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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Thanks Justice Department For Intervening In Roger Stone Case; A.G. Barr To Testify Before House Committee; Republicans Reluctant To Criticize Trump After Interference In Roger Stone Sentencing; Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) Is Interviewed About Donald Trump, William Barr, And Four Prosecutors; Trump: Four Prosecutors Who Withdrew From Roger Stone Case Should "Go Back To School"; Dems Shift Focus To Nevada, South Carolina, Super Tuesday; Buttigieg & Sanders Trade Jabs Over Health Care; CDC: Coronavirus Could Gain "Foothold" In U.S. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired February 12, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @jaketapper. Tweet the show @theleadcnn. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. See you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're tracking major new developments in President Trump's unprecedented campaign to interfere with the federal criminal investigations.
Just a short while ago, the President thanked his Attorney General William Barr after the Justice Department overruled federal prosecutors recommending a hefty prison sentence for long time Trump confidant, Roger Stone.
Meanwhile, House Democrats just announced a hearing with the attorney general giving lawmakers a chance to press him on his involvement in the Stone case as well as the Justice Department's decision to review information from Rudy Giuliani's dirt-digging operation in Ukraine.
I'll speak with Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of the Homeland Security Committee and a prominent target of the President's anger, the former acting FBI Director, Andrew McCabe. And our correspondents and analyst will have full coverage of today's stories.
First, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, the President once again bitterly lashing out the federal prosecutors while praising the attorney general for "taking charge."
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is insisting he's done nothing wrong even as he is thanking the Justice Department for bending to his wishes in the trial of Roger Stone and retaliating against administration officials who have crossed him. Mr. Trump's fellow Republicans aren't showing any signs that they intend to do anything about it.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The President is all but blowing a kiss to the Justice Department for intervening in the case of the former campaign adviser Roger Stone who is facing a longer prison sentence for his role in the Russia investigation until Mr. Trump started complaining. The President claims he didn't meddle in the case.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank the Justice Department for looking into this horrible thing. And I didn't speak to them by the way.
ACOSTA: The Justice Department's decision to seek a lighter sentence for Stone prompted four federal prosecutors to quit the case. But Mr. Trump didn't seem to mind.
TRUMP: He was treated badly.
I don't know what happened. They all hit the road pretty quickly.
I'm not concern about anything. They had to go back to school.
Nine years in jail is a disgrace. In the meantime Comey is walks around making book deals.
ACOSTA: Earlier in today the President tweeted "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought." The President is not ruling out a pardon for Stone.
TRUMP: I don't want to say that yet.
ACOSTA: Critics say the Stone case is just the latest example of Mr. Trump's apparent campaign of retribution after the impeachment trial. Not so say the administration officials who claim there was no revenge sought against Alexander Vindman and his brother after they were pushed out of the White House. Pay back critic say for the Lieutenant Colonel's testimony.
ROBERT O'BRIEN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: And it was just time for them to go back. And their services were no longer needed and so they've gone back to the Department of the Army. And so that's where they'll continue their career.
I can absolutely tell you they were not retaliated against.
ACOSTA: That doesn't quite line up with the President who said he was unhappy with Vindman.
TRUMP: No. Well, yes, I obviously wasn't happy with the job he did. And the military can handle him anyway they want.
ACOSTA: But there are signs the President's latest fixation on the Stone case. The White House suddenly withdrew the nomination of Jessie Liu, a federal prosecutor tapped for a top job at the Treasury Department. She oversaw the office handling the Stone case.
The President is also targeting the judge presiding over the Stone trial, Amy Berman Jackson, tweeting, "Is this the judge that put Paul Manafort in solitary confinement, something that not even the mobster Al Capone had to endure?"
Democrats say the President is out of control.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) MINORITY LEADER: Left to his own devices, President Trump would turn America into a banana republic where the dictator can do whatever he wants and the Justice Department is the President's personal law firm.
ACOSTA: The President's top defenders are pushing back on that.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: He should not be commenting on cases in the system. I've said that a bunch. And if I had thought that he had done something to change the outcome inappropriately, I'd be the first to say.
ACOSTA: Still some Republicans are unsettled by the President's moves after Maine Senator Susan Collins said she thought the President had learned a lesson after impeachment.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: He was impeached and there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call. I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.
ACOSTA: Alaskan GOP Senator Lisa Murkowski conceded "There haven't been any strong indicators this week that he has."
