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Americans on Cruise Ships Diagnosed with Coronavirus; Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg in Virtual Tie in Iowa Caucus Vote Count; Democratic Presidential Candidates Campaign in New Hampshire Ahead of Primary; President Trump May Replace Mick Mulvaney as Acting Chief of Staff. Aired 8-8:30a ET.

Aired February 7, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- and we do have breaking news. Brand new fears of a coronavirus right now involving Americans on two cruise ships, one of which just docked here in the United States. We'll have more on that in just a second.

First, this cruise ship docked in quarantine off the coast of Japan, I should say, now has 61 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 11 Americans. Both those numbers jumped substantially overnight.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Meantime, a dozen passengers have been isolated this morning on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship arriving this morning in Bayonne, New Jersey. That is right near New York City, folks. The CDC will be on hand to test for coronavirus. We have reporters this morning live from both Japan and from that docked cruise ship in New Jersey. Let's begin with our Polo Sandoval who is there in Bayonne with the breaking details. I know you just arrived. What do we know, Polo?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy and Jim, those cruise concerns certainly hitting closer to home here in Bayonne, New Jersey, where the ship docked earlier this morning, and now city officials taking this precautionary step of boarding the ship not long after it docked to screen the passengers that, according to the CDC, had a history of travel to China.

As we step out of the way you'll be able to see what's actually happening this morning. As you mentioned, not far from New York City, way off in the distance you're able to see that bridge, that gate that's being used to disembark passengers. Of course, we can only assume that these are passengers that have been cleared.

But as we wait from officials, this is what we know at this point. The CDC telling us that folks on board the ship had a history of travel to China. So the CDC decided to essentially board this to perform this assessment for coronavirus.

Dan (ph) Silverman (ph) aboard this ship telling CNN they actually had no idea what was happening this morning until he turned on the TV inside his passenger cabin and found out about this, telling CNN, Silverman (ph) telling CNN the ship was basically wrapping up a 12-day tour of the Caribbean, San Juan, St. John, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Kitts. So you can certainly assume at this point that authorities will be taking a closer look at where all these passengers traveled.

But at this point, important to point out, they are not confirming an official number of people who are being screened at this point, John, but really the main key here is what these precautionary measures that are being taken by the cruise line, making very clear they do have rigorous protocols on board to ensure the well-being of their passengers and crew, thousands of them on the ship.

BERMAN: Polo Sandoval for us in New Jersey. What is happening there seems to be out of an abundance of caution. A much different, much more advanced situation affecting a whole lot of Americans on a quarantine cruise ship docked off the coast of Japan, 61 people on board this vessel have now tested positive for coronavirus, including now 11 Americans. CNN's Will Ripley joins us now live from Japan, and he spoke with one of the passengers, including an American woman who now does have the virus. Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she is one of the people, one of the 61 people now confirmed to have coronavirus that came from this cruise ship. And in fact, just seconds before you came to me, John, we saw two more ambulances come out of the gate and drive by. Earlier we saw another ambulance that actually turned the lights on. We don't know any -- if there's any connection to coronavirus. We don't have any information other than what we're able to observe at this point.

And passengers inside the ship, they actually have even less information. They are finding out things, including, by the way, that the number of patients spiked overnight from 20 to 61, more than tripling, they heard about that because we called them and we told them.

They're seeing things on television sometimes hours before they get updates on the ship. It's an incredibly unsettling situation not only for the people who are now in quarantine here in Japan, because Japan, remember, 61 cases on the cruise ship, another 25 cases they are already dealing with. So you've got now Japan with a large number of people under quarantine.

But for those who remain on board who are healthy at the moment, they're worried. They're worried about breathing in air that's being circulated around the ship, and they don't know what's going to happen next. Listen.


REBECCA FRASURE, CORONAVIRUS PATIENT: A little bit scared. Hard to know what the future holds since I don't really feel sick right now. Like is it going to get worse.

RIPLEY: What's the hardest part? FRASURE: I'd say the unknown. Like I don't know what's going to

happen an hour from now, tomorrow. For all we know, we could stay quarantined on the ship for a month.


RIPLEY: The highest concentration of coronavirus patients in the world outside of mainland China on the Diamond Princess cruise ship behind me. And a large majority of those passengers, John and Poppy, are over the age of 60. That is the age group that is most at risk of dying if they do become infected with the coronavirus. That's certainly been the case that doctors are observing in mainland China. It's very, very difficult ordeal for these people and it's not over yet.


BERMAN: Will Ripley for us in Japan, thanks so much for that.

And again, the other breaking news, a ship now docked in New Jersey where they are screening passengers who may have been in the cities where they are most concerned about the outbreak. And in just a few minutes we're going to speak to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the medical implications of all of this breaking news to understand what it really means, if it is an expansion of concern.

Meanwhile, politics -- 100 percent of the precincts in Iowa are now reporting caucus results, 100 percent. And as of now, still no clear winner. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, we're going to put this up on the screen, you can see has this tiny, tiny lead, a fraction of a percentage point over Senator Bernie Sanders in the state delegate equivalents. Neither the Associated Press nor CNN calling this race right now.

We should note that CNN's analysis of what went on in Iowa has revealed all kinds of errors in the counting. The candidates have a few more hours at this point to challenge the results if they want to. The Democratic National Committee, the chair, is calling for a recanvas of some of the precincts. This is what Chairman Tom Perez told us on NEW DAY shortly ago.


TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: This was unacceptable. And that's why we had people -- we still have people on the ground there. We completed the counting last night, and we're going to continue not only to work in Iowa, but also to learn the lessons of Iowa.


BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, and Anna Palmer, she's a senior Washington correspondent for "Politico." And with all due respect to the mess that's gone on in Iowa, I think we all know the mess that's gone on in Iowa and we'll wait to see the results that come out later today. I think this has been talked to death a little bit.

I think for our purposes this morning, the interesting thing is, where are we in the New Hampshire primary? There is a debate tonight in New Hampshire with seven candidates on that stage, including the co current winners from Iowa, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, including former vice president Joe Biden who was off the trail yesterday, John, and including Elizabeth Warren, who I think was counting on a giant showing in Iowa that didn't happen. So who needs to do what on that stage tonight?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Warren and Biden really need to stand out. Warren, because she's a neighboring state senator, she did not get the bounce from Iowa that looked like she was going to get traction from the organization she had in the fall. And she can get really boxed out. If she doesn't have a strong showing, there's no clear path going forward.

I do think reports of Biden's demise are greatly exaggerated. I think he had a strong CNN town hall two nights ago. But he has to show fire in the belly and focus and get enough momentum to go on to South Carolina where polls continue to show he is best positioned.

The top tier, though, Buttigieg and Bernie winning neck and neck in Iowa are actually both well-positioned in different lanes in New Hampshire. Bernie won by 20 points four years ago. Buttigieg has reached out consistently to independent voters, and those are key. That's the key differentiator in New Hampshire. So this is going to be a fascinating debate. A lot at stake, Iowa a very different state than New Hampshire.

HARLOW: Anna, do you agree with, as your reporting indicates, that John Avlon is right on that when it comes to all this concern about Biden being overblown? He's now polling third in the Monmouth poll in New Hampshire at 17 percent. You have got him moving $150 million -- $150,000, excuse me, Friday morning --

BERMAN: He would love to have $150 million.

HARLOW: Yes, $150,000 of ad money from South Carolina to Nevada which comes sooner, and the fundraising email goes out last night and says I'm not going anywhere.

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": I think for Biden, I think there's two problems. One, he clearly has not had his message resonate with voters in Iowa. I wonder, are they going to shift the messaging at all in New Hampshire?

He needs to get some excitement. I think the big problem for him is establishment Democrats very concerned about his ability to take on not only the rest of the field in the Democratic primary but potentially the president of the United States.

I think the second thing, and really, I always come back to this because, maybe, I Washington a money in politics reporter a long time ago, but it always goes back to the money. And he has long been a weak fundraiser. And him not showing well in Iowa, yes, there's a lot of kind of disagreements about what's happening there. But if he doesn't do well in New Hampshire, it's hard for him to wait all the way for South Carolina to think that's going to be his saving grace.

BERMAN: There's no disagreement about how Joe Biden did in Iowa. I will say that. No recanvassing or revote is going to boost him into the top tier. So it's not an issue for them. And we'll get to you in a second, Kaitlan.

But I do want to play, and I don't want to play the whole thing in our control room, but Tom Steyer has a new ad out, and I want to play a little bit over it and talk over it. Tom Steyer did nothing in Iowa. He's not really polling anywhere that substantial in New Hampshire, either. But there's been a notable turn that he's taking in this ad and I think it's worth talking about. Let's listen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We simply can't afford to nominate another insider or an untested newcomer who doesn't have the experience --


BERMAN: So that is enough now to see what you can clearly see there, Anna, is that Tom Steyer, of all people, has put the first negative ad on TV. This is the first ad which he has shadowy images of Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg saying, oh, no, don't vote for them.

HARLOW: It is quite ominous, isn't it?

BERMAN: That's what you do in a negative ad. What does this tell you? And again, I don't really think this is as much about Tom Steyer as the current state of the Democratic race.

PALMER: Right. I think it's interesting that he's the first person to do it and also kind of makes that case of the wild card with these billionaires who have all of this money to go on air and are potentially going to go negative. But the bigger question to me is, this experience argument, you saw Biden try to make it against Pete Buttigieg. I think we're going to see that tonight as well.

But it hasn't worked well in previous contests. I think the question is going to be, can Buttigieg hit back? Can he find his moment tonight in this debate where he really does show that frontrunner status which I think is something, he didn't get that bounce out of Iowa that typically happens when the results are much more solidified right out of the gate.

HARLOW: Kaitlan, let's get to your reporting this morning, because there may be, and I preface this with may, you never know, but a pretty significant shake-up within the White House in the West Wing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, impeachment is over and now people are looking at who is going to stick around, because there weren't any big changes during that, because, essentially, they didn't want to add any chaos that was already existing at that level going on inside the West Wing over the last five months.

And now there are questions about just how long the Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is going to stay in that role as the acting chief of staff, which he's occupied for over a year now. It's been a very long time since the president essentially lost confidence in Mulvaney in that job. He doesn't rely on him for a lot of advice. He doesn't really -- sometimes he does the opposite of what Mulvaney advises. And of course, he was furious when Mulvaney gave that briefing that you're showing there and essentially put him in the middle of the Ukraine scandal.

So now there are questions about what he's going to do, who could replace him. And right now what we're being told is the president is wary of having this situation he had the last time he was replacing his Chief of Staff John Kelly. He tried to pick Mike Pence's Chief of Staff Nick Ayers, but he didn't want to stay on the job for very long. In the end, that's how Mulvaney got the job as the acting chief of staff.

So basically, what we're told is the president doesn't want Mulvaney to leave that job until he's got a solid replacement lined up. Right now, the primary candidate for that does seem to be Mark Meadows, the congressman from North Carolina who recently announced he's not going to run again for that seat. But the question is whether or not he takes the job and when he would take that job.

BERMAN: I have to say, John, when you are trying to figure out what the impact of this would be, you can't say, oh, my gosh, the guardrails will come off. You can't have the guardrails off twice. You're moving the guardrails back a mile to two miles here at this point.

AVLON: But you can move from 99 percent sycophancy to 100. And if that's the danger of what Trump might be looking for, because he bristles against people who say, Mr. President, I think that's a bad idea. Mick Mulvaney is being basically told not to buy any green bananas. There are going to be a lot of people who end up beneath the bus of the post impeachment. But all presidents, not just this one, need people who they respect who can say, I want you -- you should second guess that. And the fact the president doesn't want that --

BERMAN: But Mulvaney is not that guy.

AVLON: No, no, Mulvaney has not been that guy either, but he's been rewarded with the indignity of having an acting chief of staff title for a year-and-a-half. So there's a question about who will serve, and the fact that Meadows stood up in that palpably weird speech yesterday to offer a little bit of we're behind you 100 percent when there had to be people in the room saying, well, this is odd.

BERMAN: I wonder if Meadows would be the acting-acting chief of staff.

AVLON: We could make that patch for him. BERMAN: John, Kaitlan, Anna, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

One of the things that we saw in that event yesterday, as we said, where there were clearly no guardrails, President Trump declaring himself the arbiter of faith in a way, deeming who really prays right, who prays wrong, and who means it when they say they take an oath before God. We'll discuss, next.



BERMAN: President Trump making those comments about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senator Mitt Romney, questioning their faith, and doing it at the annual bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, "I pray for you", when they know that that's not so.


BERMAN: In case you missed the meaning of what he was saying, he was talking about Mitt Romney the first time who talked about why he was voting to convict the president. Mitt Romney said he pledged an oath to God and it was because of that oath where he decided that he needed to vote to convict the president and Nancy Pelosi, a devout Catholic, has long said she prays for the president.

Joining me now is Alex Morris, senior writer for "Rolling Stone", who talked about the fact, Alex, that you grew up in a Christian conservative household.

It was -- interesting is one word, ironic is another word, jaw- dropping is a third word you can use to see President Donald Trump portray himself as an arbiter of faith at the National Prayer Breakfast.

What struck you?

ALEX MORRIS, SENIOR WRITER, ROLLING STONE: Well, I think that what Trump said -- I mean, it really shows the profound misunderstanding of what faith and prayer are. As Christians, we are certainly called to pray for our elected officials, and I do. I'm sure Nancy Pelosi does. I'm sure Mitt Romney does.

But our prayers are not meant to be a pep rally for a president. So, if a president is not enacting policies that we agree with or comporting himself in a way we agree with, then that's something that we pray about. I pray all the time that Trump will not have policies that continue to destroy the environment.

So, this idea that if you're not pray -- you know, if your prayer is not some sort of support for everything a president does, then you are justifying -- you are doing something wrong.


I think that's, again, a profound misunderstanding.

BERMAN: I want to play what the president said at the White House later just so people know this wasn't some slip of the tongue or some accident. Listen.


