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EARLY START

Americans Evacuated from Cruise Ship with Coronavirus; Democratic Rivals Take Aim at Michael Bloomberg; Radio Host Rush Limbaugh Says America is not Ready for a Gay President. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 17, 2020 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

BORIS SANCHEZ, CO-ANCHOR, EARLY START: Back home, evacuated from a cruise ship hit by coronavirus, and now more than a 100 new cases, so just the quarantine is not working.

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

SANCHEZ: And a new format brings a whole new energy to the NBA All- Star game. An electric night on the court, and an emotional one as players and fans pay tribute to Kobe Bryant. We'll share those tributes with you in just a moment --

JARRETT: Great night --

SANCHEZ: Good morning and welcome to a special holiday edition of EARLY START, I'm Boris Sanchez in for Christine Romans.

JARRETT: Great to have you here today, Boris, I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Monday, February 17th, happy President's Day everyone, it's 5:00 a.m. in the east. 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 also angering others. Some exhausted passengers say the move could actually set back their return to normal life because they'll have to get quarantined all over again in the United States. That's why one couple from Sacramento decided against evacuating.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEW SMITH, QUARANTINED ABOARD DIAMOND PRINCESS: That didn't make any sense if the U.S. was fearful that these were infected people, which is why they're going to quarantine them for another 2 weeks. They'll have thrown them all together.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And then another twist announced with the planes already in the air. Fourteen passengers who took part in the evacuation testing positive for coronavirus after leaving the ship, they were still allowed onto chartered flights. The State Department and HHS say those people were isolated from other passengers during the flight.

CNN's Matt Rivers is live for us in Tokyo. Matt, it sounds like these passengers are hearing conflicting things about not only when they'll be allowed home, but when they'll be allowed a normal life and not to be in quarantine.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, basically, this is just really tough ongoing situation, Boris, for these passengers. Not only the people who got on those two 747s chartered by the U.S. government. They're going to be of course facing two weeks of mandatory quarantine at two different military bases in the United States, but also the passengers that are remaining here in Japan. More on that in a second.

But, we do have some late breaking news, 99 new cases, positive diagnoses of the coronavirus have just been reported by the Japanese Ministry of Health, among those people who remain onboard the ship. That after -- about two weeks now, we've been following this story, that is the biggest number of day-to-day increases in the number of cases onboard that ship.

This is the quarantine period set by Japanese health officials is set to come to an end over the coming days. As for the Americans that remain here, though, some chose not to get on that flight for very personal reasons. There's one couple that we've been following, her name is Rebecca, his name is Kent. Rebecca got diagnosed with the coronavirus, she's in a local hospital here, Kent has not been diagnosed.

He said how can I get on the plane to go back to the U.S. when my wife is in the hospital? Here's what happened when he spoke to a CDC official.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're working to get herself from food. Do you want to get back to the States?

KENT FRASURE, PASSENGER ONBOARD DIAMOND PRINCESS FROM FOREST GOVE, OREGON: I -- so my wife is in the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, so I remember.

FRASURE: Yes, I want to -- you know, just get back to the military, yes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's fine, I understand. Good luck, hope she does well --

FRASURE: OK --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Other people have been doing really --

FRASURE: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well with this. So --

FRASURE: Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should be getting ready to --

FRASURE: OK, is there any sort of plan on how that's going to happen later?

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIVERS: And we now know that the second plane carrying some of those 300 Americans that have been evacuated has landed, meaning both charter planes have now arrived back in the United States. And one more quick thing, guys. An 83-year-old American has now also been diagnosed with the coronavirus down in Malaysia. He was on another cruise ship that had recently docked in Cambodia. So, you know, this story just goes on in multiple different countries.

SANCHEZ: Yes, right, Matt Rivers reporting from Tokyo, thanks much.

JARRETT: Democratic candidates taking aim at Michael Bloomberg as the billionaire, a 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 Democrat lane.

