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Trump Tells Rally Russia Interference Is "Disinformation"; Acting Director Of American Spy Agencies Asks To See Intel Russia Interfering In 2020 Election In Bid To Help Trump; Bloomberg Offers To Release Three Women From NDA Agreements; Jurors Appear Deadlocked On Two Charges In Weinstein Trial; Roger Stone Asks Judge To Recuse Herself From Obstruction Case; CNN Gets Rare Look Inside Makeshift Wuhan, China Hospital. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired February 22, 2020 - 07:00   ET




SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- hides in the balance, and you have a decision to make.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let us have the largest voter turnout in the history of the Nevada caucus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alarming warning from the intelligence community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The top intelligence Official on Election Security, telling House Intelligence Committee members that Russia is working in favor of President Donald Trump's reelection.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They said today that he wants to be sure that Trump gets elected, here we go. (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President is still throwing his weight around the Justice Department granting clemency for the corrupt and well connected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a Trump of crack. If I have the ability to vote, I would have voted for him.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour now, good Saturday morning to you. Two revelations to candidates to varies different reactions as we learned the U.S. intelligence community believes Russia is putting their support behind President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2020 race.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: You know, President Trump calls to discovery by his own intel community a "disinformation hoax" by Democrats and now a loyalist he's brought in to take over as Acting Director of National Intelligence is making some aggressive moves one day into the job.

BLACKWELL: Now, Senator Sanders is calling on Russia to stay out of American elections. And he's dealing with this new reporting and what it means for his campaign in Nevada, ahead of today's critical caucuses there.

PAUL: We're following all of the angles of this story. CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich is in Las Vegas, want to go first to CNN's Sarah Westwood at the White House. Sarah, so much, so much to talk about here. I know what are you hearing regarding the president and his intel? What -- how is he trying to frame this?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, we can see that President Trump is essentially rejecting this conclusion from the intelligence community that Russia would prefer his reelection in 2020. Sources say that President Trump was angry that he found out about a briefing for lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week, not from his own aides, but from a Republican ally on Capitol Hill, sources say that was Republican Congressman Devin Nunez.

Now in that briefing, a top intelligence official told lawmakers about this conclusion that Russia preferred Trump in the 2020 election. Trump is already labeling that a misinformation hoax in a series of tweets and also at his rally in Las Vegas yesterday. Take a listen.


TRUMP: 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, the dis -- that Putin wants to make sure I get elected. Listen to this, does he want to see who the Democrats going to be? Wouldn't you rather have let's say, Bernie? Wouldn't you rather Bernie, who honeymooned in Moscow? These people are crazy.


WESTWOOD: The President clearly believes that Democrats weaponize intelligence related to Russia after the 2016 election. That perception, driving his fears that the same could happen in 2020, and the fallout from that briefing led the president to remove Acting Intelligence Director Joseph McGuire in favor of a loyalist, the Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell who started on the job this week making some aggressive moves. But Grenell's appointment was met by criticism from Democrats who view him as woefully under qualified for that position. Take a listen for example, to what Speaker Pelosi had to say.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): So, for the President to object to Congress, getting that information, is frankly not unusual, but that is public is unusual, A. And B, for him, therefore, asked the Director of National Intelligence and put somebody in with absolutely no credentials. whatsoever for the job for something that is very much a part of our national security. This is dangerous. This is dangerous to our country, because

intelligence is how we force protection, how we protect our troops, how we try to avoid war, but if we have to engage in a military action, how we do so with the most information and best intelligence possible.


WESTWOOD: Grenell has asked for the underlying intelligence backing up the conclusion about Russia's preference for Trump, according to the New York Times that of course, his appointment and the President's reaction to this intelligence is only fueling speculation about how the President will handle Russian interference in the 2020 election if it comes as the intelligence community has assessed, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Sarah, tell us about this new reporting out this weekend from the Washington Post about the President's involvement in the, the clearance is former National Security Advisor John Bolton's book.


WESTWOOD: Well, John Bolton's book is set to be published just in a few weeks Victor, in March. But the President wants to keep much of its contents secret. He would like to, according to The Washington Post, exercise executive privilege over virtually all of the conversations that he had with his then National Security Advisor, John Bolton.

