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THE SITUATION ROOM

Attorney General Comments on Trump Tweets; Interview with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI); Bolton Calls Kelly Honorable After his New Slams At Trump; Bloomberg Trades Barbs With Trump As Their Feud Heats Up; CDC Warns Coronavirus Could Last "Beyond This Year" as 15th Case is Confirmed In the United States. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 13, 2020 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:03]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Barr telling ABC News he won't be bullied, as he tries to defend his credibility. The attorney general denies he was influenced by the president when he decided to overrule his own prosecutors' recommended sentence for Roger Stone.

I will get reaction from Congressman David Cicilline. He is a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go to our crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM for us.

The president clearly has seen the attorney general as an ally. And this was pretty surprising now to hear that ally of the president, the attorney general, publicly rebuking the president.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And that's exactly it. It's the fact that he's doing this publicly in the way that he's doing it, on the record, before cameras to ABC News, saying all of this.

And, certainly, you can view this as perhaps shocking or not, but it is significant, significant. And most important, Wolf, I think in all of this is how this is playing out, all in public for everyone to see.

And there are other things that he said that are very significant in what he said to ABC News. And here's some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I had made a decision that I thought was fair and reasonable in this particular case.

And once the tweet occurred, the question, well, now, what do I do? And do you go forward with what you think is the right decision? Or do you pull back because of the tweet? And that just sort of illustrates how disruptive these tweets can be.

PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS: So you're saying you have a problem with tweets? BARR: Yes.

Well, I have -- I have a problem with some of -- some of the tweets. I'm happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.

However, to have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we're doing our work with integrity.

THOMAS: Mr. Barr, the president does not like to be told what to do. He may not like what you're saying. Are you prepared for those ramifications?

BARR: Of course. As I said during my confirmation, I came in to serve as attorney general. I am responsible for everything that happens in the department.

But the thing I have most responsibility for are the issues that are brought to me for decision. And I will make those decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do. And I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, and I said at the time, whether it's Congress, a newspaper, editorial boards, or the president.

I'm going to do what I think is right. And the -- I think the -- I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PROKUPECZ: And that last part, obviously, Wolf, very significant.

What is he saying there? What is he going to ultimately do? He's saying he can't do his job. And there were two other things there in all of this that I think are very important in what he's saying.

You have him saying that it's impossible with the president undercutting him this way so publicly, tweeting, something the president loves to do. That is a problem, the fact that he's saying that he can't do his job if the president is going to continue on tweeting and undercutting the department.

And the other thing is integrity. What more is the Department of Justice founded on than integrity? If the attorney general is saying that the integrity has been compromised, or if there is concerns that integrity has been compromised by the president, how can he continue to lead the Department of Justice?

And we have seen people walk off the Roger Stone case. We know, internally, there's a lot of concern over the future of this department under the attorney general. And, obviously now, the big question is, what does the attorney general -- what is he going to do?

BLITZER: Yes, this huge question.

What did Barr say about whether or not he's taking direct orders from the president?

PROKUPECZ: Well, he's denying, Wolf, that he's taken any kind of orders. He's even denying that he's had conversations with the president concerning Roger Stone.

And here's what he said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS: Just to be clear here, did you talk to the president at all about your decision regarding the recommendations?

BARR: The recommendations on this case? Never.

THOMAS: Anybody from the White House call you to try to influence you?

BARR: No. No.

I have not -- I have not discussed the Roger Stone case at the White House.

THOMAS: Does the president have the authority to just direct you to open an investigation and you have to do it? Can you help people at home understand, can he do that?

[18:05:10]

BARR: I think, in many -- in many areas such as -- that don't affect his personal interests...

THOMAS: Terrorism.

BARR: Terrorism or fraud by a bank or something like that, where he's concerned about something, he can certainly say, I think someone should look into that. That's perfectly appropriate.

If he were to say, go investigate somebody because -- and you sense it's because they're a political opponent, then an attorney general shouldn't carry that out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PROKUPECZ: And so, again, Wolf, here, you have him saying this to the public.

But, also, when you watch the attorney general there speak and the things he's saying, he's speaking to his department, to the men and women, the line assistants. We have heard a lot about line assistants at the Department of Justice who have real concern that their integrity is in jeopardy here, so much so now even some of the judges have a lot of concern, right?

