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EARLY START

Democrats Debate Tonight in South Carolina; Stocks Tumble As Coronavirus Fears Spike; After Spectacle, Trump and Modi Get to Business; Harvey Weinstein Convicted of Sex Crimes. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 04:30   ET

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


LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats back on stage tonight in South Carolina.

[04:30:00]

With Super Tuesday fast approaching, it is the final chance to slow Bernie Sanders' growing momentum.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Wall Street looking to rebound after the worst day in two years. How are markets handling coronavirus concerns overnight?

JARRETT: And man that the root of the #metoo movement convicted of sex crimes. What the future holds for convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And Christine Romans. Good morning, everyone. It is 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

Democrats bracing a high stakes debate, a critical showdown tonight in South Carolina. Expect a much tighter focus on Bernie Sanders, now the undisputed front-runner.

A new Marist poll shows within striking distance of Joe Biden in South Carolina, just the latest evidence of Sanders growing momentum.

JARRETT: The Vermont senator has been working to grow his coalition. South Carolina, where a majority of Democrats are black will put that to the test on Saturday, was well the delegate rich and very diverse Super Tuesday states of California and Texas. Other Democrats face mounting urgency to blunt Sanders momentum ahead of Super Tuesday when he could amass a delegate lead hard to overcome.

ROMANS: So far, Sanders rivals haven't drilled down hard on his record. That's a break President Trump, his super PAC and surrogates won't give Sanders if he's the nominee, so expect plenty of recalibrating tonight by Democrats who mostly left Sanders alone at last week's debate. They focused their fire on Bloomberg who isn't even on the ballot in South Carolina.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more from the campaign trail in Charleston. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, it's debate night number 10. But when Bernie Sanders takes the stage tonight in Charleston, South Carolina, he is facing an entirely different moment. Yes, he's been in the spotlight before, he's never been at the center of the stage before, but he has never been the clear and convincing commanding front-runner.

After winning the Nevada caucuses over the weekend and, of course, New Hampshire and that very strong showing in Iowa, it is Bernie Sanders race to lose at this point. That is why candidates are already stepping up their attacks and their criticisms. They are sounding the alarm about the potential electoral risk of electing a Democratic socialist. Aides to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg saying they're going to make this campaign, this debate all about Bernie Sanders.

Well, of course, they are because Mayor Bloomberg, of course, had a very disappointing first week in Las Vegas. So, he, of course, will be judged on the stage tonight.

But this is the last best opportunity for these Democratic rivals to raise questions about senator Sanders. The next week of this campaign, the South Carolina primary on Saturday held three days later by the Super Tuesday contest in 14 states where 30 percent of the delegates are picked, that is going to set the mark for this campaign. How Sanders does in the next week is going to be critical for him. But it all starts at that debate here tonight in South Carolina where he will be defending himself.

As you know, he is a very good debater, has had a consistent performance. But now the moment is different, he's never walked in like this much of a front-runner -- Christine and Laura.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Charleston, thanks, Jeff.

Bernie Sanders is doubling on his praise of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution. At a CNN town hall last night, the Democratic front-runner again applauded Castro's literacy program as a good thing despite the fact the Cuban leader also killed and imprisoned dissidents.

Sanders' comments triggered bipartisan criticism including from Florida Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot of -- a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who are illiterate and he formed the literacy brigade, you might read that. They went out and they helped people learn to read and write. You know what, I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing. And by the way, all of those Congress people that you mentioned just so happen to be supporting other candidates, just accidently no doubt. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That explanation did little to satisfy Sanders' Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg.

(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. Of course literacy is a good thing, but 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Meanwhile, Tom Steyer is looming as a large factor in Saturday's South Carolina primary. He's courting the same black voters Joe Biden needs and Bernie Sanders wants. And he came out firmly against Sanders' plan for government takeover of health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that unchecked capitalism has failed, because the solution is not for the government to take over big parts of the economy. Let's get over the idea that somehow the government taking over major parts of the economy is a good idea. It's never worked in the past and it's not going to work for us now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: CNN's two night town hall event continues tomorrow night.

[04:35:01]

Bloomberg, Biden, Klobuchar and Warren answer voter questions, just days before the South Carolina primary. The town hall starts tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

ROMANS: All right. Global stock markets trying to stabilize after yesterday's sell-off. There you go, you had a mixed close in Asia and now European shares have open, they were a little bit positive, now they're leaning lower here. So, really important to watch this year, struggling to stabilize.

