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EARLY START

Democrat Face Off in Las Vegas; Mike Bloomberg on Releasing His Tax Returns; Trump Appoints Richard Grenell to be Acting DNI. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired February 20, 2020 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:00]

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, February 20th. It is 4:00 a.m. in New York. We welcome all of our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

JARRETT: All right. Well, easily the most fierce debate yet of the Democratic presidential race. Six Democrats on stage, no one was completely safe. Bernie Sanders came in as the front-runner which would normally paint a target on his back but he got off comparatively easy with his rivals focused on the new candidate on the stage, Mike Bloomberg.

Here's two hours of the debate all boiled down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think there's any chance of the senator beating President Trump.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg.

BLOOMBERG: It's the one thing that I'm really worried about, embarrassed about, was how it turned out with stop and frisk. I thought that my first responsibility was to give people the right to live. It got out of control.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not whether he apologized or not. It's the policy. The policy was abhorrent.

BLOOMBERG: If we took off everybody that was wrong of this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in their careers, there'd be nobody else up here.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat. We shouldn't have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack trade union leaders, I disown those people.

BUTTIGIEG: Why did this pattern arise? Why is it especially the case among your supporters?

SANDERS: I don't think it is especially the case, by the way.

BUTTIGIEG: That's just true.

WARREN: It's not a plan, it's PowerPoint. And Amy's plan is even less. It's like a Post-It note, insert plan here.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I take personal offense since Post-It notes were invented in my state.

BLOOMBERG: I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the MeToo Movement has exposed. And anybody that does anything wrong in our company we investigate it and if it's appropriate they're gone that day.

WARREN: And I hope you heard what his defense was. I've been nice to some women. That just doesn't cut it.

SANDERS: The function of a rational health care system is not to make the pharmaceutical industry and the drug companies rich. It is to provide health care to all people.

BIDEN: And I notice what everybody's talking about is the plan that I first introduced. Making sure that Mike and other people pay the same tax rate their secretary pays out.

BLOOMBERG: The facts are I was there -- let me finish, thank you.

KLOBUCHAR: They were talking a lot about heart conditions up here. We have a president right now that doesn't have a heart.

BIDEN: The only company you can't go after are gun manufacturers because of my buddy but that's a different --

SANDERS: Billionaires today if you can believe it have an effective tax rate lower than the middle class. So maybe just --

BLOOMBERG: Senator, you were writing the tax code. Why are you complaining? You wrote the code.

KLOBUCHAR: We have not been talking enough about Donald Trump.

SANDERS: I want workers to be able to sit on corporate boards.

BLOOMBERG: I can't think of ways that would make it easier to get Donald Trump to get re-elected than listening to this conversation. We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn't work. KLOBUCHAR: I wish everyone were as perfect as you, Pete, but let me

tell you what it's like to be in the arena.

BUTTIGIEG: But maybe leading in a diverse city that was facing ruin doesn't sound like the arena to you. I'm used to senators telling mayors that senators are more important than mayors but this is the arena, too. You don't have to be in Washington to matter.

BLOOMBERG: What a wonderful country we have? The best-known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What have I missed here?

SANDERS: Well, you missed I worked in Washington --

BLOOMBERG: That's the first problem.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Let's bring in the editor and publisher of "Inside Elections," Nathan Gonzales live for us in Washington.

Good morning, Nathan.

ROMANS: Good morning.

NATHAN GONZALES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

JARRETT: So, you know, obviously you can feel the urgency, right? This is -- this is go time, the clock is ticking. You can sense that the candidates know this is sort of a make-or-break moment, but the reality is voters are already voting. And so I wonder who is the intended audience last night? Obviously the caucuses in Nevada coming up this weekend, but who are they really speaking to?

GONZALES: Well, I think they're speaking to the 48 states and territories who have not all cast their ballot yet. But you're right that last night was a sharp contrast to last June when we started all these debates. I mean, the idea of the nomination is no longer theoretical anymore. I mean, it's real. The stakes are high. Some candidacies are on the line.

[04:05:04]

The entire Democratic Party is staring the potential of four more years of President Trump in the face. And that's why right from the beginning last night it was, you know, wild and crazy and the attacks were flying. Because it's not only that voters, you know, 70,000 voters in Nevada have already voted.

ROMANS: Right.

GONZALES: Ahead of Tuesday, but voters in California are already voting, and that's not, you know, for another week and a half.

ROMANS: Bloomberg took some fire last night because this is his first time on the stage, and there's this feeling among some of these established Democrats that, you know, he's buying his way into this conversation. So that was part of the conversation last night. But the front-runner is Bernie Sanders. I mean, make no mistake. When you look at the polls this week, the front-runner is Bernie Sanders there.

Did he squeak by without maybe the attention he would have had normally because Bloomberg was on the stage?

GONZALES: Yes, I think that, I mean, ultimately, you know, there's a difference between who was declared the winner last night by those of us in it the media and who the voters think was the winner.

