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Bernie Sanders Wins Nevada Caucuses, CNN Projects; Coronavirus Outbreak; Intelligence Community Feels Immediate Impact of Trump's Diplomatic "Disrupter"; Trump Departs for India. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired February 23, 2020 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome everyone, live from Studio 7 here at the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Michael Holmes.

And coming up here on CNN NEWSROOM, a big win for Bernie Sanders, plus Joe Biden bounces back. We will break down the results of the Nevada caucuses.

Coronavirus cases surge: now Italy taking measures to contain the outbreak.

And a look on what's on the table for Donald Trump's big trip to India.


HOLMES: We are now in the third contest to pick the U.S. Democratic candidate for the presidential elections. Bernie Sanders is the undisputed front-runner, CNN projecting he has won the Nevada caucuses.

If early results hold up, it was not even close. Half the precincts reporting that he is way ahead of his nearest rival, Joe Biden, and Pete Buttigieg. All of those in the front group are already eyeing the next contest, where most of the delegates are still up for grabs. Here is how the top three finishers in Nevada addressed their supporters.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now I'm delighted to bring you some pretty good news. I think all of you know we won the popular vote in Iowa. We won the New Hampshire primary. And according to three networks and the AP, we have now won the Nevada caucus.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I congratulate Senator Sanders on a strong showing today, knowing that we celebrate many of the same ideals.

But before we rush to nominate Senator Sanders in our one shot to take on this president, let us take a sober look at what is at stake for our party, for our values and for those with the most to lose. There is so much on the line.

And one thing we know for sure, is that we absolutely must defeat Donald Trump and everything that he represents.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I feel really good, you put me in a position. The press is ready to declare people dead quickly. But we are alive and we are coming back and we are going to win.


HOLMES: Bernie Sanders hopes his Nevada win will propel him to victory in the votes to come. Ryan Nobles is traveling with the Sanders campaign.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Senator Bernie Sanders will spend his Sunday in Texas. This after being able to claim victory in the Nevada caucuses, a convincing one that will allow Sanders and his campaign to say they're three for three. They won in Iowa, New Hampshire and now in Nevada.

Sanders already thinking about the Super Tuesday states, despite the fact that the caucuses were happening in Nevada on Saturday, he spent his entire day in Texas and an event in El Paso and another in San Antonio.

Sanders making his message very clear to his supporters here, it was not just about winning one state, they plan on winning the Democratic nomination and the White House.

SANDERS: In Nevada and New Hampshire and Iowa, what we showed is that our volunteers are prepared to knock on hundreds and hundreds of thousands of doors, that no campaign has a grassroots movement like we do, which is another reason why we are going to win this election.

NOBLES: What is very important about this win in Nevada for the Sanders team is because it was the first state with a diverse set of voters casting ballots. According to the CNN entrance polls, Sanders won virtually every demographic group.

He won with black voters, Latino voters and African American voters as well, which bodes well for him as they move into these states that even are more diverse, South Carolina among them. Of course the big Super Tuesday prizes of California and here in Texas -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.


HOLMES: Joining me now, CNN political analyst, Ron Brownstein, also senior editor for "The Atlantic."

Good to see you, Ron. Huge win for Sanders, as Ryan was saying there, he did well with all ages, especially young people, all races.


HOLMES: I think 72 percent of Hispanics under 30 and so on.

What was your takeaway?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: The breadth of it was impressive, I think the most impressive part was the showing among Latinos. If you look at Sanders from 2016 until now, what his campaign has said they believe is the largest addition to his coalition is Latino voters.

He was strong in '16, he's strong again among young people, he's strong among the most liberal elements of the party and he's quite solid among blue collar whites. But that was not a coalition big enough to win in 2016.

Their assertion was that they were adding Latinos; it was unproven until tonight and he proved it tonight in a big fashion. Obviously, as Ryan noted, it has enormous implications for the next couple of weeks because almost all of the states with a big Latino population -- California, Texas, Florida, Colorado tops among them -- will be voting between now and March 17th.

HOLMES: Exactly.

Where does this leave campaigns of those like Tom Steyer or Amy Klobuchar?

