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Dems Attack Bloomberg, Sanders at Nevada Debate. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired February 20, 2020 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Bloomberg went in as the Titanic. Titanic, meet iceberg Elizabeth Warren.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are giving a voice to people who are saying, We are sick and tired of billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The former mayor was completely out of his realm.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been very lucky, made a lot of money. And I'm giving it all away to make this country better.
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In terms of being able to beat Donald Trump, I'm better positioned than anybody else.
JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If you're going to make the electability argument, you can't just say it. You have to show it.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Thursday, February 20, 6 a.m. here in New York.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're just getting warmed up.
CAMEROTA: We are just getting warmed --
BERMAN: Like Michael Bloomberg, apparently, according to his campaign.
CAMEROTA: This morning Mike Bloomberg is hoping what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Mm-hm. The general feeling is that he got battered and bruised during last night's Democratic debate. The former New York City mayor had not been on debate stage in more
than a decade, and his rivals attacked him over the policing of minorities, over his treatment of women, and his billionaire status. Many of the blows came from an energized Elizabeth Warren. She fought like she had nothing to lose after less-than-stellar results in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Frontrunner Bernie Sanders was also on the defense at times over his health, his wealth and the ugly tactics used by some of his online supporters.
BERMAN: So the Bloomberg campaign all but admitted his performance was lacking and needs improvement. And they say, literally, he was just warming up. So what impact will that showing have on the Bloom- curious?
And then there was the bitter standoff between Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar that culminated with her asking if he was calling her dumb. And my question is, What do they see that makes them think they need to run through each other to win the nomination?
There is so much to discuss, so let's go right to Las Vegas. CNN's Arlette Saenz has the highlight of the debate -- Arlette.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, there were a lot of fireworks last night right here in Las Vegas. And one candidate who benefitted from that was Elizabeth Warren. Her campaign saying she raised more than $2 million on debate day as she also won one metric speaking time.
But all of these candidates came ready to fight last night in the most fiery and contentious debate yet.
SAENZ (voice-over): The Democrats were ready to rumble in their first chance to debate against Michael Bloomberg.
BIDEN: The mayor says that he has a great record, that he's done these wonderful things. Well, the fact -- the fact of the matter is he has not managed his city very, very well when he was there.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think you look at Donald Trump and say, We need someone richer in the White House.
SAENZ: Frontrunner 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 turnout.
SAENZ: Bloomberg firing back at Sanders throughout the night.
BLOOMBERG: I don't think there's any chance of the senator beating President Trump. It's 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'd like to talk about what 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?
BLOOMBERG: 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 the joke I told. They decided, when they made an agreement, they wanted to keep it quiet --
BIDEN: Come on.
BLOOMBERG: -- for everybody's interests. 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 Donald 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 onstage with a target on his back.
BUTTIGIEG: 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 all 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 Mexico's president in a recent interview.
KLOBUCHAR: I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete. Yes, that's right. And I said that I made an error. I think having a president that maybe is humble and is able to admit that here and there maybe wouldn't be a bad thing.
BUTTIGIEG: But you're staking your candidacy on your Washington experience.
KLOBUCHAR: Are you trying to say that I'm dumb, or are you mocking me here, Pete?
BUTTIGIEG: I'm saying that you shouldn't trivialize that knowledge.
KLOBUCHAR: I said I made an error.
SAENZ: Klobuchar trying to shift the focus back on the candidates' real opponents.
KLOBUCHAR: We have not been talking enough about Donald Trump and what's -- let's just talk about Donald Trump.
SAENZ: Now, the Nevada caucuses are just two days away as these candidates are making their closing pitch to voters here. And tonight, there are two more CNN presidential town halls on the stage right behind me with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Arlette Saenz for us in Las Vegas. Thank you so much, Arlette, for that.
So what has changed this morning? What is different about this race? Stick around. You're going to want to hear from our experts, next.
CAMEROTA: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his debut on the debate stage last night. And he was greeted by an onslaught of bruising attacks, most pointedly from Senator 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 the joke I told. And let me just --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: There was more, but here we are.
Let's bring in David Gregory, CNN political analyst; Bakari Sellers, CNN political commentator; and Krystal Ball, co-host of "Rising" on Hill-TV and the author of the forthcoming book, "The Populist's Guide to 2020."
So Krystal, I'll begin with you. What about that moment? How do you think that Bloomberg, his much-anticipated debut went?
KRYSTAL BALL, CO-HOST, HILL-TV'S "RISING": It was an utter and complete disaster. And I'm sure that he realized halfway through he should have just stayed home. He was doing better just buying paid media, rather than having to actually respond to attacks.
