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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Former President Bush Hits The Trail For Jeb Bush; George W. Bush Takes Veiled Swipe at Trump; Trump Unleashes Attacks on Cruz, Bush; War Over Scalia Supreme Court Seat; Black South Carolina Students Decide Between Clinton & Sanders. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 15, 2016 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:15] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. George W. Bush on the attack speaking out for the first time at a campaign rally tonight trying to turn the tide for his brother Jeb. Just moments ago, taking the stage in North Charleston, South Carolina praising Jeb's leadership and taking a not so subtle swipe at his chief rival, Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH (R), UNITED STATES: Strength is not empty rhetoric. It is not bluster. It is not theatrics. Real strength, strength of purpose, comes from integrity and character. And in my experience, the strongest person usually isn't the loudest one in the room.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Athena Jones is OUTFRONT with the Bush campaign in North Charleston tonight. And Athena, obviously we have not seen and talk, right? And one reason add that that is it. No speeches. No appearances. Tonight, a very, very big development. What was the crowd's reaction to George W. Bush?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, well, the crowd loved it. First of all, this is a much bigger crowd than we're used to seeing at a typical Jeb Bush event and had much more of her rally I feel that we're used to seeing at a Jeb Bush event. And that's because of George W. Bush who spoke for about 25 minutes. Really had the crowd shouting and laughing. At one point they chanted we miss you. Several people in the crowd said that, we miss you. And that sound you just played, that sound bite you just played of him, making not so veiled reference to Donald Trump but that isn't the only time he made such a reference. Of course, he delivered his pitch for his brother that he has a steady hand and the skills to be a commander-in-chief but he also said, he knows that the American people are angry.
But we don't want someone in the Oval Office who will mirror and inflame our frustration. One of the point he made that that is a little broader than Trump that touched on the anti-immigration language we've heard from some in the Republican Party, he praised Nikki Haley -- Governor Nikki Haley for her work here, for her leadership in South Carolina. This is someone who met with earlier today. And he said he was go glad that America welcomed her parents when they emigrated here in 1969. So, in that 25 minute speech, George W. Bush did a lot -- covered a lot of ground. Part of it pitching his brother, selling his brother, and part of it sending a message to some other members of the Republican Party who are vying for this nomination -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Athena, thank you very much.
And OUTFRONT now, Matt Schlapp, he served as political director for George W. Bush. David Gergen who served as presidential advisor for four presidents including Reagan and Clinton. And Dana Bash, our chief political correspondent as well as Jamie Gangel, our special correspondent who knows the Bush family better than anyone has interviewed all of them many, many times.
All right. David, let me start with you. George W. Bush took a few swipes at Donald Trump. He didn't mention him by name, but it was very clear what he was saying. Here's another one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
G.W. BUSH: Jeb is a man of humble, deep, and genuine faith, faith that reveals itself through good works. Not loud words.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
I think you should look for someone whose humility helps him understand what he doesn't know and surrounds himself with people who do know what he doesn't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Is that effective, David Gergen?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think it is. He made a very strong speech back to back. They looked terrific. And, you know, they made their points against Trump. I think this was really more positive about Jeb and what his virtues are as a candidate. I think the big, big question coming out of this Erin is very late. He's got to finish third in South Carolina. Right now, he's not running third. And the question is, can George W. along with the mom especially George W. now give a jolt to the Bush campaign, get him up to third and make him much more competitive? If he does that, it's been a huge success tonight.
BURNETT: So, Matt, you know, I guess that there's a positive and a negative in what I'm about to say. But you just heard Athena reporting that there were more people at this rally than have been at any Jeb rally to this point. All right. That's good. It's getting more people engage but it's bad that it took his brother, the former president, to actually get those crowds to come out. I mean, is that going to translate into votes or is this just, OK, now there's a celebrity with President Bush showing up? MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Look, there's
nothing like a president or former president on the campaign trail. And George W. Bush has been sadly missed by the -- sorely missed by the party. And I think this gives his brother a big boost. I don't know what the downside is. He has to deal with the fact that he's a Bush already. He has to deal with those critics already. And now he's getting some of the positive. He's going to get crowds. He's going to get excitement. He's going to get people that are reminded that George Bush kept us safe and George Bush had security policies that were good for the country. That's all a win for Jeb.