Not so much Elizabeth Warren but there is this argument that the quote-unquote "moderates" -- and you can argue that Bernie Sanders is pulling a lot of those anyway -- that they are perhaps splitting the vote.

Should they be dropping out now if they don't like the idea of Sanders?

BROWNSTEIN: Historically, you would say they would be dropping out. But we know what has changed in the last couple of cycles is the capacity of candidates to raise money online allows them to stay in the race longer than they would have in earlier generations or decades, when they had to rely on big donors, who kind of could read the poll results and say, you're cut off.

Now candidates stay in and that does give an advantage to someone like Sanders, who is still not at all -- I think Nevada is an exception -- he is not a majority figure by any means yet in the party.

But as you know, the voters resistant to him are not coalescing behind one choice, it looks an awful lot like what we saw in 2016, with Donald Trump, who was getting between around a third of the vote in those early primaries in the Republican side.

But the voters who were skeptical of him were kind of splintering among many other options. That is a big advantage for the candidate who has an ideological core. HOLMES: The other thing, too, when you talk about Donald Trump in the

early stages in that primary, the Republican Party hated the idea of Donald Trump. Oh, my goodness, he was a monster, they did not want him until they did.

When it comes to Bernie Sanders, there seems to be so much within the party, anti-Bernie sentiment, that there should be no surprise about the Sanders policy program. He's never changed. Nothing he is espousing is a surprise. But it is resonating with a lot of voters. His ratings are high across the board.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. But it's also true, Michael, both in 2016 and this year, no Democrat has really prosecuted a case against Bernie Sanders. I wrote this week that they kind of went after the wrong guy in the debate. I understand why they felt the need to slow down Michael Bloomberg.

But the fact is that Sanders has been the front-runner and he's gone through nine debates without really having to address, except to a little bit to Pete Buttigieg, he's proposed $60 trillion in new spending over a decade that would double the size of the federal deficit, which has never happened in peacetime; letting felons go from prison, decriminalizing the border, fully subsidizing the undocumented into the national health care system, banning fracking, banning the sale of the internal combustion engine.

Considering a primary challenge against Barack Obama in 2012, at the least, Democrats should want these issues to be debated in a primary to have a sense of how he will handle them in a general election.

I guarantee you, the Republicans will not be as reticent as Democrats have been about raising these potential vulnerabilities. You watch Pete Buttigieg's speech tonight, he gets what's going on and made a case.

Joe Biden had no message and he is down to his last week of his political career if he can't win in South Carolina. Yet he really drew no meaningful contrast tonight. So we don't know; I'm guessing Tuesday will be a lot different than we've seen before at the last debate. But we will see.

HOLMES: They are all going to turn on Bernie Sanders, whether he has the broad -- it seems to me that he has a broader appeal than people give him credit for.

But to a foreigner like me, and I've lived here 25 years, it still seems bizarre where you have a process that involves people from the same team beating up on each other in public in often nasty ways.

Should they not be focusing more on Donald Trump and why he needs to be beaten?

BROWNSTEIN: I think people have felt that along the way. But the history is that tough primaries don't really debilitate you for the general election. Donald Trump, certainly, we can all fish out the quotes of Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz about Donald Trump and yet they all rallied around him.

Ultimately the issue is, are you picking a nominee who can appeal a broad range of the party and has a chance to win in November?


BROWNSTEIN: Right now Bernie Sanders polls as well against Donald Trump basically as Joe Biden does.

But the fear among Democrats is all of the things that I just listed and many more, really have not been presented to the American people. The only part of his agenda that has really been debated is his idea of Medicare for all and any private health insurance.

And the fear among Democrats is if you put the radar in motion and try to envision how he will look after the Republicans have dropped hundreds of millions of dollars telling people about some of his policy positions, they're worried he won't be as strong -- look as strong as he does now.

So this is a moment of crisis for Democratic strategists who are uneasy about Sanders, because much like the Republicans in 2016, they are learning it is very hard to beat a candidate who has a solid ideological core, even if they're only a plurality candidate when the rest of the party is splintering.

