Exclusive: Jeb and George W. Bush speak out about 2016 race

On 'Hannity,' brothers discuss the state of the race in South Carolina, rise of ISIS


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 15, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to "Hannity." And tonight, we are broadcasting from North Charleston, South Carolina.

2016 Republican presidential candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush along with his brother, the 43rd president of the United States, George W. Bush, will be here for an exclusive interview.

Now, it's the first time President Bush has been on the campaign trail since leaving office, and here's what he said earlier tonight. Watch this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I came here for two reasons. One, because I care deeply about Jeb. And two, because I care deeply about our country.

Here's some things I think people ought to look for in the next president.  Starters, I think you ought to look to someone who's had executive experience. He's going to assemble a great team of people to whom he'll listen. He'll create a culture in which they can deliver not just the good news, but the bad. He'll listen carefully to their advice, and then he's got the backbone necessary to make the tough decisions on behalf of the American people.


HANNITY: And joining us now for an exclusive interview, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and the 43rd of the president of the United States, George W. Bush. Good to see you, Governor. How are you?


HANNITY: Mr. President, how are you, sir?

G. BUSH: Yes, sir (ph).

HANNITY: You know, I thought you gave this up for Lent. What happened?

G. BUSH: Brother asked. And I love him dearly and know he'll be a great president.

HANNITY: I've interviewed you post leaving office a number of times. You have wanted this run for a long time.

G. BUSH: Correct.

HANNITY: Yes. Tell us why.

G. BUSH: Because I love America. And I know we face enormous problems, but I also know he can deal with them handle them. It's -- I'm not an expert in a lot of things, but I'm pretty knowledgeable about what it takes to be president.

HANNITY: After eight years.

G. BUSH: Since I were (ph) one.


G. BUSH: And he's got what it takes. He's got character, backbone, philosophy, vision. He can deal with crises.


G. BUSH: And he'd make a really good president.

HANNITY: You have been through this yourself.

G. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: South Carolina was particularly tough in 2000. Really...

G. BUSH: I don't know.

HANNITY: You know, not that tough?

G. BUSH: I mean, we won.


HANNITY: So it wasn't that tough.

G. BUSH: Yes. I found New Hampshire a little tougher in 2000.

HANNITY: Is that right?

G. BUSH: I lost.

HANNITY: It's a grind. When you watch because I know how close you are to your brother -- you watch the attacks and the back and forth, get you mad, get you frustrated?

G. BUSH: No, it doesn't get me mad. I get puzzled sometimes. But no, I know Jeb can handle it.


G. BUSH: As a matter of fact, these campaigns need to be tough because the job's tough. And we want to see who's got the ability to endure because if you wilt on the campaign trail, you'll darn sure wilt in the Oval Office.

HANNITY: I think it's a good process. Governor, you've been through this.  I thought it was a pretty fierce debate on Saturday night. How'd you feel about it?

J. BUSH: I felt great about it. I got to talk about national security issues and show that I had a steady hand, and the front-running candidate kind of lost it, lost his temper. It didn't go his way. He kind of just - - he lost it. And when you're president of the United States, based on what I can see, you can't be getting all upset at a drop of a hat. You've got to have a steadiness and an assuredness so that the rest of the world knows that the United States will be there if you're friends, and enemies can't see someone who is unhinged.

HANNITY: Am I fair in my assessment that I thought you've gotten better in every debate. Do you think you started off slower maybe than you wanted?  Would you -- would you like a re-do, if I could use your brother's words?

J. BUSH: You know what?

HANNITY: Maybe some of those early ones?

J. BUSH: I have gotten better at what George was the best in the business at, which is discipline, message discipline. I'm not nearly -- I'm half as good as he is. He stayed on message, and over time, just the cumulative effect of it, you know, allowed him to be a president two times, which is pretty hard to do. So I'm getting better at it, sure. I'm striving to get better. And we're making good progress.

HANNITY: You use the name Jeb.

J. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: You've had a dad as president. You've had a brother as president. And I've asked you this before. Does the last name hurt, inasmuch as -- why are you laughing?

G. BUSH: Because I used the name W.

HANNITY: OK. We got W. and we got Jeb, and we...



J. BUSH: Jeb has been my -- the slogan since 1994.


J. BUSH: I had three races for governor of the largest swing state in the country, and it's just -- it's part of my brand. It's not that I'm disowning my family. This is hard for the rest of the world to see. Look, I'm proud of George, I'm proud of my dad. Everybody loves my mom. I'm proud to be a Bush.

But people want to know where you stand, what's your record, what are your ideas to help people? It is about them, it's not about our family, you know? That's the issue at hand here is that most families are really struggling right now, and a lot of people are scared about the future when they see what -- the unraveling of the world and they see the lack of U.S. leadership and the people running not giving them much assurance, other than a few of us.

