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Poll: Sanders Opens Double-Digit Lead; Bloomberg Qualifies for First Debate Tomorrow Night; Bloomberg Releases Wall Street, College- Affordability, Criminal Justice Reform Plans; Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), Who Has Endorsed Biden, Discusses Bloomberg Qualifying for Debate, Latest Poll, Nevada Caucus Concerns Following Iowa Debacle; 13 Americans Sent to Omaha Facility from Evacuation Flights; Judge & Lawyers Wrap Up Conference Call in Stone Case. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 18, 2020 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

The dynamics of the 2020 presidential race seemed to have shifted overnight. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders opened up a double-digit lead in a new national poll.

Mike Bloomberg is here to stay. Now qualifying for his first debate and a debate that is tomorrow night.

A new NPR/Marist poll is vaulting Bloomberg into second place at 19 percent support among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters.

And look there also at Bernie Sanders in front at 31 percent. The longtime frontrunner Joe Biden within the margin of error for second place with Bloomberg, which makes it then no surprise that Sanders and Bloomberg have been trading attacks for days.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Democracy to me means one person, one vote.


SANDERS: Not Bloomberg or anybody else spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy an election.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, CNN's Arlette Saenz on the ground in Las Vegas, and Ryan Nobles in Washington.

Arlette, first to you. Bloomberg here surging, trending up, it creates a new dynamic on the

debate stage for sure. But also, as we already have seen, creates a new dynamic on the campaign trail. What are you hearing?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate, it certainly does. Michael Bloomberg will be facing off against his Democratic rivals for the first time on that debate stage.

He really has largely avoided these one-on-one confrontations with any of his rivals, but that's going to be pretty unavoidable tomorrow night when Bloomberg is one of six Democrats to take the debate stage right here in Las Vegas.

And many of his opponents are eager for him to appear on that debate stage as they want to try to make the contrasts with Bloomberg. You see Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren could very easily go after him for the amount of money that he has been spending in this race.

And Joe Biden is also very eager for Michael Bloomberg to be up there and start to be tested in this Democratic primary race. Biden says Bloomberg hasn't gotten the amount of scrutiny that a candidate like the former vice president has over the six months since he's been in the race.

But as we are learning that Bloomberg will be taking that debate stage, we're also getting a new snapshot of what this 2020 race looks like on the national scale.

And right now, Bernie Sanders is far and away leading the Democratic pack. If you look at where he was in December in this poll, he's up nine points. And he has a double-digit lead over his closest rival, which is now Michael Bloomberg. He's up 15 points. That's an incredible amount since December.

And then Joe Biden has dropped a bit, about nine points since those disappointing finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

And you'll have to remember, Michael Bloomberg isn't even participating here in the Nevada caucuses. He is focusing on the races ahead, in the Super Tuesday contests.

But for all of these other candidates, they need to have some strong showings, particularly for Joe Biden, who is looking for a turn around right here in Nevada and hoping to propel him into more diverse states like South Carolina, those Super Tuesday contests.

And we're now four days out from the Nevada caucuses when Nevadans here casting their decisions about the Democratic primary nominee.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Arlette, thanks so much.

So, Ryan, at the same time, this poll we just -- as Arlette was talking about, shows Sanders with a substantial lead nationally. What are you hearing from his campaign? RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the campaign would argue this is

all according to plan, right? They knew from the very beginning --

BOLDUAN: Of course.

NOBLES: -- that Bernie Sanders had very strong support within the Democratic Party and that the energy and the enthusiasm in the Democratic Party comes from the progressive wing.

And they anticipated from the beginning that, once he started winning, that that would start to coalesce support within the Democratic Party. And that's what you see happening here.

Very close margin in Iowa. They would argue he had the win because he had the most popular votes and then, of course, a clear win in New Hampshire. Once you start winning, people start getting behind your campaign and that's what you see born out in these national poll results.

And, Kate, the most important metric for the Sanders campaign and the thing that dogged him from the very beginning is the belief by Democratic primary voters he can beat Donald Trump. You're starting to see a Democratic primary voter start to believe he can win a head-to- head contest with Trump. And as a result, his poll numbers, nationally, are starting to go up.

BOLDUAN: Just as Bloomberg makes the debate stage, he's also rolling out a ton of policy, like just this morning. We've got a criminal justice reform plan, a college-affordability plan, a plan to reign in Wall Street. And on that one, there are similar proposals from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.


