Return to Transcripts main page


Michael Bloomberg Qualifies For Nevada Debate; Americans With Coronavirus Evacuated From Japan; Boy Scouts Of America Files For Bankruptcy. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 18, 2020 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Mike Bloomberg will be on the debate stage tomorrow in Nevada, giving other Democrats the chance they need to slow his climb in national polls.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. is amassing forces to keep coronavirus from spreading on American soil. Hope is riding on a special facility in Nebraska.

ROMANS: The Boy Scouts of America filing for bankruptcy over sexual abuse allegations dating back decades.

JARRETT: And a fiery end to the Daytona 500 leaves a popular NASCAR driver in the hospital.

Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 30 minutes past the hour this morning.

And brand-new, Michael Bloomberg has now qualified for tomorrow night's Democratic debate in Nevada. He is not participating in the state's caucuses but a new poll gives him a big lift nationally.

Bernie Sanders is widening his lead, but Mike Bloomberg leap-frogging several Democrats into second place, according to the NPR-Marist poll. Bloomberg was only at four percent in this poll in November.

So, Bloomberg will be on stage with five other Democrats. CNN has learned the former New York City mayor has been preparing for the debate, something he's never done on a national level.

We're already getting a sense of his opponents' strategy. They want an inspection of Bloomberg's record and say he shouldn't be able to buy the election.

JARRETT: The gloves are decidedly off between Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders. A digital ad from the Bloomberg camp highlights the hostility of some Bernie supporters and their attacks on rival Democrats. And it's backed up with a Bloomberg tweet claiming that type of energy is not going to beat President Trump. That word "energy" playing off something Sanders said about the multibillionaire. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will not create the energy and excitement we need to defeat Donald Trump if that candidate pursued, advocated for, and enacted racist policies like stop-and-frisk.


ROMANS: It was a day-long exchange of attacks between the two camps. Bloomberg's campaign manager charging Sanders' staff with using the same tactics employed by President Trump. His statement went out with the subject line "Bernie's New Bro...Donald Trump." Two hours later, Sanders tweeted an image of Bloomberg and Trump golfing together.

JARRETT: The times have, of course, changed.

The Vermont senator also releasing two new ads in Nevada. One has a "Nevada First" theme with a focus on climate -- the climate crisis. The other touts how Sanders will stand up to corruption.

The Sanders camp is also opening new campaign offices in North Carolina a few days after Bloomberg beat him to the punch.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know that you can see very many presidential candidates here in Winston-Salem. They're spending all their time in South Carolina. But I think the voters in North Carolina deserve just as much attention.


ROMANS: Right now, the shadow of the Iowa caucus debacle is hanging over Nevada. Trained volunteers say they are still unclear about how exactly the process will work. The issue for some precinct captains is how tens of thousands of early votes will fold into what's happening face-to-face inside the caucus room. A Nevada Democratic Party source tells CNN it's just a matter of plugging numbers into a spreadsheet and there's a paper trail if a backup is needed.

JARRETT: The counter-programmer in chief following the Democrats out west. President Trump begins a four-day western campaign swing today. He finishes with a rally Friday night in Nevada just before the Democrats' caucus. It's the third-straight state where the president is rallying ahead of the Democrats' vote.

ROMANS: All right. A spokesman for the Bloomberg campaign says Bloomberg is quote "looking forward to joining the other Democratic candidates on stage and making the case for why he's the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump and unite the country."

Let's bring in Axios White House reporter Alayna Treene, live in our Washington bureau. Good morning.

So, that Bloomberg poll is going to be the big political talker here this morning. At just four percent in November, he jumps to number two here at 19 percent.

OK, so what is this? Is this the money at work? I mean, he has pumped millions into television advertising across the country. Is it the money at work here or is this more a statement of the moderate lane is getting more attention?

ALAYNA TREENE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, AXIOS: I think it's a mix of both. But we've seen, you know, apart from Sen. Bernie Sanders, it's really been a battle between the moderate candidates trying to duke it out for that first spot right behind Sen. Bernie Sanders.

And a lot of people are saying yes, he's a billionaire. Mike Bloomberg is able to really pour money into this campaign -- pour money that really no other candidate has to make it to the end of this race -- and we're seeing it pay off. He's really shown his prowess after New Hampshire --


TREENE: -- and after Iowa and climbed his way to the top.

And so, it will be really interesting to see him on the debate stage tomorrow. The other candidates really haven't had a good chance to go after him in a public setting like that and so there will be a lot of fire trained on him then.


JARRETT: You know, Alayna, if you look at the poll there, obviously, Bernie is still in the lead with over 30 percent.


JARRETT: But moderates -- I mean, if you combine Biden, Klobuchar, and Buttigieg -- I mean, there's still -- it's still a firm holding there.


JARRETT: I think we focus, obviously, on Sanders being in the lead and for good reason. But in your view, the fact that you see Biden, and Klobuchar, and Buttigieg still holding their own, what are your -- what are your sources telling you about how they see the race? Are they -- are they feeling nervous about this?

TREENE: A bit, so it's a mix -- it's a mixed bag, especially when I talk to people on -- in Congress --


TREENE: -- and members of the Democratic Party. They are definitely spooked by Sen. Bernie Sanders who really doesn't, in many people's eyes, represent the entire Democratic Party. You know, a lot of the more activist base and the leftist wing of the party is --

JARRETT: Right. TREENE: -- much louder, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who obviously is one of Sen. Bernie Sanders' most prominent surrogates, but the majority of the party is still very centrist.

Now, we did see some of this happen in 2016. If the non-Trumpers consolidated early on we might not have seen President Trump become the Republican nominee in 2016. And so there are concerns of that.

Now that if they continue to really battle it out among these moderate candidates, I'm saying --


TREENE: -- it could really continue to provide Bernie Sanders with the platform he needs to hold that front-runner status.

ROMANS: I mean, what are you hearing from people in Washington on the Hill about just the money factor here? You know, when he was passing out the money for the midterms, right, to help the Democrats take over the House. Midterms, that was one thing. Now, I mean -- now, he is spending gobs and gobs of money to win a presidency.

What are -- what are people saying about that?

TREENE: There's been a lot of internal conflict among members that I speak with on the Hill that yes, they found back in 2018, Mike Bloomberg's willingness to really just kind of throw bags of money at the Democrats as irresistible and they were very excited to take that. But now that he potentially could be the Democratic nominee, a lot of people find his strategy here, frankly, corrupt -- and they say that. They think it's a way of him buying the election.

And it's really interesting to look at where the Democratic Party started where we saw -- you know, when you looked at the debate stage just months ago it was a very different picture than what we have now. And the fact that we could have a billionaire like Mike Bloomberg duking it out on stage eventually with billionaire Donald Trump, both white male, New York Republican --

ROMANS: Republicans-Democrats.

TREENE: -- former Republican and now Republican, it's just a completely different dynamic than what we saw earlier.

And so, a lot of people are a bit -- as much as they're spooked by Sen. Bernie Sanders and the idea that there could be a Democratic socialist as the nominee, they also have concerns about a billionaire, in many ways, buying an election.

ROMANS: You know, we both grew up in the Midwest --


ROMANS: -- and New Yorkers aren't really, you know --

JARRETT: Representative? ROMANS: They're not really seen as warm and fuzzy like in the Midwest. The idea that there could be two New Yorkers vying for the presidency just sort of -- it surprises me a little bit.


Well, Alayna, before we let you go I just want to get your thoughts on -- you know, obviously, Bloomberg at 19 percent is leap-frogging over several of the candidates. But isn't the person who perhaps has the most to be worried about here Joe Biden? I mean, we say it all the time but this is a two-term vice president --


JARRETT: -- who is now -- at least it's -- again, it's only one poll but he's being beat by Bloomberg. I mean, is it -- how worried should he be?

TREENE: It -- there's definitely a lot of need for concern. We did see former vice president Joe Biden say yesterday that he's excited that Mike Bloomberg is kind of taking off some of the pressure in that front-runner status --


TREENE: -- that he's had before, but it is very concerning.

And it's still remarkable to me, honestly, to look at Iowa, to look at New Hampshire, that someone like Joe Biden is being beat out by someone like, for example, Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana coming out ahead of a former -- like you said, two-term vice president.

And so, there is a lot at stake here for his legacy -- how he will perform. There's still time. A lot of people are saying don't discount Joe Biden.


TREENE: He will be very, potentially, successful in North Carolina, South Carolina -- other states ahead of Super Tuesday. And so, it is still a wait and see.

But as of now, Mike Bloomberg has really shown to just glide his way to the top and his strategy of --


TREENE: -- waiting to enter much later has been paying off, it seems.

ROMANS: We'll have to see how he performs on the debate state. I mean, that's going to be --


ROMANS: He's never done a national debate -- JARRETT: At that level.

ROMANS: -- like that, although he has spent the last few years really working on climate change and some of these -- gun violence, so he's --

JARRETT: Yes, he knows the issues.

ROMANS: Some of these other issues --


ROMANS: -- that he's really been working on. So it will be fascinating.