[19:05:05] BURNETT: So, the other thing of course that came up was 9/11. And we know Donald Trump brought this up this weekend. And the jury still out whether it helped to hurt him. Jamie, he brought up 9/11. He brought up weapons of mass destruction. He brought up the parts of the Bush legacy that can be so problematic. I guess the question is, Jamie, is this going to help Jeb or not, that he has to be tied to re-litigate and defend his brother's legacy?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. This has been going on for quite some time with Donald Trump where he will say these things and people will think that he is imploding when he says them. And then his supporters stick with him. I think none of this about George Bush's legacy is new to Jeb, so I'm not sure whether that is going to be a problem. I think the real question is -- look, the speech we saw Jeb give today is the best speech we've seen him give on the campaign trail. Will there be traction now? Is there enough time between now and Saturday? I will predict this. Common sense dictates that I believe every day this week going into Saturday. The Bush campaign has something planned to try to keep this momentum going. The question is, is it going to be enough?
BURNETT: And Dana, is it going to be enough? And also, while he is a wildly popular ex-president with an 88 percent approval rating among Republicans, 52 percent among the general population, does it help to have someone whose -- it's a backwards looking thing. It's like Bill Clinton. Right? Hillary Clinton desperately, he wants to use him, but she wants to move forward. Same with Jeb Bush. He has struggled so much to define himself in this campaign. Does it help to now say, well, I'll go even more into the shadow of my brother?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because he was already in the shadow of his brother whether he likes it or not and he understands that. And just like you said, it's that popularity among Republicans that matters right now and nothing else. And you mentioned 88 percent. I was talking to a Bush campaign source earlier today who said that they think it is even higher than that in South Carolina.
BASH: And the fact that George W. Bush took so many not so veiled swipes at Donald Trump in the speech and did it the way Jeb Bush has been doing it much more overtly about the idea that you don't want somebody who is blustered, you don't want somebody who is inflaming the frustrations of Americans, on and on and on, is a reminder in both words and just in symbolism that we know how to do this guys, Republican voters. We're Bushes. We get it. You know, I know that this other guy sounds really enticing and interesting and he's different, but this is who we are. Come back home basically is what he was saying.
BURNETT: He also reminded people of sort of who he's been. Something I know Jamie you've seen in so many interviews. But here is the side of George W. Bush that the American public hasn't seen in a long time and in fact, a side that many people find very endearing.
GANGEL: Right. And there's also --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
G.W. BUSH: We're spending a lot of time on a ranch where we've become tree farmers. It gives me a chance to practice my stump speech. I've written two books, which has surprised a lot of people particularly in the northeast who didn't think I could read, much less write.
I've been one to deny expectations. I've been misunderestimated most of my life.
And it's a real shock to people I've become an oil painter.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
But let me assure you I know that the signature is worth more than the painting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean, you've got to give the guy credit. Misunderestimated. The jokes that he's able to make, to be so self- deprecating, Jamie.
GANGEL: That is classic George W. Bush. I will also say that you notice he mentioned Governor Nikki Haley in the speech and thank goodness that her parents were able to immigrate to the country. That was not an accident. Everyone, her phone has been ringing off the hook. Everyone would like her endorsement. Her approval rating is 80 percent now in South Carolina. She has said every day that she's thinking about who she is going to endorse. She's taking a hard look at it. Former President Bush and Laura Bush met with her and her family today. And there was some lobbying, I'm sure, that went on. And again, it was no accident she was mentioned in the speech.
BURNETT: And the bottom-line, Matt, to you, do you think he can pull out that third or better finish to continue with just a few days?
[19:10:08] SCHLAPP: Yes. I think -- look, I think this race is a very fluid race. Donald Trump is clearly our frontrunner and he's pretty stabbed in these polls, but I think people are, you know, they're going back and forth. We saw in the last two states that there are a lot of undecided voters. I think there's a lot of undecided voters going into this race in South Carolina, and I think Jeb Bush is in the mix and he helped himself tonight.
BASH: Erin, can I just add one thing? That it's going to sound very superficial, but it matters a lot. A big problem for Jeb Bush has been imagery. That he hasn't just kind of looked comfortable. He looked more comfortable tonight. And there was one thing missing.
SCHLAPP: His glasses.
BASH: His glasses.
BASH: They were gone. And it made him look different. And he almost looked more comfortable in his skin. Unclear if that has something to do with the glasses. I was just texting one of his top aides saying, where did they go and the response was, poof. So, they're working on it. They're doing what the needed to do.
BURNETT: That ends up pretty up pretty interesting thing to notice. And you know what, sometimes something that is superficial can make a very substance and difference. Thanks so much to all of you.
And next, an all-out war going on right now. An attack by Donald Trump calling Ted Cruz a liar, unstable, threatening to run as a third-party candidate. Donald Trump live next speaking this hour.