NOBLES: Yes. Reading over that financial plan from Bloomberg this morning, Kate, I think I've seen a lot of these proposals before. He wants to reinstate the Consumer Financial Protection Board, which is something that Elizabeth Warren helped to create back during the Obama administration.

The other thing he wants to do is put an excise tax on financial transactions, which is something that Warren and Sanders have suggested. Anytime anyone makes a Wall Street trade, that would be taxed. And that goes into a pile to help provide more protections for consumers across the board. Potentially, prevent Wall Street from running roughshod as they have in the past.

One thing that Bloomberg was particularly critical of in this plan that he rolled out this morning was the fact that the federal government bailed out Wall Street during the financial crisis. And that's something that Bernie Sanders has hammered over and over again during his campaign.

And it is interesting, Kate, that this is the tact that Bloomberg is taking. The biggest criticism that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have against Michael Bloomberg is the fact he's part of the billionaire class and that they are concerned that someone like him could throw hundreds of millions of his own dollars in a race like this and essentially buy the election.

This is a contrast that Bernie Sanders in particular is welcoming. He's been after the Bloomberg campaign from the very beginning. And you can bet that this is a contrast that they're going to try to make in a big way on the debate stage tomorrow night.

BOLDUAN: It is something in terms of, while the Bloomberg campaign strategy has been unconventional, and not yet tested, with success, in a big way, in a presidential race, of course, skipping all the early states and moving on to Super Tuesday, it is conventional rolling out policy positions right before a debate.

It is going to be interesting to hear that dynamic as you're laying out between Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and, let's be honest, Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg on the stage, because as we have seen evidence in the polls, Bloomberg polls from Biden support.

RYAN: Right. I think you're exactly right about that, Kate. The big question here is, is what we're seeing from Michael Bloomberg, something that can stand the test of time.

We have seen different members of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party spike. You saw it with Pete Buttigieg. You saw it with Amy Klobuchar. Now it seems to be Bloomberg's time in the sun.

The question is, can that sustain for a long time. Because the one thing that has been remarkable consistent is the amount of support that Bernie Sanders has within the Democratic Party.

It is now Bloomberg's opportunity to see if he can hold on to it. And the final test will come tomorrow night.

BOLDUAN: All records get tested once they show up on the debate stage. And Mike Bloomberg with answer to that just as the other candidates have.

Great to see you, Ryan. Thanks, man.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Dina Titus, from Nevada. She endorsed former Vice President Biden back in November.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.

REP DINA TITUS (D-NV): Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Appreciate it.

So let's start there, Mike Bloomberg qualifying for tomorrow's debate. Biden said he is looking forward to debating Mike Bloomberg. Where do you think Biden wants to focus?

TITUS: I'm glad he's going to be on the stage. He has a lot to answer for. He's the latest shiny object. But there is more to being president than running good ads. He has to answer to Stop-and-Frisk, answer to all the support he's given Republicans, some allegations about the way he ran the company. There's a lot to talk about. I believe the other candidates will take it to him.

BOLDUAN: Someone else they called a shiny object a while back was Pete Buttigieg with his surge in Iowa early on, and we saw where that ended up. But recent polls do suggest that Bloomberg is pulling voters from Joe Biden. Does having Bloomberg on the stage make Joe Biden's job harder tomorrow?

TITUS: I believe having him on the stage will give people a closer look at who he is and what he stands for. You can run positive Madison Avenue ads all over the country with a whole lot of money, which is what he has done, but he hasn't really passed the test. And this will be a good way to do it.

The vice president is doing great here in Nevada. He was strong in our big dinner we had the other night. Got a standing ovation at a town hall. And he's ready for this debate stage. And I think you'll see that against Bloomberg and the other candidates.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, let's talk about this latest poll. Bernie Sanders, well ahead of the field with 31 percent support nationally. And I'm struck by, leading in national polling is something that Joe Biden used to defend his frontrunner status when he wasn't leading in early states.

Do you concede now that Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner?

TITUS: I don't concede that because that's a national poll and this is not a national primary. You got to win state by state. We have seen that in previous presidential elections.


Joe Biden is going to come strong out of Nevada, because this is a state with a broad coalition of voters that he puts together -- African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Pacific Islanders, seniors, a lot of retirees here and strong union support.

