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Dems Spar in the Most Contentious Debate of 2020 Race; Dem Rivals Attack Bloomberg, Sanders at Nevada Debate. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 20, 2020 - 05:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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.

MIKE BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one accused me of doing anything other than, maybe, they didn't like the joke I told.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She left Bloomberg in a puddle on that debate stage.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know what, Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn't you who made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that as well.

BLOOMBERG: The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have not been talking enough about Donald Trump. Let's just talk about Donald Trump.

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome to a special edition of NEW DAY.

[05:00:03]

It's Thursday, February 20th. It is 5:00 in the East.

An urgent two hour free-for-all that sizzled with animosity. That's a heck of a lead from "The Washington Post" this morning, describing the Democratic debate from Las Vegas, and it actually might be underselling the tension which was flying in every direction.

For Michael Bloomberg, it was his first debate, and it looked it a lot. The former New York City mayor faced questions and broadsides over his stop and frisk policy, also his treatment of women. Questions that he struggled to answer even though every political consultant in America could have told you they were coming.

Elizabeth Warren debated as if her campaign depended on it and it might, given worse than expected showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The front-runner Bernie Sanders faced questions about his health and his wealth. In fact, the most tweeted line of the debate was a comment made about the three homes owned by the Democratic socialist.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Bloomberg's campaign is facing reality this morning, essentially admitting his performance was underwhelming. They're urging voters to standby for next week's debate in South Carolina but was there damage done last night?

There was also the nasty exchange between two of the moderates, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, in which she accused him of calling her dumb.

So, let's begin our coverage with CNN's Arlette Saenz. She is live in Las Vegas with highlights of the fiery debate.

I doubt you've slept much, Arlette. So tell us the highlights.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

And Elizabeth Warren's campaign says she raised more than $2 million on the debate day as she won in at least one metric, speaking time. But all these contenders showed they were ready to fight in what was the most fiery and contentious debate yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ (voice-over): The Democrats were ready to rumble in their first chance at debate against Michael Bloomberg.

BIDEN: The mayor says that he has a great record, that he's done these wonderful things. Well, the fact of the matter is he has not managed his city very well when he was there.

KLOBUCHAR: I don't think you look at Donald Trump and say, we need someone richer in the White House.

SAENZ: Front-runner Bernie Sanders delivering the first blow.

SANDERS: In order to beat Donald Trump, we're going to need the largest voter turnout in the history of the United States. Mr. Bloomberg had policies in New York City of stop-and-frisk. That is not a way you're going to grow voter turn out.

SAENZ: Bloomberg firing back at Sanders throughout the night.

BLOOMBERG: I don't think there's any chance of the senator beating President Trump.

What a wonderful country we have. The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What'd I miss here?

SAENZ: Elizabeth Warren was ready to strike, zeroing in on the former New York City mayor's alleged treatment of women. WARREN: I like to talk about who we're running against -- 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.

But understand this, Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.

SAENZ: Fighting to keep her campaign alive, Warren delivered attack after attack against Bloomberg.

WARREN: 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?

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

BLOOMBERG: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements --

WARREN: How many is that? How many is that?

BLOOMBERG: Let me finish. None of them accused me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like the joke I told. They decided when they made an agreement they wanted to keep it quiet for everybody's interest. They signed the agreements, and that's what we're going to live with.

WARREN: I'm sorry.

This is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Trump with a man who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against.

SAENZ: Pete Buttigieg made sure Bloomberg wasn't the only candidate on stage with a target on his back.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Most Americans don't see where they fit if they've got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil, and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of power. Let's put forward somebody who's actually a Democrat.

SAENZ: And a Midwestern melee igniting when Buttigieg called out Amy Klobuchar for not remembering the name of the Mexico's president in a recent interview.

KLOBUCHAR: I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete. And I said that I made an error. I think having a president that maybe is humble and is able to admit that here or there maybe wouldn't be a bad thing.

[05:05:05]

BUTTIGIEG: But you're staking your candidacy on your Washington experience.

KLOBUCHAR: Are you trying to say that I'm dumb, are you mocking me here, Pete? I said I made an error.

SAENZ: Klobuchar trying to shift the focus back on the candidates' real opponent.

KLOBUCHAR: We have not been talking enough about Donald Trump, and what's -- let's just talk about Donald Trump.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Now, the Nevada caucuses are just two days away as these candidates try to make their final pitch to voters here, and tonight, there are two more CNN presidential town halls with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Arlette, thank you very much.

So what were the moments last night that will matter most this morning? And did any candidate say something they can not recover from?

