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CNN NEWSROOM

Democrats Look To South Carolina After Sen. Bernie Sanders (I- VT) Wins In Nevada; Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) To Announce Endorsement Days Before South Carolina Primary; Roger Stone Seeking To Disqualify Judge In His Case; Trump Attacks Roger Stone Jury Member, Calls Her Tainted; Judge Rejects Roger Stone's Attempt To Remove Her From Case; Mike Bloomberg Didn't Make Cut To Be Obama's VP. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 23, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:08]

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But at the end of the day, this celebration of life is serving as the focal point, and in some ways, a sense of closure for what has been such a painful time for so many and, of course, happening on significant day, 2/24/20, 2, Gigi's number, 24, Kobe's number, and 20, the amount of time Vanessa Bryant and Kobe have been together. Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN HOST: And the amount of time that he was a Laker. Omar Jimenez in L.A., thank you so much.

Another hour of CNN NEWSROOM is next, and it begins right now.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alex Marquardt in for Ana Cabrera today. Thanks so much for joining me. We've got a lot of news to get to.

We start with a big wave of momentum for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. He is rallying his supporters right now in Austin, Texas, that momentum coming from what is projected to be a wide margin victory for Sanders in Saturday's Nevada Democratic caucuses.

The final results are not yet in. In fact, they haven't been updated for the last several hours. Democratic Party officials in Nevada saying that they are processing far more data than in years past and they're moving slowly to make sure that the results are accurate. Of course they saw what happened in Iowa.

Now, the next big contest is the Democratic primary in South Carolina, the first primary in the south. That is next weekend, on Saturday. And at least one of the top candidates needs a solid performance in South Carolina to keep his hopes of the White House alive.

So let's get into all of this with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, who is in Charleston, South Carolina, as well as CNN's Athena Jones, who is with Bernie Sanders in Austin.

Jeff, let's start with you. That candidate, of course, placing most of his chips on South Carolina is Joe Biden. When he's been looking at South Carolina, he's called it a firewall. You spoke to him just a short time ago. How confident is his campaign that that state can turn it around for him?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Alex, the short answer is they simply don't know. They're putting all of their hopes in South Carolina. The next six days are absolutely essential to Joe Biden continuing in this race.

But we should point out that voters are just tuning in here. They like Joe Biden. They have been paying attention to the race but they aren't necessarily going to follow what happened in Iowa or New Hampshire or even in Nevada.

But there is a question here. I mean, Bernie Sanders also has been campaigning aggressively here, and he doesn't have to win. He can perform just fine without winning and move forward. He's focusing on Super Tuesday.

But for Joe Biden himself, he is going to be focusing on the electorate here. Some 60 percent of the Democratic electorate are African-American voters. And many of them have a long relationship with him. The voters we spoke to today who saw him certainly like him a lot and believe that he is the strongest candidate to take on the president.

This is what the former vice president said when we caught up with him. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: As entrance polls in Nevada showed, Senator Sanders is gaining strength, certainly among Latinos, but also among African-Americans. Is that a warning sign to you here in South Carolina?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I mean, look, I don't take anything for granted. I have great relationships with this community, the African-American community nationally, as I won in Nevada, but it has to be earned. I'm not expecting anything. I'm coming down here saying, look, I'm back, here is why I want to be your nominee, I need your help and I want to earn your support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: But that is a central question. I mean, Senator Sanders particularly in Nevada, he certainly did very well with Latino voters, also making considerable gains among African-American voters. So if that translates here to South Carolina, that could be a challenge for Joe Biden.

Also Tom Steyer, he's been spending millions and millions to try and get his message across here, particularly to African-American voters. He's gaining top endorsements here.

So Joe Biden is not here campaigning alone, but it is essential for the future of his candidacy to have a strong showing here over the next six days. The debate on Tuesday as well as our town halls on Monday and Wednesday, Alex, certainly is so imperative to this race going forward. MARQUARDT: And Tom Steyer back on that debate stage after being left off in Las Vegas. All right, Jeff Zeleny at Charleston, thanks so much.