Those make up a good portion of the book. Now Bolton's lawyers and the White House records office have been engaged in something of a battle as the White House record's office looks over the manuscript for what could be classified information. Bolton's team still wants to get that book out by March, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: Sarah Westwood, for the White House. Thank you. Meanwhile, today is caucus day in Nevada and hours before the contest is set to start, we're learning that officials brief Senator Bernie Sanders that Russia is trying to help his campaign in an effort to interfere with the contest.

PAUL: CNN Business and Politics Correspondent Vanessa Yurkevich is in Las Vegas with more and he's being pretty vocal about this, isn't he, Vanessa?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. Good morning, Victor and Christi, you know, just as voters are starting to head to the ballot box in just a few hours this morning, we're learning that Bernie Sanders says that U.S. officials briefed him saying that Russians are trying to help him win the election.

Senators came out right away and said that he condemns this. But this is coming about a day or so after President Trump revealed that he, in fact, received the same style briefing, but Senator Sanders was asked why he didn't come out and say this sooner. This is how he responded to that question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: 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 their, you know, their tweets and stuff, is they tried to divide us up.


YURKEVICH: And the Sanders campaign also said that they didn't reveal this information because they thought it was sensitive information. They also said that they didn't know exactly how Russia was trying to interfere. But now we're starting to hear from some of the other Democratic candidates: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, expressing their concern.

But we're also hearing from Michael Bloomberg, who is sort of jumping on this. This is what he tweeted just yesterday, he said: "They" referring to Russia, "either nominate the weakest candidate to take on their puppet Trump, or they elect a socialist, as president," he's referring to Senator Sanders there.

But CNN reached out to the other campaigns, and we have not heard of anybody else receiving the similar style of briefing as Sanders received. But you know, Victor, and Christi, this is coming on the day of the caucuses. the Sanders campaign clearly does not want this on the minds of voters and in the doubts of voters as they go to cast their ballot in just a few short hours here, Victor and Christi.

PAUL: All right, Vanessa Yurkevich, we appreciate it so much. Thank you. I want to bring in Christal Hayes, Washington Correspondent for "USA Today" and CNN Contributor Garrett Graff with us now. Thank you both for getting up early with us to be with us.

I want to ask you, Garrett, first of all, since Bernie Sanders confirmed that he learned of this, that he was briefed on this a month ago, there are a lot of questions this morning about why he held on to that information. Is the onus on him and his campaign to release that he had this conversation that Russia was interested in helping him or is that the onus of the government?

GARRETT GRAFF, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a hard call and part of the challenge of this and you saw this come up in as the Obama administration wave, how to respond to the Russian attack in 2016, is that when you have foreign interference like this, you don't want to advance the goals of the foreign adversary.

Remember, they are actually -- you know, it was politically agnostic as to what actually happens in U.S. politics what Vladimir Putin and what Russia's goal in an election attack is, is to spread chaos and to just sort of generally destabilize and fuel discord in the U.S. and in the West.

That's, that's what they're trying to do by supporting Bernie Sanders, by supporting Donald Trump, sort of what -- and you actually remember saw, actually Russia support Bernie Sanders in 2016, particularly as part of their goal to spread division and discord in the Democratic Party. So, anytime you get a briefing like this, anytime you see a foreign adversary weighing in, it's a very difficult decision about whether to make that information public.

BLACKWELL: Christal, you cover Congress and there are some election security bills that are held up in the Senate. Do you expect that any of the reporting over -- not just the last 24 hours but the last 48 hours what we learned about the briefing regarding Russians and President Trump will motivate some progress on those bills?


CHRISTAL HAYES, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Well, it's a big question for Republicans. And so far, I mean, over the last couple of years throughout Trump's presidency, this issue of Russian interference has hung over his presidency, and it's been something that Democrats have harped on Republicans to work on. And so far, it doesn't seem as though Republicans are willing to do anything more. They point to funding that they've increased, but it doesn't seem as though that will happen. I mean, it will be a big question next week when we get back, of course.

PAUL: Garrett, I want to move to some of the questions about Richard Grenell, the new DNI here and, and a lot of people noticing that the President is putting people in these positions, these acting positions, that are loyalists, seen loyalists to him. You wrote a recent article in Wired, regarding acting directors and people in temporary positions and you wrote this: "By the end of the day, almost all of the roles created after 9/11 literally to prevent the next 9/11 will be either vacant or lack permanent appointees." And you go on to say, "President Trump is endangering this country by doing so." What is the most imminent danger, do you think?

