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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Sources: Intel Officials Say Russia Trying To Get Trump Re- Elected; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) Discusses About The Briefing That Russia is Trying to Help Trump Win 2020 Election; Source: Trump Erupted at Outgoing Intel Chief After Lawmakers Told Russia is Trying to Get Trump Re-Elected; NYT: Acting Deputy at DNI Expected to Resign Tomorrow; Bloomberg: Trump The "Real Winner" of Debate; Warren: Bloomberg Is "The Riskiest One for the Democrats"; Key Union Warns Against Backing Sanders Before Nevada Caucuses. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired February 20, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You can always tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, Intelligence officials warning Congress in the secret briefing that Russia is trying to help Trump get reelected. Trump was furious. Is that why he has just named a new Acting Director of Intelligence?
Plus, Michael Bloomberg trying to move on from last night's debate. Can he escape the lingering questions?
And a crucial group of voters that helped deliver Nevada to Hillary Clinton four years ago, will they spoil it for Sanders again?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live from Las Vegas, where in less than an hour our Democratic presidential town halls will begin and we have more on that in just a moment.
But first the breaking news, CNN learning President Trump has been warned that Russia is trying to help held him again to interfere in the 2020 election. According to a source, the Intelligence Community's top election security official warned House lawmakers that Russia is trying to get Trump reelected.
It's an incredible thing hearing news of the briefings set the President off. He was furious according to a source and specifically furious at his now outgoing Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire for even allowing the briefing to take place, in want to hear it or giving what he believe was ammunition to critics and Democrats.
News of this outburst coming just 24 hours after Trump picked his loyalists, Richard Grenell, to be his new Acting Director of National Intelligence.
Kaitlan Collins begins our coverage OUTFRONT live outside the White House. And Kaitlan, look, it's a pretty stunning development when you would get a headline like this that the instinct would be to be furious and perhaps to put someone in place who would not allow this sort of thing to get out. What more are you learning about this brief, which official let it and what happened?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this is actually really interesting. Shelby Pierson is this election security official who led this and she's actually someone who is in this job, this election security job that she has essentially to coordinate it all, because it was a position created by Dan Coats, the former Director of National Intelligence last summer who, of course, the President famously feuded with over intelligence that he was briefed on that he did not like.
Now, she is the one who went up there and spoke with these lawmakers. We're being told by sources that House Republicans grew angry during that briefing, though, it's not entirely clear why. We are still learning more about that.
But that when the President found out, he was essentially concerned that Democrats would try to weaponize this against him, namely pointing to people like Adam Schiff who, of course, is the House Intelligence Chairman who was in the room and as the one who led that impeachment inquiry against the President through his committee last fall.
Now, we're told this is what led to the day after that briefing, there was a meeting here at the White House with Joseph Maguire, the Acting Director of National Intelligence. And the President blew up on him essentially angry at the fact that this had taken place and it was one of Maguire's deputies that had been the one to brief this.
And now we know as the reporting yesterday show the President is now putting a loyalist in the top job as Director or Acting Director of National Intelligence. That's Richard Grenell who is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Germany.
Now, Erin, we're being told by two administration officials. It's just coincidental that this report came out about Russia favoring the President to win the election and the President installing a loyalist in this job. But Erin, we should note Rich Grenell is going to be doing this job with another job that he still has, acting as the ambassador to Germany.
So it's not like it was essentially a convenient time, so it's going to raise a lot more questions about whether the President is acting out because he's seeing Intelligence that he doesn't like.
BURNETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you very much. And I want to go now to Democratic Congressman from Illinois, Mike Quigley, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. So let me just start, Congressman, with, is there anything you can share with us about this briefing?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): I can't talk about what took place in any particular briefing. I'll just remind your viewers that from January 2017 on, the entire Intelligence Community with a high degree of certainty said that the Russians were the ones who attacked the Democratic process. And they did it to favor one candidate, President Trump, over the other, Hillary Clinton.