Now, for more, I want to bring in Dan Pfeiffer, he is a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and the author of Un-Trumping America, a Plan to Make America a Democracy Again. Dan, thanks so much for joining me, lots to discuss.

First, I want to get your impressions about what Jeff was just saying there in terms of South Carolina being a make or break state for Joe Biden. What does it look like for him in your eyes?

DAN PFEIFFER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I agree with Jeff, he absolutely has to win. And to be able to be pushed forward and have success on Super Tuesday, where he's trailing Bernie Sanders in a lot of states, he needs to win big. But he has said this is do or die, and I agree, it's do or die.

MARQUARDT: The title of your book, Un-Trumping America, I want to ask you, when you Bernie Sanders, he is the most popular Democratic candidate, and he is also polarizing.

[18:05:04]

Do you think that he is the answer to un-Trumping America given that he would likely turn away anti-Trump Republicans, moderates, independents who might otherwise come out for another Democrat to beat Trump?

PFEIFFER: Well, I'm not prepared to -- I'm not prepared to know that Bernie Sanders would definitely push those voters out. He is actually, in some polling, the most popular Democrat among the Obama/Trump voters who helped push the election to Donald Trump in 2016.

So I think Bernie Sanders absolutely can win. He absolutely has challenges and weaknesses and he's going to have to navigate those weaknesses if he wants to win. But Democrats who say Bernie Sanders can't win, I think, are neither learning the lessons of 2016 nor looking at the data that we have in this election right here.

MARQUARDT: There is a deafening silence when it comes to endorsements from the most popular Democrat in the country, of course, talking about your former boss, Barack Obama. Let's take a listen to Joe Biden earlier today. He was talking about the difference he has with Bernie Sanders when it comes to former President Obama. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: So, I mean, the idea that all of a sudden everybody is real good buddies and real supportive of our agenda when we were president and vice president is kind of being exposed. And so I think there's a lot of differences between Bernie and I going into the heart of this campaign, and I feel good about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUARDT: Now, over the years, of course, we've made a lot of that special relationship, that close, close friendship between the former president and Vice President Joe Biden. You were there. You saw that relationship. Why do you think he hasn't come out at this stage to endorse Joe Biden?

PFEIFFER: Well, I think it's without a doubt, beyond any question, that Joe Biden and Barack Obama are incredibly close friends, but Barack Obama refers to himself as -- Joe Biden as his brother. There was never a moment in the White House that we questioned his loyalty. Barack Obama has made it clear, as is the tradition of former presidents, not going to endorse in this. He did not endorse in 2016 either.

And I think one other -- but it's not just tradition. It is -- at the end of this primary process, we're undoubtedly going to be divided in some (INAUDIBLE). Barack Obama is the person with the most credibility and the best ability to unify the party at the end. And were he to endorse any candidate or put his thumb on the scale in any way, he would reduce his ability to do that because the only way we're going to beat Trump is a united party. Barack Obama can help ensure our party is united.

MARQUARDT: Yes. I mean, Bernie is saying that President Obama would be a supporter of his if he is the eventual nominee. And then, of course, you've seen all of these ads from Michael Bloomberg really playing up their relationship that they had, lots of praise from President Obama for the former mayor of New York.

When you saw those two relationships up close, what do you make of them? Is there a strong relationship, is there any relationship between former President Obama and Sanders and Bloomberg?

PFEIFFER: Yes. I mean, Barack Obama campaigned for Bernie Sanders when Bernie Sanders was running for the Senate in 2006. They've known each other for a long time, they served with each other. And I, without a doubt, believe that Barack Obama will campaign incredibly hard for Bernie Sanders if Bernie Sanders becomes the nominee.

As for Mike Bloomberg, that ad that he's running that you captured on T.V. without seeing, uses Barack Obama words, those are things Barack Obama said about Mike Bloomberg. And they worked closely together on a number of issues, like gun control and climate change and issues that mattered in New York. I wouldn't say that they were always the closest per se.

