this is "nightline." >> tonight, breaking news. major developments in that nearly month-long armed standoff at the national wildlife refuge in oregon. shots fired on the highway, leaving one dead. and several arrests made after a confrontation with authorities at a traffic stop. ammon bundy, the leader of the militia group, now in custody. plus -- trump's boycott. >> how many debates do you have to do? >> his campaign saying tonight he is opting out of fox's debate thursday. but he's still leading in the polls. and in his countdown to iowa getting endorsements from prominent conservatives. so will more controversy pave his road to victory? and the bikram yoga master under claims for sex al salt. one woman's courtroom victory. and i feel vindicated.
arresting several armed militia who were occupying a wildlife refuge. this after a confrontation at a traffic stop. shots were fired, and one person was killed. authorities telling us tonight that leader ammon bundy is among those taken into custody. this comes nearly a month after bundy and other militants took over a remote refuge as part of a long-running dispute over public lands in the west. tune in to "good morning america" tomorrow for more developments on this story. and we turn now to another unexpected twist ahead of thursday's final gop debate before the iowa caucuses. donald trump breaking up with fox news. abc's tom llamas on the trail in iowa tonight. >> so i'm going to be making a decision with fox. but i probably won't bother doing the debate. >> reporter: donald trump disrupting the gop race yet again. this time promising to skip the final republican presidential debate before the lead-off iowa caucuses next monday. >> i'm going to have something else in iowa. we'll do something where we
we're going to do something simultaneously with the debate. >> reporter: and his campaign releasing this statement. "as someone who wrote one of the best-selling books of all time, the art of the deal, mr. trump knows a bad deal when he sees one." >> megyn kelly's really biased against me. >> reporter: earlier today trump posted this video to instagram, asking his followers to vote on whether fox news moderator megyn kelly would be fair to him in the debate. the cable network jokingly responded, "we learned from a secret back channel that the ayatollah and putin both intend to treat donald trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president." but by this evening trump was fed up. >> how many debates do you have to do? >> in a free-wheeling press conference the gop front-runner lashed out against his party. >> the republicans go on forever and ever and ever with debates. >> reporter: and his favorite nemesis, megyn kelly, set to moderate the next debate. >> i think she's a third raitt reporter. i think she frankly is not good
and i think they could do a lot better than megyn kelly. >> reporter: he's perhaps still sore over this moment. >> you've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals. your twitter account -- >> only rosie o'donnell. >> reporter: >> no, it wasn't. your twitter account -- >> thank you. >> for the record, it was well beyond rosie o'donnell. >> yes. >> reporter: on her fox news show tonight she addressed the moment and trump's decision to sit out. >> in the months since mr. trump has repeatedly brought up that exchange as evidence of alleged bias on my part. i maintain it was a tough but fair question. and we agreed to disagree. >> reporter: this after sharing with "vanity fair" in a recent interview trump's attempt to woo her, saying "he would send me press clippings about me that he would just sign donald trump."
stories or provocative remarks can slow trump's seemingly unstoppable momentum. >> donald j. trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of muslims entering the united states. >> i could stand in the middle of 5th avenue and shoot somebody and i wouldn't lose any voters. >> when mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. they're bringing drugs. they're bringing crime. they're rapists. and some i assume are good people. >> i don't think donald trump can say or do anything that can really hurt the people who are behind him 100%. i mean, he hasn't shown to have a huge grasp of foreign policy. people don't care. he's been caught in blatant lies. people don't care. he's said incredibly rude things, racist things, sexist things. his supporters do not care. so why would they care if he doesn't show up to one more debate? >> reporter: as time runs out before the first votes are cast, trump's republican competitors
iowa. >> reporter: in iowa he's neck and neck with senator ted cruz. tonight cruz mocking his decision to skip the debate. >> apparently, megyn kelly is [ applause ] fragile soul. if he's unwilling to stand on the debate stage with the other candidates, then i would like to invite donald right now to engage in a one-on-one debate with me anytime between now and the iowa caucuses. >> hillary clinton i think is a terrific woman. >> reporter: this week cruz and the super pacs supporting him unloaded a barrage of 11th hour attack ads on the billionaire, using trump's own words to trash his new york values. >> hey, i lived in new york city, in manhattan all my life. okay? so you know, my views are a little bit different than if i lived in iowa. >> and what does trump think
>> how stupid are the people of iowa. >> reporter: donald trump. new york values. not ours. >> reporter: but today a boost. trump scoring the endorsement of jerry falwell jr., the son of the late tv evangelist and the president of liberty university as well as controversial arizona sheriff joe arpaio. all coming after another high-profile republican endorsement last week. >> are you ready to make america great again? >> reporter: tonight on facebook sarah palin celebrated the candidate with this video. >> his passion is the fabric of america. work ethic. dreams. drive. and faith in the almighty. >> reporter: yesterday cruz alluded to the fact you have a messiah complex. what do you say to that? >> i don't at all. no. i just want to make america great again. >> reporter: through it all trump's dominance over the other republican presidential candidates has remained solid since november. the latest national polls show him in first place by 17 points.