DNI Coats who was ousted because he disagree with the President said most recently, the lights are still flashing red, they're warning lights, they're still going to do this. The Russians have never left. So we should be protecting the Democratic process and there's no coincidence.
The President oust people who disagree with him, who hurt his, in his mind, political advantage or personal advantage and I think that's what you should see this for.
BURNETT: All right. So let me ask you, because you're saying it's no coincidence. You hear they're trying to say, oh, it's a coincidence that he's trying to put in Rich Grenell, a loyalist, into the job and Maguire out.
You're saying no coincidence at all. I wanted to see if you believe this goes one step further. Is this the President of the United States trying to cover up the fact that Russia is trying to help him in the election?
BURNETT: I think the President of the United States is trying to take over the Intelligence process in the same manner we saw this week, where he's trying to take over the Justice Department. He doesn't want the truth to get out when the truth hurts him. That's extraordinarily dangerous when it comes to Intelligence.
The truth, the intelligence truth keeps us safe. We are less safe when the President does things like this. The fact of the matter is, nobody has to weaponize this. The Russians have weaponized social media and they have hacked and dumped and a lot we have to do to prepare for the primaries in November election.
The Russians attempted to attack the Democratic process during the primaries. This has been reported and the President getting people out who want to talk about that has an extraordinary chilling effect on anybody willing to come forward, as we saw with Colonel Vindman and others.
BURNETT: OK. So let me ask you, though, because obviously the President, we understand, was furious when he found out about this, didn't want people to know about it. We're also hearing though that a source is telling us that when you were briefed in your committee and you would think that everybody would uniformly be up in arms about Russian interference in the election, that it's confirmed it's happening regardless of who it's trying to help.
But, of course, the understanding is that the Intelligence Committee saying it's helping Donald Trump. The Republicans were mad. They launched an attack. They didn't want to hear it. Is that true?
QUIGLEY: I can't speak to a particular briefing. I can speak to a pattern of behavior. It's been very difficult to pass election grant, to fight against this. I've been the sponsor of those measures. It's been tough to get bipartisan support and I will say this broadly, it has been a pattern of behavior by my Republican colleagues of resisting this information and siding with the President.
Whether they're doing this because they agree with the President or they just want to protect him, I'm often asked, are they true believers, I can't tell anymore. But unfortunately, they're complicit.
BURNETT: All right. Congressman, I appreciate your time and I thank you. And I want to go now to the former General Counsel for the Director of National Intelligence, Robert Litt, Asha Rangappa who was a Special Agent for the FBI and New York Times Reporter Julian Barnes who was breaking this story.
Let me start with you though, Bob. The reporting here is that the President was furious and he then appoints a loyalist to take the job as Acting Chief of the DNI. What does that add up to when you see it?
ROBERT LITT, FORMER GENERAL COUNSEL FOR THE DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, I have to agree with Congressman Quigley that it's impossible to believe that this is coincidental. There's no advantage to be gained from replacing one Acting Director of National Intelligence with another Acting Director of National Intelligence.
The only plausible explanation for this is that he was furious at Admiral Maguire for allowing bad news to get out and he wants him to replace with somebody who won't allow the bad news to get out.
BURNETT: So Asha, can you just put an exclamation point on what the significance of this would be? Russia interfering in the election to help the President of the United States get reelected and his instinct is to get rid of the guy who tells him that and put someone else who would be in a position of telling Congress and the American people about that, who's loyal to him?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. This is problematic on a number of levels, Erin. So I mean, the first one is that he does not want intelligence regarding foreign threats to the United States to reach the Intelligence Committees whose job it is to understand what these threats are, to pass legislation if they need to, to protect the United States against it. So he's kind of breaking down that separation of powers relationship, which we've seen before.
And then not wanting this to become public, he's cherry picking intelligence so that to shape his own election prospects. And again, we've seen this before in the whole Ukraine saga of wanting to smear his opponent to help himself. The biggest problem, Erin, is that the way that you neutralize disinformation which is what Russia does is to expose it to make people aware.
And so you need this communication flow. You need members of Congress and ultimately the public to know that this is what's going on in order to have the public be able to take that into account when they make an informed vote.
