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Coronavirus Claims More Lives; Cathay Pacific Imposed a Forced Leave for Employees; Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Resigns; President Trump Shrug Off Bill Barr's Message; Battle of the Billionaires in 2020 Elections. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired February 14, 2020 - 03:00   ET

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


[03:00:00]

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NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen. And this is CNN Newsroom.

Next here, a spike in the number of coronavirus cases. Almost 1,400 dead, and tens of thousands infected. Now, new areas about the outbreak's impact on travel, businesses, and workers.

Plus, the U.S. attorney general says Donald Trump's tweet make it impossible to do his job. But does he mean it?

Thank you again for joining us.

Our top stories. Passengers aboard the cruise ship Westerdam are finally back on land after being stranded at sea for two weeks. Despite no cases of novel coronavirus on this ship the Westerdam was denied entry to multiple Asian ports until Cambodia agreed to accept.

Meantime, the virus's death toll has risen to nearly 1,400 people. All but three of those fatalities were in mainland China. There's also been another spike in the number of infections. The total confirmed cases now tops 64,000. The vast majority are in China's Hubei province.

Still, the disease is claiming more victims elsewhere. They are currently more than 500 confirmed cases outside of mainland China.

CNN's Steven Jiang is live in Beijing for us. Steven, we're now learning the steep toll this outbreak is having on those who are battling the disease, so what can you tell us?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right, Natalie, this disease, this very deadly virus is affecting a large number of Chinese medical workers. Seventeen hundred, more than 1,700 got infected and six of them died.

These are alarming numbers, but probably not entirely surprising given the severity of this epidemic at the epicenter, as well as the initial response by local officials. Remember, they try to silence a group of whistleblowers. Most of them doctors including Li Wenliang, the young ophthalmologist who passed away exactly a week ago after contracting the very virus he was trying to sound an early alarm about.

So, you know, those attempts by local officials, at least initially meant many doctors and nurses were kept in the dark as they try to save lives on the front line and exposing themselves to great dangers of this virus.

But also, unknowingly it became a source of cross infections. Now even to this day after the government has sent more than 20,000 medical workers from the rest of the country to reinforce doctors and nurses in Wuhan and Hubei province, local officials say they are still facing a severe shortage of medical supplies, personnel and facilities.

Meaning, we are still talking about a group of doctors and nurses at the epicenter, overworked, under protected and dealing with the continuous influx of patients. So, this is really a very worrisome trend, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Steven Jiang for us with the latest in Beijing, thank you.

Well, this summer, Olympics in Tokyo are more than five months away. That city is far from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak but everyone is wondering what impact it may have.

Organizers are meeting right now in Tokyo and say the games will go on. They express confidence that athletes and spectators can be kept safe.

In Yokohama, Japan, the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess has more than 200 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Yet, only a fraction of the 3,700 people on board have been tested.

CNN's Will Ripley spoke with a young father who explains why he thinks everyone should be tested regardless of symptoms.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers are kind of strange to me. I am also worried because even though I trust my own health, I don't want to be an invisible carrier.

We are worried that we might be carrying, then it will affect our daily life when we go back. That's one of the major concerns. We don't want to be carrying it. We don't want to strike the communities.

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ALLEN: The virus is also affecting how at least one airline is doing business. Cathay Pacific is cutting back flights and asking all of its workers to take unpaid leave, it was already reeling from anti- government protests, now the employees are worried about layoffs.

Here is Kristie Lu Stout from Hong Kong.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cathay Pacific would like to take you on a tour of Asia.

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KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frequent flyers of Cathay Pacific may love or loath the classic ads from decades ago. Promoting award-winning service and gorgeous flight attendants from, and I quote, "10 Asian lands."

Today, this Hong Kong born flight attendant has an expression you cannot see. She wears a mask during the outbreak, and to protect her identity as she speaks frankly about keeping her job using the pseudonym Emily.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Worrying that there might be redundancy or even yes, redundancy is the worst.

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LU STOUT: Emily has been a Cathay cabin crew member for seven years, she enjoys her job, but fears for the future. Cathay usually flies about 34 million passengers every year, serving over 200 cities around the world from its hub at Hong Kong International Airport.

The outbreak has hammered Cathay Pacific in the global air industries as passengers cancel their travel plans and government-imposed travel restrictions against recent visitors to mainland China. And let's say the industry could get hit harder than SARS, which caused global airlines $7 billion.

