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Hannity

Cruz challenges Trump to one-on-one debate; Rubio, Carson talk Iowa on 'Hannity

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to Iowa. And this is a Fox News Alert.  2016 Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump now says he will not participate in Thursday's Fox News Channel GOP debate.

Now, Senator Ted Cruz is now slamming Donald Trump for this move. He will be with us in just a few moments. We'll also go on the campaign trail today with Senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson. Also, former governor Mike Huckabee is here.

But first, joining us live right here in Des Moines, Iowa, tonight with more breaking news on the Republican debate, campaign Carl Cameron. Never a dull moment, Carl.

CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary events for a very out-of- the-ordinary candidate. Donald Trump called a news conference immediately before his town-hall-style meeting tonight in Marshalltown, Iowa. And at that news conference, he made -- he began to suggest, I should say, that he might not come to the debate. Now it's official he's not. Here's how he first put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Most likely, I won't be doing the debate. See, the point is that with me, they're dealing with somebody that's a little bit different. They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else. So let them have their debate, and let's see how they do with the ratings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: With only minutes -- within minutes of that news conference ending and Trump's event starting, his aides fanned out across the press.  And I talked with Cory Lewandowski, the campaign manager, as well as (INAUDIBLE) communications director. They both said that the boss had made a decision and it was final, he won't be coming on Thursday.

It hasn't taken very long for Trump's rivals to weigh in. Ted Cruz at one of his events tonight speaking directly to a big crowd of Iowans made it clear that he thinks that Donald Trump is afraid and showing that he's not up to the task. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think anyone running for president of the United States owes it to the people of Iowa to have the humility to come in front of you to make the case, to answer the hard questions, to look you in the eyes! This is a job interview. The president of the United States works for each and every one of you!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMERON: Cruz is now challenging Trump to a head-to-head debate without a moderator at any place that Trump wants to come between now and the Iowa caucuses. And we're hearing already from other candidates weighing in on this, Chris Christie making essentially the same point that Cruz was, that if Donald Trump wants to be commander-in-chief, he can't get scared by moderators. He should be participating in the debates in order to help inform voters -- Sean.

HANNITY: All right. Thanks, Campaign Carl.

Joining us now on the phone is Texas senator Ted Cruz. Senator, good to talk to you again. How are you, sir?

CRUZ (via telephone): Sean, always great to be with you. Good evening.

HANNITY: All right, I guess I got to get your reaction. I mean, we had this issue come up back in August in the first debate with Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump. Now Donald Trump is bowing out of this debate.

What is your reaction to this in terms of -- you know, why is he holding onto something that is now what, five months old?

CRUZ: Well, look, I think any candidate for president owes it to the voters to go and stand in front of them, to answer the hard questions. I mean, it's a matter of basic respect to the men and women of Iowa.

You know, we are in the middle of the completing what's called the "full Grassley." We will have gone to all 99 counties in Iowa, standing in front of the men and women of Iowa, answering their questions. This is a job interview, and if you want a job interview, the first thing you should do to get the job is show up at the interview.

And I think it's really remarkable that Donald Trump thinks so little of the men and women of Iowa that he is willing to skip the debate altogether.  He doesn't think he should have any questions on his record. And it's really quite astonishing that Donald is apparently so afraid of Megyn Kelly.

Look, you know, journalists ask tough questions. This is -- you know, I promise you, anyone who's going to be president of the United States, if you're afraid of Megyn Kelly, then you're going to be afraid of Hillary Clinton and you're going to be afraid of Vladimir Putin. If you're afraid to have anyone ask a question, that does not bode well for what kind of commander-in-chief you'd make.

HANNITY: Can I ask you what -- what does this tell the voters? Should they be looking at this from a temperament point of view? In other words, you know, does -- what does this tell you? Do you think this goes to whether or not he has the temperament to be president? It's a question I've asked him and he's dismissed, but should this be looked at more deeply?

CRUZ: Look, of course it does. We need -- the most important determination the voters are making is who is prepared to be commander-in- chief, who has the experience and knowledge and judgment and temperament and clarity of vision and strength of resolve to keep this country safe.  We don't need a president who wakes up one day and sees his poll numbers dip and goes into a Twitter frenzy. We don't need a president who is miffed at something that was said five months ago and storms out.

You know, this is an effort -- you know, and the reality is the reason Donald is doing this, I actually don't think it's because of Megyn. I think it's because he's afraid to defend his record, that he knows he can't defend his record and he's trying to hide from the voters of Iowa, that he's not willing to stand up and explain why he supports a Bernie Sanders- style full-on socialized medicine, expanding "Obama care" so the federal government is in charge of our health care.

He can't explain why today he supports taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. He can't explain why he supported Obama's stimulus plan and he supported Obama's TARP bail-out of the big banks. He doesn't want to answer those questions, and he refuses to show up.

