'This Week' Transcript: Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, and Bernie Sanders

PHOTO: Pictured (L-R) are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Oklahoma City, Feb. 26, 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz in Virginia Beach, Va., Feb. 26, 2016 and Sen. Bernie Sanders in Flint, Mich., Feb. 25, 2016.PlayAP Photo
WATCH Rubio Escalates Attacks on Trump Amid Surprise Endorsements

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' ON February 28, 2016 and it will be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Trump takes command. Just two day until Super Tuesday, the billionaire frontrunner rewriting the campaign playbook.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a really good chance of winning.

ANNOUNCER: A former foe now joining his side.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I am proud and happy to be part of this team.

ANNOUNCER: While his rivals hit back harder than ever.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Worst spray tan in America.

This is a scam.

Donald Trump will never be the Republican nominee.

ANNOUNCER: We're covering all the week's stunning surprises and looking ahead to Super Tuesday with Chris Christie and Ted Cruz here live.

Plus, Hillary's landslide victory.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tomorrow, this campaign goes national.

ANNOUNCER: Is this the start of her big move? Bernie Sanders responds here live.

From ABC News, a special Super Tuesday addition of This Week. Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: As we come on the air this week, it's getting harder and harder to find words to describe a presidential race that's sounding more and more like a grade school playground.

Just two days from Super Tuesday, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are dominating this race. Clinton trounced Bernie Sanders in South Carolina Saturday by nearly 50 points, cruising into Super Tuesday's southern states on the strength of overwhelming support from African-American voters.

And with Donald Trump ahead right now in nearly all the Super Tuesday states, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have unleashed a barrage of new attacks, trying to slow the Trump steamroller.

ABC's Jon Karl is here to start us off. Good morning, Jon.

JON KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDETN: Good morning, George.

As he appears on the verge of winning it all, Donald Trump is facing his biggest test yet, a sustained assault of personal insults, substantive attacks and mockery that looks like it could have been designed by Trump himself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: On the campaign trail Saturday, Donald Trump predicted a Super Tuesday rout.

TRUMP: Hopefully we're going to win Tennessee, we're going to win everything. I think we're even -- I think we're even really have a great chance to win Texas.

KARL: And after his double digit wins in South Carolina and Nevada, some establishment Republicans finally agree he could actually win this thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump, he's got the momentum. I think there's more than a 50 percent chance he's the nominee.

KARL: Nowhere was that hammered home more than with Friday's shocking endorsement.

CHRISTIE: We need a first class president, and we're going to have it in Donald Trump.

KARL: New Jersey's tough guy governor, Chris Christie, who once mocked Trump as the entertainer in chief is now in his corner.

But with Trump on the verge of an insurmountable lead, Marco Rubio has decided desperate times call for desperate measures.

RUBIO: Well, I don't know anything about bankrupting four times. You bankrupted four companies. I don't know anything about starting a university that was a fake university.

KARL: Around the campaign, Rubio has insisted he wouldn't go after his fellow Republicans.

RUBIO: And I know that there's this craving in the media for people to attack each other, but I've never been a campaign that attacks people.

KARL: Now he's using Trump's playbook, mocking the frontrunner with personal insults.

RUBIO: How can a person with the worst spray tan in America attack me on Twitter for wearing makeup.

He said he wanted to sue me. He's going to sue me. He should sue whoever did that to his face.

KARL: Besides the insult assault, Rubio has a new label for the billionaire businessman.

RUBIO: He is a con artist.

Con artist.

I will never stop until we keep a con man from taking over the party of Reagan.

KARL: Trump and his new wingman were happy to return fire.

TRUMP: This lightweight Rubio, total lightweight. And little mouth on him -- bing, bing, bing. Bing, bing, bing, bing, bing.

CHRISTIE: When the heat was on Senator Rubio in those debates, you saw what happened. He melted. He melted.

KARL: As the campaign turns into a food fight, the question is Rubio's aggressive strategy too little, too late?

With so much at stake, Senator Lindsey Graham had a colorful diagnosis for the state of the Republican Party.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My party has gone bat (EXPLETIVE DELETED) crazy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jon Karl joins us now along with the rest of the roundtable.

