Return to Transcripts main page


14 Americans Evacuees Test Positive for Virus After Leaving Cruise Ship; What Life Was Like for Some Americans Quarantined on Cruise Ship; Former Justice Department Officials Call on A.G. William Barr to Resign; Former DOJ Attorney, Noah Bookbinder, Discusses Why He Signed Letter Calling for Barr to Resign; Mayor Bill De Blasio (D- NYC, NY), Discusses Sanders Attacking Bloomberg on Buying Election, Why He Endorsed Sanders, Culinary Union Leaders Attacked by Sanders Supporters. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 17, 2020 - 11:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: She sang a tribute to Kobe and Gigi. The teams wore Kobe's number 24 for game and team Lebron wore Gigi's number two.

Thanks to all of you for joining me today. I'm Erica Hill.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Welcome to a special holiday edition of AT THIS HOUR. Thank you so much for joining me.

New questions are emerging now about the response to the coronavirus outbreak. Questions not only for Chinese authorities, but also now for the U.S. government.

Fourteen Americans boarded charter flights back to the U.S. after testing positive for the virus. That means the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States is now 29.

Those passengers were among more than 300 Americans who arrived back on U.S. soil early this morning. We're showing you video of some of them getting off those charter flights right there. This is after they were all quarantined on the cruise ship off the coast of Japan for close to two weeks.

So many questions now.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is at Travis Air Force Base in California where one of the charter flights landed. She joins me now.

Lucy, it seems this saga is far from over for these folks. What are you hearing there?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No one should be canceling their Netflix subscription because all the Americans who landed overnight are due for two more weeks of quarantine. This, despite the fact that they were quarantine on the "Diamond Princess" cruise ship since February 5th.

The U.S. government is doing this out of an abundance of caution. And it might not be the worst idea because we're now seeing that more people are infected on that ship. The numbers rising, 99 people infected overnight.

A lot of questions, though, about how those 14 sick Americans were allowed to board the evacuation flights. Remember, Kate, there were 46 Americans who had been infected with the coronavirus. They were not allowed to go home. They had to stay in Japanese hospitals.

We are learning the 14 sick patients were able to get on the planes. The reason they were able to get on, we're learning, is the positive diagnosis was learned by U.S. officials after the 14 passengers disembarked from the cruise ship. They were already in cars on the way to the airport.

It was determined that they actually tested positive, even though they didn't show any symptoms, no signs, no symptoms of the coronavirus. So they were put in a special isolated place on the plane.

They are now on the military bases. We're not sure if all of them are at Travis here in California. Perhaps some of them are in Texas, at the Lackland Airfield. We don't know.

And it is unclear whether they're going to remain on base or be taken to hospital. In the past, sick passengers were taken to hospital. So we'll probably expect some of that.

Here in Travis, the new arrivals will be kept in the same facility where the American evacuees from Wuhan are being held, but in a slightly separate area in order to keep that disease from spreading -- Kate?


Great to see you, Lucy. Thank you for being there and bringing that to us.

What has life been like for some of these Americans quarantined on that cruise ship? CNN is getting an exclusive look into really the journey.

CNN's Will Ripley has that story.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Daybreak in Yokohama, Japan. The final day on the "Diamond Princess" for more than 300 Americans evacuated by the U.S. government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a converted cargo 747. So there's less insulation than a regular passenger jet. So bring extra layers so you can stay warm for you.

RIPLEY: American health officials try to prepare passengers for a long, uncomfortable journey. A journey Karey Maniscalco, from Utah, is reluctant to take. She and her husband already endured nearly two weeks of quarantine on the cruise ship.


RIPLEY: Now, they're about to do it all over again at a California military base.

MANISCALCO: They have sent over a dozen e-mails assuring us that there would not be an additional quarantine. And they just told us that we'd be re-quarantined for 14 more days. I've just lost a whole month of my


RIPLEY: She's angry at the U.S. government, angry they waited so long to evacuate the American passengers.

Others, like Gaye Courter, from Florida, are grateful.

GAYE COURTER, CRUISE SHIP PASSENGER: And I want to go somewhere where I can feel safe. And I just want to thank President Trump and the U.S. government.

There's been a lot of silence on this, and now we know the silence has been putting together a brilliant plan.

RIPLEY: Executing that plan will take nearly 10 hours, even though the airport is just a 20-minute drive from the ship.

MANISCALCO: The buses are starting to line up.

RIPLEY: Once they get on, there's no getting off, not even to go to the bathroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best I can do is go find out where a bathroom is.


RIPLEY: As the hours drag on, this health worker tries to break the tension.