BERMAN: I know that feeling.

CAMEROTA: We discuss that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:10:04]

BERMAN: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his debut on the debate stage last night and he was greeted by this onslaught of broad sides including from Elizabeth Warren.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN: He has gotten some number of women, dozens who knows to sign nondisclosure agreements. 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?

BLOOMBERG: None of them accused me of doing anything other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told. And let me just --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So joining us now Arlette Saenz is back with us. Also with us, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers, and CNN contributor, Wajahat Ali, he's a contributing op-ed writer for "The New York Times."

Look, we talked a lot about Michael Bloomberg already. To me, there are four big questions from this debate that I hope we answer through these four special hours of NEW DAY.

CAMEROTA: Yes, John.

BERMAN: We have to talk about. Let me just throw this out there, and then I'm going to get a coffee, and you guys talk amongst yourselves.

Number one, if Bernie Sanders walked into this debate the national frontrunner, what happened to change that if anything? Number two, what impact will this have on the Bloom-curious, if you will? Number three, where was Donald Trump in this two-hour debate last night? And number four, what path do Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar see to win? And how does that explain what we saw from them exactly last night?

Bakari, any of those questions any of the big takeaways you saw in the debate last night in.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's too early to be combining 17 questions into one shot over there, John. I'll do the best I can do.

I think that Bernie Sanders is very difficult to call anyone in a front-runner when the base of the party hasn't yet voted. We'll start to see that clearer in Nevada and it'll get extremely clearer in South Carolina. So I'm kind of withholding those titles, but Bernie Sanders clearly went in last night with the polling lead and nobody laid a hand on him.

The Bloom-curious is an interesting phenomenon because I think what you see, there's a huge gulf between Mayor Bloomberg's media team, his campaign ads and who he actually is. Last night was an amazing moment in which you saw a billionaire not be able to hide behind his money anymore and he looked really small, no pun intended. But he could not, he could not stand up to the challenge.

It reminded me when Jay-Z and Nas having their rap beat, and Nas came out and just simply ether Jay-Z.

I mean, what Elizabeth Warren did last night was ether Mike Bloomberg.

And so, it was a rough night for the mayor to say the least, and I think the person who benefitted from his rough night along with Elizabeth Warren is Joe Biden. There were a lot of voters who were curious about Michael Bloomberg, and what they saw last nights was not someone that can beat Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Wajahat, here is how Bernie Sanders -- sorry, here's how Michael Bloomberg's campaign frames it after the debate. They say: It took Mike just three months to build a stronger campaign than the rest of the field had built in more than a year. It took him just 45 minutes in his first debate in ten years to get his legs on the stage.

He was just warming up tonight. We fully expect Mike will continue to build on tonight's performance when he appears on the stage in South Carolina next Tuesday.

Your takeaway? WAJAHAT ALI, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Money can buy you a candidacy but it

can't buy you love and it can't protect you from Arya Stark. Elizabeth Warren came to kill. She was like Beatrix Kiddo from "Kill Bill". And the top of her list was Michael Bloomberg, and she went to just slay him at the knees, at the legs, at the hips, at the neck.

I mean, that moment with the NDA, with the follow-ups. I mean, she really hit him. He was unprepared, and it was stunning to see Michael Bloomberg -- you know, he knew this was going to come. He knew stop and frisk was going to come after him. He knew his elitism and billionaire status was going to be exploited and he just was like a deer in headlights.

I think the winner of yesterday's debate was Elizabeth Warren. She now has a chance I believe she can repeat this performance in South Carolina to let viewers have a second look at her because she already raised more than $2 million. I think she will finish in the top two or top three. She recovered from the debate misstep in New Hampshire where Amy Klobuchar I think was the clear front-runner and had a huge bump.

Speaking of Klobuchar and Buttigieg, that was the great moderate civil war where we had the Midwestern rage of Klobuchar hidden behind the smile. Buttigieg exploited that gap where she forgot the name of the president of the Mexico and he laid into it. I think she was rattled. I think he got the best of her.

I think for Biden, the bar is really low. Grandpa Joe came out fighting and that's good enough.

With Bernie, you know, he did -- I agree with Bakari, he came out pretty much unscathed.

[05:15:03]

Bernie is Bernie. He's going to be consistent. He's on the message. I think Bloomberg hit him a couple of times with the Democratic socialism, but I think Bernie did A-OK and they didn't really go hard on Bernie not releasing his records.