I want to start with Hugh Hewitt, Salem Radio Networks.

You were in the middle of that debate on Thursday night as well. And we just heard Lindsey Graham, the Republican Party bat bleep crazy?

HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: Yes, it was an interesting red wedding debate.

I can't complain about the ferocity or the velocity, as Hyman Roth said in Godfather II, this is the business we have chosen. So I like covering things like that.

But we are on the verge of a tipping point in the Republican Party where it could actually split for the first time. I've got a note this morning from Meg Whitman who is the finance co-chair for Chris Christie denouncing Chris Christie for political opportunism. And that's kind of a shattering thing when your finance co-chair takes a roundhouse at you.

So, we are at the verge of a real meltdown in the Republican Party. It might happen Tuesday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Split in the Republican Party, Greta?

GRETA VAN SUSTERN, FOX NEWS: I don't know about that.

Look, you know the problem with this is it's entertaining, but it's not particularly inspirational by any of these candidates at this point.

I mean we all probably shouldn't laugh and do laugh at the things that are said. You heard the audience laugh.

But the Republican Party has got to come to terms with the fact that they're not inspiring, they're entertaining.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Jon Karl, trying to come to terms with Donald Trump, the real possibility he's the nominee.

KARL: Absolutely. But I am told that there are at least two dozen House Republicans that have told their colleagues that they will not support Donald Trump as their nominee. So if he goes, if he solidifies this on Super Tuesday and goes on the win this nomination, he will be the leader of a very divided Republican Party, some who simply will not support him.

VAN SUSTEREN: But the voters are supporting him. That's the -- you know, like all the candidates can say, or all the politicians can say we won't support him, but at least so far the voters have.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime on the Democratic side, Donna Brazile, that win for Hillary Clinton yesterday in South Carolina got a higher percentage of the African-American vote. Now there were three candidates eight years ago, but higher percentage than Barack Obama.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Everyone was surprised last night, not just by the margin, but the depth and the real excitement she had in South Carolina.

Her southern firewall is intact. But as you well know, this is a race about delegates, not just winning states. And so the real question is, will she be able to replicate that in other southern states like Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi?

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Katrina Vanden Heuvel, you are the editor and publisher of The Nation. You endorsed Bernie Sanders. Does he have a viable path going forward?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, THE NATION: Yes. I would say not so fast. Don't write Bernie Sanders's political obituary after South Carolina. There is a path ahead. 17 states vote in the next two weeks. Whatever happens, he has -- and I think he has a path -- he has injected new ideas into this campaign. He has transformed the Democratic Party. He has opened space for more progressive movements.

But as Donna knows, it's way too early after South Carolina. I think he goes to the convention. This goes through May. He will have pledged delegates. And he will fight to shape the platform.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will talk to him ahead. I want you all to stand by right now.

But right now, we are going to turn to Senator Ted Cruz. He's in Arkansas this morning.

Good morning, Senator.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, George.

CRUZ: Good to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator.

Thanks for joining us this morning.

New polls out this morning show you're looking pretty good in Texas, but Donald Trump is strong in so many other Super Tuesday states.

If he wins everywhere else, how can you prevent him from getting the the nomination?

CRUZ: Well, I think Super Tuesday is going to be the most important day of this entire primary. And -- and it is, right now we're in -- we're in a strong position in Texas and we're running neck and neck with Donald in states throughout Super Tuesday.

And I think it really depends on turnout. If conservatives come out and vote on Super Tuesday, we're going to have a strong day.

I also depends, George, you know, 65 percent of Republicans believe that -- that Donald Trump is not the best candidate to go head-to-head with Hillary Clinton, that Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton.

And -- and the only candidate that has beaten Donald Trump, the only candidate that can beat Donald Trump is me. And so I think more and more Republicans who are recognizing Donald Trump is not the right person for us to nominate. If we come together and stand united on Super Tuesday, we're going to have a good election night.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, you know, you talk about that support from conservatives, but the fact is that in most of those states, Donald Trump is winning among conservatives, winning among your strong base of Evangelical Christians.