HANNITY: You were on with our mutual friend, Mark Levin, tonight and you made it very clear that you think he's afraid to debate and that he thinks that he would not do well against you, and you offered to debate him pretty much on Mark's show, Rush's show. Tell me what your position is here.

CRUZ: Well, that is exactly right. If he is so terrified of Megyn Kelly - - the Iowa caucus is six days away. Donald and I are tied in Iowa. We are neck and neck. The voters of Iowa deserve to have a comparison of the records and vision of both candidates, so I am happy to debate Donald any time in any place here in Iowa between now and the caucuses.

And if he's so scared of Megyn as moderate, you can moderate it, Sean, or we can have Rush moderate it or Mark Levin or Glenn Beck. Or if he's terrified of all of you, then we can do it with no moderators whatsoever.  We'll just do it one on one for 90 minutes, Donald and me.

And you know, Donald just told people publicly that he thinks I'm stupid.  So if I'm so stupid, it ought to be an easy debate for him. But at the end of the day, the fact that he is terrified of showing up to defend his record suggests that he's not going to accept this debate invitation.

HANNITY: Let me -- you know, Senator, I have noticed that there were many people -- that you share a constituency, if you will. In other words, I've had a lot of people say that they're torn between you and Donald Trump in terms of this primary, people that I've met right here in Iowa. We're in Iowa tonight.

CRUZ: Yes.

HANNITY: What do you say to them tonight in terms of your closing arguments, which we've sort of been asking all the candidates about?

CRUZ: Look, for anyone who is deciding between me and Donald, one candidate is here in Iowa asking for the support, is showing the humility to submit yourself to the voters to answer your questions, and the other is hiding from the voters, is hiding from any fair contest.

And I'll tell you what. If Donald is terrified of any moderators, he and I can debate one on one with an Iowa town hall. He can invite half the people from Iowa. I'll invite half the people from Iowa. And we'll answer the questions from real, live citizens, people who will vote in the caucus.

And let me say anyone who agrees that Donald should not be ducking this debate, should go to DuckingDonald.com, DuckingDonald.com, a Web site we've set up to encourage Donald not to duck the debate but to stand up and show the respect to the men and women of Iowa that they deserve. And any person who wants the job who skips the job interview, I'll tell you the answer they would get from their potential employer, and it is, You're fired.

HANNITY: You know, Senator, I can tell you that on this program, we have been fair to every candidate.

CRUZ: Absolutely.

HANNITY: We've been fair to Mr. Trump. We've given him an opportunity.  And by the way, he's come on these airwaves and attacked you hard on a number of occasion. So you're laying out this challenge that in the next five days, you want to debate with Donald Trump. You'll do it on this show, Mark Levin's show, Rush's show, or in a town hall. And if he doesn't accept, your final answer? We got about 30 seconds.

CRUZ: Look, if he doesn't accept, he's telling the men and women of Iowa he's not willing to defend his record. He can't defend the record. He's admitting that he cannot stand the scrutiny, and that means he's not up to the job of being commander-in-chief. Anyone scared of Megyn Kelly is not going to be able to stand up to Hillary Clinton or Vladimir Putin. And we need a strong, principled, conservative president.

HANNITY: All right. Senator, if we can get an answer, we'll get back to you as soon as we can. We're going to be out on the campaign trail with you tomorrow. And we really do appreciate your time tonight. Senator Ted Cruz, thank you.

CRUZ: I'll see you tomorrow. I look forward to it.

HANNITY: All right, and up next, 2016 Republican presidential candidate former governor Mike Huckabee is here with us in Iowa to react to Donald Trump saying he's not going to participate in Thursday's debate.

Then later, we caught up with Senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson on the campaign trail. We'll show you those interviews. That and much more live tonight from Des Moines. It's "Hannity" on the road.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." And we are live in Des Moines, Iowa. We have breaking news tonight. 2016 Republican presidential front- runner Donald Trump says he is not going to participate in Thursday's GOP debate.

Here with reaction, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Governor, how are you? You like this state. This state's been good to you.

MIKE HUCKABEE, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It has been good to me.  I love Iowa. Great people. They feel like the people of Arkansas.  They're just down to earth, salt of the earth sort of people.

HANNITY: Yes, you won this primary back in what, 2008?

HUCKABEE: 2008, got the most votes of any person who ever has participated in the Iowa caucus.

HANNITY: Let's ask you the obvious question. Donald Trump -- you heard Ted Cruz. He says, You know what? Bad move. Why is he going back five months and reacting this way to Megyn Kelly? Seems a little absurd to me.

HUCKABEE: Well, Sean, first of all, let me make an offer tonight that I will take Donald Trump's podium on that stage Thursday night. Generous as I am, I'll take that spot.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: There's an opening.

HUCKABEE: There's an opening. I'll be happy to take it. And I will do it on behalf of all the people that I have met in this state who are not on any stage. They're not on the undercard. They're not on the big stage.  They're being pummeled by the policies of this administration.