And, finally, Donald Trump is polishing his pardons for Roger Stone. That's what Donald Trump is doing. And there was one mistake I think in this debate where there was a circular firing squad between all these Democratic candidates because that's what happens, they could lean into Trump and his 11 pardons of people like Milken and others. I think he got off a bit easy.

But expect Warren I think to get the bump Klobuchar got after the New Hampshire debate.

BERMAN: We'll see. And we can talk more about where that bump came from, because that's one of my questions. Where does she think she's going to draw those voters from? Is she going to draw them from Bernie Sanders, or is she going to draw them from the not Sanders vote that might t have been with Biden for? I don't see it. I do want to say one thing and I know Twitter isn't America, we know that definitively. But it did strike me that the most tweeted amount moment in the debate according to Twitter was this, when Michael Bloomberg for all he's been criticized for in this debate landed one on Bernie Sanders. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: And Bernie Sanders went onto explain he has a house in Washington, one in Burlington, Vermont --

CAMEROTA: And he needs a summer camp.

BERMAN: Like so many Vermonters, he has the summer camp, a $630,000 third house with 530 feet of lake front property on Lake Champlain.

Arlette, it is curious to me that that resonated at least with some people more than anything else.

SAENZ: Yes, Michael Bloomberg did land a bit of a hit on Bernie Sanders right there and also when he was stressing that he doesn't think that a Democratic socialist would necessarily beat President Trump.

But for the most part, Michael Bloomberg did appear flat-footed last night and Elizabeth Warren came in with a fighting spirit, ready to knock him down.

And I think one thing we saw from Warren and to some degree Joe Biden and others on that stage is they were trying to dent Michael Bloomberg when it comes to support from two key constituencies in the Democratic Party, women and black voters.

They hammered away at him when it came to those nondisclosure agreements and Warren landing that punch at the very beginning about allegations of sexism and misogynistic comments from the former New York City mayor and they also went after him quite a bit when it came to that stop-and-frisk policy. And those are two issues that may not sit well with both women voters and black voters which are going to be so critical heading into this primary season.

CAMEROTA: Guys, stick around. We have three more Berman questions to answer --

BERMAN: That's all I want to know, just those first four.

ALI: We'll tackle all of them. We'll get all of them.

CAMEROTA: Good, good. Excellent. OK, stick around. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar exchanged jabs last night. They are

both going after the moderate vote, when their feud took an ugly turn. We'll discuss.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[05:22:39]

CAMEROTA: Things got ugly between the Democratic candidates last night. Here are some testy moments between Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: You're literally in part of the committee that's overseeing these things, and we're not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the --

KLOBUCHAR: Are you -- are you trying to say that I'm dumb? Are you mocking me here, Pete?

BUTTIGIEG: It's been among Democrats, I think the Democrat among all the senators running for president most likely to vote for Donald Trump's judges who we know are especially hostile to Dreamers and to the rights of immigrants.

KLOBUCHAR: I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete. And you know what? You have not been in the arena doing that work. You've memorized a bunch of talking points.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: All right, back with us, Arlette Saenz, Bakari Sellers, and Wajahat Ali.

Bakari, I know politics ain't bean bag, but was last night unnecessary or did you -- was it nastier than you expected it to be?

SELLERS: Oh, no, it was good TV. I was excited. I sitting in my hotel room just excited to watch it.

I mean, look, this is a Democratic primary and for those people who take it and drag out the president's circular firing squad notion to the extreme. They forget in 2008 between Hillary and Barack Obama was probably the messiest dirtiest primary we've ever had and we know the result of that election.

I actually think that, as Wajahat said, that Pete got the best of Amy during this exchange. Amy appeared to be rattled. I actually thought when she began to rattle those papers, she was going to ask Pete to let's go handle this in the parking lot of the casino hotel. I mean, she was -- you can tell there's great bit of disdain for Pete Buttigieg, and I think some senators have that contempt for Mayor Pete because he's mayor of a small town. But what they miss and what Amy miss is what Pete said last night because as mayor of a small town, he does have that executive experience having to sleep with a cellphone strapped to his chest every night, waking up catering to people's emergencies and needs.

I actually thought it was good debate. I'm not sure it's going to catapult either one of them, or give them, to answer and healthy for the process. Anybody who says otherwise just doesn't recall the Democratic primary policy.

BERMAN: No, you know, the perfect line with Amy Klobuchar calling Pete Buttigieg Mr. Perfect was almost exactly a line that Bill Clinton used against Paul Tsongas in 1992.

[05:25:08]

And you know what they call Bill Clinton now? President, right? I mean, it's just --

SELLERS: But I was 8, John. I was 8 years old. I don't remember that.

