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Early Vote Boosts Turnout In Nevada Caucuses, But Concerns Remain; Nevada Dem Chair Refuses To Outline Penalty For Violation NDA; More Departures Expected At Nation's Top Intel Office; Source: U.S. Intel Says Russia Already Meddling In Election; Weinstein Jurors Appear Deadlocked On Two Charges; Biden On Russian Meddling: Putin Doesn't Want Me To Win; Warren Campaign Announces They've Raised $14 Million, Doubling Their Goal; Around 105 Children Have Died From Flu In U.S. So Far. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired February 22, 2020 - 13:00   ET



FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: First state to vote thus far and candidates are hoping a win there today will propel them to a critical stretch of this election. Super Tuesday is just over a week away, and just hours before the caucuses, were set to begin, new indications that Russia is once again trying to meddle in US elections. Friday, Bernie Sanders confirm that he was briefed on intelligence that Russia is actively trying to help him win the Democratic nomination in an effort to split the party.

Sources also tell CNN that Russia is trying to meddle on behalf of President Trump's reelection. The President fired his acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph McGuire, after McGuire allowed lawmakers to be brief last week on Russia's plans to interfere. Both Sanders and Trump now weighing in on Russia's efforts, but with different takes.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was not clear what role they're going to play. We were told that Russia, maybe other countries are going to get involved in this campaign. And look, here's the message to Russia: "Stay out of American elections and what they are doing, by the way, the ugly thing that they are doing, and I've seen some of the, you know, the tweets and stuff is they tried to divide us up.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was told a week ago, they said, you know, they're trying to start a rumor. It's disinformation. That's the only thing they're good at. They're not good at anything else. They get nothing done. Do nothing Democrats. That dis -- that Putin wants to make sure I get elected. Listen to this, doesn't he want to see who the Democrats going to be? Wouldn't you rather have let's say, Bernie, wouldn't he rather have Bernie?


WHITFIELD: All right, we have a team of reporters on the campaign trail and beyond covering all angles. CNN's Dianne Gallagher joining us first, there from Las Vegas. So, Diane, party leaders in Nevada are working to secure today's Democratic primary election to what extent, what are you learning?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Fred, look, they've had an uphill battle for the past three weeks at this point. If you remember, they initially had an app that was developed by the same company that did the one in Iowa.

And we know how that has well, still not ended. And so, Nevada scrap that. They've been working on their backup plan, and that's what's going to be used today. They're using this Google Form spreadsheet calculator that will help the volunteers not only do the math, but also incorporate those early votes.

Now, those are important, Fred because this is the first time anyone has ever done early caucusing. It is complicated math on top of complicated math. So, the calculator, and look, I've done a demo, but it was user friendly in the controlled situation I used it in. That's supposed to help them.

Those early results are already input into these iPads, the site leads have been receiving starting yesterday and today. They're going to do the math and then they have to report those three different types of data, just like in Iowa. The first round, the second round, the realignment, and then the county delegates. That's what CNN will use to determine a winner in Nevada.

So, we're talking A lot of math here. We're talking about complicated math here. And of course, then you have a caucus. Now, in the early voting period, they had nearly 75,000 people cast those early caucusing ranked choice votes. In 2016. Only 84,000 people actually caucused periods. So, we could be looking at extremely large numbers. Or we may not have too many people who show up today because most of them early voted. They don't know what to expect, because they've never done it before.

When it comes to reporting, according to the Nevada Democrats, the precinct captains, the site leads they will call into a hotline that's being manned by 200 volunteers at a phone bank -- excuse me, not volunteers 200 paid and trained people at a phone bank. They will also have to take a picture of a math worksheet that has to be completed the entire time. And the site lead, they will give their information all boxed up to a site lead who then brings it to the party.

So, Fred, look, this is a complicated multi-layered process. The goal here the entire time is basically not to be Iowa. I've heard that for the past week here in Nevada: "Our goal is to not be Iowa." But again, they didn't have much time to do this. They've been working around the clock, but we'll see if it works today. Caucuses can be unpredictable. The math is complicated. The Nevada Democrats say they tried to do everything to make it as easy as possible. We'll have to see.