The collapse in passenger numbers has forced Cathay to slash flights worldwide by 30 percent, and flights to mainland China by a whopping 90 percent.

Cathay initially took a neutral stance as the protests began. Then Chinese state media slammed the airlines workers for taking part in what they called illegal demonstrations.

Beijing banned any Cathay staff involved in the protest from flying into China. Cathay's former CEO and chief commercial officer resigned, and a culture of fear too cold as the airline crackdown on staff involved in the demonstrations.

Workers tell CNN many were fired. Cathay says dismissals were all made within regulations. Yet, despite all the turmoil, they say the airlines long term prospects are positive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: They are the major airline in one of the great hubs of the world. So, while they are taking a battering, they will bounce back.

In SARS, they laid off staff when they had a 40 percent cut in capacity over about an eight-week period. Then in 2009 when the global financial crisis hit, again, they asked 17,000 staff to take four weeks unpaid leave. So, it's not unusual for Cathay.

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LU STOUT: But as the current outbreak drags on, businesses are struggling to deal with the financial turbulence caused by the coronavirus. Cathay is asking its 27,000 employees to take three weeks off without pay, without mention of layoffs.

In a statement, the airline says, "In view of the novel coronavirus outbreak and also significant drop in market demand, we announced massive capacity cuts. Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business."

Emily says she will take the offer, fearing she could be let go.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm afraid if I don't participate, or if not, enough people participating in it, there might be more measures to be put in place in order to use the management terms preserving cash.

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LU STOUT: Back in the day, Cathay Pacific promised an experience for its passengers to --

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arrive in better shape.

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LU STOUT: It's a message the iconic airline needs now more than ever as Hong Kong struggles with uncertainty.

Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.

ALLEN: You can keep up with our updates online, we have complete coverage of the coronavirus outbreak there. Instant updates on the story at CNN.com.

Donald Trump is on a post impeachment tear, but one of his favorite cabinet members is telling him to turn down the tweets. That's coming next here.

Plus, a look at how the race for the White House could turn into the battle of the billionaires. Stay with us. Much more ahead.

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ALLEN: Welcome back.

And now to a rare public criticism of Donald Trump from a member of his own cabinet. Attorney General William Barr rebuke the president on Thursday for his tweets and public comments on the Justice Department judges and legal cases.

It all revolves around long-time Trump advisor and convicted felon Roger Stone. The president tweeted that a recommended seven to nine- year prison sentence for Stone was too harsh. our, Barr stepped in and scale back the recommendation, but he says he was not influenced by the president's comments.

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WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our 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.

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

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ALLEN: Now, the White House says President Trump wasn't bothered by the attorney general's comments.

We get more on it from CNN's Kaitlan Collins.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, White House officials seem caught off guard by that interview that Bill Barr did publicly challenging the president in saying that his tweets make his job possible to do, and telling the president should stop tweeting about ongoing criminal cases at the Justice Department.

But they put out a statement later that said the president had full confidence in Bill Barr to continue doing his job, and they believe that Bill Barr is able to air his opinions just as everyone else is, but of course the question is going to be when we hear reaction from the president himself, who has not weighed in yet.

And of course, oftentimes the president's views of an event are shaped by the coverage of this. And we know this is a president who does not like to be criticized, certainly not publicly, and certainly not by one of his own cabinet officials in the way that Bill Barr did.

Though question still remain whether or not the president was aware that Barr was going to sit down for this interview to talk about this case. Now Bill Barr said in that interview that he believedthe president put

him in an untenable position by tweeting about Roger Stone's recommended sentencing before the Justice Department had a chance to overrule it.

But now he has put the president in a similarly impossible position because he is stuck essentially between one of his favorite cabinet members, who is carrying out the agenda he wants, but also dealing with someone who publicly criticize him in a way that was incredibly defiant and' surprised many people around the president.

We are still waiting to see what exactly it is the president is going to say about this, or if he'll let it slide.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.

ALLEN: CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein joins me now from Los Angeles. Ron, good to see you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here.

ALLEN: All right. First off, what do you make of this? Now we have the attorney general, very loyal to Mr. Trump, saying the president's tweets make it impossible for him to do his job. What's behind this?

BROWNSTEIN: You know, it is really hard to parse out this episode because the words and actions don't really align.

[03:14:57]

On the one hand, you have the attorney general saying the president is compromising the independence of the Justice Department by, you know, sending these public declarations of discontent.