And they're hurting. I talked to a guy in Davenport last week, Sean. He makes $59,000 a year. You know what his "Obama care" is going to cost in 2016 annually? $28,000! That's half his income!

HANNITY: You know, nationally, on average, "Obama care" premiums -- remember we were going to save $2,500 per person per year, keep our doctors...

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE: Yes.

HANNITY: And guess what? On average, at least 35 percent a year. And some people are seeing double their rates from last year.

HUCKABEE: And nobody can pay half their income just for health care coverage. And it's only he and his wife. They don't have any children at home. They don't have any special illnesses. And this is what's happening to people. And these are people who are barely hanging onto jobs all over this country. I met a guy, just the other day, he lost his job in a manufacturing plant here in Iowa. He's in his 50s. He hasn't found work in two years.

HANNITY: You know, Governor, I repeat every day -- not because I like to hear myself talk -- 94.5 million Americans out of the labor force, 50 million in poverty, 50 million on food stamps, median income down the last seven years and we've doubled the debt under this president.

Things are not good economically, and I haven't mentioned the mullahs in Iran. Here's my question. So then Donald Trump -- I have used the phrase that he has defied conventional political gravity. You know, I'll shoot somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue and they'll still vote for me, my supporters are so loyal.

He's been able to overcome past controversies. Where does this take him?  In other words, how is this going to be viewed by the public?

HUCKABEE: Well, I think, ordinarily, we would say, well, it'll be a real deal killer. But look, nothing has been. And I think that what happens is...

HANNITY: Why, though?

HUCKABEE: ... he has so amazingly manipulated the media in a way that no one ever has. And I have to congratulate him for that. And look, even right now, we're talking about him. We're not talking about the people of Iowa. We're not talking about the economy...

HANNITY: In fairness, he is the front-runner.

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE: OK, he is.

HANNITY: I care -- there's people in Iowa watching way back there. I care about them, too. I don't want to see my fellow Americans suffering. And I believe that's why he's in the race.

Is this maybe a tipping point, though? In other words, does this show something about temperament that people that maybe like him and support him should be paying attention to because, you know, he's going to be dealing with mullahs in Iran? He's going to be dealing with Vladimir Putin.

HUCKABEE: You know, I don't know. It's hard for me to understand. I'm just out there trying to campaign across this state and talk to people and listen to them.

But the one thing I am absolutely sure of is that the Iowa caucuses have always been about going out there and meeting people one on one, going out to every county, every town, listening to them, meeting them in small groups. If this is the year that a person can win the Iowa caucuses by just raising money and then going in and blasting with TV and radio ads, I think it could be the end of the Iowa caucus as we know it because...

HANNITY: But that's not Trump. That -- that...

HUCKABEE: No. That's a lot of other candidates...

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE: ... who get their corporate funding from the same Wall Street bankers and the same big banks and hedge fund managers in New York, and then they come and run radio and TV.

HANNITY: What you're really describing is a situation -- I mean, I've used description about either Hillary, Bill Clinton or of President Obama. We can catch them on video...

HUCKABEE: Yes.

HANNITY: ... robbing a bank, shooting the bank teller, and those sycophants will defend it!

HUCKABEE: Yes.

HANNITY: It's inexplicable to me.

HUCKABEE: Well, one thing that Donald Trump has said. But Sean, I said this eight years ago and I got the same sort of beating by people like The National Review and The Wall Street Journal that he gets, and it is that the trade deals we have are not fair.

HANNITY: They're horrible.

HUCKABEE: They're killing jobs in this country. We've lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since the year 2000. I was in Newton, Iowa, today.  They lost a big Maytag plant that employed 1,500 people. All those jobs went to Mexico, every last one of them.

I think what people don't understand is that the seething rage of the American voter this year is real.

HANNITY: See, I've loved the idea that this is an insurgency year.

HUCKABEE: Yes.

HANNITY: And when you have a poll that shows that 60 percent of Republicans feel betrayed by Washington...

HUCKABEE: Because they are being betrayed by Washington.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: ... distinction between the governors fair (ph) -- and governors have done great jobs in their state.

HUCKABEE: Governors have to balance budgets. They have to build roads and...

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE: That's exactly right.

HANNITY: And Washington Republicans -- John Boehner added $4.1 trillion to the debt when he was speaker. That's not conservative to me.

HUCKABEE: Well, the December deal in which they funded Planned Parenthood, Syrian refugee relocation...

HANNITY: Right!

HUCKABEE: ... ObamaCare, the Iran deal, and Republicans just said, Wait a minute. What did we work so hard to get you guys elected if you're going to give the Democrats everything they want and Republicans for Christmas got a lump of coal in their stocking. This is a time that Republicans...

HANNITY: You're right.