WHITFIELD: Yes, let's hope it works. Let's hope there were also a lot of trial runs. Dianne Gallagher, thank you so much. All right, saying it's Ed Lavandera is in Las Vegas where caucus sites are ready to open up. So, Ed, what are voters -- what have they been saying to you leading up to this moment?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Fredricka. Well, this is the ballroom of the East Las Vegas Community Center and inside this ballroom, there will be 10 different precincts voting and they're set up in stations like this. These chairs, you can see here, this is table for precinct 4603. And if you look around this ballroom, they have 10 different stations already set up here. And this is where a neighborhood of mostly Latino low-income workers that are the predominant voters in these, these precincts.


This is an area that went heavily for Hillary Clinton in the general election back in 2016. And we are about two hours away from the caucus starting here at this site. And if you look out here, just outside of the doors here, the registration has just started. So, we're starting to see the first voters trickle in to this area. And organizers here say that if you are in line by noon, you will, if it takes a little bit longer to register, you will be allowed to get in here. So, if it takes a little bit longer to get everyone into this ballroom, that's what will happen.

So, as long as you're in line by noon here, you will be able to vote in this caucus, and the question really here is the turnout. And if you kind of look at kind of reading the tea leaves here in terms we've talked a lot about how many people have voted in the early voting, the number of chairs they've set up, and each of these precincts might be an indication of just how many people they're expecting to actually turn up.

It is possible that when the majority of the people in these precincts have already voted in early voting, but we will see this is the ballroom of the East Las Vegas Community Center as people are starting to trickle in already and voting is about two hours away. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: And it will get filled up and then at that point, are you kicked out?

LAVANDERA: Well, no, we're allowed to stay in here. We're kind of going back and forth on some things, we're able to move around at this point. But reporters allowed to stay in here, we're kind of cordoned off to the back of the room watching this from, from a from a distance within, within, within this room. So, slightly different field from what if you watch the coverage of the Iowa caucus, but we'll see how things here developed over the next couple of hours.

WHITFIELD: You will have an amazing, amazing vantage point. All right, Ed Lavandera can't wait. Thank you so much.

All right. Still ahead, Nevada Democratic leaders now under scrutiny after a volunteer refuses to sign an NDA, Non-Disclosure Agreement.


SETH MORRISON, FORMER CAUCUS VOLUNTEER: The agreement they asked me to sign said I could not disparage the party in any way. And if I did, in their opinion disparage them, they could sue me for everything I own.


WHITFIELD: So, now what? Plus, Russia is at it again. The U.S. National Intelligence Agency warning the Kremlin is not only helping President Trump possibly win, they are making sure that he faces potentially Bernie Sanders with the Democratic ticket. Details on that next.



WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. As Nevada prepares to hold its caucuses just a short time from now, the state's Democratic Party is facing new questions about the process. This after CNN learned that the caucus site leaders were asked to sign a nondisclosure agreement to keep them from talking to the media.

One former site leader, says he was pressured to sign the DNA, or rather the NDA -- sorry about that -- in order to volunteer, but he refused and stepped down. I spoke with the chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party a short time ago about his party's transparency, and this is what he had to say.


WILLIAM MCCURDY, NEVADA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIRMAN: Yes, I did say transparency, and I underscore transparency but also want to include another term, which is making sure that we preserve the integrity of our election process. So, what we did was to make sure that any site leaning who was going to be handling sensitive information, they be, you know, have the ability to sign a nondisclosure agreement. But again, this is a voluntary, voluntary, you know, option. And again, the goal is preserving the integrity and making sure that folks have an ability to know that when they cast their vote, it's safe.

WHITFIELD: And if there were a violation of this nondisclosure agreement, what would the penalty be?

MCCURDY: We hope that, you know, the goal is no one, you know, violates a nondisclosure agreement. And the goal is to ensure that ---

WHITFIELD: Yes, but you have an NDA; an NDA is offered because with it also comes a penalty if you defy the NDA, what would that penalty be?

MCCURDY: Well, we want to just make sure that folks who signed the document know that this is a serious process. And if --

WHITFIELD: But everyone knows that, everyone knows that because they're signing up for something that is one of the most important, you know, privileges of being an American and, and to preserve and protect the process. But a nondisclosure agreement, which is a legally binding agreement and you're asking volunteers to sign that in order to continue on with this, you know, civil service. And if you violate that NDA, then what would happen? MCCURDY: It is outlined what could actually happen within the agreement. And that is why, you know, you are presented it, you are able to read it, review it. And if you so choose, you sign it. And that is exactly what it's designed to do. And our goal, again, is to make sure that we preserve the integrity of this process that is extremely important within the Nevada State Democratic Party, and that is why it is a voluntary document.


WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about all of this. Now, joining me right now, a Political Reporter for the Nevada Independent, Megan Messerly; and National Politics Reporter for The Wall Street Journal and CNN Political Analyst, Sabrina Siddiqui. Good to see both.

All right. So Megan, you first, you know, voters just learned, you know, about this request by the Democrats yesterday, you know, do you think it will call into question, you know, tonight's results, this whole notion of having to, you know, sign an agreement.

MEGAN MESSERLY, POLITICAL REPORTER, NEVADA INDEPENDENT: Yes, the folks I'm talking to -- obviously, I've talked to volunteers who, you know, had concerns about this NDA, but more folks that I'm talking to told me they sort of understood why the party was asking them to sign this.

Obviously, there is a provision in that agreement that, you know, says that they're not supposed to be talking to the media that appears not to have stopped volunteers from doing that, with both you all as well as myself. But I think the broader point that they have made to me is that they understand this is a sensitive process. Early vote volunteers were also asked to sign this document, they're transporting ballots and their cards.

Folks were volunteering in the party's headquarters processing early vote ballots are also asked to sign an NDA. And then site leads, who are also responsible for transferring this transferring this caucus reporting data back to the party have been asked to sign this. So, the folks I talked to were telling me you know, they understand this is a sensitive process. It's a serious process. So, they didn't really have a problem signing it, but obviously we're hearing from other folks who are concerned about sort of how, how wide-ranging that document really is.


WHITFIELD: Sabrina, isn't an issue of just transparency, particularly after Iowa and that you know, suppressing anyone's, I guess, urge to speak about the experience may not look good to some people.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, officials the Nevada State Democratic Party have said that it is not uncommon for them to ask volunteers and staff to enter into a confidentiality agreement. In fact, they're trying to say that this is standard process. They use similar NDAs during the 2018 midterms.

But I do think that there are broader concerns after the debacle in the Iowa caucuses and officials have been working for weeks to ensure that the process in Nevada goes smoothly. Having said that, there had been volunteers who in recent weeks had sounded the alarm over the reporting process.

Although, the Nevada Democratic Party scrapped plans to use the same app that was the cause of a lot of those problems in Iowa, they've still resorted to an electronic voting tallying system asked volunteers to use iPads and Google forums and a lot of those volunteers saying that they don't believe that they have been sufficiently trained and really concerned that there could be any other problem that arises tonight, as they try and report out those results.

I think there are of course concerns that could not only jeopardize Nevada's first in the West that is, but it could also undermine the integrity and the entire Democratic nomination process so far. So, the stakes are very high, and that might be why you're seeing officials adopt some of these more stringent measures to try and protect the process.

WHITFIELD: Yes, indeed, the stakes are very high. All right. Let me ask you about this other big story. Russia actively trying to interfere in U.S. elections. Intelligence officials say they've got, you know, the material right now and Senator Bernie Sanders was briefed about this effort, that Russia may try to aid his campaign a month ago. So, you know, Megan, Sanders, you know, had a big lead in recent polls heading into today's caucuses. But does this now this reporting kind of undermine what appears to be his popularity?

MESSERLY: I think talking to voters, at least those people at his rallies on the ground, you know, their support for Bernie Sanders is pretty unshakeable. So, I don't know that this report is going to change anyone's minds. Obviously, I think everyone, regardless of you know which campaign they're on is, is worried and watchful about, you know, any potential interference in the election. But to me, seeing Bernie Sanders support on the ground, kind of distracts with his operation here.

He has 250-plus, you know, volunteers, you know, so regardless of this new, you know, new information that we've obtained, his campaign has certainly put in a lot of work on the ground here. So, you know, it would not be surprising to me if we do see him do well in Nevada's caucus today, just purely because of their ground game here in Nevada.

WHITFIELD: And then Sabrina, how do you see this reporting potentially, you know, impacting this, you know, primary race. Sanders, when asked about it yesterday, you know, he says Russia, you know, stay out of American elections. The President's response at a rally was, you know, this is disinformation.

SIDDIQUI: Well, it is notable that this is not the first time the Russians have interfered in an attempt to try and boost the campaign of Bernie Sanders. In fact, one of the findings in Volume One of the Mueller report was that the Russians in 2016 did use social media to try and sow discord during the Democratic primary, particularly between supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in what was more broadly part of that effort to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Now, we don't know exactly what the nature of interference looks like this time around. I think Bernie Sanders made it very clear that their help is not welcome. But what it would do is it would certainly jeopardize, whether or not the Democratic Party can unify behind Bernie Sanders if he is the nominee. It is already been somewhat of a fraught process.

