'This Week' Transcript: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump

ByABC News
February 21, 2016, 9:43 AM
PHOTO: Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images; Sean Rayford/Getty Images

— -- THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT FOR 'THIS WEEK' ON February 21, 2016 and it will be updated.



ANNOUNCER: Starting right now on ABC's THIS WEEK WITH George Stephanopoulos, Trump takes control -- the brash billionaire dominates in conservative South Carolina.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you win, it's beautiful.

ANNOUNCER: His second straight win.

TRUMP: Let's put this thing away.

ANNOUNCER: Now, no doubt the outsider is the Republican frontrunner.

Can anyone stop him?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: South Carolina has given us another remarkable response.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The son of a bartender and a maid from Cuba tonight stands one step closer to being the 45th president of the United States of America.

ANNOUNCER: Trump, Rubio, Cruz all here live.

And Hillary squeaks by.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democratic race tighter than ever.

Plus, Apple goes to war -- inside the tech giant's refusal to help the FBI unlock a terrorist's iPhone. Apple's top lawyer joins us live.

From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK.

Here now, chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.



After crucial Saturday voters in this race for the White House, two candidates now in command. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton found her farewell in Nevada. That win out West nearly 6 points over Bernie Sanders puts her back in control.

She heads into South Carolina and Super Tuesday with big leads in the biggest state.

And for the Republicans, it's all about Donald Trump. His double digit win over Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz in South Carolina, a possible delegate sweep, kills off the campaign of Jeb Bush, puts him in a powerful position. No Republican who's won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has ever lost the nomination.

The big question for so many in the GOP today, a question unimaginable one year ago, can Donald Trump be stopped?

He joins us live in a moment.

First, Jon Karl brings us all the results of the biggest day yet in this campaign -- good morning, Jon.


This is a remarkable moment in American politics. What once seemed utterly impossible has now moved one step closer to reality. Hillary Clinton could be facing off against Donald Trump this fall for the presidency of the United States.


KARL (voice-over): With his big win in South Carolina, Donald Trump took command.

TRUMP: There's nothing easy about running for president, I can tell you. It's tough, it's nasty, it's mean, it's vicious, it's beautiful. When you win, it's beautiful.

KARL: Trump's back-to-back victories in South Carolina and New Hampshire bode well for his chances on Super Tuesday, 11 states voting on March 1st.

TRUMP: Let's put this thing away and let's make America great again.

KARL: While Trump celebrated, Senator Marco Rubio narrowly edged out Ted Cruz for second place. Both seemed to declare victory, ready to take on Trump.

RUBIO: After tonight, this has become a three person race and we will win the nomination.

CRUZ: We are the only campaign that has beaten and can beat Donald Trump.

KARL: After betting big on a South Carolina comeback, Jeb Bush's distant fourth place finish ended his White House bid.

JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken and I really respect their decision. So tonight, I am suspending my campaign.

KARL: The field won't narrow much. John Kasich and Ben Carson are both staying in.

Meanwhile in Nevada, Hillary Clinton was finally able to slow the momentum of Bernie Sanders.

CLINTON: Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other.

KARL: While conceding a defeat, Sanders touted how quickly his campaign has closed the gap.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have come a very long way in nine months. It is clear to me, and I think most observers, that the wind is on -- at our backs. We have the momentum.



KARL: Back in South Carolina, Donald Trump showed remarkable strength across the board, even winning Evangelicals over Ted Cruz. And so far, Trump has won 44 of the state's 50 delegates. The remaining six could still go his way. And the map and the math get even better for him as the race goes national.

By March 15, half of the delegates will have been awarded. Among the states voting on March 1st is Ted Cruz's home state of Texas. If Cruz is to have a prayer of winning the nomination, he's got to win there.

Two weeks later, it's Marco Rubio's home state of Florida. If Rubio is to have any chance at all, George, he absolutely must win that winner-take-all Florida primary.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No question about that.

Jon Karl, thanks for joining us.

Right now, let's bring this to Matthew Dowd, our political analyst.

You've been bullish on Donald Trump's chances for some time.

What are the odds right now that he gets the nomination?

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what's was interesting this summer was he had 16 opponents and he had the best odds in the course of that. Now he has basically three opponents left, fundamentally, and his odds have only improved.

The -- the problem for the other candidates is Donald Trump has a clear path -- a clearer path -- to the nomination while the other candidates don't. And in that scenario, Donald Trump is the odds on.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And they've always been more willing to take each other on than to take on Donald Trump.

So what will it take to stop him?

DOWD: I think two things have to happen for Donald Trump not to be the Republican nominee. The first is somebody else has to catch fire much, much better than they did in the past, not in like how they did in Iowa or New Hampshire. Somebody has to catch fire.

The other thing is Donald Trump has bang -- been playing the version of a political jingo. He's been taking blocks out, taking blocks out and everybody thinks it's going to fall.

At some point, if he takes out too many blocks, he's going to fall.

But both of those things have to happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Matthew Dowd, thanks very much.

Let's take this now to Donald Trump.

And Mr. Trump, thank you for joining us this morning.

Congratulations on your victory last night.

TRUMP: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think you have this nomination in hand?