HANNITY: These really are tough times. Economically, you know, look at the number of Americans out of work, in poverty, on food stamps, home ownership down, median income down, and then you've got, you know, a world with ISIS, al Qaeda.

J. BUSH: Exactly.

HANNITY: These are tough times.

J. BUSH: Very much so.

G. BUSH: You know, what troubles me is that the lessons of 9/11 are being forgotten by a lot of people, and that is the human condition elsewhere matters to our national security. There is -- I tell people that I remember studying Pearl Harbor and I wanted to, you know, mainly try to memorize the dates so I didn't get a B on the quiz...


G. BUSH: And -- but it affected our dad's life to the point where...

J. BUSH: And my dad.

G. BUSH: Your dad. Same on 9/11. And if we let down our guard against this group of thugs, they'll hurt us again. And the good news is Jeb won't let down his guard.

J. BUSH: You think about the San Bernardino killings of innocent people -- they were making pipe bombs in their garage. This was a woman who was radicalized before she came. She got a J-1 visa.

HANNITY: From Pakistan.

J. BUSH: And no one in the State Department thought it was -- they thought it was a violation of civil liberties to check her Facebook page...

HANNITY: Unbelievable!

J. BUSH: ... where she advanced jihad before she got her visa. I mean, we've got to be vigilant. If -- in the post-9/11 era, if we allow just kind of to move away from protecting the homeland, we're going to have more of these things.

G. BUSH: You know what's interesting about this election cycle is that foreign policy is a central campaign issue. It wasn't in 2000, for example. And so I hope the voters take a look and see who's got the clearest-eyed view of the world and who's got a plan to deal with those who would do us harm. I've looked at Jeb's plan. I know how solid it is.

The other thing that's needed in the White House -- and Jeb understands this -- is you set a goal, defeat ISIS. And then you call upon the people who know how to help you achieve that goal. That would be the military and the intelligence community. And they'll -- and Jeb respects them. And that's what you really want. You wants somebody who understands how to make decisions and somebody who knows who can help you achieve goals.

HANNITY: You know, it's interesting. In this campaign, we're talking about national security, how almost relitigating post- 9/11 and the Iraq war has become such a big issue, it became a big issue on Saturday night.

You know, I have a tape of Bill Clinton, where he admits in a speech in Long Island where he was offered bin Laden on a silver platter, but he goes on to give an answer that, Well, I couldn't justify it, there was no legal justification to take him even though I knew he was a threat.

And then I look at cities that you were fighting for and won, Mosul, Ramadi, Fallujah, Tikrit, and yet because through the prism of politics, we start wars, we don't finish them, and then lose -- we lost nearly 5,000 people.

J. BUSH: Yes, that's the lesson of Iraq was the fortitude and the courage of the men and women in uniform that fought so valiantly, led by a commander-in-chief that did something that was not politically popular, but was the right thing to do. When he started, there wasn't much support in Congress. But because of Lindsay Graham, John McCain and many others, it built, and the surge was successful. And then to squander that is the lesson of history. It's that you -- once you have the win, you can't just -- you got to make sure that there's security at the end. And by abandoning -- George told me that he would -- he would make -- have teleconferences with Maliki once a week. Isn't that right?

G. BUSH: Yes, absolutely.

J. BUSH: I mean, that was being all in.


J. BUSH: And making sure that Maliki didn't wander off and resort back to all of the sectarian violence, and you know, dividing up of Iraq.

The minute he left and Petraeus and Crocker left, as well, the diplomatic and military elements that created the stability -- fragile, but a stable Iraq, went away.


J. BUSH: And I think that's the lesson. Same in Libya, same in other places. You got to be all in to create the security...


G. BUSH: I think the other lesson, Sean, is that ISIS can be defeated.

HANNITY: Explain that.

G. BUSH: Well, that's what the surge -- I mean, I know they call themselves al Qaeda. Same type of people. They murder the innocent. They terrorize the tribes. They are thugs. They have public executions.

HANNITY: It's evil in our time.

G. BUSH: It is evil in our time. And yet we defeated them. And we defeated them by giving hope to people on the ground. Most people don't want to live under the clutches of these thugs...

HANNITY: Yes, and...

G. BUSH: ... and given a chance, they will rise up and secure their freedoms.

HANNITY: You were talking about World War II earlier. And my dad, like yours, fought in World War II. He spent four years in the Pacific. There was an alliance. This came up. And this to me is interesting because you worked with Vladimir Putin.

G. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: And you know, here is -- in the cold war, we've got the Soviet Union and the United States standing side by side to defeat Nazism, and you know, enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?

And you don't think it's a good idea -- you don't trust Putin, Governor, to...

J. BUSH: No. Look...

HANNITY: If he wants to help us defeat ISIS, not a good idea.

J. BUSH: But he doesn't.

HANNITY: You don't think he does?

J. BUSH: There's no evidence of it. He spends 95 percent of his air power to attack the troops that we're supporting.

HANNITY: Yes, that's true.

J. BUSH: I mean, it's pretty clear. And it did point out, I think, Mr. Trump's either naivete or just lack of interest in the subject to suggest - - I mean, part of it is that Putin said something nice about him, and I've noticed if you say something nice about Donald Trump, he really likes it.  And if you challenge him, he doesn't. So I think part of this is just...

HANNITY: You've enjoyed these debates with Mr. Trump, haven't you.


J. BUSH: Well, I enjoy taking him on because I love my country and I love the Republican Party. I love the conservative cause. And he's hijacking it, and so I feel obliged. I don't know what the political consequences of this are. There may be a reason no one else is doing it.

HANNITY: Yes. All right, I got a little bit of a joke. I've tried to ask your brother questions, the president, sir, about President Obama. Have you secretly -- I know -- I'm not even going to waste a question on it.  But you've have asked him, right? He'll tell you privately how he feels about President Obama, right? Bill Clinton he won't tell me.

J. BUSH: Talk about message discipline.


HANNITY: Yes. That's really (INAUDIBLE) that's probably the highest form of it, right?

G. BUSH: Why don't you tell people why, and the reason why is...

HANNITY: Because you respect the office.

G. BUSH: I do. And I think the office is more important than the occupant. And...

HANNITY: That's pretty profound because you stuck to it now for over seven years.

G. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: I don't have that discipline. I unload every day, so...

J. BUSH: So what did you wear when you went into the Oval Office every day?

G. BUSH: Coat and tie.

HANNITY: Coat and tie.

J. BUSH: And what was the rug? Tell the rug story.

G. BUSH: The rug was a...

HANNITY: Laura -- your wife, Laura, designed it.

G. BUSH: Laura designed it, which is lesson one of leadership, and that to listen to people who can give you good advice. That's what Jeb will do as president. I didn't know much about rugs. She did, and designed a rug that looked very optimistic.

And so it's really important for the voters to -- is to determine who's got an optimistic outlook. Who can see a better future? And that's one of the things that I loved about Jeb's governorship in Florida. He inspired people because of his optimism, and he'll do the same thing as president.

HANNITY: (INAUDIBLE) about his record. Your record's very conservative -- first state that brought school vouchers. You went to a AAA rating. You went from a deficit to a huge surplus. You created 1.5 million jobs. And what do you think -- because you had a brother and father as president, what does that add to you if you get that office?

J. BUSH: Well, I've had a front-row seat seeing history unfold. I've seen the recognition that it's never perfect. You don't control everything. In fact, I would say the biggest lesson of watching my dad and George is that the big challenge is unforeseen. We don't know what it will be.

HANNITY: 9/11.

G. BUSH: Yes.

J. BUSH: Yes. There wasn't -- there was no campaign issue about 9/11 prior to it.

G. BUSH: Nope.

J. BUSH: September 10th, I was with him in Sarasota. We were talking about -- he had an interesting discussion with Tram Hudson (ph), my friend, about a book they were reading about the Civil War.

G. BUSH: Yes.


J. BUSH: I mean, the world changed, and that's what's going to happen.  It's almost inevitable. We could have a pandemic. We could have a natural disaster or attack on our country in some form.

HANNITY: And you think about...

J. BUSH: It's almost assured.

HANNITY: Think about the reality or possibility, this is scary.

J. BUSH: Yes. So the question is, who do you want sitting behind the big desk when that happens? And that's my case, is that I have a steady hand and I will lead the country through tumultuous events. That's what I believe I can do because I learned how to do it when I was governor of the state of Florida.

G. BUSH: Yes. I know you can do it.

HANNITY: All right, I think you got one vote right there.

We're going to take a break. More of our exclusive interview with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and of course, former president George W. Bush.

With just five days to go until the Republican primary in South Carolina, also be checking in with Senator Ted Cruz from the campaign trail and Marco Rubio, and much more as we continue from the Palmetto State straight ahead.




G. BUSH: When the American president speaks, the world listens. You can trust Jeb Bush to be measured and thoughtful on the world stage. Our enemies and allies will know that when President Jeb Bush speaks, he will follow through on his words.


HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." And we continue now with 2016 Republican presidential candidate former Florida governor Jeb Bush, his brother, President George W. Bush, who's -- you like being back out here?  Is it fun for you?