Plus, the war over who will fill Justice Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court seat. President Obama says, he will. Republicans say, no way. And it might be Bernie Sanders most popular proposal. Free college for everyone, but guess what. You might be paying for it. We have the numbers.
[19:14:52] BURNETT: Breaking news. You see Donald Trump there speaking live in South Carolina. Moments ago unleashing on Ted Cruz saying Cruz is lying about Trump's record after Trump also today questioned Cruz's character and sanity. Let's listen in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have never, ever met a person that lies more than Ted Cruz. I have never, ever seen anything like it and I think he's an unstable person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Most definitively a war of words. And you see Trump speaking right now. Jason Carroll is there in that room, in Greenville, South Carolina. Jason, you've been talking to people at the rally. What's their feeling about these attacks that are coming so fast and furiously from Donald Trump? JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fast and furious. And
Erin, the attacks keep coming as Donald Trump took the stage here tonight. He continued to attack Bush on his record, continued to attack him about what happened on 9/11. Those attacks continue. The question is, will it matter going forward. I've spoken to a number of evangelicals out here in the audience, and they say in the beginning they feel as though the attacks worked. They actually liked because Erin, they told me, they felt as though they were speaking what they were thinking. This was a man they says that was speaking out of the box. Not talking like a politician. So, in the beginning, Erin, they said, they liked it. They felt as though it worked.
Now, some of those I spoked too, when I asked them what happened during that last presidential debate, I said do you think it's still working? And that's where we had a number of people here sort of split. A number of people here saying, look, what we want to hear from him now is more on policy. We want him to sound more presidential. This is what we're hearing from some of those who were here in the audience. But I have to tell you, that was a small minority. The vast majority of the people here in this audience standing room only, still continuing to support Donald Trump it seems no matter what he says -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Taking care off. Thank you very much. And as we watch Donald Trump speaking here, it's fair to say the Trump-Cruz war reached new rhetorical heights and I supposed you would say, therefore new lows day.
Sunlen Serfaty is OUTFRONT from Aiken, South Carolina. She's been traveling with the Cruz campaign today.
TRUMP: I think ted's a very unstable guy.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump on an all-out tear against Ted Cruz.
TRUMP: As I said, he's the single worst liar I've ever seen.
SERFATY: The GOP frontrunner calling Cruz a basket case who is purposely lying to voters about his record.
TRUMP: He just comes out and boom, boom, boom. Absolute lies.
SERFATY: And today he delivered this ominous warning to Cruz. Back off and apologize or be hit with a lawsuit over your eligibility to be president.
TRUMP: Keep your lies going. You're going to get sued, you're going to get sued anyway. Might as well keep your lies going.
SERFATY: Cruz today not backing down.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we're not in grade school where you just get to say, liar, liar pants on fire and not responded to something.
SERFATY: Arguing that Trump is just rattled.
CRUZ: I guess the only explanation one can have is that his internal poll numbers in South Carolina must be plummeting following that debate.
SERFATY: And attacking Trump's readiness to be president.
CRUZ: Who has the temperament to remain calm under pressure? I would note when both Marco Rubio and Donald Trump screamed liar, liar, liar, it makes you wonder how they would handle dealing with Putin.
SERFATY: Trump's fire comes in response to Cruz's closing message here in South Carolina that at its course, it seeks to paint Trump as a closet liberal.
CRUZ: A candidate who has spent 60 years of his life being very, very pro-choice and defending partial birth abortion. It's not a candidate you can trust to appoint principled constitution unless it's to the U.S. Supreme Court.
SERFATY: Echoed all over the air waves in a series of blunt ads, like this one obtained first by CNN which will debut tomorrow in South Carolina.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: South Carolina cannot trust Donald Trump.
TRUMP: I'm very capable of changing to anything I want to change to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't give him that chance.
SERFATY: That sharp nasty turn comes as the rhetoric from Trump has been dialed up.
TRUMP: They lied.
SERFATY: Centered on using an almost taboo four letter word in politics, that L word.
TRUMP: You are the single biggest liar.
You're willing to lie about anything and then you hold up a bible. It's no good. To me, it's no good.
SERFATY: And as his rivals punch right back, voters in South Carolina are paying attention too.
JOE MCCORD, CRUZ SUPPORTER: I don't understand -- I guess the UFC attitude that he has as a candidate. It's just unbecoming of the president.
[19:19:24] SERFATY: And all of this escalated so quickly today between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, really speaking to the urgency of the moment in this fierce battle that they're waging out in the top tier right now. The Cruz campaign tells me that they will continue to hammer down and hammer down on this exact point about Donald Trump like that new TV ad that is going to be starting to air here in South Carolina, Erin, that paints Donald Trump as a phony conservative. Goes on to argue that he can't be trusted with votes here -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Sunlen.