BURNETT: So Julian, you've been reporting on this and, I guess, we understand that House Republicans got upset when they found out about this, that they sort of went into attack mode and essentially tried to politicize it. What else have you heard about what Republican reaction was to this briefing, which if it is what we understand it was, which is Russia's interfering in this election to help the President of the United States get reelected, everybody should have been up in arms about.
JULIAN BARNES, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, look, as we know, this is a line that the Republicans have increasingly pushed back upon. They argue that Russia didn't favor Trump, they were just so in chaos and that there was no reason Russia should support Trump in 2020.
And so this is what the line of attack from Representative Stewart and other Republicans on the committee who kind of hammered away at the briefer saying, we don't believe this. And it was very similar to the kinds of lines that we've heard from Congressman Ratcliffe and other sort of staunch defenders of the President on the committee.
But this was a classified briefing where the latest intelligence was being presented, where the conclusions about what Russia were doing were laid out. And it wasn't supposed to be a political forum and yet, that's what it became.
BURNETT: I mean, Bob, the President has a history of refusing to admit that Russia would try to help him in the election. You even just heard what Julian said, they're trying to say it was about so in chaos. Well, that's what the Intelligence Community had concluded it was at first last time around. It then clearly became to help President Trump which is again with their briefing now.
Here's how President Trump has responded though to Russian interference again and again and again, which is to deny it. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all.
I call it the Russian hoax. It's a hoax and they use that as an excuse for losing the Electoral College.
Russia did not help me, that I can tell you, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Bob, why do you think he refuses to accept the Intelligence and now by his behavior in this coincidence, that it's a not a coincidence, seems to be having the same reaction again?
LITT: Well, I don't want to go into psychoanalyzing the President, but it's pretty clear that he views the possibility that the Russians attempted to influence the election on his behalf as undercutting his legitimacy in some respect. And he's working backwards from that conclusion to challenge the facts, regardless of what the facts may actually turn out to be.
This is actually consistent with what the Republicans did in January 2017 when the initial assessment came out. They had the exact same reaction. They refuse to accept it. They attacked the intelligence community for drawing that conclusion.
So this has been a consistent pattern all along of denial of what the intelligence community is finding.
BURNETT: All right. All of you stay with me. We have more in our breaking news after this. There are reports now, this hour, that there may be even more resignations from the Intelligence Community coming now after the President has lashed out, following this briefing on Russian meddling.
Plus, Michael Bloomberg trying to move past his debate debut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The real winner in the debate last night was Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And we're now less than an hour until the start of our Democratic town halls here in Las Vegas, as Bernie Sanders reveals surprising details about his private conversations with former President Obama.
BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We're live in Las Vegas ahead of tonight's town halls with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. And we're following the breaking news this hour, Intel officials telling the House Intelligence Committee that Russia is looking for ways to interfere in the 2020 election with the purpose of helping President Donald Trump get reelected.
And a source telling CNN that Trump lashed out at his outgoing Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire about that briefing. A former senior Intelligence official telling CNN this our, "What the IC," the Intelligence Community, "sees as reporting the truth, simple statement of facts in evidence without judgment, the President sees as undermining his legitimacy."
It's a damning thing coming from the Intelligence Community. Let me go to Julian Barnes of The New York Times who's been breaking the story. Julian, you are reporting that there could be another resignation related to all of this coming. Tell me what you know.
BARNES: Yes. So Andrew Hallman, he's been the acting number two under Joe Maguire since last August when Sue Gordon was asked to resign. And he has been seen as a steadying hand in a relatively turbulent time.
But the fact that he is leaving this acting number two job shows that Rich Grenell, the new acting DNI is going to put his own team in at the top and so he's going to really try in whatever time he has there to sort of shape the management of the ODNI.
BURNETT: I mean, Asha, it's a pretty stunning thing because the statement we just have from that former senior intelligence official saying that what the intelligence community sees as reporting the truth, simple statement of facts in evidence without judgment, the President sees as undermining his legitimacy. And what we're seeing tonight, Asha, is that he effectively would be able to silence it, to silence that reporting of those facts.