TRUMP: No, no, not at all. I mean, look, I'm -- I'm dealing with very talented people, very smart people, great politicians. And Ben Carson is still in, I understand, and he's a terrific guy and a talented guy. So, you know, I'm dealing with very smart people, talented people. So I'd never take it for granted.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said last night we go back to war tomorrow morning.

So who is your toughest competition right now, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz?

TRUMP: I think they're both tough. I think they're all tough. I mean everybody in this is tough. They're all very accomplished people.

But I would say this, I was hit very, very hard yesterday by Ted, because he did two robo calls, one on the Confederate flag, which was, you know, very tough and unfair. But -- and one on a -- I guess, gay marriage. And they were -- one came on at 9:00 in the morning in Election Day. This is something I didn't anticipate. And one came on about 12:00 in the afternoon, during the election.

So I said to myself, wow, this is a tough business. These people are worse than Manhattan real estate developers. This is rough stuff, politics.

And I thought that really that maybe they would have a bigger effect than they did. You know, I didn't know I was going to win by that much. And we won by a lot. You know, we won every congressional district, also we got every single delegate. So that was -- that was sort of record-setting stuff.

But they really hit me hard with negative ads.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're hitting them pretty hard as well. You actually sent out a retweet yesterday, suggesting that Marco Rubio might be ineligible to be president, a tweet that said both Cruz and Rubio are ineligible to be POTUS.

Do you really believe that?

TRUMP: I think the lawyers have to determine that that -- and not -- it was a retweet, not so much with Marco. I'm not really that familiar with Marco's circumstances --


STEPHANOPOULOS: But then why retweet it?

TRUMP: -- problem but I think that -- because I'm not sure. I mean, let people make their own determination. I know Ted is being now -- I think he's being sued by somebody having nothing to do with me, by the way.

Is being sued by somebody. Maybe it's in New York, having to do with eligibility --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're really not sure that Marco Rubio is eligible to run for president?

You're really not sure?

TRUMP: I don't know. I really -- I've never looked at it, George. I honestly have never looked at it. As somebody said, he's not. And I retweeted it. I have 14 million people between Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and I retweet things and we start dialogue and it's very interesting. And maybe that's why I have 14 million people (INAUDIBLE) 200 people, I don't know.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think as you get on this path to the nomination, you're the clear right front-runner right now, as we said, you're in command of this race, you're going to have to be more careful about the kind of things you say and tweet?

TRUMP: Well, I didn't know I was going to win by so much yesterday, you didn't, either. I mean nobody thought I was going to win by that much. That was bigger than the polls.

You know, the polls were saying I'd win by 3 or 4 points and I won by more than 10 points. And that was a lot. They were saying that I'd get some of the congressional districts but certainly not all of them. I got all of them.

So I had no idea I was going to win by that much, certainly after the robocalls, I never figured I was going to win by that much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Think the Republican establishment might close ranks right now and really try to come down hard on you and block you from this nomination?

And if they do, is it still possible that you would run as an independent in the general election?

TRUMP: No, I don’t think that's much of a possibility. I don't think I'm being treated fairly by the RNC because every time I walk into a -- into a debate -- you know, I'm self-funding my campaign. So I'm not getting money from special interests and, you know, the big drug companies, et cetera, whereas everybody else is. Everybody on both sides.

But everybody else is. And I walk in and they have all special interests, lobbyists and donors sitting in the room. And I don't have any donors. I don't have any special interests. I don't have any lobbyists.

So I walk in, it's like dead silence except for my wife and kids. And these guys walk in and they say something that is stupid or not even good and they get standing ovations every time they open their mouth. It's very unfair in terms of the debates, I think.

And I think I had my best debate last time. Some people don't. Some people think the New York values debate was better. But I thought I had my best debate. I was really being hit from all sides. But it's very unfair when a room is so stacked.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you win, is it a hostile takeover of the GOP?

TRUMP: No, not at all. You know, I was a member of the establishment of the GOP. I say proudly. I was -- I gave $350,000 to the Republican Governors' Association, you know, before the June 15th -- before I ran, before June 16th. And I gave tremendous amounts of money to people in the Republican Party. I gave to everybody. And I was very establishment.

And then once I ran, they said, well, wait a minute, what's going on? That's not supposed to happen because he doesn’t need our money and you know, they like to control, the people. They like to control the senators and the congressmen and so that when they go for military awards and when they go for pharmaceutical awards, they make sure they get it.

And I'm going to do what's right for the country. You know, as a self-funder, I'm the only one. And as a self-funder, I'm going to do what's right.

So you know, that -- in that way, it's certainly different. But ultimately, that's going to be good for the party because we're going to win the election. You know, I -- two polls came out recently, where I beat Hillary Clinton and I beat Bernie Sanders. I don't think Bernie Sanders is going to be the problem. I think Hillary will be the one that I'm competing against unless she has legal problems, which will be determined.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Mr. Trump, you told me several months ago you'd be releasing your tax returns. And "The Wall Street Journal" editorial page came out yesterday and said Mr. Trump should release his returns going back at least a decade before Super Tuesday on March 1st so Republican voters can know what they're voting for.

If Mr. Trump's tax records are as very beautiful as he says, he should be eager to release them for public scrutiny.

Will you release them by Super Tuesday?