UNIDENTIFIED HEALTH WORKER: What do you call a witch on the beach?






RIPLEY: Passengers are beginning to feel like the joke is on them.

MANISCALCO: We're just waiting. I don't really know what we're waiting for, but we are waiting indefinitely.

RIPLEY: Finally, they're allowed off the bus --




RIPLEY: -- and onto the tarmac, boarding two converted 747 cargo planes. The cabin best described as bare bones, no windows, makeshift toilets, temporary seats.

MANISCALCO: This is first class, baby. First class.

RIPLEY: Lack of luxury aside, Maniscalco feels anxious.

MANISCALCO: It's not good conditions. No one on here has had their temperature taken by the federal government or any government, for that matter. So we're all in really closed, tight quarters. Everybody's sitting next to each other. I have a girl sitting here in just a minute. It seems dangerous and not safe.

RIPLEY: The U.S. government says they are safe, even though 14 passengers who tested positive for coronavirus are allowed on the flight, all showing no symptoms. They're put in a specialized containment area, isolated from the other passengers.

Just after daybreak, both planes finally take off. A long, sleepless night followed by a 10-hour flight.

Now they've arrived in California and Texas. One ordeal ends, another begins.

Will Ripley, CNN, Yokohama.


RIPLEY: As uncomfortable as that obviously was, the Centers for Disease Control has been pretty clear on this, that people who remain on that cruise ship, which is still in Yokohama, do face a higher risk of becoming infected because they're so closely jammed together. It is not necessarily a safe environment.

And, Kate, you look at the numbers over the last three days, 67 new cases on Saturday, 70 new cases on Sunday, and then, overnight, 99 new cases. That's the highest jump in cases in one day that we have seen thus far.

Clearly, you know, if this is not a failed quarantine, there are certainly a lot more sick people on the ship than they realized and a lot of those Americans are glad they're off of it.

BALDWIN: Yes, that's exactly right.

Will, thank you so much for all of your great reporting. Thank you. It's great to see you.

Back here at home, to the fierce backlash facing the Justice Department and its handling of cases involving associates of President Trump. More than 1100 former DOJ officials, who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, are now joining together, calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign.

In a letter leased yesterday, a lengthy letter, they write this, in part. I'll read it to you. "Mr. Barr's actions in doing the president's personal bidding, unfortunately, speak louder than his words. Those actions and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice's reputation for integrity and the rule of law require Mr. Barr to resign."

Joining me now is one of the former Justice Department attorneys who signed onto this letter, Noah Bookbinder. He worked as a trial attorney in the Justice Department during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. He's also the executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Noah, thank you for being here.


BALDWIN: In the letter, you all acknowledge -- after saying you should resign, you all acknowledge that Barr is not likely to resign. So what are you hoping to do with this statement?

BOOKBINDER: I think really two things. One is to put real pressure on Attorney General Barr to preferably resign.

But if he does not, to start acting like the attorney general of the United States and make decisions on criminal prosecutions and the important cases that the Department of Justice has, based on the merits and not based on politics, which is really the first thing that any attorney in the Department of Justice learns.

And the second thing is to give support to those attorneys, those prosecutors, still at the Justice Department, to say that those of us who have been where they are support them in doing their jobs with integrity, doing their jobs without regard to politics.

And if necessary -- if they can't do that, that they should come forward, they should resign, if necessary, and we've got their backs.

BALDWIN: And so since it seems there's no evidence that the attorney general, especially in his statement last week, that he has any intention of resigning -- maybe that's one of most important messages I want to home in on is the statement to DOJ employees. Because the message is, as you said, you stand with DOJ employees.

And you always wright that they should report misconduct and, as you mentioned, resign if necessary, if they see something or are asked to do something. You would hope to assume that an upstanding career prosecutor would do

that regardless of any letter coming from formers.

If you were still at the Justice Department, what would you take from the letter? Does this public statement or kind of this tidal wave of public pressure coming from former DOJ officials, does it help?


BOOKBINDER: I think it does. Look, it is a hard thing to ask anybody to give up a job --


BOOKBINDER: -- in which case is a job that people love and that leaving affects their careers.

And I think it -- a letter like this, first of all, tells them that if they are feeling pressure, if they are feeling like something is wrong, they're not going to crazy. This is -- this is really what is happening.

And people who have been where they are see it, too. And support them. That they are going to be -- they're going to be OK in their careers because there's a huge network of people out there that understand the position that they're in and will support them. And really expect them to do -- to keep doing what they have been doing, do their jobs with integrity and do the right thing.