with trump as the main attraction, this election's debate cycle has clocked five times as many viewers as debates in previous years. so when trump is a no-show at the debate on thursday, how many will actually tune in? >> for the other republicans that's really bad news. because while on the front end it may seem as if you don't have donald trump taking up all the oxygen, if you don't have donald trump you may not have all the buyballs either. >> get out and vote. >> reporter: what this 2016 campaign has shown so far is this is not typical, this is not normal, and donald trump is really benefiting from the fact that the american people are sick and tired of business as usual. >> reporter: for "nightline" i'm tom llamas in marshalltown, iowa. next, the founder of bikram yoga feeling the heat. under fire for claims of sexual assault. and later, we take you on board a russian destroyer off the coast of syria. i'll be right back. be good. text mom.
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he's one of the richest and most famous yoga teachers on earth. the controversial founder of bikram yoga, a style of hot yoga that he claims can revolutionize your spiritual well-being, your health, even your sex life. but tonight bikram choudhury ordered to pay millions in damages in a harassment lawsuit and the woman standing to get these damages speaking out tonight. here's abc's david wright. >> reporter: the jury is in, and as he left court in los angeles today -- >> please don't bother. >> reporter: one of the most successful yoga gurus in the world is now in a hot mess. everybody. >> reporter: in the yoga world he's a rock star. known by just one name. bikram. full name bikram choudhury. his brand of hot yoga, 26 poses performed in 105 degree heat,
also hugely popular. today bikram is feeling the heat. ordered by a los angeles jury to pay $6.4 million in punitive damages for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and gender discrimination. that on top of $924,000 in compensatory damages awarded just yesterday. more than $7 million awarded to one victim. >> i feel vindicated. i'm elated. >> reporter: attorney miki jafa-bodden. >> my professional relationship ended when i was fired by mr. choudhury. >> reporter: jafa-bodden was general counsel to bikram's yoga college of india. she convinced the jury the 69-year-old yoga guru repeatedly sexually harassed her and subjected her to obscene comments about women. but she claimed she was fired after she started to investigate other women's allegations of sexual harassment and rape. >> perhaps the first one or two surprised me. but after i began to see a
surprised me, i'm sad to say. >> reporter: this is just one of half a dozen lawsuits against the flamboyant yoga guru who "nightline" first profiled in 2012. >> someone can look him in the eye and say no. and that doesn't matter. >> reporter: former students and employees claiming he sexually assaulted or harassed them. >> i felt speechless because this was my guru and i thought of him as a father figure. >> reporter: "nightline" spoke with three of the women in 2014. >> i said please don't. you're a guru. the world believes in you. he said, "i'm just a man." >> i never lie, never cheat. i never hurt another spirit. i'm the most spiritual man, david, you ever met in your life. >> reporter: back when we first interviewed bikram it was before any of these allegations had surfaced in court. but already there were rumors of
i asked him about them. >> the hardest problem in my life, david, is stay away from women. women likes me. and i have to run city after city, country after country, all my life to stay away from the women. >> reporter: he denied ever having any sexual contact with his students and followers. >> [ bleep ]. every women loves me. you know, president's daughter. you know, prime minister daughter. you know, billionaire's daughter. superstar. actress. actor. singers. but yogi supposed to be yogi. they cannot involve with the women. >> reporter: during the trial over jafa-bodden's allegations bikram strongly denied sexually assaulting any of the women. just as he did in a taped deposition from one of the other lawsuits against him. the plaintiff's attorney asking him pointed questions. >> you have had sex with female trainees of yours, correct? >> objection. argumentative. >> is that true, mr. choudhury? >> no.