And there are questions over whether Democrats can get behind someone like Bernie Sanders. And so, I think that the idea behind the Russian meddling, especially with respect to the Democratic primary process is to try and so those divisions within the party, presumably to do what they did in 2016, which has help bolster the can Pain of Donald Trump.

WHITFIELD: All right, we'll leave it there for now. Sabrina Siddiqui, Megan Messerly, thanks so much to both of you, we appreciate it.

SIDDIQUI: Thank you.



WHITFIELD: All right. So, could the first votes in the West shake up the race overall? CNN will take you inside the Nevada caucuses like no one else can. Special live coverage starting at 2:00. Still ahead, President Trump still refusing to acknowledge, acknowledge Russian interference of the 2020 election, dismissing the critical intelligence as disinformation. How he's trying to influence Democratic voters? Next.



WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. More upheaval could be coming to the U.S. intel community. CNN has learned that some top intelligence officials are looking to leave following the departure of the acting director of National Intelligence. This all coming as we learn the U.S. intelligence community believes Russia is putting their support behind President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2020 race.

The two candidates are reacting to the development very differently. President Trump calls the discovery by his own intel community, disinformation. A disinformation hoax by Democrats, in fact. Meantime, Senator Bernie Sanders is calling on Russia to stay out of American elections. For more on this, let's bring in CNN's Kylie Atwood. So, Kylie, what more can you tell us about this expected departure of intel officials?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we are learning that it is expected that more intelligence officials will leave this office, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. And this comes as there has been this shake up and fears at the office with regard to the fact that President Trump has replaced the Former Acting Director with someone who is very close to him and ally, Ambassador Rick Grenell who has very little intelligence experience.

And we're also learning that there are fears that the number three, one of the top officials, who is in charge of assessing the intelligence with regard to election security, could also leave there are fears. Now, we have been told that she's still in her job right now, her name is Shelby Pearson. But there are fears within the community that she could be forced out too. And this comes on the heels of a week when the number two in this office was forced out by Rick Grenell.

So, we should note that there is a lot of skepticism about Rick Grenell amongst the intelligence community. I was told that officials in this office made phone calls to diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Germany last week, when they found out that Rick Grenell was going to be the one taking over. They had questions about his leadership style. Now this, of course comes on the heels of this really breaking, super interesting news that President Trump is being helped; Russia is trying to help him win the presidential election.

And now, President Trump has said that that intelligence is essentially false. He does not believe it. He said that at a rally last night. But he has said that he believes the intelligence that is being demonstrated to show that Russia is trying to help Bernie Sanders. So, President Trump there, agreeing with some intelligence and not other intelligence, which he does not think benefits him. We've seen him do this before. Fred.

WHITFIELD: Kylie Atwood, thank you so much. All right, Jill Dougherty is with us now an expert on Russia. She previously served as CNN Bureau Chief in Moscow and is now a Global Fellow for the Woodrow Wilson Center. Jill, good to see you.


WHITFIELD: OK, so your reaction to you know president's dismissal of this discovery by, you know, his own intel officials and the president calling this a disinformation hoax. This is just, you know, eating right out of the hand of Russia, that's what they want, right?

DOUGHERTY: I mean, this is nothing new. We've heard this for a couple of years. You know, that is just apparently what either the President thinks or wants to say. But it's almost ridiculous to go back to that because it is incorrect. I mean, all of the intelligence agencies of the United States have pretty much agreed that there was interference by Russians. So, I don't think we have to really debate that. I think what's interesting right now is, you know, what is happening with this news about Russians playing both sides against the middle, and that is really fascinating.

WHITFIELD: And fascinating that this intel would say that Russia is working hard to ensure that Bernie Sanders would become the nominee. So, the feeling is then or, you know, you're reading the tea leaves here. If Russia wants the reelection of Donald Trump, they feel like Bernie Sanders cannot be the nominee to take him on.

DOUGHERTY: You know, in a way like this, I'd almost like to stand back Fred and say, this stuff is not really personal. This doesn't have to do with, necessarily with, you know, Bernie's policies or anything, or even in a way, Trump's policies, yes, because he said good things about Vladimir Putin and Russia. But this is really the Russians, which they have done for years and years, and they did in 2016. They analyze kind of bloodlessly, what the situation is. They see a candidate that they could support.