I mean, look, what is the pitch that Mike Bloomberg is making? He's making the electability pitch: Look, I am the guy, whether you love me or not, whether you like all my positions or not, I am the guy who can defeat Donald Trump. And last night on that stage, he looked like absolutely anything but that. And that is the major issue for him.
And you have to think -- Look, John, you were pointing this out earlier. Bernie Sanders came into last night the frontrunner. The only candidate who really could even rival him in terms of ultimately winning the nomination seemed to be Michael Bloomberg. And that took a massive, massive hit last night.
BERMAN: So Bakari, the question I have is that some of these questions you could see coming from a million miles away.
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You got it.
BERMAN: There are questions you see the day you enter the race for a guy like Michael Bloomberg, that has to do with Stop and Frisk, that has to do also with the sexual harassment claims against his company. But this is his answer on Stop and Frisk, the policing policies when he was in New York City. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: I've sat; I've apologized; I've asked for forgiveness. But the bottom line is that we stopped too many people. But the policy -- we stopped too many people, and we've got to make sure that we do something about criminal justice in this country.
There is no great answer to a lot of these problems. And if we took off everybody that was wrong on -- off this panel, everybody that was wrong on criminal justice at some time in their careers, there'd be nobody else up here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So there are two questions here. No. 1, what does it tell you about his performance, that he wasn't ready for a better answer to that question?
And No. 2, the bigger issue with Michael Bloomberg this morning is there are people out there who were curious. You said this. There are a lot of voters who've seen the ads. There are a lot of voters who want to beat Donald Trump and were curious, Bloom curious, as I like to say, about whether Bloomberg is the guy to do it.
So how much of an impact will that performance last night have on all this?
SELLERS: I mean, look, the performance was godawful. It was one of the worst performances. And I don't know what my level of expectation was for Michael Bloomberg, but he didn't meet that.
And it's amazing to see someone who has billions of dollars and all of these resources not spend any money on debate prep. Or if he did, he probably fired them all last night, even before the plane left Las Vegas.
So it was a deplorable performance. I think that, as I said earlier, those curious individuals -- and Krystal was right, I mean, that for many people, the only person who could rival Bernie Sanders as we are -- as this field is winnowing and as we're getting to Nevada, South Carolina, and then the big debate hall -- or excuse me, the big delegate hall of Super Tuesday. People thought it was going to be Michael Bloomberg. After last night's performance, I'm sure Mayor Bloomberg wishes he'd never showed up.
People are used to losses in Vegas and big losses at the craps table, the blackjack table. But it's very rare you see somebody take a loss like that on a debate stage.
And I think the two people who will benefit from that are Elizabeth Warren and, even more so, Joe Biden. Again, you started to see Joe Biden's lead with African-Americans get cut some by Michael Bloomberg. And that was because of the ads that they saw that portrayed him as someone who can take on Donald Trump. Donald Trump will destroy Michael Bloomberg if last night is any example of what happens on the debate stage.
I said earlier that he got ethered (ph) last night by Elizabeth Warren. He did, but by everybody else onstage last night. He just didn't prove himself to be a good candidate.
I don't think that's going to change next week in South Carolina on the debate stage, because I just can't harp on how disappointing that performance was by the mayor.
CAMEROTA: Well, his campaign claims it is going to change. Here's what they said, David. Quote, "It took Mike just three months to build a stronger campaign than the rest of the field has built in more than a year. It took him just 45 minutes in his first debate in 10 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 thoughts? DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the problem is
it's -- it's too late in the game to have a really bad first impression.
You know, you're blanketing the airwaves, hundreds of millions of dollars you're spending on putting ads throughout the Super Tuesday states. And then you completely underwhelm and bomb in your first debate.
You know, I'm sympathetic to the idea that he'll get better as a debater, but he's up against other candidates who have been doing this for, as he said, two years in preparation; and they've already had eight debates. So I just don't think he's going to get that kind of room.
And as Bakari says, and Krystal says, Well, the biggest thing is why do you want to be president? What's your narrative? What's your rationale? He didn't seem ready to hit that out of the park last night.
And he certainly didn't seem ready for the No. 1 defensive question around Stop and Frisk. I can, in 20 seconds, come up with a better answer for what he was trying to do, the fact that he sought amends, that he has support from African-American leaders, and what that support is built on for him to try to make that case.
But I will say the other winner in all of this -- and I think Krystal alluded to it -- is Bernie Sanders. I mean, it was striking to me how threatening all of the candidates found Michael Bloomberg that they failed to really try to knock down Bernie Sanders.
[06:15:11] Even in Elizabeth Warren's terrific performance -- and certainly got a lot of support from her supporters -- Bernie Sanders is still the primary impediment to her moving forward. And she didn't really take him on. And I think that was true across the board.
