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Americans Evacuated Form Ship With Coronavirus; Coronavirus Charters To California And Texas; America's Choice 2020; Headed Democrats Try To Slow Michael Bloomberg's Rise; Calls For Attorney General Bill Barr To Resign; NBA's Electric All-Star Night; Trump And Barr On Solid Footing; Trump White House, President Trump Takes A Spin Around Track At Daytona 500; 5G Top Speed, Total Ban On Huawei Products; Storm Dennis Batters United Kingdom; Disney Mourns Nikita Pearl Waligwa; State Of Emergency In Mississippi; Off-Duty Cop Shot In Ferguson; Caught On Video, Suspect Arrested In Tow Yard Theft; Police Raid Marijuana Grow House In North California; Deer Bolts Through Indiana Supermarket; Elton John Diagnosed With Walking Pneumonia; Team Lebron Wins NBA All-Star Game 157-155. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 17, 2020 - 04:00   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: New overnight, hundreds of Americans heading back home evacuated from a cruise ship hit by coronavirus. But not everyone was thrilled. Some choosing to stay behind.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Mike Bloomberg with a target on his back from fellow Democrats. He's facing renewed scrutiny for policies with minorities on the street and women from the workplace.

SANCHEZ: And a new format bringing a whole new energy to the NBA all- star game, an electric night on the court as players and fans pay tribute to Kobe Bryant.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is a special holiday edition of Early Start. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Christine Romans.

JARRETT: So glad you're here, Boris. I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Monday, February 17. Happy president's day, everyone. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York.

Overnight the U.S. government evacuating more than 300 Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined for weeks in Japan because of the coronavirus. The evacuation a relief for some but it's angering others. Some exhausted passengers say the move could actually setback their return to normal life because they'll have to be quarantined all over again in the U.S. That's why one couple from Sacramento decided against evacuating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It really didn't make any sense if the U.S. were

fearful these were infected people which is why they're going to quarantine them for another two weeks to have thrown them all together.


SANCHEZ: And then there was another twist with planes in the air, 14 passengers who took part in the evacuation tested positive for coronavirus after leaving the ship, but they were still allowed on these chartered flights. The State Department and HHS say those people were isolated from other passengers during the flight. Let's go to CNN's Will Ripley, he is at the cruise port in Yokohama. Will, a confusing and frustrating situations for those passengers, I imagine.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Boris. It took nearly 10 hours to get passengers from the boat to the airport, which is only about 20 minute ride form here and there was a whole lot of frustration on the way for having to sit on the buses for three hours without bathrooms to then, you know, arriving to these flights and finding out that they're basically sitting in a cargo cabin with portable toilets, temporary seats, right next to passengers. And then learning that1 4 passengers on these two flights tested positive for coronavirus.

Yes, they were kept isolated from the others but there were some Americans, including 10 and Rebeca Frasier from Oregon, who we've been speaking to for nearly two weeks now, they desperately want to get on the flight. But Rebecca Frasier was told specifically, because she tested positive for coronavirus and is being treated in a Japanese hospital, she did not qualify. She was not allowed. So her husband is still on the Diamond Princess behind me. He had to tell CDC workers when they knocked on his door he wasn't going.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible), do you want to get back to the states?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand my wife is (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Understand. Good luck. I hope she does well and other people have been doing really well with this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. OK. Is there any sort of plan on how that's going to happen later?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I'm sorry.


RIPLEY: They have no information about what happens to them when Rebecca eventually tests negative for coronavirus, she hopes soon and is released from the hospital. They have to spend 14 days on their own dime here in Japan and then fly themselves back home and what happens then? As for more than 300 Americans who are on those two flights, one has landed at Travis Airforce base, that's just northeast of San Francisco. The other flights should be landing any minute now in Texas. They will be riding out these new 14 day quarantine period at those military bases. One passenger told me, Boris, she feels like she's serving a prison sentence for a crime she didn't commit. Her life still on hold for another two weeks.

SANCHEZ: Yes. It's just unbelievable that they have so few answers for these people after they spent so much time in quarantine. Will Ripley, reporting from Yokohama. Thank you.

JARRETT: Democratic candidates taking aim at Michael Bloomberg as the billionaire former New York mayor rises in the polls. Bloomberg has not competed in any contest yet, but starting with Super Tuesday in just over two weeks, the one time Republican will try to carve a path in the moderate Democratic lane. Rivals pouncing as old claims resurface about policies in minority communities and the culture at his corporate office where he was accused of being hostile to women. He's also under scrutiny for the hundreds of millions he's poured into his own campaign.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: $60 billion can buy you a lot of advertising, but it can't erase your record.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got to answer questions like I just did on my record. And he has to do the same thing. I don't think he should be able to hide behind airwaves and huge ad buys.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mike Bloomberg or anybody else spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy an election.