The attorney general said that you can't have the president tweeting about judges. Well, we have something also unprecedented. Another thing that's going on here today is that, just moments ago, the chief judge here in Washington, D.C., who is the court that is overseeing the Roger Stone case, the court that is seeing the Michael Flynn case, and the court that is overseeing a lot of the Mueller investigation, the chief judge there just issued a statement, essentially saying that judges of this court base their sentencing decisions on careful consideration of the actual records in the case before them.

There is concern clearly within all parts of the justice system, the courts, lawyers, defense attorneys, all across the justice system that what is going on here is undercutting the work, the very important work, the justice system, the work that goes on inside the courthouses.

And not to be dramatic, but people's lives in many cases are at stake. That this is somehow there's going to be a mock -- that they're mocking the justice system, that integrity is being lost. And now we're seeing a chief justice here in Washington, D.C., issuing a statement saying that judges are going to be independent, no matter who's tweeting, no matter what the attorney general says, no matter what, and going to base the facts of cases, their decisions on what is before them in a court of law.

BLITZER: Yes, it's pretty unprecedented...

PROKUPECZ: It is.

BLITZER: ... I must say.

And I think this is the first time that a sitting member of the president's Cabinet has so publicly, publicly rebuked the president on this kind of sensitive issue, which underscores how disruptive the president's comments have been within the Department of Justice, four resignations already, and more presumably are feared.

PROKUPECZ: Yes, more are feared.

And they know they have a problem. It's very clear that there is concern within the Department of Justice that the line assistants have no faith in the attorney general. U.S. attorneys all across this country have concern over what's going on here in Washington, D.C., with main Justice, and that is a big concern.

So now they have to figure out what to do. You can't have cases obviously affected by politics because line assistants are concerned about bringing cases or making decisions on cases because politics is going to be in the middle of it, because the president is going to tweet something, and the attorney general may react in some way.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a sensitive issue, indeed.

PROKUPECZ: It is.

BLITZER: All right, Shimon, thank you very much.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our correspondent Boris Sanchez is following the story for us.

I understand, Boris, there's new reaction from the White House to what the attorney general has so publicly said.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.

The White House putting out a relatively mild statement. Look, you know better than most the president typically scathing in his responses to criticism, whether it was John Kelly today or John Bolton or others.

Take a look at this response from Stephanie Grisham, the press secretary, saying the president is -- quote -- "not bothered by the comments at all. And he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions. President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. The president has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to do his job and uphold the law."

Important to remember, Wolf, that these two men are in lockstep on a plethora of issues, whether Roger Stone sentencing, the Russia investigation, I.G. Horowitz's report, a ton of different things. The president measured in his response here, uncharacteristic, to say the least, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect that's the public statement that the White House put out. Privately, I'm sure the president is very, very angry at his attorney general.

All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you very much.

Joining us now, Congressman David Cicilline. He's a Democrat who serves on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

So, what's your reaction? Are you encouraged by what the attorney general has so publicly said, even as his actions continue to line up with the president's priorities, especially when it comes to the Roger Stone case?

[18:10:03]

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Look, Wolf, I think it's very important to question the sincerity of the attorney general. And I think that's why the president's response was so muted.

Look, this is an attorney general who, from the day he arrived in office, has behaved as the president's defender, who thinks that his role is to defend the president of the United States, not to represent the people of this country as the attorney general of the United States.

It began with mischaracterizing the Mueller report. It began with his refusal to turn over the whistle-blower report. It's now ending with giving favorable sentences or recommending favorable sentences to friends of the president, to going overseas, trying to discredit our intelligence agencies' findings about the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia, refusing to recuse himself from a number of investigations.

So, look, this attorney general is the Roy Cohn the president sought. He's behaving in a way that is protecting the president, supporting the president's friends and allies, undermining the Department of Justice, causing four attorneys to withdraw from the case and one to leave the department in its entirety.

Look, the American people expect the Department of Justice to do their work in a fair and impartial way. That's why Lady Justice is blindfolded. It cannot be that there's one set of rules for Donald Trump and his friends and another set of rules for the rest of the American people.

