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Growing Calls For Bill Barr To Resign As Attorney General; Early Voting In Nevada As Caucus Nears; Dems Target Nevada Ahead Of Saturday Caucuses; Dems Take Aim At Bloomberg As He Rises In National Poll; Data Leak Exposes China's Punishment Of Muslims; Passengers With Coronavirus Among Americans Flown Back To U.S. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 17, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, calls to resign -- a bipartisan group of more than 2,000 former Justice Department officials calls on the Attorney General William Barr to step down in the wake of his unusual intervention in cases against two of President Trump's long-time loyalists.

Breaking his silence -- John Bolton is scheduled to speak publicly this hour for the first time since President Trump's impeachment trial ended without the former National Security advisor's testimony. Will he reveal new information about the Ukraine controversy?

Nevada votes -- early ballots are now being casted in the silver state where the Democratic presidential candidates are battling it out with just days to go before the next big contest of the 2020 campaign. Will the coming caucus reshape the race?

And testing positive -- more than a dozen Americans infected with coronavirus are among hundreds of evacuated from a quarantined cruise ship. Now, they are all facing more time in isolation as officials fight to keep the outbreak from spreading here the United States. I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is a special "Situation Room" report.

Tonight, a White House official tell CNN that President Trump still has confidence in Attorney General Bill Barr despite rapidly growing calls from former Justice Department officials for Barr's resignation.

More than 2,000 have now signed a letter saying that he should step down over his controversial interventions in the cases of former Trump associates Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, accusing Barr of politicizing the Justice Department.

We are also following the battle for Nevada, which holds the next major contest to the 2020 presidential race this coming Saturday as the Democratic candidates crisscross the state. Early voting is now under way with more than 26,000 ballots cast so far.

We'll talk about that and more with Senator Ben Cardin of the Foreign Relations Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's go straight to the White House. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us.

Jim, some very sharp criticism of the attorney general's actions.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. On this Presidents' Day, the president stayed out of sight as Attorney General William Barr face more calls to resign amid concerns he is intervening in cases against Trump associates like Roger Stone and the former National Security adviser Michael Flynn.

Hundreds of Democratic and Republican veterans of the Justice Department have urged Barr to step down and one former deputy attorney general from the Bush 41 administration says Barr may be turning the U.S. into a banana republic.

ACOSTA (voice-over): More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials from both parties have signed on to a letter demanding that Attorney General William Barr step down and the list is growing.

The officials accuse Barr of politicizing his department with news (ph) favorable to the Trump associates like the president's convicted dirty trickster Roger Stone. "Those actions -- the officials write -- 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."

Democrats are seizing on the letter as a sign of an administration that's gone rogue.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Something unprecedented has happened -- 1,100 former Justice Department officials who in fact are Republican as many a dozen (ph) as well as Democrats calling for his attorney general to step down for the abuse of the office. Now folks, I'm serious, no one has ever, ever weaponized the Justice Department like he has.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a separate op-ed in "The Atlantic" former Republican Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer went further writing, "Bill Barr's America is not a place that anyone including Trump voters should want to go. It is a banana republic where all are subject to the whims of a dictatorial president and his henchmen."

Over the weekend, top White House officials defended the president's close relationship with Barr saying they were "hand in glove."

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: The president of the United States has not asked or directed his attorney general privately to do anything in any criminal matter including Roger Stone. And number two, he works hand in glove with the attorney general as we are all privileged to do on any number of matters that affect this country.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Aides to the president say there is no way Mr. Trump will stop tweeting his opinions about federal cases, even as critics note those social media posts involved friends he wants spared in court and enemies he wants punished by prosecutors.

MARC SHORT, CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE: It is something that helped propelled him to the presidency. It's one of the things that the American people love about him as they can communicate directly with him. He's going to keep doing it, It's what he's done from the beginning and I think it's a very active way for him to communicate to the American people.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president fired one alarming tweet over the weekend likening himself to a king as he quoted a recent article in the "new York Times." "Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the impeachment trial of President Trump. When you strike at the king, Emerson famously said "you must kill him."

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Gentlemen, start your engines.