Let's take Bernie for example, and why is Bernie useful to them? Bernie is useful because they have a narrative, which is the mainstream media, the deep state Democratic Party the, let's say the establishment party. want to do the same thing to Bernie that they did the last time. It's a rigged system. And they're going to destroy Bernie just as they tried to destroy him the last time. This --


WHITFIELD: How is that advantageous to Russia?

DOUGHERTY: It's not advantageous to Russia in one sense. It won't win them points. It will undermine America's faith in this system. Americans are going to, if they are accepting this, they'll say, yes, the system is rigged, there's no way Bernie can ever win because it is a gigantic Deep State trying to destroy him.


WHITFIELD: So the game for Russia is Donald Trump?

DOUGHERTY: Yes, the game for -- I'm sorry, the game for Russia is really to just undermine faith in the system. And, yes, on some level, it probably makes sense for them to support Donald Trump because he has been positive about Putin. And some of the policies he personally supports do work for Russia. His administration doesn't always follow what the president says.

But I think it is important that, for any politician, and there could be others for whom Russia may try to influence things, it is not personal and you do not have to be an agent for Russia to be exploited by Russia. That's the most important thing.

They will exploit people not because they love them but because they find them useful to their purposes of sewing this discord.

WHITFIELD: Jill Dougherty, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: Still ahead, jurors in the trial of Harvey Weinstein continue deliberations on Monday. But could a note sent to the court Friday signal which way they're leaning?



WHITFIELD: The Manhattan district attorney's office says it is investigating new allegations against Robert Hayden. He's the former Columbia University gynecologist facing multiple sexual assault allegations from women, including that of former Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang's wife.

The new accusations against Hayden gained momentum last month after Evelyn Yang told CNN she had been assaulted by him. Hayden lost his license in a plea deal four years ago but never went to prison.

It appears the jury in the Harvey Weinstein trial may be facing a deadlock. A note from jurors after Friday's deliberations asked if it was OK for them to be hung on two of the most serious charges of predatory sexual assault while reaching a unanimous verdict on the rest of the charges. The judge told them to keep deliberating before they left for the weekend.

And throughout the week, the jury asked seven other questions to the judge, including a request to review Actress Annabella Sciorra's testimony. The jurors also wanted to see a list of people she spoke to about her alleged rape by Weinstein more than 25 years ago. The judge denied it because it was never entered into evidence in the trial.

To talk it over, I am joined by Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman, a criminal defense attorney and law professor.

Good to see you as well.


WHITFIELD: Avery, you first.

What can be read, if anything, into the note from the jury that they're deadlocked on two counts?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think what's really significant is actual trial lawyers dealing with juries shouldn't be predicting. But I think what we know by the question late on Friday afternoon is that they made a decision on the lesser crimes, the criminal sexual act and the rape involving Ms. Haleigh and Ms. Mann.

But what's really important, the big one here is the predatory sexual acts, which you need the Sciorra finding by the jury in order to face potential life. The jury doesn't know that. They're just deciding facts.

So I think many people looking at this based on experience are looking to the fact that there are going to be convictions. I think Harvey Weinstein is saying good-bye to a lot of people now. We'll see what happens with the two big ones, Fredricka. Because that's going to be required and that's what we'll be looking at Monday and Tuesday.

WHITFIELD: Richard, will a reply possibly for the judge be that it could be that jurors are confused about the charge or need someone to explain what those charges are and that might help them render a decision?

HERMAN: I don't think so, Fred. The questionnaire given to the jurors, the verdict sheet, it is very complicated.

FRIEDMAN: Yes, it is.

HERMAN: And I would bet 70 percent of the attorneys couldn't even follow the instructions. And this jury is sitting four full days, they're going through the evidence, they're weighing everything. If you're in the business of prognosticating what jurors are doing, you're not going to be in business very long. It is very difficult to do that.

FRIEDMAN: That's right. That's right.

HERMAN: But here, but here, the judge instructed the jury do not, do not reach the predatory acts unless you have a conviction on one of the earlier ones, on the sexual misconduct or the rape. If you don't have conviction on those, do not address predatory.