BLITZER: So, how do explain...

CICILLINE: So, this strikes at the very heart of the department.

BLITZER: Congressman, I understand your criticism of the attorney general.

CICILLINE: Yes.

BLITZER: So, how do you explain what he publicly told Pierre Thomas of ABC News today, that the public statements and tweets from the president make it impossible -- his words -- for me to do my job. He says he's not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody, including the president.

He said: "I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me."

How do you explain that?

CICILLINE: I think what the -- I think what the attorney general is saying: Look, Mr. President, I'm getting everything done you want done. I'm executing all of the strategies that are protecting you from accountability, that are rewarding your friends, that are taking care of the people you want to be taken care of.

I'm putting -- all the investigations that you have a personal interest in, I'm taking charge of those. I'm doing all the things you want me to do. I'm refusing to recuse myself from the ongoing investigation. I'm refusing to recuse myself on this issue related to Lev Parnas. I'm making a recommendation about your friend Roger Stone.

So, I think it was basically the attorney general saying: Look, I got this. I'm executing it. I'm doing all the things you want me to do. I'm your Roy Cohn. Don't make my job harder by tweeting about it and drawing attention.

I think that's what it was about. BLITZER: But he could have said that privately to the president. Those are all valid, valid points, but to do so publicly, you understand the president, he gets pretty angry at his subordinates who publicly blast him.

CICILLINE: But you notice he -- yes.

But you notice he didn't, because, I think, upon reflection, the president realized the attorney general of the United States is working hard to protect the president. He's executed in every way the president has wanted him to. He's protecting the friends of the president and the president himself.

And so I think the president gave a very muted response because...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, you think the president blinked?

CICILLINE: I think the president understands that the attorney general of the United States is taking very good care of him, not advancing the best interests of the American people, but protecting the president from a lot of accountability, and executing the instructions to help the president's friends and to refuse to recuse himself from the investigations that are important to the president.

And I think that's what matters to the president. So, an off-handed statement from the attorney general, perhaps in response to what he's hearing from the rank and file within his department, that are really demoralized by the attorney general of the United States intervening in the sentencing of a single criminal defendant -- when Barr said, I thought -- I'm going to do what I think is right, it is very unusual for the attorney general of the United States to interfere with a sentencing recommendation of a single defendant.

That is unheard of. And he's doing that because Roger Stone's a friend of the president's, and because the president tweeted about how he thought it was so unfair, and Roger Stone should be treated differently.

And, lo and behold, the attorney general follows that instruction.

So I think they both recognize they're getting done what the president wants done. And occasionally maybe grumbling about some of it and saying, don't draw so much attention to this, so I can continue to act as your Roy Cohn, rather than uphold the rule of law and make sure that justice is impartially administered in this country, is very, very clear.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect it wasn't an off-handed comment by the attorney general.

I thought he -- I suspect he thought long and hard about going so public and rebuking the president of the United States.

And we saw this public statement from the White House. I suspect, behind the scenes, the president is not very happy right now. But we will see what happens.

Congressman David Cicilline, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CICILLINE: Yes. Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: All right, just ahead, the president is lashing at his former White House chief of staff, as John Kelly is now speaking out against his former boss.

[18:15:04]

Tonight, the former National Security Adviser John Bolton is also weighing in on their feud.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the attorney general of the United States William Barr.

He's breaking publicly with President Trump tonight after the Roger Stone sentencing controversy.

Let's bring in our analysts, get some assessment.

Jeffrey Toobin, it's pretty extraordinary. This is the first time I think that a sitting member of the president's Cabinet has publicly rebuked the president on a very, very sensitive issue.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's right.

And Attorney General Barr, I think said it in the right -- he said the right thing in the right way, that this is completely unacceptable, and it does make the attorney general's job impossible if the president is going to be second-guessing him on issues that have traditionally been off-limits for presidential influence.

[18:20:10]

What's not acceptable or admirable is the statement by the sort of press secretary, who never talks to the press, where she says the president is free to comment on whatever he wants.

He's not the host of "The Apprentice" anymore. He's the president of the United States. If he continues to comment on sentencing, on judges, that undermines the job that the attorney general says he's trying to do.