CRUZ: Well, you know, I think the debate last week really started to show some significant differences. And -- and in particular, the difference you saw is -- is you saw Washington deal makers -- listen, it's Washington deal makers that have gotten us in this mess.

And Donald promises yet more deals with Democrats. Remember, Donald is someone who has contributed financially to Jimmy Carter, to John Kerry, to Hillary Clinton, to Chuck Schumer.

He is someone who had funded open border Democrats for 40 years and -- and, indeed, one of the striking things, you know, Donald talks a lot about immigration, but in the 2013 battle over amnesty, when I was leading the fight against the Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight amnesty bill and we defeated it in Congress, Donald Trump was funding the Gang of Eight. Five of the eight members of the Gang of Eight received, collectively, over $50,000 from Donald Trump.

And you can't be funding open border Democrats, like Donald Trump did, and, at the same time be claiming that you're actually going to secure the border and stop illegal immigration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've been making that point about Donald Trump supporting Democrats for -- for several weeks right now. It doesn't seem to be sticking.

Why not?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I know we're seeing real movement in the polls. We won in Iowa and -- and I think on Super Tuesday, we're going to have a good night. You know, I've got to say, George, it was striking at the debate this week when Donald Trump disagreed with me. He disagreed with me, number one, on Israel. He said that America should be neutral between Israel and the Palestinians. I strongly disagree with him on that.

If I am president, America will stand unapologetically with Israel.

But he also disagreed with me on the Supreme Court and religious liberty. He said, Ted, you've got to be willing to cut deals, you've got to be willing to compromise.

I'll tell you right now and I'll tell the people at home, I am not going to compromise on "The Bill of Rights." I'm not going to bargain away your religious liberty. I'm not going to bargain away your Second Amendment rights and sit down with Harry Reid or Chuck Schumer and agree on Supreme Court nominees. we need a president who will invest the political capital to defend your -- your constitutional liberties. And Donald Trump told us at the debate he doesn't intend to do that. There's a reason Harry Reid, when asked about the Republican field, said the Republican he likes the best is Donald Trump, and he said, because I can work with him. He'll cut deals.

We've had too many deals in Washington. It's way we're bankrupting our kids and grandkids.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've made a big issue of Donald Trump's taxes, now released summaries of your own returns.

If he releases those some kind of summaries, will that be enough?

And -- and what do you think of his -- his statement that he believes he might be targeted by the IRS because he's a Christian.

CRUZ: Well, I -- I think his statement, nobody who heard it had any reaction other than laughter. Listen, I've released now nine years of taxes. Donald Trump has not released any of his tax information. He needs to release his tax information.

And -- and the fact that he's refusing to do so really suggests, as Mitt Romney pointed out, that there may be a bombshell in there, that there's something he's hiding.

Now -- now, it could be an awful lot of media...

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you think it is?

CRUZ: -- outlets have reported -- well, a lot of media outlets have reported that he doesn't make nearly as much money as he says he does.

You know, who knows, maybe -- maybe the -- the fact is that Mitt Romney is richer than Donald Trump. We don't know. But -- but he's clearly hiding something.

On the other hand, it could be donations to liberal groups like Planned Parenthood. At every debate, it seems, he praises Planned Parenthood. Maybe he's written them a bunch of checks. Or -- or, you know, maybe there are other issues. You know -- you know, for example, there have been multiple media reports about Donald's business dealings with the mob, with the Mafia. Now maybe his tax returns show that those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Business dealings with the Mafia?

CRUZ: We don't know -- indeed. ABC has reported that. You guys have reported that he's -- he's done deals with S&A Concrete, which was owned by two of the big crime families in New York, and that he's had involvement in Atlantic City. Maybe that's what his tax returns show.

We don't know, but the important point is, George, in the general election, Hillary Clinton is going to shine a light on all of this. And Republican primary voters deserve to know. And the media is going to amplify the Democrats' attacks a thousand fold.

The Republican primary voters deserve to know if there's a scandal, if there is, at Mitt Romney put it, a bombshell in Donald Trump's taxes, we deserve to know, the voters deserve to know and to vet the candidates.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, elected officials are in -- Republicans are getting increasingly nervous and -- and some are even calling on you -- Representative Franks from Arkansas, from -- from Arizona, excuse me -- to join forces with Senator Rubio in a joint ticket.