[17:05:01]

ACOSTA (voice-over): That wasn't the only hair raising tweet from Trump world after the president took what his supporters described as a victory lap at the Daytona 500. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale got wrecked on twitter when he tweeted a majestic photo of Air Force One at Daytona.

But there was one problem. The photo was from 2004 when then President George Bush visited the racetrack.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on camera): And the president is continuing this victory lap as he sees it over the rest of those week as he travels out west to do some fund-raising and three separate rallies in Colorado, Arizona and Nevada, three states that will likely be critical in determining whether Mr. Trump can win a second term.

As for the attorney general, the White House says the president still has confidence in William Barr, and as for that tweet from Brad Parscale, we should note, he has deleted it, Wolf.

BLITZER: And important to note that the aforementioned former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer will be a guest here in "The Situation Room" Jim in the next hour. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very much. Let's get more on the growing calls for the attorney general's resignation.

Our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is joining us. Evan, this letter were signed by officials who worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations, very significant rebuke.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is a rebuke, and look, I think, Wolf, the attorney general and people inside of the department are more concerned about what is happening inside of the department with current officials.

And I think that's one of the reasons why you saw Bill Barr do that interview with ABC and try to push back, try to show at least a little bit of daylight between himself and the president. I think he is worried more about the feeling inside the department more than people who are former officials.

But it is very significant this letter. If you look at it, I'll read just a part of it. It says "Mr. Barr's action in doing the president's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than 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."

And these former officials, there are now over 2,000 of them, are calling current officials inside the department, prosecutors, to speak up, to try to hold the line to make sure that their work is not being politically interfered with, Wolf, and to report any infractions to the inspector general.

BLITZER: And we know that the president's long time confidant and friend, Roger Stone, he'll be set -- supposedly he's going to be sentenced later this week. What's the latest that we are hearing?

PEREZ: Well, the latest is that the judge who is overseeing this, Amy Berman Jakson, has scheduled a conference call for tomorrow to discuss some of the things that went on. There were so many things that happened last week obviously, Wolf, including four prosecutors who quit the case.

And she has yet to even acknowledge the fact that those four prosecutors are no longer there. So, you know, for now it appears that he will be sentenced this week. As you know, he has now requested twice for the judge to declare a new trial.

We don't expect that that is going to happen, but certainly, I think tomorrow we'll get the first indication of her reaction to what went on at the Justice Department last week.

BLITZER: We'll see what she says. All right. Thanks very much, Evan Perez, reporting for us. Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland is joining us. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to get your reaction, 2,000 -- more than 2,000 former federal prosecutors and Department of Justice officials believe the attorney general of the United States, William Barr, should resign. Do you agree?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (R-MD): Wolf, I absolutely do agree. Attorney General Barr has been the personal attorney for the president rather than America's attorney general.

This has been over and over again we've seen him act and do the personal bidding of the president rather than independent Department of Justice that has a great reputation as being an independent agency. So, Attorney General Barr has crossed the line. I agree. He needs to resign.

BLITZER: How significant do you believe this rebuke of the attorney general is? CARDIN: Oh, it is unprecedented. Here you have career members of the

Department of Justice, former members of the Department of Justice that are signing a letter asking the attorney general to resign. This is unprecedented. The number is now around 2,000.

That indicates their pride in the professionalism and independence of the Department of Justice as being a nonpartisan entity in which under Attorney General Barr has moved to be a partisan entity under the control of the president rather than independent Department of Justice.

BLITZER: Does the Justice Department, Senator, still have credibility?

CARDIN: I think there are great people, independent people who work for the Department of Justice. I think its leadership has badly soiled the reputation of the Department of Justice.

BLITZER: What is it going to take to restore trust in the Department of Justice?

CARDIN: I think it needs to be independent.

[17:10:00]

We saw that with Jeff Sessions who I don't agree with on many issues, but he took pride in the Department of Justice being independent of the president.

You need to have an attorney general who understands the importance of the independence of the Department of Justice that when it is coming to criminal prosecution, there can't be a partisan edge to it.

And you have to have the independence in order to pursue justice for all Americans. That's what it takes an attorney general that will carry out that longstanding tradition of the Department of Justice.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator, that the thousands of career professionals, the prosecutors, other professionals in the Department of Justice will be able to resist what is being described as political pressure coming down from the top?