SANCHEZ: Fighting to keep his campaign alive, Joe Biden in Nevada over the weekend pushing hard to earn a bounce from the caucuses that are set for Saturday. It's going to be the first test of his claim that he keeps repeating that he's going to do better in Nevada than he did in Iowa and New Hampshire, because it's a more diverse state. What might help, the culinary workers union have gone public with concerns about Bernie Sanders. Biden is stressing that his health care plan would protect them.


BIDEN: We're not going to tell all of you who have broken your neck and given up wages and given up salaries in order to be able to have health care through your employer and you worked like the devil for it, you're not going to be required to give it up like the other things do.


JARRETT: More than 18,000 Democrats turned out for the first day of early voting in Nevada on Saturday. By comparison about 84,000 voters in total participated in Nevada's 2016 caucuses. Some voters voicing concerns over long wait times and a shortage of volunteers over the weekend. CNN has reported, caucus workers and presidential campaigns are both worried about the lack of detail from the state party about how results will be reported.

SANCHEZ: Yes. They don't want to repeat the mess that was in Iowa. Nevada State, Democratic chairman says the party has been working around the clock to avoid some of those similar problems. For starters they scrapped plans to use that same app that was used to report results in Iowa.

JARRETT: Over the weekend Pete Buttigieg pushing back against conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's recent remark that America isn't ready to, quote, this is Limbaugh's words here, elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I love my husband. I'm faithful to my husband. On stage, we usually just go for a hug, but I love him very much, and I'm not going to take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh.


JARRETT: Limbaugh's comment drew bipartisan criticism with Buttigieg rivals for the Democratic nomination including Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden standing behind him.

SANCHEZ: And even President Trump saying he wouldn't be against the gay president. Adding that it doesn't seemed to be hurting Buttigieg much. He also mangled his name. A Gallup poll has (inaudible) found seven of nine Americans say they'd be willing to vote for a LGTB president.

JARRETT: A bipartisan rebuke of Bill Barr for intervening in the sentencing recommendation for Trump ally Roger Stone, 1,100 prosecutors and Justice Department officials calling on the Attorney General to resign and encouraging current department employees to report any unethical conduct. Their rare statement coming in the wake of an extraordinary week at the DOJ.

The week capped off by news that Barr is having U.S. Attorneys outside of Washington reexamine several high profile cases including the one involving Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. It's all bringing fresh scrutiny to the political motives behind the Justice Department's decisions. Barr's agenda was already being questioned when he claimed the president's tweets made it more difficult for him to do his job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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, newspaper, editorial boards or the president.


JARRETT: He says it's impossible for him to do his job, if the Attorney General has been on the job for a year and never once publicly pushed back against any of Trump's missives about DOJ cases. Instead he's given into the president's demands to investigate various conspiracy theories. So will-calls for change from 1,100 DOJ alums have an effect on Barr? Jeremy Diamond has more from the White House.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Good morning Laura and Boris. What we're seeing now is this rebuke from more than 1,100 former Justice Department officials who are calling on the Attorney General to resign. There's no indication, of course, that Bill Barr will do so, but the statements is quite striking. Here is part of it where they say, Mr. Barr's actions in doing the president's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those action 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.

Now, as for the White House, they has spent several days now insisting that the president's relationship with the Attorney General is on solid footing despite Barr's comments there. We know of course that this is not a president who likes to be undermined or criticized by his own aides, no matter how mild that criticism may be.

Now, I tried asking the president as he returned to the White House on Sunday, whether or not he would heed his Attorney General's advice to stop tweeting about Justice Department cases, and the president he did not respond to my question, but he's already made it quite clear that he has no plans of changing anything, and that's because we already saw him taking to Twitter to insist in the wake of Bill Barr's comments that the president's had not asked him to do anything as it relates to any criminal cases at the Justice Department. The president saying that he has the absolute right to do so, even though he hasn't done so yet. Laura, Boris? (END VIDEO CLIP)


SANCHEZ: Suspected tweets are not going away anytime soon. Jeremey Diamond, thank you for that. The president spent part of the weekend taking a spin around Daytona Florida's famed racetrack and the beast, the presidential limo. He welcomed NASCAR fans to this year DAYTONA 500 with a speech and a command, gentlemen, start your engines.

Sports venues becoming a theme for the Trump campaign. In the last few months he's also attended the World Series where quite a few fans booed him, also attending the college football championship. The final four this year is in Atlanta. We'll see if he makes an appearance there. Mr. Trump is the second president to attend the Daytona 500 after George W. Bush. And there was a minor snafu, a bit of alternative facts at the DAYTONA 500. Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale posting this impressive photo of Air Force One above the packed stands. Of course sharp-eyed followers pointed out, this photo was actually from W's visit in 2004. Parscale quickly replaced it with a less impressive snap. Heavy rain actually forced officials to delay the race until today.

JARRETT: Yes. That picture getting a lot of attention as you might imagine.

So, the U.K. defied American demands to stop using Huawei for tis 5G network. Now the U.S. is broadening the threat. But the wordings may ring hollow. We'll tell you why, next.