Here's what he had to say, "Senator Rubio and Senator criticize can unite and win together or remain apart and each fail separately. For the sake of our country, the conservative cause and future generations, I adjure both Senator Clinton and Senator Rubio to unite.

CRUZ: Well, listen, I agree with the sentiment that -- that to beat Donald Trump, we've got to come together. What Donald wants is -- is all of us who are -- who are convinced Donald is not the right nominee to be divided, to be splintered. And -- and looking at this race, only one candidate has beaten Donald Trump. Historically, in modern times, nobody has ever won the nomination who hasn't won one of the first three states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina.

Only two of us have done that, me and Donald.

And if you look at Super Tuesday, we're the only campaign in a position to beat Donald on Super Tuesday.

So if you're at home and -- and you don't think Donald is the right candidate, you think nominating Donald will end up electing Hillary Clinton, then even if, perhaps, you -- you look another candidate -- listen, there are a lot of good people in this race who I like and respect, but I would encourage you to stand with us, because the only way to beat Donald is for us to stand together on Super Tuesday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Cruz, it sounds like you're not ready to unite with Marco Rubio now, but thank you for joining us this morning.

And we're live next with Chris Christie in a THIS WEEK exclusive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I am proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump for President of the United States. He'll provide strong, unequivocal leadership. He will do what needs to be done to protect the American people first and foremost, both in the homeland and in creating jobs for this country. And he will make sure that people around the world know that America keeps its word again. Donald Trump is someone who, when he makes a promise, he keeps it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Chris Christie is here this morning with us here on THIS WEEK.

Thank you for joining us, Governor. And let's begin.

You heard Hugh Hewitt at the top of the program read from that Meg Whitman statement. Your national finance co-chair says that your endorsement of Donald Trump, an astonishing display of political opportunism.

She goes on to say Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He's a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. I call on Christie donors and supporters to reject the governor and Donald Trump outright. I believe they will. For some of us, principle and country still matter.

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I love Meg Whitman. She's a great friend to me and to Mary Pat, always has been. We obviously, from that statement, have a difference of political opinion. And that's OK. That's what makes this country great is that people can have differences of political opinion.

And so Meg has always been free to express her views and I honor her. And we absolutely adore our relationship with her and I'm sure it'll continue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of your supporters say you promised them you would not endorse Donald Trump. Joe McQuaid (ph), the publisher of the "New Hampshire Union Leader" says you promised him on a phone call you wouldn’t endorse Donald Trump.

CHRISTIE: Not, it's just not true. He called me two days after the primary and said, I was just hold that you're about to endorse Donald Trump. And I said to him, that's absolutely untrue. I'm not about to endorse anybody.

But that's all the conversation --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn't say you would never endorse him?

CHRISTIE: No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let's --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: -- wasn't going to endorse him then; that's what he -- you know, New Hampshire person on the ground tell him that. And I said, Joe, it's two days after the primary. Mary Pat and I are just taking a deep breath. We haven't thought about what we're going to do next in this race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the policy in this campaign right now.

During your campaign, you ran as a straight-talking truth-teller, specific answers to America's challenges. And here's what you tried -- you told voters to question Mr. Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I tell everybody who goes to a Donald Trump event, if he gets asked a question, just ask him how. First, he says he's going to build a wall across the entire border between the United States and Mexico.

How?

How is he going to make the Mexicans pay for the wall?

How?

They are a sovereign nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're backing him now.

What's the answer?

CHRISTIE: The answer is he will do it --

STEPHANOPOULOS: How?

CHRISTIE: -- the fact -- the fact is that he's going to have to answer that question. And he will.

You know, George, this is a February -- this is February of a campaign. And let's say this. You look at everybody else on that stage -- and there have been many more specifics from a lot of other folks on that stage. And that was part of my argument during the campaign. But there I am, as somebody who's --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait, wait a second. We're eight months into this campaign. The wall has been his signature issue. He says it's his go-to line whenever he needs applause. You've now had the Mexican president, two former Mexican presidents, the Mexican foreign minister in "The Washington Post" this morning, calls this a racist, ignorant and absurd proposal.

