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Senator Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Primary; Four Federal Prosecutors Quit Roger Stone Case After Justice Department Overrules Sentencing Recommendation. Aired 5-5:30a ET
Aired February 12, 2020 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": CNN projects that Bernie Sanders will win the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg coming in behind Sanders.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A campaign that some said shouldn't be here at all has shown that we are here to stay.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Four federal prosecutors withdraw from Roger Stone's case after top Justice Department officials overruled their sentence recommendation.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought the recommendation was ridiculous.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea this was just adjustments on the sentence, nonsense.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
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ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world.
This is a special early edition the NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, February 12th, 5:00 here in New York, and we have breaking news.
Breaking overnight, Senator Bernie Sanders wins the New Hampshire primary. With 97 percent of the votes counted, Sanders leads with 25.9 percent of the vote. Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg is right behind him, posting an impressive
second-place finish. Senator Amy Klobuchar coming in third, outperforming expectations there. And lagging behind, Senator Elizabeth Warren, coming in fourth, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden who is in fifth.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, Bernie Sanders did eke out a win, but it wasn't by a lot. And check this out -- Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg end up with the same number of delegates out of New Hampshire. Amy Klobuchar has six delegates. Neither Warren nor Biden get any.
As we sit here, Pete Buttigieg holds a delegate count in the race to date. That obviously is something we need to watch very closely over the next days, weeks, maybe even months.
Let's go right to Phil Mattingly. He is at the magic wall to tell us what happened in New Hampshire.
It was a fairly late call, Phil, and pretty close.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a fairly late call, but give the folks in New Hampshire credit. They actually got the results in on the night of. And even earlier than New Hampshire traditionally gets them in.
Let's dig into the results. Look, why did Bernie Sanders win? It was a narrow victory and wasn't near what he did in 2016. But he did win, and here's why -- John, if you look at the major population centers in New Hampshire, the top three largest townships in New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders won all three.
If you look at the public university towns, the towns with the types of students that often come out in major numbers for Bernie Sanders, Bernie Sanders cleaned up in those, as well. And that is in large part what made up his margin of victory. And it was a victory. While it was a thin victory, only about 4,000 votes, and why that matters is this -- guys, look back at 2016.
That light blue is Bernie Sanders. That light blue is a washout of Hillary Clinton. Now you could say it was because he's from a neighboring state, obviously Vermont. If you look at the areas bordering Vermont did very well. If you look at the population centers, did very well. Pretty much, guys, he did very well everywhere.
Now, look at what happened last night, on the border of Vermont. Look at the light green. You've got Pete Buttigieg actually breaking into the wall that Bernie Sanders laid out back in 2016. Those population centers, some of the more affluent communities in the southeastern part of state, Pete Buttigieg did well there, as well.
And take a look at the dark green areas, that's Amy Klobuchar, a lot of towns that lean Republican come November, they went to Amy Klobuchar. I think that was kind of an interesting dynamic. Another key thing to keep an eye, if you started watching the results
come, in you noticed the race stayed stat fix for the three candidates throughout the entirety of the night. We always talk about lanes. Who's kind of where based on the lanes.
Take a look at where Bernie Sanders came in first, second, and third. And you see that almost the entire map fill in. Even in places that Pete Buttigieg won or Amy Klobuchar won. And that's static between all three candidates. It wasn't that they were just townships that only progressives did well in or moderates did well in, they pretty much, the three, swept the entire map, which makes a problem for two candidates in particular.
Take a look at Elizabeth Warren. Coming in fourth place. Another neighboring state senator from Massachusetts not performing overly well on the night.
And obviously, Joe Biden, actually having to scroll down to see where Joe Biden got 8.4 percent. To underscore what a rough night it was beyond the fact that he was in South Carolina and not New Hampshire when the results were coming out, look at the map of where Joe Biden came in first place, you don't see anything.
Take a look at where he came in second place. This is a very, very small township. Take a look at where he came third place, also very, very small townships in the northern part of the state, underscoring the red blinking siren that the Biden campaign has as they go into territory that they feel more comfortable in.
However, they thought they had at least earlier in the campaign a real shot to come in the top three here, and they were nowhere near that. The big question is with the demographics changing, with the map changing, are there opportunities for those other candidates to prevail or do better?
Because right now, if you look at the delegate map as things currently stand, Pete Buttigieg up by two delegates, Bernie Sanders, as well. Both doing very well in the first two states. The map changes, but clearly those two candidates happy with Iowa and New Hampshire -- guys.
BERMAN: Two down, now a lot more to go.
BERMAN: Phil, thank you very much.
And there's an ocean of time before the next contest, Nevada and South Carolina. I think we have a calendar. There we go.
Look how much time before Nevada, a week and a half. They go 2.5 before South Carolina and then Super Tuesday on March 3rd.
CNN's Abby Phillip still in New Hampshire with how the candidates are spinning the results and what they're looking at now, Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Democrats finally have the election results they've been waiting for on the night of the election. And Bernie Sanders had a big night, a good night for him and a moral victory for him and his supporters. Also, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar doing well and pitching forward to these next states that are coming soon.
Joe Biden is also looking forward but for very different reasons after posting a disappointing showing in Iowa. He did the same in New Hampshire. And now he's looking forward to South Carolina.
SANDERS: This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.
PHILLIP (voice-over): With a win in New Hampshire, Senator Bernie Sanders taking control as the Democratic frontrunner.
SANDERS: No matter who wins -- and we certainly hope it's going to be us -- we are going to unite together and defeat the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.
PHILLIP: But not too far behind him, Pete Buttigieg.
BUTTIGIEG: Here in a state that goes by the motto, "Live free or die," you made up your own minds.
PHILLIP: The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor earning a strong second-place finish, once again saying he's a great alternative to voters who may see Sanders as too progressive.
BUTTIGIEG: Vulnerable American dos not have the luxury of pursuing ideological purity over an inclusive victory.
PHILLIP: Despite winning the popular vote in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Sanders is behind in the overall delegate race by two.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, America. I'm Amy Klobuchar, and I will beat Donald Trump.
PHILLIP: Amy Klobuchar seemingly appealing to the state's moderate and independent voters.
KLOBUCHAR: Donald Trump's worst nightmare is that the people in the middle, the people who have had enough of the name calling and the mudslinging, have someone to vote for in November.
PHILLIP: The Minnesota senator ending Tuesday's contest with a surprisingly strong third-place finish and a new attitude.
KLOBUCHAR: We've been strong, and we've never quit.
PHILLIP: Senator Elizabeth Warren, who placed fourth, praised Klobuchar for her performance. SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I also want to congratulate my friend and colleague Amy Klobuchar for showing just how wrong the pundits can be when they count a woman out.
PHILLIP: With a fifth-place finish, Joe Biden left the state even before the votes were counted for South Carolina.
BIDEN: It ain't over, man. We're just getting started.
PHILLIP: Eager to quickly put his dismal showings in the first contests behind him.
BIDEN: We just heard from the first two of 50 states. Now, where I come from, that's the opening bell, not the closing bell. And the fight to end Donald Trump's presidency is just beginning. Just beginning.
PHILLIP: But Biden isn't the only candidate looking ahead. Sanders is setting his sights on the next states and Super Tuesday.
SANDERS: We're going to Nevada. We're going to South Carolina. We're going to win those states, as well.
PHILLIP: And last night, we saw two candidates pulling out of the race, businessman Andrew Yang and Senator Michael Bennet. We also this morning expect that we will hear from Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor, who says he will make a decision about the future of his campaign in the next few hours -- John and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Abby, sounds like a lot can happen over the next few hours. Thank you very much.
So, what happens now as the race moves forward? Will more candidates drop out? What does it look like heading into Nevada? All of that next.
CAMEROTA: OK, now I can see. Senator Bernie Sanders --
BERMAN: One more stanza -- one more, go to the chorus, go to the chorus. Big finish.
CAMEROTA: That was a big finish.
Senator Bernie Sanders edging out Pete Buttigieg in New Hampshire. He seems to be consolidating the progressive wing of the party, while the moderates are still duking it out.
Joining us now to explain what any of this means is Andrew Gillum, CNN political commentator and former Tallahassee mayor, and Karen Finney, CNN political commentator and former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.
Great to see both of you.
Mayor Gillum, Bernie Sanders -- I heard you last night saying that the voters keep trying to tell us something --
ANDREW GILLUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
CAMEROTA: -- and it's for us to start listening to that message. What is their message?
GILLUM: Good morning, John and Alisyn.
And, yes, the truth is we're one of I think the last sort of windows to break through which are those of us who are commentators and those in the media sort of keep quickly moving over the victory of Bernie Sanders, and the voters told us something in Iowa -- it wasn't as decisive. They told us something again in New Hampshire. Again, maybe not as decisively, but I believe we need to listen to what they're saying.
And one thing came clear last night is, one, they want change, but what also became clear last night is that they want to a candidate who can beat Donald Trump. And I think you'll find that Democrats will unite around that by and large. If you're Klobuchar who had a good night, if you're Buttigieg who again had a really good night, I am thinking about if I'm them and inside their campaign what do I need to do to strengthen the foundation going into Nevada and South Carolina so that this momentum doesn't get flipped on its head when it comes to trying to win the votes of more diverse constituencies.
If they find a way to do that, then I think that this may be an interesting race for them.
Otherwise, I do believe we might find ourselves looking at some other sort of leading candidates, if you will.
BERMAN: Yes, two things can true -- Bernie Sanders can be the front- runner, which he clearly is, at this point nationally, just based on the results of the first two contests, where he's fundraising isn't where he is nationally, that can be true. But it wasn't resounding victory I think by any stretch of the imagination. You look at his margin, he beat Pete Buttigieg by 4,000 votes, less than two points.
Four years ago, he won by 20 points. He had double the number of votes, Karen. I know there were only two candidates in the race --
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BERMAN: But if you're losing half your support over four years, that's not a great sign. And if you look at the people who came down below Bernie Sanders there and what they were voting for, the exit polls tell us, they were looking for something others than Bernie Sanders. So, there's still a muddle this morning.
FINNEY: Yes. Well, at least, though, John, this morning, we get to talk about results this unlike last week.
Look, the difference I think this time, though, is remember, Bernie Sanders is with a more diverse field, there are, you know, Elizabeth Warren represents some of these ideas. Obviously she didn't have such a good night. But the point is in a two-person race, it was easier for Sanders to deutsche himself as "I'm the outsider, she's the insider, I've got the, you know, bolder ideas."
It's harder when you have someone like a Pete Buttigieg who is young and new and dynamic and voters are getting to know. And say -- who is, you know, also offering a different kind of change, right, as the mayor was saying.
So, if I'm in the Sanders campaign today, I think one of the most important thing is he hasn't been the national front-runner like this in the last two cycles. So, now, it's -- you got to be the front- runner and show that you can build a broad coalition and bring people in because one of the things I did see in our polling here, our exit polls, was that people want someone who can bring the people together, bring the party together.
So, you've got to show can you be presidential, can you be that disrupter, but can you be presidential I think is the question going into Nevada and South Carolina, and, obviously, the diversity of those electorates.
CAMEROTA: Mayor, I had a chance to spend sometime with Amy Klobuchar in the final hours leading up to the vote yesterday. And she was on a roll. I mean, just going from event to event to interview to interview just rapid-fire succession.
I asked where she gets her energy, she said she doesn't sleep much, but she seemed to be enjoying it. I'm just -- you know, I'm impressed this morning by how well that strategy worked. She really canvassed New Hampshire. She got out there and did all these events. And for her to have such a strong finish.
How do you see it?
GILLUM: Well, I mean, she told us early on that she's kind of slow and steady, but not to cut her out. She showed us in her announcement through the blizzard that she could withstand the weather inclement for sure. But even beyond that, I mean, she's had several impressive debates where she's shown up.
And I think one of the things that penetrates at least for me as it relates to her is I find her authentic. I think that she speaks directly and speaks truthfully. I think there's a likability factor that all the candidates have to pass, and I do think she's at the top of that heap.
Obviously going forward, the challenge probably most immediately for her is going to be, one, can we finance this thing going into Super Tuesday, right. You've got Nevada coming up which will be a little bit more expensive. You know, it's a caucus state, so not as bad as a primary state, then South Carolina.
And then we got Super Tuesday, where you get the influence of Bloomberg's money coming in there. And it can be a little diluting. But I agree with you, Alisyn, I saw the interview, I found it personable, opened up, let people in and authenticity is still a major theme in this presidential election.
I think she showed that. Get ready, Klobuchar, because the attack knives will come out now that you appear to be a more formidable candidate.
BERMAN: Look, she skated a little to an extent -- Pete Buttigieg has been criticized for not having minority support. Amy Klobuchar hasn't done much better, just she wasn't getting much support at all, so people didn't notice that there was a disproportionate white versus minority.
Karen, I think three storylines. We covered two of them. One, Bernie Sanders front-runner, two, the rise of the moderates, Klobuchar and Buttigieg and maybe how the electorate is going that direction.
But the third thing is just the dramatic plunge of former vice president Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. That may be the clearest result out of New Hampshire, fourth and fifth -- and not a close fourth and fifth, a distant fourth and fifth.
FINNEY: Yes, very true. And actually if I'm not mistaken, turnout was we saw -- you know, near 2008 levels. So, we're up to a state where we saw high turnout. I say a state where you had high turnout, to see such a drop, I think it makes it all the more dramatic.
It really is disappointing for Elizabeth Warren. There should have been something of a home state advantage. I think the question for her will be -- I mean, she's got infrastructure already in place in the Super Tuesday states. So, can she hang in there and have a good showing in Nevada, South Carolina. She did very well with African- American women, particularly over last summer. Will that help her in South Carolina?
And as we know, Joe Biden didn't even wait until the polls closed, and he was trying to change the story so fast and got to South Carolina and that is really before -- as we've said, that's his firewall. He's trying to drive the message, you got to win the diversion coalition in order to win the nomination, and I'm the one to do it.
CAMEROTA: And he might. He might win South Carolina.
CAMEROTA: We've always talked about that. We've always -- I mean, here at this table, we've talked about what happens if there's a different winner in each of these states. And that might be what we're looking at coming up.
Karen, Andrew, thank you both very much.
Coming up on NEW DAY, we will speak to Pete Buttigieg about his strong showing in New Hampshire.
We'll also talk to Andrew Yang who dropped out of the race last night.
BERMAN: All right. If not for the primary, this would be a story that I think would just blow people's minds. All the prosecutors in Roger Stone's trial, they quit en masse after the Justice Department intervened to reduce their recommended prison sentence.
Roger Stone, close friend of the president. How involved was the president in this? There are so many questions. That's next.
BERMAN: All right. Major developments overnight in the move some are calling an unprecedented power play by the Justice Department to benefit a friend of the president.
The department overruled the sentencing request in the case of Roger Stone. He, of course, was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering in the investigation into the Russian attack on the 2016 election. All four prosecutors in this case quit after the department argued for a later sentence than those prosecutors wanted.
Stone has been close to the president for decades, and the president publicly criticized the prosecution. And overnight, the president attacked the lawyers themselves.
CNN's Laura Jarrett joins us now to understand this really is unprecedented, Laura.
JARRETT: Guys, the Justice Department is facing its biggest test yet, when a president who says he can do anything, it's a case that any other defendant any other time would be straightforward. But instead, we see a tweet, an stunning about-face coming from directive on high at DOJ and a Tuesday night mutiny among career prosecutors.
JARRETT (voice-over): A stunning development as four federal prosecutors withdraw from Roger Stone's case after top Justice Department officials overruled their sentence recommendation, calling it too harsh.
Stone, a long-time confidant of President Trump, was convicted last year of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, a case that stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Prosecutors originally told a federal judge that Stone should serve seven to nine years in prison. But then the president expressed his outrage on Twitter, calling it a very unfair situation, adding: Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice.
Hours later, Justice Department leaders intervened. One senior Justice Department official tells CNN that the sentencing recommendation the prosecutors made was not communicated to leadership at the department before it was submitted.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This seems to be a full scale reversal in a politically charged case by the Department of Justice. I've never seen anything like it.
JARRETT: The official went on to say, quote: The department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation. The department believes the recommendation is extreme and excessive and is grossly disproportionate to Stone's offenses.
Ultimately, the presiding judge in the case will have the final say on Stone's sentence.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The idea that this was just adjustments on the sentence that are somehow routine, nonsense. This is nothing routine about this.
Now, the one thing I would add is that I do think that the seven to nine years recommendation was very high. I was surprised by it.
JARRETT: A Justice Department spokesperson insists that the White House was not involved in overruling the prosecutors.
TRUMP: I thought it was ridiculous.
REPORTER: Did you ask the Justice Department --
TRUMP: No, I didn't speak to the Justice -- I'd be able to do it if I want to. I have the absolute right to do it.
JARRETT: Still in a series of tweets overnight, the president continued to rail against the prosecutors, the judge, and the case, saying: It's all starting unravel with the ridiculous nine-year sentence recommendation.
Democratic leadership in Congress outraged by the president's rhetoric.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I have called for an investigation by the Office of Inspector General. This political interference by the president of the United States using the attorney general as his henchman is not only an insult to the career dedicated prosecutors but also to the jurors, ordinary Americans who served on that jury and convicted Roger Stone of nine serious felonies.
JARRETT: Behind the scenes, sources tell CNN that the president was furious about the original sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone.
My own colleague Kaitlan Collins reports that several allies have stepped up appealing to Trump by discussing Stone's devastating legal fees and highlighting the damage to his family. But there are also multiple people who have advised Trump that doing so would be harmful politically during his run for re-election -- John and Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: We just don't know if that holds much sway with him.
Thank you very much for explaining that.