CARDIN: I know there are a lot of people in the Department of Justice who will not tolerate political interference. We saw that it in the Stone case where the U.S. attorneys resigned.

I think if they are required to do things they think are wrong, they're going to leave. They're not going to put up with that. What we hope is that they can get the leadership support within the Department of Justice to carry out their independence. That's missing with Attorney General Barr, that's why he should resign.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens in these coming days. Senator Ben Cardin, thanks so much for joining us.

CARDIN: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Up next, we'll have more on the calls for the Attorney

General William Barr to resign. Will President Trump continue to stand by him? And we're also awaiting a speech, a public speech now by the former National Security adviser John Bolton. Will he break his silence about the President Trump and Ukraine? This is a "Situation Room" special report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:00]

BLITZER: Tonight, a White House official tell CNN President Trump still has confidence in the Attorney General Barr despite the growing number of former Justice Department officials, now more than 2,000 calling for Barr's resignation.

Let's bring in our political and legal experts. Shan Wu, you're a former federal prosecutor. You signed on to this letter that we've all now read. Why do you think it's so important for the attorney general to step down?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE LAWYER: Wolf, he is allowing the criminal justice system to be used for the personal benefit of the president, and that can't be allowed to happen.

I mean, it's a very storied department. It doesn't always get everything right at times, but everyone works very hard not to let the criminal justice system, the apparatus, be used for someone's personal gain. That's what he's allowing to happen right now. That's got to stop.

BLITZER: Susan, you're a former attorney at the National Security Agency. Why is this such a potentially powerful rebuke?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. I think this is a significant rebuke in part because it's people outside the building speaking for those who are still inside the building that potentially aren't able to say this for themselves. And because of what's happening here, undermines the entire work of the Justice Department that it does all across America every single day.

How can an assistant U.S. attorney go into court now and argue that the sentencing guidelines are presumptively reasonable, presumptively just when everybody knows full well that if the defendant happens to be a friend of the president of the United States, he or she can get special rules.

Now, a lot people are focusing on the number of people who signed this letter, more than 2,000 at this point, but the contents of the letter are really important as well. These are more than 2,000 former federal prosecutor saying that a law enforcement apparatus that behaves in this way is not part of the constitutional republic.

It is part of the autocracy. That is the starkest, strongest warning to the country about what is happening about the precariousness of the rule of law and about the really, really fragile moment we are in. Now, if Bill Barr wants to restore the legitimacy of the Department of Justice and the substance and perception, there is no alternative but him resigning.

That said, I don't think anybody should hold their breath because Bill Barr has shown that he's perfectly comfortable being the personal fixer of the president of the United States.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Wolf, I think it's important to point out that the ramifications of this go beyond Roger Stone's sentencing and other narrow legal issues.

BLITZER: And Michael Flynn.

HARWOOD: And Michael Flynn. The United States and international institutions are constantly impressing upon developing countries the need to establish the rule of law because it is necessary for the confidence in the international relations of those countries, and the economies of the countries.

If this administration continues to raise questions about the rule of law here, that could have big, big, big impacts down road in terms of the United States being the leading diplomatic force in the world and the leading economy.

BLITZER: You know, David Axelrod, Republican and Democratic former officials from the Department of Justice signed on to this letter which gives it obviously a lot more credibility. How extraordinary do you think this is, 2,000 of them signing this letter?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, its unprecedented obviously and I think it does have a great deal of credibility, but there is only one person who matters here, and that's the president of the United States.

Now, he could look at this -- there are two options. He could look at this and say, my goodness, this is really concerning, 2,000 highly respected professionals of both parties feel that Barr has to go or he could say, he's my guy, he's got my back, he's doing what I want and he is going to stay.

I'm walking through door number two on this one. I think that's exactly what's going to happen. And the question is only whether Barr at some point finds it impossible to do his job because there is so much concern within the department and people start leaving and it is utter chaos.

I mean, that I guess a possibility that these letter portends, but for the time being, I think he is doing exactly what the president of the United States put him there to do.

BLITZER: I just want to get John Harwood because you cover the White House for us.

