Return to Transcripts main page


Trump's Roger Stone Power Play Shows A Presidency Unleashed; Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire Primary; 40 New Coronavirus Cases Reported On Board Diamond Princess. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 12, 2020 - 05:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We just don't know if that holds much sway with him, Laura. Thank you very much for explaining all of that.

So, what is Attorney General Bill Barr doing lobbying on behalf of the man convicted of lying to investigators? We discuss that, next.



Developing overnight, President Trump is celebrating the Justice Department's decision to intervene in the case of his longtime friend and political adviser Roger Stone. That's stunning.


Also stunning, the development overnight where the entire prosecution team resigned -- a mutiny. This, after the Department of Justice officials overruled their sentencing recommendation.

Laura Jarrett back with us. She just explained what this whole case is. Also joining us is CNN senior political analyst John Avlon.

We'll get to the legalities and the procedure in a second, John. But I don't think people should lose the bigger picture of what went on here, which is, as Laura said, a mutiny in the Justice Department. These lawyers who worked on the prosecution of a man convicted by a jury of his peers recommended a sentence and Bill Barr and other folks in the Justice Department said nah, nah, nah, we don't want it.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a lot more than that, right? I mean, they -- the president had a tantrum. And then, Bill Barr seems to have done his best to do a favor, in effect, recommending a reduced sentence for the president's former political crony who was convicted of lying to Congress and tried to intimidate witnesses. It sounds like behavior we've seen from members of this administration.

The more serious issue, of course, is the Justice Department is all about impartial justice, like the oath the senators took.


AVLON: They under -- are undercutting that under this president and under this attorney general. So it's a principle stand that these prosecutors stood up and said we're not going to play that game. We'll see how the judge reacts to all this yesterday.

But people should be wide awake about what this means. This is an undercutting of a basic premise and promise the Justice Department makes to the American people. They're acting in a partisan way to protect the president's cronies.

CAMEROTA: Furthermore, does Bill Barr want to send a message to Americans that you can lie to investigators, you can tamper with witnesses, and you will get leniency? Somehow that -- somehow there's different rules that apply for --

JARRETT: Well, the irony is --

CAMEROTA: -- regular Americans.

JARRETT: -- just yesterday, he was actually making a speech railing against D.A.s for going too light on defendants.

And so you have to question, as you -- as you pointed out, impartial justice. What message does this send to just the run of the mill defendant about justice in this country if Roger Stone can get a break for lying to Congress, for lying to investigators, for witness tampering?

I mean, the whole reason that he was supposed to get seven to nine, and that's just the regular guideline sentence -- the whole reason was because the Justice Department said you get an enhancement when you threaten a witness. And so, this didn't just come out of thin air. There was a reason that he was supposed to, at least, the recommended sentence. And we can have a debate about whether seven to nine is too long, but that was the guidelines.

BERMAN: John, you've heard me say this before but we are learning day by day how much of this nation is governed by laws --


BERMAN: -- and how much of it has been governed by norms. And when you have an administration that is willing to shatter norms, you realize that there's really no protection against this. The Justice Department can do this. The president can do this. There's nothing to stop it at this point.

And you put this on top of what we've seen the last week -- firing Lt. Col. Vindman from the NSC, moving Ambassador Gordon Sondland back home from the E.U. -- there is nothing to stop the president from doing this type of thing at this point.

AVLON: That's exactly right and what we've -- the president has is a blank check, right? I mean, the DOJ officially says that the President of the United

States can't be indicted. The only recourse then is impeachment. Senate Republicans have basically said that's never going to happen. So you have a blank check until Election Day.

Look, retaliation is illegal but who's going to enforce it? Who's going to enforce it against this president?

And so, you've got something very dangerous. You've got an angry and unhinged president who feels unaccountable to any organization, being aided and abetted, in many respects, by his attorney general and the Justice Department to go after -- against his political enemies and try to also protect his associates who have been declared guilty. That's a very dangerous situation and that is where we are today.

