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Trump Thanks DOJ For Intervening In Roger Stone Case; Interview With Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA); Sources Say More DOJ Resignations Possible In Coming Days; Iowa Democratic Party Chair Resigns Over Caucus Debacle; CDC Warns Coronavirus Could Gain "Foothold" In U.S. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 12, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: There is new fallout right now from the Justice Department's extraordinary intervention in the case against President Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone.
Tonight, sources are telling CNN there may be more departures from the Department of Justice in protest over the decision by the attorney general, William Barr, to overrule the sentencing recommendation for Stone.
The president is now publicly backing the department for reducing the recommended sentence, leading four U.S. federal prosecutors to resign in protest. And he's thanking the attorney general, Bill Barr, for -- quote -- "taking charge."
Meanwhile, House Judiciary Committee members, they have just announced that Barr will testify before the committee on March 31 to -- quote -- "address numerous concerns regarding his leadership and the president's improper influence over the Justice Department."
That's a quote.
We will talk about that and more with Congressman Cedric Richmond of the Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents of analysts are also standing by.
First, let's get to the breaking news.
Our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez, is working the story for us.
Evan, you have got new information.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
We're anticipating, based on talking to people at the U.S. attorneys here in Washington, that there may be more prosecutors who would be leaving this office, as the fallout continues from this intervention that happened just in the last couple of days with the prosecution of Roger Stone, the sentencing of Roger Stone. Now, we already saw four prosecutors leave the case quit the case, Wolf. And one of them has quit the Justice Department entirely. But the prospect of further departures, obviously, shows that this is an impact that is going to be spreading here in the U.S. attorney's office, as the tensions really have been building between this office and main headquarters, where Bill Barr, the attorney general, and other officials have had disagreements, not only over the Stone case, but also over the Flynn -- over the Michael Flynn case, where, as you know, the former national security adviser is still awaiting sentencing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Because the president has made it clear in his tweets, as well as his public statement, he doesn't even think there should have been prosecution of these cases and that the Justice Department, the federal government, the prosecutors went too far.
PEREZ: That's right.
He really believes that the -- what he says with these malicious prosecutions -- these are people who he believes were unfairly targeted as a result of being supporters of the president.
And, look, part of what the president is saying has really struck a chord, at least with some of the people at the Justice Department, whether the attorney general, who believes that some of these cases have gone too far.
Now, in the case of Michael Flynn recently, Wolf, the prosecutors who have been handling the sentencing had initially proposed to perhaps suggest some prison time for Michael Flynn. You know that he has essentially gone back on his guilty plea. He's trying to withdraw it without doing so much.
And the Justice Department bosses, including Bill Barr, had pushed back, because they believe that Michael Flynn should not go to prison. So right now, what we're seeing is some of this playing out in court filings.
Even today, you see that prosecutors will say that Michael Flynn still deserves to stick by his guilty plea.
BLITZER: What are you hearing about the possibility that Barr, the attorney general, could interfere in other pending cases?
PEREZ: Well, look, one of the cases that everybody's paying attention to is the case, the investigation of Rudy Giuliani, which is being handled by prosecutors in New York, in the Southern District of New York.
BLITZER: He's under investigation.
PEREZ: He's under investigation. That's right.
And that case, obviously, is still ongoing. We're told that Bill Barr has been keeping tabs on the case. He is not personally interfering or involved in it, but he is keeping tabs on it. Prosecutors in New York are essentially briefing him about once a month or every few weeks to make sure that they are all on the same page.
At this point, Wolf, there's no sign of any interference by the attorney general or anybody from Justice Department headquarters.
BLITZER: You have covered the Justice Department for years.
What are you hearing about morale right now in the aftermath of this walkout by these four career federal prosecutors?
PEREZ: Look, I think a lot of people are shocked about how this was carried about.
Let me just be clear. It's not unusual for the bosses at Justice headquarters to overrule prosecutors who want to throw the book at someone who's under investigation or who's going to be sentenced. It's not unusual to have these disagreements.
What's unusual is for prosecutors to make a recommendation, file it in court, and then for the Justice Department to come in and disavow what they did and essentially criticize them publicly.
That just never happens. It's something that I certainly have never seen in the 12 years I have been doing this.
BLITZER: Yes, I have been speaking to a lot of people. They have never seen anything like this before either.
All right, Evan, good reporting. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Let's go to the White House right now.
Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.