On Wall Street, futures right now just a little bit higher.

Look, investors yesterday fled stocks and ran to the safety of gold and bonds. The Dow closed more than 1,000 points lower, the worst day in two years. It is now down for the year. On the percentage basis, the sell-off not quite as dramatic as other drops.

Still, it was on the third ever that the average closed down more than a thousand points. The S&P 500 the broadest gauge in the stock market tumbled 3.4 percent. The biggest decline since February 2018. It is now lower for the year. The Nasdaq shed almost 4 percent.

Markets are coming to grips with the reality the virus could slam global growth, ships are sitting in ports, shipments idled, goods are in floating quarantines from computer chips to lobsters to wedding dresses, supply chains are broken, flights are grounded, cruise ships docked, business trips canceled.

Now, there are new outbreaks in Italy and South Korea. That means four of the 12 largest economies in the world have coronavirus outbreak. The White House asked Congress for $1.25 billion in emergency funding to combat the outbreak. It will be a test of the Trump administration's response, no question.

First, the president said China had the outbreak under control and he praised President Xi. Then he said warm weather would kill the virus by April with no evidence. And now from India, he's projecting optimism.

As stocks tumbled, President Trump tweeted this: the coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. Stock market starting to look very good to me.

JARRETT: Well, a little less pomp and more circumstance on the second and final day of President Trump's visit to India. He and India's prime minister discussing security and trade. The president will hold a news conference in about two hours. No doubt he will have to discuss the economy.

CNN's Sam Kiley is live in New Delhi for us.

Sam, what do you expect to hear from the president later today?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we may get a bit more detail on this arms deal that he's already announced that has been done with India. That's $3 billion worth of Apaches and MH60 helicopters, high technology, the expanding Indian military would love to get its hands on and that's all in the context of what's called the Quad of Nations, India, Australia, Japan and the United States taking in Mr. Trump's words greater interest in control of the destinies of the Indo-Pacific region in the face of frictions at least on trade with China. We may get a bit more of that kind of detail.

What we won't get critically is a grand deal, a big free trade deal. That was -- hopes for that would get broken through or breakthrough, in that were played down by Donald Trump ahead of this trip. And they clearly have not gone anywhere in a significant way. This has really been all about the optics with a very big demonstration rally in favor of Donald Trump and Modi in Modi's former hometown attended by over 120,000 people.

Simultaneously with that, and that's where it becomes awkward for these two populist leaders is violence here in the capital of Delhi in which seven people were killed by police during riots, continued riots here in India against what they're saying is anti-Muslim legislation.

JARRETT: Indeed, it seems optics was the first thing on the agenda for this trip.

Sam Kiley, thanks so much.

ROMANS: All right. One of the most powerful men in Hollywood history could be spending the rest of his life behind bars. Harvey Weinstein convicted on two counts in his sex crimes trial. The jury accepted the prosecution's argument that the women could be raped by Weinstein and still maintain a warm relationship with him out of fear of his power and influence.

Weinstein was supposed to be at Rikers Island this morning. Instead he was hospitalized with chest pains, heart palpitations and high blood pressure.

JARRETT: His convictions come more than two years after accusations against him helped ignite the #metoo movement. Many of those women came forward at great risk to their careers. Silence breakers and advocacy group that include Weinstein accusers called the verdict just a drop in a wave of justice to come for predators and survivors everywhere.

Erica Hill has more now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, Harvey Weinstein, once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood is now a convicted rapist. On Monday, a jury found him guilty on two counts, committing a criminal sex act and third degree rape. Now, those charges stem from allegations from Miriam Haley and Jessica Mann. Haley testified Weinstein forced her into a sex act in 2006, while Mann told the court he raped here in 2013 during an abusive relationship.

[04:10:09]

The 67-year-old was acquitted on more serious charges of predatory sexual assault against both women and first degree rape against Mann. Immediately taking into custody, Weinstein is facing between five and 25 years in prison on a charge of a criminal sex act and up to 4 years for the rape charge. At least 100 women have now come forward with allegations of behavior from Weinstein that ranges from unwanted sexual advances to rape. He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

Much of that, of course, coming in the wake of reporting in "The New Yorker" and "The New York Times" in 2017 that detail some of these allegations.

His attorney tells CNN they do plan to appeal. Meantime, the district attorney here in Manhattan, Cy Vance, called the women who came forward to testify heroic and courageous. His sentencing is scheduled for March 11th.