So the president seems to be -- going to be keeping this up, but good for the attorney general for standing up for the independence of the Justice Department.

BLITZER: Yes, he was very blunt, Susan, the attorney general of the United States, he's not going to be bullied, he's not going to be influenced by the president. "I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background

commentary that undercuts me. What the president says in his public statements and his tweets make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we're doing our work with integrity."

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I can't believe I'm about to be more cynical than Jeffrey Toobin, but I don't buy this for a second.

(LAUGHTER)

HENNESSEY: Bill Barr is reportedly facing an internal revolt at the Justice Department, four prosecutors withdrawing from the case, one resigning from the department entirely. Reportedly, more resignations might be coming in the coming days.

This is Bill Barr attempting to quell that revolt by making a big, splashy statement. And the reason I think we can say that Bill Barr is not being genuine in this statement is because he is claiming that he was acting in good faith, that, in this one case, in which the DOJ has a process for considering sentencing recommendations -- that process isn't perfect, but it is designed to be apolitical -- when that process produced a result that was unfavorable to one of the president's political cronies, and, in only that case, and in no other case, Bill Barr intervened.

Now, whether or not he saw the president's tweet or that was acting on the president's direct request or not, that is political interference.

And so the idea that Bill Barr is expecting us to believe that this is just a bespoke concerned about criminal justice reform one sort of Trump crony at a time, it just defies -- it defies logic. It defies belief.

And I really do believe that this is just about theater and attempting to hold the line with his own staff within the department.

BLITZER: We did get a statement, Toluse, from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, saying this: "My reaction is the president made a great choice. I think the president should listen to his, the attorney general's advice. If the attorney general says it's getting in the way of doing his job, the president should listen to the attorney general."

I suspect the president is not going to be very happy with Mitch McConnell's rebuke of the president at the same time.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, this is a minor dust-up in the Republican Party at this point.

You have to remember that the president just got through impeachment. The Republicans stuck with him. I think they are seeing this as sort of a minor hiccup. And even if Bill Barr is saying something that the president may not want to hear, this is something that's relatively minor. Bill Barr's still defending the president, still fighting on the president's behalf on all these legal matters, still going up against Democrats, still being the president's henchman when it comes to attacking Democrats and protecting the president as his Roy Cohn.

So even if there's this minor dust-up over some tweets, I think Republicans realize that Bill Barr is still doing what the president wants, and the president is not likely to get rid of him.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Wait.

Can I just say, I mean, I don't think it's so minor. I mean, it may be a minor fight between the president and the majority leader, if it comes to that, but this is a very major issue of how the justice system works in the United States, and whether there is favored treatment for the president's friends, and whether they target the president's enemies.

I still think Judge Amy Berman Jackson needs to hold a hearing about how this all went down. Why, out of all the defendants in the United States up for sentencing, the attorney general intervenes in this case, that's a very appropriate question for a judge to ask.

I give Susan -- give the attorney general more credit than Susan does. But this controversy is not going to go away, based on one interview with ABC News.

I mean, we have to see whether there -- what the follow-up is here and if the independence of the Justice Department is maintained.

BLITZER: Yes, we will see -- the president perhaps will change his public reaction.

This is what Stephanie Grisham, the press secretary, so-called press secretary, said in her statement. We will see if that changes once the president watches all the coverage that this statement from the attorney general has generated.

All right, everybody, stick around. There's more we're covering.

Why is the former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly suddenly vocal about his problems with President Trump, after staying quiet for so long?

[18:25:03]

I will ask someone who served with Kelly, retired General Wesley Clark. There, you see him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight, the former National Security Adviser John Bolton is taking sides in the president's war of words with his ex -- with the ex-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Bolton is now calling Kelly an honorable man who has served his country faithfully.

[18:30:02]

Kelly has publicly unloaded with a series of critical comments about the president.

Let's bring in someone who was working with General Kelly, Retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, the former NATO Supreme Ally Commander. And we're now thrilled to welcome him back to the CNN family as a CNN Military Analyst.