So he'll come strong out of Nevada and be ready for South Carolina, which is his strength as well, and go strong into Super Tuesday.

BOLDUAN: A man asked Joe Biden a pretty direct question when he was campaigning in Nevada.

Let me play it for you and for viewers. It is Joe Biden's retelling of the question to the audience because the man didn't have a mic on.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He complimented me highly and then said, what is wrong with your campaign.

(LAUGHTER) BIDEN: That's a good question. No, no. It is a legitimate question.


BOLDUAN: If someone asks you the same today about the Biden campaign, what would you tell them, Congresswoman?

TITUS: We didn't expect to win in Iowa or New Hampshire. Those aren't our constituencies. There has been a little shake-up.

But you don't want somebody who reacts like Donald Trump does tweet by tweet and changes his mind every day. You want a steady hand on the tiller.

So we made a few adjustments. We're strong here in Nevada. Some people have come out from the other states to back up our field team. I feel like it is going well now.

BOLDUAN: Do you consider a second place a win for Nevada for Joe Biden?

TITUS: If they're all clumped at the top and he's up there in that top, I certainly do.

BOLDUAN: You said yesterday that you think it will be a record year in terms of turnout for the Nevada caucuses. But you also said last week that you had some worries about the caucuses after Iowa.

Are you confident in the integrity of the process in Nevada? I use that terminology specifically because that is what the Biden campaign's big criticism was after Iowa.

TITUS: Well, I was concerned about it a few weeks ago because it has got to be transparent. We got to deliver. All eyes are on us. We want to be number one, not number three.

But we learned from Iowa. There have been two meetings with the party and the different campaigns to put any of their fears to rest.

We have now done away with the app like they used in Iowa. We've had long lines. Nobody is really leaving or complaining. In some cases, we're just using paper and pencil, the old-fashioned way. And we'll have three days or so to count those early votes.

This is the first time we had early vote in a caucus. But people in Nevada like voting early. And 65 percent of people do in any general election.

So if it takes a little bit longer to count it, to be sure that it is legitimate, and has credibility and accountability, I think it is worth it.

BOLDUAN: But you are confident things will go well?

TITUS: I am confident. I've been out at the early polling places and there's a little grousing because sometimes it is a long line. You have to stand there an hour and a half or so. But everybody knows so much at stake that it's worth it because they have to get rid of this president.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you for your time.

TITUS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A programing note for all of you. This week, CNN hosts five Democratic candidates in a series of town halls ahead of the Nevada caucuses. Watch three tonight, starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Two more Thursday, starting at 8:00 as well, right here on CNN.

Coming up, with so many questions about how and when the coronavirus can be spread, China's taking some extraordinary measures, including a central bank literally burning cash. We'll have much more on that.

Plus, we're standing by for a possible development in the Roger Stone case. The judge in the case holding an unusual conference call ahead of sentencing. We're going to take you live to the courthouse.



BOLDUAN: New concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. And 88 more people now tested positive for the virus on that quarantined cruise ship off the coast of Japan. That brings the total number of cases on that one ship to more than 544.

And an update also on the American passengers from the ship who were evacuated and flown back to the states yesterday. Some tested positive for the virus before getting on the planes. And 13 of the American passengers have now been moved to Omaha, Nebraska, for testing and treatment.

CNN's Nick Watt is there, in Omaha, joins me now.

Nick, what are you learning?

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, let's first just talk a bit more about the "Diamond Princess." You mentioned more cases aboard that ship. This is an extraordinary statistic. Of all of the cases that we know of so far outside mainland China, more than half of them are on that cruise ship.

So the American government brought more than 300 U.S. citizens back here over the weekend, arriving late Sunday, early Monday morning. As you mentioned, some of those people we discovered had tested positive before leaving Japan. So 13 of those people, 10 people who tested positive and three spouses were brought here to Omaha. They were said by authorities to be higher risk.

We spoke to one of them, Carl Goodman, who is a 66-year-old from Santa Clarita, California. He was in remarkably chipper spirits when we spoke to him, considering these people have already been in quarantine aboard that ship since February 3rd.

He said he began to feel pretty bad on the plane. He was taken to an isolated part of the plane. He said was screened off with big plastic sheets. He is now here in isolation.