G. BUSH: Yes. Yes. Because I believe in the cause.


G. BUSH: This is not going to be a habit.

HANNITY: Oh, is that right? This is a one-time deal?

G. BUSH: Well, as you know, I'm a sensitive artist now. And...

HANNITY: Yes. These paintings of yours are going to be worth something.  I saw the one you did of Dana Perino's puppy...

G. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: ... Jasper (ph).

G. BUSH: Jasper liked it.

HANNITY: Yes, I think so. I think Dana liked it, too. (INAUDIBLE) draw one of your brother yet?

G. BUSH: Not yet. I'll do that one...

J. BUSH: We're waiting -- I'm waiting for him to get out of his primitive period.


HANNITY: Is that right? The early stages of artistry? Wow, that's cold.  All right, so we lost Justice Scalia.

J. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: I think I've learned so much listening to arguments before the Supreme Court from him.

J. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: He was so sharp, intellectually solid, a conservative. There's now a big debate, Mitch McConnell has said wait until the next president because in the last 80 years, we have not appointed a Supreme Court justice in an election year. Your thoughts.

J. BUSH: I think that's the right thing to do. The president has every right to submit a name, and the Senate has every right either to have an up or down vote or to defer. I don't think there's any problem with doing that.

This should be an election year issue. It really should because if you go 5-4 the other way, you could see the 2nd Amendment being wiped out off the face of the earth. You could see religious freedom being imperiled.  There's a lot at stake here. And I think all the candidates left and right ought to use this as the basis to outline what their judicial philosophy is so there's no surprises, to create a mandate for the next appointments.

HANNITY: Yes. You got the opportunity to appoint a couple of Supreme Court justices.

G. BUSH: I did.

HANNITY: And you knew Justice Scalia well.

G. BUSH: I did know him and liked him. He was a funny man. And yes.  Listen, it's a big deal to put somebody on the bench for a lifetime.


G. BUSH: It's why it's important to elect Jeb because he's actually appointed people to a bench before in Florida, and he's got a record that people can look at.

J. BUSH: It's a -- you know, you got to be all in on making that selection. I think the next pick has to be someone with a proven record so as to, you know, know that, basically, when they were -- they weren't a candidate, they had a proven record that you could look back to to create consistency because we're going to have a divided court for a while, and it would important to pick someone who has been in the judiciary, and then you've got a fight because this will be a massive fight.

HANNITY: It's going to be a big fight. And I agree with you. I mean, ever since Robert Bork and then Clarence Thomas, et cetera -- in July of 2007, Senator Chuck Schumer -- and we'll play it later in the program tonight -- was very clear that you would not be able to appoint another Supreme Court justice. That was 18 months left in your presidency.

J. BUSH: Now he's outrageous.

HANNITY: Now he's outrageous.


J. BUSH: This is horrible.

HANNITY: That's as close as a political question as I'm going to ask you.

G. BUSH: Well...


G. BUSH: ... there was not a -- I didn't appoint one after 2007.


J. BUSH: That's Schumerism.

HANNITY: Is that a Schumerism?

J. BUSH: Yes, that's definitely a Schumerism.

G. BUSH: That's kind of the way Washington is...


G. BUSH: ... in a way. You know, you -- there -- there -- a lot of them are for an issue at one point, and then when they get the upper hand, they -- you know, it's somebody else's turn. And it's too bad. It's -- it's...

J. BUSH: Scalia was a lover of liberty and a protection, you know, of us from government. And the idea would be to pick someone like that.

HANNITY: You know, we hear so much this year about -- and I've used the term a lot, so I'm as guilty as everybody else probably, but insurgency candidacies and establishment. And I remember when I first interviewed you a year ago at CPAC, I had read 400 pages on you. I read your whole record, your whole time in Florida, as governor in Florida, and said to you on stage, That's a conservative record. You have pretty much -- it's because of two issues, immigration and Common Core. People think you're the establishment lane.

J. BUSH: Well, I'm in the establishment lane because I'm the brother of a president and a son of a president. And I embrace that because that's something I'm proud of.

HANNITY: But you don't have a -- you have a conservative record.

J. BUSH: My record is a record of disruption, of challenging the status quo on behalf of people, and it worked. I mean, we led the nation in job growth 7 out of 8 years. Income grew at 4.4 percent. The government grew by half of that. They called me Vito Corleone because I vetoed 2,500 separate line items. You know, we ended Affirmative Action and replaced it with a leadership model that didn't discriminate but created more opportunities.

These were disrupt -- you can fire someone for cause in state government.  These were pretty difficult things to accomplish. The status quo in Tallahassee protected all of the...