ACOSTA: And the President is also making it clear he doesn't plan on modifying his behavior after his impeachment trial. Asked by reporters earlier today what he has learned, he responded that it's the Democrats, he says, who are crooked and that he should have never been impeached.
Wolf, for the President, it is no regrets and no mercy. Wolf.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you. Let's get some more from our Senior Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju, he's up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, Democrats, they are clearly eager to get some answers directly from the attorney general.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and now they have an agreement for the attorney general to come to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on March 31st. Now this comes after about a year of standoff between Democrats on that committee and the attorney general who actually defied a request to come and testify in last year over concerns of the format of that hearing in which staff attorneys were planning on questioning the attorney general who pushed back on that.
He did not appear, but he does appear. According to the Democrats he's agreeing to come.
And Democratic Chairman Jerry Nadler sent the letter out along with his fellow committee Democrats. And they told the attorney general that he will be questioned about the Stone case and also the effort by Rudy Giuliani to provide the Justice Department with information related to Ukraine.
That question about that process has been a key question that the Democrats have had and expect Bill Barr to be faced with a number of questions about that and other matters as well as his involvement about the Ukraine episode all together. So this will be a significant event, but it's going to be weeks away and we'll see if anything comes up that will prevent the attorney general from ultimately appearing. Wolf.
BLITZER: Manu, how are Republicans up on Hill reacting to the President's actions following his acquittal?
RAJU: Well, a number of them are defending the President. They say there's nothing wrong with the steps that he is taking. That's how the most of the Senate Republicans are saying. Some are saying -- or taken aback including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska who told me earlier today there is no indication from this week that the President has learned any lesson.
But afterwards Susan Collins who voted to acquit the President said that last week that perhaps the President might have learned lessons because he may act more consciously in the aftermath of criticism that he had receive over his conduct related to Ukraine by both parties. Today I asked her whether or not she still believes the President learned any lessons in the aftermath of this recent actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: -- the President's actions, do you think there's any lessons he learned from being impeached?
COLLINS: I don't know which actions you're referring to. I've made it very clear that I don't think anyone should be retaliated against. That has nothing to do with the basis by which I voted to acquit the President.
The conduct alleged should be so dangerous to our country and so egregious and proven by the House managers that the person should not remain in office one moment more. That was a standard established by the House managers, and it was the standard that I used in acquitting President Clinton and that's the reason for my vote. And I don't know why you are equating the two.
RAJU: Well, you said the President learned his lesson, do you think that he has learned any lessons?
(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: So she wouldn't say whether or not the President learned any lessons at this point. And later, Wolf, when she was talking to reporters she said my vote to acquit the President was not based on predicting his future behavior. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you. Manu Raju reporting.
Let's get some more with Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us. And you just heard President Trump, he praised on the Justice Department for intervening to help his long time friend and political adviser Roger Stone. What are the implications if the President could tip the scales at the Justice Department on a high profile case like this?
REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D-NY): The implications, Wolf, are enormous. If the President can send a tweet out and change the behavior of the attorney general, then what that means is the attorney general works for the President, he doesn't work for the American people. He is not about the rule of law, upholding the rule of law, he's not about putting -- keeping the politics at bay when it comes to things like this.
I mean, think about the message, Wolf, this is sending to the regular public, if you are Joe blow regular citizen, you're going to prison. If you're a friend of Donald Trump, you're not. And that -- it is that stark. But I don't know why anyone should be shocked. If we should be shocked about anything, it's about how quickly since his acquittal which was ridiculous exercise by the Senate led by Mitch McConnell, why we should be surprised. The thing that should surprise us is why it was so quick?
I mean, maybe you'd think the President would have given a week or two before he, you know, hatched up all the people that were testifying pursuant to his subpoenas, obeying the law. I mean this is just outrageous behavior. And I hope that every single one of us, as Americans, not Republicans or Democrats or Independents, but Americans, ask yourself the question, what kind of country do you want to live in? Do you want a country where the president has guardrails and respects the separation of powers? Or do you want a president who's going to act like a dictator? Right now that's what we have now.
BLITZER: You went step further in a tweet, and let me put it up on the screen and read it, congresswoman, "As a former prosecutor of 20 plus years, I continue to be appalled at the conduct of Attorney General Barr. As I said months ago, he is unfit for his job. This is why I joined" Representative "Ted Lieu in asking him to be investigated for possible disbarment."