I mean, Michael Bloomberg did not endorse Barack Obama in 2008. He did endorse him in 2012. That endorsement was tepid, I would say, and was a critic about the Affordable Care Act and other things. But they did work together, that is absolutely true, and have collaborated on some very important issues.

MARQUARDT: And then we did hear Joe Biden very forcefully at the Las Vegas debate list the positions on which President Obama was actually opposed on the opposite side of Mayor Bloomberg. I want to ask you about Bloomberg. There are a lot of Democrats, especially at this moment and in this race, who don't want to see a billionaire who was a Republican a couple of years ago come along and essentially buy this election. That's one strong argument in the party. Do you think that Bloomberg's entrance in this race, the amount of money that he's spent has really boosted Sanders' chances?

PFEIFFER: Absolutely. I think that we might end this election with a grand irony that two billionaires, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, paved the way for Bernie Sanders to be the nominee, both from Tom Steyer's spending in South Carolina that Jeff mentioned in the previous piece, and Michael Bloomberg being able to not run on any race but be on the ballot in every Super Tuesday state, further splintering the non-Bernie opportunity for an alternative.

And so I definitely think it wasn't Bloomberg's intention. I think he had a strategy, but that strategy is having some very unintended consequences right now.

MARQUARDT: The debates, of course, can be pivotal moments in these races.

[18:10:01]

And we saw most of the -- all the other Democratic candidates pile on to Bloomberg on his first appearance in Las Vegas. Given that this is a pivotal moment right before Super Tuesday, do you expect those other Democrats now turn their fire towards the frontrunner, Bernie Sanders?

PFEIFFER: That would be my expectation. Because if they do not slow Sanders' momentum by Super Tuesday, then I would not be at all surprised if Sanders built an insurmountable pledge delegate lead coming out of Super Tuesday. So this debate on Tuesday in South Carolina may be the last their two opportunities for someone other than Bernie to grab hold of this race.

MARQUARDT: All right. Dan Pfeiffer, we're going to leave it there. Congrats on the new book. Good luck with it.

PFEIFFER: thank you.

MARQUARDT: Thanks for joining me.

All right, so is South Carolina or bust? Joe Biden is banking big, as we've been saying, on the southeastern state. So, just ahead, we've got a look at the odds on whether or not it will pay off.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:15:00]

MARQUARDT: Democratic candidates out in force today on the campaign trail right there. You can see Marianne Williamson on the left. She is at a Bernie Sanders rally. There in the middle, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, she is in Denver, Colorado, and then Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota, in Arkansas.

Now, just one day after the South Carolina Democratic debate and just a few days before voters there head to the polls, that's on Saturday, one of the state's most influential political figures, Congressman Jim Clyburn, he's going to be announcing which candidate he is endorsing for president. That could be a very important moment.

Here is the Congressman Clyburn's latest thinking.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I'm going to honor this debate. I don't want to distract from it at all. I want to maintain first in the south primary status. But on Wednesday morning, I will let my choice be known. I've been asked about it by too many people and I think I would be dishonorable if I did not tell people exactly what I feel about the candidacy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: So that announcement coming Wednesday morning.

Joining me right now is South Carolina State Representative and Biden Surrogate, David Mack. Sir, thank you so much for joining me this evening.

I want to ask you first. That endorsement from Congressman Clyburn, how important is it?

STATE REP. DAVID MACK III (D-SC): It's going to be important. I think that one of the key things is that Vice President Biden has been here. I've known him almost 20 years. Of course, Congressman Clyburn has known him a long time. So I think that's going to be very, very important.

MARQUARDT: And Clyburn has said that he's actually known for quite some time who he is going to endorse, he just hasn't revealed it yet, and that's going to come just a few hours after that debate on Tuesday night in South Carolina.

Now, there is a new poll that shows that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are essentially sharing the lead in South Carolina. Biden now has been downplaying this idea that South Carolina is his so-called firewall. And he, of course, has yet to win any primary state. So, sir, how important do you think this is, this state? Is this make or break for Joe Biden?