Alayna Treene, nice to see you this morning -- White House reporter for Axios. Thanks for getting up early for us.

TREENE: Yes, thanks for having me.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

JARRETT: Thanks, Alayna.

All right, stay with CNN tonight and Thursday night for a series of town halls with the leading Democrats from Las Vegas. Tonight, we've got Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar. On Thursday, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. This all starts tonight at 8:00 eastern only on CNN.

ROMANS: There's so much going on. You know, this poll -- this NPR- Marist poll is really interesting. But it is just one poll and there's a lot happening and you can see how quickly and how fluidly voters have been changing their opinions.

JARRETT: Yes, but it's a poll coming at a really critical time --


JARRETT: -- for all of them.

ROMANS: All right.

Why an independent group of judges is holding an emergency meeting about the Justice Department. Plus, on a national holiday, vandalism strikes at one of the most iconic landmarks in U.S. history.


JARRETT: All right, 44 minutes past the hour.


JARRETT: The U.S. is trying desperately to contain the coronavirus. Fourteen Americans who tested positive for the virus were among hundreds of citizens evacuated from a cruise ship off Japan and put onto flights to Texas and California with other evacuees. Some of those patients, along with their spouses, are now in isolation at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. That's the state's largest hospital.

ROMANS: It's a special biocontainment unit. It's a state-of-the-art facility that has treated Ebola, SARS, Monkeypox, and multidrug- resistant Tuberculosis over nearly 15 years.

Now, with even more cases being reported on the ship, other countries making plans to get their citizens off this floating petri dish and out of Japan.

CNN's Matt Rivers live in Tokyo for us. What an ordeal for these passengers.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's just more bad news coming off of this ship docked in Yokohama, Christine.

Another 88 cases, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, have been confirmed as positive for the virus today. That brings the total number of cases onboard that ship to 544. That is well above 10 percent of the total amount of people onboard that ship. It's a staggering number and each day there's just more and more positive cases added to this total.

Now, this comes one day before people are going to begin getting off of this ship. What Japan's government is saying is that every single person must be tested onboard the ship before they're going to be allowed off.

But here's the rub. The testing process completed today, but it takes a few days to get results back. So if you got your test a few days ago and you're negative, you can get off the ship, more than likely tomorrow. But if you got tested today, you're looking at the 20th, 21st, potentially, which is -- you know, would be pushing towards nearly three weeks in quarantine onboard that ship.

And, of course, people continue to test positive and they have to be treated in local hospitals. This, as other countries like Italy, Australia, Canada say that they're going to be sending planes here to evacuate their citizens back to their own countries that will have to go under further quarantine just like we saw with the Americans evacuated Sunday night into Monday morning here in Tokyo.

It just calls into question how these countries think Japan handled this quarantine procedure if they're making their own citizens go back to their home countries and undergo further quarantine. And it's pretty obvious they believe that there's a risk that the quarantine that the Japanese authorities put in place didn't work.

Speaking of quarantine, a quick note. The first group of people -- Americans that were evacuated out of Wuhan, China, the center of this coronavirus outbreak -- well, they're going to be getting out of quarantine in the United States. The first group of them today; the next group on Thursday. That's really good news for them and it's the kind of news that the people onboard the ship in Japan, they're really looking forward to.

ROMANS: I bet.

All right, Matt Rivers, great reporting for us. Thanks, Matt, in Tokyo.

JARRETT: All right.

An independent organization of federal judges now calling an emergency meeting about the Justice Department's intervention in politically- sensitive cases. According to "USA Today," the head of the Federal Judges Association said the group could not wait until its spring conference to respond to the ongoing controversy.

Attorney General Bill Barr overruled career prosecutors' initial sentencing recommendation for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone last week after the president blasted it on Twitter, causing all four prosecutors to quit the case.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 former prosecutors and former Justice officials are calling on the attorney general to resign.

And today, a notable hearing on the docket. The federal judge overseeing Stone's case, who Trump also targeted on Twitter, has called for a scheduling conference call with attorneys. It's the first time Judge Amy Berman Jackson may comment or seek some sort of explanation on the DOJ's sudden request to change Stone's sentencing recommendation.

Last week, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in D.C. said judges would not be swayed by public criticism or pressure.

Stone's attorneys have made a second request for a new trial. Sentencing is set for Thursday, pending the outcome of today's proceedings.

We'll be right back.



JARRETT: Breaking overnight, the Boy Scouts of America filing for bankruptcy. The organization faces a wave of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse.

The Chapter 11 filing will allow the Boy Scouts to continue operations while reorganizing its finances and handling the hundreds of abuse claims it has on its hands. It also provides a limited amount of time for any new victims to come forward before being barred indefinitely from seeking financial compensation.