Rivals pouncing as old claims resurface about policies in minority communities and the culture at his corporate office where he's been accused of being hostile to women. He's also under scrutiny for the hundreds of millions he's poured into his own campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sixty billion dollars can buy you a lot of advertising, but it can't erase your record.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've 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 (D-VT) & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mike Bloomberg or anybody else spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy an election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[05:05:00]

SANCHEZ: Fighting to keep his 2020 hopes alive, Joe Biden in Nevada over the weekend, pushing hard to earn a bounce from the caucuses set for Saturday. It's going to be the first test of his repeated claim that he's going to do better in more diverse states than he did in Iowa and New Hampshire. What might help, the Culinary Workers Union has gone public with concerns about Bernie Sanders.

Biden is stressing that his health care plan would protect them, insinuating that Sanders' won't.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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've worked like the devil for it. You're not going to be required to give it up like the other things do.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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, though, voicing concern over long-wait times and a shortage of volunteers over the weekend. CNN has reported caucus works and presidential campaigns are both worried about the lack of detail from the state party about how results are going to be reported.

SANCHEZ: Yes, they don't want a repeat of Iowa. And Nevada's state Democratic chairman says his party has been working around the clock to avoid some of those same problems. For starters, they scrapped plans to use that same app that reported results in Iowa.

JARRETT: Pete Buttigieg pushing back against conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh's recent attacks that America isn't ready, to quote, "elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) & 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Limbaugh drew bipartisan criticism with Buttigieg's rivals for the Democratic nomination including Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden firmly standing behind him. And even President Trump said he wouldn't be against a gay president, adding it doesn't seem to be hurting Buttigieg much. A Gallop poll this month found 7 out of 9 Americans say they'd be willing to vote for an LGBT president.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the president also mangling Buttigieg's name. It seems like he doesn't have that down, right, yes --

JARRETT: The name is hard. We've worked hard at it. SANCHEZ: It's true. It's true. A bipartisan rebuke from over a

thousand DOJ alum as Bill Barr expands his protection of President Trump. Details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:10:00]

JARRETT: A bipartisan rebuke over the weekend for Bill Barr, sentencing recommendation for Trump ally Roger Stone. Eleven hundred former prosecutors and Justice Department officials and counting now 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. A 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 difficult for him to do his job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: 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, the newspaper, editorial boards or the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Said he's not going to be bullied, but the president is still tweeting -- and this is a new attorney general who has been on the job for a year, and never once publicly pushed back on any of Trump's missives on DOJ criminal cases. Instead, he's given in to the president's demands to investigate various conspiracy theories.

So will-calls for change from 1,100 DOJ alums have any effect on Barr? Jeremy Diamond has more from the White House.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: 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 statement is quite striking.

Here's part of it where they say, "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."

Now, as for the White House, they have spent several days now that 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 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?

SANCHEZ: Jeremy, thank you for that. Time for a quick weather update from across the pond. Gale force winds and heavy rains battering the U.K. for the second weekend in a row. There's widespread flooding triggered by storm Dennis, the second most powerful non-tropical storm ever recorded in the North Atlantic.

It dumped nearly half a foot of rain on South Wales triggering evacuations and cutting off some communities. You see that car floating through a neighborhood. And take a look at this, winds approaching 60 miles an hours -- 60 miles an hour, forcing a British jet to abort his landing at London's Heathrow Airport. Kind of dancing around in the wind like a paper airplane.

[05:15:00]

JARRETT: Meantime here in the U.S., a state of emergency in Mississippi, hundreds of people in Jackson forced to evacuate their homes. The Pearl River is rising and is expected to crest later this morning at 37.5 feet. That's the highest level in decades -- that's a foot lower than earlier forecast, and that makes a huge difference here because at 38 feet, a large number of homes would be flooded by 6 feet of water.

SANCHEZ: Gentlemen, restart your engines, the Daytona 500 delayed because of weather. But the NBA All-Star game going off without a hitch. Andy Scholes is in Chicago for this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:20:00]

JARRETT: President Trump taking a spin around in Daytona, Florida's famed race track in the presidential limo, the Beast on Sunday, welcoming NASCAR fans to this year's 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 and 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.

That became something of a thing after Trump's campaign manager Brad Parscale posted this impressive picture of Air Force One above this packed stands there. Only problem, sharp-eyed followers pointed out the photo was from W's visit back in 2004. Parscale replaced it with a slightly less impressive snap there. Heavy rain forced officials to delay the race until today.