On the other, in his actions, he is reordering the Justice Department in exactly the way the president wanted. You know, I mean, he acknowledged in this very same interview that he chose to push down a recommendation on the Roger Stone sentencing.

I mean, he is authorizing the investigations into the beginning of the investigation into the Trump campaign in 2016. So, I find this -- I find this a very kind of -- a very strange episode in which it certainly seems as though he is looking to assert his independence, in effect, to give himself more freedom, to follow the White House design.

ALLEN: What does this mean to the future of the attorney general in his role?

BROWNSTEIN: I think he is, you know, he is doing what the president wants. You know? And as I said, in many ways I think this criticism was designed to get himself more independent, an image of independence that would allow him in fact to be more in harness with the White House.

And so, from the president's point of view, it might be annoying to hear this, but I'm sure that he recognizes that the larger goal is that Barr is trying to insulate himself from the very pointed criticism that he is subverting the traditional independence of the Justice Department.

And as I say, the actions speak louder than the words, and on that front it's hard to avoid that conclusion.

ALLEN: Ron Brownstein, I always appreciate your insights. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

ALLEN: The U.S. Senate passed a new resolution to limit President Trump's war powers on Iran. This is incredibly rare, and it passed with bipartisan support. Eight Republicans voted in favor even though President Trump is against it.

The resolution would block Mr. Trump from ordering strikes on Iran in the future unless there is an imminent attack. The White House has threatened to veto the measure and it's unlikely to get enough votes in the Senate to override a presidential veto.

Hundreds of world leaders, diplomats and politicians are gathering to discuss international security and foreign policy at the 56 Munich Security Conference. Among others, we're expecting to hear from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who is there with U.S. Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper.

For more about it, CNN international security editor Nick Paton Walsh joins me from Munich. What are the top issues there, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Natalie, I think much of the focus certainly the start here will be about the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, America's longest war, certainly. But one which appears to be reaching perhaps for the second time a critical phase.

A lot of talk here will be about a potential declaration of a reduction in violence. Maybe seven to ten days long. It's unclear if we'll see an announcement of that after the U.S. secretary of state meets with the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, at about 3.30 local time this afternoon.

Pompeo won't be taking questions, we understand, from the media. And I also understand from a source close to talks that some of the details about exactly how this reduction in violence will be implemented are still being hammered out. Whether it would include to the Afghan army's ability to freely move about the country, for example. Various things hotly contested still, and the then of course, what follows after.

It's essentially a confidence building measure in the hope to try and reduce the violence that has been responsible for at times, incredibly high numbers of civilian casualties. And whether or not that would then lead to the U.S. troops changing their posture inside the country, or perhaps beginning to reduce their numbers and then eventually inter-Afghan talks. The Afghan government talking with the Afghan insurgency, the Taliban.

The bigger question though for ordinary Afghans, will this reduce the daily toll on Afghan security forces and Afghan civilians?

And it could, it potentially led to a political accommodation that might see the Taliban, somehow, with its hands back on the levers of power in Afghanistan. And what would that mean for so many who worked with the Afghan government and the Americans in the past decade or so. Natalie?

ALLEN: Certainly. A complex issue for them to delve into there. But beyond Afghanistan, Nick, what else could be on the agenda?

WALSH: Yes. I mean, we start to see dignitaries filing in behind me here. We'll hear, I'm sure, more from the United States about Huawei. A senior official dispatched here to continue to press the American case to their European allies that allowing the Chinese telecoms manufacture into their 5G systems is a security risk.

We'll hear more of that later on today, and also Iran as well. Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State very clear that he wants to continue to pressure European allies to continue to dismantle the so- called nuclear deal, the JCPOA, that will be on the agenda as well. And of course, to a discussion of the coronavirus its longer-term impact across Europe.

[03:19:57]

Chinese dignitaries are also expected to be attending here as well. As well as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg at some point during the days ahead. Natalie?

ALLEN: We'll be waiting to see what happens there. Nick Paton Walsh in Munich covering it for us. Thanks so much, Nick.

Well, the former New York mayor is gaining ground in the race for the White House. Next here, a look at Michael Bloomberg's unique years long relationship with Donald Trump.

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ALLEN: A surprise shakeup in British Prime Ministers Boris Johnson's cabinet. U.K. finance ministers Sajid Javid has resigned after he was told he had to replace his team of political advisers. Javid will be replaced by Rishi Sunak, a conservative M.P.

CNN's Phil Black has more about it from London.