Jim, Democrats, they're indignant over all of this, while most Republicans are simply staying silent.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right, Wolf.
And it's unclear if more resignations over at the Justice Department will impact the president's behavior. President Trump is insisting -- he did this earlier today -- that he's done nothing wrong, even as he is thanking the Justice Department for bending to his wishes in the trial of his longtime associate Roger Stone, and retaliating against administration officials, let's not forget, who have crossed him in recent months.
Mr. Trump's fellow Republicans aren't showing any signs, in the meantime, that they intend to do anything about any of this.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): The president is all but blowing a kiss to the Justice Department for intervening in the case of his former campaign adviser Roger Stone, who was 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 seeing this horrible thing. And I didn't speak to him, 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 very badly. Don't know what happened. They all hit the road pretty quickly. I'm not concerned about anything. They ought to go back to school. Nine years in jail, it's a disgrace.
In the meantime, Comey walks around making book deals.
ACOSTA: Earlier the day, 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 his impeachment trial.
Not so, say administration officials, who claim there was no revenge sought against Alexander Vindman and his brother after they were pushed out of the White House, payback, critics say, for the lieutenant colonel's testimony.
ROBERT O'BRIEN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: And it was just time for them to go back. And their services were no longer needed. And so they have gone back to the Department of the Army. And so that's where they will they will continue their career. I can absolutely tell you they were not retaliate against.
ACOSTA: That doesn't quite line up with the president, who said he was unhappy with Vindman.
TRUMP: No. Yes, I obviously wasn't happy with the job he did. And the military can handle him any way they want.
ACOSTA: But there are signs the president's latest fixation is 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 mobster Al Capone had to endure?"
Democrats say the president is out of control.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): 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-SC): Absolutely. He should not be commenting on cases in the system. I have said that a bunch. And if I thought he'd done something that had changed 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-ME): 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: Alaska 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's learned after all of this, he responded that it's the Democrats, in his view, who are crooked, and that he should never have been impeached in the first place.
Wolf, in terms of lessons learned, it doesn't sound like it's the kind of lessons that Republicans that were watching all this were hoping he would learn after his impeachment trial ended -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, an important point, indeed.
All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's get some more on all of this.
Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana. He is a key member of both the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.
Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, what's your reaction, first of all, to the breaking news we just heard from Evan Perez that there may be more departures from the U.S. attorney's office, for example, here in Washington, in protest over what just happened?
RICHMOND: Well, good for them.
It's about time that somebody stands up to this president. And so we have an attorney general that will not, and we have Senate Republicans, all but one, that will defer their conscience, their morality to this president, hoping that he would learn some sort of lesson.
But it's just not in him. I mean, it's the same reason why a mule can't win the Kentucky Derby. It's just not in this president to do the right thing, to have morals, to be bigger and rise to the occasion of the office.
And I think that it should scare the American people.
BLITZER: I know that William Barr, the attorney general, has now apparently agreed to testify before your committee at the end of March.
What do you hope to learn from him? What do you want to ask him?
RICHMOND: Well, one, I would like to know who's in charge of the attorney general's office.
BLITZER: Isn't he in charge?
RICHMOND: He's supposed to be in charge.
But it appears like this is Al Capone investigating who conducted the Valentine's Day Massacre. I mean, they are so intertwined and it is so incestuous inside that White House.
So, when you see a president interfere in prosecutions, in sentencing, it should scare the American people. And I just don't see the outrage yet from my Republican colleagues.
We have to protect this democracy. It is fragile. And my fear is, what happens after this?
BLITZER: The president publicly thanked William Barr, the attorney general, for intervening in Roger Stone's sentencing issue.
What does that mean, big picture, for the justice system?
RICHMOND: Well, it means that this president is thumbing his nose at the American people.
It might just be at the Democrats, but it's really the American judicial system. And the attorney general doesn't work for the president. He works for the people. And the fact that this president can weigh in and then thank the
attorney general, just to let people know that this president did weigh in, I think, is very scary.
And so, when you look at a justice system that should be blind, and that should just follow the facts, it's a sad day about what this says about that system.
BLITZER: The Republicans are pretty silent on all of this, even when asked a bunch of questions.
Let me play a clip, Republican Senator Susan Collins. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: I don't know which actions you're referring to.
I have made 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what's your response to that?
RICHMOND: The president has reached in and taken out the heart and courage of every Republican senator except Mitt Romney.