SANCHEZ: The NBA paying tribute to Kobe Bryant during what was a thrilling All-Star game. Andy Scholes is in Chicago and has more in this morning's "BLEACHER REPORT". Andy, an emotional game on the court, a lot of excitement off it, too.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: That's certainly true, Boris. I mean, you know, the new All-Star game format, a huge success. There was so much drama in that untimed fourth quarter, going to go down as one of the best All-Star games of all-time. Now, the night of course started with tributes for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi and the others who died in that helicopter crash.

And late NBA Commissioner David Stern and Lakers legend Magic Johnson, he spoke about what Kobe and Stern meant to the NBA and the entire world, and Jennifer Hudson sung just a touching tribute to Kobe and Chicago native Common. He was just great during player introductions, honoring Kobe while recalling Chicago's great history.

Now, team Giannis wore Kobe's number 24 for the game, while team LeBron wore Gigi's number 2. And when it came time for the untimed fourth quarter, team Giannis, they only needed 24 points to reach that target score to win, while team LeBron needed 33 points. And I'll tell you what, these guys wanted to win so bad, they played with incredible intensity, it was back and forth, the crowd was really into it.

In the end, it came down to Chicago native, Anthony Davis at the line to win it, and he would make the free throw to claim victory for team LeBron. The Clippers Kawhi Leonard winning the first-ever Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award. And he said it's an honor that he's going to cherish forever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAWHI LEONARD, NBA ALL-STAR GAME MVP FOR 2020: Words can't explain how happy I am for it, you know, to be able to put that trophy in my room, in my trophy room and just be able to see, you know, Kobe's name on there, it just means a lot to me. He's a big inspiration in my life. You know, he did a lot for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Yes, and all the players say they were big fans of this new format, and it was really cool, Boris, because each quarter, it was basically its own mini game with the teams playing to raise money for --

SANCHEZ: Right -- SCHOLES: Chicago-based organizations. And the kids from those

organizations, they were sitting right behind the basket, cheering for each one of their teams. In the end, team LeBron raised $400,000 for Chicago's scholars, while team Giannis raised $100,000 for after- school matter, just added such a cool wrinkle to the All-Star game, and I'm certain with the success that we saw, that the NBA is going to want to continue this format going forward.

SANCHEZ: Yes, definitely. We got to hear some of the players reading letters from those kids to them, really touching and especially emotional week and all around. Andy Scholes, thank you so much for that. And as you heard, Laura, hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for charity in your hometown of Chicago, really --

JARRETT: Something --

SANCHEZ: Everybody wins this weekend --

JARRETT: Something tells me you might be a little jealous of our Chicago-based correspondents today --

SANCHEZ: And Wolf Blitzer who is there, if you were looking at his social media during the week --

JARRETT: Yes, he has a prolific --

SANCHEZ: Yes --

JARRETT: Instagram following --

SANCHEZ: Yes --

JARRETT: In that report as well. Two plane loads of Americans back 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 who just want their freedom?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(05:25:00]

JARRETT: A manhunt in Missouri after an off-duty officer was shot at a local Wal-Mart, it happened in Ferguson. The officer was attacked by a suspected shoplifter. Injuries to the 35-year-old officer are described as non-life threatening.

SANCHEZ: Fans are mourning the death of an emerging actress who gained accolades for her role in a recent Disney film.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIKITA PEARL, ACTRESS: In chess, the small one can become the big one.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Nikita Pearl was just 15 years old, she appeared in the

Disney film, "Queen of Katwe" about a chess prodigy from Uganda. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016. Actress Lupita Nyong'o who starred in the film remembering Nikita in an Instagram post as sweet, warm and talented, saying her thoughts and prayers are with Nikita's family and community as they say good-bye so soon. EARLY START continues right now.

New overnight. Hundreds of Americans head back home, evacuated from a cruise ship hit by coronavirus. And now, more than a hundred new cases suggest the quarantine is simply not working.

JARRETT: Mike Bloomberg with a target on his back from fellow Democrats.

END