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Sanders Braces for Debate Attacks Tonight as He Tries to Hold Front-Runner Status & Defend Fidel Castro Comments; Obama's Ex-Chief of Staff on Dem Race: "Panic Would be The Adjective to Describe the Mood Right Now"; Biden Prepares For High-Stakes Debate as He Bets on South Carolina for a Crucial Win; Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) Discusses About His Concern About Sanders' Climb to The Poll. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Be sure to join CNN tomorrow night 7:00 pm Eastern for a second night of our CNN Democratic presidential town hall event all live from Charleston. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, it's Bernie Sanders versus everyone. The 2020 candidates gearing up to take down the frontrunner at tonight's debate. Is Sanders ready? Jane Sanders is my guest.

Plus, get over it. Mike Bloomberg's longtime partner says anyone bothered by Bloomberg's alleged sexist remarks and his NDA needs to do just that.

And the CDC warning Americans to be prepared for a coronavirus crisis. President Trump though says everything is under control.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We are live from Charleston, South Carolina this evening where in just about an hour the 2020 candidates will square off in what could be the most contentious debate yet and could even be the last debate for some. Because voters here in South Carolina will be made making their final decisions, the make or bake primary in South Carolina is this weekend.

And tonight, person with the biggest target on their back Bernie Sanders literally he will be in the center of the stage after his decisive win in Nevada. He is now the indisputable front runner. And one line of attack from his rivals tonight likely to be about Sanders doubling down on his comments about Fidel Castro.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When Fidel Castro first came to power, which was, when, '59? Does that sound right?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Fifty-nine, '60.

SANDERS: OK. You know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program.

I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.


BURNETT: And it isn't just Castro back in 1985, Sanders sat down with Nicaraguan strong man Daniel Ortega, who's accused of widespread human rights abuses but KFILE found this. Here is what Sanders said.


SANDERS: Ortega is an impressive guy.


BURNETT Sanders' opponents, of course, are seizing on those remarks. Here they are today.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why are we spotlighting the literacy programs of a brutal dictator instead of being unambiguous in our condemnation about the way he's treated his own people?


BURNETT Mike Bloomberg going to Twitter saying, "Fidel Castro left a dark legacy of forced labor camps, religious repression, widespread poverty, firing squads and the murder of thousands of his own people. But sure, Bernie, let's talk about his literacy program."

That's the sort of tone that we could have tonight on that stage.

Jeff Zeleny is OUTFRONT live in Charleston. Jeff, this is going to be an event Sanders is preparing. I would imagine he is ready to be taking fire from everyone else on that stage tonight.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORREPONDENT: Erin, good evening. There's no question about it. I mean, this is the 10th Democratic presidential debate, but boy, it feels so different. You can sense it in the tone, in the urgent tones from all campaigns we've talked to today all day long and this is why.

Yes, the South Carolina primary is on Saturday like you said, but it is the Super Tuesday, the biggest day of contest of them all, a week from today. That is 14 states voting some big states; California, Texas, North Carolina, early voting already underway in many of those states. So this is the last best opportunity for all of the candidates to make their arguments and also they're speaking to voters as well as donors.

If several of those candidates on stage tonight want to be advertising before Super Tuesday, they need to impress donors. But it is Bernie Sanders who is at the center of it all. There's been so much talk, Erin, for last several days about a stop Bernie movement. Can there be a stop Bernie movement?

So far that is just all talk. We will find out tonight if there's any action behind that and we know that Senator Sanders is a good debater. He's a very practice debater. He's never been in this situation before as the commanding frontrunner with so many incoming attacks from all different directions, but he does know how to debate and deflect, so also as well as Senator Sanders with Joe Biden.

This is a key debate for him to make his case to African-American voters here in South Carolina and to other voters that he is the one to stand up to President Trump. So, Erin, I'm looking at tonight, Senator Sanders, Joe Biden as well as Mike Bloomberg. Can he revive his standing there after that terrible debate performance last week?

This time there's one difference, Elizabeth Warren and Michael Bloomberg, they tangled last week, they will again tonight. Tonight, Pete Buttigieg is standing directly between them. So we will see if he will break that up.

But, Erin, so many different dynamics to watch for. Again, Bernie Sanders, though, is front and center. Erin.

BURNETT All right. Thank you very much, Jeff Zeleny.

And OUTFRONT now, Bernie Sanders' wife, Jane Sanders, who's been out in the campaign trail and I know you're going to be hitting all of these Super Tuesday states ...