GRAFF: The imminent danger is simply that there aren't people in these roles who necessarily have the background or the longevity ahead in order to make real change and to do the job, as they said after 9/11 of connecting the dots of intelligence. I mean, after 911 we went through this big process to figure out what went wrong. And the U.S. government and the U.S. intelligence community did a major reorganization, creating roles like the Director of National Intelligence, creating departments like Homeland Security, in order to help organize and ensure that the U.S. was focused on the threat stream coming down the road.

As of this morning, right now, there is no confirmed Director of National Intelligence. There's no Deputy Director and National Intelligence. There's no head of the National Counterterrorism Center. There's no Homeland Security Secretary. There's no Deputy Homeland Security Secretary. There's no Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. There's no Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And there's no Director of U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services. I mean, that's an incredibly huge hole in the U.S. security apparatus. Over 100,000 federal personnel. PAUL: And I want to ask, I want to jump in real quickly and just ask, how does the President justify that?


PAUL: Go ahead.

GRAFF: Oh, he likes to say that he just likes actings. They are more loyal to him than Senate confirmed appointees.

BLACKWELL: Christal to you, Garrett talked about the inability to do the job that was laid out after 9/11. The question is: What is Grenell's job specifically? The deputy was ousted yesterday, Hallman. Joseph McGuire, the former Acting DNI is out, bringing in Kasha Patel, who was an aide to Nunes? What is his job over the next few weeks or months as we understand it?

HAYES: Well, you can be sure that this issue of Russian interference is going to be a top priority for him and kind of getting to the bottom of this briefing between before the House Intelligence Committee that led to Trump reportedly being pretty angry about hearing about these findings that were given to the House Intelligence Committee, including Adam Schiff, who, you know, as we all know, was the head impeachment prosecutor.

But above that, I mean, like Garrett mentioned, the political, the politicalization of these, these agencies, of the heads of these agencies has been an issue, and you know, in a way this could be him showing whether or not he's worthy of fulfilling this role and past just a, you know, an acting role. Of course, the President has said that, you know, he might not be the full-time director. But this, this will be him kind of taking in and remaining that loyal defender of the President. And we'll, we'll see kind of what actions he takes.

PAUL: So, Garrett, let me ask you this as she's talking about the Russian interference. It puts President Trump in an interesting position because he's saying it's a disinformation hoax. If it's a disinformation hoax for the president, is it then a disinformation hoax for Bernie Sanders as well? Does he fall into that same defenses as the President puts it out there?

GRAFF: Well, it's a little bit -- I think we can't take the President's language at face value here.

PAUL: Right, but the question is how he react to it.

GRAFF: Yes, and I think what we are going to see is probably the same reaction that we've seen to the 2016 election attack, which is the President has denied it straight through, he has cast aspersions. You know, one of the core parts of the impeachment battle over this last year was the President's belief and a conspiracy theory that Ukraine actually played a role in that election attack.

So, you have a president of the United States who refuses to acknowledge one of the most significant attacks on the United States in the last 75 years, and that's an incredibly damaging and challenging and dangerous position for the United States and foreign policy.


BLACKWELL: Christal, let me wrap up with you. Again, this is a short- term job for Grenell. Now the question is, who's the permanent nominee? The president tweeted, that four people being considered, announcement coming in a few weeks?

Two-part question, if you could tackle that, who would want the job when they now know that the president prioritizes or wants this person to prioritize his political sensitivities? And does this make the job in the Senate any harder in confirming someone now that we've seen what happened to Joseph McGuire, and we see the pick of Richard Grenell?

HAYES: Well, for the Senate question, absolutely. I mean, there's going to be these questions about staying loyal to the president keeping politics out of this job, but mean, we've had the same question of who would want these jobs since, I mean, the start of Trump's presidency.

There's been these lingering questions about the politicization of, you know, numerous federal agencies, the Department of Justice. I mean, we just saw this within the last few weeks with the sentencing of Roger Stone, one of his, one of the President's top allies. And, you know, the President, you know, having comments about his sentencing to the State Department, and we saw this throughout impeachment.

And now, in the aftermath, the president working to kind of reframe, who was working for him and wanting to keep loyalists there. But it's been a lingering question, something that, you know, we see a lot of career officials continue to take top posts in his administration, which is something I wouldn't be surprised if happens in the future.

BLACKWELL: All right. Christal Hayes, Garrett Graff, thank you both.

PAUL: Thank you.

HAYES: Thank you.