All 13 people are being kept in separate rooms. So Carl and his wife, Jerri, are being kept apart. They're speaking via Facetime. Carl says he's been tended to by two nurses and a doctor who are wearing full hazmat suits. So they will be here for at least the next two weeks.


As you mentioned, they have been given another test. We haven't got the results back yet from that to confirm or disprove that they have the virus. But that is something we hope to get today or tomorrow. But they're going to be here for some time -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And, Nick, of all the passengers that came back, some were taken to Air Force base in California, others to an Air Force base in Texas.

WATT: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Why specifically Omaha for these passengers?

WATT: Well, because this is the site of one of the only so-called decontamination units in the country. So that is something that was designed 15 years ago to deal with victims of bioterror attacks or people suffering from contagious terrible diseases like this one.

So there's a specialist staff here of nurses and doctors who have practiced this, trained for this. They have also treated a number of Ebola patients here.

So they were also given the nod a few days ago that some patients might be coming here. So they were ready. They were prepared. They, in fact, say they are very glad these people are here because this is the best place for them, for them to be observed and cared for. So that's going to be the next couple of weeks.

We could see more people getting moved to this unit here in Omaha as more people are evacuated from the region.

But as you mentioned, hundreds of others are at those other Air Force bases. All of them, 14-day quarantine until they're free to go -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Thank god for all the specialists there in Omaha.

And I agree, honestly. I spoke to another passenger, one of -- she was -- her name is Sarah. She was at one of the Air Force bases, showing no symptoms and hasn't tested positive for anything.

She was also in remarkably chipper spirits. And she said, hearing "welcome home" and "welcome back," this time, even though she's traveled a lot, meant something completely different and so much more this time in touching back down on U.S. soil.

So you definitely have that sense among those passengers. And a long road ahead still for them.

It's good to see you, Nick. Thanks so much.

Coming up for us, new developments in the Roger Stone case. We'll go live to the courthouse where the judge just held an unusual conference call. What came out of it? What does it mean for Stone and his case?



BOLDUAN: This just into CNN. The judge in the Roger Stone case and lawyers for both sides have just wrapped up a conference call. And this call was ordered by the judge after, to say the very least, a chaotic week that saw the president, the attorney general, intervene in the case and also saw the four prosecutors on the case resign from the case in protest.

Let's go to the latest as Stone was scheduled to be sentenced in just two days. Sara Murray is outside the court in D.C. with much more.

Sara, is the sentencing for Stone going to proceed as planned?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Judge Jackson says full speed ahead. Roger Stone is going to be sentenced on Thursday.

Stone's attorneys on this call had pressed the judge to delay the sentencing until she makes a decision on their motion asking for a new trial. That motion is still under seal, so we don't know exactly what the grounds are Stone has for asking for a new trial.

But Judge Jackson basically said, look, I see no law that says I have to wait until after I rule on this motion to sentence you. We'll go full speed ahead on Thursday. We'll go forward with the sentencing.

She did say she would delay the execution of the sentencing until they resolve this matter of a new trial. So even if Stone is sentenced on Thursday to jail time, it doesn't sound like he'll go behind bars immediately -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: And did the judge address the controversy surrounding all of this, Bill Barr's intervention in a politically sensitive case?

MURRAY: She did not even make a mention of this controversy that has been roiling the Justice Department, this intervention by Bill Barr that caused the four prosecutors to resign and be replaced by two new prosecutors who are on this call today.

Amy Berman Jackson made no mention of it. It seemed like she wanted to try to staff above the fray and just deal with the merits of the case at hand, without weighing into any of the broader controversy that is playing out in the backdrop here.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and it still lingers.

Sara, thank you so much for bringing us the breaking news. I really appreciate it.

Here with me now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. She is one of the now more than 2,000 former DOJ officials to sign onto the letter calling on Bill Barr to resign over his intervention in this case.

Jennifer, what we're hearing from Sara and what came from the call, what do you make of the call?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I'm not surprised that the judge didn't delve into the controversy with respect to what is going on at DOJ. Her job is to sentence Roger Stone. And she said, not surprisingly, that she will go ahead and do that on Thursday.

There's no reason to delay for the new trial motion. There's already a three-month delay built in when the Bureau of Prisons decides where he will be designated and so on. She can decide on all of that while that process is going on and not delay the sentence any further.