BURNETT ... as well. Your husband is the front runner and last week he was but Bloomberg was sort of his first timeout and there were a lot of daggers at him. And then, of course, Senator Sanders won Nevada so crushingly that now all eyes are on him literally in the center of the stage. Is he going into tonight feeling like they're all going to be coming at him?

J SANDERS: Yes. I mean, I think that's what comes with being the front runner. It's great to be there, but being in the center of the stage brings people on both sides really going after, from what we've seen today, all leading up to it.


A number of the other candidates are really gunning for him.

BURNETT Right. They have been. They've been seizing on his comments.


BURNETT I mean, is there somebody that you expected come at the hardest at him or ...

J SANDERS: Well, I think Mayor Bloomberg has said that he will and he has done, some of his people have spoken out ridiculously over the day and his social media is full of really inaccuracy, so it's worrisome. The truth is one of the first things that goes in politics, it seems.

BURNETT So they've also been seizing, of course, on your husband's comments about Fidel Castro.


BURNETT Which he was asked about last night and again, he brought up the literacy programs that Fidel had pursued. Other Democrats and not even just people running but other Democratic supporters have had an issue with that and here are a few of them.


BUTTIGIEG: Why are we spotlighting the literacy programs of a brutal dictator instead of being unambiguous in our condemnation about the way he's treated his own people.

SEN. BOB MENDEZ (D-NJ): I always find it interesting that he gives a passing glance to the question of authoritarianism.

KRYSTLE MATTHEWS, BERNIE SANDERS SURROGATE: I don't wish that he would be talking about Fidel Castro at all.


J SANDERS: Well, I mean, I think people ask about it and that's the only reason he's talking about it. But I don't remember any of them speaking out against when President Obama lifted the embargo and was more expansive about the good work they did in literacy. I mean, everything is not all ...

BURNETT So he think it's a double standard.

J SANDERS: It's a double standard, but that is the standard in politics. I mean, what Bernie wants to do is talk about the issues that affect people today. I think that it's kind of sad that people have to go back 50 years and/or 40 years to find something to go after Bernie. But the Fidel Castro thing, he has constantly said I'm not interested in even meeting Fidel Castro as many senators have. But he has gone down and talked about the bad things, the terrible things.

We had a free press reporter, our local paper, follow him down and right about some of the things that he had said.

BURNETT So the poll tonight, look, this is the state Joe Biden was supposed to win handily. He's called it his firewall. This is a crucial week for Joe Biden. He's got to win, OK, but now the poll, the latest poll that we have has Bernie Sanders in a statistical tie with Joe Biden. So he is behind five points, but that's the margin of error in this particular poll, so we call that a statistical tie, 27 to 23.

Do you think Bernie could win South Carolina?

J SANDERS: Well, that's what we're working towards. I mean, it's an uphill climb but we are hopeful that he will win. I mean, we've had people out, so many volunteers going around the state and knocking on doors and phone calling and I think the issues that Bernie talks about his stance on veterans issues, the support for the military in terms of the soldiers and that he passed the veterans bill with John McCain.


J SANDERS: That was a major thing. I think that matters to South Carolinians. I think medical debt is one of the largest contributors to bankruptcy here in South Carolina and the average student debt is $36,000. So the issues that we talk about are the ones that I think would resonate with South Carolinians.

So you talk about that, of course, as you know, a number of Democrats have said that Bernie Sanders is an Armageddon as far as they see it.

"Oh, gosh, it's going to wreak havoc on the bottom of the ticket. Oh, my gosh, what's going to happen if Bernie Sanders is in the White House?"

Here is President Obama's former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaking on CNN today. I want to play the full exchange briefing. Here he is.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Is there a panic in the Democratic process right now?

RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I would say panic would be the apt adjective to describe the mood right now.

AMANPOUR: And should there be?

EMANUEL: Oh, yes, sure. This is a consequential election and you don't want to make a mistake. Personally, I'm friendly with Senator Sanders. I'm not a fan of the politics. I think it will lead to an electoral defeat.


BURNETT Panic and electoral defeat.

J SANDERS: I think I rarely agree with Rahm Emanuel and I don't agree with him now. I think that what we've seen is Bernie's gone around the country and worked on behalf of people running for office and they've won. So I think that this is a political ploy. Rahm Emanuel does not agree with Bernie's politics. Now, that's not true of all of Obama's administration or Obama himself.

I mean, I think this is silly season. People will say whatever they need to say.