HOLMES: It will be interesting. The polling was 64 percent of those going in to vote today said Medicare for all, I'm all in. So it's pretty popular out there. I wish we had more time; we do not. Ron Brownstein, always a pleasure sir. I saw your article in the Atlantic, always a good read.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Michael.

HOLMES: In some of the smaller precincts where there was a tie between candidates, Nevada stayed true to its gambling roots -- it is the home to Las Vegas, of course -- while some caucuses were decided by a high card draw. Have a look at what happened in a tie break between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The high card determines --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: High card determines the winner.







HOLMES: Democracy at work. In that particular nail-biter, front- runner Bernie Sanders had the luck of the draw.

All right, President Trump preparing to leave the controversies of Washington behind. When we come back, details about his first official visit to India.

Also, more than 500 cases of coronavirus in less than a week. But it's not in China; South Korea now on its highest alert over that virus. We will be right back with that and more.




HOLMES: Welcome back.

The novel coronavirus now seems to have gained a foothold in Europe with at least 79 confirmed cases in Italy, including two deaths. China's Hubei province still accounts for 80 percent of all cases and 95 percent of the fatalities.

There are now nearly 80,000 cases; the vast majority, 77,000, are in China. The total number of deaths now nearing 2,500, again mostly in China's Hubei province.


HOLMES: South Korea is raising the country's alert to the virus to the highest level after more than 500 new cases were reported in a matter of days, in less than a week. Five people have died there. The U.S. issuing a level 2 travel advisory for South Korea and Japan, urging Americans to use extra health precautions in those countries.

Our Ivan Watson is covering the story in the South Korean capital. Barbie Nadeau is joining us from Rome. And Blake Essig is standing by in Tokyo.

Ivan, let's start with you. Fill us in; with this surge of infections in South Korea, it has been extraordinary.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has. The president of South Korea has made a televised announcement.

He has called this a watershed moment and said the next couple of days are critical, that the authorities need to identify, infected people as soon as possible and he's raising the country's crisis alert level to its highest level. Now he singled out this one religious group, Shincheonji, it has a

number of places of worship all across South Korea and roughly half of the cases of coronavirus come from that religious movement and mostly centered on the southern city of Daegu.

He says, the president said they had to shut it down and its places of worship to help control the spread of the infection.

I'm standing in front of one of the locations here in Seoul that has been shuttered. According to people around here, shopkeepers, they say it is a place of worship and, as you can see, the doors are closed here right now.

Now the Korean center for disease control has just once again raised the number of coronavirus infection cases up 46 more just today to now 602 cases of coronavirus in this country. It's surging every 24 hours here and now confirming five people have passed away as a result of the virus.

The religious group itself issued a statement saying it's disinfecting all of its locations but this is certainly a growing health problem for South Korea.

The South Korean president went on to say, the shuttering of this religious movement is not a movement against religious freedom in South Korea. It is strictly a public health matter right now -- Michael.

HOLMES: You can understand the urgency certainly. Ivan Watson in Seoul, South Korea, thanks for your reporting on this.

CNN's Blake Essig joins us now from Tokyo.

You've been covering the Diamond Princess; the last passengers getting off that. And I understand that there is some troubling news about the effectiveness of the quarantine that was on board that ship. Tell us about it.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michael, 23 passengers, who all were on board the Diamond Princess, who did not follow Japan's quarantine protocol.

What that specifically means is that originally, when the quarantine started, everyone was tested on February 5th in order to disembark the ship, they had to be retested. These 23 passengers did not get retested before they disembarked the ship. That occurred on Wednesday and Thursday.

Just yesterday Japan's health minister came out, apologizing, expressing deep remorse, vowing to make sure that this will never happen again. But, Michael, the problem is that it did happen.

And at this point, 23 passengers who disembarked the ship all took public transportation home.

Japan's health minister also announced that a 60-year-old woman who did follow the Japanese quarantine protocol, after returning home, developed symptoms and tested positive for the coronavirus, making her the first passenger to follow Japan's quarantine protocol, to return home and to develop symptoms and test positive for the coronavirus.

So these are two issues that clearly support the concerns that we have been hearing from infectious disease specialists, Japanese citizens and governments around the world, that really call into question just how effective this quarantine actually was.