PAUL: Still to come, there are so many questions about whether these caucuses are going to go off smoothly today in Nevada. The major areas of concern and how officials are planning to remedy things.

BLACKWELL: And Mike Bloomberg says he will release three women covered by non-disclosure agreements detailing complaints against him. Ahead, how the other campaigns are reacting to this decision.



BLACKWELL: It's caucus day in Nevada and in just a few hours, Democrats will meet and vote across the state. This is the third contest in the presidential primary season. But this is the first test in a more racially diverse state.

PAUL: And there are countless questions about the caucuses going off without any problems.

BLACKWELL: Yes, one of them, the major concern about integrating early votes in the process. Also, this caucus calculator, how will it count the votes? And potential problems surrounding a last-minute confidentiality agreement for some site volunteers, at least one has already quit because of it. CNN's Dianne Gallagher has details for us.


DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looks like Nevada's first ever early voting in a caucus is paying off with huge numbers, but will it make getting results more complicated? The Nevada Democratic Party says nearly 75,000 participated in the first ever early caucusing, nearly the total number of voters in the 2016 caucus when roughly 84,000 people participated on caucus day.

In 2008, 118,000 Nevadans caucused in the Democratic race. And while the party celebrated the high turnout, it adds the uncertainty of whether Nevada is ready for Saturday, or if it will be a repeat of the Iowa fiasco or final results are still pending.

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: Our goal is to have a successful caucus. And we provide multiple sets of eyes and ears and wisdom and observations and lessons learned from Iowa so that we can be successful here in Nevada.

GALLAGHER: Volunteer, Seth Morrison, raised a red flag early in the training process, now he's more optimistic saying things are getting better but worried about lingering issues.

SETH MORRISON, FORMER CAUCUS VOLUNTEER: One is, we still don't know any details of the back office of how the early votes were tabulated, how this tool works. Second of all, there's a massive shortage of volunteers.

GALLAGHER: The Democrats are scrambling to train caucus volunteers having added 55 additional training sessions. Volunteers can now also try out the much talked about caucus calculator, which Morrison says is user-friendly.

MORRISON: The tool is very well designed. It's very intuitive.

GALLAGHER: But he does see potential problems for people who aren't familiar with iPads.

MORRISON: Somebody who has not used that kind of technology would find it challenging.

GALLAGHER: These slides replicate what CNN saw during a party-hosted demo with a calculator. They did not allow our cameras to film the demo. The calculator will have pre-loaded early vote information which will be combined with the choices of the people there on Saturday to determine the winners and losers through two rounds of eliminations. The backup, if the calculator doesn't work in those early vote totals aren't available is tedious, a likely lengthy process of manually searching a paper list of early voters ranked choices. Still, the chair of the Democratic National Committee says he believes everything will be smooth sailing come Saturday,

PEREZ: I am very confident that we have thought of every contingency.

GALLAGHER: Seth Morrison, not long after we finished our interview, went to go collect his supplies for his caucus site and was told he had to sign a nondisclosure agreement. A Nevada State party Democratic official tells me that it's standard practice to have their staffers and volunteers sign NDAs because they're privy to strategic information.

But Morrison said he didn't feel comfortable doing it because it was broad in its language prohibiting him from speaking to the media at all and also from disparaging the party. He refused to sign it. They offered him a lower level position he says that would not require an NDA to be signed. But Morrison said, "no thanks." And he quit. So, Seth Morrison will not be a site lead come caucus time on Saturday. Dianne Gallagher, CNN Las Vegas.



PAUL: Diane, thank you so much. And by the way, Seth Gallagher is going to be with us next hour to talk. Seth Gallagher -- Seth Morrison, excuse me, Seth Morrison is going to be with us next hour to talk more about why he quit, what he saw, what he's concerned about. So, hopefully, get some more answers from him.

BLACKWELL: Yes, so stay with us for that. Michael Bloomberg, he is offering to release three women from confidentiality agreements. The Democratic presidential candidate now says the women who accused him of saying inappropriate things in the workplace can be released from those agreements. His rival, Senator Elizabeth Warren says he needs to do more.


WARREN: That's just not good enough. Michael Bloomberg needs to do a blanket release so that all women who have been muzzled by non- disclosure agreements can step up and tell their side of the story.


PAUL: Now remember, Senator Warren's been pressuring Bloomberg on this issue. Thursday, she bought a physical copy of a contract that she wrote herself to a CNN Town Hall urging Bloomberg to sign it. He did decline, by the way.

So, still ahead, jurors in the trial of Harvey Weinstein are deliberating on Monday again. Could a note sent to the court yesterday signal which way they're leaning? We'll talk about it.



BLACKWELL: It appears the jury in the Harvey Weinstein trial may be deadlocked on two of the charges he's facing.

PAUL: The attorneys was sent home last night. They'd been deliberating for four days and Weinstein's facing 10 charges remember, but there was a note from jurors to the judge suggesting they would be deadlocked on two of the most serious charges, predatory sexual assault.

CNN's Jean Casarez walks us through where we stand now.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The jury has been dismissed. They will be back on Monday at 9:30 in the morning, but they did send a note out before the end of Friday's deliberations that shows that they are working very hard at the very least.

Now, there are six accusers in this case, but three of the accusers, females that all say they have been assaulted and or raped by Harvey Weinstein are the ones that have counts that are going actually to the jury.

And the verdict form, and the five counts involved: or predatory sexual assault, criminal sexual act in the first degree, rape in the first degree, and rape in the third degree. And the note that the jury sent on Friday afternoon, says, if we find count one and three hung, meaning, they cannot reach a unanimous verdict, and that is the most serious countable, predatory sexual assault, can we find two, four, and five? Can we be unanimous?

They didn't say which way, however, because to find someone not guilty, you have to be unanimous. And to find someone guilty, you have to be unanimous. And those are the counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree and the two rape counts.

So, this jury is working, they are trying, but that note appears as though they may have an issue with predatory sexual assault, the most serious charge in this sexual assault case. It potentially has a life term. Jean Casarez, CNN, New York.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in out, Paul Callan, a former New York homicide prosecutor and CNN legal analyst.

Paul, good morning to you.


BLACKWELL: So, let's start here with the Weinstein case, and then, I want to move on to a couple of other things. So, the jurors say that they are potentially hung on counts one and three, the predatory sexual assault. But, we know that Weinstein's defense attorneys are willing to accept the partial verdict.

Does that -- it does that mean they expect acquittal? And can you from what you're learning about the charges they are unanimous on and those they're hung on see which way they're leaning?

CALLAN: These are tough tea leaves to read. I mean, I think what we know is the two most serious charges counts, one and three, predatory sexual assault. Those are cases that -- it's the equivalent of murder charges in New York, it's an A felony, you can go to prison for life on those charges. So, they're the most serious charges that appears the jury's hung on those.

Now, there was a witness who was very important in those two charges, who was the former Sopranos, actress Annabella Sciorra. It could be the jury didn't believe Sciorra, and that would throw both of those counts out because you have to have two people who have been sexually assaulted.

And they've moved on to the individual accounts involving Mann and -- Jessica and rather Haleyi. So, one view of this is possibly, they can't reach a verdict on the most serious counts, but maybe they found him guilty on the lower counts.

Now, there's an alternative view that I think the defense attorneys have. And they're saying, well, we probably think that he's been acquitted on the lower counts because I don't see the defense attorneys agreeing to take a partial verdict unless they thought it was an acquittal.


CALLAN: Because these are not a walk in the park, these lower charges. These are charges that can hold up to 20 or 25-year prison sentence. So, at his age, he could be in prison for 10 to 20 years just on the lower charges.


CALLAN: So, it's going to be very interesting on Monday when we sort this out and the jury returned.

BLACKWELL: And we'll see if they can get to some agreement on counts one and three next week. Let's move on now to Roger Stone and his late request yesterday. That the judge in his case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson recused herself from his request for a new trial. He's asking for a new trial again because he alleges jury misconduct.


BLACKWELL: But he says the judge complimented the juror's integrity in her remarks to sentencing on Thursday, and that makes her incapable of reserving judgment. What's the merit of that argument?

CALLAN: I think it has no merit. And the reason I say that having tried a lot of cases myself is that judges, at the end after they've taken a verdict in the case, they always compliment the jury. And they frequently would say that the jury has shown diligence and hard work and integrity.

That doesn't mean there's been an individual endorsement of the integrity of all of the individual jurors. And it's also possible and it happens sometimes that you find out something you didn't know during the trial that would undermine your faith in their integrity.

So, I've never seen a trial judge who recused yourself or took yourself off a case like this on such emotion.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you this about the far-reaching implications of what we saw from the attorney general last week, his intervention in the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone.