BALDWIN: It is not just the Stone case that I know you are focused on. Your organization is asking now for more documents related to the case against Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. What are your concerns there? Is it linked to this?

BOOKBINDER: Absolutely. This was a little bit quieter because it happened while the impeachment trial was going on. But in the Flynn case as well, prosecutors made a sentencing recommendation, and then, afterwards, the department came in and seemed to -- a little bit less clear, but seemed to be reducing that recommendation, saying that even though they had asked for prison time, that actually a probation sentence would be OK.

And so we think it is really important to get to the bottom of what was the deliberation there, what were the communications with the White House, with the attorney general, and is that another instance in which politics was playing a role in sentencing of people close to the president.

In the Stone case, the attorney general essentially admitted that he went in and made that change. And we're trying to figure out if the same thing happened in the Flynn case.

BALDWIN: Prosecutors in the Flynn case are different than the prosecutors in the Stone case, but you know the attorneys worked closely together in the past, with all CNN's reporting. So this would be very interesting to see what happened here as well. Thanks so much, Noah. Appreciate your time.

BOOKBINDER: Thanks so much.

BALDWIN: Coming up, he's not on the ballot in Nevada. So why are the Democratic candidates campaigning there going after Mike Bloomberg. We'll have that coming up.

Plus, the key witness in the Roger Stone case we were talking about in his first television interview since the trial, why he asked the judge to, one, spare Stone of jail time and then also why he then calls the president's attacks on prosecutors a vile smear job.




SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Regardless of how much money a multibillionaire candidate is willing to spend on his election, we will not create the energy and excitement we need to defeat Donald Trump if that candidate pursued, advocated for and enacted racist policies, like Stop-and-Frisk --



SANDERS: -- which caused communities of color in his city to live in fear.


BALDWIN: That was Senator Bernie Sanders this weekend, campaigning in Nevada where he's enjoying big momentum coming out of the first two primary contests. And as you saw there, going after another candidate, Mike Bloomberg, who is not even on the ballot in Nevada, which caucuses this weekend. How are things looking for Sanders there?

Joining me now is the mayor, current mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, who endorsed Sanders last week, and will be campaigning with him today.

Thanks for coming in, Mayor.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NYC, NY): Thank you, Kate.

BALDWIN: So we play the sound there from Sanders. You also I saw were -- very clearly went after Bloomberg this weekend, in stumping for Sanders. As we mentioned, Bloomberg is not competing in Nevada. So why?

DE BLASIO: The Super Tuesday voting has already begun, Kate, with early voting. And it is important for people to understand what is happening here. Bernie Sanders has created extraordinary momentum on the ground, energy, excitement, because he represents change. He's been consistent about it throughout his life.

Michael Bloomberg represents the status quo. It is important to talk about it. He's using an inordinate amount of money. We have never seen anything like it in the history of the United States.

But what it is masking is a lifetime of supporting those in power. He's the epitome of the power structure in this country.

It is important for people to understand what he's about, given that he's spending hundreds of millions of dollars to portray only one side of the story.

BALDWIN: Look, Bloomberg needs to respond to his record. But often when people, especially on the Democratic side, are talking about who represents the status quo, they're talking about Donald Trump. Mike Bloomberg represents the status quo?

DE BLASIO: Let me tell you, he's one of the richest people in the world and he pursued policies in New York City that made income inequality worst, that helped developers and, you know, big real estate folks and Wall Street at the expense of working people. And unfortunately, had a number of policies like Stop-and-Frisk, which were divisive. So that's why this has to be talked about.

But, Kate, look, I believe what Bernie said in the clip is the truth. If we are going to beat Donald Trump, we need to do exactly the opposite of 2016. We need to actually get Democrats out to vote. We need to get people who stayed on the sidelines to get in the game.

And what Bernie does is he inspires people. He energizes people, young people, expands the electorate, working class people. He can pull back a lot of the votes from Trump. I don't have a doubt about it.

A lot more -- a lot more what you're seeing is voters of color coming over to Bernie Sanders. I think he'll be able to bring out a lot of the African-American and Latino voters, who were not inspired in 2016, unfortunately.

So this is about building electoral coalition that can beat Donald Trump. That's the way to do it. And I think Bernie is the right one to do it.


BALDWIN: Before getting there, is Mike Bloomberg the biggest threat to Bernie Sanders now?

DE BLASIO: I think it is too early to say any of this, Kate. This is only going to be the third contest. I think there's a lot more to play out.

I think what a lot of people are very clear about is no one in American history ever tried to buy an election the way Mike Bloomberg is right now. You got to take that seriously.

But it is also -- (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: People still got to --


DE BLASIO: -- Bernie Sanders is still the frontrunner in this field.