MACK: I wouldn't say make or break, but it's very, very important. Of course, we've heard the term, diversity over and over again as relates to the prior primaries. This one in South Carolina is going to be key.

And I think we have to remember, since 1992, no one has won the nomination without winning a majority of African-American votes. And Vice President Biden has the values, integrity and the experience to go in from day one. We don't need someone that has a learning curve, that will need a learning curve, and get our country straight, not only that but from an international standpoint.

There's an old saying that it's not what you know but who you know. It's not who you know but who knows you. Well, Vice President Biden knows leaders around the world. They know him. And we have to get this country back on track internally and internationally.

MARQUARDT: But, David, given the importance of the African-American vote for Joe Biden and given his status in the race right now, are you disappointed that his former boss, the first African-American president, Barack Obama, has yet to come out and endorse anyone, let alone him?

MACK: Well, that's protocol with regards to who is president of the United States. So I don't feel any way negatively about that. I think the key thing with whomever is president, their job is going to be to unify the party after everything is over.

But their record, their relationship is well known to people. He's been a friend to not only the African-American community. We don't want to make this sound like only a black thing. It's blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, it's working people, it's the poor. It's folks that want to respect our government again. And I think we're in a very bad place now domestically and internationally. Joe Biden can fix it.

MARQUARDT: We haven't seen a Democrat win South Carolina in a general election in more than 40 years. So if Biden is able to pull out a win on Saturday, do you think it helps his argument that he is the better general election candidate?

MACK: Well, I think we have to remember 2016. I think a lot of folks were not aware of the Electoral College. What's going to be key, and this is why we talk about Vice President Biden being the best, not only the best person but the most electable person, you have to win Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida. Those are key states.

Vice President Biden does well in those states. And, again, we are now becoming -- we're now hitting the road where we're looking at diversity, we're looking at what America really looks like. And I think his track record, his relationships and what he's proven over the years will make a difference.

[18:20:01]

MARQUARDT: There are six days, of course, before this very important primary. So when you, as a campaign surrogate for Joe Biden, talk to voters out on the trail who are still on the fence, what are they saying that they need to see from Biden between now and the election on Saturday?

MACK: I don't really know if that many are on the fence really in terms of speaking to folks. They're leaning toward -- I'm not hearing other candidates as much as I thought I would in terms of people in communities. A lot of people in South Carolina really like Joe Biden.

I think that Tom Steyer has spent a ton of money. He's spent $2,000 per vote in Nevada. And what's interesting is Vice President Biden beat -- led with the black vote in Nevada by double digits. So I think that's very, very key for us to keep in mind.

MARQUARDT: All right. David Mack, all eyes on your state this week. Good luck out there. Thanks so much for joining me.

MACK: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right. We're going to head west to Texas where we find CNN's Athena Jones. She has been at the Bernie Sanders rally in Austin. I believe he's just about to start speaking. Athena, what's happening there?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alex, that's right. This rally is just getting under way. And just a few minutes ago, an interesting thing happened. Marianne Williamson, a former candidate who dropped out some time ago, she took to the stage here and endorsed Bernie Sanders. She grew up in Houston, hoping to lend whatever help she can to Sanders here in the State of Texas.

But, of course, Sanders is here in Texas because it is one of the biggest prizes on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, just a couple of contests away. And Sanders has gathered a huge crowd here. He's hoping that he can do the same thing in Texas that he did in Nevada.

One of the big questions that he's been facing these candidates as they move away from the 90 percent white states of Iowa and New Hampshire was how they would do with expanding their coalition with more diverse voters.

Well, Sanders showed what he could do in Nevada. He won so many segments of the population. He won Latino voters. He did better with black voters than he did back in 2016 even though he still lost them to Joe Biden. He won almost every age group except for 65 and over. He won women, he won men, he won every educational group.