[17:19:55]

The president, according to a White House statement, still has confidence in Bill Barr even though Barr the other day publicly said in the ABC News interview the president should stop tweeting because it is undermining what's going on the Department of Justice.

HARWOOD: Well, I think the fact that he still has confidence in Bill Barr underscores the reason that all these officials are concerned because Bill Barr, even though he complained about that, that seemed to be a complaint that the president was complicating his ability to do what the president wants in the first place.

So, I am not sure that that tells us a whole lot beyond the fact that the president is quite satisfied.

HENNESSEY: And also, consider the fact that this is the moment that these individuals chose to speak out. Think about everything we've seen not only for the three years of Trump's presidency, but really with the one year that Bill Barr has been attorney general, right.

His interference in sort of the misrepresenting to the public the contents of the Mueller report, all kinds of controversial positions that DOJ, using DOJ, you know, testing sort of the boundaries of political interference throughout his entire tenure.

And yet, this is the moment in which people have not only chosen to resign from the department, but to speak out on a bipartisan basis in the strongest possible terms. I do think that it conveys the message to the public how incredibly unusual and significant what we are seeing happening at DOJ right now is.

HARWOOD: And remember, that Bill Barr was defending President Trump before he was the attorney general, when he was -- publicly raising doubts about the legitimacy of the Mueller investigation.

WU: I think to that point of why now, it's really important those four prosecutors withdrew from the case, and the idea that there are people on the outside trying to give support to people inside, it's hard to take a stand when you're by yourself that way.

Many whistle-blowers feel really isolated so I think part of the reason that this is called for now is to let those people within the department know that we have their backs.

BLITZER: And everybody standby. There is more coming up including the latest on the 2020 presidential race, thousands turn out for the start of early voting just ahead of this weekend's Nevada Democratic caucuses, and there is growing focus right now on the candidate who wasn't a factor in Iowa or New Hampshire.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:00]

BLITZER: The Democratic presidential candidates, they are focusing in right now on Nevada where the caucuses are only five days away, but early voting already started this past week and then thousands of people actually turned out. Our national correspondent Athena Jones is joining us from Reno right now. Athena, what is the latest there? ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, according

to the Nevada Democratic Party, as of 9:00 this morning, already 26,000 people had taken advantage of early caucusing here in Nevada. This is the first time people are able to early caucus.

And what is notable about that 26,000 number, Wolf, is that it represents already about 30 percent of the total Democratic caucus turnout in Nevada in 2016. So, it could be a sign a big turnout to come.

Party officials say they are happy to see the enthusiasm, people standing in long lines to vote. And so they're saying that turnout could set a record. But of course, all eyes are going to be on Nevada because this is also a caucus system just like in Iowa.

And the party officials here are working hard to make sure they don't have a disaster like they had in Iowa. For one thing they're doing is they're scrapping the app that was used in Iowa. They are going to use a combination of high-tech and the low tech methods.

One is a caucus calculator that will be on an iPad -- that's to help do the math to tabulate who meets the thresholds and to calculate the results, but there will also be paper back up.

So they are described as a math sheet that they'll be writing the results on and a math poster to provide transparency to folks in the caucus site. Another thing that party officials said that they're stressing is training.

They said they've been working around the clock to make sure volunteers and caucus site leaders are trained. There will be guides at these sites to help with any issues with technology.

And one thing that's really interesting here is that there was a webinar training that one of the producers sat in on today and they are saying this caucus calculator, they only were able to use screen shots of it. They weren't able to use the actual calculator to test the actual tool they are calling it.

They were instead able to look at pictures of what it is supposed to look like on caucus day. So, that's one issue that could leave some volunteers nervous, but the bottomline here is they're working hard to try to avoid what we saw in Iowa a couple of weeks ago, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope they succeed in avoiding the disaster that occurred in Iowa. Athena, I want you to standby. I want to bring back our senior political commentator, David Axelrod. David, who needs a win in Nevada right not the most?

AXELROD: Well, Joe Biden undoubtedly is the one who has a lot at stake here. He came in. He was the frontrunner until about two weeks ago when voting began, had a disastrous night in Iowa and worse night in New Hampshire.

