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Can Democrats Slow The Bernie Sanders Surge; Axios, President Trump Wants Snakes Fired From Government; President Trump In India; Time Is Running Short For Sander's Rival; America's Choice 2020; Trump White House; Intel Official's Russia Assessment Called Misleading; Sotomayor Issues Scathing Dissent; Coronavirus Fears Tank Global Markets; Coronavirus Hurting China's Economy; China Warns Citizens Against Travel To United States; Valentine's Day Couple Lost And Found; Kobe Bryant Memorial Today In Los Angeles; rainbow Snake Spotted In Ocala Forest. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 24, 2020 - 04:00   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Bernie Sanders breaking away from the Democratic field, hell bent on a revolution. Is the moderate resistance out of time?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And the president obsess with the so- called the deep state, he wants snakes found and fired. New details tonight -- this morning rather on who is helping and how.

ROMANS: And Iraq has welcome President Trump in India. What else is on the agenda? CNN live there with full coverage of the president's trip. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is Early Start. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett. Good morning, it is Monday, February 24, it is 4:00 a.m. in New York. The Democratic candidates not named Bernie Sanders are running very short on time. The South Carolina primary coming on Saturday, Sanders is close to racking up a lead that will be very hard to beat. It's full steam ahead for the Vermont Senator after a convincing win in the Nevada caucuses expanding his map to Super Tuesday states. Sanders was in Austin, Texas, last night.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT), U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I've been hearing in all the establishment is getting a little bit nervous about our campaign. And you know what? When they see if the cameras turn on this crowd and our friends in Wall Street and the drug companies see this kind of crowd, you're going to really get them nervous.



ROMANS: About a third of all delegates are up for grabs about a week from tomorrow. Most of the splintered field is focused on South Carolina now looking for a momentum boost. After mostly ignoring Sanders at last week's debate, expect him to be a prime target at the next debate tomorrow night.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am here to make the case for a politics that aims higher than just replacing one form of divisiveness with another, but rather unifies this country before it is too late.



SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Courage these days is not standing by yourself in the corner, throwing a punch in the boxing ring. Courage is whether or not you're willing to stand next to someone you don't always agree with for the betterment of this country.



JARRETT: A new South Carolina poll shows Joe Biden still in the lead, but the race is about margins now and Biden's lead is narrowing. One important dynamic to watch, Tom Steyer who will be on the stage at tomorrow's debate. Biden is blaming him and his big money ad buys for his slide in South Carolina. Biden is also arguing that Sanders at the top of the ticket could cost Democrats nationwide. Our Jeff Zeleny is on the campaign trail in Charleston, South Carolina.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, now the South Carolina primary only five days away. Bernie Sanders still the clear front-runner in the Democratic nominating contest. Joe Biden trying to make a stand here in South Carolina. Campaigning here on Sunday making the case that the African-American electorate here, some 60 percent of the Democratic electorate African- American that he believes they own this election in his words and they will make their judgment.

That's exactly the case he's trying to make. But look, there's worry across the Democratic establishment particularly after the Nevada results over the weekend. Is Bernie Sanders simply too strong to stop? We asked Joe Biden about whether Sanders would be detrimental to Democrats down ballot.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's not just can you beat Trump. Can you bring along, can you keep a Democratic House of Representatives in the United States Congress and can you bring along a Democratic Senate? Can you help people up down the line? And I think, I'm better prepared to do that than Senator Sanders is.

ZELENY: So Biden clearly trying to make this a two person race with Bernie Sanders, but that is simply not the case. There are so many others in his lane as well. Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, even Tom Steyer here in South Carolina making big investments. So the question for Joe Biden, can he revive his candidacy? Can he show that he is the strongest candidate to take on President Trump? Now, after South Carolina only three days before Super Tuesday next week. That's why so much is on the line here, more than anyone for Joe Biden. Five days left and the most important ones in his political career. Christine and Laura.


ROMANS: All right, Jeff, thank you for that. Ahead of the South Carolina primary, CNN will host town hall events with all the leading candidates. A two night event starts tonight with Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer. That's tonight at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

JARRETT: The president and his top allies are stepping up efforts to identify and fire disloyal government officials. According to Axios, aides say the president has crossed a psychological line involving the so-called deep state ever since his Senate acquittal. They say he feels his government from the Justice Department, to state, to defense, to Homeland Security is filled with snakes, he wants fired and replaced.


ROMANS: CNN reported last week, President Trump's new personnel chief made it clear his office will be on the lookout for staffers across the administration who are seen as disloyal. According to Axios, a well-connected network of conservative activists has been quietly developing quote, never-Trump and pro-Trump lists and is sending memos to the president to shape his views. Members of this network include Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. CNN has reached out for comment but has not heard back.