HUCKABEE: ... are having to decide. We didn't send you up there to do Obama's agenda, but to stop it.

HANNITY: Why don't you fight? What was the big fear about using the power of the purse? I would argue -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that one of the reasons Cruz is so popular is he was the one guy that said, I'm going to use the power of the purse and use every means at my disposal to keep my promise on repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

HUCKABEE: But the problem is, you have to be able -- if you're going to throw that rock, you have to know that you can win it. and one thing I think -- Ted Cruz said a lot of things in Iowa that are different than the things he said in New York, and that's one of the reasons Donald Trump is doing better.

HANNITY: But if every Republican would have stood with him...

HUCKABEE: They still would have lost.

HANNITY: Why?

HUCKABEE: They still would have lost because it required 60 votes, and it was Cruz's maneuver that took it from a 51-vote simple majority...

HANNITY: And you think...

HUCKABEE: ... to a 60-vote super-majority...

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: ... will fund everything but this?

HUCKABEE: If they'd have taken -- and this is kind of deep in the weeds...

(CROSSTALK)

HUCKABEE: ... the original process which would have been a simple 51-vote majority, you might have gotten a couple of Democrats to go. But if you moved it to get 11 Democrats, there was no way that was going to happen.

HANNITY: I don't see any moderate Democrats anymore.

HUCKABEE: There aren't any.

HANNITY: Good to see you. Thanks so much for stopping by. We appreciate it.

HUCKABEE: Thank you, Sean. Good to be here.

HANNITY: All right, and coming up, we were on the campaign trail with Senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Ben Carson earlier today. We're going to play some of that for you. We'll get their reaction to the big new tonight about Donald Trump bailing out of the debate.

Then later, Tucker Carlson will join us. Also, we'll be checking in with Geraldo Rivera, and they'll get reaction to all the big news and much more as we continue. We're in Des Moines in light of the caucuses that are coming up one week from yesterday, six days from today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." We're only six days away from the Iowa caucuses. Earlier today, we met up with Florida senator Marco Rubio while he was out campaigning. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: All right, we are here at Marco Rubio's event. By the way, any Rubio fans here tonight?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: This is your fourth stop today, right, Senator?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is, our fourth town hall today.

HANNITY: So how many more between now and -- we got six days to the Iowa caucuses.

RUBIO: Yes, well, we're doing one every day or multiple a day, especially the last three days will get really intense, so -- but they're fun. I have a great time. I can't wait to talk to these folks and meet every one of them in person.

HANNITY: Do you try and do that at every stop?

RUBIO: We do. We stand there until everyone's gone, and we shake everyone's hands, take a lot of pictures. I got the wrinkles (ph) to show for it.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: Have you figured out the selfie -- how to and switch it around and make it work?

RUBIO: Yes, we've made that work. Most people want to take their picture, but every now and then, they'll do it themselves, too, so that's good.

HANNITY: All right, well, a big debate on Thursday, a FOX debate. Trump threatening to pull out.

RUBIO: Yes.

HANNITY: Thoughts.

RUBIO: Well, obviously, look, he's going to make his decision on what he wants to do. I'm going to be there. And if someone else is not there, of course, there'll be more time for everybody else. But...

HANNITY: So that's a good thing?

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: I just found out about this now. I don't know what Donald's decision's going to be. Obviously, I've heard that in the press, as well.  But you know, I'm going to focus on us and what we're going to do.

HANNITY: Let's talk a little bit more about the campaign. There's been, I read, as much as $22 million, $25 million thrown at you.

RUBIO: Oh, yes. I mean, Jeb Bush's super-PAC is spending a million dollars a day attacking me.

HANNITY: I thought you were friends.

RUBIO: Well, I guess. But I mean, the bottom line is you'll have to ask him about that. But a million dollars a day. They're now attacking me on an attack Charlie Crist used, which he endorsed me even after those attacks and then supported me for vice president two years later.

But bottom line is, obviously, I think they kind of felt that maybe things haven't gone the way they planned, and so taking me down is what they're going to do and -- they told me this. You know, when I got into this race, a lot of people in the establishment told me that if I ran, it wasn't my turn and they would do what they needed to stop me. So obviously, this is a part of that. But I feel good it anyway.

HANNITY: Who are these establishment people that would say that to you?

RUBIO: Big donors, people in the establishment of the party. A lot of people would call me and send me e-mails saying, You know, it's not your turn. You really shouldn't run. And then after, you know, we know people that have supported Jeb that have gone around telling people that they were going to do exactly what's happening now.

HANNITY: Wait. Are you saying that Jeb Bush, if he can't win, that he doesn't want you to win?

RUBIO: Well, you'll have to ask him. And there's -- as I said, they're spending a million dollars a day attacking me. And that's -- in a way, it's good because it shows -- you don't attack someone if they're not doing well.

HANNITY: Right.