What questions does the attorney general need to answer when he comes before your colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee?
RICE: Well, what conversations he's had with the President directly. What facts and evidence he has based his decisions on? And not just the Roger Stone case but in others. I mean, look, I'll come out and say it.
I think Bill Barr is probably the most unfit attorney general we have ever had in this country. And I hope people are paying attention to what he is doing and what he's saying. But at the very least he's going to be put in a hot seat, he's going to have to take an oath, not that I think it matters to him. But he's going to have to answer questions about the conversations he's had with the President and others in the administration. And why would this -- there was a sudden turnaround about Roger Stone when you're asking for him to go to prison for lying to Congress.
This was not -- he wasn't jaywalking, he was lying to Congress and obstructing justice, trying to witness tamper. I mean, this is what a jury, an independent jury found him guilty of. He deserves to go to prison.
Now, as a former federal prosecutor, Wolf, as you know I have been involved in cases involving prosecutions of political people, and you have to get approval at the highest levels of the Department of Justice. And the reason for that is to ensure that you are not taking steps that can be influenced by any political considerations. But what we're seeing here in the terms of a presidential tweet is that's exactly what happened. And Bill Barr is going to have to answer to that.
BLITZER: The improvise (ph) version after these four federal prosecutors stepped away from the case in protest, the Justice Department still said that Roger Stone deserves prison time, but not the seven to nine years that originally had been recommended. Is that okay with you?
RICE: Well, look, I mean, anyone can quibble about do you think seven to nine years is fair? I mean that is a very stiff sentence. But ultimately, it is the responsibility of DOJ who prosecuted this case to make a recommendation that is consistent with the evidence against this individual, his past behavior and what is the likelihood is of him going to, you know, be recidivist in the future. I mean there are all these standards that you have to take into consideration when you make a recommendation.
But you don't just prosecute the case and then say, hey judge, give this person whatever you want. You have to take a position about what you think an appropriate punishment is. You can't just say, judge, go ahead and do it, because at this point now what we have is a president now tweeting against the judge saying how unfair the judge is. I mean this is just outrageous behavior on the part of Bill Barr and of course by our President.
But, again, why we should be shocked when it's just day after day? And my fear, Wolf, is that Donald Trump is going to succeed at numbing the American public to his transgressions. We cannot let that happen. He has to be held accountable, and that's why I am going to be as vocal as I can when these outrageous abuses of power are perpetrated against the American people. BLITZER: It will now be up to the federal judge, Amy Berman Jackson, to decide how much prison sentence Roger Stone should get. He was convicted by a jury on these seven felony, seven counts. Thanks so much for joining us Congresswoman Kathleen Rice.
RICE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, still ahead, Senator Bernie Sanders leads the Democratic pack into the upcoming primary in caucus states where the voters will be much more diverse.
And waiting in the wings former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, what impact will he have?
BLITZER: Today President Trump first on Twitter then camera praised the Attorney General Bill Barr and the Justice Department for intervening in the case against his political ally Roger Stone.
Joining us now is CNN Contributor, Andrew McCabe. He's a former deputy director and acting director of the FBI.
Andrew, thanks so much for coming in.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure.
BLITZER: I want you to listen, I want our viewers to listen and watch what the President said in the Oval Office just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing, and I did not speak to them by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence of doing nothing. You have murders and drug addicts, they don't get nine years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That follows a tweet from the President last night, he wrote, "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control." What's your analysis? What's your assessment, your reaction when you hear that from the President?
MCCABE: Well the comments in the Oval Office and of course the tweets are just, once again, we see the President committing transgressions out in plain sight, right? He makes no mistake about the fact that what he wants and then of course offers his congratulations to the attorney general for executing his order. This is not the first time we have seen this from this President. You can look back just to the Eddie Gallagher case, a few week weeks ago and there's many other examples as well. BLITZER: So what the transgression that he made?
MCCABE: Well, I mean, Wolf, it's hard to even explain how and -- what a departure this is from every reasonable standard of how the conduct prosecutions and investigations in a rule of law society in which all people are treated the same. One the fundamental bed rocks of that is the President does not get involved in criminal prosecutions. Certainly doesn't way in with his preferences on sentences, wouldn't typically attack witnesses, wouldn't assail the government for recruiting informants, but these are all things that this President has done repeatedly.
BLITZER: Have you ever seen -- you spent how many years in the FBI?