JARRETT: Axios reports one recent memo involves Jessie Liu. She was nominated for a top job at treasury, only to have the president withdraw the nomination right before her confirmation hearing. She led the U.S. attorney's office in D.C. overseeing the Roger Stone case, and the memo about Liu contained 14 different sections making the case for why she was unfit for the job. Neither Liu nor the White House have responded to request for comment.

ROMANS: All right. The U.S. Intelligence Community's top election security official may have overstated the assessment of Russian interference in the 2020 election. Three national security officials are now disputing what that official Shelby Pierson shared with members of the House Intel Committee. Pierson telling them Russia is interfering in order to help President Trump get re-elected, but one senior national security official told CNN, a more reasonable interpretation of the intelligence is not that they have a preference, it's more that they understand the president is someone they can work with.

JARRETT: One intelligence official called Pierson's characterization misleading and a national security official said Pierson failed to provide nuance. Trump's own national security advisor pointing to news from last week that Senator Bernie Sanders said his campaign was briefed about Russian efforts to help his presidential run.


ROBERT O'BRIEN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: What I've heard is that Russia would like Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination. They'd probably like him to be president understandably because he wants to spend money on social programs and probably would have to take it out of the military so that would make sense.


ROMANS: A U.S. Intel assessment show that Russian interfered in the 2016 election with them aim of helping Trump. As President Trump has advance Russian interest by undermining NATO, reducing U.S. influence in the Middle East, and squeezing Ukraine. So it's possible that Russia is looking to boost Trump's candidacy, but three national security officials say the Intel Community doesn't have the evidence to make that assessment yet.

JARRETT: Breaking news, India is rolling out the red carpet for President Trump. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, embracing the president during the optics heavy visit which kick-off with an elaborate (inaudible) Trump rally in the world's largest cricket stadium. CNN's Sam Kiley is there. Sam, you know, the rally is just kind of -- it's a huge moment for Trump. I imagine he is loving all of the praise.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. The rally's just wrapped up but I can recall that the stadium was full. They have to -- collapse the seating capacity of 110,000. There are four people on the pitch, it was a bromance, (inaudible), we've come to expect from the Modi, Trump duet with both of them and particularly Donald Trump outlining each other's achievements particularly in India Mr. Modi as far as the Trump administration is concerned lifting people out of poverty.

No mention, though, of the populist problems that they both face in a home constituency with allegations with their opponents of fomenting xenophobia and indeed Islamophobia. Which here in India, has reached pretty loud, pitch with demonstrations across the country earlier this year. So, this will be a burnishing to know this reputation. But at the same time Modi pulling off quite a diplomatic coup, probably summed up by his explanation of the (inaudible) greeting the (inaudible), which he said was a bow to the individual but also to the divinity within the individual. What a politician could resist that illusion, Laura?

JARRETT: Sam, thanks so much for being there for us. We will see you soon. Well, meantime, a scathing dissent from Supreme Court Justice Sonia

Sotomayor. She says her conservative colleagues on the bench are too eager to side with the Trump administration. Sotomayor was responding to the court's recent order allowing the controversial public charge rule to take effect. That rule makes it more difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use public benefits like, food stamps or a housing voucher.

Sotomayor also took issue with the government for repeatedly asking the Supreme Court to allow controversial policies on an emergency basis. She says the court's recent behavior has benefitted one litigant over all others a not so subtle reference to President Trump. The government has argued in the past that emergency requests have become necessary because lower courts are issuing broad injunctions covering states that weren't originally in the cases.


The Supreme Court is in the midst of really a historic term as it considers issues like abortion, LGBT rights, the second amendment, immigration and President Trump's effort to shield his financial records. Interesting comments from her.

ROMANS: It really is.

JARRETT: It's unusual to have a Supreme Court justice speaking out like that against their colleagues.

ROMANS: It's drawing a lot of attention. All right, 10 minutes past the hour, global stock markets are tanking. Not a very pretty picture. European stocks have all opened down sharply. Look at Paris and Frankfurt down more than 3 percent. Those are big overnight moves, guys. Coronavirus cases are rapidly spiking outside China's borders. That's getting a lot of attention.



ROMANS: All right, big stock market sell-off around the world. The problem here the coronavirus outbreak spreading beyond China. Hong Kong closed down nearly 2 percent, South Korean stocks almost 4 percent lower. That's the worst day in more than a year in South Korea. And the bad mood extending to Wall Street this morning. The DOW was down on Friday. It's going to be down hard this morning at the opening bell. That is an almost 700 point move, 2.4 percent there.