And that's the fear that I have now that, now that he has done that, he is unleashed on the American people, because he knows he can do anything, because he has scared and beaten the Republican senators into submission.
So he has no check. And so that is a real fear.
BLITZER: What, if anything, are Democratic senators going to do about that, Democratic representatives and senators, for that matter?
RICHMOND: Well, look, we will have Barr before us. We will have him under oath. And we will ask him very pointed questions about the involvement.
And I think that we let -- we follow the facts wherever they lead. And that is, unfortunately, I believe, going down right back into a path of investigating who knew what and when.
But this is so precious that we have to do it. And I think that all of the American people should want that to happen.
BLITZER: All right, you're a member of the Judiciary Committee, but you're also the national co-chair of the Biden 2020 presidential campaign.
The former vice president came in fourth in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire. What happened?
RICHMOND: Well, it's very clear, in both Iowa and New Hampshire, it was a very, pretty much dominant state of white Americans.
And that's just not Vice President Biden's base. His base is very diverse. It is partially white Americans, Latino Americans, heavily African-Americans.
And so, when you get to Nevada and you get to South Carolina, when very diverse populations get to speak, we will do much better.
But, look, I applaud Bernie Sanders and Pete and Elizabeth for doing so well there. But you can't win the Democratic nomination if you don't have a diverse coalition -- and Amy Klobuchar -- a diverse coalition of supporters.
So no one has ever won the Democratic nomination since 1992 without having a substantial portion of the African-American vote.
BLITZER: But he's losing support.
You saw this Quinnipiac University poll that just came out this week. In January, Biden's support among African-Americans 49 percent. It's now down to 27 percent. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, has gone from 7 percent up to 22 percent.
I mean, he's -- if he needs African-American support, that's not encouraging, if he loses 20-plus points.
RICHMOND: Well, let me just put it this way. I think African- Americans do what they do. They're very pragmatic and they kick the tires before they buy a vehicle.
No one's had a chance to kick the tires of Michael Bloomberg yet. He has not been in a debate. He's not had to answer very tough questions about stop and frisk, about the lack of support for President Obama.
And I think that African-Americans, when they get that portion of his record, I think they will take another look.
But let's be clear, Wolf. I have never seen this amount of money spent in a presidential or any campaign in my life. So it's a new phenomenon.
BLITZER: By Michael Bloomberg, you mean.
RICHMOND: By Michael Bloomberg.
BLITZER: Three hundred and fifty million dollars so far.
RICHMOND: At least.
BLITZER: And he's not competing in the first four states. He's waiting for Super Tuesday, 14 states on March 3.
And he's advertising heavy. They have people out walking my neighborhood in Louisiana right now. So, look, we will see how that plays out. It is a democratic process. And I believe the more the merrier.
But I think, once African-American voters will kick the tires on all the candidates, they will come right back to Vice President Biden, because they realize that, in order to win the presidency, winning the popular vote is nothing.
You have to win Michigan, you have to win Wisconsin, you have to win Pennsylvania, you should win Ohio, you should win Florida. And Vice President Biden has the best numbers in those states.
So, it's unfortunate that New Hampshire and Iowa both put such a spin on momentum and everything else. But, remember, diversity gets to speak in the next two contests.
BLITZER: The former vice president is lucky to have your support.
RICHMOND: Well, thank you.
BLITZER: Cedric Richmond, always welcome here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for coming in.
RICHMOND: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead, we will have more on the extraordinary Justice Department intervention in the Roger Stone case.
So, what are the implications of this politically charged move? We will ask CNN's senior legal analyst the former U.S. attorney -- there you see him -- Preet Bharara. He's standing by live.
BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, sources are telling CNN that more Justice Department resignations are now possible in the coming days in protest over the intervention in the Roger Stone trial.
Let's bring in our Senior Legal Analyst, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.
Preet, as you heard, CNN is learning that more Justice Department resignations are possible. What does this indicate to you?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It indicates to me that the mood of the Justice Department is dark.
I mean, we have gone through three years of constant developments that suggest the president doesn't respect the rule of law, that he thinks that there should be favoritism with respect to people who are close to him and special, different kind of negative treatment for people who are opposed to him.
And when you have an entire team of line prosecutors, career prosecutors who step away from a case, after being humiliated by their bosses in Washington, and not only that, but being blindsided and finding out that there was a change in what was going to be asked for with respect to a sentence, and they learned about it on FOX News, on a news station, that tells you just how bad things are.