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The expectation this was supposed to be a boring mid to low level ministerial reshuffle when suddenly it wasn't. It was also expected that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, essentially Britain's Finance Minister, Sajid Javid would be safe and allowed to keep his job. But by the end of his meeting with Boris Johnson, he had resigned.

It's been widely reported in U.K. media that Javid was told he could keep his position but, and he had to stomach a big but, a big concession. He'd had to sack his team of ministerial advisers and instead work with a new team that would be shared with the prime minister's office in 10 Downing Street.

This restructuring is being seen as a power grab, a move to centralize influence over economic policy in the prime minister's office, and thus stripping the chancellor of considerable autonomy.

To accept this would have meant stomaching huge political humiliation, and of course abandoning his team. Sajid Javid chose to resign.

We don't know just how the prime minister thought Javid would react, but he had a replacement ready to roll out. Within moments, he had announced that the new chancellor of the exchequer is Rishi Sunak. A 39-year- old, already rising star of the conservative party. Someone with a business background who already had a job in treasury.

He now takes a big step into what is traditionally the second biggest job in British government. And it will now fall to him in just four weeks to deliver the country's first post- Brexit budget.

But the new structure of his office with the P.M.'s people deeply involved overseeing the whole process, well, that means it is not the chancellor who will now be having the final say on what that budget looks and feels like, and importantly, how revenue is raised and of course, where it is spent.

Phil Black, CNN, London.

ALLEN: Michael Bloomberg is rising in the polls as he hopes to unseat Donald Trump. And the former New York mayor seems to have a way of getting under the president's skin, you could say.

CNN's Brian Todd reports the New York billionaires have quite the history.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Look, he's a lightweight.

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BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The way they talk about each other now, you think they've been enemies for life.

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MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not afraid of Donald Trump.

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TODD: But back in New York, back in the day, a different dynamic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: And I have to say, you have been a great mayor. Come here. You really have, I mean, this guy is fantastic.

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TODD: That was in October, 2013. Then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Donald Trump lavished praise on each other after Trump helped Bloomberg convert a trash dump in the Bronx into a high-end golf course.

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BLOOMBERG: But if there's anybody that has changed the city, it is Donald Trump. He really has done an amazing thing and this is another part of it. Donald, thank you for your confidence in the city.

(APPLAUSE)

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TODD: Analysts say that partnership actually could have been the genesis of their falling out. Because in a 2016 interview with Wolf Blitzer, Trump took all the credit for the project.

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TRUMP: I took it over. I got it knocked up in one year, and now it's a tremendous success. Michael asked me if I got involved a bit.

MICHAEL KRANISH, CO-AUTHOR, TRUMP REVEALED: Bloomberg thought that was an exaggeration, his former aides thought that was an exaggeration, and it's sort of split between them.

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TODD: But before then, Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg appeared to get along, or at least found each other useful. Trump backed Bloomberg's effort to run for a third term as New York's mayor. They golfed together.

Bloomberg appeared on Trump's NBC show, "The Apprentice," and their daughters appeared in an HBO documentary called "Born Rich." But analysts say in the real world of New York business and philanthropy.

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MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP: In that world it was Bloomberg who was the star, it was Trump who was the one who was always looking for acceptance and rarely getting it.

During all of his life, Donald Trump has longed for the approval of the New York establishment. Mike Bloomberg was the New York establishment.

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TODD: Now the two are being compared and contrasted under a microscope. Both switched political parties repeatedly and were unexpected winners in their biggest elections. And both became billionaires, although on the Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans at the end of last year, Michael Bloomberg ranked eighth, with $53.4 billion, while Trump ranked 275th, with 3.1 billion.

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KRANISH: They both named their businesses after themselves, they're both very wealthy people but Bloomberg came from a working-class background, and Donald Trump of course inherited a lot of money from his father to run his business.

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TODD: Going forward, how nasty and personal will their battle become?

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D'ANTONIO: I think in a head-to-head battle Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump will be nastier than anything we've seen in politics, perhaps in 100 years. You know, these -- these are two people who are not afraid to fight, and they are not afraid to fight in a very personal way.

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TODD: Analysts say one reason Donald Trump fears Michael Bloomberg is that he realizes that Bloomberg has the resources, millions of dollars that Bloomberg can spend on ads, highly produced ads that he can use to keep attacking Trump in the most personal of ways.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

ALLEN: And the election year, well, it's just getting started.

Thank you for watching CNN Newsroom. I'm Natalie Allen. I'll have our top stories right after this.

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