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Critical Debate Tonight In South Carolina As Bernie Sanders Surges; The CDC Warning Americans To Begin Preparing For The Possibility Of An Outbreak; Trump Minimizes Threat Of Coronavirus As Markets Take A Punch. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:26]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.

As the Democrats gear up for the debate tonight, Senator Bernie Sanders finds himself in the unique position leading the pack after a convincing win in the Nevada caucuses, and with that frontrunner status comes increased scrutiny, not just over Sanders policy like Medicare-for-All, but also his praise of the Castro Revolution in that "60 Minutes" interview that aired over the weekend, a defense he doubled down on during our CNN Town Hall just last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba. But you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad.

You know, when Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: A lot of dissidents imprisoned and --

SANDERS: That's right, and we condemned that.

You know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing. The truth is the truth, and that's what happened on the first few years of the Castro regime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Senator Sanders' comments are drawing a fierce backlash from Democrats and Republicans who say that that literacy program was more about indoctrination than education.

And some Democrats say the remarks highlight the risks Sanders poses not just for the White House, but also for candidates down ballot.

Just context for you. This all comes during this key stretch in the campaign when that began with a set of CNN Town Halls. It ends with Super Tuesday, and you can see here on your screen, just what's at stake in these key contests. You have 54 delegates in South Carolina, more than 1,300 in the Super Tuesday states and that includes California and Texas.

The Super Tuesday Hall alone adds up to a third of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.

And despite those wins in New Hampshire, in Nevada, Bernie Sanders rivals are not ready to concede the nomination just yet, ramping up their attacks on the Vermont senator in everything from stump speeches to ads. And of course, to tweets.

Chris Cillizza is our CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large. And you know, we've seen a lot of these attacks in just the last couple of days, so many of them coming from the more moderate wing of the party. Run through some of them for me.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes, Brooke, I think a lot of people in the Democratic Party establishment just suddenly realized Bernie Sanders might be formidable, but which honestly they probably should have seen coming.

But let's go through a few, and let's start with sort of the pillar of the Democratic Party establishment, the guy who we thought was the frontrunner going into these votes, Joe Biden previewing what I think will be his attack -- main attack -- on Bernie Sanders tonight on healthcare. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: He had his back and you had his back. But back in Washington, there was one guy with another plan.

SANDERS: I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.

ANNOUNCER: Bernie Sanders was seriously thinking about challenging our first African-American President in a primary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: So basically, what you see there is Joe Biden saying I'm the Barack Obama guy, he's not the Barack Obama guy, whether it's on Medicare-for-All versus the Affordable Care Act or whether it's on the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama.

I also think you'll see Joe Biden talk about how much Bernie's plans cost and how he pays for them.

Now, he will be far from the only one attacking Bernie Sanders. Mike Bloomberg. Every debate preview we have suggested, he will go right at him and here's Bloomberg himself.

We think it will be mostly on guns. Bernie has been weak on gun safety. In his entire career, he voted against background checks. He voted against gun makers et cetera, et cetera. Now, the reason -- he's not wrong by the way, Bloomberg, on that. This

was an issue at parts in the 2016 campaign. Why? Because Bernie Sanders represents Vermont, you think of it as sort of a liberal enclave, but on guns and hunting, it's not.

So Bernie Sanders representing his constituency, but that will hurt him and that will be a major line of attack.

And then the final bee who will be attacking Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg. Here's what he had to say about Bernie Bros, about the Cuba issue you mentioned. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a Democrat, I don't want to be explaining why our nominee is encouraging people to look on the bright side of the Castro regime when we're going into the election of our lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CILLIZZA: Now, I think, Brooke, the central question here that we don't know the answer to and you probably won't until the South Carolina primary or maybe next week -- a week from today at Super Tuesday, is will these attacks, which absolutely are going to come Bernie Sanders way in a sustained manner that we haven't seen yet, do they matter?

When Elizabeth Warren was at the center of that maelstrom in September in a debate, it hurt her. It slowed her momentum. When Joe Biden was, it hurt him. When Mike Bloomberg was in the last debate, whoa, I don't know how much it hurt him because he's still going to spend money, but my gosh, he was bad.

[14:05:11]

CILLIZZA: It's hard to be in the center of those things. The issue with Sanders, his support, to used David Chalian's words, so sticky. People who are for him are for him no matter what.