On the other hand, you've heard a number of people that have been talked to that are in the Senate saying that he's led on so many issues on education, on veterans, on health care, and that they feel confident they have no concerns about him being the standard bearer. And if he's the nominee, they'll work with him.

We look forward to helping down ballot races all across this country and winning quite a wonderful defeat against Donald Trump.

BURNETT All right. Thank you very much, Jane Sanders. Good to see you again.

J SANDERS: Thank you.

BURNETT Obviously, a very important night for Senator Sanders, but also Joe Biden. He is betting his campaign on South Carolina, as I just said. The big question, though, is will voters here bet on him?

Plus, the Tom Steyer factor, he just put more than $22 million in South Carolina and you can see that money when you get on the ground here and it has been showing in the polls. Could he have a surprising finish here?

And the CDC with its starkest warning yet about coronavirus coming to the United States, but is the White House sending a very different message?


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: This virus won't last forever. We have contained it.




BURNETT Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT here in Charleston, South Carolina. We are just moments away from a major democratic debate. One that is make or break for Joe Biden.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond. He is the national co-chair for Joe Biden's campaign. So good to be with you in person.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Thanks for having me.

[19:15:00] BURNETT All right. So the latest poll has Biden with a four-point

lead over Bernie Sanders, four or five. It's within the margin of error, so we've been calling it a statistical dead heat. That is not what it looked like a few weeks ago. Does it concern you how much Sanders has climbed?

RICHMOND: No, actually, it doesn't. And I think that may be the latest poll that came out, but I don't think it was the latest poll that was in the field. So there was another poll that came out today also that had us somewhere in the 30s.

But nevertheless, the point is the same. That is we feel confident about South Carolina and we expect to win it. And we're going to keep making our case to the voters of South Carolina about why we're the best choice.

BURNETT So is anything other than a first place finish here? I mean, I guess, there's no other way to put it, it would be a huge loss.

RICHMOND: No, we're going to win here.

BURNETT Yes. All right. So this is the fourth state. He has built his whole candidacy and electability, his experience, his relationship with Obama, his knowledge of government, his knowledge of foreign policy. Do you have concern when you sit here and look at this and I know you were down playing expectations in some of those early states, but here we are at the fourth state and you haven't had a first place win yet. Does that worry you that just kind of the stakes are getting higher and higher to kind deliver that huge blow?

RICHMOND: No. Look, we know it will be a long process and we now have a multibillionaire, two of them, in the race that are spending more money than the U.S. make in print. But we're holding our own and so we're going to make our case to the people of South Carolina, we're going to win here. We will have a second and then a first place finish and I think we'll ride that momentum straight into Super Tuesday.

BURNETT So you're close with Congressman Jim Clyburn, I believe. I know he's been sort of a mentor in some respects.

RICHMOND: I'm very close to him.

BURNETT So his endorsement carries a lot of weight here, as you know.


BURNETT And I talked to him a couple of times in recent weeks and he sort of said, look, he made up his mind a long time ago. He was waiting out of respect to the debate to make his endorsement. It's widely expected he's going to endorse Joe Biden, at least that's what Bernie Sanders folks thinks he's going to do.

RICHMOND: Well, we certainly hope so.

BURNETT Yes. Are you disappointed that he's waited so long? Do you think it would have helped you had he done that earlier? RICHMOND: No. Look, we're all on the board of the host for the debate

and Jim Clyburn and both Bennie Thompson made an agreement with the networks that they would not get out in front of the debate. So, it's given me a lot of time to woo and court Jim Cliburn for Joe Biden and I think that hopefully in the morning or sometime tomorrow we'll get news that we've been waiting for and that is the strongest African- American elected official in South Carolina, the strongest Democrat in South Carolina hopefully endorsing Joe Biden.

BURNETT And how big of a factor has Tom Steyer been? I mean, he's obviously spent a lot of money but he has picked up, he talked about it in the debate in New Hampshire, talking about how well he's been doing with African-American voters in the polls. How significant of a factor has he been or do you think he could be?

RICHMOND: Well, let me tell you in South Carolina he has a great ground game and he has spent a lot of money advertising on what he wants to do and wooing voters. And when you spend that much money in the millions, you're going to see some of a return.

But he spent over $15 million, I think, $20 million in Nevada and we still came in second. I think he was in the low single digits. I don't think he's going to be able to stop us in Nevada, but he is certainly - I mean, in South Carolina, but he's certainly going to get some votes.

BURNETT So when you were talking to the Vice President about what to focus on tonight, who to focus on tonight, now you've got Bernie Sanders in the center as the national front runner. What did you tell him?

RICHMOND: I told him to focus on the people. People want to hear that it's going to be all right that you understand their struggles that they're going through right now. And I told him, despite what everybody says, experience is important.

So let's take coronavirus, for example, do you want a guy who dealt with Ebola just a few years ago and protected the homeland and stopped it from coming over and being an epidemic in the United States or do you want someone with no experience like this president who's bundling it from the beginning and all of a sudden we're now going to have coronavirus cases in the United States.

So I told him to harp on his experience, it matters. He did the Iran deal. He did Paris Climate accord. So the interesting thing tonight is no matter what they say on that stage, just think Joe Biden can say been there done that. So if you talk about assault weapons, I banned them already, Paris Climate Accord I did that too, Iran nuclear deal, I did that too. So he has the experience to be a great president from day one.

BURNETT All right. Thank you very much Congressman Richmond. I appreciate it. Good to see you in person, sir.

And OUTFRONT tonight, black voters here in South Carolina who did not vote for Bernie Sanders in 2016, some of them are now giving him a second look. Why? What is different this time?


ROCHELLE SMITH, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I liked that he's honest and he's truthful about a lot of his topics that he speaks about.


BURNETT Plus, why is Trump downplaying coronavirus as the CDC warns the crisis could be headed for the United States?




BURNETT Welcome back to a special edition of OUTFRONT. We're live from Charleston, South Carolina. Michael Bloomberg is dispatching a group of mayors who have endorsed this campaign ahead of tonight's debate and their mission is to attack Bernie Sanders' record.


MAYOR STEVE BENJAMIN (D) COLUMBIA: The crime bill ushered in mass incarceration in the United States, Bernie Sanders voted for the crime bill. He needs to own up for it.


BURNETT But are the attacks working? Sanders is making in-roads this year with black and Latino voters in a way he never did in 2016. We just saw it in Nevada. Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice over): This time, Senator Bernie Sanders is taking a different approach, after he struggled to win broad support from voters of color in his primary battle with Hillary Clinton four years ago.


NOBLES: How was your campaign different in 2016 than it is now in reaching out to those communities?

SANDERS: Good question. We're much more diverse. I mean that's the simple answer. I can't tell you exactly, but we have hundreds of Latinos and African-Americans on our staff right now, reaching out into the Latino and African-American community.


NOBLES(voice over): That concerted effort already yielding results.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANDERS: My god, there are a lot of people here tonight.



NOBLES(voice over): The minority vote in Nevada help fuel his all out win in the caucuses there. Still entrance polls showed Sanders trailing Joe Biden by 10 points among black voters, while here in South Carolina, even skeptical black leaders like the Reverend Joseph Darby, a longtime ally of Biden have noticed a change.


REV. JOSEPH DARBY, NICHOLS CHAPEL AME CHURCH SENIOR PASTOR: He's done a splendid job outreaching to the African-American community this time. Whoever is advising him kind of pointed him in the right direction.


NOBLES(voice over): In 2016, Sanders lost South Carolina to Clinton by nearly 50 points, getting trounced among black voters by more than 70 points. With the primary now just four days away, the latest poll show Sanders in striking distance of the former Vice President and some voters who may not have considered him in 2016 are keeping an open mind this time around.


SMITH: I liked that he's honest and he's truthful about a lot of his topics that he speaks about.


NOBLES(voice over): Sanders is investing time, meeting with black leaders, addressing issues of specific concerns to the African- American community and sharing his own story of participate painting in the civil rights movement.


NICK CRUSE, SANDERS SUPPORTER: So he marched with MLK. He decided he's going to run, he going to have a people power campaign.


NOBLES(voice over): Sanders has also surrounded himself with prominent black leaders and activists, and even celebrities such as hip hop star Killer Mike, and actor Ray Fisher who spent Monday stumping for Sanders in South Carolina.


RAY FISHER, ACTOR: What our mission is to do is to make people aware as to what Senator Sanders actually stands for and to show people that he has their best interests at heart.


NOBLES(voice over): And while Sanders has made gains, black leaders like Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus say there is still more work to do.


REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D-OH): Black people, we believe we're pretty conservative. We're pretty moderate people and so all in all we're looking for someone who we think is kind of more center left than far left.



NOBLES: And given his poor performance here four years ago, the Sanders campaign never expected that he could win here in 2020. But because of these inroads he's made in the African-American community, they are now starting to think differently. And to that end, Erin, they've started to invest here in a big way in South Carolina. They've expanded their ad by across the entire state, investing some $500,000.

And even though Sanders is going to travel to some of these Super Tuesday states before the vote on Saturday, he is adding events here in South Carolina with the hope that maybe he can pull out an upset, Erin.

BURNETT All right. Thank you very much, Ryan. And Dana Bash is OUTFRONT now, our Chief Political Correspondent and Astead Herndon, National Political Reporter for The New York Times.

Dana, what do you make when you look at this? I mean, obviously, Ryan was just showing the numbers last time around for Sanders, it was a nonstarter when it came to black voters here in South Carolina. But it seems to be different this time. How different?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We'll see. If you just look at the polls, for example, a new poll out in South Carolina from Marist and NBC News today, it shows that he's in second place barely ahead of Tom Steyer, but in second place with African-American voters and not that far behind Joe Biden.

Joe Biden is 30 years or so and he's 20. And that is remarkable given, as Ryan was saying, how far back. I mean, Bernie Sanders got crushed here in South Carolina by Hillary Clinton largely because African- Americans were behind her and not him. But there are a lot of different reasons for the change.

I think first and foremost is he's worked hard to engage with the black community, but also it's generational. And he's popular with young people across the board across ethnic groups.

BURNETT Right. So Astead, what have you been seeing from your reporting on the ground here?

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that's an important point, the generational gap. Where he has made inroads specifically has been around consolidating young support around him cross racially. So we see him being able to get up to that kind of 20 percent, 25 percent number with black voters largely driven by young people, and he has actually softened the older black voters who are usually in the Joe Biden crowd to him.

I think it's important to kind of flip the script. This is also a story about Joe Biden's eroding support among black voters. This was someone who was up 40, 50 points in the state and he is not matching those Hillary Clinton numbers and that's partly because of Bernie Sanders in the inroads. That's partly because they've gone to Tom Steyer says some polling.


HERNDON: It's partly because they've gone to other candidates also and so it's not just a story about Bernie Sanders' strength, but there does seem to be some concerns about Joe Biden seeping in with black voters. And we see that with the Super Tuesday states and Mike Bloomberg also. So that's where he needs to really consolidate to be able to grow that margin, so it can be the firewall that Joe Biden thought it would be.

BASH: That's exactly right. I mean, I think a large part of the reason for that is that Joe Biden hasn't been winning and usually ...

BURNETT Right. Well, people want to be behind a winner. It's a human desire.

BASH: Exactly.

BURNETT So they're looking for that.

BASH: Exactly. And you talked to people in the African-American community here and everywhere, not unlike others, but particularly this ethnic group, they want nothing more than to beat Donald Trump. The people who are voting in the Democratic primaries.


And so there's a practical approach to it and it's not just ideological.


And it's not just ideology.

BURNETT: We always hear about South Carolina, 80 percent of the Democratic primary voters are African-Americans. And there's sort of this tendency to teach each group as a group, right? We do that.

But yet you heard Marcia Fudge say, well, we are more moderate, looking for a moderate, more moderate candidate. Is it really still that way though where you can look at a group,

South Carolina, and say how is that group going to go, right? When you start to see generational divide, you start to see things that become more important, perhaps, than just how you describe someone's skin color?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think one of the really interesting things about this primary is we're seeing the diversity among the black electorate reflected in the electoral choices. This is not only a primary that has multiple candidates, but they have been forced to talk to the black community in unique ways, not just about criminal justice or police brutality, but about economic wealth gaps, about -- about a range of issues that affect the black community.

And we're seeing -- we're seeing it kind of pay off across the board and how that's being responded to. So, you have young people going to Sanders. You might have older black voters going to Biden and Steyer. You have folks policy-focused looking at Elizabeth Warren. I think that it's actually a really powerful thing about this primary is that you are seeing the diversity within the community reflected in the electoral choices.

Now, that might mean that the person who win it is plurality of black votes isn't automatically the nominee anymore because they're not getting those big margin like Clinton or Obama doing, but it's fascinating nonetheless.

BASH: But one of the tests is going to be tomorrow morning that we think James Clyburn, we think, all signs are pointing to the fact that he'll endorse Joe Biden. We don't know that for sure. But if he does that, it will be a test to what you were just saying about whether there really is a splinter in the African-American -- depending on generation and ideology and others because historically, his endorsement has mattered so, so much here in South Carolina and beyond South Carolina.

BURNETT: And you heard Cedric Richmond just say, Joe Biden will win, like its' categorical. And, of course, he's saying that. Maybe Joe Biden will win, certainly, that appears to be what the polls indicate at this moment, but we'll see.

But he must win. That's what I heard from him. He must win.

HERNDON: He must win. He staked his candidacy on winning. But not only that, let's not remember where Joe Biden started this race -- he needs to win big. He needs a mandate from black communities as to say, just to be able to go back to the other candidates and say, I have won this important voting bloc. A four or five-point win based on where Joe Biden was will not be the type of mandate that was promised for the firewall.

For this to be the firewall that Joe Biden and his campaign thought it would be, it doesn't need to just be a win. It needs to be a commanding victory.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. And next, Michael Bloomberg's long-time partner has choice words for

anyone concerned about Michael Bloomberg's NDAs.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was 30 years ago, get over it.


BURNETT: Plus, a CDC warning for the first time. It's not a matter of if but when the coronavirus starts spreading in the United States. So, why did President Trump say this?


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Looks like they're getting it under control. I think that's a problem that's going to go away.




BURNETT: Tonight, get over it. That's what Michael Bloomberg's long time partner Diana Taylor says to anyone bothered by allegations of sexist comments made by Bloomberg and the non-disclosure agreements his company used to silence those allegations.


DIANA TAYLOR, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG'S LONGTIME PARTNER: It was 30 years ago, get over it. And none of them was he accused of doing 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 bro culture.


BURENTT: OUTFRONT now, Muriel Bowser, Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C. and a national co-chair of the campaign. Mayor, what was your reaction?

You know, just to give people a little bit of context. This is -- Diana Taylor was at a women's event in Texas, and, you know, sort of a -- CBS embed we call them, a reporter who's embedded with the campaign and got an interview. And this is -- this is how this came about.


BURNETT: What was your reaction when you heard this?

BOWSER: Well, I think Mike has been very clear about where he stands. Last week, he released a statement saying that any women who had made allegations against him that were subject of these NDAs would be released from them. More than that, he said that his company would no longer employ the legal device of an NDA.

And I think that was very important to say. And I think certainly all of us know that Wall Street 30 years ago was a different place. And we certainly look at workplace interactions differently.

Mike has admitted to using language that was disrespectful and inappropriate. But I think that his actions at Bloomberg LP will not only affect his employees but other companies like his.

BURNETT: So, obviously, there were three. He said there were NDAs that applied to him specifically and he said they were about things that he said, which is what she was saying.

But, you know, when she says, life has changed, I grew up in that world, that was a bro culture, do you believe that this is a generational thing?

BOWSER: No, I believe that Wall Street was very crude and there was a lot of crude language used. But I think what's important now was what Mike is doing with his company moving forward, and that is not allowing NDAs, making sure that he said in the message from the top that everybody here is going to be treated respectfully.

BURNETT: So, you know, in that exchange last week, right, there were many of us watching who thought he would have been ready for a question about NDAs. He clearly was not, or if he was he did not deliver on being ready for it. Here's part of the exchange that happened with Senator Warren, Mayor.


MIKE BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a very few non- disclosure agreements --


BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.

WARREN: How many is that?

And I hope you heard what his defense was. I've been nice to some women.


We're not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many non-disclosure agreements.


BURNETT: So, will we see a different Mayor Bloomberg tonight?

BOWSER: Well, listen, what we -- what we saw last week were candidates who'd been in nine debates. That was Mike's first. And I know Mike has spent the last week being very prepared to talk about any and all issues. But he especially wants to talk about policies that are important to the American people.

So, we know why Senator Warren doesn't want to talk about Bernie Sanders' record, for example, on guns which is what Mike is really wanting us to focus on as the mayor. As American mayors and as a mayor of a major city, we know how important common sense gun reform is and Mike's record around the country in getting things done.

We know how important it is to talk about the climate crisis and what make has been involved with, helping the Sierra Club close down, polluting plants across the country. So, that's really what the American people want to hear tonight.

BURNETT: So, will there be emotion though? Because there's going to be moments that you don't expect, or moments like that, where it requires thinking on your feet, right? The next day, he said, I'm going to release them from the NDAs. It was an easy thing to say that night, had he thought about it, he wasn't.

Is he ready for that? Because that is what's going to stand out to people, isn't it?