RUBIO: You don't attack or spend that much money on someone if they're not making progress. So it's fine. Honestly. I mean, it's part of the process. I'm OK with it. We're going to continue to move forward. I'm very enthusiastic about the process.

HANNITY: You have kind of formed your own niche. You've risen in the polls. You have sort of left the pack behind. You got Trump, Cruz, and then there you are. Maybe that's the toughest position to be in because the guys on top are a little afraid of you and the guys on the bottom want to be where you are.

RUBIO: I feel really good about the long term of it. Bottom line is there's not a single vote that's been counted yet in Iowa. They're going to have a caucus on Monday night, and that's what's going to be the first state that starts to decide what comes after Barack Obama.

Here's what I know for sure. If this party nominates me, they're going to have a solid conservative who's going to grow the conservative movement.  And I'm going to beat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. I cannot imagine waking up that first Wednesday in November to the news that we have a President Bernie Sanders or a President Hillary Clinton for that matter.

HANNITY: What would that mean to you, a President Bernie Sanders?

(BOOS)

HANNITY: Hillary Clinton?

(BOOS)

HANNITY: I think they agree with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

HANNITY: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She'll be in prison.

HANNITY: Oh, all right.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: Let's talk about where -- how you get to that point. Where do you -- how -- what would be success in Iowa?

RUBIO: Well, you know, what I've stayed away from -- I'm not a political consultant or a pundit. I'm running for the president of the United States. So what I focus on is telling people -- number one, being realistic about this country faces (ph) which are extraordinary challenges after seven years of Barack Obama.

But then I tell them, like I will tonight, exactly what I'm going to do if I'm elected president. And I tell them if we do that, this country's going to be better than it's ever been. If we don't, then we're going to have to explain to our kids why we got to grow up in the greatest country in the world and they get to inherit a diminished county.

HANNITY: You know, Hillary said that some of the Republicans are saying that America's not great. I don't hear that from you or any other candidate. I hear you talking about America in decline.

RUBIO: Yes.

HANNITY: I can give you the labor statistics. I can give you the number of people, millions more in poverty, on food stamps, median income down, housing starts lower. I can give you those statistics.

RUBIO: Right.

HANNITY: And then I haven't even mentioned the mullahs in Iran or Vladimir Putin.

RUBIO: America is a great country because America is not a government.  America's our people, their businesses, their life (ph), our churches, our communities. But America is a country, a great country, in decline because of Barack Obama. We're not a weak country. We're not a weak people. We have a bad president. And we're going to fix that this year.

HANNITY: Let me talk historically, if you go back to 2004, '08 and '12, polls in Iowa have been off dramatically. So I know you have to look at the polls and have consultants that talk to you about polls. But when you go and you see a crowd this size and you're meeting all these people...

RUBIO: Right.

HANNITY: ... do you think these polls are off like they have been in the last three cycles?

RUBIO: I don't know. I just know that a lot of people in Iowa, and they've told me this -- when they go into that caucus place and cast their votes, it oftentimes is for someone they weren't supporting 48 hours before. And some of the polls have said up to 40 percent of the people in Iowa are till making up their minds. So that's why we're working as hard as ever. We're reaching new people every day. This is our fourth event today. All of these events have 200, 300 people at a time. And that's why you win in Iowa. So we feel good about it.

HANNITY: Let's talk about Marco Rubio becomes president of the United States. You talk about America becoming greater. Walk me through on the economy. Walk me through the first 100 days. How drastically different?

RUBIO: Well, on day one, we repeal every single one of Barack Obama's unconstitutional executive orders, all these crazy EPA rules...

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

HANNITY: They like that.

RUBIO: You know, we stop using taxpayer money to pay for abortions overseas. I cancel the deal with Iran on my first day in office.

HANNITY: Thank God.

RUBIO: I'm going to take the oath of office and actually mean it, which means we're going to have an attorney general that defends the 2nd Amendment, not undermines it, right?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

RUBIO: We're going to have judges and an attorney general that support religious liberty, not undermine it. And then we're going to re-embrace free enterprise, fix our taxes, our regulations, fully utilize our energy resources, work to balance our budget, a lot -- make this the best place in the world to create the best jobs of the new economy, and rebuild our military.

HANNITY: Let me ask you specifically about Hillary and the recent revelation. We have an inspector general for the intelligence community who has outlined that they have discovered dozens of e-mails...

RUBIO: Right.

HANNITY: ... that are beyond the classification of top secret, Special Access Programs. You've been on the Intelligence Committee. Isn't that the top level of -- of...

RUBIO: Yes. I'm on the Intelligence Committee now. I would just say that the information that from what I understand, the information that was on that e-mail server is the -- almost the highest level of classification you could have. And so the fact that that was on a private server -- you know, if a staff member had done that, they would have been fired and prosecuted.