Don't Republican voters have a right to know?

TRUMP: Well, first, no, I won't. No, no, no, I won't. I'm working on it. We're working on, they're massive. You saw pictures of me. But let me tell you about "The Wall Street Journal." I have no respect whatsoever for "The Wall Street Journal." I don't think they know what they're doing. They have taken me on so much it's so ridiculous. Every day, editorials, bad editorials, and they had a poll come out, which was so wrong. I said they should fire their pollster and they should fire their editorial staff because I think these are people that don't know what they're doing.

I don't even want to read it very much anymore. They're so wrong.

But if you look at their polls that they came out with one day and two days, two polls before the election, they turned out to be so wrong that they should honestly they should fire their pollster. So I don’t care what "The Wall Street Journal" says, what they say doesn’t -- and, in fact, if anything, I would do the opposite because then it'll turn out to be more correct.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no release before you're a nominee?

TRUMP: No, at some point. Well, they'll talk about it. At some point we'll release. There's no rush.

Why is there such a rush?

I'm supposed to rush like crazy?

By the way, I released my financial statements which are much more important. I released my financial statements and everybody was amazed at how big and how great the company is, much bigger than they thought and it's a great company. Very little debt, tremendous cash flow, some of the best assets in the world.

And I say that only because that's the kind of thinking the United States needs now because our country is in financial trouble and military trouble. We're in every kind of trouble you can have. Our country's a mess. We're going to strengthen the border. We're going to do all of the things that you and I have been talking about for a long time now, George. And it's going to be great.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Trump, thanks for joining us this morning.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are joined now by the number two finisher in South Carolina, Senator Marco Rubio. Thanks for joining us this morning.

And, Senator Rubio, we just heard --

RUBIO: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Donald Trump say he's not sure you're eligible to run for president.

Your response?

RUBIO: Well, this is -- look, this is a pattern. This is a game he plays. He says something that's edgy and outrageous and then the media flocks and covers that and then no one else can get any coverage on anything else.

And that worked when there were 15 people running for president. It's not going to work anymore. I'm going to spend zero time on his interpretation of the Constitution with regards to eligibility.

And I'm going to spend all my time talking about what this campaign should be about.

This country faces a very significant and important choice in 2016. And when it's -- it needs to be made in a serious way. The consequences are extraordinary, if we get this election wrong.

And Republicans need to nominate someone who's going to unify the party, who's going to grow the party and who's going to win this election. And that's why I'm asking people to vote for me and to go on my website, marcorubio.com, and sign up and be a part of our effort.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One report in the "Huffington Post" this morning, that Mitt Romney may be set to endorse you, is that true?

Have you spoken to him?

Do you expect it?

RUBIO: I've spoken to Governor Romney. He is not set to endorse me and if he were, we wouldn’t be announcing it on the "Huffington Post." So but he's not scheduled to endorse me. I would love to have his endorsement but there's nothing forthcoming today and -- or in the days to come as far as I know.

STEPHANOPOULOS: In the meantime, his top strategist from last time around, Stuart Stevens, is in "The New York Times" this morning, taking a shot at your campaign. He's saying it's crazy that nobody else is trying to win except Trump. Rubio is not going after the person who's winning. I've never seen a campaign that seems as satisfied not to go after the leader.

Is it time to take on Mr. Trump directly?

RUBIO: Well, this is not an election like others up to this point. As I said, you know, there's 7-8 people dividing up 70 percent of the vote. And so we had a very unusual circumstance. I was being attacked from all sides and I mean, we had one super PAC that spent $40 million going after me.

So, you can only take on so many people at one time.

And this is not about going after Donald Trump, it isn't. I know people want to obsess about that. This election is about who is best capable...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he is the frontrunner right now.

RUBIO: ...of united the Republican Party. I know that I am.

Well, he's the frontrunner when you have seven people running and they're dividing up 70 percent of the vote. We need to remember here, over 70 percent of Republicans nationally have basically said we're not voting for Donald Trump. And as long as that 70 percent is being divided up by five people, of course he's the frontrunner. But once that number narrows, we'll have a different election. And we're getting closer to that point.

But we have to nominate someone that will bring us together as a party, that will grow it, that can take our message to new people and more importantly that can win, someone that's going to win in November. We cannot lose this election. And I give our party the chance to nominate someone as conservative as anyone in this race. But I am a conservative that can unite us, that can grow this party, and that can ultimately win in November.

And that's the argument we're going to be making.

And if there are differences between me and Donald Trump on policy, as I'm sure there are, we are going to be talking about those.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, what are the differences, plain and simple? Bottom line, is he qualified in your view, to be commander-in-chief? Can you support him if he is the nominee?

RUBIO: Well, I'm going to support the Republican nominee, because what the Democrats are offering is so horrific.

But I will say this, I don't believe that he has exhibited an understanding of foreign policy, which is the most important job of the commander-in-chief. And to say I'm just going to surround myself with really smart people, you know, that's not enough. Surrounding yourself with smart people alone is not enough. You, yourself, have to make judgments. You have to understand these things.

And here's the deal, on the day he becomes president, or I becomes president, or anyone becomes president, Vladimir Putin is not going to have a six month honeymoon period. The world is not going to wait until you catch up before they start testing you. You better understand these from day one.

And the other problem is, our next president has to be someone that can bring this country together, some level of unity. Not unanimity, we're not going to agree on every issue, but someone that will seek to unite Americans, not pit us against each other. And that's the kind of campaign I tried to run, that's the kind of president I'll be. I'll be a president for all Americans, even those who do not agree with me. And I think that's really important, given what we faced the last seven years and how divisive Barack Obama has been.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Three big contests so far. You've come in third, fifth, and now second in South Carolina. The big question for you is where do you win?

RUBIO: Well, when we get to these winner take all states, we have to start winning, because they award all their delegates to one person. And if you look at what we're doing now, we are going to be doing a national campaign. I mean, I am in Tennessee today, then I'm going to Arkansas, then we finish up in Nevada and tomorrow more of the same.

We're competing everywhere.

So, the way this process works for people that are watching is these states right now are awarding delegates proportionally. And -- but come March 15 if you win a state you get all of their delegates, that's when it's really going to start to matter. And we'll be in real good shape for that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Florida is must win?

RUBIO: Well, I think that's true for everyone in this race. And it's always been true. And we feel real good about Florida, especially now that the race has narrowed. And obviously I have a lot of admiration and respect for Governor Bush. We obviously shared a lot of supporters. Now that he's suspended his campaign, I think that really boosts us, not just in Florida, but in Ohio and in other key places around the country that are going award a tremendous number of delegates.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Rubio, thanks for your time this morning.

RUBIO: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're joined now by the man who came in third in South Carolina, Senator Ted Cruz joins us now. Senator Cruz, thank you for joining us this morning.

You said you defied expectations last night. How is a third place finish defying expectations?

CRUZ: Well, listen, we've been through the first three primary states. We've won Iowa with a big margin. We came in third in New Hampshire in a state where they said a conservative could not do well in a moderate New England state. And then last night we effectively tied for second. That combination, what that has resulted in, is there is now only one strong conservative remaining in this race who can win.

And what we're seeing, how game plan from day one was do well in the first four states and consolidate conservatives to go forward into Super Tuesday. I think we're positioned ideally to do exactly that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that, but more than 70 percent of the voters in the primary yesterday were born again or Evangelical Christians, your base, but Trump won them over. So how do you explain that? And doesn't it bode ill for you on Super Tuesday?

CRUZ: Well, listen, Donald Trump has proven to be a formidable candidate. But one of the things the first three states have shown is that there is only one campaign that has beaten or can beat Donald Trump. You know, 70 percent of people across this country, 70 percent of Republicans, don't believe Donald Trump is the right candidate to go head-to-head with Hillary Clinton and beat her in November. And one of the things we're seeing coming out of last night is people across this country are recognizing, OK, if we want to beat Trump, Cruz is the only one who can do it. He's the only one who has done it.

And part of the reason is, George, you cannot beat Trump coming from the left. You cannot beat Trump with a candidate who supports amnesty, it doesn't work. If you come at the left to Trump you will lose.

The only way to beat Trump is with a strong, proven, constitutional conservative. That's why we've had 980,000 contributions at TedCruz.org, because people across the country are saying, look, we need to actually have a real conservative. And I think South Carolina will only accelerate that process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've been making that case, but it's not working so far. Donald Trump won New Hampshire, won South Carolina yesterday by a large margin. As you know, no Republican who has won both of those has ever been denied the nomination. Are you going to be have to -- having to make a new and tougher case against Donald Trump? And what is it?

CRUZ: Look, a primary is an ongoing conversation. Everyone in the media said Trump was going to win Iowa. We, then, had the largest turnout, earned more votes in Iowa than any Republican in history.

You know, last night, one of the most encouraging results, our campaign we won young people in South Carolina. We won young people. You know what, we also won young people in Iowa, that's two states in a row in which we won young people. And even New Hampshire, we were in second place with young people.

You know, you want to talk about where the excitement, where the energy is, young people want a brighter future, they want jobs, they want their constitutional rights protected.

And I've got to say one of the things that was remarkable is if you look at South Carolina, we had millions and millions and millions of dollars of attack ads coming against us. We had Marco who was just on was endorsed by a very popular governor of the state, very popular senator, very popular congressman, all the establishment circled their wagons around Marco and yet he still only came in second after his campaign promised everyone they were going to win the state.

You know, frankly, if I'd had done that in Iowa -- look, in Iowa we had the heavy hitters come behind our campaign. If we'd have come in second or third, you guys would have barbecued us for having all the big hitters behind us and not winning it.

Well, we won Iowa, and even though all the big hitters were behind one of our opponents in South Carolina, we still effectively tied for second. And what we're doing systematically, nationally, is unifying conservatives.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be true, but as long as you and Marco Rubio are going after each other, doesn't that give Donald Trump a clear path?

CRUZ: Look, no doubt. And I thought the question you asked Marco a minute ago about why he's afraid to take on Donald Trump is a great question.

You know, if you look at Donald, Donald devotes all of his time and energy, all of his money, to attacking me. That demonstrates that Donald sees me as the only real threat to him. And for that matter, Marco devotes all of his time and energy to attacking me as well. He's been unwilling or afraid or for whatever reason he won't take on Donald Trump.

If you want to beat Donald Trump, you've got to go with the only campaign that has demonstrated we can beat Donald Trump. And I'll tell you going in to Super Tuesday, I think we are positioned nine days from today to have an amazing day on Super Tuesday. Our base on the ground is strong.

And listen, Republicans want a real conservative. They don't want someone like Donald Trump who supported Jimmy Carter and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, who supported expanding Obamacare into socialized medicine, who supported the Wall Street bailouts and cronyism in the Obama stimulus. They want instead someone who will stand up to the Washington deals.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We will be watching.

Senator Cruz, thanks for joining us this morning.

CRUZ: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Much more ahead with our Powerhouse Roundtable, and Republican party chair Reince Priebus. Does Trump's success (INAUDIBLE) the GOP? Will the party survive a Trump win? And he is prepared for a brokered convention? We're going to ask him next.


STEPHANOPOULOS: We have heard from the candidates.

I'm joined now by the chair of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus.

Mr. Chairman, thanks for joining us this morning.

I -- I was really struck by a finding in the exit polls yesterday out of South Carolina. More than half of South Carolina voters feel betrayed by the Republican Party. They voted in big numbers for Donald Trump.

Is his success an indictment of the party you lead?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: No, I don't think so, George. I think that if you look at all these exit polls on both sides of the aisle, I think people are just sick and tired of -- of politics in general, sick and tired of Washington, DC and I think just actually sick and tired of -- of all the -- both parties.

So I mean I -- I think it's just a general feeling out there that's real. I wouldn't deny it. But, obviously, all these, uh, folks are fighting to be the nominee and spokesperson of our party, um, and we're going to be there to support whoever that nominee is.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk about spokesperson for your party, when you talk about Donald Trump, just this week, he said that President Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction. That's, as many Republicans said, a liberal left position. He was called un-Christian by the pope. He embraced torture to fight terrorism. He supported Democrats much of his adult life, taking positions in this campaign at odds with the Republican Party.

Sir, are you really prepared to have him as spokesperson for the Republican Party and to lead a convention that nominates him?

PRIEBUS: If the delegates, you know, get accumulated in such a way that any one of these candidates becomes the nominee, it's our job to support that nominee and we will. Uh, so, yes, we're prepared to support whoever the nominee becomes. I think it's early in the process, but certainly when it -- when the time comes and when we're sitting, either before Cleveland or at Cleveland or whenever that point may come and however a presumptive nominee, what will happen is the RNC will join in with that nominee and we will put together the biggest -- which we've already started doing -- the biggest ground game and data operation that we've ever seen. And you know we've made incredible strides at the RNC in becoming far more prepared today than we were four years ago.

So, yes, we will support the nominee. And I...


PRIEBUS: -- to me, it's a no-brainer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- a lot of top Republicans think that's going to break the party apart.

PRIEBUS: You know what, winning is the antidote to a lot of things. And so the name of the game is winning in November. If we win in November, uh, all those armchair quarterbacks will fall in line and they'll -- they'll obviously be pretty pleased, I think, if we win in November.

But who the nominee is going to be is not my choice and -- and obviously, uh, we're going to support whoever that is.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you could play a big role if no nominee goes in with enough delegates before the convention to win on the first ballot. You've said it's early in the process.

Are you prepared now for a brokered convention?

Are you planning for it?

And what does that mean?

PRIEBUS: Um, you know, planning can mean a lot of things. We are prepared for anything. I was general counsel for two years before I was chairman of this party. I've been chairman for six years.

I don't think there are too many people that are more familiar with the procedures of nominating someone at a convention than I am.

So I am prepared and we will be prepared if that happens. But again, I don't think that's going to be the case.

If it did, then, of course, obviously, it would be pretty historic. But we'll be ready.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for your time this morning.

PRIEBUS: You bet.

Thanks, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The roundtable is up next.

And coming up, Apple doubles down in its stand-off with the FBI. We're live with Apple's top lawyer.


STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to be right back with our powerhouse roundtable and what's next with this wild race to the White House.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Back now with the roundtable, joined again by Matthew Dowd; Republican strategist Sara Fagen and Alex Castellanos, the chair of Purple Strategies; Roland Martin, host of News 1 Now on TV1 and Democrat Jennifer Granholm, former Michigan governor, supporter of Hillary Clinton, right now.

And let's begin with the big question on the table, I want to ask Matthew Dowd, at the top of the show Sara Fagen, is Donald Trump now the presumptive nominee?

Can he be stopped?

SARA FAGEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think he can be stopped in totality. I think we're now in a delegate race. As we head into Super Tuesday, we're going to have a third of the delegates elected by the end of that evening.

And Donald Trump is going to have a majority of the delegates most likely. So the question for the Republican Party is, how do we get folks out of this race so somebody can accumulate enough delegates at a convention to beat him?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you've got Jeb Bush out of the race, Alex Castellanos. It looks like John Kasich and Ben Carson are going to stay in. You've got three solid candidates, no matter what. They're still going to be dividing a lot of the vote.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, PURPLE STRATEGIES: But what if Donald Trump already is stopped?

What if he's stopped in the mid-30s? He has hardened a vote around himself that is intense. We'll walk through ice storms to vote. But he's also hardened a lot of votes against himself.