And OUTFRONT now, the spokesman for Ted Cruz's campaign, Rick Tyler and the spokesperson for Donald Trump's campaign Katrina Pierson.
All right. So, Rick, Donald Trump calling Ted Cruz today unstable and you heard him there, a liar, in fact he said the single worst liar I've ever seen. Your response?
RICK TYLER, NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Donald Trump looked a little undone there today. I don't think it really helped him very much. Look, all Ted Cruz has done is simply repeat what Donald Trump has said about himself. He's said that he's supported partial birth abortion. He has said that he supported gays in the military. He supported gay marriage. He supported all these things. And Ted Cruz says it. What's really funny is on the stage, he actually said Ted Cruz has talked about his support of Planned Parenthood and that's when Donald trump called him a liar. And Donald Trump went on in the same debate to say that Planned Parenthood does wonderful and positive things. So, it's a little strange to be calling Ted Cruz a liar when he accused him of supporting Planned Parenthood and in the same debate he supports Planned Parenthood.
BURNETT: Now, just to be clear, Rick, I will say that, you know, Donald Trump of course had said he was pro-choice but has now been very clear that he's pro-life, but he's against the abortion aspect of Planned Parenthood. In fact --
TYLER: And that's a complete misunderstanding of what Planned Parenthood is and that's the whole problem with Donald Trump. If he thinks Planned Parenthood does wonderful things for women, he doesn't know what Planned Parenthood does. He missed all those videos where they were harvesting organs of unborn children and selling them. He missed that whole part. He doesn't understand what the revenue of Planned Parenthood comes from. He doesn't understand the condition of abortion clinics of Planned Parenthood across the country that are abysmal. He doesn't understand that, you know, all the notoriety communities that are hurt by abortion. And so, look, Donald Trump just doesn't understand what it means when he says Planned Parenthood does wonderful things for women. He's just clueless.
BURNETT: Planned Parenthood -- I don't want to get into a whole discussion of Planned Parenthood, they do a lot more than abortion. It's a small part of what they do. But Katrina, what is your response as to what Rick say?
KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP'S SUPPORTER: Well, Erin, there's actually two problems here. First of all, Donald Trump has never said he supported partial birth abortion. He was asked the question and he was talking about abortion, he said he was pro-choice. And that was 17-years-ago. So, to say that that's currently Donald Trump's position is an all-out lie. Donald Trump is very much pro-life. With regard to Planned Parenthood, I will also say that cervical cancer screenings are a good thing and that's what Donald Trump was saying. He wasn't saying he supported Planned Parenthood because of abortion. He's against abortion. He wanted to defund the abortion side of Planned Parenthood.
BURNETT: So, what about the --
PIERSON: So, there is some --
BURNETT: All right.
PIERSON: Go ahead.
BURNETT: So, this is a Planned Parenthood conversation. But what about the tone? Just moments ago at this rally where you all see Donald Trump speaking live, he spoke again about Ted Cruz, Rick. I don't know if you had a chance to hear what he said, so let me play it for you.
TYLER: Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A lot of you people understand and you've seen these pictures and you've seen a lot of it. And you know that I protect the Second Amendment more than anybody by far, right? More than anybody.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
And this guy Ted Cruz gets up and says, Donald Trump does not respect the Second Amendment. I mean, more than anybody I'm with the Second Amendment. No, no. It's lies. And then they do commercials. And you know, he did it to Ben Carson. Him in particular. In all fairness, Jeb represents. But these are minor misrepresentations and he's not going anywhere anyway. So, who the hell cares?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Katrina, let me start with you. Does that tone help? Does calling someone a liar, unstable, all these words that he has used, does that help Donald Trump to bring the conversation down like that?
PIERSON: Well, I think asking Donald Trump to be politically correct, you know, is just not going to work, Erin. He's just saying what he thinks and what he feels about the situation, specifically with regard to the Supreme Court justice that Senator Cruz implied that Donald Trump would pick a liberal. I'll note that Donald Trump was the only person on the stage Saturday night that named two names. William Pryor, Jr. and Diane Sykes neither are liberals. So, it just begs the question, is Senator Cruz being honest?