However, there are separate criminal charges which he is also now facing in Los Angeles. Those charges where he's accused of raping one woman and assaulting another in 2013, the charges were announced on the very same day his trial started -- Laura and Christine -- here in New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right. Erica Hill, thank you so much for that.

All right. She put men on the moon. We are remembering a pioneer of space travel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:45:41]

JARRETT: Experts warn the novel coronavirus outbreak may be approaching pandemic levels. A World Health Organization team landed in Italy yesterday to scenes like this empty streets and train platforms in Milan. At least 272 people have now been infected in northern Italy, seven have died.

In South Korea, government buildings are being disinfected as the virus spreads. Close to 900 cases are now confirmed up from 31 a week ago. At least 9 people have died there. The U.S. and South Korea now considering scaling back joint military exercises.

Iran is on the front line of the outbreak in the Middle East with 61 cases and 12 deaths.

So why is coronavirus not officially a pandemic yet?

CNN's Steven Jiang is live for us in Beijing.

Steven, break this down. Is it just semantics or something more?

STEVEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well, Laura, it's borderline semantics given the alarming and fast growing number of cases outside of China you just mentioned.

But according to the WHO's director general, they're not calling this a pandemic yet because they're not seeing this as an uncontained threat of this virus, and they're not seeing larger scale severe cases and deaths. But as he was making this assessment on Monday, they actually had a team that just returned from Wuhan, the epicenter of the global outbreak and held a press conference in Beijing on Monday night.

Now, the head of that team just showered praise on the Chinese government saying the Chinese containment effort is the most aggressive, ambitious and agile in history and has really worked. The sharp decline of number of cases in Wuhan and rest of China are real based on their observation and assessment. But he did dodge questions weather the initial cover-up by authorities here and their censorship of information could have led to this outbreak to begin with.

Now, I also asked him about what about the rest of the world where the government cannot lock down millions of people. He said, look, even in China, that's considered last resort. Governments should start with the basics, telling people to wash hands more often. Then the key is when they see a case, they should jump on it super fast, isolate the cases and their close contacts, not letting them wonder around with now chains of transmission. If that doesn't work, then you can sort of phasing it by taking more drastic actions like the Chinese have done -- Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Steven, thanks so much for laying all that out for us.

ROMANS: All right. German police still trying to figure out the motive of a man who witnesses say intentionally plowed his car into a crowd at a small town carnival parade, at least 30 people, some severely. Witnesses say some of the injured were children.

The 29-year-old suspect is under arrest and hospitalized for injuries he received in the incident. Officials canceled all carnival events across the German state of Hesse.

JARRETT: Carnival has been cancelled in Haiti. The country's biggest celebration of the year began over the weekend but deadly protests and gunfire quickly erupted in Port-au-Prince. At least one person was killed.

Haiti's communication ministry releasing a statement calling off the three day festival and asking everyone to remain calm until further notice. The Haitian military blamed the attack on police officers who had been protesting for months demanding better pay and working conditions.

Carnival is huge, huge thing in the Caribbean.

ROMANS: All right. JPMorgan Chase, one of the biggest financial backers of the fossil fuel industry, now the bank says it's pulling back support. CNN Business has the details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:53:34]

JARRETT: Katherine Johnson, the legendary NASA mathematician who helped to make it possible for the Apollo 11 to land the moon has died. Johnson was 101 years old. The story of her extraordinary genius and her ability to overcome segregation and break that color line in NASA was told on the silver screen in the 2016 hit movie "Hidden Figures."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katherine G. Johnson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: In 2015, President Obama honored Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to American space travel. Mr. Obama said yesterday after a lifetime of reaching for the stars, today, Katherine Johnson has landed among them.

ROMANS: What a real model.

JARRETT: All right, millions in the Midwest and Great Lakes may see some of the biggest snowfall in years.

Let's get to meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, good morning, guys.

We've got quite a bit of active weather over the next couple of days across really much of the eastern third of the United States, across the Great Lakes, down across the Southeast. It's all about precipitation and look what happens here as we go into the next 24 to 48 hours, tremendous snowfall possible, potentially, the greatest amounts we've seen all season. That includes portion of the eastern Great Lakes for much as six to 10 inch possible, but Chicago in the bulls eye here for some snowfall as well.

Indianapolis gets in on some snow and you work your way further towards the east, you get to portions of New England snow abound there as well. But winter weather advisories, winter storm watches have been prompted across this region, over 20 million impacted by this as well.

[04:55:04]

So, you kind of highlight what has been happening here, it's been a very mild winter, we've had quite a bit of wet weather and the ice coverage on the Great Lakes has been among the lowest on record, 9 percent ice coverage on the Great Lakes, should be close to 42 percent of the great lakes covered by ice at this point in the season. And you know this, with this next system, again, plenty of water remains across the great lakes and it's not frozen and you bring in strong winds, wave heights could be as much as eight to 12 feet.

So, significant beach erosion possible with this next round of active weather across parts of the Great Lakes -- guys.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JARRETT: Pedram, thanks so much for that.

Well, a former tennis coach at the University of Texas sentenced to six months in prison in the college admission scam. Fifty-five-year- old Michael Center has pleaded guilty to accepting $100,000 in bribes to falsely tag an applicant as a tennis team recruit to get the student accepted in UT. Center is the fourth college coach to plead guilty in the federal college case.

ROMANS: For the first time ever, a pair of cheetah cubs were born from in vitro fertilization. Scientists are calling the birth at the Columbus Zoo a huge breakthrough. They've been trying to nearly two decades to boost the cheetah population through IVF and embryo transfers. Cheetahs have become extinct in 13 countries in Africa and only 7,500 remain in the wild.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this morning.

Global markets looking to bounce back after that ugly shell off. You've got European shares now turning a bit lower. So, I mean, barely stabilizing here.

On Wall Street, looking at futures right now, how they're doing, they're just up barely about 60 points. Look, this is an ugly day for investors Monday. The Dow closed more than 1,000 points lower, the worst day in two years. The S&P closed down 3.4 percent, the biggest decline since February 2018. The Nasdaq, high-flying tech stocks slammed, Nasdaq down almost 4 percent.

Oil prices tumbled on fears the economy won't need as much oil because the economy will slow. That could mean lower gas prices for consumers. In a rare move, United Airlines withdrew its guidance for the year. New term demand for flights to China has fallen to near zero. And MasterCard said the outbreak will slash its sales growth 2 to 3 percentage points.

Expedia is streamlining its business. The online travel giant will cut about 3,000 jobs after a disappointing 2019. "Reuters" reports Expedia will end certain projects, and reduce the use of contract with some vendors. Earlier this month, Expedia says it's looking at how coronavirus will affect its business and it's not providing a forecast for the year.

JPMorgan is taking steps towards curbing fossil fuel loans. "The Washington Post" says the bank won't finance new oil and gas projects in the Arctic, and it will phase out all existing loans to the coal industry by the year 2024. JPMorgan and others have been criticized for supporting the fossil fuel industry.

A report by the rain forest action network says JPMorgan is the world's largest funder of fossil fuel companies. The bank will still do business with coal companies, coal companies that have other revenue streams.

JARRETT: The late night hosts are back. While you were sleeping, Jimmy Kimmel offered up his perfect running mates for the 2020 Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: What Michael Bloomberg needs is a strong running mate and that running mate -- I've thought about this a lot -- should be Denzel Washington. You see that?

You get a huge chunk of the black vote and while a lot of women want a female president, you know what else a lot of women want? Denzel Washington, that's right.

Joe Biden, another old white man whose biggest problem is that he's not progressive enough. So who do we pair him with? Flo. Energetic, woman, only person in the world with more commercials than Mike Bloomberg. Jo and Flo, great bumper sticker.

Mayor Pete, he's got some hurdles. He's too young, he's too clean, he's gay, which sadly is going to bother some people, and he's from South Bend, Indiana, which is just slightly bigger than a Walmart. So, what Mayor Pete needs is someone who's rough, dirty maybe even a little bit homophobic, someone with some good old fashion uncle power, and for that I say, Pete, I'd like you to take a good hard look at a fellow named Mel Gibson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: That's a name we hadn't heard in a while. I don't know that Mel Gibson was going to be Pete Buttigieg's running mate.

ROMANS: I thought he was Australian. Is he American? Maybe he's American.

JARRETT: Thanks to our international viewers for joining us. Have a great rest of your day.

For our U.S. viewers, EARLY START continues right now.

(MUSIC)

JARRETT: Democrats back on stage tonight in South Carolina with Super Tuesday fast approaching. It is the final chance to slow Bernie Sanders' growing momentum.

ROMANS: Wall Street trying to rebound after the worst day in two years. How are global markets handling coronavirus concerns overnight?

JARRETT: And the man at the root of the #metoo movement convicted of sex crimes. What it future holds for convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans.

END