The White House is expected to ask Congress for emergency funding to battle the virus as fears of a larger outbreak in the U.S. grow. There are now more than 25 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., 14 Americans who tested positive for the disease were turned to the U.S. this week. After spending weeks on that quarantine Diamond Princess docked in Japan and the exact amount of funding has yet to be set, but the request could be sent to Capitol Hill as soon as today.

A spokesman for Health and Human Services of the CDC has already notified Congress. It plans to spend up to $66 million for its infectious diseases, rapid response reserve fund to react to that outbreak.

JARRETT: And in the meantime, Novel Coronavirus cases are spreading far beyond China's borders. The biggest outbreak outside of Asia is in Italy, where cases spike from three to more than 150 over the weekend. Ten towns are now on lock down. Venice's carnival which can draw more than 100,000 people daily was suspended two days before it was supposed to end.

Cases have also surged in South Korea to more than 830 prompting a national red alert. So how are efforts to contain the virus going at the epicenter? Well, CNN's David Culver is live in Shanghai with the latest. David, what more can you tell us?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Laura. Good morning to you. Well, I can tell you that with regards to how the containment efforts are moving forward, they're continuing on with these very strict lock down procedures that are still in place involving hundreds of millions of people. But to Christine's point, what she was bringing up there with regards to the economy that is crucial here. That is something that is top of mind that goes all the way to the top, to President Xi Jinping himself.

In fact he met with top party leaders yesterday and one of the things he stressed is that in addition to stopping the spread of this virus, as one of their main goals and he said, that is turning out good in his words, that's a quote, he says they're also focused heavily on the economy. They're trying to stabilize it and trying to make sure that the long-term impacts are really mitigated by the actions they're taking now.

And so essentially they say that the negative impacts will be short- term and they believe that this will be generally controllable going forward. Now that's huge here, because when you have things at a stable place economically, you know socially things are likewise going to remain stable, at least that's the intention.

Aside from that we just learned within the past couple of hours some big changes with the National People's Congress. Now that's essentially the rubber stamp parliament that comes together every year. You've got roughly 3,000 folks who are officials coming in to Beijing, they come in from around the country. They're now delaying that. That's significant, because it's the first time there's either been delayed or suspended since the Cultural Revolution, so decades ago.

In addition to that, we're also hearing from the foreign ministry, Laura, that there are travel warnings now being issued by the Chinese government for its own citizens against the United States. What you've got to remember here is the foreign ministry was furious a few weeks back when the U.S. was among the first countries to essentially isolate mainland China, essentially saying that people who are either from here or traveling through here have to wait two weeks before going into the U.S. Now, that policy still holds. The foreign ministry here felt like that

was an overreaction, they felt like it was something that was really offending China and its people, and now it seems like they're reacting by telling their own citizens, Laura, not to travel to the U.S.

JARRETT: Coming on the heels of those journalists kicked out as well. David, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. The plug has been pulled on a plan to move coronavirus patients from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan to a FEMA facility in Alabama. The Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston is mainly used for medical training. After local officials threaten to sue the agency drop the plan. Republican Senator Richard Shelby says President Trump called him with the news. He tweeted thank you Mr. President for working with us to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.

JARRETT: All right, still ahead. A happy ending to the search for a couple missing since Valentine's Day.



ROMANS: A public memorial celebrating the lives of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna will be held today in Los Angeles. Nearly a month after Kobe and Gianna perished in a helicopter crash. The celebration of life takes place at the Staples Center, the House that Kobe built. Current and former NBA stars along with thousands of fans are expected to attend. All proceeds from the event will go to the Bryant's Mamba and Mambacita Foundation. The date for the memorial is significant, February 24, 2/24/20. Two is the number Gianna wore, 24 is the number Kobe wore and 20 is the number of years Kobe and his widow, Vanessa Bryant were together.

JARRETT: A happy ending to the search for a northern California couple in their 70s who went hiking on Valentine's Day and hadn't been heard from since. A rescue team Saturday found 77-year-old Carol Kiparsky and 72-year-old Ian Irwin in an area of dense forest. They say the two suffered from hyperthermia but were able to stay alive by drinking puddle water. Hundreds of people along with helicopters and k-9 teams had been involved in the search. The couple is now recovering in the hospital.


ROMANS: A rare rainbow snake discovered by a hiker in the Ocala national forest in Florida. This species has not been seen in the area in more than 50 years. Rainbow snakes also known as eel moccasins are nonvenomous and harmless. Biologists speculate this rainbow snake slithered its way into the forest after a recent change in water levels in a local reservoir. I don't like snakes. I don't even like rare pretty snakes. I like no snakes.


JARRETT: Harmless or not.

ROMANS: No snakes, please.

JARRETT: Well, Democrats are on the verge of giving Bernie Sanders momentum to outrun the field. Can anyone slow his push to control the Party he's never joined but may be choosing to lead?