JARRETT: With growing concerns China could weaponizes Huawei technology. President Trump's ambassador to Germany is warning countries against using untrustworthy 5G vendors. Richard Grenell says the president called him from Air Force One and told him to quote, may clear that any nation who chooses to use an untrustworthy 5G vendor will jeopardize our ability to share intelligence at the highest level.

But remember, the Trump administration recently walked back a threat to stop sharing intelligence with the U.K. Even though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he will go ahead with plans to let Huawei develop Britain's 5G network. The administration had been urging European allies to ban Huawei's products claiming the post a national security threat. Last week the U.S. charged Huawei with racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets. Huawei has denied those claims.

SANCHEZ: Gale force winds and heavy rains battering the U.K. for the second week in a row. There's widespread flooding triggered by Storm Dennis, the second most powerful non-tropical storm ever recorded in north Atlantic. Doubling nearly a half foot of rain on South Wales, triggering evacuations, even cutting off some communities. You see that car just floating there. And look at this. Winds approaching 60 miles an hour forcing a British Airways jet to abort its landing at London's Heathrow airport.

JARRETT: Imagine being in the plane.

SANCHEZ: Hell, no. No, I don't want to imagine that. I got to get on a plane later today.

JARRETT: Oh, I'm sorry. Still ahead this morning Disney is mourning the loss of one of its young rising stars.


[04:20:00] JARRETT: A state of emergency in Mississippi. Hundreds of people in

Jackson forced to evacuate their homes. The Pearl River is rising and expected to crest later this morning at 37.5 feet, it's the highest level in decades. That is a half a foot lower than earlier forecast and it makes a huge difference because at 38 feet a large number of homes would be flooded by 6 feet of water.

SANCHEZ: An off-duty officer with the police department in Ferguson Missouri shot last night by a suspected shoplifter while he was working security at a local Wal-Mart, the 35-year-old officer was in full uniform. He was shot multiple times as he approached the suspect. Fortunately his injuries are being described as nonlife threatening. Police believe the gunman jumped in a car and took off.

JARRETT: Fans mourning the death of a young Ugandan actress who was just 15 years old.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In chess the small one can become the big one.


JARRETT: Nikita Pearl Waligwa appeared in the Disney film, Queen of Katwe about a chess prodigy from Uganda. She'd been diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016. Actress (Inaudible) who start in the film Remembering, Nikita in an Instagram post as sweet, warm and talented and saying her thoughts and prayers are with Nikita's family and community as they say goodbye so soon.

SANCHEZ: One of two suspects who allegedly stole a pickup truck from a tow yard in Portland and ran over an employee during their getaway has been arrested. The entire incident was caught on video last week. Take a look. The thieves broke in, ran their way to that fence, slamming into a worker in the process. You see how he got up. We're told he suffered significant injuries despite getting up so quickly. The stolen pickup was spotted by a tow company employee Saturday night. A suspect was then taken into custody.

JARRETT: Just bounce up. A major pot bust in northern California. Authorities seized 440 pounds of illegal marijuana inside a building. An adjacent home had been turned into a massive grow house containing more than 1,400 marijuana plants. Officers made the find after serving a search warrant on the building which had dangerous electrical modifications and was unsafe to occupy. 36-year-old Zhong Li was arrested, he's now facing illegal marijuana cultivation and other drug charges.

SANCHEZ: A deer runs into a super market. It sounds like a setup for a joke, right? But no, it stunned shoppers at this Kroger store in Indiana this weekend. The deer bolting into the store, sliding along the floor, running across the aisles, trashing stuff it sounds like. The store staff and police try to corral the animal who eventually made it back outside.

JARRETT: I don't know how you corral a deer like that. Elton John has been diagnosed with walking pneumonia. The 72-year-old

music superstar making the announcement in Auckland, New Zealand, while on his farewell yellow brook road tour. Elton posting about his illness on social media following the show, telling fans he was deeply upset and sorry for his performance and thanking them for their support. John is scheduled to play two more concerts in Auckland this week.

SANCHEZ: The NBA all-star game capping a weekend of festivities in Chicago. Both team Lebron and Team Giannis honoring Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna by wearing their basketball numbers, 24 and 2.


The new all-star format featured an untimed fourth quarter, the game ending when one team reached a specific final score, 24 points in the fourth quarter in honor of Kobe. Anthony Davis, he's free-throw gave Team Lebron a 157-155 win. Kawhi Leonard scored 30 points. He won the first ever Kobe Bryant MVP award. Kobe's presence was felt throughout the weekend, not only with these amazing plays but also the pregame tributes, Sunday, including one in song from Jennifer Hudson.




JARRETT: J-Hud always brings it, she know, right? Looks like a very special night in my home town there.


JARRETT: Well, two plane loads of Americans heading home after being evacuated from a ship quarantined over coronavirus. Turns out some of the passengers brought back to the U.S. were infected as well. What's next for hundreds of people itching for their freedom?