Jeb Bush drops out of the race; a lot of that vote's going to go to Rubio. Rubio's running close to Trump now in Georgia and in states like Virginia, states like North Carolina, if Cruz wins Texas, Rubio wins some of these other states, goes into Florida and wins that, what if there's a Romney endorsement, which we're all hearing about, of Rubio?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Although Rubio said he hasn't --

CASTELLANOS: -- Rubio may have won the nomination --



CASTELLANOS: -- last night.

GRANHOLM: The problem with that, though, Alex, is then effectively what you've described is three men splitting the delegates, a third, a third and a third. And with -- in that scenario, this thing is going to go --


GRANHOLM: -- much, much longer and --


GRANHOLM: -- you have a scenario where we're in the convention --


ROLAND MARTIN, NEWS 1 NOW: They're also, I think, there's a premise in that that I don’t think is -- we've been proven yet, which is when you win, your ceiling usually goes up. When you look at the past races, when you start winning, you've -- then more voters start being more available to you.

And I think Donald Trump, as of tomorrow morning, is going to start looking across the landscape and his numbers in all of those states, in which are already high, are going to rise because he won.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats prepared for a race against Donald Trump?

GRANHOLM: You know, give us any of them. But Donald Trump -- which is such a great contrast with what happened yesterday in Nevada on the Democratic -- Donald Trump being anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim, anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-science, and Hillary Clinton putting together this coalition that looks like America, it's an -- it will be an incredible contrast.

He is now the face of the Republican Party. I hear these guys, desperately hoping that that's not going to be the case. But Donald Trump is now the face of the Republican Party. They have made their bed. They've got to lie in it.

DOWD: What Democrats need to be extremely worried. They're down 22 percent in terms of turnout compared to 2008 and, I grant, you have more candidates --


DOWD: -- 2008. So what they should be focused on right now is, yes, you have -- first of all, stop complaining about Senator Bernie Sanders being in the race. You need him in the race because you need media attention; you need a lot of folks paying attention.

But they should be driving hard to registration, registration, registration.

I don't understand why they're not spending a massive amount of money in Texas to register those 2.1 million eligible unregistered Hispanics. We have nearly 1 million folks in Georgia alone who are unregistered African American and Latino. That's where they should be because it's going to be a turnout game for them in Ohio --


DOWD: -- Florida.

MARTIN: -- I think that one of the things we learned yesterday or a couple things we learned yesterday is, one, that the establishment force on the Democratic Party is stronger than the establishment force in the Republican Party because they were the establishment force was able to stop Bernie Sanders yesterday.

Hillary Clinton had a big win. The other thing I think we're seeing is the two dominant players that emerged yesterday. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are incredibly flawed candidates. Both of them had a lot of problems going into a general election. Hillary Clinton is not doing well with younger voters, is distrusted by the majority of the country, is disliked by the majority of the country.

Donald Trump, distrusted by a majority of the country, disliked by a majority of the country and unliked by --


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- pick up on your first point first with both Sara and Alex.

(INAUDIBLE) kind of remarkable, this -- the grumbling among the Republican establishment, fear among the Republican establishment of Donald Trump, not many people willing to stand up and do something (INAUDIBLE).

FAGEN: That's right. You've not seen much money spent against him to date. And what's more, I think the challenges we -- we haven't been able to get behind an alternative. And there's no evidence that Ted Cruz will get out. Marco Rubio is on the ascent. John Kasich believes he has a firewall in Michigan and Ohio.

Unless we cull the field to one alternative, Donald Trump may not be stopped.

MARTIN: That's not the problem.

FAGEN: From a delegate map perspective, yes Roland, it is a problem.

MARTIN: No, but...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Roland and then Alex.

MARTIN: I think Donald Trump is plutonium. Candidates have learned that, you know, it can fuel your business, but it can also kill you. And they leave him alone. And there's a good argument to do that, because he may be capped.

The way to run against Donald Trump is to run against Hillary Clinton, is to a generational race, leave him behind. He may be stuck exactly where...

STEPHANOPOULOS: I've got to tell you, that's exactly what's been happening for the last six months. And he's running away with the nomination.


DOWD: Then they're not going to be able to do anything about it, either.

MARTIN: This is the problem, George...

CASTELLANOS: If that's where we are, it's done.

MARTIN: This is their problem, they invited evil in. And now evil is taking over, OK. 2009, the night of Obama's inauguration, we will stop him at every turn. They loved the Tea Party anger. They took advantage of it in '10 and '12 -- '14. They always said, we can control it. We can harness it. Now all of a sudden, Trump is taking advantage of it. He lead the whole birther deal. The Republican establishment at some point has to say, you know what, we played with fire and now it's about to consume us.

They have to accept some...

FAGEN: The Republican establishment never played with fire. Donald Trump...


MARTIN: ...all day.

FAGEN: I don't think the establishment has played with fire. It looks more like a hostile takeover to me.

Donald Trump is not a conservative. He is not a Republican.

MARTIN: So, why did they like his birther against Obama? Why did they like his fundraising in 2012? No, no, no.

If the Republicans allowed Donald Trump to ride the birther (inaudible) to Obama. They dig his fundraising prowess in 2012, yes or no?