[19:24:01] TYLER: Well, look, first of all, Donald Trump supported the assault weapons ban. He may have changed his position on that like he's changed every other position. And he's supported Mayor Bloomberg who is the biggest pro-gun control advocate in the United States. And so, these things are just completely inconsistent with the conservative movement. You don't support Planned Parenthood, you don't support Michael Bloomberg and then call yourself a conservative and then say that your opponents are lying about your record. All these things are true. In fact, we put out a fact sheet today, all the things that Donald Trump says we were lying about, and yet there's video of him in almost every single circumstance or a quote where he is saying the things that we're saying that he's said.
Now, he may not like to hear the things that he's said, but he said them. So, he needs to own them. But so, look, Donald Trump is not a conservative. He's not fought with us. He's never been with us. And now he's trying to paint himself, he's not actually a Republican establishment. He's actually a Democrat establishment. Because that's where he supports and gave all of his money, gave it to Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid and Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer and it just goes on and on and on. And yes, he's running for the nomination. The Republican Party, he's in the wrong party.
PIERSON: All right. But at the same time, at the same time, Senator Cruz supported John Roberts who gave us ObamaCare and always counting Ronald Reagan who as governor signed the most liberal piece of abortion legislation this country has seen in his time.
TYLER: Ted Cruz wasn't in the Senate when John Roberts was nominated. That was a fact --
PIERSON: But he did write the op-ed supporting him, called him a conservative, that he was in the fight, and he gave us ObamaCare twice.
TYLER: Yes. After he was nominated, he did support him. That was right.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you both --
PIERSON: But he said he did it not. He's flip-flopping now.
BURNETT: Thank you both very much. All right. OUTFRONT next, another top Republican says, President Obama should let the next president fill Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court. Is he right or not? And Bernie Sanders getting huge support from young voters with this particular promise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to make public colleges and universities tuition free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It sounds great. You heard the roar of applause, but do the numbers add up at all? OUTFRONT investigates.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [19:29:55] BURNETT: Tonight, the flag at half-staff in front of the Supreme Court as a mark of respect to the memory of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Respect though is thin on the ground elsewhere in Washington where Scalia's vacant seat is ground zero in what is a major political battle. White House officials confirming today the President won't give an inch saying the Senate's duties are ironclad. That's a quote when it comes to voting on a nominee. Republicans in the Senate meanwhile say, "No way." Earlier today, Senator John McCain weighed in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe that we should wait until after the next election and let the American people pick the next president. Then we should consider who the next president of the United States nominates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Michelle Kosinski is OUTFRONT with President Obama who is traveling in California tonight.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House today now leveling its own blows at Republicans in the deep political standoff that started only hours after Justice Antonin Scalia's death.
ERIC SCHULTZ, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: This is a Republican Congress that has a lot of practice saying no. But I also want to point out that this is not the first time that Republicans have come out with a lot of bluster only to have reality ultimately sink in.
KOSINSKI: President Obama vows to fill that Supreme Court seat by constitutional duty.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. These are responsibilities that I take seriously as should everyone. They're bigger than any one party. They are about our democracy.
KOSINSKI: But a defiant Senate majority lead Mitch McConnell seems unwilling to budge. "The American people should have a voice. This vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."
OBAMA: Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation.
KOSINSKI: White House officials are discussing the process of vetting the president's potential picks, name circulating includes federal judges, some senators, even Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was approved by the Senate last year, but only after a record months long delay.
Senator Claire McCaskill calling it then --
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Base politics at its ugliest.
KOSINSKI: But this fight could be worse, with so much at stake.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTAIL CANDIDATE: We're just one justice away from a radical five justice liberal majority.
KOSINSKI: Ted Cruz bringing it to the campaign trail.
AD NARRATOR: Life, marriage, religious liberty, the Second Amendment. We're just one Supreme Court justice away from losing them all.
KOSINSKI: On past Supreme Court choices, the president has often mentioned an element of compassion.
OBAMA: They judge who is sympathetic enough to those who are on the outside, those who are vulnerable.
KOSINSKI: Now though, politics will be pivotal. Does the president choose someone very moderate whom Republicans will feel great pressure to at least bring to a vote, criticism if they don't. Or a liberal to rally Democrats, potentially sending more voters to the polls in November?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I believe that many of the mainstream Republicans when the president nominates a mainstream nominee will not want to follow Mitch McConnell over the cliff.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), RANKING MEMBER, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: If the Republican leadership refuses hearing, I think that is going to guarantee they lose control of the Senate, because I don't think the American people will stand for that.
KOSINSKI: Immediately, you could see this turning into President Obama's last big battle with Congress. What is certain is that the outcome will affect both politics and the legal landscape in this country for decades.
As for the timeline now, there are still vetting that needs to be done, interviews. President Obama will likely want to meet with his finalists. Naming a nominee could take up to a month as it has in the past -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Michelle.