HANNITY: Did any other state create a million-and-a-half jobs in that period?

J. BUSH: No. No, Texas -- California and Texas were behind us, but George had already left. Texas has got it going, got a good business climate. So does South Carolina, for that matter. There's a -- you can see the states that are in their ascendancy. They're the ones that lower taxes...

HANNITY: Absolutely.

J. BUSH: ... focus on regulatory reform. If there's a problem, they have governors that try to fix it. We need that in Washington. I mean, you can take the Illinois path, and Governor Rounder's doing the best, but that's an entrenched status quo that needs to be disrupted.  Or you can take the Florida...

HANNITY: It's amazing how well Republican governors have done, right?

J. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: And I mean, I think the frustration with Washington Republicans is very different than states like Wisconsin and Michigan and...

J. BUSH: Absolutely.

HANNITY: ... and even in Florida and elsewhere. Did you count on your brother for advice when you were president? Was he one of your...

G. BUSH: Yes, some.

HANNITY: A little?

G. BUSH: I tell you what I counted him on for doing a good job of leading Florida when those hurricanes hit.


G. BUSH: And he did a fabulous job.

HANNITY: You had a lot of hurricanes.

G. BUSH: Seven.

J. BUSH: Eight.

G. BUSH: Excuse me. Eight.

J. BUSH: OK. Eight hurricanes, four tropical storms in 16 months.

HANNITY: All right, I'm almost...

J. BUSH: ... you know one thing that I didn't do?


J. BUSH: I didn't blame FEMA.

HANNITY: That's a good point.

J. BUSH: This is the part that I found so amazing, and Barack Obama's one good thing that he's done, if there's only one, is appointing my director of emergency management to be the director of FEMA.

HANNITY: It was amazing. New Orleans had five days' notice, and The Times Picayune 35 years earlier had predicted exactly what would happen, and it happened.

G. BUSH: Yes.

HANNITY: All right, let me go back to when you both were young. What was that relationship like? Did you fight?

G. BUSH: Well, when you're 18 years old, you don't want to hang around with your 11-year-old brother.

HANNITY: Ouch. Ouch!


J. BUSH: Until I...

G. BUSH: He wasn't drinking beer.

HANNITY: OK. At the time?

J. BUSH: How do you know?

G. BUSH: I might have been. Well, I don't know. I hope not.

HANNITY: You were, too?

J. BUSH: No, no.

HANNITY: Who was more incorrigible, you or your brother?


J. BUSH: George is the...

HANNITY: How could you do that to your father, who's the nicest man in the world? That's horrible.

G. BUSH: It was not my father. It was my mother.

HANNITY: Oh, is that who it was?

G. BUSH: Yes, well, it's because I'm like her.

HANNITY: Is that right? You're alike?

G. BUSH: No, I -- yes, we're alike. I used to say I had my daddy's eyes and my mother's mouth.

HANNITY: Well, thank you both for your time.

J. BUSH: Thanks, Sean.

HANNITY: Good luck. You got five days to go.

J. BUSH: Thanks.

HANNITY: Congratulations.


G. BUSH: Like the old days.

HANNITY: Yes, like the old days. Thank you.

All right, when we come back, the countdown to the Republican primary in South Carolina is on, and we'll continue with Texas senator Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio straight ahead.


HANNITY: Joining us now from the campaign trail right here in the Palmetto State, 2016 Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz. Senator, good to see you.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sean, always good to be with you.

HANNITY: All right, let's start with the polls. We got the RealClearPolitics average. You're up to 20 points in two separate polls.  Your average is at 17. You have a pretty strong lead for second place.  The numbers look a little bit like New Hampshire.

How do you get the numbers to where you want them to be in Iowa (sic) as you move forward?

CRUZ: Well, listen, I'm very encouraged because we're seeing happening here in South Carolina what we saw happen in Iowa. We're seeing conservatives uniting and coming together behind our campaign. And as we go into the last week, South Carolinians are looking closely at the candidates, and I think the debate Saturday had a powerful impact on this race.

I think there are really two things that are very significant for South Carolinians. The first is...

HANNITY: Let me...

CRUZ: ... the passing of justice -- the first is the passing of Justice Scalia, and that really underscores the stakes of this election, that the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Our constitutional rights hang in the balance.

And I think South Carolinians are looking to elect a president who they can trust, who they know will put as their top priority defending the Constitution and defending the Bill of Rights because we risk losing our basic constitutional rights. With one more liberal justice on the court, we would have a five-justice left-wing majority that would undermine our constitutional rights for a generation!