BLITZER: We're also learning that the attorney general, Bill Barr, has intervened in other high-profile cases of interest to the president, like the prosecution of the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Is that appropriate?
BHARARA: Look, it depends on what he said and what he did. And if there's a pattern that seems to be developing here, then I think it is problematic.
Obviously, the attorney general of the United States is allowed to and should and has a responsibility to oversee the department, oversee the people in the department, and to keep an eye on significant and sensitive cases.
Some of those may relate to the president. But what you have time and time again is evidence that the attorney general is substituting his own judgment for what he thinks is good for the president, rather than what the judgment of career prosecutors are, judgments of career prosecutors are, and what's best for the rule of law.
We have the incident with Michael Flynn, which we don't have all the details about, where that sentence was changed seemingly overnight. And so I think we're going to get a lot of answers, or at least we should get a lot of answers and press for answers, with respect to that question you just asked me, directly from the attorney general when he testifies in the House on March 31.
BLITZER: All this comes as the president is publicly thanking the attorney general for intervening and lessening the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone.
What are the implications of that kind of politically charged move?
BHARARA: Well, the fact that the president thanks the attorney general and says these things in this context and in other contexts as well, they're basically admissions of things that maybe the attorney general would prefer not to hear.
So it takes away plausible deniability from the attorney general and people around him, who say, look, we did not do this because of the president. We're not doing the president a favor. We're not intervening. In the ordinary course, we were taking these actions because we thought the sentence was too high or some other such thing.
Then you have the president come out and say, hey, thanks, my friend, for getting involved and intervening in a particular way to help someone who is my close associate, my close confidant, a campaign adviser, and longtime friend, which is not something that anybody else in the country gets the benefit of. It doesn't look good, and it isn't good.
BLITZER: You suggested that the federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson could insist on hearing from those four prosecutors who quit in protest.
What -- first of all, do you think she will, and what do you think it might reveal?
BHARARA: I think there's a pretty decent chance. Judges have broad authority, inherent authority to supervise cases.
You don't just walk off a case, particularly if you're defense counsel. These are prosecutors. They made pro forma motions to withdraw from the case. That has to be endorsed by the judge.
And she has inherent power as a sitting federal district court judge to call them in and ask them some questions. There's a parallel precedent for this. You will remember maybe in the census case that took place in the district -- Southern District of New York, in a civil matter, a team of DOJ lawyers wanted to withdraw from the case for sort of interesting reasons.
And the judge in the case said, pursuant to a local rule, I want to find out why that is. That never ended up happening because the president ultimately dropped the case.
But there's precedent for it. There's logic behind it. And I think it'd be worthwhile thing to do.
BLITZER: And very quickly, the federal judge, Amy Berman Jackson, she could hear the recommendations from the prosecution all day long, but at the end, it's up to her to decide what the sentence should be, right?
BHARARA: That's correct.
Look, lots of people, I think, legitimately can say seven to nine years maybe is high. And, actually, some people might be surprised to hear that I think that's a little bit high.
That's not the issue here. The issue is how they went about making the sentencing recommendation, how they blindsided the prosecutors and how this was done, apparently at the behest of the president, who has a personal relationship with this particular defendant, unique in American -- in recent American history, I think.
BLITZER: Yes, the president says there shouldn't have even been a prosecution of Roger Stone.
Preet Bharara, thanks so much for joining us.
BHARARA: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead: a surprise resignation over the Democratic presidential -- as the Democratic presidential candidates move on from New Hampshire and begin to look ahead to the next critical contest.
We're getting new information. Stick around.
BLITZER: There's more news coming in on the breaking news tonight.
Sources are telling CNN there may be more resignations from the Justice Department, in protest over the decision by the attorney general, Bill Barr, to overrule the sentencing recommendation for President Trump's long-time friend and confidante, Roger Stone.
Now, let's get some more from our correspondents and our analysts. Laura Coates, what do you make of this? What kind of red flags do you see developing right now, especially if there's going to be more resignations from the U.S. Attorney's Office right here in the District of Columbia?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's where I actually was an AUSA, a federal prosecutor in that very office, a lot of very principled prosecutors that I actually worked with. We're talking about Supreme Court Justice Clark is there, one for Merrick Garland as well. And the notion that they would have been so offended and protesting in large respects the idea that their credibility was undermined.