And Sanders has constantly been talking about how he's going to build a multicultural, multigenerational coalition of people who have felt left out of the political process. And so that is what he's trying to do here, focusing on organizing, focusing organizing on the college campuses of historically black universities, he's done town halls on criminal justice reform, he's held bilingual town halls with some of his Spanish surrogates. So he's trying very hard to make the same sort of cross cultural appeal here in Texas as he did in Nevada and hoping that it works out for him. Alex?

MARQUARDT: All right. Yes, Bernie Sanders looking right ahead to Super Tuesday, which comes after South Carolina. Athena Jones with the Vermont senator in Austin, Texas, thanks very much.

Now, the president says that the sentence of almost four years in prison is unfair to his longtime friend and consigliore, Roger Stone. Now he's calling the lead juror into question. We'll have more on that soon.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:25:00]

MARQUARDT: Roger Stone, in a last ditch effort to avoid prison time, is moving to disqualify the judge who ruled in his case. Now, the president's longtime ally was sentenced this week to 40 months, so that's three years and four months behind bars for impeding the investigation into Russia's 2016 election interference and committing witness intimidation. Now, whether or not President Trump will pardon Stone, that's still unknown, but he's made it clear on where he stands on how the case was handled.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: It is my strong opinion that the forewoman of the jury, the woman who was in charge of the jury is totally tainted. When you take a look, how can you have a person like this? She was an anti-Trump activist.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: CNN White House Correspondent Sarah Westwood joins me now.

Sarah, the president is not really talking about the possibility of a pardon for Stone just yet, but really focusing on that forewoman of the jury in Stone's trial. Why?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Alex. He went after her again this morning speaking to reporters at the White House. Certainly not the first time he'd gone after the foreperson of Roger Stone's jury but it was one of his most aggressive broadsides against this person, a private citizen who served as the foreperson of this jury. He and his allies have attacked this woman for some social media posts in her past they say show evidence of bias against Roger Stone. But when she was selected, court filings show that the Stone defense team did not object to her being placed on that jury.

And meanwhile, Roger Stone's defense team is seeking a new trial, they're also asking for the trial judge who oversaw the trial, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, to recuse herself, simply because at the sentencing hearing this week, she praised the integrity of the people who served on that jury. And that's because at the heart what is expected to be this push for a retrial from the Stone defense team are going to be these allegations of bias against the juror. They claim that she misled the court about her ability to be impartial when considering Roger Stone's case.

[18:30:04]

Now Stone was convicted all the way back in November of lying to Congress, of witness intimidation, the sentencing hearings sort of thrust this case back into the spotlight this week but he received that more than three-year sentence after there was a dust-up involving President Trump's intervention over the Justice Department's recommendation for sentencing. So Trump is weighing in today on this active case even after his Attorney General Bill Barr implored him not to speak out about open cases, Alex. MARQUARDT: And one of the reasons, Sarah, that we're talking about

pardons so much isn't just that Roger Stone is a close friend of his, but we've just seen this whole rash of pardons coming from President Trump. So if the president were to pardon Stone, how would that work in terms of the mechanics and the time frame?

WESTWOOD: Well, President Trump has said, including at that event in Las Vegas that we just saw, that he wants to wait until after the process plays out for Roger Stone before he considers any acts of clemency. So perhaps that could be after this push for a retrial, for the judge to recuse herself. All of that works its way through the court. But you're right, as you've mentioned, President Trump has demonstrated his willingness to use this power that the president has to grant acts of clemency even in cases when it's very controversial.

We saw that just this past week. And President Trump is expressively not ruling out the possibility that he could do that in the future. He's also seemingly laying the groundwork by going after the judge, by going after the jury, if that is an option he wants to exercise in the future, Alex.

MARQUARDT: All right. Sarah Westwood in our Washington bureau, thanks so much.

Now we are certainly not done with the Roger Stone case. Up next on "Cross-Exam," CNN Legal Analyst, Elie Honig is with us to answer your questions about this case.