Here, the jury is saying we are addressing predatory, which seems to me to think that they have a conviction on something lower and that they're not unanimous on predatory. And that's significant because they have to believe Annabelle Sciorra's testimony. They spent a lot of time on read back on it. I think they're having problems believing the credibility of her testimony.


And the predatory crimes, Fred, bring 25 to life, 25 to life, minimum, 25 to life. That's why the state of New York has pressed hard to get those. I don't think they're going to get them. And I think, Fred, Monday, we'll have a verdict in this case.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and, Avery, would there be rules that say all or nothing, you have to have decision on all of them? Can you only render a decision --


WHITFIELD: -- on three? And two you are simply hung on?

FRIEDMAN: I think so. I think so. What it would mean is another trial. I do think -- you know, I am seeing commentary that these are lesser crimes.

Let me tell you something, if that rape -- if the jury buys the rape, that's five to 25 right there. Excuse me. He is 67 years old. That's a life sentence. Also keep in mind -- and this is very important. There's going to be

another trial coming up in Los Angeles. So the end of the day, I think Harvey Weinstein knows this is a big, big bowl of trouble. And he is going in Monday not feeling the way he felt on Thursday or before the jury asked questions.

WHITFIELD: And, Richard you said yes. Are you saying yes, it is all or nothing, or yes, it can be a split?

HERMAN: Yes, I will answer it unlike the prior guest that couldn't tell you what the problems were with the nondisclosure, which people face if they breached it.


HERMAN: I will answer this for you, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: Yes. Yes.

WHITFIELD: I can count on you all for answers at all times.


HERMAN: Yes, the judge --


HERMAN: The jury can be hung on the two predatory and give verdicts on lesser included. They can absolutely do that, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: And then the D.A. will determine whether or not to proceed with a retrial.

If they're hung on that, may have acquittal on the predatory. I don't know. We don't know. We don't know if this is all jurors or one juror. We don't know what's going on here, Fred.

But speculating, it looks like, to me, that they have some sort of conviction already on one of the lesser included. And we'll have a verdict Monday definitely.


FRIEDMAN: Totally agree. Totally agree with that.

WHITFIELD: If anyone can do it, it would be you all. And that's why we ask, Avery and Richard.


WHITFIELD: You're always the best.

HERMAN: Thanks, Fred. You are.

FRIEDMAN: Take care.

WHITFIELD: All right, take care.

All right, next, as Russia interferes in both President Trump and Bernie Sanders' campaigns, Joe Biden is claiming this is further proof the Kremlin is afraid that he could end up in office. What will voters decide?



WHITFIELD: The Nevada caucuses are just about under way. This is former Vice President Joe Biden responding to reports that Russia is trying to meddle in the U.S. election in effort to help both President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know Russia doesn't want me to win. As you well know, they're already, on Facebook, they've taken down all the bots, the thousands of bots run by Russians to try to tell lies about me. And so, from the beginning, it is really clear that Putin doesn't want me to be the nominee, and Donald Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee.


CNN's Arlette Saenz is in Las Vegas following the Biden campaign, having that chat with the former vice president.

So what else did he have to say?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, Joe Biden is hoping for a bit of a turnaround here in Nevada after those disappointing losses in Iowa and New Hampshire. And he told me that he considers coming in first or second place a win here. So that is something he is striving for here today as the caucuses are just a few hours away from kicking off.

And Biden has also recently taken this focus of criticism, directing it towards Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg, who isn't even competing here in the state.

Take a listen to what he told caucus-goers last night here in Nevada.


BIDEN: Bernie Sanders voted against the background checks and the bill that I was passing, the Brady Bill, five times.


BIDEN: Now that guy says it is all about judgment. He voted to give the gun manufacturers an exemption from being able to be sued!


BIDEN: Look, and by the way, isn't it amazing, we found out how everybody is Barack's best friend now?


BIDEN: I look at all these ads. It's amazing. I wonder where the hell they were -- the heck they were when I was vice president with him.

You know, Michael Bloomberg, his new best friend. You look at that ad. You think Barack must have endorsed him. Man, this must be all good. I'm serious. Think about it. My lord.


SAENZ: The Biden campaign is hoping he will have a stronger finish here in Nevada, in part, because of the strong presence of a diverse coalition of supporters. Biden has spent a lot of time this week courting black voters. He also picked up a last-minute endorsement from the Latino victory fund.

So he is hoping to turn it around. As after this race, here in Nevada, the contests turn to states like South Carolina and Super Tuesday contests.