RANGAPPA: That's what it sounds like he wants to do. It sounds like he wants a DNI or subordinates of the DNI to lie to promote the narrative that he wants. It is the Intelligence Community's job to present the intelligence they received and the conclusions that they have drawn from it, again, so that policymakers can make those decisions.
I want to emphasize here also that we can't forget that DNI Maguire was also the person who tried to forward on the whistleblower complaint about potential misconduct going on in the Intelligence Community. So these new people would be in - Grenell would be in charge of that as well.
Would he take that seriously? Will people not be willing to send complaints to him? And is he going to coordinate the intelligence community the way he is supposed to in order to respond to these threats?
I think these are all questions that should concern Americans right now.
BURNETT: Well, it should, because whatever you may think of Richard Grenell, I don't know how you can serve as the Ambassador to Germany, which is one of the most important allies in the world for the United States and do that job and be the acting head of the entire Intelligence Community. It sounds absurd.
Bob, Richard Grenell who is now going to take this acting job where Maguire was an acting is very loyal to Trump. And in fact, so loyal that the word that goes between the two of them are a bit jarring. Let me tell you what I mean, here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I love to negotiate things. I do it really well.
RICHARD GRENELL, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO GERMANY: Every American would be incredibly proud to see how Donald Trump negotiates.
TRUMP: When I see foreign leaders, they say we cannot believe the difference in strength between the United States now and the United States two years ago. We made a lot of progress.
GRENELL: It is a true pleasure to work for this president on foreign policy issues, because I think we are making so much progress.
TRUMP: I've been tougher on Russia than anybody else.
GRENELL: This President has been very tough on the Russians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Two points to make from that. First, Bob, pretty eerie, the word echo.
LITT: Well, there's no question that Grenell is a true believer and an absolute loyalist.
BURNETT: And Julian to that point, what's your understanding about Grenell's willingness to report the facts as the Intelligence Community sees them to the President, whether it be about Russian interference or whether it be about the whistleblower report which, of course, Maguire did pass on judging it to be credible on its merits and facts?
BARNES: Look, this is the key question that former Intelligence and current Intelligence officials are asking at this hour. Did Trump put Grenell in place to slow the flow of information, particularly Intelligence about the election to the White House and to Congress.
Now, there are administration officials who say, hey, give him a chance, he hasn't even gotten there yet. He's a foreign policy professional. But the kind of comments that you just showed are what has given people pause, that he is so quick to repeat the words of the President, so quick to amplify his words. And traditionally, the Intelligence job has not been that kind of political fighter. It's been a neutral arbiter.
BURNETT: All right. And that is, of course, what it should be to know what the facts are. If you politicize the facts, we all know how bad that can be. Thank you all very much.
And next, Michael Bloomberg trying to change the topic from last night's debate. Will it work?
Plus, Elizabeth Warren stepping up her attacks on Bloomberg tonight?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of all the people standing on that stage, he is the riskiest one for the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But is she making a mistake by not focusing on the frontrunner, Bernie Sanders?
BURNETT: Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live from Las Vegas where former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren will be facing questions from Nevada voters in two CNN town halls and this all begins at the top of the hour.
Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to turn the conversation from his debate performance to Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: The real winner in the debate last night was Donald Trump. Because I worry that we may very well be on the way to nominating somebody who cannot win in November. And if we choose a candidate who appeals to a small base like Senator Sanders, it will be a fatal error.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And this comes as Bloomberg's campaign reveals that he has spent $464 million of his own money so far into the race. OUTFRONT now, former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. She endorsed Mayor Bloomberg today and will serve as National Political Co-Chair for the campaign.
And Mayor, it's great to speak to you again. So as a viewer last night ...
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, FORMER MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: Good to see you.
BURNETT: ... I know you watched the debate performance as so many did to see the first he was on that stage. He hasn't been in the debate, obviously, in many years. What did you think of his performance last night?