TRUMP: We have some that used religious as a crutch. They never used it before. She said, I pray for the president. I pray for the president. She doesn't pray -- she may pray, but she prays for the opposite. But I doubt she prays at all.


BERMAN: What really did jump out to me is that this isn't a political attack. This isn't an attack on someone's politics. This again was questioning someone's faith, questioning someone's faith. And we talk about things that used to be out of bounds in American politics. But he is going after their religious beliefs.


MORRIS: I think he goes after anyone who doesn't agree with him. And any justification they might have for not agreeing with him.

I do think it's very striking that this happened at the National Prayer Breakfast, which is certainly a meeting of power brokers, but it's also supposed to be a bipartisan event. Again, it just shows a profound misunderstanding on Trump's part.

BERMAN: And Ben Car -- people remember among the many episodes people have glossed over and forget, is during the 2016 presidential primaries, Donald Trump criticized Ben Carson's faith, questioned what it means to be a Seventh Day Adventist.

MORRIS: Right.

BERMAN: Which, again, is crossing a line that no presidential candidate in modern history would ever cross.

MORRIS: I think -- again, I think that Trump will go after anything he can. And he knows that faith is powerful and he's certainly used it to his advantage by pandering to a certain group of Christians who have really come on board at this point.

BERMAN: So which brings us to the next logical question because we've established what he has done, is doing and is willing to do. Why aren't we hearing a great outcry within the faith community?

Various faith communities that these types of statements are out of bounds?

MORRIS: I think that there is -- first of all, I think you have to understand where a lot of these Christians are coming from. Forty-one percent of Americans believe that Jesus is going to return by the year 2050. Fifty-eight percent of white evangelicals believe this.

So if you have this sense that Jesus is coming back, and when Jesus comes back there will be a judgment, not just of individuals but of nations, then you want your nation to be on the right side of that equation. And if you believe, which many Christians do, certainly not all, but Trump is enacting policies that put our nation on the right side of that equation, then it doesn't really matter who is leading the front.

I mean, I think a lot of people are appreciative of Trump's demeanor because they want a fighter. They want a warrior. This is a holy fight that they think that the country is fighting. And they want someone on their side who is throwing punches.

BERMAN: Very quickly, you say that's one group. People who believe in him and believe in his policies. There's another group that doesn't believe in him or his policies but a middle group that believes in the policies but is uncomfortable with this.

What would it take for that middle group to turn?

MORRIS: You know, I think that it's hard to say. I don't know that what happened yesterday is going to be enough to tip the scales here because it does seem to be part and parcel of what we've come to expect from Trump. But I do think, you know, if you are someone who approves of the policies but doesn't approve of the character and who says, well, it's not, you know, I have heard many people say we're electing a president. We're not selecting a pastor.

But also a president is a figure head. And our children are looking to this person to see, well, this is how I can behave. This is how I grow up to be a success.

And if you are someone who thinks that Trump is sending the wrong message there, there may -- you know, there may be something that could tip the scales where even if you approve of the policies, you just reach a breaking point.

BERMAN: Now, again, the president not a pastor, but when he's questioning someone's faith and questioning how they pray, that is taking on the role in some way of a pastor.

Alex Morris, your writing on this subject is terrific. Thanks for sharing your thoughts this morning.


HARLOW: All right. The Democratic race for president might be the most unsettled we've seen in decades. What happens if it stays that way all the way until the convention?

We'll walk you through that, next.



HARLOW: With 100 percent of precincts in Iowa reporting, Mayor Pete Buttigieg looks like he holds a slim lead over Senator Bernie Sanders, but just 0.1 percentage point separates them.

But -- and this is a key asterisks -- CNN analysis of those Iowa results show errors in the count being reported by the Iowa Democratic Party. As this race now has clearly shifted to New Hampshire, some are talking about even more contested convention this summer. It happens when a party's nominee is not picked by a majority in the first round.

So, then what happens?

Let's get to our forecast, to CNN senior politics writer and analyst, Harry Enten.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER & ANALYST: What a freaking mess in Iowa, my goodness gracious. It feels like Groundhog Day over and over again.

But, you know, I think the main thing to take away from Iowa was how close it was and we may be, in fact, heading towards a contested convention. What the heck is a contested convention?

You sort of pointed it out there. It's when no one has a majority of pledge delegates on the first ballot. That has not happened since 1952.

But what I will say is the rules have been designed since 1992 on the Democratic side, my mind, make it more likely than ever. That is because since 1992, there's a 15 percent threshold in every state to get a proportional amount of delegates. And so, that essentially means that if you have this mess, and we look at Iowa right now, take a look at the Iowa results and take a look at how many candidates finish with 15 percent of the vote or more.

It was ludicrous. It was four candidates. Four candidates.