HANNITY: Let me go to Senator Chuck Schumer. At a very different position, 18 months left in George W. Bush's presidency, he said, no more Supreme Court appointments. Let's compare to what he said then to what he's saying now and get your response.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: The job first and foremost is for the president to nominate and for the Senate to hold hearings and go through the process. You know, the Constitution -- Ted Cruz holds the Constitution, you know, when he walks through the halls of Congress. Let him show me the clause that says the president is only president for three years. To leave the Supreme Court vacant for 300 days in a divided time?  This kind of obstructionism isn't going to last. And you know, we Democrats didn't do this.

We should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances. They must prove...


SCHUMER: They must prove by actions, not words, that they are in the mainstream, rather than we have to prove that they are not.


HANNITY: Do you suspect that your party will hold the line on this very important issue? Because I'd like to believe they would.

CRUZ: Well, I certainly hope so. You know, no one should be surprised to see Chuck Schumer and the Democrats being hypocritical. That has been their pattern.

But in the last -- it has been 80 years since the Senate has confirmed a Supreme Court justice nominated during an election year, and we shouldn't suddenly start now.

The court is exquisitely divided. Justice Scalia was a lion of the court, of the Constitution. He's someone I knew for 20 years, and he was an extraordinary jurist. And the entire balance of power on the court hangs in the balance here.

I believe we should make 2016 a referendum on the U.S. Supreme Court. Let the voters decide. If the Democrats want to fill this vacancy, they need to win in November! And I'll tell you, Sean, I cannot wait to stand on that debate stage with Hillary Clinton or with Bernie Sanders and to debate before the American people what vision of the court they want, because under Hillary or Bernie we will have a court to read the Second Amendment out of the bill of rights, take away our individual right to keep and bear arms. We'll have a court that would mandate abortion on demand with no limitations whatsoever nationwide. We would have a court that would mandate tearing down our religious liberty and restricting our ability to worship God almighty protected under the First Amendment.

I don't think that's what the American people want, and I also believe that that issue has become front and center in the Republican primary, that is South Carolinians are looking at the candidates.

I think Justice Scalia's passing puts a lot of attention on Donald Trump, on the fact that he cannot be trusted to nominate conservatives to the court given that for 60 years of his life he described himself as very pro- choice, as pro-choice in every respect, as supporting partial birth abortion. And given that, over four decades he donated to Jimmy Carter and supported Jimmy Carter against Ronald Reagan. He supported Hillary Clinton. He supported John Kerry. He supported Chuck Schumer. He supported Harry Reid. Anyone who contributes to all of those leftwing politicians does not care about having conservative Supreme Court justices on the court because every one of those fought tooth and nail against it.

And if we elect a president, either a Democrat or a Republican that doesn't have a commitment to defending the constitution, the result is going to be the Bill of Rights badly damaged and the Second Amendment effectively written out of the constitution.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I agree this is a critical issue. And that's why I am of the belief, like we haven't done in 80 years, we shouldn't do now in an election year. This has gotten very heated. I watched Saturday night's debate, both Senator Rubio and Donald Trump out there attacking you. I'm going to play that, even Donald Trump threatening to sue you, and get your reaction to what they said.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, this is a disturbing pattern now. For a number of weeks Ted Cruz has just been telling lies.  He lied about Ben Carson in Iowa. He lies about marriage. He's lying about all sorts of things, and now makes things up.

DONALD TRUMP, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You are the single biggest liar.  This guy lied, let me tell you. This guy lied about Ben Carson when he took votes away from Ben Carson in Iowa. And he just continues.

He'll apologize. But I don't want an apology after the election. I want the apology before. And if he doesn't, I'm going to bring a lawsuit because in my opinion based on what I have learned over two, three days from very top lawyers, he doesn't have the right to serve as president or even run as president. He was born in Canada. So I will bring that lawsuit if he doesn't apologize.


HANNITY: All right, senator, look, South Carolina is known for being the part of the campaign where it gets very harsh. But I think it's fair to give you an opportunity to respond.

CRUZ: Well, listen, Sean, it really is remarkable and it's quite odd that both Marco Rubio and Donald Trump respond the same way, which is that when anyone points to their actual records they get very upset and begin screaming "liar, liar, liar." And that's just a very odd thing. So, for example, with Marco, the statement that I made is, I said on immigration, Marco's position right now is he supports a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million people who are here illegally. That is a fact. It's a fact that he said two, three debates ago on the debate stage. It's a fact he told Chuck Todd that he supported granting citizenship to illegals even if they committed crimes.

Now, that's a fact he may not like. He wants to run away from it. But he's caught on video saying it. Likewise I pointed out that in Florida, speaker of the House, he supported giving in-state tuition to illegal aliens. That's a fact in his record.