And joining me now, Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell. Josh worked for the senator on four Supreme Court nominations. And Van Jones, CNN political commentator and a former advisor to President Obama.
Of course, Senator McConnell has said he doesn't want this to go ahead right now. Josh, President Obama says the Senate duties, though, are ironclad.
That's his word, ironclad. They have to vote on a nominee. He has the right, in fact, he has the obligation as president of the United States to appoint someone, not leave the nation in limbo with a split court.
Doesn't the Senate have the obligation to objectively consider his nominee and not just sit there and say no?
JOSH HOLMES, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR SEN. MCCONNELL: Good evening, Erin.
You know, the other part of the constitutional responsibility there that the president has skipped over the advice and consent piece that the president is supposed to engage in on any nomination that the president sends up to the Supreme Court. And what we're talking about is the matter of the last 80 years, there really has not been any Supreme Court justice nominated and confirmed with one exception, and that's Abe Fortas, in 1968 who was summarily rejected by the United States Senate.
Precedent is very clear. Election year nominations and confirmations to the Supreme Court are just not done. I think that's what Senator McConnell and the Senate Republican majority are looking at in making a very wise decision to keep this out of politics.
BURNETT: So, Van, there's something to be said here about which foot is the shoe on. Leading Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said something back in 2007 before the 2008 president election that sounds eerily similar.
[19:35:07] Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHUMER: We cannot afford to see Justice Stevens replaced by another Roberts, or Justice Ginsburg by another Alito. Given the track record of this president and the experience of obfuscation adherence, with respect to the Supreme Court at least, I will recommend to my colleagues we shall not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. It sounds like exactly what Republicans are saying right now, Van. Isn't the verdict that it should wait for the next president?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The word unprecedented is being used in an unprecedented way. There's no president in the history of the republic who has never not nominated someone for a year.
Simple, they said oh, the path -- here's the reality: every single time there's been an opening in the Supreme Court since Washington the president has put forward someone to fill that seat. These are people who love the Constitution. If the framers of the Constitution had wanted for the last year in the president for the president to be -- I'm a lame duck, I cannot nominate someone, it would be in the Constitution. It's not in the Constitution because we have one president at a time and that president has to do his or her job until the very last day.
And so, the reality is this is the only president in the history of the republic that's being asked to wait. Listen, the longest it's ever taken is 120 days. They want this president to sit on his hands 340 days --
BURNETT: Eleven months.
JONES: -- and refuse to fill a vacancy on the highest court in the land. It's ludicrous. He should do his job. They should do their job.
HOLMES: Van, you know, here's the thing -- nobody is saying the president can't actually submit a name and make a nomination. In fact, he's more than welcome to do any of that. What they're saying is it is not going to be -- he or she is not going to be confirmed, as has been the case for the last 80 years in this --
BURNETT: Josh, aren't you playing a really scary roulette here? It sounds to me like you're counting on a Republican winning. But you might have a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders who would much more likely to nominate someone more liberal than Obama who knows he has to work with you guys right now?
HOLMES: That is exactly the point, Erin. This is not a partisan. There is no guarantees that a Republican wins the White House. There is no guarantees that a Democrat wins the White House.
What we're saying is stay consistent here with the last 80 years and throw it to the American people. We've got a real open question. We're talking about a fundamental restructuring of the Supreme Court at place here.
JONES: Josh --
HOLMES: And in order to do something like that, you're going to have to get in this democracy the American people's consent. That's what we should get in November.
BURNETT: Quick final word, Van.
JONES: Josh, we've had two votes, two elections. This president won overwhelmingly. At no point did he say, by the way, if something in the last year happens to the Supreme Court, I'll sit on my hands.
HOLMES: And he already had two nominations to the Supreme Court and two Democrats in the Supreme Court.
JONES: They are wonderful.
HOLMES: I'm sure you think they are. A lot of people object to that.
BURNETT: Thank you both very much.
And OUTFRONT next, Bernie Sanders campaigning on free college tuition, but will he pay for it with your money? Well, we looked at the cost and who would pay. That's next.
And the fight for black voters. OUTFRONT goes to an historically black college. We're going to tell you what they had to say.
[19:42:29] BURNETT: All right. This is one of the most fundamental promises of Bernie Sanders political revolution and that is making going to college, if you go to a public college, free. Free for everybody.
Tom Foreman has been digging into the Sanders' plan.