General Clark, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know in an event last night in New Jersey, John Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, praised Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman for coming forward and saying the president's demand for an investigation into the Bidens amounted to an illegal order. You worked with General Kelly. What do you make of that strong criticism?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, I think that the criticism is well placed, and so I'm a big fan of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. I think he took a very courageous action. I agree with what General Kelly had to say about him. And I'm very glad that General Kelly said it. Because I think we want a high standard of professionalism in the Armed Forces. We expect the men and women who served to stand up and tell truth to power, not to be afraid. I mean, that's the whole ethic that the Armed Forces is built on.

If somebody gives an illegal order, you're supposed to say, sir, that's an illegal order. I can't do it. If somebody has bad judgment, say, sir, I think there might be a better way. You don't just salute and march off. That's not the way a good Armed Forces functions. And we've got a great Armed Forces because there are people in it like Alex Vindman and people who have been like John Kelly who have stood up and will call it like it is.

BLITZER: Yes. Now, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, clearly, he was wounded while serving in Iraq. He's an Iraq War veteran and a hero. Kelly carried out, as you know, the president's agenda when he was the white house chief of staff. So why do you think he is speaking out so publicly now and criticizing the president, not just on this but a whole range of issues?

CLARK: Well, I think when he got out of the political hot house there and puts things in perspective, he's trying to re-establish the balance in his life. When you're working in that political environment and you're being hit on all sides, sometimes it's really hard to keep everything in perspective. He came into it as a freshly retired Marine Four Star. He did a great job as the commander of the U.S. Southern Command. He's always been one of these guys who's intensely loyal to his boss. And when he got into the White House, he got drawn into the politics, I think it took a while.

Now, I don't know. John hasn't told me this. Maybe he was -- I'm sure he was uncomfortable from the beginning in terms of trying to match the Marine officer's dedication to the vision and to the man with the requirements of surviving in that very political arena that President Trump has created around himself and the White House.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right. Before I let you go, General Clark, the Trump administration is now planning to divert $3.83 billion in Pentagon funding to build the president's border wall with Mexico. What impact does that have on national security?

CLARK: It's a series issue, Wolf. I mean, look, the Congress fights really hard to get these funds for our men and women in uniform. We need repairs on existing weapons systems. We need work on training, we need new weapon systems, we need RND, you can't tell me that that $3.8 billion wasn't needed in the Pentagon budget more than it is on the border.

But it's up to the secretary of defense. He probably fought it and ultimately he works at the pleasure of the president. This is the way our system of government works, but we've never had someone at the top of our system of government who had such a distinctive -- let's call it a distinctive perspective on what the national interest is and how it's to be attained.

BLITZER: All right. CNN Military Analyst, Retired General Wesley Clark, good to have you back here on CNN. Thanks so much for joining us.

CLARK: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, President Trump versus Mayor Nloomberg, the political war between fellow billionaires and New Yorkers dramatically heating up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:00]

BLITZER: Tonight, Michael Bloomberg is hitting back at new attacks by the president with insults of his own. Their feud is clearly intensifying as the Democratic presidential candidate is rising in the polls and facing some new controversy.

Our Political Correspondent, M.J. Lee, has more on Bloomberg's campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is flooding the zone.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can look at this crowd and say all the the candidates would kill if they could have as big a crowd at 7:00 in the morning.

LEE: The former New York City mayor is crisscrossing the country making big hires and spending at dizzying pace in the hopes of winning The Democratic nomination for president. His first major target, Super Tuesday, Bloomberg skipping the Democratic contest in the early states and instead directing vast resources and time into the March 3rd states and beyond like Texas, California, Tennessee and North Carolina, where early voting is already under way.

BLOOMBERG: I don't know that you can see very many presidential candidates here in Winston, Salem. They are spending all their time in South Carolina. But I think the vote is in North Carolina and deserves just as much attention.

[18:40:02]

LEE: According to his campaign, it has more than 2,400 staffers. It has also spent more than $380 million on T.V. ads.

BLOOMBERG: You've heard all the slogan, Mike will get it done, and if you haven't, I've been spending an awful lot of money to get it out.

LEE: Bloomberg's unconventional strategy giving him a steady boost in the polls. And one fellow New York City billionaire is taking notice, President Trump ratcheting up his attacks in his public remarks.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bloomberg is just buying his way in.