But first, excuse me, here is Christine Romans with this week's "Before the Bell." Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alex. Companies are sounding the alarm about the coronavirus. Last week Apple warned the outbreak would hurt sales this quarter. Now investors are bracing for more announcements from companies with China exposure. But at the same time, stocks are still near record highs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID KELLY, CHIEF GLOBAL STRATEGIST, JPMORGAN ASSET MANAGEMENT: Very low interest rates all around the world are basically funneling cash into the U.S. equity markets. So we are simultaneously seeing a clear slowdown in global economic activity, not just here in the United States but really even more so in Europe, Japan, and China, but at the same time we're up, you know, more than 5 percent year-to-date on the S&P 500. So markets are just almost oblivious to this given how low interest rates are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That could mean investors are in for a rude awakening. Goldman Sachs says the likelihood of a near-term correction is growing. And correction is defined as a 10 percent decline from a recent high. And stocks may be overdue for a pullback. The last time the S&P 500 fell by at least 10 percent was December 2018.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:37:13]

MARQUARDT: And we've got more now on how long-time Trump ally Roger Stone is calling for the judge who sentenced him to 40 months in prison to be disqualified. We've just learned from that judge, federal -- her name is Amy Berman Jackson. She has swiftly and scathingly told Roger Stone and his legal team that there is no legal reason that he should be able to remove her from his criminal case.

And lawyers for Stone have argued that Judge Amy Jackson Berman -- or Amy Berman Jackson, excuse me, her description of the jury was biased in a case that has not yet been concluded despite sentencing because of Stone's bid for a new trial.

All this bringing us to our weekly segment, "Cross-Exam," with CNN Legal Analyst, Elie Honig. Elie is also a former federal and state prosecutor.

Elie, quickly, your reaction to this news from Judge Jackson, and was there ever any evidence that she was biased?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so not surprising, this was really a desperation motion by Roger Stone. I'm not at all surprised the judge has summarily dismissed it. The first question we got is there -- was there any evidence from Judge Berman Jackson that she was biased? Absolutely not. And I think it's really important to push back on this notion which frankly the president has promoted, that judges are somehow biased in favor of whatever party president nominated them and against the other party.

That's simply not the case. We have a constitutional system with an independent judiciary. And if you -- look, if you look at the facts, there are Trump-appointed judges who ruled against Donald Trump. There are Democratic-appointed judges who ruled for Donald Trump over the many cases.

Judge Jackson, she sentenced Roger Stone to 40 months in prison. That's a real sentence. That's a starting sentence but it was below the guidelines range. She showed him leniency. She also went out her way to say that he covered up for the president. But that's not bias, that's simply the facts that this jury found unanimously beyond a reasonable doubt.

MARQUARDT: So is this the end of the legal road for Roger Stone short of either going to prison or getting a pardon from the president?

HONIG: Well, he has a pending motion to -- for a new trial based on his claim that the juror is biased and then he will appeal.

MARQUARDT: OK. Now we also have a question from another viewer who wants to know, does the president have the legal power to pardon anyone at any time even if that person was convicted of a crime that is directly tied to or implicates the president himself? HONIG: So the answer is yes. Legally. The president has very broad

pardon power under the Constitution. The Constitution gives the president the power to grant pardons and reprieves. Now there's no legal limit on timing. The person can be pardoned before they've ever been charged. President Nixon was pardoned before he was ever charged. During a trial, while they're serving a sentence. We just saw Governor Blagojevich. After it's over, even after they've died in some instances.

There also were no limits on substance. Presidents of both parties throughout history have pardoned political associates, friends, even family members. Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother Roger Clinton. The one thing we don't know is can a president pardon himself.

[18:40:02]

Donald Trump has said he believes he can. It's never actually come up. But of course there are political consequences. Last week we saw Donald Trump issue a spate of pardons to some of the really most prominent fraudsters and corrupt politicians that we've seen. We'll see if that splashes back on him in a negative way.

MARQUARDT: All of this has raised so many legal and ethical questions.

Elie, when you look at the week ahead, what legal questions are you looking at?

HONIG: So first of all, is Donald Trump's pardon parade going to continue? Are we going to see more pardons? Does he have a bigger sort of strategy in mind? Is he leading up to potential pardons of Stone, Michael Flynn, and others?

Second of all, will President Trump continue to publicly weigh in on Justice Department matters and what if anything will Attorney General Bill Barr do in response if Donald Trump continues to do that? We saw a week ago Bill Barr sort of drawing the line in the sand, saying, Mr. President, you need to stay out of DOJ business. And then this week Donald Trump spent the whole week interfering in DOJ business.

So what's Bill Barr going to do now? Is he going to take a meaningful stand? Is he just going to put his head down and sort of let it be?

MARQUARDT: Saying that the president's tweets make his job impossible.

HONIG: Impossible. Usually when you say this makes it impossible, and then this happens, that leads to resignation. I wouldn't count on Barr resigning, though.

MARQUARDT: All right. Elie Honig, as always, thanks so much.

HONIG: Thanks, Alex.

MARQUARDT: Appreciate it.

All right. Well, Michael Bloomberg says he is qualified to be the next president. But he didn't make the cut to be President Obama's vice president. We'll discuss that with our next guest.

You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:45:50]

MARQUARDT: Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg wasn't on the ballot in the Nevada caucuses this weekend but his very well-funded campaign continues to draw plenty of attention and high-profile support. In an interview published on Friday, the longtime Republican actor and director Clint Eastwood told the "Wall Street Journal" that he thinks, quote, "The best thing we can do is just get Mike Bloomberg in there." In there he presumably means in the White House.

But my next guest believes that there's reason to slow the roll on the Bloomberg candidacy. In an op-ed this week for CNN.com, CNN contributor Kate Andersen Brower writes, quote, "Bloomberg didn't make the cut to be Obama's vice president. Here's why and why it matters now."

Kate Anderson Brower joins me now.

Kate, so good to see you. You started digging into this story when you were writing your first book "First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power." That was back in 2008. Mike Bloomberg was on a lengthy list of around 20 other possible VP picks for Obama. But you said that his name was dropped off of that list. Why?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, it struck me as really interesting, when I was reporting the book, that I was told by one of Obama's vetters, vetting team, a member of his team, was looking at running mates, potential people to help complement Obama on the ticket, that they had a list of about 23 people. And he brought all these binders, these black binders that they compiled, publicly available information, to candidate Obama at the time.

And Obama was expecting 23 binders and his vetting team showed up with 22. And Obama said, where is the 23rd? And this person said, listen, he's just too controversial, there's too much out there about him, we cannot include Mike Bloomberg. And it was a lot to do with these allegations of sexual harassment at Bloomberg LP, but also some of the things that he said that he's acknowledged were insensitive. It just wasn't worth having him on that very long list at the time of VP running mates.

MARQUARDT: And Mike Bloomberg, of course, now in his ads really playing up the relationship that he had with President Obama and many people close to President Obama saying he's really overplaying that, certainly Joe Biden saying that.

But, Kate, in your op-ed on CNN.com, you make this point. "If the billionaire businessman does become the Democratic Party's nominee, though, then voters will be forced to choose between a sitting president who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment, accusations which he denies, and a Democratic candidate who not long ago was considered too controversial to be a running mate in part because of accusations that he fostered a hostile work place environment for any -- for female employees. Bloomberg's campaign said to a spokesperson that Mike simply does not tolerate any kind of discrimination or harassment."

So, Kate, here's the question. Do you think voters will wonder whether they can't do better between -- get better than two billionaires who are accused of demeaning women and in this MeToo era, should we be demanding more of our leaders?

BROWER: Well, I mean, I was looking at it as a historian and looking at this moment in history where just a few years ago we had the first female candidate, Hillary Clinton, running with a major party. And so now we're in this position with the MeToo era when you would expect more.

You would expect something other than two billionaires as you say. And I think it's important to note that Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault, which is obviously very different than what Mike Bloomberg has been accused of, which is, you know, creating a hostile work environment for women and saying insensitive things.