WHITFIELD: Then, Arlette, an hour until caucusing begins, Elizabeth Warren announcing she doubled her fundraising goal. What more can you tell us about that? Does it have anything to do with her performance at the debate?

SAENZ: This is good news for Elizabeth Warren. Her campaign has set an initial goal earlier this week of raising $17 (sic) million by the caucuses. And they announced on Twitter a short while ago that they have raised $14 million.

This is coming after she had that strong debate performance where she focused a lot of attention going after Michael Bloomberg.


So Warren and her campaign are also hoping to have better finishes here in Nevada after coming in lower finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire. And we will see how that all shakes out in just a few hours here.

WHITFIELD: All right, we look forward to that.

Thank you so much, Arlette Saenz. Appreciate it.

SAENZ: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: So could the first votes in the west shake up the race? CNN will take you inside the Nevada caucuses like no one else can. Special live coverage starts at 2:00 today. Also, "THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE" returns tomorrow night, with a

look at the 1980 campaign between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Take a look at what happened at the Democratic National Convention.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thank you for the nomination that you've offered me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jimmy Carter is not on his game somehow, and goes to give praise to Hubert Horatio Humphrey, the former vice president of the United States, who had passed of cancer fairly recently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a guaranteed applause line. You know, this is a guaranteed emotional tug at this crowd.

CARTER: And at the podium, a great man who would have been the greatest presidents in history, Hubert Horatio Horn Blower.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he say horn blower?

CARTER: Humphrey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think every one of us on the podium sort of gasped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is as if, at every step, Carter's attempts to not only be the victor but appear the victor are gone horribly wrong.


WHITFIELD: You can watch "THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE," tomorrow night, at 9:00 p.m., right here on CNN.



WHITFIELD: The cases of coronavirus continue to grow, topping 77,000 worldwide. And now, the top infectious disease doctor in the U.S. is telling CNN what he thinks the virus could be on the verge of becoming a pandemic.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGIES AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: You get countries like Japan and South Korea that have these cases that are person-to-person to person, without any real ability to point to where it came from, that's the makings of a pandemic.

And if you have multiple countries like that, then the horse is out of the barn and it's going to be very difficult to prevent more cases from coming here to our own country.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: And there are currently 35 confirmed cases in the U.S., including the passengers evacuated from a Japanese cruise ship.

And as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world, a deadly strain of influenza is spreading rapidly right here in the U.S. The CDC just announcing that over 100 children have already died from the flu this season.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When public health officials described this flu season so far, they are describing it as starting early, early in September, as opposed to typically in October, and also being typically hard on kids.

We've talked a lot about the coronavirus this year but let me show you flu numbers so far this flu season. In the United States alone, some 29 million illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 16,000 deaths.

And when you look at hospitalization number, the most hospitalizations occur in people who are 65 and older. But the next biggest category is newborns to four years old. So this flu can be particularly hard on kids.

And this year, so far, has been the worst year for kids. If you take out 2009, which was the H1N1 flu pandemic, this becomes one of the worst years on record for kids with regard to the flu.

I want to show you again, just quickly, looking at flu numbers here, which I just shared with you and coronavirus, because we have been talking about coronavirus so much. On the left are U.S. numbers, on the right are global numbers for coronavirus. And you can see how the flu does cause a lot more illness and a lot more death in the United States and around the world.

The reason there continues to be such concern about the coronavirus is because it is a new virus. And whenever you have a new virus, you're not exactly sure how it is going to behave, how it is going to trend, or if it is going to continue to mutate. So those are things that researchers are keeping an eye on.

But certainly, here in the United States, we have to keep an eye on flu as well. We can't take our eye off the ball. And it is not too late to get the flu shot, something we talk a lot about.

Back to you.


WHITFIELD: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much for that.

And thank you for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

CNN's special coverage of the Nevada caucuses starts right now. WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Right now, voters are arriving at caucus sites

around Nevada. We're standing by for the next big test of the 2020 Democrats, in the most diverse battle ground yet.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in the CNN Election Center.

The action begins in Nevada less than an hour from now, when the caucuses get under way. The fight for the Democratic nomination is down to eight candidates. The race, more volatile and combative after New Hampshire and Iowa.


Bernie Sanders is looking to build on his early success and strengthen his status as the new Democratic frontrunner.

Joe Biden is counting on a strong showing to steady his campaign after disappointing early losses.