MCCABE: Twenty-one years.
BLITZER: All right, 21 years in the FBI. Have you ever seen a President attack a federal judge for example, go after prosecutors, federal prosecutors along these lines?
MCCABE: Not only have I never seen it. The one time that I can remember President Obama, you may recall made off-handed impertinent remark during our investigation of the Hillary Clinton e-mail situation in which he opined that we were unlikely to find much, and that simple statement rocked us to the core. I can tell you that we were incredibly concern about, you know, asking ourselves, what did that means? The President trying to tell us what his intent was for the investigation.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. President Obama didn't interfere in our investigation anyway. But just that simple mention really put us on edge. Now we live in a world under this President with those sorts of things happen very directly and over it we everyday.
BLITZER: All right he says these federal prosecutors should go back to school, he once said about that a senior intelligence officials as well. I want to play another clip the President attacked you personally, not the first time, once again today. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If you look at what happen how many people were hurt, their lives were destroyed and nothing happened with all the people that did it. It launch a scam. Where is Comey? Why-- where is Comey? What's happening to McCabe?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So when you hear that from the President of the United States, what goes through your mind?
MCCABE: Well, first of all it's disgusting and shocking. As many times as it happens, you never really get over that. But I think it's important to take it out of the context of just me and understand that here again you have the President casting dispersions and conclusions about people who have never even been charged with a crime, myself, Jim Comey, anyone else from that group that we worked with at the FBI.
He routinely refers to people as corrupt and having committed crimes when that could not be further from the truth. And again, Wolf, I think he is does this because he's trying to plant that, thought in people's minds, if he says it enough times he thinks people will believe it.
BLITZER: The President also today abruptly withdrew the nomination of one senior official Jessie Liu who had -- from the Justice Department had been overseeing the Roger Stone case, other cases, your own case for example, do you see that as punishment for her, for this woman Jessie Liu for not intervening in the Roger Stone case the way he would have wanted?
MCCABE: Well, I don't know why Ms. Liu's nomination was --
BLITZER: For Treasury Department, senior official in the Treasury Department.
MCCABE: Right. But it certainly could be that this is yet another example of the President conveying his displeasure with those folks who don't execute his will, who don't bend to his will and deliver the results that he seeks.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.
BLITZER: Andrew McCabe you're in "Situation Room."
Coming up, a new showdown up on Capitol Hill, the Democratic led House Judiciary Committee sets a date to hear from the Attorney General Bill Barr.
Plus, after New Hampshire reshapes the race, the Democratic presidential candidates refocus on upcoming states and an opponent none of them has faced yet.
BLITZER: President Trump is praising the Justice Department for intervening in the case of his political ally Roger Stone and ramping up pressure on the department the go after his political enemies. Let's bring in our analysts to discuss this pressure. It's pretty blatant on the Justice Department right now. What does that say to you, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the Justice Department is under assault from within, from within its own administration and from the attorney general himself. The President, you know, the President of the United States who uses Twitter to denounce the Department of Justice decision and then he gets exactly what he wants.
And you have to ask yourself a question about what does that mean to all the people who are left serving in the Department of Justice. You know sometimes mass resignations as we saw, four of them, can really make a point to outsiders and to the American people that something is not right. That doesn't happen everyday, in fact, it hardly ever happens. And you have to stop, and take notice, and ask why.
BLITZER: What are the consequences, David Gregory of the President's actions?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, I think the immediate is a loss of confidence in the Justice Department. More of a confirmation that the President got what he wanted, you know. He wanted his Roy Cohn, he wanted a reliable personal attorney who would be attorney general of the United States, that's not how it's supposed to work.
Now one of the things that I am looking for, I think it's very significant that these line prosecutors in this particular case resigned, but what about the U.S. attorneys around the country? They are presiding over these districts. They are political appointees, in most cases, they are no longer Obama appointees, now they're Trump appointees. Do they not have a fidelity to how the Justice Department ought to work? Are they going to stand up and say something or are they going to be, you know, more like Republican senators?
BLITZER: Toluse, I want to rip by you (ph) with this as well, how are Republicans, you know, especially those 52 Republicans that voted to acquit the President in the Senate impeachment trial, how are they reacting to all of this?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, they have a lot of practice for the last several months in terms of taking something that the President did and figuring out ways to justify it or explain it or hide from it, and that seems to be what they're doing today.