CASTELLANOS: What created Donald Trump is the failure of the Republican Party to lead this country into the future. We've told America that our principles are only good for saying no and telling people what they can't do.

There's a Democratic Party that's only offering more of the same old failure. Washington just hasn't done enough. There's a Republican Party that can only say no to everything. Guess what, the American people are furious on both ends. And they want to throw everybody out.

The failure belongs to both parties.


DOWD: It's what created Donald Trump is both party establishments. Basically, the country feeling like the institution that exists in Washington does not work for anybody. And it certainly doesn't work for the working class of the country. That's what created...


GRANHOLM: Only 4 percent of the Republican super PAC money has been spent attacking Donald Trump. You guys have just had total hands off. Ross Douthat from the New York Times had a great column the other day, which said this is the way to attack Donald Trump. You go right at his -- the hypocrisy of him having created stuff like Trump mortgage. And go after the people who were hurt. Go right after his base. Those who were went on -- no, but it hasn't been done. It has not been done. You have not...

CASTELLANOS: It's all over the internet.

GRANHOLM: That he's making ties in China.


DOWD: Political ads in this campaign have not worked. Does anybody not think out there that the voters in the Republican Party right now don't have all the information about Donald Trump? They have pretty much have all the information.

Donald Trump has done more to attack himself than any other candidate. And Donald Trump continues to win. The problem is, until this race -- I agree with Sara -- until this race goes to a one-on-one race, and it may never go to a one-on-one race, Donald Trump...

MARTIN: And this is why -- this is why I'm saying don't try to blame the Democrats for this one, the Republicans they love that anger when it helped them in the mid-terms, but now the anger is about to take over their party. They have no idea what to do.

CASTELLANOS: Last thing is that voters already know these candidates. This has been a national campaign. We've had them in front of us for months. We're exhausted with them. There's no new information that's going to change that. What is going to change it, maybe winning in momentum or geometry -- candidates falling out.

That's what's going change things, that's what gives Marco Rubio a shot.

FAGEN: Here's the challenge for the party moving forward. I don't believe Donald Trump is ultimately going to be the nominee. It may be a bloody fight on the convention...

CASTELLANOS: Is that dream?

FAGEN: I don't -- I believe, it may be -- come down to a bloody fight on the convention floor, but I don't believe ultimately he will represent the party in November.

But, whoever does, needs to figure out how to harness his supporters. And that is going to be very challenging.

DOWD: Donald Trump represents 50 million or 60 million frustrated Americans. We keep talking about Donald Trump like it's just some weird thing over there. He represents a huge chunk of the American public.

Whether you agree with him or not, are trying to vent how they feel, their frustration and their anger over the course of this...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're not really saying that 50, 60 million Americans are going to vote for Donald Trump?

DOWD: If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president? 60 million Americans...


MARTIN: I will say this part, part of this whole issue when you talk about that anger. Yes, they're ticked off that America is changing when it comes to how we look in terms of becoming a majority minority country. They're ticked off when it comes to a Republican policy. They're saying I have been impacted economically.

Well, guess what, those same voters at some point you can say I was the one who screwed up, because I kept voting for some folks.

Now, they've also got to say, what does Donald Trump...

DOWD: It's never a good idea to blame voters.

MARTIN: No, no, no. Here's the deal though. No, no, no, that's the mistake that we make.

We want to hold everybody accountable except the folks who actually vote for candidates.

And the other piece is, I will say those same folks who say old John Wayne, Donald Trump is my man, show me how that man has actually cared about the regular Republican voter over his career.

DOWD: It's a bad strategy to attack voters.

MARTIN: No, no, no. Hold them accountable.

GRANHOLM: I was going to say in the general election, when you put Donald Trump's experience in foreign policy and in going and doing that against Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton will have a chance to pull over a lot of independent voters.

Second, last night -- wait, wait -- last night if you asked people in Nevada what their number one issue is, they would say jobs. She won those voters enormously because he has -- since New Hampshire started to focus for message on what is causing people to be (inaudible).

DOWD: 80,000 people voted in Nevada, 650,000 voted in South Carolina.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Guys, that was great. This is going to continue right here. But we've got to come back. And when we come back, Apple on the hot seat. Should they help the FBI unlock a terrorist cellphone. That big debate over privacy and security is next. We're live with Apple's top lawyer.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are seeing many more people involved in terrorism investigations using peer-to-peer communications, specifically encrypted communications. It does give us grave concern.

TIM COOK, CEO, APPLE: On your smartphone today, your iPhone, there's likely health information, there are intimate conversations with your family. And you should have the ability to protect it.

And the only way we know how to do that is to encrypt it.

UNIDENITIFIED MALE: Apple and Google are their own sheriffs. They're acting like teenagers saying no one can tell me what to do.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That battle between Apple and the FBI ramped up big-time this week when the FBI asked a judge to force Apple to help them unlock the iPhone of the San Bernadino terrorists. It has set off a national debate on privacy and security. It could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

And we're joined now by the lawyer who may be making Apple's case, Ted Olson. Mr. Olson, thank you for joining us this morning.

And you know, the Justice Department, as you know, had some pretty tough words for Apple in its court filing, said, this is not about privacy and security but Apple's concerns for quote, "its business model and public brand marketing strategy."

How do you respond?

OLSON: Well, in the first place, I have to say that we have the greatest respect for the Justice Department and the FBI, for their goals and their motivations. And we hope that we would get the same respect and understanding back.

This is an extremely important debate about privacy, civil liberties and so forth. We want and Apple has helped the FBI and in this investigation and in every way the law required. But it has to draw the line at recreating code, changing its iPhone, putting its engineers and creative talents to destroy the iPhone as it exists.

Apple has a responsibility to maintain the trust and faith of millions of people who've depended upon Apple to produce a product that protects their privacy, their intimate personal life. This is a Pandora's box. We're not just talking about one magistrate; there are hundreds of magistrates. There are hundreds of other courts. And there's no limit to what the government could require Apple to do if it succeeds this way.

We're before a judge; the judge hasn’t decided yet. We're filing briefs. There will be arguments. And this is a process that even the FBI director has recognized that it's important national debate, a law does not require Apple to do what the FBI is asking so far.

Congress hasn’t addressed this issue. And Apple is adhering to the trust of its millions of --


STEPHANOPOULOS: -- how far does this principle extend?

What if the FBI had secured the phone of the terrorist still at large, would Apple still be opposing this request?

OLSON: Well, Apple complies with the law and cooperates in every way possible.

But, George, if you were asked or your network were asked to create a program, to create a program to use your talents to ensnare a kidnapper, a criminal, a money launderer or a terrorist, you would have the responsibility to resist that unless and until there's legal authority that requires you to do that.

Apple respects the law. But the -- this very issue was debated. FBI director Comey, who I know and respect a great deal, specifically said there should be a debate; Congress should maybe do something about this. The government decided not to submit that legislation to Congress. It needs to be done.

But we're waiting for a court to hear the issues and to decide this thing. There's a -- there's a matter -- this is not just one magistrate in San Bernardino. There are judges all over this country and we're talking about foreign governments, people in foreign countries that are going to be very, very susceptible to invasion of their privacy if Apple can be forced to change its iPhone, to redesign its iPhone.

It has cooperated in every way it can with respect to the powers that it has. But it has resisted changing the system that people have trusted.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How far is Apple willing to take this fight?

Will Mr. Cook and Apple executives be willing to be held in contempt of court, go to jail, rather than accede to this request?

OLSON: I don't want to get ahead of the judicial branch. There's a magistrate that is yet to have a hearing. If the magistrate rules, I'm sure if it rules in our favor, the government will appeal. If it rules against Apple, there's an appeal to a distinct judge and then to a court of appeals and then ultimately, possibly to the United States Supreme Court.

We're not talking about contempt of court. We're talking about respecting the fact that a court hasn’t really ruled yet and Congress has decided not to enter into this area and not to require Apple to do what it's basically, essentially, very difficult to do and would require Apple to comply with these kind of court orders all over the country and in other parts of the world, damaging your personal privacy, your financial privacy, your health records, your location, where your children are, the implications of this are quite serious. I think we need all step back -- and good for you for having us on your program so we can talk about it.

We need to have a debate over these issues and the -- remember, terrorists wish to change our lives. They wish to take away our civil liberties. We can't surrender our civil liberties and give the terrorists a victory that they actually seek.

We had a Revolutionary War over general writs supplied by the king that invaded people's privacy. We have to stick to our principles.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Olson, thanks very much.

Let's join that debate right now. We're joined by John Miller of the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism.

You just heard Mr. Olson right there, say this is going to affect everybody; everybody's privacy, everybody's security.

JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER FOR INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTERTERRORISM: Mr. Olson is not a good American. He's a great American. He served his country as solicitor general in the Justice Department. He's been a First Amendment lawyer in other cases.

But remember the client here, which is Apple. So this case is entirely overstated. The giant parade of terribles, which is if we get into this terrorist's phone and we find out that there's a message in it that tips us off to other terrorists and a plot here in New York City, that's on me, George. So that's important, that the parade of terribles, which is suddenly, the government will seize everybody's health records, go through all of their private information and give it away to the world is absurd.

Up until September 14th, which is not that long ago, Apple held the key to its own code. It held it in Apple headquarters. And when somebody showed up with a search warrant signed by a federal judge or some other lawful authority, Apple took the key, opened it up and provided a court order --


STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm afraid we have less than a minute left. So I want to get simply quite to the one (INAUDIBLE).

Is it possible for Apple to tailor something specifically to this phone in a way that they can then destroy it so that it's not replicable?

MILLER: George, that's the absurd thing about trying to make this conversation frightening. What the Justice Department asked for is for Apple to go into its own lab, in its own offices, find a feature that can bypass the thing that will destroy all the information in the phone after 10 false tries on the code and to take that and then throw it away and then hand the phone back to the FBI with a couple of features that allows them to try codes on it.

This phone, a government-owned phone that belonged to two dead people who have no privacy rights, who are at the middle of a terrorist investigation, where the information on that phone could save lives. I don't know why we're still talking about this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to have to revisit this. I wish we had more time today. John Miller, thanks very much.

We'll be right back after this from our ABC stations.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Check out "World News Tonight" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA".