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Trump: Sotomayor & Ginsberg Should Recuse From My Cases; Wife Of Justice Clarence Thomas Part Of Trump's White House Purge Effort; Bloomberg Campaign Senior National Spokesperson, Sabrina Singh, Discusses Bloomberg's Plan To Attack Sanders In Debate; Bloomberg's Longtime Partner Saying "Get Over It" About NDAs; Sanders Denies Biden Claim He Wanted To Primary Obama In 2012; Will Warren Attack Sanders At Debate Tonight? Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 13:30   ET



IRIN CARMON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE & AUTHOR: For your context, Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School, recently published a study that during the Bush and Obama administrations, for 16 years, there were only eight extraordinary requests to block the lower courts, sort of short-circuiting, going straight to the Supreme Court.

At the time of his writing, this number has been found that there were 21 brought by the Trump administration asking the Supreme Court to overrule what lower courts had done and allow it to immediately, on an emergency basis, implement its policy.

This is usually really extraordinary. They have to show that there's harm.

But the reason the Trump administration is sidestepping the lower courts is because, as Justice Sotomayor pointed out, they have had a great success doing so.

Lower courts have said, actually, this needs to go through the normal process. We need to adjudicate this. We need to hear and have evidence in this. And the Supreme Court, in many of these cases, has written a blank check to the Trump administration and said they can immediately enforce these cases.

And that's what Justice Sotomayor is paying attention to.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: So you're saying that what Justice Sotomayor is saying in this dissent, that there's -- this a good point she's making, that this is holding water?

CARMON: She is making a factual point that you could compare what happened under both Obama and Bush. And you could look at numbers and see how often the Trump administration has resorted to these extraordinary measures. You can see that it's actually roughly triple. And we're only talking a couple years into a single term compared to four. Yes, it's an opinion in terms of whether she thinks these are merited,

but if you look at the empirical facts, they are certainly in her favor.

KEILAR: On the other hand, let's talk about the involvement of Justice Clarence Thomas' wife. Apparently she, you know, in her political work and in her role, in reportedly helping root out people for the White House purge, which the president confirmed is happening. What do you make of that?

And I suppose it's not surprising that the president wouldn't say that Justice Thomas should recuse himself. He's very much in the president's corners when it comes to how the president would like to see decisions made by the court.

CARMON: Brianna, there has been staggering reporting about what Ginni Thomas and her group Ground Swell have been doing, first, in Axios, and more in the "New York Times," indicating that she's handing the president lists of people who she thinks should be purged from the administration in favor of people she's loyal to.

Now, she is her own person. But it's impossible to divorce the fact that she's married to someone in front of whom Trump has a lot of important business. He may be more likely to give credence to someone married to an important Supreme Court justice, one of only nine votes, lifetime appointment.

It's a question of undue influence. It's certainly a conflict of interest, because as we know, many matters of the Trump White House are coming before the Supreme Court for Clarence Thomas to vote on.

I would also add that you don't even have to go to a spouse to question this sort of conflict of interest question that President Trump has raised about the justices.

Remember Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing? Remember how he was going on and on about how the allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against him were a revenge plot by the Clintons?

I think there are certainly times in which justices have made really partisan remarks. And Justice Ginsburg apologized for her remarks.

So I think it certainly raises questions about impartiality when you have the spouse, whether it's male or female, of the Supreme Court justice essentially giving hit lists to the president, knowing that he's more likely to pay attention to that based on who she is married to.

KEILAR: Irin, thank you so much. Irin Carmon with us. We appreciate it.

CARMON: Thank you.

KEILAR: "Get over it," that is something from Bloomberg's longtime partner when asked what she would say to women bothered by his alleged past comments. His campaign will join me next. [13:34:01]

Plus, right now, the judge who sentenced Roger Stone is coming face to face with him again as the Trump ally demands a new trial.


KEILAR: At tonight's 2020 Democratic debate, it may be Bernie Sanders versus everybody, but expect billionaire candidate, Michael Bloomberg, to throw a majority of the punches.

According to his campaign, Bloomberg is prepared to salvage the millions he's spent on the race by challenging the frontrunner head on. After a rough debate debut, the Bloomberg campaign says this debate is about one candidate and one candidate only. That is Senator Bernie Sanders.

Joining me now is Sabrina Singh. She is the senior national spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign.

Sabrina, thank you for joining us.


KEILAR: This is no surprise that Bloomberg did not seem particularly prepared for Senator Sanders' attacks about the nondisclosure agreements that he has on women who alleged workplace's misconduct and sexual harassment at his companies.

Since then, it's important to note that Bloomberg has released some women from the NDAs, not all of them, though.

I want to ask you, how is he prepared to handle what is still going to be criticism because of that tonight?


SINGH: Well, we are expecting, I think, attacks from all sides. But I will say just on the topic of NDAs, we have released the women who have NDAs against Mike specifically for comments or alleged comments that he made. Other NDAs have to do with the company, and that's a different issue. Anything pertaining to Mike --


KEILAR: It's his company.

SINGH: Yes, it is his company. But at the end of the day, these are still legal agreements. He is a candidate running for this race as president. He felt it was important to be transparent and allow the women who have these NDAs to be able to speak out.

But tonight, we're prepared for the attacks, we're ready for -- whether it's Elizabeth Warren or Senator Bernie Sanders coming after him. But at the end of the day, this race is coming down to three candidates. It's Mike Bloomberg, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. And we know that in order to beat Donald Trump in November, we have to nominate someone that can appeal to moderates, Independents, Republicans and Democrats.

KEILAR: But this is going to be -- this is going to be an issue -- Sabrina, this is something you'll have to get over to do that, and this is something Mike Bloomberg will have to deal with.

So are there women -- I hear you're trying to make this distinction between people who have alleged some things that Bloomberg personally has said, but there are also people who allege he personally created a hostile or allowed to foster a hostile environment at these workplaces where he was -- I mean, these are his companies, right?

So I want to talk about this. Are there women in those cases who have said, I would like to be released from my NDA so that I could speak about this publicly?

SINGH: Well, you know, I don't know the answer to that because these are still legal agreements, these are still nondisclosure agreements that are bound in confidentiality right now.


KEILAR: I don't know if you know about that in the case of the other women who have been released from NDAs.

SINGH: Right.


SINGH: I only know, for the three cases that I can speak on, which are the ones against Mike's comments or alleged comments against him. Other ones on the company or that Mike is president of, but against the company or other employees themselves, these are still legal agreements. I don't actually have any insight beyond those.


KEILAR: These are legal agreements.

SINGH: Right.

KEILAR: I just want to be clear. All of these are legal agreements. And some of them Mike Bloomberg has allowed to basically be opened up for NDAs.

I want to talk about something else. This is, as I mentioned in the case of these NDAs that have not -- the women have not been released from them where they are concerned, these women allege that, and Mike Bloomberg was questioned about the environment in these companies that he was in charge of.

Bloomberg's longtime girlfriend, his girlfriend of 20 years, has responded to this controversy by saying get over it.

Let's listen to that.



In none of them was he accused of doing anything or saying something nasty to a woman. That is not who he is. Life has changed. I grew up in that world. It was a real culture.


KEILAR: Fact checking, he was accused of saying nasty things to women. But is this your candidate's view, get over it, that was 30 years ago?

SINGH: No, that is not. And I think Diana Taylor was speaking more for herself. This is someone that is watching her partner be attacked on the stage.

We have to remember that Mike is the president of a company with over 20,000 employees. And I can only speak for myself here being at the Bloomberg campaign. This is an operation here that is a majority of women where our voices are heard.

The atmosphere and the environment is collaborative and creative. I'm surrounded by women here who have worked for Mike for over 20 to 30 years.

I think we have to remember some of the context here, that there were these NDAs that Mike was part of, but we are allowing the women to come out, we are allowing them to speak and that's important and we should honor that.

KEILAR: Not all of the women.

SINGH: Well, the ones against Mike, yes, we are.

KEILAR: No. You're making a distinction that some people might not make. You're saying if words came specifically out of his mouth. Other people would argue that fostering an environment where it is basically a hostile place or it's not dealing with issues of sexual harassment or sexual assault in a sensitive way at all that that also would have to do with Michael Bloomberg. But you're saying that does not. Is that right?

SINGH: I just want to be clear. I think that Mike and this campaign and certainly the company has a zero-tolerance policy for this. And going forward, the company does allow women in any confidentiality agreement when they join the company to speak out against any harassment or allegations that have been -- that they are accusing someone else of.

But I want to be really specific here because --


KEILAR: If they're doing it going forward, why can't you do it retroactively? I don't understand how you're making the distinction those are still legal agreements, but if you have current ones, they are not bound by the same standards.


SINGH: Because they're two separate entities here. There's Mike Bloomberg and then there's the company. I understand what you're saying, that with Mike as the president of the company, why can't he just release everyone else. That is just not how businesses work, unfortunately. We're talking about a company with over 20,000 employees.

And frankly, some people entered into these NDAs and want this keep them private. They don't --


KEILAR: Some people don't, Sabrina.

SINGH: Sure. And I'm saying for the women that have an NDA against Mike, specific comments against them, we are welcoming them to come out and speak freely right now, but the issues with anything else in the company, those would have to be directed to the company.

KEILAR: All right, Sabrina, thank you so much. We know this is a big night ahead for Michael Bloomberg. We are all waiting to see how this shapes up on this very pivotal week. Thank you so much for being with us.

SINGH: Thank you.

KEILAR: So night two of the special CNN two-night event continues tomorrow. This is live from Charleston. Bloomberg, Biden, Klobuchar and Warren will answer votes questions. That's tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Senator Sanders denied at his CNN town hall that he ever threatened to primary then-President Barack Obama. But the tape tells a different story. Hear them, next.



KEILAR: We are just hours away from tonight's 2020 Democratic debate, and the expected target is, you guessed it, Senator Bernie Sanders because his rivals appear to just have it out for him after Sanders scored his second consecutive win in the Nevada caucuses, solidifying his status as the Democratic frontrunner.

And here with me now to discuss, we have Francesca Chambers, White House correspondent for McClatchy, D.C. And we also have Krystal Ball, co-host of "Rising" on Hill TV. She's also the author of a new book, "The Populist's Guide to 2020."

Let's talk, Francesca, first, just about -- this is going to be the thing, Bernie Sanders with a target on his back, so how is that going to look? How is he going to handle that?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY D.C.: It's very clear so far over the things that have happened over the last couple of days that he does not want to back down from his comments about these authoritarian regimes saying, yes, I've been critical of them, but at the same time I think that there are positive aspects and staying consistent with the comments he's made over the past 20, 30 years, however long it's been.

I think you can continue to see that tonight, but Pete Buttigieg had also made an argument in the last debate about the Bernie Bros and their online comments, and so one would expect to maybe see more talk about that tonight as well.

KEILAR: One of the things he's probably going to get questions of tonight is this idea of a primary challenge that he proposed against President Obama in 2012 because, according to "The Atlantic," it was actually more cooked than it was half baked as we may have previously thought. This is from 2011.

This is some audio of Bernie Sanders. Let's listen.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voice-over): 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's no primary opposition to him. I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.


KEILAR: Instead, though, he said to Anderson Cooper that it's silly season, that this is being proposed. We know from various reports he's been overstating his relationship with President Obama. What do you make of this, Krystal?

KRYSTAL BALL, CO-HOST, "RISING" & AUTHOR: A couple of things. First of all, on the attack itself, I don't know that it's going to be any surprise to voters that Bernie Sanders has been critical of the Democratic Party, right? I don't think that's going to come as a major shock.

And look, ultimately, he campaigned for Barack Obama in his 2012 reelect. So there's that, too.

I do, though, want to zoom out because I think this is an important distinction between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. And when it looks like the two were going to be really head-to-head juggernauts against each other, this was really going to be the fight.

Biden's central case is Trump is an aberration, let's get rid him and go back to the Obama years and Barack Obama is my friend, et cetera, et cetera. Bernie Sanders is, in some ways, a repudiation of the Obama legacy. He is saying that that era, those politics weren't enough. We need something different. We need something new to respond to those new challenges. I think that central tension is very interesting.

As a particular hit on him, look, it's almost like a thought crime, like you're not even allowed to think negative thoughts about Barack Obama. I do think that is a little bit silly.

And at this point, all of the knives are going to be out for Bernie. But is it too late? People are already voting in Super Tuesday states. He has this massive diverse state. He's got the money and infrastructure already up.

South Carolina happens on Saturday. Super Tuesday is just days away. There's not a lot of time ramp up.

KEILAR: It is so close.

I wonder if Senator Elizabeth Warren might take him on. Do you think so? So far, she really hasn't with Bernie Sanders.

CHAMBERS: In the last debate, we really saw her show up in a way that we have not seen her in any of the debates. It seems like that that was because we had Mike Bloomberg on the stage. He's an embodiment of everything she thinks is wrong with politics.

BALL: Yes.

CHAMBERS: But there were some people who said she focused on him too much. Will she shift her attention tonight to Bernie Sanders? He's the one who's really running away with it right now, and the other candidates too. A lot of this depends on what their strategies are for what they want to achieve.

It does seem like Pete Buttigieg, who has sharpened his attacks since Nevada, has 1 percent in mind who he's going to go after.


BALL: Let's be honest. What is Elizabeth Warren's path at this point? She's had disappointing finishes in every one of these primaries so far. Reporters were pressing her to go after Bernie Sanders.


BALL: Isn't he dangerous? Isn't he toxic? She said Michael Bloomberg is the most-risky candidate. When asked about that, she said, I heard you. Michael Bloomberg.

To me, I'm wondering, is she starting to look at this as maybe my best bet is for a V.P. slot. Maybe I can rebuild some of the bridges I have burned with myself and the Sanders movement and be better positioned there. I'm wondering. I don't know. That's a question to watch for tonight.

KEILAR: Maybe she's going to provide the assist, right? That's what you think listening to that.

Krystal, Francesca, thank you guys so much.

And just in, the CDC is issuing a dire warning telling Americans to begin preparing for the likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak here in the U.S.