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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Administration Using Confidential Conversations Against Immigrant Youth; Coronavirus Fight; Bloomberg Set to Debate Democratic Rivals. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 18, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:02]

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The executive committee for a federal judges group is set to hold an emergency meeting via conference call on this issue tomorrow.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Sara Murray, thanks so much.

Facing new attacks from his Democratic opponents, Michael Bloomberg gets ready to face them on stage for the very first time -- an inside look at his strategy next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win this election not because we are buying the airwaves, as Mr. Bloomberg is.

We're going to win this election because we are putting together the strongest grassroots movement that this country has ever seen.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:35:03]

TAPPER: Democratic front-runner Senator Bernie Sanders this afternoon calling out former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg by name, the latest salvo between the two, who top a brand-new Marist national poll of the Democratic field, Sanders at 31 percent, Bloomberg in second place at 19.

That poll opens the door for Bloomberg to participate in tomorrow night's Democratic debate in Nevada, the first time Bloomberg will face direct attacks from his rivals, which he will get.

This afternoon, Senator Warren tweeted -- quote -- "It's a shame Mike Bloomberg can buy his way into the debate, but at least now primary voters curious about how each candidate will take on Donald Trump can get a live demonstration of how we each take on an egomaniac billionaire." Ouch.

As CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports from Las Vegas, Bloomberg expects much more incoming.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDERS: We are a democracy, not an oligarchy. You're not going to buy this election.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bernie Sanders is laying out the way welcome mat for Michael Bloomberg debate debut.

SANDERS: We say to Mr. Bloomberg, you are certainly not going to win when you have a record in New York City that included racist policies like stop and frisk.

(BOOING)

ZELENY: Sanders is establishing himself as the candidate to beat in the Democratic primary fight, taking a commanding lead over Bloomberg in a new national poll, with longtime front-runner Joe Biden falling behind.

SANDERS: And they're trying to figure out all kinds of ways, how do we stop Bernie and the movement. But they are not going to succeed.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

ZELENY: Bloomberg will get us first face-to-face opportunity on Wednesday, after qualifying to join his Democratic rivals on stage for the first time.

The former New York City mayor, who's spending more than $400 million dollars on ads alone, in hopes of making a Super Tuesday splash, has already been tangling with Sanders, his campaign using an online video to accuse Sanders of failing to control the vitriol from some of his supporters.

Still, Bloomberg enters the debate with a giant target on his back. He's been holding mock debate sessions, preparing to defend a controversial stop and frisk policing policy, allegations of sexism in his business, and other parts of his long record in public life.

His Democratic challengers have been waiting for this moment.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're asking people to choose between revolution and a billionaire who thinks you can just -- you can just buy your way onto television and win that way.

ZELENY: Hoping to win over Democratic primary voters, Bloomberg is turning to yet another TV ad, presenting himself as a partner to former President Barack Obama, one of the most revered figures in the party.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's been a leader throughout the country for the past 12 years. Mr. Michael Bloomberg is here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, all of this is happening as Democrats here in Nevada, Jake, are scrambling to prepare for those caucuses on Saturday. Early voting ends tonight.

There have been some issues with early voting across the state, but Democrats here are trying to avoid a meltdown of the Iowa caucus situation.

One challenge here, melding the early vote with the actual in-person caucus vote on Saturday. Campaigns are still wondering how that will work -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much, reporting there from Las Vegas.

Starting with Senator Bernie Sanders, let's look at -- take a look at this poll. He has a commanding lead in this new Marist/PBS/NPR poll of the Democratic field, 31 percent support, Bloomberg second place, 19 percent, Biden 15 percent, Warren 12, Klobuchar 9, Buttigieg at 8 percent.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes.

TAPPER: I mean, this is just one poll. But after the popular vote win in Iowa, winning in New Hampshire, he's got more money. He's got more organization. He's ahead in all these national polls. Bernie Sanders is the Democratic front-runner.

HENDERSON: He is.

And he's going into Nevada strong. It's a caucus state. He did very well last go-round. There will be about 19 percent Latinos there. He's strong with Latinos as well.

If you see in this national poll, he's doing well with African- Americans too. He's essentially tied with Biden among African- Americans. So you have Sanders, who's really been able to, in some ways, consolidate the progressive wing. Warren has faded a bit. We will see what she does on the debate stage.

Biden, same thing, faded a bit on the debate stage, and -- or faded more generally in this race. And Bloomberg has really, I think, taken a bite out of Biden, in terms of these moderate voters, in terms of conservative voters as well.

He's in everybody's living rooms all the time with these ads. I sort of joked at some point that I have never seen so many African- Americans on political ads as I have with these Michael Bloomberg ads. He's on all of the channels that after African-Americans watch,

including CNN, television stations like OWN. So he's been able to, I think, connect with African-American voters so far in a way that I think is a bit surprising, given his background.

So I think he will probably have a target on his back tomorrow as well in this debate.

TAPPER: And, Ayesha, one of the things that people need to understand is the Nevada caucuses Saturday, then South Carolina primary the following Saturday.