JARRETT: Yes. Exactly.

GONZALES: And we're going to find that out over the next -- over the next few days. But I think Sanders has did benefit from having Bloomberg on the stage. You know, Sanders has been in all of these stages before and candidates have had an opportunity to go after him, but this was the first shot at getting this big opportunity with Bloomberg. Most of the other contenders took their opportunity and took their shots.

I don't think anybody who watched the debate thought that Mayor Bloomberg had a good night. The question for me is, there are tens of millions more people who will see Bloomberg's television ads than watch the debate last night or even will see the news coverage of the debate, and so how does that end up working out in the polls going forward?

ROMANS: Yes, does a weak debate performance matter if you've spent $400 million like in people's living rooms and kitchens, talking to them?

JARRETT: It's a great point. Nathan, I also want to get your thoughts. You know, it's interesting. You've made the point before that, look, Democrats at the end of the day are going to be rallied by whoever the nominee is.

There is an anger there that clearly people feel. But last night I got to say I think one of the other winners might have been President Trump. You've got Kellyanne Conway tweeting out, go ahead, go for another hour. I mean, they're lapping this up while Democrats continue to eat each other.

GONZALES: Yes. And I get it. I understand why Republicans are feeling emboldened and, you know, I may end up being wrong about this. I'll show up at 4:00 in the morning in November if I end up being wrong. But I just think that even though this primary is going to get even more brutal and even nasty and divisive, I think Republicans are underestimating the power of President Trump to unify the Democratic Party. They are so determined to make sure he doesn't get a second term.

ROMANS: Yes.

GONZALES: But there'll be that brief moment in November where the Democrats come together. And then even if Democrats win, win or lose, Democrats will be divided again about how the party should move forward on what issue and how far to go.

But he is a uniter just in a similar way that Hillary Clinton I would argue was a uniter in 2016. Remember there was a crazy Republican primary that was divisive in 2016, but Hillary united the Republican Party when it came to that general election.

ROMANS: Nathan, you know, you are literally the editor and publisher of "Inside Elections." When you look inside some of this early voting, what do you see it? I mean, it sounds like, anecdotally at least, you've got young voters who are voting early. Is there anything to be gleaned from the energy we're seeing from the early voting?

GONZALES: Well, I always pause a little bit on extrapolating off of early voting because sometimes it's hard to know whether they area -- how much of that was just Election Day voting, people voting early.

ROMANS: Right.

GONZALES: I mean, is it a microcosm of what's to come? And so I think the biggest number coming out of it is it looks like turnout is going to be high because you already have -- with 70,000 voters in Nevada have already voted and there's 84,000 voters in the last contested caucus in Nevada, so I think that that is a good sign for Democrats and yet another sign I believe President Trump is energizing the Democratic Party and voters feel that urgency.

ROMANS: Yes.

JARRETT: All right, Nathan Gonzales, thanks so much for getting up with this. We will see you soon. Of course at 4:00 in the morning on election day.

GONZALES: I'm never sure if I'm supposed to pretend like this is what I look like every morning at 4:00.

JARRETT: You are pulling it off, buddy.

GONZALES: It's all right. We'll do it. We'll do it again.

JARRETT: Thanks so much.

Well, another big night on CNN with two presidential town halls. Joe Biden at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, Elizabeth Warren at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Both live from Las Vegas only on CNN.

ROMANS: All right, a Trump loyalist with no experience in the intel community is now the nation's acting spy chief.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:13:45]

ROMANS: All right, Michael Bloomberg says he would sell his company if elected president unlike President Trump. It's been five years since President Trump promised to release his tax returns. He has not. During the debate the former mayor claimed he is transparent with his. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: We are preparing the -- the number of pages will probably be thousands of pages. I can't go to TurboTax, but I put up my tax return every year for 12 years in city hall. We will put out this one. It tells everybody everything they need to know about every investments that I make and where the money goes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Forbes estimates he's worth some $54 billion with a B. As mayor, Bloomberg allowed reporters to review his tax documents, but he didn't publicly release his full tax returns during his 12-year tenure as mayor.

"The Wall Street Journal" described the billionaire's 2013 returns as highly redacted and said the documents never offered a full view of his wealth. Bloomberg has not released his returns since launching his campaign or filed financial disclosures required of candidates to the Federal Election Commission. "The New York Times" reported Bloomberg received a second extension that would allow him to keep the details of his personal wealth under wraps until after Super Tuesday.

JARRETT: Well, a staunch Trump loyalist is now the nation's acting spy chief.

[04:15:03]

Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, tapped by the president to be the acting director of National Intelligence. Even in an acting role Grenell's lack of experience is likely to rattle the intelligence community. It's already endured repeated attacks from the president over the Russia investigation and the whistleblower complaint that led to his impeachment.