Does that change? Can voters be peeled away from Sanders? Because if he's got 35 percent in every Super Tuesday state, Brooke, nobody else has got that much.

BALDWIN: We will watch for the sticking factor post South Carolina, post Super Tuesday. Chris, thank you so much for running through those attacks.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: He's got certainly, a target on his back tonight. Maayan Schechter is this South Carolina Statehouse and Politics Reporter for "The State" which last night announced its endorsement of Pete Buttigieg.

So Maayan, welcome. MAAYAN SCHECHTER, SOUTH CAROLINA STATEHOUSE AND POLITICS REPORTER,

"THE STATE": Thanks so much for having me.

BALDWIN: I want to get into that endorsement in just a second, but first gives me that you know, 30,000-foot view of the political landscape in South Carolina. What are you seeing? What are you hearing, not just from the Democratic candidates, but from voters?

SCHECHTER: Now, the race here in South Carolina has certainly changed since about five or six months ago. If you would have asked me last five, six months ago what I was going to write for Saturday, I would have told you and that has completely changed.

It's a much more competitive race here on the ground. Former Vice President Joe Biden is still considered the favorite to win South Carolina's primary on Saturday. He does have that edge, but that margin between him and Senator Bernie Sanders is shrinking.

And I spoke last night to Trav Robertson, the Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and he was saying that this race is still fluid, and that is something that we are definitely seeing here on the ground.

There are voters here who still haven't made up their minds on who they're going to vote for. I was at an event last night, the First-in- the-South-Dinner talking to a woman who said she really likes Bernie Sanders, but she also kind of likes Elizabeth Warren.

So it's very much still a fluid, fluid race. I think Joe Biden still has an edge here. But we still have a few days to go. And we have a debate obviously tonight.

BALDWIN: I'm guessing the story you would have written a couple of months ago would have been Joe Biden runs away with it. And now you're saying it's a much different landscape. Is that what you mean?

SCHECHTER: Yes, I mean, it's becoming -- it's a much different race, and especially, you know, last several months, Tom Steyer, did not pose so much of a threat, as he does now, a little bit in this race.

BALDWIN: What's the biggest issue, Maayan, for you know, for South Carolinians? If you were to put your finger on something.

SCHECHTER: Kitchen table issues are still really important to South Carolinians here. Healthcare, education, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, criminal justice reform, gun reform -- at the end of the day, these are the sort of foundational things that voters here talk to us, reporters and talk to these candidates about a lot.

But certainly, as we gotten closer to the primary, there is a voting bloc here in South Carolina that is concerned about electability. They want someone who is going to beat President Donald Trump in November.

So there is a portion of the voting bloc here where that is the top of the priorities of why they're voting for the candidate they've chosen.

BALDWIN: That's what's driving them and then sort of issues come in second.

I know as we mentioned off the top of your paper fills that former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the best option in the current field, saying that he made the case that he can unify and lead a diverse Democratic Party.

I do want to point you to this recent NBC-Marist poll that shows he is just at four percent among African-American voters, as you well know, a key base for Democrats in the first real contest where they will weigh in. Can you just, Maayan, explain why your Editorial Board feels like he's the best choice for this key constituency?

SCHECHTER: Look, I appreciate the question. I'm going to leave the answer to our Editorial Board to answer that as to why our Editorial Board decided to endorse Pete Buttigieg for President.

Our news side of the newsroom is very much separate from the editorial side. I try to keep as much space away from that.

So I would ask our Editorial Board. They're the ones who made the decision.

BALDWIN: All right, we'll turn our viewers to read that for themselves. Maayan Schechter, thank you very much for your responses on what's going on in South Carolina.

Let me remind all of you, night two of the special CNN two-night event continues tomorrow live from Charleston. Bloomberg, Biden, Klobuchar, Warren answer voter questions just days before the critical South Carolina primary.

The CNN Democratic Presidential Town Halls continue tomorrow night at seven o'clock Eastern only here on CNN.

Breaking news this afternoon on the coronavirus, the CDC is now warning Americans to begin preparing for the possibility of an outbreak here.

We have that of course as you're seeing the numbers, the Dow keeps falling. We'll talk to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta about everything he knows coming in from the CDC

And President Trump attacks justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, again, now, he's calling for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Sonia Sotomayor to recuse themselves.

Also, right now, the Roger Stone case is back in court after he asks for a new trial and the judge starts the hearing with a message.

We have all of this for you and more. Stay right here with me. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:14:47]

BALDWIN: The CDC says it is preparing for the possibility of a community spread of the coronavirus right here in the United States.

Let me throw a map up on the screen and you can see just how many people in more than 30 countries and regions around the world have now been infected.

And now let's talk about the U.S. CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta just heard from CDC officials about the spread of the virus here in the U.S.

And so Sanjay, we know there are now 57 cases of the virus here States side. How concerned should we be?

[14:20:18]

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Brooke, I think the concern level is still low, and take a look at the numbers where these 57 patients are coming from.

You know, there's a significant number that are related to travel. There's only been two cases so far in the United States where it's human to human transmission.

But as you point out, the majority of the patients here in the United States were repatriated, many from that cruise ship that we talked so much about.

So when you look at 80,000 cases, Brooke around the world, 57 here in the United States, the concern level is still low.

But we just did hear from the CDC and I think that they're starting to get into this mode, talking about the fact that if we start to see this transmission within communities here that's something we need to be prepared for.

Let me tell exactly what they said. They said, "The data over the last week, and they're referring to countries around the world, and the spread in other countries has raised our level of concern, and raise our expectations that we're going to have community spread here."

I won't to explain exactly what that means, Brooke, but I talked to the head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield, specifically about -- specifically about the worst case scenario here in the United States, and here's how he put it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We've had a very aggressive approach to try to do early case identification, and then isolation and contact tracing that's enabled us to contain this at this point.

But I think this virus is probably with us beyond this season, or beyond this year, and I think eventually, the virus will find a foothold and we will get community based transmission.

And you can start to think of it in the sense like seasonal flu. The only difference is, we don't understand this virus. At least seasonal flu, we pretty much understand how it acts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: So Brooke, to your question, 57 is the number right now, but Dr. Redfield and others are saying it's looking more and more likely this is going to gain a foothold here in the United States.

It doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be something that is wildly lethal. We still seem to think that most people who get this infection have no symptoms or minimal symptoms, but the idea that it's going to start spreading more widely that seems to be the common consensus -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Then why is it that the World Health Organization will be the ones to declare this a pandemic? Why have they not taken this step yet?

GUPTA: Some of this may be semantics, Brooke. I mean, there are some criteria to declare something a pandemic, and what it really means is that in several places around the world, not only do you have the virus spreading, but it's spreading generationally.

So one person spreads it to three people. They spread it subsequently to three people each, and that sort of transmission happens four or five times, four or five generations of spread. That's what they mean by sustained transmission.

But you know, we're not there yet according to the WHO, but it is possible that we're going to get there. We saw that with H1N1 for example, in 2009.

SARS, Brooke, which it is often compared to was never declared a pandemic. So there are some criteria in place. And you know, the definition of this may change even over the next couple of days or weeks.

BALDWIN: All right, Dr. Gupta, thank you. And thank you for the latest from the CDC We've got another doctor waiting in the wings here.

Meantime, President Trump is downplaying fears about the virus's spread here in the U.S. He says it's very much under control.

So with me now, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, former White House Health Policy adviser for the Obama administration. He is with me. He just returned from a WHO meeting of scientific experts on the coronavirus.

So you, sir, are the perfect person to be talking to, Dr. Emanuel, welcome.

DR. ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER FOR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Nice to be here.

BALDWIN: So you just heard from Sanjay that essentially the CDC is sounding the alarm when it comes to, you know, coronavirus here in the States. I've read that you had suggested that people in the U.S. may be

overreacting to this outbreak. How so?

EMANUEL: Well, I think if -- I would agree with Sanjay on two very important points. First, the current risk in the United States is extremely low. We have 57 cases. The vast majority of which come from that cruise ship in Japan.

We've had, you know -- most of them have been travel related. Only a couple have been person-to-person spread. So I think in our daily lives, we need to be careful about not being hysterical about coronavirus for ourselves and not stigmatizing people who come from China. So that I think is very important.

Will it likely spread? Will we have more cases, thousands of cases in the United States? Probably. That shows you that the quarantine and the travel ban we've imposed might delay the coronavirus coming here, but it's not going to prevent the coronavirus from coming to the United States and I think that's very important.

We are obviously rapidly progressing on a vaccine and testing therapeutics, both of which are really important to see if we can block this virus from spreading through a vaccine.

[14:20:15]

BALDWIN: You mentioned the vaccine. Let me jump to what the President said about a possible vaccine. Here he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The coronavirus, which is you know, very well under control in our country. We have very few people with it.

The people are getting better. They're all getting better. And I think that whole situation will start working out a lot of talents, a lot of brainpower is being put behind it.

Two and a half billion dollars we're putting in. There is a very good chance you're not going to die.

Now they have it. They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we're very close to a vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So two questions, Dr. Emanuel coming out of that. Number one, just the point. I mean, I hear you laugh, and I want to know why. Is he true on the point -- is he correct on the point about the U.S. being close to a vaccine? And two, what do you make of how he characterized the virus?

EMANUEL: Well, first of all, I would say it's going to get worse before it's going to get better. And we need to be well aware of that. We're going to have more cases before it's going to taper off and decline.

And the idea that we're not going to have more than 50 or a few more cases that's just not likely. It is a low risk situation.

Now, given what we know, the death rate is 2.5 percent, mainly among old people and people with other complicating diseases like diabetes or heart failure or emphysema. And that seems to be where the real problems are.

But we're going to have a lot more cases in the United States and we should be prepared.

We are close to having a vaccine three months or four months away, but then it has to go through a series of trials to assess whether it's safe, whether it actually does produce antibodies and whether it protects people from coronavirus. That's unlikely to be completed before the end of -- before the next season.

BALDWIN: So it was funny? What was funny about the President?

EMANUEL: This virus may -- well, because he was talking about we have it all under control. I might remind your audience, the President has suggested cuts in the CDC The administration fired Admiral Rimmer who was handling biosafety in the White House. They weren't prepared for this at all.

We do have a lot of brains behind that, but that's not because the Trump administration was well-prepared, it's because the N.I.H. and the CDC, the career people there are very well-prepared, extremely well-trained and really know how to do this, but not because the administration itself, including its political appointees were prepared for this at all or even are now prepared for this.

So I think it's a little humorous for him to authoritatively say we have this under control. That's only because of the government bureaucrats who we tend to dismiss, they have it under control. They have been working hard. They've been working with the scientific community to develop a vaccine.

And I think that's important to recognize. We have to make these investments.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you making that point. Dr. Zeke Emanuel, thank you, sir.

EMANUEL: Great. Thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: You've got it. The President of the United States is once again attacking the U.S. Supreme Court calling for two liberal justices to recuse themselves in cases that are, his words, Trump related.

And disgraced movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein is now a convicted rapist. We will talk to a woman who helped expose his predatory behavior.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:28:23]

BALDWIN: President Trump is calling for two Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from any cases involving him.

These two justices he is targeting, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. And among his grievances, this scathing dissent from Justice Sotomayor about the administration's controversial public charge rule which makes it difficult for immigrants to obtain legal status if they use public benefits like food stamps.

And his issue with RBG goes all the way back to the 2016 campaign trail when she called him a "faker."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I also think that, frankly that Justice Ginsburg should do it because she went -- while during the campaign when I was running -- I don't know who she was for, perhaps she was for Hillary Clinton.

And then Justice Sotomayor said what she said yesterday, you know very well what she said yesterday. It was a big story. And I just don't know how they cannot recuse themselves for anything having to do with Trump or Trump related.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's go straight to our CNN Supreme Court Reporter, Ariane de Vogue. She's with me.

And Ariane, what did Justice Sotomayor write that the President is claiming is inappropriate?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, you know, Brooke, we have had a lot of heated dissents from the Supreme Court, not just this one. So it's odd that he picks up on this one. It was heated on Saturday, or actually, it was Friday night.

Sotomayor issued this scathing dissent and she said basically, the government is coming to the court too often asking for emergency relief. And she also called out her own colleagues and she said, look, they're granting these petitions way too often.

So it was very heated, but she never targeted Trump himself. She said at one point, "It is hard to say what is more troubling that the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that Trump would grant it."

[14:30:10]