>> yes. >> reporter: but one of his alleged victims later told me that the very room in his mansion where bikram and i sat down for our interview is where he assaulted her. >> he raped you? >> yes. >> there? >> yes. >> in his own house? >> yes. >> his wife sleeping upstairs? >> correct. upstairs. >> and his son. it didn't last very long. he didn't use protection. he stood up, put his shorts back on, and went back into the other room, sat down on the couch like nothing happened. >> reporter: authorities in los angeles have declined to press any criminal charges in any of the women's alleged claims. they're bringing civil suits on their own. bikram's wife of 31 years, rajashri choudhury, has since filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. petra stark, the former president of his company, has lawsuit.
potentially worth millions. bikram was one of the pioneers of yoga in america, setting up shop in beverly hills back in the 1970s. his client list a who's who of the rich and famous. >> this is martin and me. >> reporter: now his yoga studios are franchised worldwide. a booming business he's justifiably proud of. >> why do you think americans are so fascinated by yoga? it seems like everywhere you go there's a yoga studio. >> because of me. >> reporter: he's not a humble man. his hobby, collecting cars. >> beatles make two movie with this car. >> reporter: back in 2012 he gave me a tour of his collection. bentleys and rolls-royces. but in court bikram testified that his legal problems have taken a serious toll on his brink of bankruptcy. collection now belongs to the state of california. he testified that he intended his collection to become a bikram auto engineering school for children so kids could learn
for bikram's alleged victims today's jury award is a victory. and the women we spoke with all will have their day in court later this year when their trials begin. >> what would you want to say to him now? >> i would just say that i hope that he gets some help. >> reporter: today in los angeles this jury sending a powerful message. >> what i want from this first and foremost is he's never able to do this to anyone else and that anyone in this position that's being abused should feel strong enough to be able to come forward and speak out. >> reporter: and this was just one case in a growing list. i'm david wright for "nightline" in new york. next, at the heart of the war against isis, we journey to the main russian air base in syria.
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and finally tonight, as the war with isis escalates around the world, russia has joined the fight. on the side of the besieged syrian leader. we take you to the front lines. here's abc's chief foreign correspondent terry moran. >> reporter: we're inside a russian armored personnel character, tense and cramped,
syria. the village of salma, which now lies shattered after a ferocious battle two weeks ago. there's almost nothing left here. we walk the streets, past the ruins. for three years rebels against the government of syrian president bashar al assad controlled this strategic village. until russian air power arrived. >> so you came in on the ground, and the russians were in the sky. >> yes. >> yes. >> and now this is syria. >> yes. >> salma is yours. >> reporter: the nightmarish syrian civil war is now in its fifth year. a quarter million people have been killed here. half the population out of their homes. millions of refugees. and in this chaos isis was born. and now the russians are here. and they are all in. more than 200 russian air
and the battle continues. it's only been a few days since the syrian government troops took this town, and we can still hear in the hills and villages beyond, mortar fire, small arms fire. those are the front license anes a few miles away. in the three months since russia joined the fighting their air forces have turned the tide of battle. massive air strikes and cruise missile attacks have pulverized rebels and bolstered the assad regime. for decades a close moscow ally. we also went to sea on board a russian destroyer, sailed out into the mediterranean, and saw just how much firepower moscow has committed to this effort. the russian missile cruiser varyag. it's got cruise missiles on board. and it not only is supporting the russian campaign in syria. it's sending a signal to the rest of the world about the russian navy's modern capabilities. and at the main russian air base in syria the jets are roaring day and night. the perimeter bristling with
this is the tip of the spear of russian air power in syria. the russians tell us they've flown more than 5,000 sorties from this base, striking 10,000 targets. the massive russian commitment here and the way it's rapidly shaped the battlefield stand in sharp contrast to president obama's years of caution. even after declaring -- >> that assad needs to go. >> reporter: but the u.s., britain, and others say russia is helping the assad regime a lot more than they're fighting isis. and they accuse their forces of indiscriminate attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians. we saw russian troops loading so-called dumb bombs, unguided munitions. very inaccurate. lots of potential for collateral damage. but when i spoke with russian general igor kornoshenkov, he scornfully dismissed the charge. "what civilian facilities are you talking about," he says. "these are powerful groups of terrorists." one thing is clear. there is a new reality in the