Their argument has been he needs to get to places where there are more diverse electorates. Nevada is the first, South Carolina is the second. His campaign manger said today he needs at least a second place in Nevada and then a first in South Carolina in order to hold his place.

[17:29:57]

And I think that that is right. He needs to start showing some signs of strength here, Wolf, or he is going to find himself on the outside with Mike Bloomberg waiting for these candidates on the other side.

Beyond him, Pete Buttigieg needs to -- he's had two good primaries and caucuses. He needs to show that he can do well in the diverse environment.

Elizabeth Warren badly needs a reboot. She's had a couple of disappointing results.

And Amy Klobuchar needs to build on the momentum that she showed in New Hampshire. So a lot of people have things on the line here, but Biden as the former frontrunner needs to get the Joe-mentum back in Nevada.

BLITZER: Speaking of Michael Bloomberg, you know, David, the Bloomberg isn't even on the ballot in Nevada but it seems to be having quite in effect on the race.

AXELROD: Yes. I mean, he's -- look, he is playing an interesting game. He jumped in late. He skip the first four contest. But his bet is that Biden will spin off of the track and the others won't have the resources to compete with him and that he can become the alternative to Bernie Sanders on the Super Tuesday when 14 states will vote. He has spent $400 million on the television already. We've never seen anything like it.

And -- but this could be an important week for Bloomberg, because if he gets one more poll that qualifies him, he will be on that debate stage Wednesday night. And it will be the first time that he really has to step out from behind the campaign ads and show what he has. And he is undoubtedly going become a target because of the precipitous rise he has shown with those ads. So he's going to have an interesting week.

BLITZER: You think he'll qualify for the next presidential debate in Las Vegas, I think it's Wednesday?

AXELROD: Yes. I mean, I think that it is likely that a poll will surface between now and then. Because we are seeing them come more quickly now. If I were he and if I were his strategist, I might want to take some of those hundreds of millions of dollars and pay off every news organization in America to hold the poll off until Thursday so I don't have to submit myself to the target practice that he's going to experience there from other candidates who are going to attack him from all angles.

But eventually, he's going to have to be on a debate stage. And if it's not next week, it will be the following week, Wolf. So, he's had this hiatus that is now about to end where he can just rely on these T.V. ads to build his foundation.

And then maybe a smart strategy, you saw over the weekend, he started getting assaults from various places on his stop and frisk policy in New York, on his treatment of women at his company and so on. This is -- he wants a 90-day race from March to June. He didn't want a year- long race. And you can begin to see why a shorter race is better for him.

BLITZER: Let's see if he qualifies for the debates on Wednesday.

And Athena, you've been closely tracking among all -- you've been tracking all the candidates, but especially Senator Bernie Sanders. Tell us a little bit about his ground game in Nevada.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the ground game is very important to the Sanders' campaign. You heard it in Iowa, you heard in New Hampshire, turnout is very important to him. He's constantly talking about how there needs to be a big turnout. And that's what they're hoping to see. They have more than 250 staff on the ground. They have 11 offices.

Since their field operations launched in June, they've knocked on over 300,000 doors. They have campaign literature in numerous languages, English, Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, Vietnamese and Thai. And of course a Latino voter turnout is very important to them.

Sanders won the Latino vote back in 2016 by 53 percent. And so that has been a target here. They had an all-Spanish town hall led by his -- one of his supporters, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. So they're hoping to see a big boost in Latino turnout and that it's going to go toward Sanders. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, guys thanks very, Athena and David. We'll get back to you.

There's an important programming note right now. There are five, yes, five presidential town halls on CNN this week all live from Las Vegas. Tune in tomorrow night, and again Thursday beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.

The latest on the plane of American tourist who finally off of the cruise ship that was stranded in Japan due to the coronavirus fears. They're back here in the United States, but they are still -- they still aren't free to go home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:38:58]

BLITZER: Over the past four years, China says it's been trying to rout out Islamist extremism and terrorism in the western region of Xinjiang through what it calls a massive vocational training program. But critics and survivors, they say it's actually a mass internment policy targeting members of the country's Muslim minority. Our Senior International Correspondent, Ivan Watson obtained some rare leaked documents from inside Xinjiang. Evidence that reveals a truly extraordinary level of surveillance and shows that the Chinese government appears to be rounding up and detaining its citizens for the most arbitrary of reasons.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Growing a long beard, making an international phone call, having a passport, these are all reasons that can land you in what U.S. officials call concentration camps in China. Chilling revelations detailed in what appears to be a Chinese government surveillance report on its citizens leaked from Xinjiang. That's a region in Western China where a mass interment policy has forced up 2 million Muslims from the country's ethnic Uighur minority into detention.