You know that Mexico's not going to pay.

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, George, I'm -- that's -- what would you expect Mexico to say?

That's of course what they're going to say.

And the --

(SOUND INTERFERENCE BEGINS)

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: How is Donald Trump going to force Mexico to pay?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I think that there is great ways to be able to use diplomacy and other tools to be able to come to compromise with nations that are both our neighbors and around the world.

And we're working on those things. And that's what leadership does. Strong leadership is able to exert those things and be able to talk to folks about what advantages and disadvantages are of certain policies.

The fact of the matter is that there won't be any question about Mr. Trump's strength and his resoluteness in terms of getting the things done that he's wanted to get done. That's what his whole career is --

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what's the answer to the how? That's the --

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: And this is the thing that I said. And he will answer that question. But you know, to me, I'm not answering the question for him this morning. That's his -- that's the way he will answer it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he hasn't answered it.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I think what he's talked about is the trade relationship and working on the trade relationship and he talked about that yesterday. And using that as a lever to get them to do things on immigration. And I think that's a perfectly appropriate way to discuss this and it is a part of the bilateral relationship that should be a part of the conversation --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Before you were opposed to terrorists. That's what he's talking about.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I'm not saying -- I'm not going to support everything that happens in any campaign. But what I will tell you is is that an appropriate conversation between two countries, there are all types of appropriate conversations to have between two countries. And that's what will happen when Mr. Trump's president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your signature issue in the campaign was entitlement reform. You've been talking about it for years. You say reforming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are essential. It's time for a candidate who speaks hard truth.

Donald Trump is the only candidate said he's not going to touch Social Security. Here's what you said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I say Mr. Trump, what would you do on Social Security?

When I become president, the entire country is going to get so wealthy, so amazingly wealthy and rich, that we're not going to have to worry about Social Security.

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: How?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, the question is, how?

CHRISTIE: Yes. And listen, I think that we need to do something on Social Security. And I've made that really clear. And so listen, Donald Trump and I are not going to agree on every issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But this is the signature...

CHRISTIE: And this...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- issue of your campaign.

CHRISTIE: But it doesn't mean that you have to agree on every issue, George. Just -- it's not the signature issue of my campaign. The signature issue of my campaign was national security, keeping America safe and secure from terrorist attacks and making us a better ally and neighbor around the world. That was the signature issue (INAUDIBLE).

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to that...

CHRISTIE: Now, Social Security is an important issue. And I've laid out my views on that and I'll certainly share my views with the candidate.

The fact of the matter is, though, when you look up on that stage, no one else has a plan on Social Security, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he said...

CHRISTIE: No one -- no one...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- at the debate on Thursday at the end...

CHRISTIE: -- no one else has a plan on Social Security.

So why aren't we testing all these other candidates, as well...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I've -- I've asked all the candidates...

CHRISTIE: -- on that -- on that issue?

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- about this question...

CHRISTIE: And none of them...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- on that issue.

CHRISTIE: -- and none of them have an answer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the question, at the debate on Thursday night, he said the answer on Social Security is eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.

In all of your speeches, you said that's not an answer, we need hard truths.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I've given my answer on Social Security, George, so I'm not saying -- I'm not disagreeing with what you're saying.

What I'm saying to you is that...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're disagreeing with Donald Trump.

CHRISTIE: Well, what I'm saying is that he's going to give more complete answers as time goes on on these issues. And -- and let's hold every candidate to that same standard. Let's hold every candidate to that same standard.

The difference in this -- in this race is that some members of the media, and others, want to hold Mr. Trump to a different standard than they want to hold the other candidates to.

Let's get Senator Rubio, Senator Cruz...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Don't you think they have been more specific...

CHRISTIE: -- let's get Governor Kasich...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- than Donald Trump?

CHRISTIE: Not on Social Security, they have not. Absolutely not, sir. I'm the only person who put out a specific plan on Social Security. So let's hold everybody to the same standard. And -- and I'm happy to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear, you do not believe that you can solve the problem of Social Security by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse?