BLAKE: I think everyone, including Mayor Bloomberg hope that he would have done better. But the truth of the matter is as mayor never in my life, when someone is complaining about whether or not the trash was cleaned or the crime rate was coming down, never did I hear anyone in the background say, but she killed it, in that debate. That's just not the way it is.
Where things matter on the ground, mayors get things done and Michael Bloomberg is a great example of getting things done where it counts. In the Senate, winning arguments matter. On the street, getting things done for your constituents matter.
BURNETT: And that is the case he needs to make. Obviously, some of the attention though as you are well aware is on some of the more heated exchanges from last night, one of which occurred when Senator Warren confronted Mayor Bloomberg about non-disclosure agreements signed by women who had worked at Bloomberg. Here is part of that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements, both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace.
So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything other than -- maybe they didn't like a joke I told.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OK. So how do you think he handled that moment? What should he have done differently?
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE (D), FORMER BALTIMORE MAYOR: I think -- I'm not here to play arm chair quarterback. I think Mayor Bloomberg answered the question, I also think over the course of time today -- we have spoken about people saying listen, if those women want to come forward, Mayor Bloomberg believes in transparency, his record speaks to that, he would not stand in the way of that being done.
But I don't -- I don't think -- you know, put him on the spot like that, the gotcha moments are great on television, I don't think it speaks to his heart, and that is a man who hires women, promotes women and works to protect women. The work he's done across the country with his philanthropies.
BURNETT: So, is it your understanding that he would release them from those NDAs so that they can tell, you know, that their side of the stories, what they want to tell, and there would be full transparency?
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I believe Mike Bloomberg believes in transparency, I don't think he would block anyone from telling their story if that is what they chose.
BURNETT: So, I want to ask you about something else obviously, we've spoken many times over the past -- you were mayor of Baltimore, and you were mayor of the city that is no stranger to issues of race and tactics. Obviously, one of Mayor Bloomberg's signature policies when he was mayor was stop-and-frisk, and that came up last night as no doubt everyone knew that it would. Here's what he said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: If I go back and look at my time in office, the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about was how it turned out with stop-and-frisk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Mayor, have you had a heart to heart with the mayor about this policy? And do you feel that his apology is heartfelt and genuine?
RAWLINGS-BLAKE: First, I believe his heart, his apology is heartfelt and I believe it's genuine.
With respect to heart to heart conversation with Mayor Bloomberg, mayors across the country have had heart to heart conversations about ways that we can protect lives. This wasn't a crime fighting strategy to reduce car break-ins or burglaries. This was a crime strategy to stop the killing on our street. This was a way to stop homicides.
And I experience the same thing in Baltimore. We were able to get the homicide down to the lowest it's been in over 40 years, and I thought we had accomplished something. When I talked to my constituents, their concern was about the treatment from the police department, just like Mayor Bloomberg, I course corrected because I understood the problems and the challenges that come from the aggressive policy.
It happens when you are in that seat and trying to save lives, so you don't have to face another mother who's lost a son. That you try to do everything you can to make sure that those -- that lives are protected in your streets and sometimes we don't get it right. And it is a mark of a man where he can apologize, where he can -- where he can take responsibility and know that the full picture of his work speaks to his heart and how much he invests in our communities.
BURNETT: Mayor Rawlings-Blake, I appreciate your time, thank you very much, Mayor.
BURNETT: And next, Elizabeth Warren entering these final days before the crucial Nevada caucuses, with new momentum after last night's debate. But is it too little too late?
And one of the most influential voting groups here in Nevada, crucial to winning this crucial state. And it doesn't appear that they're fans of Bernie Sanders. So, how badly could that hurt?
BURNETT: Tonight, Elizabeth Warren ramping up her attacks on Michael Bloomberg, issuing a stark warning that he cannot be the Democratic nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: He thought he could waltz on that stage, push everybody else off and become the Democratic nominee. Of all the people standing on that stage, he is the riskiest one for the Democrats. He would be most vulnerable in the general election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Mark Preston, our senior political analyst, Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist, and Megan Messerly, political reporter for "The Nevada Independent" is also back with me.