These are two very different allegations. But I would think that in this day and age that we could do better. And I think you see candidates like Elizabeth Warren making hey of this and it's really in many ways helped her after we saw her debate performance where she just relentlessly went after him on this issue. And it's so far seemed to work for her.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Actually that's something we wanted to mention. She really did hammer him during that debate in Las Vegas. She went hard after him.

[18:50:01]

And we have some of that sound. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How many is that?

BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.

WARREN: How many is that?

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

(CROWD GROANS)

BLOOMBERG: There's agreement between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet, and that's up to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUARDT: Kate, you heard that groan there in the room in Las Vegas. How did that "didn't like the joke he told" comment resonate with you?

BROWER: And I think even Bloomberg admitted that that was not a good debate performance. And what he is accused of saying was during the 1990s, too, which I think is important to note. I mean, this wasn't like ancient, ancient history. This was at a time when you would know better than to say things that could be offensive to women. And some of the things he's accused of saying are very, very offensive.

And so, you know, I think he has to do better. I don't think that that defense is good enough. And I think that you're seeing that really hurting him. And it's something that he's got to come up with a better answer than the one he gave last week.

MARQUARDT: And Bloomberg is now saying that he is willing to release these women from their nondisclosure agreements. So we'll see if they take him up on that.

Kate Andersen Brower, thanks so much for joining me.

BROWER: Thank you.

MARQUARDT: All right, still ahead, can Senator Bernie Sanders win over black voters ahead of South Carolina's election -- primary election next Saturday? South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, he's been called a kingmaker and he explains Sanders' chances next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:56:22]

MARQUARDT: Senator Bernie Sanders is coming off a big caucus win this weekend in Nevada. Now he's turning his sights to South Carolina which is of course the next state to hold its primary.

My colleague Fredricka Whitfield spoke to House majority whip, South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, earlier today about Sanders' rise within the Democratic Party and how that could play out in his state next weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): He has demonstrated that he can generate a lot of enthusiasm among young people, he can energize a crowd. He does that very well. And I think that is bringing a lot to the table. But I also said he brings a few other things that we have to be concerned about here in South Carolina especially throughout this region.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Like what? CLYBURN: On Super Tuesday, people are concerned about this whole self-

proclaimed Democratic socialist. Socialism since I was a student in grade school was something that engendered a kind of vociferous reaction among people of a negative nature, and socialism is always kind of interesting. We have Social Security, we've got Medicare, we've got Medicaid, but we do it in such a way that we did most those things from socialism as an economy.

And people are very concerned about that. And we are trying to rebuild our party in South Carolina. We are trying to elect more people to Congress. There are only two of the seven members from South Carolina that are Democrats and we have a candidate, Jimmy Harrison, running for the United States Senate. He is of great interest to us. And we think we have an opportunity to pull off a great win in South Carolina with Jimmy Harrison. And so we are concerned about having a ticket from top to bottom that we can really be successful with.

WHITFIELD: Because you said just this morning on ABC, you said, you know, for South Carolina voters, you know, the words Democratic socialists have always had dire consequences, and you're also talking big picture.

CLYBURN: Right.

WHITFIELD: You're worried that the Democratic socialist label that Bernie Sanders embraces might cost you seats in Congress?

CLYBURN: Yes, I am worried about that, you know. We just got back -- I've been in Congress 28 years and for 22 of those years, I've been in the minority. And there's some things that we need to do. We've got to make this great country, all of its greatness, accessible and affordable for all of its citizens. And to do that, Democrats need to be in charge in the House.

We've just passed over 400 bills that are sitting over in the Senate and we need somebody over in the Senate that would bring those bills to the floor. So the way to do that is to maintain our majority in the House, regain the majority in the Senate, and put somebody in the White House who will sign these bills once we passed them in these two bodies. That's what my number one goal is.

I got to Charleston around 1:30 yesterday afternoon, stopped off at my favorite eating -- one of my favorite eating places here in Charleston, Breakfast Kitchen. And from the moment I got there, people were coming up to me, asking, are you going to endorse, who are you going to -- let us know who you think is best for us to vote for.