And, Tom, what is he proposing? I mean, he always says free college, free college. Everybody loves hearing this. What is it exactly?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What he's proposing is relief for more than 20 million American families that have kids in college right now, because everybody out there knows what's happened with tuition. Look at this, early '80s over here, and look at how it's risen up there. So, that now, for a public college now on average $17,000 a year. Many people can't handle that. So when we talked about free college, he really has several steps in mind to make that possible for people out there.
First of all, he wants the federal government to be kicking in $2 in matching funds for each dollar the states supply for this plan of his. Now, that's a little tricky there because some of the critics say, look, how do you know the states are going to be able to supply that money? And if they do, are they going to get it by just taxing the very people they're trying to help?
Beyond that, what he'd like to do is get the cost of student loan rates down to about 2 percent. Everyone is taking a loan there. And for those who already have loans, he would like to let them renegotiate, refinance at a lower rate, Erin. That's the crux of it.
BURNETT: So, all right. That's what he says he's going to do. I mean, that's easy to say, right? But he himself has said this will cost $750 billion. That's three quarters of a trillion dollars. OK? That is a lot of money.
So, it's very easy to promise these things, but then you have to find someone to pay for them?
FOREMAN: Yes. He says the financial services people will pay for it, through a series of fees or taxes, whatever you want to call them. He wants to put a half percent, or a half of 1 percent fee on stock trades, 0.1 percent on bonds, less than that on derivatives. And that doesn't sound like much, but there are millions and millions of these trades going on, sometimes by computer.
So, he says all of this adds up to a tremendous amount of money aimed at the big money people, not to the small stock owners who don't trade that much, although who knows it if will be pass on to them.
Anyway, he says because there's so many of this, if you would add them up, that's $75 billion per year, over 10 years. He says this would raise about $300 billion per year. He bases that on a UMass-Amherst study.
But, but there's other people at the Tax Policy Center who say we think you're making assumptions here about what the market is going to do if you hit them with all those fees. If those assumptions are wrong, you may only get $51 billion per year.
[19:45:03] And then, you have a great big deficit out there and a lot of problems, Erin.
BURNETT: Right. So, that's obviously a fraction, a small fraction. And then as you said, could be passed along to small investors and small investors, you know, people who have 401ks, people have IRAs, people on mutual funds. That means all of us end up paying this as well. So, it's not quite as simple as it may sound.
Tom Foreman, thank you so very much.
And OUTFRONT next, the fight for black voters. So, we went to two black colleges in South Carolina just a few days ahead of the primary and asked them, are they for Clinton or are they for Sanders? That special report is next.
And Jeanne Moos on why Ruth -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg calls Antonin Scalia her best buddy.
BURNETT: All right. These are live pictures right now. Bernie Sanders addressing supporters at a rally tonight in Michigan.
One of the key voting blocs he is trying to win over is black voters. So, is it going to help him or not in some of these crucial primary states like South Carolina?
Victor Blackwell visited two historically black colleges in that state, a state that he and Hillary Clinton are both desperately trying to win.
So, are they are for Sanders or are they for Clinton?
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For these students at two of South Carolina's historically black colleges and universities, the debate over the Democratic primary is about how to preserve the legacy of the first black president.
(on camera): How many of you believe that the candidate be loyal to the president, loyal to President Obama? Because I heard that from you.
So, you all about the level, the depth of their loyalty is important?
ANDY MICHEL, CLINTON SUPPORTER: I believe that we need to continue the work of Barack Obama and who knows that best than the person who serves in his administration, which is Hillary Clinton.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have basically the same policies. The only difference is Bernie fights with a vision.
BLACKWELL (voice-over): Part of that Obama legacy, a commitment to fighting racial and social injustice. Despite Secretary Clinton's strong support among black voters here, South Carolina State freshman Dexter Weathers believes Senator Sanders should carry that mantel.
DEXTER WEATHERS, SANDERS SUPPORTER: He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and listened to his "I Have a Dream" speech and then he takes the time, he supports Black Lives Matter. He knows we have a fear of walking down our streets and to be killed by police officers.
BLACKWELL: Senator Sanders has strong support from young voters, but Claflin University senior Andy Michel supports Secretary Clinton.
MICHEL: Yes, he is saying that black lives matter, but Hillary Clinton is saying that Black Lives Matter, and in her plan, she has $25 billion set aside for HBCUs. And so, again, we're seeing that Bernie Sanders has ideas. But on Hillary Clinton's side, you have ideas and you have detailed plan and a realistic plan.
BLACKWELL: Sydney Shaw is leaning towards voting for Clinton, but she says she's not yet convinced that Clinton should be the first female president.
SYDNEY SHAW, UNDECIDED VOTER: I see her being the president, but I don't see her being sincere, and I think that's one of the things that Barack Obama has that she doesn't have.