BERMAN: Yes. Krystal, to that point -- and I think David raises a great question about that. Bernie Sanders came into this debate the frontrunner, period. And I think he probably left the frontrunner, as well.
Elizabeth Warren, who has a debate performance that I think a lot of people, including you, looked at and said it was terrific. What does she see as her path? And I really want an answer. I'm curious.
I'm trying to figure out what exactly she's doing now that she thinks will help her win the nomination. Does it go through Sanders supporters? Is it the other perceived lane right now?
BALL: Yes. I think it's very tough for her at this point. And she did have a phenomenal debate performance last night. And I think she did herself a lot of favors.
A lot of folks have already voted in Nevada, but I would certainly expect her to improve, especially with that white, college-educated voter.
And that gets to your question. Look, she and Pete and Amy primarily have been competing for that sort of white, affluent liberal vote, which has been the vote that has shifted around the most, right? They were with Pete. And then they were with Amy. And now I would bet they would give Elizabeth Warren a look. That's enough to give you a bump in the polls. It is not enough, ultimately, to get you the nomination. I think that's the issue for her.
Bernie Sanders has largely consolidated the progressive lane. So look, I think if you're her campaign, she thinks, Amy had a moment. She was able to get the comeback narrative. If Warren can grab a second in Nevada and then hang on as best she can in South Carolina, head into Super Tuesday where California has been a relatively decent state for her, then maybe she can make a case.
But I want to point out, maybe the most important answer of the night was when all of the candidates got asked what they would do if there was one candidate who had a plurality but not a majority of the delegates going to the convention? And every single candidate, including Elizabeth Warren and except for Bernie Sanders, said that they would let the convention rules play out, meaning that they want the superdelegates to try to get involved on their behalf.
And if we come down to a contested convention where Bernie Sanders gets a plurality of the delegates but not a majority, that means things could get very, very ugly.
BERMAN: Bakari, we have to let you go, but I want to give you the last word, because we have -- hang on one second, David, because Bakari is going to go. I know Bakari actually has a point on this.
Bakari, who helped write the current DNC rules on the conventions that Bernie Sanders might be upset about at convention time?
SELLERS: I think that's hilarious. Yes. Bernie Sanders helped write the DNC rules that Bernie Sanders now doesn't want to follow.
I just think that the rules are the rules. I mean, you can't get in the game and then say, I don't want to play by those rules.
I do think, though, you know, that the party has a -- not a decision to make, but has to understand that it will be messy. And I think that when you get to a convention, if it is contested, and Bernie Sanders has a plurality by a large margin, Bernie Sanders is going to be the nominee.
If it comes in and it's close, I don't -- I don't know what will happen. So you just have to understand that it's a bit of hypocrisy when you write the rules then all of a sudden don't want to play by them.
BERMAN: All right, guys. Stick around. I know Bakari is going. Krystal, we'll get back to you in a second.
David Gregory, you're first up after this quick break. CAMEROTA: OK. So there was also a bitter fight last night between Amy
Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. What did they get out of that? And what about Joe Biden? We discuss all that next.
BERMAN: Extremely tense moments between Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar in last night's debate. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUTTIGIEG: You're literally in part of the committee that's overseeing these things. And were not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country to our South.
KLOBUCHAR: Are you -- are you trying to say that I'm dumb, or are you mocking me here, Pete?
BUTTIGIEG: Been unusual among Democrats, I think the Democrat among all of 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)
BERMAN: And it was every bit as uncomfortable in the moment as it is on replay.
Back with us, David Gregory, Krystal Ball, also joining us CNN political commentator Karen Finney. She's a former senior spokesperson for Hillary Clinton's campaign.
David, I want to start with you, because we cut you off before, either on the Buttigieg/Klobuchar thing or anything else you saw.
GREGORY: Well, let me just respond to that. I mean, I found that moment to be uncomfortable, as well. And I thought it was interesting Elizabeth Warren jumping to Amy Klobuchar's defense.
And I don't know if you thought this. This is now showing our age. But I mean, I don't remember that kind of sympathy for former President George Bush when he couldn't remember the leader of Pakistan in an interview in -- in 1999 or 2000 that got him in a lot of trouble.
But I think, you know, I'm not sure what it does for them. Other than I think sometimes in these debates there's real tension between these candidates. And I think that's been building between Klobuchar and Buttigieg.
And I think from a tactical or strategic point of view, this campaign is really not big enough for the two of them. And they recognize that. And that's one of the reasons that -- you know, that is motivating that.
The other thing that I wanted to inject into our conversation is that I do think, even though we can look at individuals and say who did well, who did poorly, I do think it was not a great look overall for the Democrats. And I think that Donald Trump stands to gain from that.