They're saying, you know, the President wasn't actually involved in this. He didn't publicly or privately talk to the Justice Department and instruct him to do this.
And it's very similar to what we saw during impeachment. Republicans looking for an out, looking for ways to defend the President, looking for ways to say that they didn't have enough information, and there's no smoking gun, unless the President comes out and says, I instructed my Justice Department to take it easy on Roger Stone, then they're going to find a way to defend them.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Apparently they don't have Twitter over there at the Justice Department. They're not up to date over there.
BLITZER: Only 65 million or so followers that he has. The President tweeted this last night, David Axelrod, "Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr, for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control". You had a chance to sit down with the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and you got his response. Let me play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: When I look at tweets like that, and consider that this intervention in the work of the Department of Justice, this -- you know, direct attack on our rule of law, and on the post-Watergate reforms that tried to build a wall between the White House and the Justice Department, I'm struck by the fact that it's all out in the open. But the fact that this has been done in the open, in a way makes it more insidious because it is normalizing this attack on the independence of our justice system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what do you make of his point that this is all being done in the open?
AXELROD: Listen, I think it's really important and it's not just here, but the President's done this in so many ways, blanketly defying Congress and their oversight responsibilities. He's normalizing that behavior.
Look, you know, going after the media in the way that he does normalizes that in our politics. Dealing with foreign leaders as he did with the President of Ukraine and then insisting that it was a perfect call, this is -- the insidious thing is the sort of sundering of these pillars of a working democracy and it's deeply, deeply concerning. And he does it again and again and again.
GREGORY: And part of the problem with it being out in the open, like Congressman Schiff is saying is that you put this in the realm of politics where it really should be because politically speaking -- what, nobody's going to impeach the President again right now.
We're in an election year that didn't -- Muller didn't result in anything, impeachment resulted in acquittal. But it really does come down to Republicans who can say, look, we appreciate this President for reasons one through 10. But shouldn't you still be able to have some oversight ability over how he's conducted his affair?
His attacks on the judiciary, by the way, which had been rebuked by the Chief Justice of the United States and here's another instance of it again today attacking the district judge.
BORGER: And during the Mahler report, the question that Bob Muller had to deal with time and time again was, can you obstruct justice in public? And the answer was, yes, I guess you can although they're not going to indict a sitting president. We know that. But it was very clear that that was what the President was doing to people who are going to testify against him. AXELROD: Gloria, I agree with what you said at the outset about these resignations sending a strong signal. But what's frightening is we're seeing these throughout the government and in the national security area and in the Justice Department, sensitive areas where we're losing some of the best people. And what are the implications of that, he is turning the justice system into that which he accuses of being which is highly politicized.
BLITZER: He says these four federal prosecutors who resigned should go back to school, that's what he said that about intelligence community leaders in the past as well. All right, there's going to be a lot more right after this.
BLITZER: In the wake of last night's shake up in the Democratic presidential race, the candidates now were scrambling to cover new territory and reach new voters. Our Senior National Correspondent, Kyung Lah was in New Hampshire as the results came in. Tell us more about where this race, Kyung, is heading.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they may appear -- these candidates may appear to be off the campaign trail today but they are furiously making the shift to Nevada. Amy Klobuchar is here in New York before she heads west. She's here for a fundraiser. The candidates gearing up for the next states.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are on to Nevada --
LAH (voice-over): The Democrats take their battle for the nomination west. After his narrow New Hampshire victory, Bernie Sanders is now the Democratic Party's frontrunner. On his heels, Pete Buttigieg in second, with a late surge from Amy Klobuchar lifting her to a surprising third place finish.
KLOBUCHAR: I think the job is about you.
LAH (voice-over): Klobuchar's campaign is now expanding, hitting Nevada airwaves today with two new ads ramping up staff in Nevada and Super Tuesday states. Pete Buttigieg's new Nevada ad focuses on a key issue for voters.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Others say it's Medicare for All or nothing. The choice should be yours.
LAH (voice-over): His target, Bernie Sanders and Medicare for All.
BUTTIGIEG: Senator Sanders' message that he's going to erase those plans and replace them with a single government plan for everybody is going to be I think a very tough sell among voters who want to have that choice. [17:40:08]
LAH (voice-over): Who wants it? Nevada's powerful hotel workers union that fought Las Vegas casinos for their own union healthcare. As Sanders celebrated his New Hampshire victory, the Culinary Union dropped this flyer in English and Spanish to its 60,000 members. Warning Sanders would end Culinary healthcare, setting up a battle over Medicare for All among Democrats.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's going to work for every worker in America, especially for union workers. So we're going to sit down with our friends in the Culinary Workers Union.