In California, The Sacramento Bee reports that prosecutors in the case of a man who was involved in fraud scheme. He was -- they recommended 13 months, but the man's attorney told the judge that the A.G., what we saw this week from Barr in the Stone case was a watershed moment.

And this is a quote from the Bee here. "We're always told how important those guidelines are, that they are set in stone. As it turns out, in a case 3,000 miles away from here in the U.S. v Stone, the U.S. attorney's office there has said that the guidelines are perhaps technically applicable."

Was this a watershed moment? Now, there's no -- there's no indication that the judge took that into consideration when instead of 13 months, he gave this man home detention. But, what's your view of this being invoked on the other side of the country?

CALLAN: Well, you know, I think that attorney figured out a way to generate a headline for himself by invoking the Roger Stone case. It doesn't -- it doesn't strike me as being relevant to his client's case at all, which was an entirely different fact pattern.

And the federal sentencing guidelines are advisory to federal judges, and they will depart from them quite frequently. Now, in the Stone case, remember, the initial recommendation by the Justice Department was for nine years in prison. That subsequently was amended by the attorney general who said it should be something less than nine years.

And the judge seemed to agree with that. She handed down a sentence of about three years. And I will tell you, most federal lawyers that I've spoken to, think that the original nine-year recommendation was probably on the high side.

And that, I think, if you put together a totally objective panel of federal prosecutors, they might have said a lesser sentence would be warranted in the Stone case. And obviously, Judge Berman, who's very respected, agreed with that and handed down the lighter sentence.

BLACKWELL: All right, Paul Callan, thank you.

CALLAN: Thank you.

PAUL: There is a fragile truth going on right now in Afghanistan, as the United States and the Taliban try to find a road to a potential peace deal. What this could mean for America's longest war?


BLACKWELL: 42 minutes after the hour now. Just hours after an agreement between the Taliban and the U.S. to reduce violence for one week started, Taliban fighters attacked a checkpoint in Afghanistan.

PAUL: And then, no one was hurt, but the move certainly could complicate an already fragile compromise. CNN Pentagon Correspondent, Barbara Starr has more for us.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's the first but fragile step towards ending America's longest war, the war in Afghanistan. If the deal to reduce violence between the Taliban and the United States works, the parties will sign a more permanent peace agreement for Afghanistan next Saturday. It also gives President Trump a talking point for the campaign trail. Earlier this week, he made the case that the deal is better than any alternative.

TRUMP: We could win that very quickly and easily. If I was willing to kill millions of people, I'm not willing to do that. I'm not willing to do that.

STARR: Significantly, this is not being called a ceasefire. It is almost certainly not the end of violence.

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: I don't think at this point we should trust the Taliban. They continue to fight the Afghan government, fight the United States.

STARR: And the Taliban leaders negotiating with the U.S. may not even be able to control the thousands of their fighters still in the field. If there are suicide or IED attacks, General Scott Miller, the head of U.S. and NATO forces has to quickly determine if the Taliban are responsible.

There are still major hurdles to any permanent deal. One of the biggest being the Taliban, which one shielded Osama bin Laden wants all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, something the Pentagon is not ready to do.

MARK ESPER, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Nobody's right now calling for the complete removal of U.S. and coalition forces. U.S. forces will remain there, as long as they're necessary to support our Afghan partners.

STARR: The Pentagon expects to initially reduce troop levels from approximately 12,000 to 8,600, enough firepower it says to suppress terrorist groups and fight remnants of al-Qaeda and ISIS.



STARR: The people of Afghanistan certainly have paid the price of decades of war, but so have American forces. More than 2,000 American troops killed in action in this war, more than 20,000 wounded.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

PAUL: And thank you to Barbara there.

Now, the number of coronavirus cases is growing worldwide. Globally, there have been more than 77,000 confirmed cases and, at least, 2,300 deaths. The bulk of those deaths coming from mainland China.

BLACKWELL: In Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, Chinese officials are trying to contain the virus in part with these makeshift hospitals, you know, they go up in just a few days.

Let CNN's David Culver, he got a rare look inside one of those field hospitals and this is what he found.


DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You are walking through one of several Wuhan field hospitals. This one, a converted exhibition hall. It is aimed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Notice bed, after bed, after bed, people crammed in just feet apart from one another. Portable toilets a bit messy inside and trash cans overflowing. You can see the piles of used facemasks.