BOWSER: Well, what -- what we all want to see Mike do is fight for our democracy and that's what this election is about -- it's about beating Donald Trump. And we all have to go in there ready to talk about what it's going to take to save the institutions of our democracy that are under attack, and who's the best Democrat to do that?

And not only do we have to worry about the White House. We have to be concerned about if we're going to keep control of the House and if we have a chance to win the Senate. And we won't do that with Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket.

BURNETT: All right. Mayor Bowser, I appreciate your time. Good to see you.

BOWSER: Thanks.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Trump publicly downplaying concerns about the coronavirus in the United States. In private though, it is a much different story.



BURNETT: Tonight, this could be bad. That is what the CDC is warning about the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, adding that it is not a question of if the coronavirus will spread in the United States but a question of when. As stocks plummeted again today due to coronavirus fears, one of the president's top economic advisers, Larry Kudlow, said this.


LARRY KUDLOW, TRUMP'S TOP ECONOMIC ADVISER: Our economy's in good shape. This virus won't last forever. We have contained it.


BURNETT: So, the CDC says this could be bad. Larry Kudlow saying no, echoing the president who says he thinks the problem is going to go away.

Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sources telling CNN that President Trump has privately expressed frustration about his administration's efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic, even as he attempts to project confidence publicly.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that's a problem that's going to go away.

DIAMOND: President Trump's optimistic note comes even as officials warn cases will rise in the United States.

TRUMP: I think that whole situation will start working out. A lot of talent, a lot of brain power is being put behind it.

DIAMOND: But sources tell CNN that behind the scenes, the president is not so confident in that brain power and is upset that American who is tested positive for coronavirus were quarantined in the United States and that his administration plans to quarantine some patients in the pro-Trump state of Alabama.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-AL): He was completely unaware of this. He was annoyed that these individuals had even been brought back to the continental United States while they were still infected.

DIAMOND: The president's frustrations reflecting a growing concern inside the White House that the viral outbreak will be a bigger challenge than previously thought. Recent outbreaks in Italy, South Korea, and Iran hiking cases to 80,000 and triggering fears the disease could become a pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Folks, this is a rapidly escalating epidemic in different places that we have got to tackle super fast to prevent a pandemic.

DIAMOND: Weeks after lawmakers called for more funding, the White House now finally asking Congress for $1.25 billion dollar in emergency funds to build out a $2.5 billion federal effort. For some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, it was too little too late.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The administration has no plan to deal with the coronavirus, no plan. The Trump administration is trying to build an airplane while already in mid flight.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL): If you low ball something like this, you'll pay for it later. I think the administration will look at this as something that they cannot afford to let get out of hand, period.

DIAMOND: Bipartisan outrage grew as administration officials fielded questions on Capitol Hill.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): You're supposed to keep us safe and the American people deserve some straight answers on the coronavirus, and we're not getting them from you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, I disagree.


BURNETT: That was Jeremy Diamond reporting in Washington.

And OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, member of the House Financial Services and Oversight Committees.

So, you know, you just heard President Trump saying this is a problem that's going to go away, you know, saying it's a good time, saying it's a good time in the market, top economic adviser echoing what the president is saying. The CDC, though, saying this could be bad.

Why is the White House message so different from the CDC?

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): Well, it's just more of the same. This administration time and time again, whether you're talking about lowering the cost of prescription drugs or a health care plan, infrastructure, foreign policy, their plan is no plan.


And the fact of the matter is that we are ill -- we are ill-equipped because we're dealing with this in real time instead of having been able to invest in proactive strategies by having the robust funding necessary to do that.

This is an administration that does not believe in science. That has cut money at the NIH and CDC.

And so, I'm not surprised that he's completely clueless about how to handle this and how to contain such a pandemic, and that's exactly why I'm here supporting Elizabeth Warren, because we need a president that believes in science and believes in the public health and will make those investments in the CDC and NIH.

BURNETT: So, I know you're going to be briefed. And, obviously, you know, this is Financial Services. This is very relevant, because a part of what we're seeing here with, you know, more than a trillion dollars in two days going away on the market is the economic impact of this which could be vast and very hard for people to even comprehend.

Fifty-seven cases in the United States, one in your home state, Congresswoman, in Massachusetts. Do you really believe the United States is not prepared at this point? PRESSLEY: It is very challenging ever for this administration to

engender confidence in how they plan or handle anything because this is an administration that has been riff with not only corruption but chaos. And so, this is just par for the course and consistent with how this administration has conducted itself. And that's why we need a president that believes in science and will make investment in the CDC and NIH, and actually listen to the experts and how best to handle it.

I'm glad that I serve on the Oversight and Reform Committee so that we can continue to hold this administration accountable and to conduct the role of oversight.

BURNETT: So, we just heard a couple of moments ago, Mayor Bowser was here. Obviously, she supports Mayor Bloomberg. And we were talking about the exchange last week on NDAs. And, of course, Mayor Bloomberg has now said he'll release the NDAs of anyone who specifically had accused him of saying anything.

And you are, of course, a national co-chair for Elizabeth Warren's campaign.

She has released an ad taking on Mike Bloomberg specifically that's going to run in Super Tuesday states and I wanted to play a clip. Here it is.



WARREN: Big money is powerful but it doesn't always win. I know that firsthand. When I ran against an incumbent Republican to take a U.S. Senate seat away from Mitch McConnell, Bloomberg endorsed the Republican and he raised big money for him, but I beat him anyway.


BURNETT: Is she going to focus again on him tonight on the debate stage?

PRESSLEY: You know, honestly, what Elizabeth was doing on that stage is what she's done throughout her life and her public life and that is to hold folks accountable. She was not attacking. She was simply holding him accountable to his record and affirming survivor's justice.

You know, it is the high time that the experiences for girls and women in this country are not conflated inevitably with experiencing sexual violence, harassment or assault. She was affirming survivor's justice, which should be attended (ph) in a principle upheld by this country and our party.

BURNETT: How well does she need to do? She hasn't won a delegate since Iowa. You had Nevada and South Carolina. You know, when you really focus on this, have a heart to heart to yourself, how well does she need to do here in South Carolina? PRESSLEY: Erin, she's on the board and we're building an organization

that is built to last, and there are many people still undecided. As one of three national co-chairs, this is my eighth state that I've been in. Probably my third time I've been in South Carolina.

I'm encouraged by the growth of the campaign, post-Nevada especially. Even in those Nevada caucuses, we saw a growth in precincts by 30 to 50 percent post -- contrasting early vote to what actually happened in the caucuses.

We raised $14 million in one week, so Elizabeth Warren isn't going anywhere. And I'm fighting to make sure that she doesn't because I care about her visions and her plans for this country and her racial justice lens and her track record. She is effective, she is proven, and she is electable.

I am serving in the most representative Congress in the history of Congress in terms of leadership parity, gender parity specifically and I think that proves that women can win everywhere and we belong everywhere, including the Oval Office.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Congresswoman Pressley. I appreciate your time tonight.

Next on the special edition of OUTFRONT live for South Carolina, could this be the last debate for any of the candidates tonight?



BURNETT: And we're back live from South Carolina. Democrats just moments away from taking the stage for tonight's crucial debate.

OUTFRONT now, our senior political analyst, Mark Preston.

So, Mark, this is a really huge night because you have South Carolina and then 48 hours after that, you have Super Tuesday where 48 percent of the delegates get allocated. Anyone can realize that's not a lot of time.

So, could this be the last debate for anybody on this stage?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think it could be, and there's a couple of reasons why. One is because if you look at Michael Bloomberg and you look his ability to spend ungodly amounts of money, that in itself has to give you some concerns, specifically if you are more in the moderate lane.

But also, if you have a terrible showing here, if you have a terrible, terrible showing, someone like Amy Klobuchar might not want to go into Super Tuesday where her own state is going to vote and maybe go up against someone like Bernie Sanders and lose her own state. So, she would have to do well here in South Carolina.

BURNETT: Right. So, there's a lot of that sort of jockeying, each person's own political metrics and also the money game.


BURNETT: There are some people who need to raise big money after tonight, right?

PRESTON: Right. Anybody whose name doesn't end in Bloomberg needs tonight for the money. However, Bernie Sanders, he is in a groove right now. I got to tell you, he did a town hall on CNN last night, hard questions being tossed at him, he just took them and hit them.

I got to tell you, it's almost like an athlete who was on the basketball court and they just can't miss. Right now, it doesn't seem like Bernie Sanders can miss.

BURNETT: Oh, it's sort of once you get in your groove, once you start running, once you get to certain mile point, you can't stop.

All right. Mark Preston, thank you very much. Obviously, we're going to be watching.

And thanks so much for joining us. I'll be back after the debate live from the spin room. Sorry. Interviewing the candidates.

"AC360" begins right now.