CHRISTIE: No, I -- I put out what my plan is on Social Security. And, by the way, that was on a bigger issue. His answer on that was on paying for a tax cut. That was not just on Social Security. It was on paying for a tax cut.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's said that on Social Security many times.

But I do want to get to national security, because you're right, you did talk about that and made that a central issue of your campaign, as well. And one of the core issues that Donald Trump has been this ban on having Muslims enter America.

Here's what you said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: The idea of banning all Muslims from this country is ridiculous. And the reason it's ridiculous is because you don't need to do that to make America safe.

When Donald Trump said that, he was dead wrong. And he's dead wrong now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he dead wrong now?

CHRISTIE: Listen, and that's not what he says any longer. He's backed off of that position over the course of time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Only for citizens.

CHRISTIE: Over the -- well, but that's a big difference, George. That's a big difference from what his position...

STEPHANOPOULOS: He's still banning Muslims...

CHRISTIE: -- was.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- from coming into the United States.

CHRISTIE: It's a big difference from where the position was and -- and what we need to do for...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you endorse the one he has now?

CHRISTIE: -- (INAUDIBLE) excuse me. Let me answer, George.

What we need to do is have a coherent national security policy that's very clear, that says that we need to go after folks who want to do harm to this country. And having good, competent law enforcement. Mr. Trump has talked about the idea of making sure we restore NSA authority, he's -- which some people in this race have not been in favor of, like Senator Cruz.

He has stood up and said that he wants to make our military stronger, which we need to do. He's stood up for law enforcement in ways that other candidates in this race have not done.

So let's not just take one section of it and make that the entire national security policy. There's been a lot of other conversations about it.

And by the way, I'll continue to have conversations with him about this as the campaign goes forward, to be able to make all of these things more fulsome.

But we're, again, at the end of February, George. This is the -- Donald Trump is going to...

STEPHANOPOULOS: (INAUDIBLE) June?

CHRISTIE: -- Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president of the United States. And he is going to bring this race to Hillary Clinton. He is the best candidate to beat Hillary Clinton in November and the best candidate to restore national security for our country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But -- but on -- on the Muslim ban, are you saying now that you endorse the ban on having non-citizen Muslims...

CHRISTIE: No, that's not what I'm saying.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- (INAUDIBLE) from the United States?

CHRISTIE: I'm saying that that's only one piece of an overall approach to national security.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you disagree with it?

CHRISTIE: So I -- I said that very plainly. Listen, George, here's the bottom line. Elections are choices. And you look at the candidates up on the stage and you decide all things considered, who's the best choice.

You know, I tell voters this all the time, if you want to vote for the candidate who you agree with 100 percent of the time, go home and look in the mirror.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But -- but I...

CHRISTIE: You're the only person you agree with 100 percent of the time, whether it's you or me.

So you can -- we can sit here this morning and play the game of everything that -- I ran against the guy, so of course there's things that I disagree with him on. But this is now a choice. And of the candidates remaining on that stage, he is the best person to beat Hillary Clinton, which is job one for Republicans. We do not want Hillary Clinton in the White House. He is the best person to beat her and he is the best person to help keep America safe.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But to do what?

I've just pointed out three of the biggest issues in this campaign, the ones he talks about all the time. You disagree with him on all those issues.

So when you say he's going to do what needs to be done, what exactly are you talking about?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I'm talking about a whole bunch of things.

First of all, George, we haven't even touched on the economy. And I think he's got a really solid record and job -- to help create jobs in this country and to make the tax code fairer, to make opportunity better, to lower regulation. He has laid out those plans.

The fact is, he's going to do some things for this economy that need to be done to make America safer, not only from a national security perspective, but for people to invest in America again...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Besides his tax plan...

CHRISTIE: -- and create jobs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- what are you referring to?

CHRISTIE: Well, this -- he's -- he's laid out a plan on regularity reform, to lower regulations in this country. He's talked about the idea of making sure that small business folks are empowered in this country once again, to be able to create jobs for people.

There -- there has been a lot of things that have been laid out tin this campaign, um, that -- that merit real consideration and real support.

And -- and we're not going to agree on every issue. But I wouldn't agree if I were here this morning supporting any of the other candidates that remain on the stage. We would have some major disagreements with each other, because we ran against each other.