And finally I pointed out that he went on Univision and in Spanish he promised that he would not on the first day in office rescind President Obama's illegal executive action. That again is a fact. All three of those are his record and on video. And for some reason I think his team has said if anyone points out your record, just scream "liar, liar, liar" and attack.

Now, I don't intend to respond in kind. I'm not going to insult Marco or Donald or anyone else, but it is a very odd thing when they're arguing with their own record. And Donald did the same thing. I pointed out Donald's record of being pro-choice for 60 years, of supporting partial birth abortion. And I pointed out that Donald even today supports taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. And Donald, just like Marco, began screaming "liar, liar," and he said when did I ever say? I said, well, when we were debating defunding Planned Parenthood you talked about how wonderful Planned Parenthood was. And then you recall, Sean, it was really quite bizarre, Donald began saying that's right. He thinks Planned Parenthood is wonderful. It's terrific. That was the thing he just called me a liar on.

And it's a very odd strategy of trying to hide your record from the voters and just screaming insults and screaming liars. But the good thing is the people of South Carolina will get to the bottom of the truth and they're looking to records. That's why they're uniting behind our campaign.

HANNITY: All right, Senator Ted Cruz, always good to have you. Appreciate it.

And when we come back, we'll be joined by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and two Republican lawmakers that have endorsed him, Congressman Trey Gowdy and Senator Tim Scott as we continue from South Carolina tonight on HANNITY.


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." And we're only five days away from the South Carolina Republican primary, and Senator Marco Rubio is gaining momentum after recently picking up two key endorsements out of the palmetto state. Joining us now, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio along with South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. Both have endorsed Marco Rubio for president. Good to see you guys. Welcome. I'm welcome in your state, congressman and senator. Good to see you all.

REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

RUBIO: Thank you.

HANNITY: All right, Senator Rubio, let's start with -- it's gotten very heated. We played a tape earlier tonight. Both you and Trump going after Ted Cruz. Both used the word "liar." South Carolina is known for tough politics. Where do you stand with all the candidates? Is it now gloves- off time?

RUBIO: No. I just don't -- I mean, I think Ted over the last few weeks has shown a propensity to say things that simply aren't true. And when you say something that's not true and you know it's not true, it's called a lie. And I just have a problem with it. He's not telling the truth about marriage. He's not telling the truth about the issue of Planned Parenthood, on my stance on life.

So this is a problem and we need to clarify it because it's important to know truth. And so when someone says something about me that's not true and does so repeatedly, as he did, for example, to Ben Carson when he paid for these robo-calls to go into Iowa and say he was dropping out of the race it becomes a disturbing pattern. And so I've addressed that and will continue to because it is an important factor in the race.

Other than that I'm going to remain focused on what this election should be about, which is how do we reverse the damage that this president is doing to this country.

HANNITY: Well said. Senator Scott, your popularity in the state is like 80 percent. You now have endorsed Senator Rubio. Why did you pick Senator Rubio over the other candidates?

SEN. TIM SCOTT, R-S.C.: I have the good fortune of hosting 12 of the presidential candidates in a one on one forum. And without question head and shoulders above the other 11 candidates is Marco Rubio. When I think about the fact my brother's a colonel in the Air Force, I think about the guy I want leading this country on day one as commander in chief, my answer was simply Marco Rubio. When I think about understanding and appreciating how to get this economy, the stagnant economy that is having negative impact on so many middle income families, who best to resurrect this notion of economic growth? Marco Rubio. And when I think about the conservative, not just Republican but a conservative who can inspire a new generation of voters, Marco Rubio. Easy, easy choice for me.

HANNITY: You know, congressman, I want to go into your prosecutorial mind, and you are obviously very popular in the conservative community all across the country. And you made the choice, as well. You're two of the most popular politicians here in South Carolina. What was the reasoning behind your endorsement?

GOWDY: Well, Sean, thank you for the compliment. Marco Rubio is as conservative as anybody in this race. And I sit there and think his heritage score is both higher than mine and Tim's. Tim may not want me saying that on television, but Marco Rubio is as conservative as anybody in the race.

So you have a conservative who communicates our message in a hopeful, aspirational, therefore persuasive way, and he can win in November. And we got a vivid reminder, Saturday, Sean, and I'm sure you talk about it and thought about it, the passing of Justice Scalia. Our next president is going to make one, maybe two, possibly three Supreme Court nominations.  And so I want to win in November. And when you have a principled conservative who can win, it made it pretty easy for me.

HANNITY: Senator Rubio and Senator Scott, Senator Rubio, I'll let you respond first. Do you agree with Mitch McConnell? We have not had a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice in over 80 years. Do you think this should be a referendum for the people of this country and this election and the Senate should not go forward with any appointment of President Obama?