BALDWIN: But, I mean, he's -- you -- he answers to buying an election, the accusations of buying an election to he's advocated for many of the causes, that he's advocated even in prior elections, advocated for the cause that many Democrats hope for, want and wish for.


DE BLASIO: Look, I'll be the first to say, you know, I'm Mike Bloomberg's successor, and there's some areas I agreed with him on, like public health and climate. He did some very good work.

But he did some things that really, really hurt New York City that I spent six years undoing. And I'll tell you something. I don't think it is right for anyone to use their personal wealth, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, to buy any office.

I'm glad when he helps fellow departments. I'm glad he said he will help whoever is the eventual nominee. But, Kate, this is not what our democracy is supposed to be about, that if some guy gamed the system to make billions of dollars that gives him the best chance to be president. That's not what America is about.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about Nevada and what's happening on the ground there. There's a lot of momentum for Sanders. One big thing he's facing is a big rift with the state's largest labor union, the culinary union, which represents tens of thousands of hotel and restaurant workers in Las Vegas casinos.

They have come out against the Medicare For All proposal that Bernie has been pushing and has long been advocating. It will hurt their health care they fought years to negotiate. How do you tell them they're wrong to be concerned?

DE BLASIO: The culinary union is an extraordinary progressive force in the state of Nevada. And they have built an amazing health care apparatus for members. It's admirable. It's what we should have for all Americans. They have every right to raise their concerns.

What I hope people will feel in the union is we've got to take what they have achieved for working people and achieve it for everyone. That's what Medicare For All would do.

But, you know, I think what is so crucial here, Kate, is that the Sanders campaign made very clear, Bernie himself, his followers, that the deep respect they have for what culinary union has achieved.

(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: Let's talk about that. I think this is important. And this is also coming from the union as well, is that they have felt top officials have revealed they have been attacked and harassed since taking the position that we just laid out.

One of the union leaders just talked to CNN last hour. Let me play what she said.


GEOCONDA ARGUELLO-KLINE, SECRETARY-TREASURER, NEVADA CULINARY WORKER'S UNION, LOCAL 226: I think was not right to intimidate us to put the facts. They're not going to intimidate us to pull the facts. That's our responsibility to let the members know. But it is very uncomfortable for my family.


BALDWIN: She received hundreds -- she told the "New York Times" -- hundreds of e-mails, phone calls, and text messages calling her named and threatening her. And her home address was posted online after taking the position that the union did.

Is that what you want from a Bernie Sanders supporter?

DE BLASIO: No. Let me tell you something, Kate, that was disgusting. In fact, the people who did this -- and I don't know who the people are, nor does the Sanders campaign. But let's be blunt about it. The folks who attacked them, Geoconda and another woman, they chose to attack two women of color. They did not choose to choose to attack the white male leaders of that union. It was disgusting. It was inappropriate.

Anyone who does that has no place in Bernie's movement. Bernie said that. He has said, if you -- if those are the views you harbor, get out of our movement, you don't belong. So --


BALDWIN: Mayor, I hear you. But the response from Bernie Sanders since this has come out has not been as strong as you have said. He has questioned if these are even member of - he's leveled that possibly these aren't even supporters of his.

In his initial response afterwards, he said, all campaigns need to speak out against bullying and harassment. You are saying it is stronger than he has.

DE BLASIO: I saw what he said on PBS "News Hour," exactly what I said. Anyone who has those views, those racist, sexist views, should get out of the movement. He said it very clearly.

I want to say it clearly, as someone who is a proud supporter of Bernie Sanders, anyone who would say that, do that, attack these powerful progressive women, who deserve all the respect in the world, get out of this movement, if that's what you feel. Kate, it is a true statement that, online, things happen that are

really troubling that we don't always know who they are. I have spent time around Bernie Sanders supporters. They are a diverse positive group of people. They do not engage in this kind of activity. Bernie and his staff do not engage in it.

Some people online do it. They need to get out of this movement. Or they may be people who are doing it for ulterior motives. But it is unacceptable.

And I think Bernie made clear, his through his lifetime, he does not accept that kind of division. In fact, he stood for bringing people together. And that's why you see a growing progressive, diverse coalition around Bernie.


BALDWIN: It's good to hear you speak out in that way, Mayor. Thank you for coming on.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Kate.

BALDWIN: This week on CNN, five town halls coming up. Sanders, Bernie Sanders being one of them, Pete Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden, Warren, will all be live in Las Vegas ahead of the next critical vote. You can watch three tomorrow night starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, two more Thursday starting at 8:00, right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.