HOLMES: Unbelievable. Blake, thank you, Blake Essig in Tokyo.

We'll now go to Rome, where we find Barbie Nadeau standing by there.

We're hearing about some pretty strict measures, entire towns on lockdown, fill us in.


BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there are 10 towns and communities in this hot zone area. This is of the north of Italy. And there's absolutely no movement in these towns. People cannot go to church this morning, which is a big deal here in Italy.

The soccer games have been canceled, trains are rolling through towns without stopping. People are terrified of the spread of this disease.

All across the country, the government had issued this ordinance that blocks all scholastic trips into and out of the country. So no kids are moving in or coming into the country for their trips from all over Europe.

There is a lot of panic and a lot of paranoia at this point. But 79 confirmed cases, of which 76 are from Friday, is a huge concern. And containment is the priority here -- Michael.

HOLMES: A lot of people were around the world, it seems like. Barbie Nadeau in Rome.

We have complete coverage of the coronavirus outbreak online. Instant updates on the story, you can find that on

We'll take a short break, when we come back, the leaders of the two largest democracies on Earth are about to meet. What to expect out of President Trump's first official visit to India.




HOLMES: Welcome back.

In Washington, President Trump's new acting Director of National Intelligence might be trying to clean house a little. Rick Grenell ousted the number two official at the DNI on Friday and many observers the purge might not end there. Kylie Atwood with more.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: Some top intelligence officials are looking to leave the office of the Director of National Intelligence. Sources tell CNN, this comes as there has been an upheaval at that office.

This is the office that oversees all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies. Just this week, the director of that office, the acting director, was fired from his post. And President Trump put in his place Rick Grenell.

Ambassador Rick Grenell is seen as an ally to President Trump, someone who does not have very much intelligence experience. As he came into the role this week, he immediately fired the number two at this office.

There are fears within the intelligence community, that other folks might also be forced out. One of those is Shelby Pierson. She is in charge of overseeing the assessments of election security.

She was the one who provided an intelligence briefing behind closed doors to lawmakers just last week. One of the things that she revealed in that briefing was the intelligence assessment that Russia is trying to help President Trump in his presidential election campaign.

And so that was not met well by President Trump. He has come out and said that that is not true, it is a hoax. But that is the intelligence assessment.

And there are fears that because Shelby Pierson was the person who provided that assessment, she might be forced out as well. There are also questions about how Rick Grenell is going to be as a leader at this office.

I'm told that sources within the office made phone calls to those they knew at the U.S. embassy in Germany, asking them what it was like to work with Rick Grenell.


ATWOOD: So there are a lot of developments that we are watching. But so far Shelby Pierson is still in her job and there is the expectation that some folks are going to leave or be forced out in the coming days -- Kiley Atwood, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Extraordinary days.

The president is flying out of the country on Sunday and headed towards India, which has gone to great lengths to prepare for his visit. CNN's White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins has details on the trip and why it promises to be an important one for both leaders.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, President Trump will be making his first state visit to India, somewhere he has not visited since taking office. Though he and the prime minister have shared the stage here in America before.

This is going to look a lot different. It's a state visit, it is expected to last two days. The president going back and forth in different locations in the country.

Of course, this comes at what could be a welcome time for the president. He's facing his own troubles in Washington, coming off of that impeachment inquiry, the acquittal vote and his confidant being sentenced to over three years in prison.

But it also be a welcome distraction for Prime Minister Modi, who's been facing his own political troubles back at home. Now he will have President Trump on his home turf, hoping to give him a boost as they are taking part in these banquets, these dinners.

They will also have a rally where the president has been promised he will see millions of people during this visit there. The question will come down to whether they will sign any kind of a limited trade deal agreement, any weapons purchases.

So far their trade teams have not seen eye to eye so far. They've tried to come close to making an agreement. The president might be more encouraged to do so because it is an election year. He's hoping to have some wins that he can tout on the campaign trail.

But overall, it is going to be a quick visit, about two days on the ground for President Trump there in India -- Kaitlan Collins, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: And thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM, spending part of your day with us, I'm Michael Holmes, I will be back with headlines in just a moment.