But let me tell you, they're minor disagreements compared to what is going to happen if we have Hillary Clinton as president of the United States, who is moving so far to the left to beat Bernie Sanders that I don't know which one is the socialist, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you...

CHRISTIE: -- they're both now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- finally, you talk about Donald Trump as the person who can be trusted. He still maintains that he saw thousands of people celebrating in New Jersey after the 9/11 attacks. You said that didn't happen, it was not factual.

So if he continues to hold that position, isn't that a slander of your state citizens?

CHRISTIE: Now, listen, I don't think he means it as that at all, as a slander of my state's citizens. You, what I think, though, is when I say he's -- can be trusted, this is a guy who, when he makes promises, he keeps them. Um, and I've seen that over the course of a 14 year relationship with him.

I didn't just meet Donald Trump on the debate stage in August, George, of 2000 and -- and 15. I met Donald Trump in 2002 and have been friends with him since that time and gotten to know him. And the American people out there, you've listened to what's happening, George. The American people see him. They see someone who's strong, who's resolute, who's tough, who is not part of the Washington, DC establishment, that has really messed this country up and disappointed our people, both sides of the aisle.

He's going to go down there and take an entirely different approach. That's an approach that America needs. And given the other options on the stage, let me tell you something, he's the strongest, best guy to be our nominee to beat Hillary Clinton and to be the next president of the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Christie, thanks for joining us this morning.

CHRISTIE: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Lots more ahead with our powerhouse roundtable.

Plus, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Bernie Sanders join us live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: We are joined now by Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina who has endorsed Senator Rubio.

Thank you for joining us, Governor Haley.

We just heard Marco Rubio say he's going to stay in as long as it takes. But right now, we're looking at these Super Tuesday states. He's behind in every single state right now, has not won a single state yet. How can he go on if he's 0 for 15?

GOV. NIKKI HALEY, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Oh, this is what we do in elections. You keep fighting until the very end. And that's why you're seeing him do rallies three and four times a day. You don't know until election day. And I think we've seen that in every state. There's been some surprises. And he continues to surprise in every state that he comes to.

And if you look at his rallies, they're getting bigger and bigger. And the most amazing part is look at who is in the rallies: young, old, all races, all types of people. He has is really starting a conservative movement that's picking up a lot of people we haven't seen in a long time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You seem to call out Donald Trump in your response to the State of the Union back in January. But it wasn't until this week that we really saw Marco Rubio take on Mr. Trump. Did he wait too long?

HALEY: I don't know if he waited too long, but I'll tell you Donald Trump is everything we hear and teach our kids not to do in kindergarten. And we have seen this behavior over and over again that's unacceptable. And I think what we saw from Marco is exactly what we tell our children also, if a bully hits you, you hit back.

I think he hit back and he showed that's he's willing to lead. He's willing to fight. And he's going to have the passion to do it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some would say he's stooping to the same level.

HALEY: I don't know if you stoop to the same level. What you don't do is you walk away from it. I mean, again, when a bully comes after you, you go back.

I think he punched. I think he punched hard. I think it was on policy. I think he made sure that everybody understood that there are a lot of questions that Donald Trump hasn't answered. It is amazing. I'm going to count it. You could be undergoing an audit. There's no reason he can't release last year's tax returns. Why is he not doing that?

And you look at all these issues, this is one more project that Donald Trump is doing. Trump University, Trump Vodka, Trump Airlines, Trump Mortage all failed projects. This is one more project. And we're really concerned about where that's going to be.

And I think it's right for Marco to bring those things out and to keep on bringing those out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What will a win for Donald Trump in the nomination fight mean for your party?

HALEY: Well, it's scary. I mean, this is where we think these next few states matter, because it will start to ask him the questions and get the answers.

You know, he's -- there are two presidential candidates right now undergoing legal issues: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There's two presidential candidates that are disclosing information: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And we need to make sure we get that. What we know right now is, we've got a candidate that's being accused of fraud with Trump University. We've got students that have a lawsuit against him.

We're seeing a lot of things from Donald Trump with no answers. I've seen him talk about being for universal health care. I've seen him talk about wanting to do things and he's not giving us the answers for it.