LEE: And on Twitter. Just this morning, Trump tweeting, Mini Mike Bloomberg is a loser who has money but can't debate and has zero presence. Bloomberg hitting back, writing, we know many of the same people in New York. Behind your back, they laugh at you and call you a carnival barking clown. He also addressed the exchange on the campaign trail.

BLOOMBERG: He calls me Little Mike and the answer is, Donald, where I come from, we measure your height from the neck up. He sees our poll numbers and I think it's fair to say he is scared because he knows I have the record and the resources to defeat him.

LEE: Bloomberg now facing fresh scrutiny, including for his remarks at the peak of the housing crisis in 2008 on the discriminatory housing practice of red lining.

BLOOMBERG: Red lining, if you remember, was the term where banks took whole neighborhoods and said, people in these neighborhoods are poor, they're not going to be able to pay off their mortgages. Tell your salesmen don't go into those areas.

LEE: The former mayor also getting heat for newly surfaced audio from 2015 when he discussed his controversial stop and frisk policing policy.

BLOOMBERG: 95 percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 16 to 25. And the way you get the guns out of kid's hands is to throw them against the wall and frisk them.

LEE: Bloomberg insisting those words do not reflect his current thinking.

REPORTER: Why did you say it? BLOOMBERG: It was five years ago and it's just not the way that I think and it's not the way -- it doesn't reflect what I do every day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEE: Now, we saw there President Trump referencing debating. The next Democratic debate will be next week in Las Vegas. And Michael Bloomberg is still waiting to find out if he is going to qualify. If he does, Wolf, this will be the first time that he faces off against his Democratic rival on a debate stage. Wolf?

BLITZER: It could be very, very lively. M.J. Lee reporting, thanks very much.

Let's bring in our Political Director, David Chalian. The Bloomberg campaign really -- you and I have covered politics for a while -- pretty much unlike anything we have seen before.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: In two specific ways, one, a totally unprecedented path to the nomination that the Bloomberg campaign is trying to build, right? Nobody has ever skipped those first early states, come in on the ballots starting on Super Tuesday and go on to win the nomination. We haven't seen that before.

Two, the money and what it can buy, obviously. You saw M.J. reported $380 million already on the air. I mean, Bernie Sanders, who did really good showing in Iowa, won the New Hampshire primary, is considered one of the frontrunners for the nomination, has spent a tenth of that to date. So the money is huge and it's not just the advertising. He has built a campaign organization, Wolf, that is like the size of what Barack Obama had in the general election in 2008 on Election Day in November.

BLITZER: I want to put up on the screen the net worth of both of these billionaires. According to Forbes, Michael Bloomberg is worth about $61.8 billion. Forbes says Trump is worth $3.1 billion. A lot of experts think that is very high for Donald Trump. But still, when Trump sees that, that irritates him, the comparison.

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, that's his least favorite graphic to see on television ever and we know he consumes a lot of television programming. I mean, it does get under his skin. It's quite clear that Michael Bloomberg has gotten the president's attention and the president is pretty savvy, I would say, about who has traction, who is gaining something in there. That's when he starts going after them. So he has got a pretty attuned mind.

And so he's going after Michael Bloomberg right now, it's because he actually does perceive a threat.

BLITZER: And Bloomberg does have $61 billion, if he spends a billion dollars, he'll still have $60 billion. He will live comfortably on that kind of money.

All right, stand by, there's more news we're following. A disturbing warning from the CDC that the coronavirus will be making people sick for quite some time. Or own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by. He's got new information. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:49:31]

BLITZER: Tonight, a 15th case of the coronavirus has been confirmed right here in the United States. And the CDC is warning that the virus is likely to impact the world for months to come and even beyond this year.

Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, you got a chance to speak with the CDC director. Tell us more.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, they are in aggressive containment mode, Wolf. There's things that are happening rights now that haven't happened in 50 years in this country, quarantines, that sort of thing that hasn't happened in a long time here.

[18:50:04]

How effective is it? What is the thinking, what is the strategy going forward?

I sat down and talk to Dr. Robert Redfield. He's the head of the CDC and we visited the emergency operations center.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: This is going to be, you know, obviously being a significant investment.