So we'll see. I have confidence that the FBI is going to find what happened here. I don't have confidence the Obama Justice Department will do anything about it.

HANNITY: Well, let me...

RUBIO: But when I'm president, the Justice Department, no one will be above the law.

HANNITY: But it is illegal to have SAP, Special Access Programs, on a private e-mail server. That's illegal.

RUBIO: It is illegal to remove any classified information from a secure setting, whether it's in writing or in e-mail, and put it on an insecure setting (ph), which is what a private server is. If you do that, you get fired and you get prosecuted.

HANNITY: Do you -- are people's lives at risk because of this?

RUBIO: I believe they could be, absolutely, because look, when intelligence information is revealed, you're not just revealing the information, you're revealing how you found it, which means sources are compromised and sometimes those sources could be people.

HANNITY: Yes. All right, Senator, great to see you.

RUBIO: Thank you. Thanks for coming.

HANNITY: Iowa, great to see you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: And coming up, Dr. Benjamin Carson is trying to recapture his momentum here in Iowa. Now, we caught up with him earlier today on the campaign trail.

Also tonight, Tucker Carlson, Geraldo Rivera -- they'll react to Donald Trump saying he's not going to participate. Why? Because of something that happened five months ago? That and more as we continue live from Iowa.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." So just a few weeks ago former neurosurgeon and political outsider Dr. Ben Carson saw a meteoric rise in the polls, but with just days to go until the Iowa caucuses, well, Dr. Carson's support waned a little bit among some voters.  Earlier I met up with Dr. Carson on the campaign trail to discuss how he plans to deliver a huge comeback right here in Iowa. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: All right, we are at a Ben Carson rally at the Assembly of God church you said, right? Yes? And give a hand for you candidate, right?

(APPLAUSE)

BEN CARSON, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Indeed. Thank you.

HANNITY: A nice crowd. You have been all over Iowa now. You've restarted your campaign. The good news for you is you are in double digits in Iowa.  So you're expecting big things in six days.

CARSON: Well, we see a lot of movement occurring, and what I'm just trying to do is get out of in front of a lot of people, because that changes people's minds, because a lot of their perceptions have been derived from the mainstream media, and who are not anxious to portray me in a positive light. So when people get a chance to actually hear you and hear you in depth and understand what you're about, it makes a huge difference.

HANNITY: I said to you after almost every debate you have had, I said I don't judge based on debates, because your life experience is so different.  But you say you apply principles to solve problems, in other words, the principles that you learned in medicine. Can you detail -- give us more details on that?

CARSON: Well, the concept of using evidence as opposed to ideology to solve problems. So we know what kind of things work. For instance, you go over to the Middle East and you look at Sinjar. Sinjar had been taken by ISIS. And, you know, they were very happy about that. What did we do? We worked with the Kurds, put our special ops people in with them, shut off the supply routes to Sinjar, softened the target, then went in with the Kurds and our special forces, followed by the Air Force, and it was relatively easy to take. That's evidence.

HANNITY: You also -- I have agreed with you on your idea of safe zones, and you went to the safe zones in Jordan and America would provide some military assistance along with other nations, food, water, medicine, sup ploys.

CARSON: Right.

HANNITY: And take care of those refugees, but not risk ISIS infiltrating the population coming here.

CARSON: And that's what they want. I actually went over there and did something that seems to be pretty radical. Just ask the people themselves, rather than come up with these false choices. And that's what we seem to like to do. With Iran, we said either we go to war with them or we accept this asinine deal. But there was another possibility. And there's always another possibility. But this is why it's so important for the American people to be informed and to think for themselves.

HANNITY: Apply that to an economy where 94.5 million Americans out of work, millions more American in poverty in the seven years, millions more on food stamps, median income down. And the CBO said today that they expect within the next decade our debt will be $30 trillion not including unfunded liabilities.

CARSON: It is incredible. And they call it the new normal. There is nothing normal about it. It's very abnormal to spend more money than you have and to borrow from the future. But these are all thing that are eminently fixable. We have the most powerful and dynamic economic engine the world has ever known. It's just that it cannot function because it's fettered with all these regulations. Last year we added 81,000 pages of regulations.

HANNITY: Seriously?

CARSON: It's 81,000 pages last year.

HANNITY: I'm learning from the candidate.

CARSON: And the cost of compliance, almost $2 trillion. You want to break that down per family, you're talking $24,000 for a family of four. That also happens to be the poverty level for a family of four. You want to get rid of poverty, get rid of the regulations.

HANNITY: It would be nice to get Americans back to work again. It would be nice to get Americans out of poverty and their piece of the American dream coming true.

CARSON: Exactly.

HANNITY: OK. News earlier tonight, Donald Trump, your friend in the debates, you guys have gotten along seemingly pretty well.

CARSON: As long as I'm not close to him in the poll numbers we're fine.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: Things can change then. It appears he may not be going to the debate on Thursday night. Your reaction?