JARRETT: But there is a check on the system and the check on that system is the courts. And that's why Judge Jackson is going to have a role to play here.


JARRETT: The Justice Department doesn't get to just pull this back without an explanation. They're going to have to get up and explain to her. And it's part of why you may see these attorneys saying I don't want to be a part of this. They owe the court a duty of candor and for them to have to get up in court and explain this with a straight face may have just been more than they were willing to swallow.

CAMEROTA: But play this out for me. Let's say that Judge Jackson gives the seven to nine originally recommended sentence, OK -- seven to nine years in prison. Then, President Trump pardons him. I mean, that's what it's set up for.

JARRETT: And the Constitution says he can pardon him, right?

CAMEROTA: Of course.


CAMEROTA: And so, then -- so then all voters have the message, which is the president and his friends play by a different set of rules -- get to play by a different set of rules than regular Americans. And that's it -- that's the only possible punitive -- that's the only court of last resort, which is people knowing oh, I get it -- so there's a different set of rules if you're the president's best friend.

AVLON: Yes, but keep in mind it's not just the president pardoning or the tactic of let's kick it through the court to higher courts to try to delay and get past the election, which we see a lot. It's that the president, if he pardons, will that be what people make their decision on?


Is -- why is the Justice Department acting this way to protect this president and his political cronies? What's the degree of influence you've got?

Also, the President of the United States calling out this judge by name. Not only denouncing the prosecutors and the recommended sentence but this judge, which is also a pattern. This is not the way we do things in America. Democratic norms do matter.

BERMAN: We did things -- not the way we did things.

AVLON: I'm going to make the case we've got a continuing character despite whatever president occupies the Oval Office.

JARRETT: John Avlon, the optimist, this morning.

BERMAN: We'll see.

AVLON: I'll be a define (ph) optimist every day.

BERMAN: All right.

What drove New Hampshire voters to the polls? Four-wheel drive vehicles.


BERMAN: Actually, I think we're talking about metaphorically. Harry Enten will break down the polling numbers, next. I get it now.



CAMEROTA: Anyone hoping that New Hampshire would clarify where the Democratic Party stands ideologically will have to wait a little longer.

Here to explain, CNN senior politics writer and analyst, Harry Enten. Good morning, Harry.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICS WRITER AND ANALYST: You know, I'm used to standing next to you at the wall but the past few days we haven't been able to be together. But we're together on television so it's beautiful, right?

CAMEROTA: It's the restraining order.

ENTEN: Oh, my -- oy vey.

CAMEROTA: But, Harry -- oy vey. Harry, ideologically, what did the results in New Hampshire tell us?

ENTEN: Yes. You know, one of the things that we've been talking about all along is how this moderate conservative lane hasn't been able to coalesce behind any one candidate, and we really see it here.

Look at this -- Buttigieg, 27 percent among moderates and conservatives; Klobuchar, 26; Sanders all the way down at 16; Biden, 11.

Look, though, at this very liberal lane right over here. Look at this. Sanders running away with it at 48 percent. Warren -- blowing out his nearest competition -- he has really taken over this lane -- 19 percent.

And I think the real question Alisyn, as we go forward in this primary season is whether or not this moderate to conservative lane will get one candidate overwhelmingly leading it like the very liberal lane has Sanders. If so, then Bernie won't be able to win as many states as perhaps, say, he has won in New Hampshire.

CAMEROTA: OK, very interesting.

When did New Hampshire voters make up their mind for who they were going to vote for?

ENTEN: Yes, I think this is another key thing sort of going on.

If you like Bernie Sanders, you decided on him very early. If you've decided on him in the last few days, look at this -- Buttigieg and Klobuchar, a very close 29, 24; Sanders all the way back at 16. Earlier than that, Sanders at 37 percent blowing out the field.

It seems to me as you sort of look at these results it kind of reminds me of the 2016 Republican field where there was this vote -- this group of voters who knew they didn't want to choose Sanders but they were trying to determine which of the more moderate to conservative candidates they were going to decide upon. In the last few days they sort of split and obviously, that's what benefitted Sanders as he was able to eke out that win in New Hampshire last night.

CAMEROTA: Margin of victory for Sanders. What does that tell us?

ENTEN: You know, I showed this slide yesterday. New Hampshire primary winnings -- winners by their winning percentage in non-incumbent primaries. And we were wondering would the winner in New Hampshire this time around beat Carter's 29 percent.

No, that was, in fact, not the case because Sanders, of course, came in with just 26 percent of the vote, which I think is another illustration of the great divide in this Democratic primary and this very messy, messy field that doesn't seem to be becoming any clearer, at least in the near future.

CAMEROTA: OK, first-time voters. How did they vote yesterday?

ENTEN: Yes. This, I think, is also key.

You know, Bernie Sanders was claiming hey, I'm going to bring in all these news voters in the electorate and they're going to come out and there's going to be this great show of force. But among those first- time voters, look who actually won then. It was Pete Buttigieg at 29 percent.

So, to me, this is a clear indication that perhaps the claim that Bernie Sanders is making that I'm going to energize the electorate is not coming to fruition, at least in New Hampshire.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about black voters, other minority voters, Hispanics. So, as we've discussed, New Hampshire is extremely white. What do we know about how black and Hispanic voters are leaning?

ENTEN: You know, this, I think, is important going forward as we head to Nevada and South Carolina, which are obviously much more diverse than New Hampshire.

So, among the white voters, Sanders, Buttigieg very close together. But look at the non-white voters. They're just a small percentage of the electorate in New Hampshire, but Sanders overwhelmingly ran away with them.

So if there's one good sign for Sanders going forward as we head into those more diverse states, it's this right here. He has a clear edge on Buttigieg on Klobuchar, who really were well behind with just 15 percent and 11 percent.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, you're talking about the one percent of voters, right, in New Hampshire?

ENTEN: Yes, that's exactly -- yes, that's exactly right. I mean, look, it's just a small portion of the pie -- just these non-white voters in New Hampshire. But the fact is that Sanders and Biden, one and two.

Perhaps it's the one decent sign for Biden who, obviously, had a very bad night last night. He still has that appeal with the non-white voters. The question, of course, going forward, does that work out in Nevada and South Carolina. We're just going to have to wait and see.

CAMEROTA: OK. So yesterday when you and I spoke, when I was out in the cold and it was starting to snow, as you may remember --


CAMEROTA: -- and you were in a comfy studio, you said that we needed to look at the time that the results were finally tabulated. So, what did you learn about that?

ENTEN: Yes. I mean, look, I showed this yesterday. I thought it was not going to be like Iowa and it turns out we were correct. The nearest analogy or the analog to this last night's contest, which was just decided by a few percentage points, was the 2008 Democrats. That was decided in the 10:00 p.m. hour.

And guess what? Last night, we had a winner by about 11:00. Thank you, New Hampshire. You actually know how to count votes, unlike out in Iowa.

CAMEROTA: And thank you, Harry Enten. Always great to talk to you wherever you are.

ENTEN: Shalom -- be well.

CAMEROTA: You, too -- John.

BERMAN: Maybe stay another day or two.

All right, 40 more passengers onboard a quarantined cruise ship have now been diagnosed with coronavirus.


We have a live report on the growing outbreak, next.


BERMAN: This morning, record highs on Wall Street after the president unveiled his budget plan with some hidden but critical footnotes.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us with the details -- Romans.


You know, stocks doing well despite uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak. A strong economy pushing the S&P and the Nasdaq to record highs for the second day in a row.


Another notable record, though, consumer debt. New data shows household debt topped $14 trillion for the first time ever. Low mortgage rates spurring mortgage activity.