[16:40:04]

And then it's just a national campaign, three Super Tuesdays in a row, in which you need money and organization. Sanders has it. Bloomberg has it. Does anyone else?

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR: Yes.

Well, I mean, that's the thing right now. And I think you're going to see that in the debate tomorrow night, where you're going to see someone try to -- really, this could be the last stand for some of these candidates who are trying to show that they belong in this race.

Biden is not going to want to get a really bad showing in Nevada, and then South Carolina really is his last stand, right? Like, he's going to need to show himself. You're going to have Warren. They're going to be trying to make sure that this doesn't become a Bloomberg-Sanders race.

And at this point, you do see the progressive wing really lining up behind Sanders mostly. And then you kind of have this split with Bloomberg and Biden and all these others, and Klobuchar and Buttigieg.

And so the question is, like, does this end up being something where that ultimately just ends up helping Sanders, because you have the rest of the vote split? And if you have people staying in, it could be like what happened in 2016 with Trump, where you had all of these others who didn't consolidate, and it helped Trump.

TAPPER: And, Mehdi, one of the ways that Sanders is really going after Bloomberg is about these entitlement programs or social safety net programs.

Bloomberg says he wants to expand Medicare, create a government-backed savings plan to help people save for retirement. But Sanders is pointing out that Bloomberg in 2012 supported cutting these safety net programs. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is a ways to slowly decrease the benefits or raise the eligibility age for Medicare and for Social Security. There's a ways to have more co-pay on Medicaid, which will do two

things. One, the users of the service will pay a little more, but, two, they will be -- they will think twice before they use services.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MEHDI HASAN, THE INTERCEPT: I mean, Bloomberg has a long record of calling for entitlement cuts. Under Obama, he said Obama didn't go far enough. He was a Republican for many, many years, until 2018. It's not surprising that he supports austerity and cuts to these programs.

And the Bernie Sanders campaign use that attack line very well against Joe Biden pre the last two primaries. So I don't see -- obviously, they're going to use it again against Bloomberg, who is even worse than Biden on all of these issues.

I think the poll that you have referred is very important. I mean, Bernie Sanders a year ago was being written off by everyone. He's now the clear, undisputed front-runner.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Not by everyone.

HASAN: Not by everyone.

Jake, I think you...

TAPPER: I called him a front-runner.

(CROSSTALK)

HASAN: And you I had discussion on the show many a time.

But, in general, if you go back and read what people were saying, they thought he was finished, it was going to be Warren on the left, Biden had it locked up. All wrong -- 31 percent in an eight-way race is pretty astonishing, no matter what you think of him.

Just on Bloomberg very quickly, a lot of people are -- a friend of mine, her mother said, I like Bloomberg. And when she was asked why, because of all those ads with him and Obama, which are so disingenuous, because, of course, he didn't endorse Obama in 2008.

He only reluctantly endorsed Obama in 2012. And in 2016, he blamed Obama for racial division in the country after Trump was elected.

So these ads are shameless, but they are working, because he's got so many of them.

TAPPER: Bill Kristol, there are a lot of homeless Republicans like you who like the idea of Bloomberg.

HASAN: Because he's a Republican.

(LAUGHTER) BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: President Obama endorsed him. I saw that on that ad.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KRISTOL: That was very -- you kind of buried the lead, I think.

There you have a clip of President Obama praising his 12 years as mayor. But you can believe Mehdi, if you want, instead of President Obama.

That is what I would say on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

An inside look at the special biocontainment center 13 Americans are calling home right now for the next few weeks because of the coronavirus.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:47:39]

TAPPER: The health lead now.

A special biocontainment center used during the Ebola outbreak has now been reactivated for 13 Americans with the conoravirus -- I'm sorry -- coronavirus.

All of them were evacuated off a cruise ship in Japan to U.S. soil and moved to this specialized facility in Omaha, Nebraska.

CNN's Nick Watt has a look inside now, as the experts try to keep the virus from further spreading.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 13 Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, this is hope for at least the next two weeks. There's a TV, Wi-Fi, expert care, but:

JERI SERATTI GOLDMAN, QUARANTINED: No clothes, no toothbrush, no brush, no nothing.

WATT: She's in the quarantine unit right now, but Jeri Seratti Goldman's husband, Carl, has tested positive for novel coronavirus and is in the biocontainment unit.

We spoke to him on the phone. Sounds upbeat. He's been treated by nurses and a doctor all wearing hazmat suits. DR. MARK RUPP, NEBRASKA MEDICINE: We feel like we are a resource and

doing something for the national good. So these are U.S. citizens. They need to come home. We want to make sure that's done safely.

WATT: Three Ebola patients were treated here in 2014. The unit is designed and staffed for victims of a bioterror attack or hazardous communicable diseases like this one.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Although, in the United States right now, the risk is minimal, this day, it's minimal. But if it turns into a global pandemic, we could have a significant problem.

WATT: Earlier this month, researchers found other coronaviruses can survive outside the body on glass, metal, or plastic for up to nine days, if the surface hasn't been disinfected.

China's Central Bank is now even deep-cleaning or destroying potentially infected cash.

Chinese authorities have also now calculated this coronavirus' death rate at 2.3 percent among those infected. And that may fall. Right now, it's higher than influenza, which hovers around 0.1 percent, but a lot lower than previous viral outbreaks. SARS had a 9.6 percent death rate, and MERS a staggering 35 percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[16:50:00]

WATT: Now, there are another 92 Americans right now on board another cruise ship that's docked in Cambodia.

And we know that a woman who left that ship has since tested positive for the virus. So the concern is, did she infect any other passengers before she went, Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt, thank you so much.

Appreciate it.

How confidential conversations between a therapist and a patient are now being used by the Trump administration to keep undocumented kids behind bars -- that story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:05]

TAPPER: In our national lead: He ran for his life, and he's been in U.S. detention ever since, his imprisonment extended because after he spoke confidentially -- or so he thought -- with a therapist, notes from the sessions were passed on to immigration officials and used against him.

In a new report by "The Washington Post," 17-year-old Kevin Euceda fled and was seeking asylum after MS-13 gang members in Honduras ordered him to kill a stranger. Now, while in U.S. detention, he spoke openly with a mental health expert about his trauma. And now that's even adding further to his trauma.

Hannah Dreier of "The Washington Post" broke the story. She's with us now.

Thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

So you write that this kind of information-sharing is legal technically, but considered by experts to be unethical. And it is the Trump administration that changed these rules, so these confidential notes can be used against the patients in court.

HANNAH DREIER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's right.

So children who come to this country have always been required to see therapists at least once a week. And that was for their own good, because these kids are coming up with severe trauma. And what's changed under the Trump administration is that now, whenever a kid talks about gang involvement, drug dealing, any sort of criminal activity in those therapy sessions, which they are told are confidential, the therapist has to report that within four hours.

TAPPER: Even if they are forced into gang activity or drug or...

DREIER: Any kind of gang activity, without exception.

TAPPER: So let's talk about Kevin and what he told a therapist and what the report said in court.

He told the therapist about being abandoned by his parents and raised by his alcoholic grandmother, explained that, after his grandmother died, the gang MS-13 took over their shack. With nowhere else to go, he stayed even as gang members tortured rivals on his patio.

The gang eventually put him to work selling drugs. And then the report that was used in immigration court says: "Youth reports history of physical abuse, neglect and gang affiliation in country of origin. Unaccompanied child self-disclosed selling drugs. Unaccompanied child reports being part of witnessing, torturing and killing, including dismemberment of body parts."

So just they're taking his trauma and using it against him.

DREIER: I mean, they're taking things that he told a therapist in confidence after she said, this is confidential, and, yes, using it in open court.

And one thing that's important to know is that thousands of kids are forcibly recruited into gangs in Central America. That's a major reason that those kids come up and ask for asylum. In Kevin's case, one part of the federal government has actually certified him as a victim of severe human trafficking.

So he's a victim of trafficking for part of the government. TAPPER: Which part of the government says that?

DREIER: This is the Department of Health and Human Services.

TAPPER: So, HHS says he's a victim of human trafficking. What's the other department?

DREIER: And then ICE says, that doesn't matter, he sold drugs for this gang, he's dangerous, and he needs to be deported.

TAPPER: He sold drugs in Honduras.

DREIER: Exactly.

TAPPER: Which they only know because he told the therapist that he did that.

DREIER: That's right. That's right.

And he found out that ICE knew that he had sold drugs in Honduras his first court date, when he showed up, and ICE filed the notes that a therapist had written with the judge.

TAPPER: So that's the only evidence against him is what he confessed to in private therapy?

DREIER: That's the prime evidence against him.

TAPPER: And ICE certainly must understand that a lot of the kids who come here are forced to do these things, the criminal activity that they're part of, they were forced to do, or else they'd be killed.

DREIER: Well, so ICE, if the shelters where migrant children are handing over these notes, they have to use them in open court. If a kid discloses that he sold drugs, even if he was forced to sell drugs, from ICE's perspective, if they have those notes, they have to use them.

TAPPER: But ICE is the ones demanding the notes.

DREIER: Well, it's the shelters who have decided, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees these shelters, that has agreed to start sharing these notes with ICE.

TAPPER: OK.

DREIER: So it used to be that a kid would say something in therapy. That might be shared within this child's welfare agency that oversees shelters.

But now, if a kid says something in therapy, it's passed over to ICE.

TAPPER: Some shelter therapists are now keeping two sets of clinical notes, you report, or leaving things out.

What happened to the therapist that Kevin spoke with? DREIER: The therapist that Kevin spoke with said that she had no idea

that her report might be passed all the way to ICE and used in court.

And she actually resigned after the story.

TAPPER: She quit.

It's a horrible story. Thank you so much. I mean, it's very well- written story, but it's just -- it's just heartbreaking that this is happening.

Thank you so much, Hannah Dreier. I really appreciate it.

It's a big week on CNN.

Tonight is part one of our live Nevada town hall. CNN is talking to Democratic presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Thursday night, we're going to talk to former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

It all starts at 8:00 p.m. Eastern both nights.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

Thank you so much for watching. We will see you tomorrow.

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