So, I think what he'll do the Republican Party is really make us question who we are and what we're about. And that's something we don't want to see happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You just heard Governor Christie say one of the big reasons he's supporting Donald Trump he think he's the only candidate, the only candidate left in this race, who can defeat Hillary Clinton.

HALEY: That's just no true. I mean, Chris is a dear friend, but none of us understand why he did this.

What I will tell you is, Donald Trump can't be Hillary Clinton. His negatives are so high, his cap is at 35 percent. It is impossible for him to win a general. And so that's why we've said Marco Rubio is the only one that can defeat Donald Trump. And Marco Rubio can beat Hillary Clinton and will win in November.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Haley, thanks for joining us this morning.

HALEY: Thank you so much, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're joined now by Bernie Sanders. He joins us this morning.

Thank you for joining us, Senator Sanders. Appreciate you being with us this morning.

So what do you make of what happened in South Carolina last night. Nearly a 50 point win for Senator Clinton -- Secretary Clinton.

SANDERS: We got decimated, George. We got decimated. The only positive thing for us is we won the actually -- the 29 years of age and younger vote. And that was good. But we got killed.

But I'm in Minnesota now. We think we're going to do very well in Minnesota on Super Tuesday, Colorado we're going to do well, Oklahoma we're going to do well. I think we're going to win in Massachusetts. And I believe we're going to win in Vermont. And we're going to do better than people think in other states.

George, we began this campaign, as you know, at 3 percent in the polls, 60 or 70 points behind Secretary Clinton. We have come a very long way. Our message about a rigged economy -- rich get richer, everyone else gets poorer -- is resonating.

And I'll tell you what else is resonating, a corrupt campaign finance system that's allowing billionaires to buy elections.

I think we have the momentum. I think it's going to be a tough fight. I think we can win this thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, and Senator Sanders, from the very start you've been a straight talker to come right out and say you were decimated. You're continuing that tradition as well.

Let me just follow up on South Carolina for one second. You saw that vote in the African-American community, something like 85 percent for Hillary Clinton. You've got going forward about 25 percent of the voters in the Democratic primaries are African-Americans. Aren't you going to have to do much better, reach out to that community, to have a chance for this nomination?

SANDERS: Yes. Absolutely. But I do think -- no argument with you. You are correct. But I think you're going to see us doing -- and I think the polls indicated it, much better within the African-American community outside of the deep south. You're going to see us much better in New York State where I think we have a shot to win, in California and in Michigan.

But you're right, we're going to have to do a lot better.

But I think what we are doing is putting together a coalition of working class people, of young people, of many other folks who understand that economy today is not working for the middle class, it's working for the people on top, people who have strong reservations about Secretary Clinton's foreign policy, a vote the war in Iraq.

So we think we have come a long way; we think we've got a lot of work in front of us. But, George, I think we can win this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Looking ahead to Super Tuesday, new polls out this morning show Secretary Clinton with large leads in those Southern states you just talked about: Texas, Tennessee and Georgia. She's going to build up delegates there.

You're going to win big in your home state of Vermont.

Where else can you win on Super Tuesday?

And if you don't win in other states, how can you go on?

SANDERS: Well, we're going to go on to California, by the way, where we think we have a real shot and where most -- that's the state with the most delegates -- Barb Reich (ph), former Clinton Secretary of Labor, just endorsed me the other day. I think we have a good chance to win in Massachusetts. In Massachusetts, a lot of young people are burdened with this outrageous student debt. The young people and their parents want public colleges and universities, to be tuition free and they want the wealthy and large corporations to start paying their fair share of taxes.

We were in Oklahoma the other day, in Tulsa. We had a wonderful, wonderful turnout. We're going to Oklahoma City later today. We were in Texas just yesterday, George. We had 10,000 people out in Austin; 8,000 people out in Dallas. It's a tough state for us. But I think we're going to do better than that polling indicated.

So I think we have a shot to win a number of states on Super Tuesday, do better than people thought and think in other states. And I think in some of the larger states like Michigan, New York State, California, we've got a shot to win those states.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And as you say, on to California; thanks for joining us this morning, Senator Sanders.

SANDERS: Thank you.