I think them talking over each other, being very hostile with each other, everybody with that look of their hands up and claims of, you know, who's a capitalist, who wants to burn -- burn the house down. I think there's different ways of looking at that. But I don't know that that was a great look for the party.
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about that, Karen. Because for candidates who have been preaching on the trail unity and who talk about unity, as opposed to the toxicity that they believe comes out of the Trump White House, I mean, is this the right way? Are these the right tactics to go about demonstrating that ethos?
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I have to tell you, I felt the tension through my television, right? It was so -- from the second it started.
Clearly, every single person on that stage felt the need -- felt the pressure. I think they were all trying to have a good night or a good moment. Some of them did. Some of them didn't.
And but I think when we talk about unity, I think most Democrat who are watching this, most voters who are watching this know that, look. It's a contest. Somebody's got to emerge as the winner. We can talk unity. And I think a lot of what the unity talk is really about is when there's a nominee, we all have to come together. And also trying to -- how we build a coalition, a unified coalition behind yourself as you search for the nomination.
But I don't think people expect on the stage, you know, for it to be too nice. Although I agree with David. Overall there were definitely moments where you just couldn't hear anybody. And that's never good.
BERMAN: It's interesting. And one counterintuitive point I'll make. I know that Twitter isn't America or always representative of America.
CAMEROTA: It's un-American.
BERMAN: It is un-American.
GREGORY: It's mean America. It's mean America.
BERMAN: But the most tweeted-about moment in the debate, for all the talk about the attacks on Michael Bloomberg, all the talk about the awkward moments between Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, the most tweeted-about moment was actually something that Michael Bloomberg said about Bernie Sanders. So play that.
(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: Bernie Sanders went on to explain he's got a house in Burlington, Vermont; a house in Washington, D.C.; and then a lakefront property. The summer camp.
CAMEROTA: Which he needs.
BERMAN: Every Vermonter.
CAMEROTA: A summer cabin.
BERMAN: Every Vermonter apparently has. Except for my family in Vermont.
Krystal, is there the possibility that voters watching this debate -- and not just the voters in Nevada which votes in a couple days, but South Carolina and Super Tuesday, where 40 percent of the delegates are up for grabs on March 3. Is it possible that they saw something different overall or could take something different away from this?
BALL: Well, here's what's interesting to me, John. Is that we keep hearing this line that Bernie Sanders hasn't been vetted. Oh, as soon as he's the nominee, the Trump campaign is going to drop their oppo on him, and it's going to be a disaster.
And yet whenever anyone tries to come after him, it's with the same old recycled attacks that we've been hearing literally since 2016. So it's he's a socialist so he's unelectable. Or you know, he's got too many houses. Which is, like, how is that relevant to everybody getting health care? Or the Bernie bros --
CAMEROTA: But hold on, Krystal. It's that -- it's that he's -- he is hitting at other people for their wealth. OK? He's going after them for being billionaires. And so isn't it effective when Bloomberg says, And you're a millionaire.
BALL: Does anyone really think, though, that there's any equivalence between Michael Bloomberg with his $60 billion, who's literally able to buy an election --
CAMEROTA: It's the principle. It's the principle of being -- I mean, they've pointed out he no longer says millionaires and billionaires are the problem. Because he's become a millionaire.
BALL: Well, you know, Alisyn, that's my point, is that people have been trying to level this attack against Bernie Sanders, including the Trump campaign. And it just isn't effective. Because people see his consistency. They like his principles. And they
see that there is a world of difference between a billionaire oligarch like Michael Bloomberg, who owns his own, you know, propaganda channel and somebody like Bernie Sanders, who has been not wealthy most of his life, wrote a book, et cetera, and has been very consistently sticking to his values and principles there. I just don't think it lands ultimately.
FINNEY: You know, the thing about that is --
GREGORY: Can I just make --
FINNEY: -- why not just be honest? The thing that -- the problem that I have with that. Bernie, I agree with a lot of Bernie's ideas, actually. The problem that I have in addition to some of the online attacks, it's like the medical records.
You said you were going to be transparent, release everything. Then you changed your mind. OK. Fine. Stick with that. Don't try to have a spokesperson go out and talk about birtherism or any of that silliness. Just stick to the line.
And you know, acknowledge, yes, you wrote some books. I believe Jane has some wealth that they don't necessarily like to talk about. But just own that. But still make the point that you are -- here are the things that you're fighting for. Rather than trying to, you know, talk around and say, Oh, it's an attack that doesn't work. It's the truth. So just acknowledge the truth and move on.
BALL: But I think he did acknowledge the truth. He said, Look. Here's where my houses are. You know, I just don't see how that --
FINNEY: But you're not, Krystal. It is what it is.