AALIYAH LOADHOLT, SANDERS SUPPORTER: I'm not going to be swayed because you're a female. I'm going to vote with you because I agree with your opinions, I agree with how you see things, I agree with how go about things. And that wasn't the case with Hillary Clinton so I can't vote for her.
BLACKWELL: Sophomore Omari Richards is president of the South Carolina State College Democrats.
OMARI RICHARDS, CLINTON SUPPORTER: The track record really speaks for itself. She's the most experienced candidate and the most practical ideas. It's really, really no vote, honestly, no competition.
BLACKWELL: But the campaigns are competing in the first real test of young black voters, a group each expects to win. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLACKWELL: One of the students described the campuses as politically monogamous, so almost exclusively Democratic votes. There aren't even organized Republican groups on campus.
And we've learned the college Democratic groups have officially endorsed Clinton's campaign. Why? Well, may be chalk that up to the time invested. We're told that the campaign has had a presence on the campus since April. When did they first learn of Sanders campaign on campus? Just last month -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Which goes to show you how important organizing can be. Thank you, Victor.
And OUTFRONT now, Charles Blow, a CNN political commentator and "New York Times" columnist.
So, you know, you hear the bottom line here. OK, she's been organized. She's been doing this for a long time. That's benefiting her. But several of those students were saying, well, no, I can't vote for her or haven't decided. You know, they say, all that matters is this person continues Barack Obama's legacy.
She was Barack Obama's secretary of state. She should be a shoo-in, right? They should all be saying her.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's the continuation question, but there's also the break. It's so different on these campuses than what we've seen in Iowa and New Hampshire, where she's getting almost 90 percent, like 87 percent of the youth vote. And to see these campuses where they're kind of splitting almost half and half, that is actually a bad harbinger for Sanders. He actually --
BURNETT: You think it's bad for Sanders?
BLOW: He actually needs to win enormous amounts of those young voters because the older voters tend to favor Clinton. So, the fact that they are splitting even is actually not a good sign.
BURNETT: Because, it's interesting, a lot of people would say if she's not doing 80 percent, 90 percent, that's a failure given all the investment she's put in. That may be the case, but it's not enough for him to get that.
BLOW: It's not enough. In addition to that, South Carolina has fewer younger voters than Iowa and New Hampshire. So, in 2008, which is the last time South Carolina had a primary, only 14 percent voters under 30. Iowa had 22 percent. New Hampshire had 18 percent.
So, you really have to, not only do you have to do incredibly well. You don't have that many to work with.
BURNETT: Wow. All right. That is fascinating. It's now just a matter of time. Does he have enough time?
BLOW: That's right.
BURNETT: All right. Charles, thank you.
And next, Jeanne Moos on Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, polar opposites on the court. But there was nothing really sweeter than seeing their friendship in person.
[19:57:54] BURNETT: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Antonin Scalia were polar opposites on matters of the law. But in something everyone could learn from, off the bench, they were great friends.
Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For conservatives who sure laughed liberally.
MOOS: One of the things that made others smile was Justice Scalia's friendship with Justice Ginsburg.
ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Why don't you call us the odd couple?
MOOS: Not slob versus clean freak, but opposite sides of the bench.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I have to disagree.
SCALIA: We're not going to agree on this, Ruth. You realize that.
MOOS: Nonetheless upon his death, Justice Ginsburg wrote, we were best buddies.
SCALIA: What's not to like? Except her views on the law, of course.
MOOS: Then their spouses spent many a New Year's Eve together. They went on vacation, shared an elephant, something that caused her feminist friends to give them a hard time.
SCALIA: Because she rode behind.
GINSBURG: The driver explained it was a matter of distribution of weight.
MOOS: Justice Scalia paid homage to his friends for doing something he would never do.
Go parasailing over the Mediterranean.
SCALIA: She was so light you'd think she would never come down.
MOOS: When her head bowed down at the State of the Union, they joked about the wine that helped put her to sleep.
GINSBURG: At least I wasn't 100 percent sober, because before we went to the State of the Union --
SCALIA: That's the first intelligent thing you've done.
MOOS: They even ditched their judicial robes to dress up as extras in a Washington National Opera production.
MOOS: These two didn't just opera. They became an opera.
A comic opera named after them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are different. We are one.
MOOS: Tell that to those fighting over whether President Obama gets to appoint Justice Scalia's appointment.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Delay, delay, delay.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is outrageous.
MOOS: Just when we could use more odd couples, we've got one less.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BURNETT: Something so many could learn from.
Thanks for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.