But one in nine student loan holders were at least 90 days delinquent. Delinquencies rose on car loans and credit card debt hit a record high. Young borrowers are having trouble paying it back.

It's why some Democrats running for president want to forgive student loan debt. But, President Trump's budget, this week, would eliminate a public student loan forgiveness program that's already in play.

That cut is part of his $4.8 trillion budget. It calls for big cuts to safety-net programs like Medicaid while sparing Medicare. It cuts global health programs even as the world is now dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.

It would remake how the government regulates tobacco products. It could push oversight out of the FDA. The FDA under fire for how it regulates e-cigarettes as vaping among teens grows.

And the president wants just a one percent pay raise for civilian federal workers. And he cited, curiously, national emergency or serious economic conditions for such a small pay raise. That's despite his frequent claims that this economy is booming.

Despite those cuts in that budget, budget experts say it would -- it would not eliminate the deficit in the next decade. Tax cuts and big spending increases, of course, have swelled the deficit -- Alisyn. CAMEROTA: It has exploded on this president's watch --


CAMEROTA: -- and there was a time when Republicans used to care about that.

Thank you very much, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: New coronavirus numbers overnight. The death toll is now more than 1,100 in China even as Chinese officials insist the rate of infection is slowing. Meanwhile, 40 more cases have cropped up onboard the quarantined cruise ship in Japan.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live where that ship is docked in Japan. What's the latest, Matt?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, the quarantine remains in effect for all 2,500 or so passengers that remain on that ship. And yet, Japanese health officials announced earlier today that another 40 people had tested positive for the virus. What they are saying is that those cases, just like all the others announced so far, are people that contracted the virus before the quarantine started.

They maintain that the quarantine is working and yet, you can imagine people on board the ship that we've spoken to, their patience is running out. They're not really believing, in some cases, Japanese health officials. And at the very least, they're just worn out.

Here's what one man had to say.


KENT FRASURE, DIAMOND PRINCESS PASSENGER: Yes, it feels a lot like just another day, more passengers. It gets a bit tiring, for sure. I kind of feel like a punching bag. You just don't know what's going to be next.


RIVERS: Now, everybody we talk to says they're just wondering when can they go home and they might find some inspiration -- some good news in the United States. The first group of Americans that were evacuated out of Wuhan, China, the center of this outbreak -- well, they kind of graduated of sorts from that military base in California. All Americans taken out of Wuhan cleared of the coronavirus.

I can tell you after speaking to people on board the ship here in Yokohama, that's exactly what they want to be doing as soon as possible.

Back to you.

BERMAN: All right, some good news for them. Matt Rivers, thank you very much. Please keep us posted there.

Meanwhile, dramatic developments in the Democratic race for president. We have actual results from the New Hampshire primary.

CAMEROTA: We're (ph) positive.

BERMAN: NEW DAY continues right now. We tested positive from New Hampshire.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our campaign is not just about beating Trump. It is about transforming this country.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to hear from Nevada and South Carolina, and Super Tuesday states and beyond.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Vulnerable Americans do not have the luxury of pursuing ideological purity over an inclusive victory.

JARRETT: Four federal prosecutors withdraw from Roger Stone's case after top Justice Department officials overruled their sentence recommendation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an attorney general, Mr. Barr, that is working to clean this up and rightfully so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This seems to be a full-scale reversal. I've never seen anything like it.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, February 12th. It is 6:00 here in New York.

And breaking overnight, they held a contest, they counted the votes, and there is a winner. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders managed to eke out a win in the New Hampshire primary. He finished just ahead of former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.

With 97 percent of the votes in, Sanders has 25.9 percent. Buttigieg right behind. And, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who shot up after Friday night's debate, she finished third.

And then way back -- I mean, way, way back, Sen. Elizabeth Warren from neighboring Massachusetts. And then we have to flip the screen to show you vice president -- the former vice president of the United States.