[17:40:14]

(On-camera) The documents are spread sheets of data on more than 300 families living in one neighborhood of Karakax County. They provide highly detailed personal information, including national I.D. numbers, homo dresses, history of foreign travel, religious practices and whether or not they are a threat.

(Voice-over) The authors believed to be Chinese government officials then decide whether to keep the individuals into what the Chinese government calls vocational training centers.

Beijing wants the world to believe this mass job training program is routing out violent extremism. But several survivors tell CNN the reality, these camps were crowded, prison-like facilities where the inmates were subjected to torture.

Due to China's crackdown and the heavy curtain of censorship independently confirming anything in Xinjiang is incredibly difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you here? He tell me, why are you here?

WATSON: In a recent visit to the region, Chinese security forces harass and blocked CNN's Matt Rivers from visiting the internment camps. However, a CNN investigation tracked down Uyghurs living in exile who verified the identities of at least eight of the families profiled in the leaked report. The investigation takes us to Istanbul, Turkey.

Here, I meet Rozinsa Mamattohti, a mother of three from Xinjian whose name is on the document.

ROZINSA MAMATTOHTI, RELATIVE OF DETAINEE: Rozinsa Mamattohti.

WATSON (on camera): Rozinsa Mamattohti, that is you. That's your name?

(Voice-over) Her name appeared under case 358 which also revealed that her younger sister Patem was sent to a camp in March of 2018 for supposedly violating China's family planning policy, that is having too many children.

MAMATTOHTI (through translation): When I saw the document and learned that my younger sister was in prison for the past two years I couldn't sleep or eat for days.

WATSON: Rozinsa says this is the first information she's had about her family in Xinjian since 2016.

Many Uyghurs living overseas say communication with family back home was completely cut off when China intensified it's crackdown in Xinjian. But some Uyghurs are rising their lives to expose this sensitive information.

(On camera) This is the first time you are speaking publicly about these documents?

TAHIRJAN ANWAR, UYGHUR LIVING IN EXILE: Yes, the first time.

WATSON (voice-over): Tahirjan Anwar is a Uyghur activist living in exile in the Netherlands. Last summer he received this trove of documents from a source in Xinjian he won't identify for their safety.

ANWAR: That was my birthday and I got the document and we are very surprise.

WATSON: And it is Anwar along with a patchwork of other Uyghurs living in exile who are sharing this information with the outside world.

ADRIAN ZENZ, SENIOR FELLOW, VICTIMS OF COMMUNISM MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: This document is like a microcosm of what's happening all over Xinjiang.

WATSON: Adrian Zenz is a U.S.-based academic who's been studying what he is convinced are internal Chinese government document documents.

ZENS: This is the future of authoritarianism. This is the future of changing the populations who don't agree with the main regime in terms of ideologies, virtuality, political identity or other criteria.

WATSON (on camera): CNN's data analysis reveals among at least 484 people sent to camps, five were detained because they communicated with people overseas, 25 were detained for holding a passport without visiting a foreign country. And the most, 114 people were labeled a threat for simply having too many children. Those Uyghurs were sent to four different camps, all apparently located within the same community.

Using other open source Chinese government documents we were able to find the locations of the four facilities, including the number two training center located near the Karakax train station.

(Voice-over) And this is where Rozinsa Mamattohti second older sister, Rozniyaz was sent. According to case number 597, her offense is having a passport and giving birth to too many children. Rozinsa fears her family could be punished further because she's going public.

(On camera) Why are you showing your face to the outside world?

[17:45:04]

MAMATTOHTI (through translation): Because I love and miss my parents and my family so much. Because I want to know what's happened to them. I want to know if they are alive and well. But if they are dead I need to know that as well.