ROMANS: Grenell's appointment is even raising concerns about the president's -- among the president's allies. Grenell has zero intelligence-related experience and one Trump adviser describes him as out of his league for the DNI job. The DNI role was formed for the purpose of coordinating the intel agencies to prevent another catastrophic attack in the wake of 9/11. The president has relied on acting officials. Mick Mulvaney, for example, has been acting chief of staff for over a year.

JARRETT: Up next, in surgery and in tune?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:20:19]

JARRETT: And breaking overnight, 10 people killed and the suspected gunman is dead after shootings at two hookah lounges in the German city of Hanau. It's about 60 miles east of Frankfurt. Police in Germany tell CNN affiliate RTL the attacker left a confession letter and a video. Reuters reports there are indications the gunman had a far-right motive. Now terror prosecutors are taking over the investigation. The bodies of the shooter and his mother were found at a home near the crime scenes.

ROMANS: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex plan to return to the U.K. later this month to carry out their final official engagements. On March 31st Harry and Meghan will begin a 12-month transition period to establish their non-profit organization. Until then the couple plans various events including recognizing wounded and injured service personnel. Buckingham Palace still discussing whether the couple can continue to use the word royal for their new venture.

JARRETT: The U.S. ranking behind most Western industrialized nations on measure of children's survival, health, education and nutrition. A report in the medical journal "The Lancet" ranks 180 countries based on a child flourishing index. The U.S. rated 39th behind most of Europe including Latvia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the top of the list, Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands.

The report also ranked countries on sustainability for children's futures based on estimated levels of carbon emissions in 10 years. On that index, the U.S. ranked very close to the bottom.

ROMANS: Taking commonly prescribed antibiotics during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects. According to a new study published in the medical journal "BMJ" the increased risk was found in women who were prescribed Macrolides as opposed to penicillin. Now those drugs are often prescribed to patients who are allergic to penicillin and they're used to treat infections like pneumonia, bronchitis and STDs. For more details log onto CNN.com.

JARRETT: A federal appeals court says the state of Florida cannot bar felons who served their time from registering to vote simply because they haven't paid all of the fines and fees from their cases. The three-judge panel says the ban amounts to an unfair poll tax that disenfranchises voters. The ruling has the potential to reshape Florida voting in 2020 if Democrats leverage it by boosting turnout. A spokesman for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis says the state will ask the 11th Circuit to reconsider that ruling.

ROMANS: 20-year-old rapper Pop Smoke gunned down during a home invasion in Southern California. Police say a group of people including one wearing a mask and armed with a handgun broke into the Hollywood Hills residence early Wednesday, fatally shot the rapper. No motive for the attack. Pop Smoke was a rising star in the rap world with the success of his first two mixed tapes.

JARRETT: The company with the rights to recover artifacts from the Titanic wants permission to recover the famous radio used to send an SOS after the ship hit an iceberg in 1912. A hearing is set for today in a Virginia federal courtroom. Getting at the Marconi radio would require removing a part of the historic ship's deck house. The company with salvage rights says it's important to recover the most famous radio in history before conditions at the wreck deteriorate further and a piece of history is lost forever.

ROMANS: NASCAR driver Ryan Newman is out of the hospital just two days after his horrific crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500. His racing team tweeting a photo of Newman walking out of the hospital in Daytona Wednesday with his two daughters by his side. Before leaving they say he was joking around with family, friends and staff, and he continues to show amazing improvement.

JARRETT: What you are seeing there and hearing is a woman playing the violin while surgeons remove her brain tumor. 53-year-old Dagmar Turner, a symphony violinist, was terrified of losing her ability to play so doctors at a London hospital had her play during the operation to ensure that areas of the brain responsible for delicate hand movement and coordination weren't damaged and it worked. Surgeons removed more than 90 percent of the tumor and she retained full hand function.

ROMANS: Everybody got a nice concert.

All right, Democrats say they want to beat Donald Trump but they kept beating up on each other last night in the debate. Fire trained on Mike Bloomberg. Did front-runner Bernie Sanders emerge a quiet winner?

[04:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JARRETT: More than nine million people in the east under a winter weather alert.

Here's meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, guys. A stationary storm system here in the last couple of days gradually going to be exiting stage right and as it does, the flooding risk finally going to dwindle here. But still for your Thursday another soggy set of flood watches and flood warnings especially along portions of the Mississippi River Valley and certainly along its tributaries as well where so much water has come down in recent days. That becomes an issue.

And notice the system begins finally migrating off towards the east, notice by 11:00 a.m. noon into the early afternoon hours we get some wintery weather out of portions of the Tennessee Valley into the Carolinas there. And as much as two to four inches possible across portion of, say, Asheville, points just to the east there into Raleigh, work your way a little farther towards the east, that's where we think some of the greater amounts are possible and certainly where the winter storm warning is there into eastern Tennessee into the smokies as much as six inches possible.

Now that is pretty impressive here for the southern United States.