lower than people normally pay.

CHALIAN: It was a little higher than that, but, yes.

BORGER: OK. But it was a little bit embarrassing and the Obama campaign went after him tooth and nail. Said, you pay a lower tax rate than average Americans. Donald Trump has already said, "Hey, I go by the law and I want to pay the lowest rate I can possibly pay. So if it's really low." Then he'll say, "Well, yeah."

NAVARRO: And by the way, who is going to go after Trump on that in the democrat side? Hillary Clinton?

CARPENTERS: Right. Good point.

NAVARRO: It's a completely difference deck of cards. Now, I did not like Mitt Romney though being the spokesperson on this because ...

BORGER: No.

LORD: Right.

NAVARRO: ... to me it harkened back ...

LORD: Harry Reid.

NAVARRO: ...to what Harry Reid said about him.

LORD: That's right.

NAVARRO: So to say that there's a bombshell without giving any evidence, I think it's him doing what was done to him which was very incorrectly done by Harry Reid back then.

COOPER: Also there's no reason that Mitt Romney would have any knowledge about what was in Donald Trump's taxes.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No.

CARPENTERS: But I don't think it's entirely unfair for Romney to want to see Donald Trump held to the same standard. And I don't think this really goes anywhere with the Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

Because let's remember at senators, the're senate financial disclosure forms are already out there. That's the reason people know about Ted Cruz's Goldman Sach's wants. Their material is out there. Donald Trump is largely unknown figure. People haven't take it and looked at his business assets, the bankruptcies. I think there's a lot of data that's out there there.

MADDEN: If you're going to take down Donald Trump, you do have to cut off the supply lines to this populist appeal that he has that he's one of, you know, he's, you know, that average Joe should like him.

And this is potentially one line of attack on there. Now it's may not be the best and may not be effective, but here was the thing, they have to do something. We're running out of time.

NAVARRO: Wrong messenger.

MADDEN: If he's the wrong messenger ...

NAVARRO: So I can't believe I'm defending Donald Trump. No, you know, none of the people that are voting for him are voting for him because they think he's just like them. Everybody knows the guy is a billionaire.

MADDEN: I'm talking about the -- I didn't say that. I think the appeal he has to the average American. And if you can expose some level of hypocrisy, there's an opportunity there. I'm not saying it's going to happen. I'm saying that's one opportunity. And they are running out of time. So they have to do something.

LORD: Running out of time I would almost say that Nevada may be the tipping point or beginning of the tipping point or the beginning of the tipping point here. I mean, if we get the Super Tuesday and there's much more like the last three, it's pretty much over.

COOPER: It's hard to see beyond, I mean maybe if Ted Cruz gets Texas, what's does Rubio get moving forward?

LORD: You know the fascinating thing, when I hear people say that Ted Cruz has to carry Texas, he's the Senator from Texas. When I hear them say that Marco Rubio has to carry Florida, he's a Senator from Florida. If John Kasich can't carry Ohio, I mean, what are we talking here, they ought to be, all three of them ...

BORGER: We'll not, it's over.

CHALIAN: They own state, right?

BORGER: Yeah.

MADDEN: And if they do carry those, then it will keep going on.

CARPENTER: Yeah but let's not forget, the big opportunity for all this to come up is tomorrow at the debate. That's why I think Mitt Romney was doing all he could to just had to throw some material out there because at the end of the day, I doubt that Romney wants to see Donald Trump become the nominee.

[20:35:06] And so, I see him in his comments as a form of helping, maybe trying to get some people to look into it. Push Trump on something but Mitt Romney believes he could be vulnerable on.

BORGER: But he didn't endorse, because maybe he thought his endorsement wouldn't actually help Marco Rubio.

LORD: We heard. Right.

BORGER: Right?

CARPENTER: Yeah, and it probably wouldn't have.

COOPER: I want to thank you panel. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night when the Republican candidates face off in the last debate before Super Tuesday. Wolf Blitzer is moderating the debate here in Houston, that's tomorrow night, 8:30 Eastern here on CNN. We of course, we'll be leading up into the debate. I'll b, joining us at 8:00 tomorrow night.

Up next, on the Democratic side, A new endorsement for Hillary Clinton and a look ahead to the South Carolina Primary And Super Tuesday.

And later, the battle of replacing the late justice Antonin Scalia, a source says the White House is vetting a potential nominee, even as Senate Republicans say they won't meet with anyone the President chooses. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: With the Democratic Primary in South Carolina and Super Tuesday now less than a week away, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are taking different tactics after picking up an endorsement from the highest ranking Congressional Democrat so far.

[20:40:03] Clinton is focusing her efforts on South Carolina while Sanders has been holding rallies in a bunch of states including Missouri and Oklahoma today.

Joe Johns has more on the race on the democratic side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Tonight, another big endorsement for Hillary Clinton.

SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MINORITY LEADER: I think the middle class would be better served by Hillary.

JOHNS: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid telling CNN's Manu Raju, he's all in for the former secretary of state.

REID: She's a person who -- he's a very quick learner. All you need to do is look what happened after 9/11. She did -- she do a good job.

JOHNS: Recent announcement comes after Clinton's victory in Saturday's Nevada caucuses and could give the Democratic front-runner a boost heading into next week Super Tuesday contest when Democrats will vote in 11 states. Looking to blunt, Clinton's momentum Bernie Sanders is hitting the road, rallying supporters in Oklahoma and Missouri while Clinton is keeping her focus on the next state up on the calendar, South Carolina, where she holds a big lead in the polls.

HILLARY CLINTON, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's a special treat.

JOHNS: Democrats in the Palmetto state will cast their ballots on Saturday. And while Sanders splits his focus with other states, he says he's not conceding the first in the south primary to his rival.

BERNIE SANDERS, (D) U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're not writing off South Carolina. You all know that on March 1st there are a dozen states that are holding elections. And the nature of the world is that we're going to go out.

JOHNS: South Carolina played host to CNN's Town Hall Tuesday night providing both candidates an opportunity to make their case to African-American voters who account for over half the Democratic electorate there.

CLINTON: Our experiences may not equip us to understand what a lot of our African-American fellow citizens go through every single day.

SANDERS: We've got a plan to invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration.

JOHNS: Sanders again attacking Clinton for not releasing transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs.

SANDERS: I am very happy to release all of my paid speeches to Wall Street. Here it is, Chris. There ain't none.

JOHNS: Clinton stating that she would comply if Republicans agreed to do the same, but countering that she's being held to a higher standard.

CHRIS COUMO, CNN ANCHOR: Will you agree to release these transcripts? They have become an issue.

CLINTON: Sure if everybody does it and that includes the Republicans. Why is there one standard for me and not for everybody else, Chris. I mean ...

JOHNS: Joe Johns, CNN, Columbia, South Carolina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, joining me now is Cornel West, professor of philosophy in Christian practice in Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton. He supports Bernie Sanders. Also, CNN Contributor and former South Carolina Statehouse Representative Bakari Sellers who supports Hillary Clinton.

Professor West, Hillary Clinton obviously has a track record of winning African-American votes. Are you concerned about Sanders doing well in South Carolina in the primary? And what does he have to do you think to convince African-American voters that he is their candidate?

CORNEL WEST, PROFESSOR, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: I think part of it is we're in a paradox. I mean, black people historically have been the most progressive group when it comes to social justice.

No doubt, Bernie Sanders is the most progressive when it comes to social justices. He's not tied to Wall Street in any way. When you talk about free colleges and free universities and he doesn't use the language of our dear sister Hillary Clinton when she talks about young black youth as the super predators that justified the expansion of mass incarceration and of course that pulling a rope from under welfare. So, that's a matter of black America getting to know him.

But, I think part of the problem is, we've got a neopolitical, black political class that confuses the gravy train with the freedom train that they're not providing the kind of leadership they should and they're afraid of Bernie Sanders because in part they are afraid of Wall Street.

Hillary Clinton is a Wall Street Democrat who is too tied to the mass incarceration order, Bernie Sanders Anti-Wall Street. One promise he says he's going to shrink mass incarceration. We need black working people, poor people, middle class people who care to understand that.

We can understand the black elite sometimes pulling back because Bernie is hard in terms of accountability of release no matter what color. That's why I'm with him, my brother.

COOPER: Bakari, you hear what Professor West is saying. He's saying that Bernie Sanders support for civil rights is second to none. How do you respond?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the first thing I need to say is that we have to examine each candidate through the same lens. If we're going to have this discussion about mass incarceration, well, let's have it, but we have to have it honestly. Bernie Sanders is complicit. Bernie Sanders is the only person in this race who had a vote on the crime bill of 1994 and who cast the ballot in favor of it.

In fact in 2006, he was champion for being tough on crime. So, we're going to have this discussion, let's be honest. What we saw last night, was we saw Hillary Clinton adopt this theory of Kimberle Crenshaw. We saw her adopt the theory and espouse the theory of intersectionality.

[20:45:02] WEST: Lip service -- that the lip service she just talk and talk and talk.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: With all due respect, I don't have as many degrees as you do, but please let me finish.

WEST: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SELLERS: All I'm simply saying is that she sees the problems of interconnectivity between these systems of oppression, between economic injustice and environmental injustice and Bernie Sanders can't get himself out of this box.

Bernie Sanders is the proverbial one-issue candidate and until he starts talking about these issues he will not move African-American votes in South Carolina or anywhere else.

COOPER: Professor ...

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: I want to respond to my brother because one, I think, Brother Sellers would recognize, you do not approve the language of calling precious black men super predators, do you? You don't approve of that?

SELLERS: No, not at all.

WEST: Not at all. Now, you know Hillary Clinton used that language in 1996 in her famous king college speech to justify some very ugly policies. So, it's just a matter of you acknowledging you disagree with that language.

SELLERS: But Dr. West ...

WEST: Yes.

SELLERS: No. But Dr. West, they are all complicit. Just as Hillary Clinton is complicit and had to apologize. My only problem with this discussion is we have to hold Bernie Sanders to the same accountability. We have to talk about the 23 members of the congressional black caucus that voted for this bill. It's not about the bill of 1994. It's about who is going to talk about where we are today.

WEST: No, but this is what I mean. This is what I mean. Why did Hillary Clinton accept $133,000 from GEO and CCA who are private prison lobbyists to justify expanding mass incarceration? And she says she wants to end it. She's just talking, but ...

SELLERS: It wasn't a justification thereof. I mean ...

WEST: So, you're saying she was wrong? You said she was wrong?

SELLER: ... she is the person who actually said that she's going to end -- she is the person who said that she is going to stop private prisons. She is the one who said she's going to ban ...

WEST: How are you going to stop it when you are receiving money from the people who are expanding ...

SELLERS: Dr. West, she is the one who simply said that she has a plan to limit mass incarceration to address criminal justice reform. This isn't Vermont where ...

WEST: But, why was she accepting money?

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: Dr. West, Dr. West, in Vermont, in Vermont, African- Americans, African-Americans are 10 times -- they have a 10 times higher rate of incarceration than white folks. That's what I'm talking about. If you want to look at people's records ...

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: She's never support a ...

SELLERS: African-American ...

COOPER: You're talking over ...

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: ... the money. I mean, that's just an empirical fact.

SELLERS: African-Americans are -- African-Americans in Vermont said Bernie Sanders treated them as if they were invisible.

WEST: No, that's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: It depends on which ones you talk to. You and I know why ...

SELLERS: I don't want any of my brothers in prison ...

WEST: ... across the nation.

COOPER: Gentlemen, let me just try to move this discussion along.

(CROSSTALK)

WEST: We agree with that, though, brother.

COOPER: Bakari Sellers, Bill Clinton is largely is seen as his wife's not so secret weapon when it comes to African-American voters especially in southern primary states. He's also the president who signed the crime bill that is disproportionately affected the African- American community in negative way, which Senator Sanders voted on. But, how can Hillary Clinton embrace her husband's popularity without being a part of that legacy?

SELLERS: Well, Hillary Clinton actually apologized for actually being a part of that. I mean, that we have to have this discussion. We have to have it honestly. We have to come out and Bernie Sanders has to be held to the same standard. That is all I'm saying. If we're going to adjudicate these candidates, we have to do it through the same lens and that's all I want.

WEST: That's fair. That's fair.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: But, I want a plan to move forward. I want a plan to help limit mass incarceration. I want somebody like Hillary Clinton who is actually talking about adopting President Obama's Ferguson Commission standards, who's actually talking about moving this country forward.

COOPER: Bakari ...

SELLERS: Not someone who just comes out here and wants to sell us uniforms.

WEST: He's not selling -- he saying that the class issue and economic justice has everything to do with unemployment, everything to do with the way black people are treated. There's a class issue that's inseparable with the race issue, my brother and you can't do it if you're Wall Street Democrat like Hillary.

SELLER: Dr. West ...

WEST: If you're a Wall Street Democrat like Hillary you just talking. There's no serious commitment. The class issue with regard to economic justice. That's all I'm saying and you know that's true.

COOPER: Dr. West, I want you to have the last word and then we're going to move along.

WEST: ... the legacy of Martin King, the legacy of Kenny Lou Hayman (ph), that's what we're talking about -- the legacy of your blessed father, you and I loving deeply.

Look at his example. He was not just fighting against racism. He was fighting against a class system as well. That's what Bernie Sanders did.

You can't do it as a Wall Street Democrat, my brother. You just can't do it. That's why Hillary is not the best.

COOPER: Dr. West, Bakari Sellers ...

WEST: But, I'm sorry, but if you think I disrespect you. I don't want to disrespect you at all, my brother.

COOPER: Gentlemen, I appreciate both of your discussion. I'm sorry I have a little bit of a delay so it's little hard to kind of orchestrate this discussion. I appreciate your perspectives.

Just ahead, Melania Trump turning up the volume on the campaign trail and beyond in a real face-to-face interview.

[20:50:02] She opened up about her life before she met Donald Trump and what their life together is like.

(COMMECIAL BREAK) COOPER: After Donald Trump won in South Carolina, his wife Melania who's been a quite presence on the campaign trail surprised a lot of people when she took the microphone and gave her own informal victory speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MELANIA TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S WIFE: Congratulations to my husband. He was working very hard and he loves you. We love you. And we're going ahead to Nevada. And we will see what happens. He would be the best president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, today she gave a rare interviewing -- or interview opening up about their life together and her life before they met. Here's Jean Casarez.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She has been a woman of few words. Melania Trump seen only occasionally on the campaign trail.

M. TRUMP: And he loves you. We love you.

CASAREZ: But telling MSNBC she has an influence on the campaign.

M. TRUMP: I follow the news from A to Z. I'm on the phone with my husband few times a day. He calls me. I call him. I tell him what's going on. He's on the road. And I give him my opinions.

CASAREZ: At the same time, Trump is a full-time mother to the couple's son Barron. She talks about her own mother in Slovenia.

M. TRUMP: Really special. She's with a lot of elegance and style. She was in fashion industry for a long time.

CASAREZ: And once Slovenia was recognized as an independent nation, she said that it helped her father who was a salesman.

M. TRUMP: Once the Slovenia separated and was possible to have own business, he opened his own business.

CASAREZ: As a recent interview and photo shoot for Harper's Bazaar Shows, Melania is at home before the camera.

[20:55:02] She came to the U.S. as a model after studying architecture and design in Europe and she speaks several languages.

M. TRUMP: English, Italian, French, German.

CASAREZ: An immigrant herself, Melania defended her husband's infamous comments on the border when announcing his candidacy back in June.

D. TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. M. TRUMP: I don't feel he insulted the Mexicans. He said illegal immigrants. He didn't talk about everybody. He's right what he's talking about. And he opened conversation that nobody did.

CASAREZ: Melania speaks from personal experience when she says she believes immigrants need to come into the country the legal way.

M. TRUMP: I follow a law the way it's supposed to be. I never thought to stay here without papers. I had visa. I travel every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back. I applied for the green card. I applied for the citizenship later on after many years of green card.

CASAREZ: Melania even weighed in on her husband's controversial desire to ban Muslims from entering the country.

M. TRUMP: What he said is it would be temporary and it's not for all the Muslims. It's the one we need to screen them who is coming to the country. He wants to protect America.

CASAREZ: Melania says she and her husband do disagree.

D. TRUMP: It's political [ bleep ]. Do you understand?

CASAREZ: Especially on his cursing.

M. TRUMP: I tell him my opinions. I tell him what I think. Sometimes he listens. Sometimes he don't.

CASAREZ: But it may be those differences that first drew Melania to him.

M. TRUMP: We are our own people. I'm my own person, he's his own person. And I think that's very important. I don't want to change him. He doesn't want to change me.

Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, just ahead more of my interview with Donald Trump on the eve of tomorrow's CNN Republican debate here in Houston.

We'll be right back

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