Remember, when the prosecutors go into court, they need to be able to say, we are acting in an objective way, in a fair way, we have considered the sentencing guidelines and have determined (ph), because we know the case so well and aggravating factors like tampering with witnesses or trying to violate a gag order all comes into play.
To have them be undermined the way they are, it would have been humiliating and it would have had a dire effect on other prosecutors' morale and the confidence the court could have on every single prosecutor's recommendation to say, well, do you mean this right now, will it be the same at 12 P.M., how about tomorrow? It is a long-term effect on these prosecutors and, really, justice, in general.
BLITZER: How bad will it be, Bianna, if more officials start resigning?
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, perhaps bad in the short term, no doubt about it. But you look at people like Bob Bauer, who just has an op-ed in The New York Times now, who was the former counsel at the White House under President Obama, and he is saying that this speaks volumes and this is a message that's coming from those prosecutors at the Justice Department saying, enough is enough.
And in terms of preserving the independence and the separation from the administration and for future cases as well, that this is something that obviously isn't an easy decision for those to make but it's one that's made with their conscience and one that's focused on the future of this country sending a message that this is not normal.
Think about it, regardless of whatever a good week the president had last week, he was impeached. And so he wasn't convicted, of course, but he was impeached. And that for any other president given there had only been three, that would be the ultimate crescendo, right? But here, you have a situation where the president seems to be emboldened, he's not hiding back on anything and if this doesn't send a message to him and to Bill Barr and to others at the Justice Department, I'm not sure what will.
BLITZER: You know, Ryan, earlier today, the president actually publicly thanked the Justice Department for intervening in the Roger Stone case. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing. And I didn't speak to them, by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence for doing nothing. You have murderers and drug addicts that don't get nine years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what's your reaction? Some are accusing the president of seeing the attorney general sort of as his personal attorney.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And he is incentivizing the attorney general to act in this way in the future, right? Even he didn't talk to them, he's praising them for these actions. I mean, why doesn't he just pardon Roger Stone, right, if that's what he thinks the issue here is and it was an unfair prosecution. He does have the pardoning power. It does look like it's going towards that. But this pressuring the Justice Department and sort of breaking the norm of independence is -- it's bad.
And, look, unless Republicans on the Hill speak up, unless they're as outraged as the prosecutors in the Justice Department, it will continue. And when there's a Democratic president, that norm will have been broken and, you know, often there's no way to put the genie back in the bottle. So we're maybe looking at a situation that if you want to return to the Justice Department's traditional independence, you might have to legislate it. You're going to need something to go back.
BLITZER: Because nobody, Nia, would be surprised if the president pardons Roger Stone or Michael Flynn for that matter, maybe Paul Manafort. Who knows?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. It seems to be where the president is going. He's obviously pardoned some folks who were his political allies. And here, he has people who work for him. Roger Stone is one of his longest friends, longest and political advisers. So this certainly looks like where it's going.
And so it's a message that, listen, if you're the president's friend, if you believe what he believes politically and you break the law, the president will step in and rescue you and pardon you. And it sends a real message that there isn't equal justice for people under the law. And, listen, I think Ryan is right. We'll see what Republicans do. They are sort of saying, no, this is improper, the president shouldn't be doing this but mostly I don't think there's much outrage coming from Republicans.
LIZZA: And not to be too flip, but Trump and Stone had a complicated relationship. I don't think Trump would mind if Roger served a little bit of time in prison. It's not like a purely positive relationship.
BLITZER: Let me shift gears for a moment, Bianna. I want to play a clip. The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, only a little while ago, moments ago, she was speaking out at Georgetown University here in Washington.
Listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Right now, the State Department is in trouble. Senior leaders lack policy vision, moral clarity and leadership skills. The policy process has been replaced by the decisions emanating from the top with little discussion. Vacancies at all levels go unfilled and officers are increasingly wondering whether it is safe to express concerns about policy even behind closed doors.
I think one of the things that has sustained me is the support of all of you. You know, when you go through some things --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: She went through some things. What do you make of her message, Bianna?
GOLODRYGA: You know, good for her. At least we have that right in this country where you can speak out, because, clear, the president and Secretary Pompeo want nothing more than for her to go away. Yes, she doesn't have her job anymore but she has a platform to speak out on. And she wrote an op-ed, and we know she has a book coming.
If there's anybody who suffered the most throughout this whole drama over Ukraine and funding Ukraine with military aid, obviously, it's those soldiers in Ukraine. But from an American perspective, it's Marie Yovanovitch. Good for her for speaking out.