So, Mark, you know, you have Bloomberg saying Sanders is the biggest threat, and Warren saying it's Bloomberg, you know, you've got the sense of this circular firing squad going on.
But how effective do you think her attacks have been on Bloomberg where she has been squarely putting them?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they've been effective in that there's a certain segment of the electorate that she's appealing to. She's trying to get back any of those real liberal supporters who are on the fence that may be now drifting toward Bernie Sanders, as we've seen Sanders do so well in Iowa, New Hampshire. He appears to be doing really well here.
So, her attacks on Bloomberg are really focused to try to get back that base that she really enjoyed this summer.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's right, but I also think it goes a little further in underscoring two things. Number one, how unprepared Bloomberg was to deliver what could have been some at least acceptable answers to issues they knew were going to come up. And number two, to expose him also for the lack of preparation on how to answer the billionaire question.
That -- those answers that he gave really made him look completely out of touch. And I don't think that's just for the base or the people who used to support Sanders. But I even got a lot of people who were leaning towards Bloomberg, but then after last night said, I don't know if I can vote for him, because they were very concerned about his not only lack of preparation, but lack of answers to some really obvious questions that would have come up in this debate.
BURNETT: And so, Megan, how are people reacting here? I know you have been talking to a lot -- he's not on the ballot.
MEGAN MESSERLY, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT: Exactly.
BURNETT: And a lot of them were saying, well, they wish he were. So, then, they were sort of putting their first choice, who is really their second choice because their first choice was Mayor Bloomberg. So, today, what have you been hearing?
MESSERLY: Yes. I mean, he is part of this muddle of this, right, of this -- especially in Nevada, we've seen Bernie Sanders being, you know, sort of the top, the sort of presumed front-runner in this contest on Saturday. But there's a -- there's a lot of play for who's going to be second, and Bloomberg is part of that.
After the debate, obviously, I think a lot of folks have seen that clear contrast of having folks go after him, having Elizabeth Warren go after him in a way that we haven't seen. Voters in Nevada pretty much just their exposure to him has been through television ads, right, not even ads that he's targeting at Nevadans but that his -- that are bleeding over from the national media buys that he's making.
BURNETT: So, Mark, we just heard, though, from the mayor of Baltimore, and we're going to hear from a lot more mayors like her. She is an African-American former mayor of a city. She herself had done stop-and-frisk. She believes his apology is genuine. She believes he's answered the woman question. Obviously, she's going to be his political director.
But we're going to see more and more mayors across this country who may be jumping on his team. Will that be effective?
PRESTON: I think so. And for this reason, you know, he's been working on issues that are really important to mayors who are part of the United States Conference of Mayors or the National League of Cities, which is an organization of small cities across the country.
I think you're seeing mayors get on board with him, when they look at last night's debate performance, and they look at his track record and what he's done on certain issues. Look at what he did in Virginia just on guns alone. I think that's what they're looking for.
Interesting enough in that debate last night, the fight between Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar about who had more experience. And Pete Buttigieg said, well, listen, I guess being a mayor means you don't have any experience. The irony of that is that you have Michael Bloomberg now having mayors from small cities and large cities backing his candidacy, and these are mayors that have small political organizations that become bigger political organizations, that are rooted in every city.
BURNETT: Look, even Mayor Buttigieg told me he was very grateful for some of the work Bloomberg had done in South Bend, Indiana.
But I'm curious, Maria, what all this means, because you got all these guns out for Bloomberg.
BURNETT: OK? When Bernie Sanders is by far the front-runner, he has surged in all the polls. You look at California, two new polls, commanding lead for Sanders.
BURNETT: There are 415 delegates in California.
BURNETT: So, Bernie Sanders who would have been the one they were all going for last night, he's just merges unscathed.
CARDONA: Right. I think that's right. And I think that Elizabeth Warren and, frankly, the others as well missed an opportunity, because they were so focused on this shiny new thing that was Mayor Bloomberg.