GUPTA (voice-over): On the same day the CDC confirmed the 15th U.S. coronavirus case, I went inside the agency's emergency operations center with director, Dr. Robert Redfield.

(on camera): How good is the public health infrastructure at reporting in?

(voice-over): To give you an idea of how rapidly the situation is changing.

(on camera): By the way, the numbers changed, I can tell you that.

REDFIELD: It's actually 15 there.

GUPTA (voice-over): It's a lot to keep up with.

(on camera): What is the worse case scenario here in the United States?

REDFIELD: So far, we've been able to contain it, but I think this virus is probably with us beyond this season, or beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find foothold and we will get community-based transmission and you can start to think of it in a sense like seasonal flu. The only difference is we don't understand this virus.

GUPTA (voice-over): Which is exactly why the CDC wants to be on the ground in China. It's probably Redfield's biggest frustration.

REDFIELD: Right now, there's no evidence to me that this outbreak is at all under control. It's definitely not controlled. And the sooner we can help them get it under control, the better for the whole world.

GUPTA (on camera): So, I guess that does raise the question, why are we sitting here in Atlanta talking about this versus the CDC being in China collecting some of this data.

REDFIELD: I don't think it's a medical decision that we're not being invited in.

GUPTA: What do you think it is?

REDFIELD: Well, I think it's above the medical field.

GUPTA: Do you think it's a political decision?

REDFIELD: I think it's above the medical. I don't think the director of CDC is making that decision.

GUPTA: You think it's political decision?

REDFIELD: Well, I think it's -- all I can say is I think it's above the director of CDC because I know he would love to have us a system.

GUPTA (voice-over): China has accepted help from the World Health Organization. The CDC is waiting to hear whether it's going to be a part of that team. In the meantime, Redfield says his priority is to keep Americans safe.

REDFIELD: Our whole issue right now is as I said, aggressive containment, to try to give us more time. It's going to take one or two years to get this out, to prepare health systems, to be able to be flexible enough to deal with the potential second major cause of respiratory illness.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: It's so disturbing. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very, very much. We'll stay on top of this story for us.

Much more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:00]

BLITZER: A new CNN original series takes us behind the palace walls for an in-depth look at the world's most famous monarchy.

Our royal correspondent Max Foster looks at how the British royals have handled scandal, and tragedy, and reinvented the monarchy for the modern world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the height of the battle of Britain during World War II, the Princess Elizabeth made her first public address.

PRINCESS ELIZABETH: And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today.

FOSTER: And at 21, this defining speech marking her destiny.

PRINCESS ELIZABETH: I declare for you all my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.

FOSTER: The '50s marked the end of world, optimism for some, revolution for others, and a newly married princess was crowned, ushering the dawn of the television age. She was glamorous even compared to Hollywood royalty.

Change, experimentation, breaking new ground.

NEIL ARMSTRONG, NASA ASTRONAUT: One small step for man --

FOSTER: In her own way, a young queen showing how to hold your own with the world's most powerful men as they came and went.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States is dead.

FOSTER: She came to represent continuity and family values. Then a politically charged era, even Elizabeth was exposed. Her home life shattered in a tragic way, her cousin, Earl of Mountbatten, assassinated by the IRA.

The 1980s brought happier times and the wedding of the queen's heir, another television spectacle that reenergized the royal ground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The day German's conquered the wall.

FOSTER: In many ways, the 1990s brought us together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nelson Mandela, a free man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It has just been announced Diana is dead. She suffered serious internal injuries.

FOSTER: And in this seismic moment, the queen showed her humility. She went on live TV to speak for herself and the nation.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II: As a grandmother, I say from my heart. First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Today, we've had a national tragedy.

FOSTER: In 2011, the queen set foot on Irish soil for the first time and acknowledged past wrongs committed under British rule. It was a strong decade for her and her family, and two more blockbuster weddings.

Harry and Meghan since choosing to opt out of royal duties, a new challenge for the queen but not the first and certainly not the last.

Max Foster, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Be sure to watch CNN's new original series chronicling the British royal family, "THE WINDSORS: INSIDE THE ROYAL DYNASTY" premiers this Sunday, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.