BLITZER: She's an impressive woman, indeed.
All right, everybody stick around. Just ahead, Democratic White House hopefuls set their sights now on Nevada, South Carolina, then Super Tuesday, March 3rd. Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We have news coming into The Situation Room right now. Iowa's Democratic Party chairman has just resigned after the caucus catastrophe that has the candidates asking for a partial re- canvassing. CNN's Ryan Nobles is here in The Situation Room now with us, just back from New Hampshire. Lots going on, Ryan, right now.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Troy Price offering up his resignation in the Iowa Democratic Party. But, Wolf, these candidates are ready to move past New Hampshire and Iowa, already thinking about Nevada and South Carolina and those big prizes that come on Super Tuesday.
NOBLES: Bernie Sanders is not wasting any time.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.
NOBLES: On the heels of his narrow win in New Hampshire, the Vermont senator is embracing the role of frontrunner and setting his sights on the road ahead.
SANDERS: I believe we're going to win in Nevada. I think we're going to win in South Carolina. I think we're going to win a whole lot of states on Super Tuesday.
NOBLES: Sanders has plans to crisscross the country in the coming days, making stops not only in Nevada, the next state on the calendar, but also Super Tuesday states like North Carolina, Texas and Colorado.
And as he takes up the mantle as the leader, he's also taking incoming heat from his opponents, including the runner-up in New Hampshire, Pete Buttigieg, who is echoing a critical push from the Culinary Union in Nevada, attacking Sanders' Medicare-for-all plan.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Sanders' message that he's going to erase those plans and replace 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.
NOBLES: Following his second place finish, Buttigieg's campaign announcing plans to expand staff in Nevada and releasing a new television ad in the state focused healthcare. And he's not the only one.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, America, I'm Amy Klobuchar and I will beat Donald Trump.
NOBLES: Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar seeking to capitalize on her surprise third place finish to raise money and launching two ads of her own in Nevada.
KLOBUCHAR: We have a president who thinks everything is about him, his tweets, his golf courses, his ego. NOBLES: Meanwhile, both Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden are both looking to regroup after disappointing showings in New Hampshire, vowing they are in the race for the long haul.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we are just getting started.
NOBLES: Biden counting on more diverse Democratic electorates in Nevada and South Carolina to help give his campaign a much needed jolt.
KATE BEDINGFIELD, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, BIDEN 2020: Vice President Biden has been in this race, the candidate who's been able to rally that support, build that coalition. These are the voters that we're going to need to turn out to beat Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Ryan, excellent piece. But, Nia, South Carolina, Nevada a lot more diverse, obviously, than Iowa and New Hampshire.
HENDERSON: That's right. And so what we'll see is a fight for and a focus on African-American voters in South Carolina and African- American voters and Latino voters in Nevada. It's put up or shut up time for Joe Biden. Their rationale at least lately has been that their firewall is South Carolina. They clearly have shown, I think, in these last two contests that they aren't as strong with white voters as I think they thought they would be going into this nomination fight.
But, yes, I think the other test is going to be for candidates like Pete Buttigieg. Can he actually expand beyond the white voters he's done well within these first two contests and somebody like Bernie Sanders, who has grown if you think about the way he was performing with African-American voters and Latino voters in 2016, he's made some strides among both of those groups. I think in Nevada, you're going to see that contest really play out, union support, very big in Nevada. So we'll see what these candidates do.
BLITZER: Bianna, the former vice president has a huge challenge right now. He came in fourth in Iowa, fifth in NEW HAMPSHIRE. He was vice president of the United States for eight years under President Obama, so his name recognition obviously is very high.
GOLODRYGA: And he's run on that and his association with the Obama administration as well.
And I have to tell you just here in New York and across the country, you're just bombarded by seeing advertisements of President Obama not with Joe Biden but with Michael Bloomberg.
And so, you're seeing there's more competition there, there's more money there. We know that the former vice president is having an issue with getting more funding at this point. But, look, the turnout in New Hampshire was promising for Democrats. I think for Joe Biden going forward, he's going to be focused on that minority vote.
And another reminder as we saw from New Hampshire and what happened with Amy Klobuchar, how important these debates really are. That Friday night performance from Amy Klobuchar was a game changer for many voters. So, going forward, are we going to hear now from Michael Bloomberg next week, that's a refresher on Joe Biden, and his debate performances, which have been rocky at best.