LAH (voice-over): Nevada now, for the first time, tests Democrats on their ability to reach voters of color. Elizabeth Warren who finished New Hampshire as a distant fourth says it's still early.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 98 percent of people still haven't been heard from. We still have 55 states and territories and this is going to be a long primary process.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
LAH (voice-over): Joe Biden spent his night in South Carolina. His campaign is staking survival on his strength with black voters.
BIDEN: So if you not win the Democratic nomination for president, you shouldn't be able to win it without black and brown voters. Too often. Your loyalty, your support, your commitment to this party have been taken for granted.
LAH (voice-over): Waiting to challenge all the candidates on Super Tuesday, Michael Bloomberg.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People that I'm running against a good people and if one of them wins the nomination, God forbid. I will support him or her.
LAH: And a sign of how heated Medicare for All will be in the state of Nevada. The Culinary Union issued a statement saying that Bernie Sanders supporters had viciously attacked the union and its working families for just providing information to its membership about health care. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Kyung, thanks very much.
Toluse, it's interesting the next two races, the states are a lot more diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire. So who's best positioned to take advantage of that?
OLORUNNIPA: Yes, that's going to be a big challenge for someone like Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar trying to expand beyond Iowa, New Hampshire, which are overwhelmingly white to show whether or not they have the kind of appeal to diverse communities, Hispanic voters, black voters.
Joe Biden is largely in a good place when it comes to South Carolina. He has staked much of his campaign on the whole idea of a South Carolina firewall. It will be a test of whether or not he can revive his campaign is whether or not he continues to have that strong hold on the black voters that he has relied on so much as part of the theme of his campaign.
We heard him last night saying that black and brown voters are going to be key to his election and he said that 99 percent of black voters haven't weighed in yet. So we'll have to wait and see whether or not Iowa, New Hampshire harms in with those black voters, but if not, he could be in a good position.
BLITZER: All of a sudden Michael Bloomberg is becoming a factor, not necessarily in Nevada, or South Carolina, but in Super Tuesdays spending hundreds of millions of dollars.
AXELROD: Yes, he looms out there pretty large. He'll spend more by Super Tuesday than President Obama spent on his reelection media in 2012. And his gamble is that Bernie Sanders emerges here as the undisputed candidate of the left, and that the picture is muddled in the middle and that there is no real champ that Biden phage and Bloomberg can pick up the torch of that group.
But, you know, Elizabeth Warren, it was interesting to hear her say, it's early, and that's the mantra of people who don't do well in these early primaries. But I was reminded and you probably remember this, Yogi Berra, talking about the shadows at Yankee Stadium in the afternoon there and he said it gets late early here. That's true in presidential politics, too. You run out of money if you don't do well, pretty quick.
BORGER: Yes, I think nothing succeeds like success as they say. And Biden, there's a recent poll that showed his support among African- Americans has been halved. So we'll have to see whether Biden, by the way, who doesn't have a lot of money, can really stay in decent shape through South Carolina. If he can't, I think that's the end of the road. That's their whole play.
And right now, you know, you have people with wind at their back and --
BLITZER: What's hurting the Vice President so much?
GREGORY: Well, I just don't think he's connected to voters. I think he seems old on the trail. I think he's out of step. I don't think he's debated well, and I think he's just establishment. I think there's still a desire for a real fresh face.
And I would note too that one of the things that success does is it clarifies the mind, and there's a lot of Democrats who are now waking up to the idea like, well, Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner, and he's the liberal wing of the party. And we're not comfortable with him, which is why we have a real fight with moderates now and I think you're going to see the knives come out, politically speaking, for Bernie Sanders.
BLITZER: Toluse, you think the Rudy Giuliani inspired attacks on the Biden's because of Ukraine, the gas company, all that, is hurting Biden?
OLORUNNIPA: There's a chance that that is, you know, his family is very important to him. But even before this started to come out the Ukraine scandal, Biden was struggling to connect with voters. He had some issues with missteps and misstatements. And that was a big challenge. And even in his previous campaigns, he's had similar challenges. So that may have added to it, but I think he had pre- existing challenge.
BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's more news we're following, an important programming note to our viewers later tonight on Anderson Cooper 360. Anderson will speak with both Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Coming up, the deadly coronavirus. A new alert from the CDC warns Americans that disease could gain a foothold right here in the United States.
BLITZER: Tonight there's a new warning for this from the Centers for Disease Control about the deadly coronavirus and its presence here in the United States. Meanwhile, some Americans quarantine aboard an infected cruise ship off the coast of Japan are already dealing with fallout from the disease. Brian Todd has been tracking the situation for us. Brian, what's the latest?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, mixed messages from top health officials around the world tonight about where we are with this virus. Some officials say it's showing signs of leveling off, but others say it remains a very serious threat including here in the United States.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, an ominous warning from a top official at America's Centers for Disease Control about the deadly and spreading coronavirus.
DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, NATIONAL CENTER FOR IMMUNIZATION AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES/CDC: We can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the U.S.
TODD (voice-over): There are now more than a dozen confirmed cases of coronavirus inside the United States. Elsewhere, there's concerned tonight that the Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama, Japan is a floating incubator for coronavirus. Japanese officials say there are more than three dozen newly discovered cases of the virus on board the cruise ship. Nearly 200 people on the vessel have become infected.
The largest outbreak of the virus outside Mainland China, American Kent Frasure's wife tested positive. She's been taken off the ship to be monitored.
KENT FRASURE, QUARANTINED ON DIAMOND PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP: Yes, it feels a lot like it just another day, more passengers. It gets a bit tiring for sure. Kind of feel like a punching bag. You just don't know what's going to be next.
TODD (voice-over): Thousands of people are stuck on the Diamond Princess. Many of them are under quarantine. But one staffer worries about crew members on the ship who she says interact constantly with potentially infected passengers serving them food. Those crew members, she says, are not in isolation.
SONALI THAKKAR, CREW MEMBER ON DIAMOND PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP: We all remove our masks and gloves when we are eating. So we are all sitting in the same place, and having food, and it can spread.
TODD (voice-over): Another cruise ship, the Westerdam, has been turned away from ports in four countries, despite having no confirmed cases of coronavirus.
ANGELA JONES, PASSENGER ON WESTERDAM CRUISE SHIP: We don't know what's going on. We've been rambling (ph) around for about two weeks now and many countries have closed the border off to us.
TODD (voice-over): The Westerdam finally headed for Cambodia, which did agree to take it in. Experts say there's a full fledged scare over cruise ships because they're like Petri dishes for a virus like this.
DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, OXFORD SAID BUSINESS SCHOOL: Anytime that you have a lot of people in a close confined space, those are conditions where a virus like this coronavirus can thrive.
TODD (voice-over): There are now more than 45,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and more than 1,100 people, less than 3 percent have been killed by it. The vast majority of those cases have been in Mainland China. Public health experts say there are some easy ways people can protect themselves.
ALEXANDRA PHELAN, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SCHOOL: Hand washing is key, regular hand washing and that's because the virus
spreads through droplets. And so, you know, if you touch your nose or touch your mouth or you touch a door handle, there's someone who is infected touched. It's about washing your hands regularly and properly.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, hundreds of people remain under two-week quarantine at military bases across the U.S. But there is good news. Nearly 200 people flown out of the viruses epicenter Wuhan, China have been released from quarantine at March Air Force Base in California.
JAMIE FOUSS, U.S. CONSULATE GENERAL IN WUHAN, CHINA: Today as we took off our masks, sorry, and were given a clean bill of health, we all realize that we had gone through this experience together. And we made good friends.
TODD: Now, one top official from the World Health Organization says the number of reported cases in China has leveled off over the past week and does not seem to be growing as fast. But he cautions against reading too much into that saying these numbers could go in any direction. And another top WHO official says it is really too early to predict the end of this epidemic. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, where are we tonight with a potential vaccine for the coronavirus?
TODD: Wolf, some experts are more optimistic than others about that. One doctor working on a vaccine at Imperial College in London is at the stage where he's doing animal trials for a vaccine. He thinks that by the end of this year they could have a suitable vaccine, but others say, we're at least a year away.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting, thank you.
Coming up, amid President Trump's unprecedented interference in the Justice Department, the Attorney General William Barr is now scheduled to testify in front of angry House Democrats. Stay with us. You're in "The Situation Room".
BLITZER: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following breaking news. There's new fallout right now from the Justice Department's extraordinary intervention in the case against President Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone.