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Trump Attacks Stone Trial Juror and Judge; Interview With Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL); Democratic Candidates Expected to Target Bernie Sanders in Debate; Dow Tanking Again. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 15:00   ET



ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Fast forward to today, we saw the market start off in the green this morning. There was some hope for some good news. That good news didn't come.

Instead, we got that news you just mentioned from the Centers for Disease Control, saying it's not a question of if, but when the disease comes hear to the U.S. and the possibility that it could spread.

Now, the question is, how many people will have severe illness? So this, of course, spooking the market. We're seeing the market tank again for a second day in a row. That's 1,700 points in two days of a loss on the Dow. Needless to say, the Dow has wiped out all of its gains for the year -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Alison, thank you.

Now to the Democratic debate. And the last time the candidates hit the stage, Mike Bloomberg was on the receiving end of a lot of incoming fire. But if the New York City -- or the former New York City mayor gets his way tonight, it will be Senator Bernie Sanders who really bears the brunt of those jabs.

In a tweet today, Bloomberg attacked his Vermont rival on the issue of gun control, saying this -- quote -- "Bernie has been weak on gun safety his entire career. He's voted against background checks. He voted to give gun makers immunity. He's received help from the NRA. This is not the record of someone who will save our country from gun violence."

But CNN has learned that's not the only attack team Bloomberg is rolling out tonight at the Democratic debate in South Carolina.

So, for that, let's go to Charleston to our CNN business and politics correspondent Cristina Alesci.

And, Cristina, tell us what to expect.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN POLITICS AND BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Bloomberg team has been rolling out attack after attack, as you mentioned, on Bernie Sanders.

And I just came from a press conference where the campaign essentially lined up five black lawmakers and thought leaders, current mayors, former mayors, a congressperson, all basically saying that no one on that stage has a perfect track record when it comes to the issues that African-Americans care about in this country.

But they made the case that Michael Bloomberg was the best suited to take that on. They also hit Bernie Sanders particularly hard, suggesting that he's failed the constituents in his state, the African-American constituents in his state, and they hit him for his support of the 1994 crime bill. Listen.


STEPHEN BENJAMIN, MAYOR OF COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: Bernie Sanders voted for the crime bill. Joe Biden co-authored the crime bill.

So, if we talk -- again, so if we're going to talk about every candidate's record, let's talk about their record on criminal justice issues in their totality. The crime bill, along with several other votes in the '80s, ushered in this period of mass incarceration.

Every candidate needs to own that. That's just a fact. And if, in fact, we're going to take on Donald Trump in the fall, every candidate needs to make sure has a proper vetting, and that's what we're talking about.


ALESCI: Now, Brooke, I have spoken to several Bloomberg campaign aides, who have said that it's great that they are getting some traction on, you know, these attacks on Bernie Sanders, but -- and the big but here is that Michael Bloomberg has to bring that fight to the debate stage.

People at home are not watching a press conference, you know, with the five Democratic lawmakers and thought leaders. They're going to be watching the debate tonight, and Michael Bloomberg has to recover from that terrible performance last week that really undercuts the argument that he is in the best position to defeat Donald Trump and can take him on, on the debate stage.

And this whole argument of electability really comes into play here. Now, what happens if Michael Bloomberg has a bad night tonight? Well, I heard from one source who said, you know, they took a little bit of a hit in the polls, but it's not a total endgame for them if they -- if he performs poorly tonight, Brooke, but we're going to have to wait and see.

A lot of people are going to be focused on how Bloomberg does tonight.

BALDWIN: Many eyes on him, so many eyes and also ire from folks on the stage against Senator Bernie Sanders.

Cristina, thank you. A chief argument against Senator Sanders is that he will be a disaster

for Democrats down-ballot if he, indeed, is the party's nominee, but didn't people say that about Trump in 2016?

CNN senior political analyst John Avlon takes a closer look -- John.


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Donald Trump, back in the day, was a populist outsider who broke all the rules, beloved by the base, while the GOP establishment warned he'd be a disastrous nominee.

Now many people see a mirror image of that script with Bernie Sanders. This outsider's built a populist movement. His supporters are passionate and quick to condemn the Democratic establishment.

And after two caucuses and one primary, Sanders is the front-runner after trailing Joe Biden for most of the campaign. He has momentum, but can Bernie win? That's the 270 electoral vote question.

Now, the most ideological extreme candidate is usually worst- positioned to win over swing voters in swing states. Barry Goldwater and George McGovern are iconic, if dated, examples. Both lost in landslides.

But what if this time it's different? As Peter Hamby argues in "Vanity Fair" instead of asking if Sanders is unelectable, ask another question: What if Sanders is actually the most electable Democrat?


Now, this may sound like magical thinking, but Hamby explains: "In the age of Trump, hyperpartisanship, institutional distrust, and social media, Sanders could be examined as a candidate almost custom-built to go head-to-head with Trump."

So, let's dig into that. Now, Bernie is an authentic political celebrity. People know what he stands for. But there's plenty to suggest his views play better in a polarized primary than in a general election.

Let's look at Democratic Party divisions. According to a 2019 Pew study, only 15 percent of Democrats identify as very liberal, 32 percent, liberal, 38 percent moderate, and 14 percent some flavor of conservative.

Now let's zoom out to the overall America electorate. Twenty-seven percent of Americans now identify as Democrats, according to Gallup, 30 percent Republican, 42 percent independent.

America remains a center-right nation, with 37 percent calling themselves conservative in 2019, 35 percent moderate, and 24 percent liberal.

So any nominee is going to need to reach out beyond the base to win. Bernie's argument echoes Trump. He'll drive turnout by connecting with

working-class voters who have been alienated by the establishment. It may be true. But the new voters predicted haven't materialized yet. And the label of socialism, under which Democratic socialism lives, is really not popular.

Now, you could say Americans vote on authenticity; not ideology. Fair point. But the center-right center of gravity is tougher to argue against. Democrats need to understand why Reagan and Nixon won 49 state reelections, while Clinton and Obama had to fight for their second term.

The Electoral College also seems to favor the GOP, with Trump and Bush 43 losing the popular vote. So, running up margins in New York and California ain't enough. You can't write off Florida or ignore swing- district Democrats warning against Sanders.

But, bottom line, could Bernie win? Sure, anything is possible. Donald Trump is an unpopular president, despite a strong economy to date. Top-tier Democrats beat Trump by different margins in head-to-head polls like this.

The same is true for key swing state polls in Pennsylvania and Michigan, better gauges of who might actually win the White House.

But Bernie Sanders has built a movement. He has momentum. But there are rational reasons to think that nominating a Democratic socialist in a center-right country is a real risk that could reelect Donald Trump.


BALDWIN: John Avlon, thank you.

With me now, South Carolina state Senator Marlon Kimpson. He has endorsed Joe Biden.

So, Senator, welcome.

SEN. MARLON KIMPSON (D-SC): Good to be with you.

BALDWIN: So, I know that you call the South Carolina primaries the first real 2020 contest that reflects the Democratic Party in the country.

And, obviously, we know that you think the former vice president will do well. And a new NBC/Marist poll shows that he is still the top choice among likely primary voters. So, my question to you is, who are you most concerned could prevent Biden from winning South Carolina?

KIMPSON: Well, at this point, as you have and all of the commentators have suggested, Bernie Sanders.

Obviously, he's done well in the first three states, and our argument is simple. The first three states do not reflect the soul or the largest demographic of the Democratic Party. That's just a fact. And so we will be drawing contrasts to the independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. You know, I am the senator of Charleston. We had the massacre at Mother Emanuel. Gun reform and closing the Charleston loophole is a significant issue. You cannot waffle on gun reform.

And so he will have to answer for his record, for five times not supporting the Brady Bill, and being backed by the NRA. We have a clear contrast on that issue and a number of other issues when we make the case in South Carolina.

BALDWIN: I have been in that church. I have been in that room. I have spoken with the sole survivor. We will look for that certainly to come up this evening at the debate.

You bring up Bernie Sanders, and I'm curious, Senator Kimpson. We have Joe Biden releasing this new ad saying that Senator Sanders wanted to primary President Obama during his 2012 reelection bid. Sanders has denied it, but then there was a clip of him saying it twice. Watch this.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My suggestion is I think, you know -- and I think one of the reasons the president has been able to move so far to the right is that there is no primary opposition to him.

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


BALDWIN: Senator Kimpson, do you think Sanders' denial and the tape add up?

KIMPSON: It's just like his Medicare for all plan. It doesn't make sense.

And I'm hoping that the commentators tonight not only ask him that question, but there are others on this stage who have not supported President Barack Obama.

When faced with the most -- the most important decision of launching his campaign, he chose Vice President Biden. The Affordable Care Act is very popular in South Carolina.


All of the South Carolina Democrats have been fighting to expand the ACA and expand Medicaid under the ACA. These issues do not comport with South Carolina voters, the fact that he is for Medicare for all.

And the fact that we have either independent or just converted Democrats on the stage tonight is a subject of -- should be a subject of great inquiry. Where did you stand with the most popular Democratic president in our history, President Barack Obama? Were you for him or were you against him?

And I'm hoping that distinction will be drawn tonight, and I know that there's one person that can say that unequivocally, without fear of contradiction, and that's Joe Biden.

BALDWIN: I know that Joe Biden is really relying on this South Carolina win. He said it himself. Senator, what if he doesn't come out on top? Will that mean game over?

KIMPSON: Well, it certainly would present a very significant challenge for the vice president, because he's said that himself.

But, fortunately, as your polls show, he is the front-runner here. He has been consistent in that status. And, actually, nationally when you take a look at all the average of polls, he's still the front-runner and the most electable in this race.

And so what we have, we have a number of moderates who have no chance of winning a national election, for example, Tom Steiner.

BALDWIN: Steyer, yes.

KIMPSON: A vote for all of these candidates that are -- Steyer.

A vote for all of these candidates that are not polling high, in my view, is a vote for Bernie Sanders. And I say that with all due respect. At some point -- and I know it's early -- we're going to have to consolidate the moderates in this race and really start talking about electability.

BALDWIN: Yes. I'm hearing it. You hear it already from so many voters thinking of who best could beat Donald Trump. We will see how it shakes out this weekend. I think it's so important how you characterize it as really South Carolina, it represents the soul of this country, just demographically speaking.

Senator Kimpson, thank you very much. Appreciate your time, sir.

KIMPSON: Thank you for being -- thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you.

Coming up next: President Trump says he doesn't want foreign help in 2020. He is still refusing to acknowledge intelligence reports that Russia is trying to interfere again.

We will get reaction from Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth.

And minutes after the judge in the Roger Stone case blasted the president's attacks against the jurors, guess what? He is now doing just that again on Twitter.

Stand by.



BALDWIN: Just in to CNN, President Trump attacking the jury forewoman in the Roger Stone case once again, despite the fact that the judge in the case literally warned against doing that moments ago.

His tweet attacks the forewoman and the judge. And let's not forget the attorney general has said tweets like that make it impossible for him, the A.G., to do his job.

CNN political correspondent Sara Murray is outside that courthouse in D.C., where Roger Stone is asking for a new trial.

And, Sara, I can't imagine this is helpful.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I don't think it's going to be super helpful.

And, you know, the president is traveling back from India, and it's unclear if he's getting news of what's happening inside of court right now, but he did -- he tweeted that there's rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case. He alleged that the juror is biased. He alleged that the judge is biased.

He's peddling more falsehoods, like, Roger Stone didn't even work on my campaign.

That is a lie. And this is all happening just truly moments after the judge was citing the president's tweets, was citing segments on FOX News attacking this jury and the foreperson specifically.

And that's part of the reason that the rest of this hearing that she's holding today, we can only hear the audio of, we can't see any visuals of. It's possible that the judge is going to have jurors in there testifying.

We are not going to see them. She's banned anyone in this courtroom from using their name or referring to their juror number. And she cited potentially substantial threats of harm against members of the jury. And, again, she's condemned tweets like this from the president.

Obviously, that's not stopping him.

BALDWIN: No, it's not.

Sara Murray, thank you for that.

Now to this. Today, President Trump would not say whether he believes his own intelligence experts' conclusion that Russia is trying to interfere in the November election.

However, the president did say this:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK, first of all, I want no help from any country, and I haven't been given help from any country.


BALDWIN: But remember the president giving this answer when asked what he would do if a foreign government tried to give him information on an election opponent?


TRUMP: I think maybe you do both. I think you might want to listen. I don't -- there's nothing wrong with listening.

If somebody called from a country, Norway, we have information on your opponent, oh, I think I'd want to hear it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: You want that kind of interference in our elections?

TRUMP: It's not an interference. They have information. I think I'd take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI.


BALDWIN: Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth represents the state of Illinois and is a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Senator Duckworth, a pleasure. Welcome.


SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): Thanks for having me on.

BALDWIN: In addition to those comments we just played, the president has refused to acknowledge that Russia is currently interfering with the 2020 election.

Your reaction, Senator Duckworth?

DUCKWORTH: Well, it's just continuing what he does all the time, which is refuse to listen to his own intelligence community and his intelligence experts.

The intelligence community, independent experts and a bipartisan group of senators and congress men and women have time and again shown that the Russians interfered in our 2016 elections. They attempted to interfere in the 2018 elections. And we know that they're trying to interfere in the 2020 elections.

And for the president to deny this means that he's putting our elections in jeopardy, because we need to be preparing ourselves and fighting back against the Russians, not denying that it never happened, because it is happening, whether he likes it or not.

BALDWIN: And then just for Americans who are obviously concerned about their votes when they hear this, what are you hearing, just as a senator, about what's being done to stop this, because we are just a week away from Super Tuesday?


So let me tell you that, in Illinois, we were the state that the Russians attacked first in 2016. They actually downloaded our entire voter file of every voter in the state of Illinois.

And one of the things that we have done is made sure that every single voting machine has a paper backup. And that's what I encourage all states to do, that, if you're using a voting machine, you have a paper backup. And when you go to cast your vote, you look at that paper backup. That is an incontrovertible record of the vote that you have cast.

That is the most basic thing that we can do to prevent Russia's interference at the polling booth. This does not even talk about what they're trying to do in social media with bots sending out false information, with voter suppressions, telling people not to vote, to go vote at the wrong location on the wrong date.

So, we really do need to push back against them, and we need to empower our intelligence community to do their jobs and do that.

BALDWIN: Let me turn the page and ask about something else the president said during this news conference. Here he was.


TRUMP: Yes, I don't think it's a big problem. I don't think it's very many people.

I think we had a whistle-blower who was a fake, because, if you look at the whistle-blower, as an example, if you look at his report, and then you compare that to the transcripts, it bore no relationship.

So that was a very sad situation and a lot of time, a lot of time wasted. We want to have people that are good for the country, are loyal to our country, because that was a disgraceful situation.


BALDWIN: He was asked about the purge of officials, right, around him. And I'm wondering, what do you think he meant by that?

DUCKWORTH: I have no idea what this president's talking about.

If you look at the whistle-blower's report, and you look at the transcript that the White House itself issued, you know that they are very, very consistent with one another. And that transcript is not an actual transcript, by the way. It's edited.

So, there's a full transcript out there that the White House refuses to issue. If you look at it, they're very much similar.

This president is time and again attacking civil servants, attacking people, and feels that he can do whatever he wants. I mean, after all, he just recently said that he's the one who sent Rudy Giuliani to the Ukraine to go dig up whatever dirt he could.

You know, after his impeachment, he then came out and said, oh, after all, yes, I did send Rudy Giuliani.

The impeachment acquittal vote really has allowed this president to move forward and retaliate against people, to continue to be out of control. And, really, this is not to the benefit of the American people.

BALDWIN: Another concern of the American people, the coronavirus.

The CDC was sounding the alarm just today, saying that it will -- there will be more cases, that it will spread here in the United States.

And I know you were briefed on the coronavirus this morning. What were you told? And, really, the question everyone's wondering is, are we ready?

DUCKWORTH: Well, I'm deeply concerned that we may not be ready.

The problem is tracking all these individuals. And, in fact, when I served in the military, one of the things that I did was actually give presentations and discussions on pandemics, global pandemics when I was in the Army Reserves towards the end of my military career.

And so we have to have better coordination between the CDC and civilian authorities.

In Illinois, we had two individuals, one woman, and then she transferred it to her husband. And that was the best-case scenario of how it could be handled, and we were able to isolate both people right away and stop the spread.

But this is an issue that's not yet at the tipping point, and this could really spread into a global pandemic. It's not there yet, but we have to be ever vigilant.

And I'm not sure that we have enough linkages between the CDC, for example. Just to get tested and get test results can take a whole week, and that's too long to have to wait to find out whether or not someone is positive.

BALDWIN: Appreciate you raising the flag. This is definitely one of those stories. Everyone -- they're concerned, and understandably.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, thank you so much. Great to have you on.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, a Cuban American immigrant who fled that country to escape the Castro regime joins me live.


What he thinks of the Democratic front-runner, Bernie Sanders, praising some of Castro's record.