WATSON: CNN reached out to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and Xinjiang regional government in writing with detailed questions, but Chinese officials did not respond. In the past, Beijing has strenuously denied allegations of mistreatment and arbitrary detention.

WANG YI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER (through translation): The so called concentration camps with 1 million people are 100 percent rumors. It is completely fake news.

WATSON: As for Tahirjan Anwar, he hopes that sharing these documents will force Beijing to ease its crackdown in Xinjiang and lead to information about his own missing loved ones.

ANWAR: This is my father. He is now in the jail. I don't know what exactly crime of him. Chinese government, let's free my father immediately, and let's free all Uyghurs immediately.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Important report indeed. Thank you, Ivan for that.

Coming up, more than a dozen Americans infected with coronavirus are among hundreds evacuated back in the United States from Asia. We have new details tonight of what lies ahead for all of them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:42]

BLITZER: So the deadly coronavirus has created a vacation nightmare that just won't end for hundreds of Americans. After being evacuated from a quarantine cruise ship they now face even more time in isolation. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

So, Brian, some of these passengers actually have coronavirus infections.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. More than a dozen of them have tested positive for coronavirus. Tonight there are serious questions over whether people should really be booking cruises in the midst of this out break, concerns which only get more magnified as we hear stories from passengers who got off the Diamond Princess.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The buses are starting to line up. TODD: An excruciating journey for Americans being evacuated by the U.S. government from the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship that's become a floating incubator for coronavirus.

Three hundred thirty eight Americans taken off the ship in Yokohama Japan and flown to two Air Force bases in the U.S. More than a dozen of them have tested positive for coronavirus. Passengers irritated that they had to wait hours for buses. Hours to board the planes and at certain points didn't even have access to bathrooms.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go find out.

TODD: One American passenger, Karey Maniscalco, was at the end of her rope after going through almost two weeks of quarantine on the ship only to be told she'll have to do it all over again on a military base.

KAREY MANISCALCO, PASSENGER STAYING ON DIAMOND PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP: They have sent over a dozen e-mails assuring us that there would not be an additional quarantine. And they just told us we would be re- quarantined for 14 more days.

TODD: Another American on board the Diamond Princess, Matthew Smith has not left his cabin for two weeks. And Smith refused to be evacuated.

MATTHEW SMITH, PASSENGER STAYING ON DIAMOND PRINCESS CRUISE SHIP: They were going to break that quarantine, put us all on coaches and then on plains for 10 hours. And we thought we would have a far better chance of catching the virus on that transfer than we'd ever had on the ship.

TODD: The Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess who tested positive were put in specialized containment areas on the plains, kept isolated from other passengers. Was it safe for the rest of the passengers to sit so close together on the long plane ride to the U.S.?

REBECCA KATZ, GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: We don't know. We really don't know. There was no evidence for separating them for each other. That being said you'll see the pictures. Everybody had a mask on. That mask is mostly to prevent, so if I coughed the particles would get caught in the mask.

TODD: There are now more than 71,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. Nearly 1,800 people have died. A key question given what happened on the Diamond Princess, is it safe to go on any cruise right now?

DR. CELINE GOINDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: I'm not a big fan of cruises. I think for a whole host of reasons we've seen a number of norovirus out breaks on cruises over the years. Norovirus causes gastrointestinal illness, so nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. This is largely because the conditions for the staff working on cruise ships is really poor. They're in crowded conditions. They have to work extremely long hours.

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TODD: Experts on public health have told us that while hindsight is to 20/20, what health officials should have done with the passengers on board the Diamond Princess is they should have gotten every one off the ship as soon as they learned of just one case of coronavirus. And they should have gotten them to separate quarantines on land, monitored and tested them. That, they say, would have reduced transmission among people who had been on that ship. Instead, what they did was, in the words of one expert, they stoked the fire. Wolf.

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BLITZER: That's pretty sad, indeed. Brian Todd reporting in this important note.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of National Institute of Health will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll discuss all of this. That's coming up soon.

Also coming up, John Bolton's speaks publicly for the first time since President Trump's impeachment trial. We have details of the former national security adviser is revealing, that and more when we come back.

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BLITZER: Happening now, personal bidding.