The Boy Scouts marked its 110th anniversary this month.


NASCAR ANNOUNCER 1: To the inside. Here comes Hamlin up the outside.


NASCAR ANNOUNCER 1: Crash into the wall and into the air. No, it's Newman.


ROMANS: A fiery crash in the final lap of the Daytona 500. Ryan Newman hit from behind then hitting a wall and going airborne. His car flipped several times. It was hit by another driver before skidding across the finish line in fourth place. Newman is hospitalized in serious condition with non-life-threatening injuries.

President Trump praying for Newman in a tweet. He was at the race Sunday before rain postponed it.

As for the race, Denny Hamlin very narrowly taking the checkered flag, his third Daytona 500 win in five years.

JARRETT: Plymouth Rock has been vandalized. Someone painted red graffiti on the iconic landmark where, according to legend, the Pilgrims first landed in Massachusetts in 1620. They also spray- painted the Pilgrim Maiden statue and the national monument to the forefathers.

The town of Plymouth has been preparing a 400th anniversary celebration of the Pilgrims' arrival on the Mayflower.

Police are asking the public for help finding the vandals.


ROMANS: Hundreds of homes and businesses flooded in Jackson, Mississippi. The Pearl River cresting at 36.7 feet, its third-highest level on record. Officials say at least 1,000 homes are damaged and four injuries reported. There is more rain in the forecast. A flash flood watch is in effect for central Mississippi.

JARRETT: A six-year-old California girl saved from a mountain lion attack when one of the adults in her group punched -- punched the lion in the ribs. The girl, her parents, and several other adults and children had all been hiking in a Santa Clara county park Sunday morning. Officials say the girl is recovering from minor injuries.

The park is closed while rangers search for that mountain lion.

ROMANS: The implosion of an 11-story high-rise in Dallas seemed to go off without a hitch, but when the dust all settled the center of the building was still up. A live look here at what's been dubbed the Leaning Tower of Dallas.

The demolition company says these things sometimes happen with older buildings. It says the remaining structure poses no threat. JARRETT: Well, random acts of kindness not only help others, it turns out they're also good for the giver's health. Research shows feel-good chemicals flood our system when we do something generous -- sort of a helper's high if you will.

For example, volunteering has been shown to reduce stress and depression, and studies suggest engaging in giving activities can also reduce the risk for cognitive impairment and help us live longer.

ROMANS: I like that -- doing good.

JARRETT: I like the dogs.

ROMANS: I like the dogs. Anything with dogs.

All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. A look at markets around the world, mostly leaning lower here. U.S. markets are set to reopen after the President's Day holiday.

Investors still watching how the coronavirus is affecting global business.

They'll also be looking to see how Walmart did in the fourth quarter. With six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was a disappointing holiday season for many U.S. retailers. Investors will look to Walmart for signs U.S. consumer spending stayed strong heading into 2020.

Relief for America's largest milk producer. The largest dairy cooperative of dairy farmers has agreed to buy a substantial part of Dean Foods.

Dean filed for bankruptcy in November. It blamed the accelerated decline in the conventional white milk category. Volatile prices, the trade war, and more plant-based alternatives not helping the dairy sector at all here.

The deal still needs to be approved by the Department of Justice.

The world's richest person is throwing his weight behind the fight against climate change. Jeff Bezos announced he will commit $10 billion to the Bezos Earth Fund. The new initiative will back scientists, activists, and organizations working to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Now, Bezos has been under pressure from his own employees to do more to protect the environment. Remember, many of them joined in that walkout last year. The group that organized that walkout applauded Bezos but said more needs to be done to address underlying causes of fossil fuel consumption.

JARRETT: Cinderella's castle, perhaps the most iconic Disney image of all, is getting a makeover. The work coincides with the 70th anniversary of the animated classic "Cinderella."

Disney released this artist's rendering. It shows parts of the castle in a light pink shade, royal blue, and plenty of gold trim, of course. The makeover will begin soon and continue through the summer.

ROMANS: All right.

A stray dog was definitely game and showed some good ball skills, actually, after running onto the pitch during a professional soccer match in Turkey.

Players tried to get the ball from this guy, finally throwing it off the field for the intruder dog to fetch. He did and came back -- right back for more. One of the players finally picked up the persistent pooch and took him away from the field.

JARRETT: Is that something your dog would do?

ROMANS: Yes -- yes, actually.

All right, thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.


SANDERS: Mr. Bloomberg has a right to run for president. He does not have a right to buy the presidency.