BLITZER: Ryan, you're just back from New Hampshire.
BLITZER: How do you explain Biden's poor showing?
LIZZA: You know, look, for a year, there was a huge gap between what the poll shows, which had Biden at the top and what everyone who went and saw Biden said this person who had a kind of shaky stump speech and performance, and a few days before, about a week before Iowa, that gap closed and Iowa voters, just -- there were serious doubts about whether his age and generation was right and, you know, Sanders and Buttigieg, credible communicators and, you know, just -- Bianna's point is so true about voters deciding very, very late. I mean, these people campaigned for a year, and then 53 percent of voters in New Hampshire decided in the last few days.
LIZZA: So, having a huge debate performance, or, you know, the canon of Iowa is just so important. And that's why I thought Ryan's piece was so good in sort of setting this up as nothing's over, nothing's been decided. You have -- you know, this is -- this -- Biden is almost dead but he'll get another -- he'll have a final stand in South Carolina.
Sanders is strong because he did well in the first two states, but nobody -- nobody is coalescing around a single candidate yet. And that's sort of what's defining the case.
BLITZER: Big question mark, Michael Bloomberg.
NOBLES: And you already see Sanders responding to that, right? He's not going to Nevada or South Carolina first, instead going to those Super Tuesday states where Bloomberg is going to compete. He's going to take a trip to North Carolina, Texas and Colorado, in the next couple of days. This shows that Sanders is ready for a national campaign.
And, Wolf, the most important thing, he has the resources to do this already, something that not a lot of other campaigns can say.
BLITZER: He spent $350 million, got 3,000 people working on his payroll on the campaign and he's got a lot more where that came from.
Everybody, stick around.
An important note to our viewers, later tonight on "AC360", Anderson will speak with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, 8 p.m. Eastern. Stick around for that.
Also, a new warning from U.S. health officials as the coronavirus spreads.
BLITZER: An alarming new warning from the CDC about the danger to Americans from the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
CNN's David Culver reports from Beijing.
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, U.S. health officials are warning Americans to be on guard for possible new coronavirus cases as the death toll for the novel virus tops 1,100 worldwide.
DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, CDC OFFICIAL: We can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the U.S. At some point, we are likely to see community spread in the U.S. or other countries and this will trigger a change in our response strategy.
CULVER: The World Health Organization also signaling that it is too soon to say the spread of the deadly virus is slowing down.
DR. MICHAEL RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WHO HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAMME: I think it's way too early to try to predict the beginning, middle or the end of this epidemic right now.
CULVER: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealing today that more than 30,000 travelers from China have been screened at airports across the U.S. in recent weeks. The confirmed case count stands at 13 in the U.S. with dozens of test results still pending.
And while nearly 200 Americans celebrated the end of their quarantine in southern California, hundreds more remain in isolation in Nebraska, Texas and California, for at least a few more days. Aboard the Diamond Princess quarantined in Japan, at least 40 more cases of passengers and even a quarantined worker testing positive, bringing the number of infected to 175.
KENT FRASURE, OREGON PASSENGER ON DIAMOND PRINCESS: Just another day more passengers, it gets a bit tiring for sure, kind of feel like a punching bag. You just didn't know what is going to be next.
CULVER: In China, CNN spoke with two patients who contracted the virus and say that they have recovered.
TIGER YE, RECOVERED FROM CORONAVIRUS: I fetched my result. It's positive. So I've been treated.
CULVER: This 21-year-old college student who asked we call him Tiger Ye was infected by the coronavirus while studying not far from Wuhan seafood market, believed to be ground zero of the virus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was scared and fearful having contracted this disease.
CULVER: This 31-year-old Wuhan engineer says getting tested took days because of scarce hospital testing resources but says he recovered after being admitted for treatment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think for the young and strong, the disease is more like a heavy cold. Only that it is highly contagious. So it causes panic.
CULVER: Both men we spoke with said they finished with their treatments but remain in government monitored hotel quarantines.
CULVER: And, Wolf, we should stress, there's going to be the first real test of the extreme containment efforts that are under way here in China in just a few days. We got 160 million people estimated to travel after the extended lunar New Year holiday. So what does that mean? You got millions who will be on the planes, train, close quarters with one another. And that raises the risk of potential exposure of this virus.
BLITZER: David Culver, be careful over there in Beijing. Thanks for that report.
We're going to have a lot more news right after this.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow me on Twitter, on Instagram, @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.