CARSON: It really doesn't matter, because the debate is about the dissemination of information to the people. So it really doesn't matter when's on the stage.

HANNITY: You're basically saying more time for me?

CARSON: I'm basically saying it doesn't matter whether he's there or not.  I would be surprised if he's not there, though.

HANNITY: Do you think he'll show up in the end?

CARSON: I do think so.

HANNITY: You said to me before the last debate you weren't be as polite and have more pep in your step.

CARSON: And I did. I interrupted a few times.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: Next time I may actually bring a bat or a stick or something.

HANNITY: Really? Walk softly, carry a big stick?

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: You know, this does bring up an issue. You -- I have known you for years now, long before you got in the race. I interviewed you for your first book. We did a whole hour on the TV show. You are by nature not a politician, extremely soft spoken.

CARSON: And I never want to be one.

HANNITY: You're running for a job that actually would make you one.

CARSON: No. I actually disagree.

HANNITY: You do?

CARSON: Because politicians do what is politically expedient. And it's time that we have somebody who does when's right.

HANNITY: OK, fair enough. The worst thing you can call somebody is a politician. I just remembered that.

(LAUGHTER)

CARSON: But in other words, you are thoughtful. You are slower in your approach. You are -- you seem to like to deliberate before making a decision. Explain why that would be so effective as a president.

CARSON: Although bear in mind that deliberation can be very quick. I'm sure I've had a lot more 2:00 a.m. calls on life and death situations than everybody else combined, and you have to be able to gather information quickly, frequently from people who don't know what they're talking about because they're interns or residents.

HANNITY: I promise you, if I have a brain issue at 2:00 a.m., I would find you and call you.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: You all having fun with Dr. Carson? You probably want me to leave so he can talk, right? She is like your biggest fan. She's like a super fan.

CARSON: She is cool.

HANNITY: You want to -- all the things that you have said about him, you know his whole background and life experience?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know his whole life.

HANNITY: You are his number --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's an amazing background.

HANNITY: It is amazing, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's remarkably humble.

HANNITY: I love the story that you do tell. I hope you'll tell it tonight about your mom, the TV, reading, keeping you --

CARSON: In honor of you I will tell that story tonight.

HANNITY: Great to see you. Give it up for Dr. Carson.

(APPLAUSE)

CARSON: Thank you, Sean.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: All right, coming up, Tucker Carlson, Geraldo Rivera, they are here to respond to Donald Trump's decision not to participate in the Republican debate. All of that and much more as we continue live tonight from Iowa, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And this is a FOX News alert -- 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has announced that he is bowing out and he will not participate in this Thursday's GOP debate right here on the FOX News Channel.

Joining us with reaction, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson, Fox News senior correspondent Geraldo Rivera. Geraldo, look, I have had Donald Trump on this program and given him, like every other candidate, fair time to get his views out. This is an issue that goes back five months now.  Why is he focused on one moderator? And why would he expect that he gets to pick and choose who the moderators in a debate format are going to be?  And what does it say to the people of Iowa?

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: There is no doubt, Sean, that you are absolutely correct. FOX News is right. Donald Trump, as much as I love him, has no authority or right or privilege to dictate to us who we assign to a certain story. He has absolutely gone beyond the pale. I totally get that.

But I also think that this is a lose-lose. This is an awful development.  I wish it never happened. This is like a bar fight between brothers. You know, all this glass is broken. When the bartender is sweeping up the glass and your mom is bailing you out, you are going to say what the hell was that about?

(LAUGHTER)

RIVERA: I just think that it was absolutely unnecessary. I think the Democrats are giving themselves high-fives right now instead of listening to the substance of the issue.

HANNITY: I don't think so.

RIVERA: All we're talking about is this bailing out of Donald Trump, the fracturing of the GOP.

HANNITY: I don't see it that way. Tucker, I wonder if this is going to impact, because I know a lot of people that have been torn between Cruz and Trump, a lot of people.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

HANNITY: Is this going to now maybe push some of those people to Cruz and say, why aren't you debating? Why aren't you showing up? This happened five months ago.

CARLSON: Right.

HANNITY: You know what I mean? Why are you hanging on to this? What does it say about your temperament?

CARLSON: It's really hard to know. First let me just say how much I deeply appreciate Geraldo analogies. They're fantastic.

HANNITY: Broken bar glasses?

CARLSON: yes, glass in the face. This is a huge roll of the dice I think for everybody. Trump has been a gambler since the very beginning. He's only candidate I've ever seen in the Iowa caucus attack the voters of Iowa explicitly from the stage and then go up. So who knows?

I do think, though, it's just distressing as someone who works in TV, and, like Geraldo, has worked at a bunch of different channels to see us being called unfair. I mean, compared to what? Compared to the treatment he gets at every other channel by every other publication who is constantly calling him racist, comparing him to George Wallace? We have him on "Fox & Friends" all the time. He's interesting. We're fair. It has really been a nice and I think totally above board and straightforward relationship, and nothing for him to complain about. So I do think maybe his fire is aimed in the wrong direction.

As for Cruz I would say the risk, of course, is coming off as an opportunist, and that's the wrap of Cruz in the first place, certainly from his colleagues in the Senate that he's an opportunist.

HANNITY: Wait a minute. Does this now create an opening? You have got Ted Cruz by my count, and I checked with a Fox News statement tonight, he's been on the airwaves between Fox and Fox Business 132 times. We've had him on a lot on this program. We enjoy having him on this program. I think it's good for our viewers to see all of the candidates on this program.  And now Ted Cruz is out there saying he's afraid to debate --

RIVERA: Ted Cruz is sniffing ethanol. That is ridiculous. It's not fear that motivates Trump. It's not fear. It's pride. It's pride.

HANNITY: Hang on a second.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: What is he obsessed about this for? Five months ago. What is he angry about this?

RIVERA: Why he is obsessed, I think that is for his shrink and his wife to discern for Donald to someday -- I have no idea why he's still obsessed.

HANNITY: Is he going to act this way towards the mullahs in Iraq?

(CROSSTALK)

RIVERA: Who is -- was it ABC? I forget which network had the union leader, the big New Hampshire newspaper that endorsed Chris Christie, had them on the panel. Trump complained. They were gone. It happened at least one other time. He's used to getting his way. What you have here is an irresistible object meeting an immovable force.

HANNITY: Let me ask you a question. Have I been fair to Donald Trump?

RIVERA: You have been, I must say, Sean, I love you, but you have been beyond fair. You have been fair to every candidate. I just sat through your interviews with Ben Carson. You know, Ben Carson, people are saying, isn't he the doctor from -- they've forgotten about Ben Carson. You're fair to everyone. You give them their time. You give them their shot.  You had Donald scheduled to be with you this evening. All that was great.  What Donald did was make this line in the sand which was preposterous for him to do over Megyn Kelly. What was Megyn Kelly going to do, whack him around? It's ridiculous.

HANNITY: Wait a minute, so he's going to ignore all the fair appearances on "Fox & Friends," on "Hannity," on "O'Reilly," and all these other shows, the Fox Business Network, on with Tucker on "Fox & Friends" on weekends, and ignore all of that? I don't know, Tucker. I'm disappointed. I mean, I'm not sure why he's hanging on to this five months later.

CARLSON: There are a lot of people to be mad at in this world, especially right now. There are people who deserve, I would say, our scorn. I just don't think we're in that group. We're like number 4,000 on the roster of bad guys.

In my view, again, I worked at a lot of places. This is the fairest place I've ever worked, and I mean that with total sincerity, especially fair to Trump. How is this going to play out, though? I find it hard to see.  It's opaque. Like everything else, the number of times in this campaign you've said to yourself, we all said ourselves, boy, this is not going to work. Yet the opposite has come true. I really don't know what is going to happen.

RIVERA: I have to say the story now is Trump versus Fox News. And it's so unnecessary. It's dominating the air waves on every network. Nobody is talking about Bundy. There is a guy shot and killed in that standoff out in Oregon. They arrested a half dozen of the militants out there. We're not even talking about that. We're talking about Trump. And every network is talking about Trump. This is was ill-considered move. It is unnecessary, it's awful. And I just -- I wish that when I can make peace and stop it.

HANNITY: One thing here, he's still invited to show up. He's still invited to participate. You know, look, I've been on the ground one day here in Iowa and I've been here many, many times before. I the people of Iowa want him there. They want to hear what he has to say. They want to compare his views on the economy, foreign policy, with those of the other candidates. And this would be the final opportunity for them to see them, all of the candidates together before they go the caucus. I feel for them.  It's a big loss for them.

CARLSON: You know what Trump thinks. There has never been a candidate that has done more media than Donald Trump. I mean, he's just blown all the records by a factor of many. So the question is -- do they think that he's picked the wrong enemy? I think that is part of the question. I have been very fair-minded. Why us?

HANNITY: I've got to run, guys. I'm on a hard break. I apologize.  Coming up, More "Hannity" from Iowa right after the break.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: All right, welcome back to "Hannity." By the way, that's all the time we have left this evening.

Quick programming note. We will be in Iowa for the rest of the week.  Tomorrow we will be on the campaign trail with Senator Ted Cruz, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, also Ohio Governor John Kasich, New Jersey governor Chris Christie. They'll join us on set right here in Des Moines.

Now, I have a words for Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump, you have been a gracious guest on this program many times. We believe you have been treated very, very fairly. The people of Iowa would like to see you in that debate on Thursday night. I would urge you to reconsider. Fox's door is wide open.

We'll see you back here tomorrow night from Iowa. Thanks for being with us.

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