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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

SC Primary. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired February 27, 2016 - 22:00   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... is in control and that is the question, are they in control of this process?

(Crosstalk)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two things they can control.

One is this false narrative around the lanes has caused immense problems. It turns out there are no names. It's this lane, and that lane and left-handedand the (chipmunk) lane. There is a nominee. That's what you have and so that's I think been a controlling narrative that's causing problems.

I think the other big thing that I would point to hear is that as a parent, this whole thing is terrible for the culture.

Someone like a Marco Rubio having a talk about someone peeing in their pants to get attention means that the reality TV invasion, the Kardashian invasion of the culture is almost complete and I think no matter what happens with the Republican Party is a very, very bad moment in American politics and culture invariably (inaudible)...

(Crosstalk)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the Trump-ization, it's Mr. Trump who is causing this and I don't think it's good for Senator Rubio to emulate him.

It's like it if - I don't know, Vanilla Ice tried to be Kanye. Hey, if you're like Kanye, you're like Kanye, you're not going to be Vanilla Ice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really good.

UNIDENTIFIED: Nobody is like him. He's just perfect of the - he looks like the groom on the wedding cake. You know, just like this perfect tiny little handsome thing and now, he's saying these vile things trying to be Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just like that I can prove I am not one of those newscasters who does pretend to be (inaudible)...

(Crosstalk) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big win for Hillary Clinton tonight, but the

entire election could be up for grabs on both sides. That's a few short days from now. Super Tuesday, we're talking about.

We'll have live coverage from across the country - all day, all night on that, but up next, the rowdiest debate we have seen in a while or maybe ever. The senior Republican showdown in Houston. Don't go anywhere. You're watching CNN. We'll be right back.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: We're live here at the University of Houston for the 10th Republican Presidential Debate.

Everything that we ask the crowd is on hand here in the beautiful Opera House in the Moore School of Music. Texas is the biggest prized next Tuesday, Super Tuesday when 11 states vote - a day that will go a long way for deciding who wins the Republican nominations.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around world. I am Wolf Blitzer. This debate is airing on CNN, CNN International and CNN Espanol. It's also being seen on Telemundoand heard on the Salem Radio Network.

Telemundo and Salem are our partners in this debate, along with the Republican National Committee. We would also like to welcome a very special guest with us here tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, the 41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Everyone here is looking forward to a lively debate. I'll be your moderator tonight. Joining me in the questioning, Telemundo host, Maria Celeste Arraras, CNN Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash and Salem Radio Networks', HughHewitt who worked in the Reagan administration for six years.

Tonight, there are five Republican candidates and are ready to join us right now. Please welcome Ohio Governor, John Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, businessman and real estate developer, Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and retired neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome the Republican candidates for President of the United States.

Now, please rise for our national anthem performed by country music artist, Dina Carter.

BLITZER: Welcome back to the University of Houston in the Republican Presidential Debate. The candidates, they are now in place. Their positions were selected based on their standing in the delegate race through Nevada with the top candidate in the center and the others extending outward.

I want to tell you how tonight's debate will work. As moderator, I will guide the discussion asking questions and follow ups, as well Maria Celeste, Dana Bash and Hugh Hewitt.

Candidates, you'll have a minute and 15 seconds to answer and 30 seconds for follow ups and rebuttals. We have timing lights that are visible to the candidates.

Those lights will warn you when your time is up and as the candidates requested, a bell will sound like this. We know you all want to jump in and debate these critically important issues, but please wait until you're called on.

These are the rules all of the candidates have agreed to.

It's time for the candidates to introduce themselves right now, you'll each have 30 seconds. Dr. Carson, you're first.

BEN CARSON, RETIRED NEUROSURGEON, USA: If someone had tried to describe today's America for you 30 years ago, you would've listened in disbelief. Americans know that our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction secondary to divisiveness, fiscal irresponsibility and failure to lead.

Marco, Donald, Ted, John, we will not solve any of these problems by trying to destroy each other. What we need to do is be looking for solutions tonight, it is not about us, it's about the American people.

BLITZER: Governor Kasich.

JOHN KASICH, GOVERNOR OF OHIO: You know, on the way over here, even getting ready earlier, sitting in the green room and watching the early coverage. You know, my father carried me on his back and his father was a coal miner and my mother's mother was an immigrant who could barely speak English and I'm standing on the stage. It's pretty remarkable, but I want to tell you there's a lot of young people watching tonight. You can do whatever you want to do in your life.

America is an amazing country where a kid like me can grow up to run for President of the United States and be on this stage tonight. So to all the young people that are out there, your hopes, your dreams, pursue them. Shoot for the stars. America is great and you can do it. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio.

MARCO RUBIO, SENATOR OF FLORIDA: Well, thank you. This election, we have to decide the identity of America in the 21st Century, but as part of this primary, we have to find out our identity as a party and is a movement. Thirty six years ago, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush began the Reagan revolution.

For a generation, they defined conservatism as limited government and free enterprise and strong national defense, but they also appealed to our hopes and our dreams. Now, we have to decide that we are still that kind of party and still that kind of movement or we're simply to become a party to preys on people's angers and fears.

I hope we remain that conservative movement that appeals to our hopes and our dreams and the belief that America will always be better in its future than it's been in its history.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz. TED CRUZ, SENATOR OF TEXAS: Welcome to Texas. Here - Texas provided

my family with hope. Here, my mom became the first in her family ever to go to college. Here, my dad fled Cuba and washed dishes making $0.50 an hour to pay his way through the University of Texas.

I graduated from high school at Second Baptist not too far away from here. When I ran for Senate, I promised 27 million Texans, I would fight for you every day and not for the Washington bosses and I'll tell you, as I travel the state, Democrats tell me, "I didn't vote for you, but you're doing what you said you would do," and as President I will do the same.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. My whole them is "Make America great again."We don't win anymore as a country. We don't win with trade. We don't win with the military - ISIS, we can't even knockout ISIS and we will. Believe me, we will.

We don't win in any capacity with healthcare. We have terrible healthcare - Obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced. We just don't win.

You look at our borders, they're like Swiss cheese. Everybody pours in. We're going to make a great country again. We're going to start winning again. We're going to win a lot. It's going to be a big difference, believe me. It's going to be a big, big difference.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. It's now time to begin questions. Voters in the first four states have spoken and Mr. Trump has emerged as the front runner, but in five days, the candidates will face their biggest test yet, Super Tuesday when nearly half of the delegates who needed to win the Republican nomination will be awarded and the biggest prize of the night is Texas.

Immigration is a key issue in this state, for all voters nationwide, including the many people watching us tonight on Telemundo. So that's where we begin. Mr. Trump, you've called for a deportation force to remove the 11 million undocumented immigrants from the United States. You've also promised to let what you call the "good ones" come back in; your words, the "good ones" after they've been deported.

Senator Cruz would not allow them to come back and he says that's the biggest difference between the two of you because your plan, amnesty is it?

TRUMP: First of all, he was in charge of amnesty. He was the leader and you can ask Marco because they've been debating this every debate that we've had. As far as coming back in, number one, you wouldn't even be talking and you wouldn't have asked that as the first question if it weren't for me when my opening when I talked about illegal immigration.

It wouldn't even be a big subject, but we either have a country or we don't have a country. We have at least 11 million people in this country that came in illegally. They will go out. They will come back. Some will come back - the best - through a process, they have to come back legally,they have to come back through a process and it may not be a very quick process, but I think that's very fair and very fine.

They've got to get in line with other people. The best of them will come back, but they're going to come back through a process.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz. Senator Cruz, what's wrong with letting what Mr. Trump calls the "good ones" come back to the United States?

CRUZ: You know, the people that get forgotten in this debate over immigration are the hard-working men and women of this country, our millions of Americans who are losing their jobs, millions of legal immigrants who are losing their jobs or seeing their wages driven down.

You know, in the past couple weeks, The Wall Street Journal had a very interesting article about the state of Arizona. Arizona put in very tough laws on illegal immigration and the result was illegal immigrants fled the state and what's happened there - it was a very interesting article - some of the business owners complained that the wages they had to pay workers went up and from their perspective, that was a bad thing, but what the state of Arizona has seen is the dollars they're spending on welfare, on prisons, on education - all of those had dropped by hundreds of millions of dollars and the Americans, and for that matter, the legal immigrants who are in Arizona are seeing unemployment drop, are seeing wages rise. That's what we need to be fighting for.

Listen, we have always welcomed legal immigrants, but I think it is a mistake to forgive those who break the law to allow them to become US citizens. And that's why I've led the fight against granting citizenship to those here illegally and that's why I will do the same thing as President.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump, do you want respond to that?

TRUMP: Well I'm very glad that Ted mentioned Arizona because probably the toughest men on board, this is Sheriff Joe Arpaio and two days ago, he totally endorsed me. So thank you.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio. Senator Cruz has called your immigration plan amnesty and it has an ad out there comparing it to President Obama's. He says both of you support allowing undocumented immigrants legal status here in the United States after a background check, paying a fine and paying taxes - are those claims correct?

CRUZ: Well, first of all, before we do anything and I've been abundantly clear on this, when I'm President of the United States, before we do anything on immigration, we are going to secure the border and that's not just the physical border with Mexico.

It's visa overstayers, that's 45 percent of the problem right there. It also has to do - that's why we need e-verify and an entry exit tracking system and so forth. And until that happens, we're not doing anything else and then we'll see what the American people are willing to support and Donald mentioned, because he mentioned me in his answer that his position on immigration is what's driven this debate. Well, the truth is though that all these position that he is now taking are new to him.

In 2011, he talked about the need for pathway to citizenship. In 2012, Donald criticized Mitt Romney saying that Mitt lost the election because of self-deportation and so even today, we saw a report in one of the newspapers that Donald, you've hired a significant number of people from other countries to take jobs that Americans could've filled.

My mom and dad - my mom was a maid at a hotel and instead of hiring an American like her, you have brought in over a thousand people from all over the world to fill those jobs instead, so I think this is an important issue and I think we are all realizing increasingly, this is an important issue for the country that has been debated for 30 years, but finally needs to be solved once and for all.

BLITZER: Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: Well, first of all, self-deportation is people are going to leave as soon as they see others going out. If you look at Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, they started moving people out and the rest of them left. Self-deportation, as I really define it and that's the way I define it is you're going to get some to go and the rest are going to go out.

As far as the people that I've hired in various parts of Florida during the absolute prime season like Palm Beach and other locations, you could not get help. It's the up season. People didn't want to have part-time jobs. They were part-time jobs, very seasonal, 90-day jobs, 120-day jobs and you couldn't get.

Everybody agrees with me on that. They were part-time jobs. You needed them or we just might as well close the doors because you couldn't get help in those hot, hot sections of Florida.

CRUZ: My point that I made was that you had criticized Mitt Romney for self-deportation. You said that his strategy of self-deportation is why he lost the election and I think people in Florida would be surprised because in fact the article that was today, they interviewed a number of people that would've been willing to do those jobs if you had been willing to hire him to do it.

TRUMP: I criticized Mitt Romney for losing the election. He should've won that election. He had a failed president. He ran a terrible campaign. He was a terrible candidate. That's what I criticized Mitt Romney...

CRUZ: Well, he...

(Crosstalk)

TRUMP: Excuse me, he ran one terrible campaign. That's an election that should've been won. CRUZ: Well, in fact, I agree he should have won and I wish he would

have, but in fact you did criticize for using the term self- deportation. I mean, that's on the record and people can look it up right now online, but again, I just want to reiterate, I think it's really important at this point. I think it's fine. It's an important point that you raise that we discuss on immigration. This is a big issue for Texas, it's a huge issue for the country.

But I also think that if you're going to claim that you're the only one that lifted this into the campaign that you acknowledged that, for example, you're the only person on this stage that's ever been fined for hiring people to work on your projects illegally. You hired some workers from Poland...

TRUMP: No, I'm the only one on the stage that's hired people. You haven't hired anybody.Well, in fact some of the people...

CRUZ: By the way...

(Crosstalk)

TRUMP: And by the way, I've hired tens of thousands of people over my job. You've hired...

CRUZ: You've hired thousands of people from another company, from another country...

(Crosstalk)

CRUZ: Let me just say...

TRUMP: Senator, hold on.

(Crosstalk)

CRUZ: He hired workers from Poland and he had to pay a million dollars so when a judgment...

(Crosstalk)

TRUMP: Wrong, wrong. It's certainly wrong.

CRUZ: Well, people can look it up. I'm sure people are Googling it right now.

(Crosstalk)

BLITZER: Senator Cruz.

CRUZ: Trump's Polish workers, you'll see a million dollars for hiring illegal workers on one of his projects. He did.

(Crosstalk)

CRUZ: Well, (inaudible) that happened.

TRUMP: I've hired tens of thousands of people over my lifetime, tens of thousands...

(Crosstalk)

BLITZER: Let him speak, let him talk.

TRUMP: I've hired tens of thousands of people. We've (inaudible) from 30 years ago, it worked out very well. Everybody was happy.

(Crosstalk)

TRUMP: And by the way, the laws were totally different. That was a whole different world.

BLITZER: Thank you.

TRUMP: But I've heard people, nobody up here has hired people.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz. You say you want to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but you never want to allow them to come back to the United States. What would happen to the children who are US born citizens whose parents will be deported under your plan?

CRUZ: Well, existing law provides that those who are deported cannot come back here legally. US citizens can come back. That's existing law, but let me say, Wolf, I really find it amazing that Donald believes that he is the one who discovered the issue of illegal immigration.

I can tell you when I ran for Senate here in the state of Texas, I ran promising to lead the fight against amnesty, promising to fight to build a wall and in 2013, when I was leading the fight against the gang of eight amnesty bill, where was Donald? He was firing Dennis Rodman on Celebrity Apprentice and indeed, if you look at the gang of eight, one individual on this stage broke his promise to the men and women who elected him and wrote the amnesty bill, but Donald funded the gang of eight.

If you look at the eight members of the gang of eight, Donald gave over $50,000.00 to three Democrats and two Republican and when you're funding open border politicians, you shouldn't be surprised when they fight for open borders, and I think if you want to know who actually will secure the borders and follow through, you ought to ask who has a record before they were a candidate for president of fighting to secure the borders and stop amnesty and I'm the only one on this stage that has that record and by the way, Marco is exactly right that a federal court found Donald guilty of being part of a conspiracy to hire people illegally and entered a $1 million judgment.

BLITZER: Thank you. Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: I can only say this and I've said it loud and clear and I've said it for years and many of these people are sitting right in the audience, right now, your lobbyists and your special interest and your donors because the audience is packed with them and they're packed with you. I had an amazing relationship with politicians - with politicians,

both Democrat and Republican because I was a businessman. As one magazine said, "He's a world-class businessman. He was friendly with everybody." I got along with everybody. If you get along with nobody, you don't have one Republican you don't have one you don't have one Republican senator and you work with them every day of your life, although you skipped a lot of times, these are minor details, but you don't one Republican senator backing you, not one.

You don't have the endorsement of one Republican senator and you work with these people.

BLITZER: Senator Cruz.

TRUMP: You should be ashamed of yourself.

CRUZ: You know, I actually think Donald is right. He is promising if he's elected, he will go and cut deals in Washington and he's right. He has supported deals. He has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats. Anyone who really cared about illegal immigration wouldn't be hiring illegal immigrants. Anyone who really cared about illegal immigration wouldn't be funding Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, wouldn't be funding the gang of eight and you know, he is right, when you stand up to Washington, when you honor the promise you made to the men and women who elected you and say, "Enough with the corruption. Enough with the cronyism. Let's actually stand for the working men and women of this country."

Washington doesn't like it and Donald, if you want to be liked in Washington, that's not a good attribute for a President.

TRUMP: There is a man, Robin Hood, this is Robin Hood over here, he talks about corruption on his financial disclosure form. He didn't even put that he's borrowed money from Citibank and from Goldman Sachs, which is a total violation.

He didn't talk about the fact that he pays almost no interest. He just left it off and now he is going to protect the people from the big bad bank.

BLITZER: We're going to move on to Governor Kasich. Governor Kasich, you can respond but let me get Governor Kasich, he's been waiting patiently. Governor Kasich, the idea - you've said this and I want to quote you now, the idea that we're going to deport all of these people is ludicrous and everybody knows it. Those are your words. Should people be allowed to break the law just because it's not feasible to stop them?

KASICH: Look, we have a great President here, George Bush, 41st President of the United States. He worked with Ronald Reagan to pass an effort to try to solve this problem, a path to legalization.