The woman who toured CNN via video chat through this field hospital tells us the conditions here worry her. Fear and repercussions. She asked we call her Lisa Wang, not her real name.

LISA WANG, RESIDENT, WUHAN (through translator): There's a great danger of cross-infection and there are people who are healthy and got taken care by mistake.

CULVER: Chinese state media aired images of the same field hospital before it opened. Much cleaner inside. One says, she and others here are recovered and healthy, and we're still forced into the facility.

WANG: I'm very angry because I feel I shouldn't have come here. I'm very anxious. I want to be back home soon.

CULVER: Wang contracted the virus in late January, but fully recovered within a couple of weeks. Both her C.T. scan and swab test results show that she twice tested negative. But officials still bust Wang and several others to the field hospital for further treatment, despite her negative test results.

WANG: They told me, if I refused, they would force me to go.

CULVER: Bo Hanlin, faced a similar rounding up in Wuhan. His wife was a confirmed case, so he was listed as a close contact person. But his first two tests came back negative. The neighborhood committee tried to hospitalize him nonetheless.

BO HANLIN, RESIDENT, WUHAN (through translator): I felt quite angry about this because there are so many people who have not been hospitalized at the moment. Why would they quarantines the healthy people?

CULVER: CNN reached out to the Wuhan Health Commission to better understand how the field hospitals are being used, and to ask why people whose medical records show their recovered were taken here. We've not yet heard back.

People in all kinds of circumstances are getting rounded up in multiple parts of Hubei province, the epicenter of this outbreak. In Tianmen City, the local government said they picked up people who were disobeying police orders to remain off the streets, and have confined them to a gymnasium, all part of the strict lockdown policies.

After Wang complained to local health officials Wednesday, she acknowledges they responded swiftly. The next morning, she says she and six others who had likewise already recovered, were transferred back to the hotel quarantine. She's still bothered by how officials initially handled the matter.

WANG: They couldn't provide me with a hospital when I was sick. Now, when I'm recovered, they forced me into one.


CULVER: CNN did reach out to the World Health Organization. They have repeatedly praised China's rapid containment efforts that we've not heard back in response to this story in particular.

Meantime, many residents are questioning the effectiveness of rounding up the healthy. David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.



PAUL: All right, 52 minutes past the hour. And some questions today, was Michael Bloomberg really sincere when he declared his love for President Trump?

BLACKWELL: CNN's Jeanne Moos investigates.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It with more like a Valentine's Day card than a headline. Did Mike Bloomberg really say to Donald Trump, yes, Donald, I do love you?

It was enough to make some swear off Bloomberg, "Two peas in a pod. Next." Actually, two peas of such different sizes probably wouldn't fit in the same pod.

It was Bloomberg himself who described the love quote, he said it happened about a month after President Trump was elected that Trump noted he saw Bloomberg talk about him at the Democratic Convention.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm a New Yorker. And I know a con when I see one. MOOS: After mentioning the speech, Trump said --

BLOOMBERG: But you really do love me, don't you? And I said, yes, Donald, I do love you.

MOOS: Hold the presses, proclamation of love looks bad for Bloomberg. Until you hear the line after the headline.

BLOOMBERG: And I said, yes, Donald, I do love you. I just disagree with everything you've ever said. And we -- and we had a good laugh.

MOOS: Sort of like the photo Bernie Sanders tweeted that made Trump and Bloomberg look chummy. Bloomberg went on to say --

BLOOMBERG: Could you sat and had dinner with Donald Trump? You probably walk away saying, everything he said is bull -- he can't be doing that, but you have a good time.

MOOS: Public declarations of love can be perilous. Remember Kim Jong- un?

TRUMP: And then we fell in love. OK?

MOOS: Better to express love for the masses.

TRUMP: Because I love the evangelical. I love the poorly educated.

MOOS: And safest of all, to proclaim love for inanimate objects.

TRUMP: I always love trucks. I still do. Even when I was a little boy, at 4 years old.


MOOS: Nobody is going to make a headline out of that. That comes back to knock you out.


MOSS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


PAUL: What you don't hear is Victor singing a song.


PAUL: All righty. Well, we'll see what Nevada singing tomorrow morning, won't.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we'll see if --

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: You know. PAUL: Pivotal day.

BLACKWELL: Salvatore if it's a dirt. This is a bombshell day for a couple of campaigns. Going to be information from the Intel community that could have major implications on the 2020 election. Stay with CNN. We'll talk about it.