RUBIO: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. In fact in the last year of a presidency, we don't even -- at some point we stop doing appellate judges.  We have to remember this is a lifetime appointment. This person could theoretically be there until the day they die. There's no way to remove a Supreme Court justice unless you impeach him for bad behavior.

And so the bottom line is the balance of the court is at stake. Justice Scalia is one of the finest if not the finest jurist in defense of the original meaning of the constitution we've ever had. He needs to be replaced we someone just like that. Barack Obama is not going to do that.  But more importantly, it isn't fair to the American people. They can function with eight justices. Their term ends in the middle part of this year, then we're going to have an election in November where the voters are going to weigh in on what kind of justice they want by casting their right vote for the president. And then, as I believe I'll be president, we're going to appoint someone to fill that vacancy like Justice Scalia.

SCOTT: I concur without any question. I'll probably say it simply absolutely, positively we need to make sure that the next president and not the current president appoints the next Supreme Court justice.

HANNITY: Senator Scott, do you think that the Republicans in the Senate, there's been a lot of criticism, not using the power of the purse, for example, in the House on Obamacare, issues involving the president's executive amnesty, for example. Are you confident Republican senators will hold the line on this issue?

SCOTT: I've been talking to Republican senators all week long. That's no doubt in my mind that without any question we will hold the line and make sure that the next president is in the position to appoint the next Supreme Court justice and hopefully two more, because it is so important that we maintain this equilibrium that we've had for last several years on the court. That means that we need to have a juggernaut of a conservative to replace Scalia.

HANNITY: Yes. We're going to take a break. We'll have more with Senator and Senator Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy right after this break as we continue from South Carolina tonight.


HANNITY: Welcome back to HANNITY. And still with us for 2016 Republican candidate Senator Marco Rubio, also Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy. All right, Congressman Gowdy, Senator Scott, you both know the state of South Carolina as well as anybody. Congressman, I'll start with you. We now have Senator Rubio in a very solid third place. You know the state is known for its rough and tumble politics. How does he get over the finish line on top, which is where I know where you both want him to be, congressman?

GOWDY: Well, Sean, he had just a great night Saturday night. He looked so presidential, and he may be the youngest from a chronological standpoint, but he sure seemed like an adult Saturday night in Greenville during the debate. So he's also got the most popular elected official in the entire state in Tim Scott supporting him and going around the state. I think when people get to meet Marco, we had a fabulous crowd yesterday. We had a great crowd this morning. When people get to hear him and meet him and ask him questions, they wind up supporting him. So it's my job and Tim's job to get in front as many people as we can throughout the state between now and election day.

SCOTT: Sean, you're already aware of the fact that the most popular politician in South Carolina is Trey Gowdy. We all have a tremendous amount of respect for what he's done.

Here is the truth. Our endorsements are important perhaps a little bit.  The reality of it is that Marco needs to win South Carolina. It's not in my hands. It's not in Trey's hands. Let Marco be Marco. Put him in front of the audience, put him in front of our voters, and I believe that he climbs from third to second and perhaps even first, because when people get to hear him, understand his depth of knowledge of foreign policy, in a state with so many veterans it's amazing to watch the electricity happen in the audience of veterans and people who love our country and care about our military. Marco Rubio has more experience on foreign policy than anyone else running, perhaps everyone else running.

HANNITY: Last question, Senator Rubio. So are Congressman Gowdy and Senator Scott going to be with you the next five days as you travel the state?

RUBIO: They have been already. And they've been a great addition or our team. What they are is they're great ratifiers. People know they take this decision very seriously. To have them on our team has really helped us tremendously in South Carolina. They've been a great resource for our campaign.

And, by the way, they exemplify what we want the party to be about. You look at these two gentlemen and the work they're doing, they are in public service for the right reasons. They're pure conservatives, but they're applying those principles to the unique challenges before us. And most important of all they are fierce defenders of the constitution which is under assault by Barack Obama. We need a president that will defend the constitution, not undermine it, and having them on board sends a very clear signal that that is exactly what I'll do when I'm elected president.

HANNITY: All right, I want to thank you all. By the way, Senator Scott and Senator Rubio, you may want to ask Congressman Gowdy why he denied my offer to push him to be speaker, but that is who different story for another day. So good to see you all.

GOWDY: I can't afford the alimony.


HANNITY: And coming up, more "Hannity" right after this break.  


HANNITY: And that is all the time we have left this evening. As always, thank you for joining us from North Charleston, South Carolina. We'll be back in New York tomorrow night. Don't forget, set your DVRs so you never miss an episode. We take attendance and it hurts our feelings. We'll see you back here tomorrow night.

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