I think that Bernie Sanders has some issues that he can be and should be vetted more deeply about. One is guns. And we were here in Las Vegas where you had the biggest, you know, bloodiest shooting that we've seen in history, and he's not voted in perhaps the way that a lot of people that are for gun safety will have to vote. He didn't have to answer for that.
The other issue is immigration, he voted against the comprehensive immigration bill in 2007. A lot of the young Latinos who were supporting him now were nine at the time. They don't know that.
And the other is socialism. It doesn't bode well with older Latinos, who -- when he talks about socialism, I know, we know that he's talking about Finland, Norway, et cetera. But to those older Latinos, the ones that came from Venezuela, Nicaragua --
BURNETT: He's talking about Cuba.
CARDONA: Cuba, exactly.
CARDONA: And even older Americans who grew up during the Cold War, that's an issue.
BURNETT: So, Megan, when you think about Sanders, how does he play on the ground? Do you see -- and we see in the polls here in Nevada, do you see it as passionate, ardent support for Sanders or something less than that?
MESSERLY: Oh, it's definitely passionate, ardent support. And we've seen that since 2016, you know, here in Nevada. He was obviously still introducing himself to a lot of folks in that campaign cycle. But he came a lot closer in the 2016 race than he probably should have.
He was, you know, 20, 30 points behind Hillary Clinton in the polls in 2016, only finished 5 points behind her. And so, even though that was a lost, it was a victory for him and his organization. He's had that grassroots support, and that fire, and he's been able to capture it by bringing in an experienced campaign staff. His 250 people plus on the ground here, he's been able to take that grassroots enthusiasm and channel it into this focused operation.
BURNETT: Well, and the irony here is, you know, it used to be that it was perceived that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were competing.
PRESTON: Oh, right.
BURNETT: If she ever got, her support would go to Bernie Sanders. Now, last night, she's out there, you know, touting being a capitalist, and sort of in a sense ceding that lane and going for Bloomberg?
[19:45:04] I mean --
PRESTON: But at the same time -- right, but at the same time being the lead attack dog on Bloomberg. So, even though she says that she's a capitalist, sending -- I don't want to call it a dog whistle -- but certainly sending a signal to more centrist Democrats: listen, I'm not as socialist as Bernie, but at the same time being like, hey, listen to everybody out there on the liberal side, I'm going to take down Bloomberg. So, I think she was sending two messages there.
BURNETT: She's trying to have it both ways.
PRESTON: It's politics, why would it be any other way.
BURNETT: You can try, you can try, it's sometimes quite hard.
All right. All of you, thank you.
And tonight on CNN, we have two more town halls live from Las Vegas. Joe Biden is up first with Anderson. That's going to start in just about 15 minutes. And then I'll moderate a town hall with Elizabeth Warren, and that will be at 9:00 Eastern.
OUTFRONT next, Bernie Sanders revealing new details about his conversations with former President Obama and whether Obama would support him.
Plus, candidates.com. Are the websites all that matters to these candidates?
BURNETT: And welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT.
We are live from Las Vegas, two days before the Nevada caucuses, and moments before CNN's town halls begin with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.
The front-runner, Bernie Sanders, telling CNN today that he is confident that former President Obama will support him if he is the nominee. But Sanders wants to win here, and if he does, he will have to overcome opposition from a major and crucial union.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just hours to the Nevada caucuses --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's got the power?
LAH: The 60,000-member Culinary Union, including casino worker Alicia Sosa --
ALICIA SOSA, UNION MEMBER: I'm fighting for my health care.
LAH: -- is fighting on the picket line to unionize more workers at another casino.
SOSA: My husband has asthma. We fought for that, because we couldn't afford it. Now, I can, and he can. And he can be with me longer.
We should be able to have that. Our choice. It's our choice.
LAH: She's talking about her union health care. In one building, she gets doctor's visits, prescriptions and eye care, all covered.
The Culinary Union warned its members a vote for Bernie Sanders and his Medicare-for-All plan would mean an end to union health care.
GWYN BROTHERNS, UNION MEMBER: I'm not sure about the Medicare-for- All, if that's a good idea or not. You know, it sounds good. It always sounds good. But I'm not sure.
LAH: The union battles spilled onto the debate stage.
PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're the one who is at war with the Culinary Union right here in Las Vegas.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We got more union support than you have dreamed of.
LAH: Sanders when addressed the union members.
SANDERS: To my good friends in the Culinary Workers Union, a great union, I will never sign a bill that will reduce the health care benefits they have.
LAH: On the picket line, the courting of the union vote was in full swing, one by one, every top candidate on the Nevada ballot, except for Sanders, marched with workers.
Even Elizabeth Warren, who supports Medicare-for-All. Tom Steyer also taking to the airwaves, attacking Sanders in TV ads.
AD ANNOUNCER: There is a reason people are nervous about Bernie Sanders scrapping Obama care.
LAH: But while Medicare-for-all is not a deal breaker for every union member --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to leave him out yet.
LAH (on camera): You're not going to leave him. You're open to him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, for sure.
LAH (voice-over): It is weighing on Suzanne Poquiz. She met Amy Klobuchar at the culinary health care center.
(on camera): Do you believe Bernie Sanders when he says Medicare-for- All will replace this and take care of everybody?
SUZANNE POQUIZ, UNION MEMBER: No. I really don't believe that. I'm scared, because if he ends up, where are we going to go? There is nowhere for us to go. You know?
LAH: So while the union has been clear about their position on Bernie Sanders and health care, they have not specifically endorsed anyone else.
And here is something else that we need to know when we're talking about this union. They are a huge get out the vote organization. They are majority Latino. Bernie Sanders has been courting the Latino vote. What we don't know yet is if the union power is going blunt his efforts in the Latino community.
BURNETT: All right. It's going to be so crucial to watch this weekend. Nothing more important in this state.
Thank you so much, Kyung.
And next, Jeanne on when you're running for office, don't forget to tell everybody about your website.
BURNETT: Welcome back to Las Vegas. We're moments away from the start of CNN's town home with Joe Biden.
This comes as Democrats are pushing for votes and plugging their websites. Here is Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the babble of debate, they ring out loud and clear.
SANDERS: Join us at BernieSanders.com.
KLOBUCHAR: I ask you to join me at amyklobuchar.com.
MOOS: Reactions range from so incredibly cringy to better to have a tip jar on the podium. The candidates keep plugging.
BUTTIGIEG: Matter of fact, if you're watching right now, you can go to PeteforAmerica.com.
MOOS: Going to town plugging websites at town halls.
KLOBUCHAR: You can see it on our website at amyklobuchar.com.
MOOS: As unsubtle as a late night commercial.
Though occasionally, a candidate will work one in.
WARREN: It's not a plan, it's PowerPoint.
MOOS: In the heat of debate.
BUTTIGIEG: I don't know if there are any PowerPoints on it, but you can definitely find the document on PeteforAmerica.com.
BLOOMBERG: You can join me at MichaelBloomberg.com if you want, but I'm not asking for any money.
MOOS: And his Website doesn't. Unlike the billionaire, the others have to beg.
WARREN: So I ask everybody to go to elizabethwarren.com, pitch in 5 bucks.
MOOS: At least their plugs aren't as blatant as this one outside the Roger Stone sentencing. DCBlackTours.com offers tours billed as unique to black experiences. Founder hoists his sign wherever hoards of cameras gather.
The candidates tend to close with their plugs. Joe Biden once confused texting with his web address.
BIDEN: If you agree with me, go to Joe 30330.
MOOS: Joe Biden just told us his pin number. If you agree with me, go to Joe nuclear code sequence, boom.
Did Joe Biden just give out the combination to his luggage? Cue the "Spaceballs" clip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the stupidest combination I've ever heard in my life. That's the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!
MOOS: When someone says Joe's long record, it means he carries a lot of baggage. Remember this.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I changed the combination on my luggage. MOOS: -- CNN, New York.
BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you for joining us.
CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Joe Biden live from Las Vegas starts now.