BERMAN: That was unnecessary. There's no need to get nasty at this point.

Wajahat, to one of my questions -- Bakari admitted we're right on -- Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, what path do they see? Why did they decide that that was effective and also for Elizabeth Warren?

I understand why she went after Michael Bloomberg but she also went down the row and had something to say about Amy Klobuchar and her post-it notes and Pete Buttigieg and his plan. I mean, what is the path? How do they explain how they will win that?

ALI: So, Buttigieg was very strategic and planned his attack on Klobuchar. I think it was a very smart move and whether or not it'll be effective, let's see. Buttigieg openly said, look, I'm the middle path. I'm the moderate path. I'll be the unifying path.

We need less toxicity. I'm not a Democratic socialist like Bernie, but I'm also not a billionaire like Bloomberg. I'm the guy you should vote for for the middle lane, right? He thinks that Biden's going to fall, and he wants to pick on the fifth spot, the sixth spot. He wants to pick on Amy Klobuchar and get her votes.

And he thinks she's going to fall off, so if you can absorb those votes, build momentum from New Hampshire and Iowa and then see Biden fall, he thinks he can be that young kid who comes out as the mayor and be that moderate voice, especially as contrasted to Warren, Sanders and Bloomberg.

Now, when it comes to Klobuchar, again she was rattled. She's usually very good on the come back. She's usually consistently strong in debates. She was not prepared for this, and I believe she'll draw blood next week in South Carolina. She'll have one focus, to murder Pete Buttigieg figuratively. And I think she'll get it done.

With Warren, she wants to tell everyone -- I'm here, I'm here not to play. I'm a fighter. She repeated that throughout her entire debate performance. She ended on that. She goes, I'm fighting, I'm fighting my entire life. She talked about her personal story and how she got to where she is by

fighting for American families and she showed it. She took on Bloomberg, she took on Biden, she took on Sanders, she took on Pete, she took on Klobuchar, took on Trump and she says I will fight for you.

And she also made a really good point about electability. She says I can be electability and so can Amy Klobuchar because they're dealing with double standard of dealing with women and we know women and people of color are dealing with the electability argument. So, that's where I think she's going to make that play. If you think that Bernie is too far to the left and you think if Buttigieg and Klobuchar are too to the middle I'm unifying one actually progressive and has a history of taking on corruption.

CAMEROTA: Well, Wajahat, I think those are interesting points, but I also think they're counter in some ways to each other.

Arlette, how do you -- you know, yes, Arlette, Elizabeth Warren came to fight as they all did with their message of unity. I mean, it was a little bit confusing.

BERMAN: I will unity you to death. I'm going to bash you over the head with my unity.

CAMEROTA: On the -- on the campaign trail, they kept talking about how they are the unifier, we have to stop this culture of toxicity, and then they went for the jugular last night, Arlette.

SAENZ: And, you know, this is exactly what President Obama had warned about when he talked about Democrats engaging in a circular firing squad. That's what you saw play out on the debate stage last night, but you did see Elizabeth Warren really try to distinguish herself to show people that she is not down-and-out in this race just yet.

One question about Warren is that already in Nevada, there have been more than 70,000 voters who have actually cast their ballots. So, a good chunk of people have already gone into this debate, having made their decisions, and will she be able to turn more people out before Saturday?

Now, I think one other thing is Joe Biden had a pretty strong debate performance. He did recede into the background at times, but when he did speak, he was very forceful, whether it was talking about his experience with foreign leaders during that exchange with Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg about the Mexican president. He also was hammering away at Bloomberg on Obamacare and also on stop-and-frisk policy.

But a question for Joe Biden is, was that paid performance going to be enough? I expect he'll probably try to be sharper or just as sharp in the South Carolina debate as his candidacy is really hinging on strong performances both here and Nevada and South Carolina.

CAMEROTA: And we do get to see another -- a different format tonight. So, guys, thank you all very much for all of the analysis.

Another big night on CNN. Two back-to-back presidential town halls tonight. Joe Biden at 8:00 p.m. and Elizabeth Warren at 9:00 p.m. Eastern live from Las Vegas.

BERMAN: It'll be interesting to see how they carry forward their debate performances and what they choose to highlight from last night tonight.

CAMEROTA: It's also just a completely different skill set, frankly.

BERMAN: Yes.

All right, the coronavirus crisis grows. Hundreds of millions of people remain on lock down in China. Up next, an inside look at what life is like in the epicenter of the outbreak.

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