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America's Choice 2020: South Carolina Debate Tonight; Wall Street Looking to Rebound; After Spectacle, Trump and Modi Get to Business; Harvey Weinstein: Convicted Rapist;' Remembering Kobe and Gianna Bryant. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 05:00   ET


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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: 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. It is Tuesday, February 25th. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East, 3:30 p.m. in New Delhi where the president is on a state visit. More on that in just a moment.

The Democrats are bracing for a high stakes debate of critical showdown tonight in South Carolina. Expect a much tighter focus on Bernie Sanders now the undisputed front-runner. A new Marist poll shows Sanders 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 broaden his coalition in South Carolina where a majority of Democratic voters who are black were put back to the test on Saturday, as will 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.


JARRETT: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much for that.

Bernie Sanders is doubling down on his praise of Fidel Castro's Cuban revolution. At the 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.


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.


JARRETT: Well, that explanation did little to satisfy Sanders' Democratic rival, Pete Buttigieg.


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.


ROMANS: 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.


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.


ROMANS: CNN's two night town hall event continues tomorrow night. Bloomberg, Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren answer voter question just days before the South Carolina primary.


The town hall starts tomorrow night at 7:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

All right. Global markets struggling to stabilize after yesterday's sell-off. Take a look at markets around the world. European shares have now moved lower again. On Wall Street, futures are just barely higher here.

Look, investors fled stocks and rushed to the safety of bonds and gold. The Dow tumbled the worst day in the two years. The S&P 500, the broadest gauge of the stock market, tumbled 3.4 percent. The worst decline since February of 2018. The Dow and S&P now lower for the year. High flying tech stocks slammed. The Nasdaq fell almost 4 percent.

Markets are coming to grips with the reality the virus come could slam global growth. Ships are sitting in ports, goods are floating in quarantines, from autos, computer chips, lobsters, wedding dresses, you name it, supply chains are broken. Flights are grounded, cruise ships docked, business trips canceled.

New outbreaks in Italy and South Korea means four of the 12 largest economies in the world have coronavirus outbreaks. The White House asked Congress for $1.29 billion in emergency funding. It will be a test of the Trump administration response.

First, the president said China had the outbreak under control and he praised Chinese President Xi. Then he said warm weather would kill the virus by April without evidence. And now from India he is projecting optimism. As stocks tanked, the president tweeted this: the coronavirus is very much under control in the USA, stock markets starting to look very good to me.

And White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said, quote, if you're a long-term investor you should seriously consider buying these dips. Very rare, unprecedented for a president and his economic team to give investment advice during a major stock market sell-off.

JARRETT: Doesn't this show the danger of making the stock market if the bench mark for how well your administration is doing because when it goes down you have to own it?

ROMANS: He has made it his personal popularity polls, even though just over half of Americans are in the stock market, millions aren't. But the president has put his own personal popularity in the stock market. Now there's a very big test in the coronavirus scare.

JARRETT: Well, the stock sell-off hits during a major piece of the president's reelecting bid as well. The president at the business roundtable right now in India. He will take questions in about an hour. CNN is live in New Delhi.



JARRETT: Got some live pictures coming in now from New Delhi, the president at business roundtable on his state visit. Little less pomp, more circumstance on the second and final day of the president's visit to India.

He and India's prime minister discussing security and trade. The president will hold a news conference in just over an hour. He will no doubt discuss the economy there.

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

Sam, it's a little bit hard to figure out what was the thrust, the main point of this trip? They kind of dibbled and dabbled in different topics here and there, but it wasn't like there was some major trade announcement on the table, right?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Laura. This is all about the optics, of course, President Trump in an election year and President Modi somewhat on the back foot of violence and demonstrations against recently introduced legislation that critics say is anti-Muslim. Just yesterday, seven people were killed here in New Delhi including a policeman unusually. Just as they were getting under way Prime Minister Modi and President Trump in Ahmadabad in front of a rally of 100,000 people.

That was full of celebration not least of India's tradition of tolerance whereas the truth on the street was somewhat different. This is really about tying to own the optics, manage the optics for both of these populist politicians, play to their own bases as strongly as they can more than trying to break through with a major trade deal or some such achievement diplomatically.

That said, Mr. Trump's already announced a $3 billion aircraft contract for Apache and MH-60 helicopter sales to India, which is a good thing I suppose for American exports, but the only future serious trade negotiations and results from those are much more likely to come after the November elections -- Laura, Christine.

JARRETT: All right. Sam Kiley in New Delhi, 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 after he groomed them 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 for us now.


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.

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.


ROMANS: All right, Erica. Thank you.

JARRETT: All right. Thanks, Erica.

They came, they cried, they said a final farewell to Kobe and Gianna Bryant in the house that Kobe built.

Andy Scholes with the "Bleacher Report" next.



JARRETT: President Trump wants two left leaning Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from all cases involving him and his administration. Justice Sonya Sotomayor has accused her colleagues on the bench of being too eager to side with the Trump administration. And the president firing back in tweets calling on Sotomayor and also Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse themselves as a matter of, quote, fairness.

The president did not however, question the impartiality of Justice Clarence Thomas. CNN has confirmed Thomas' wife, a conservative activist, is helping the president behind the scenes identify disloyal members of his administration so they can be fired.

ROMANS: Family, fans, teammates and some of the greatest basketball players past and present on hand yesterday at the Staples Center to honor Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

What a powerful afternoon.


I mean, it was such an emotional day there at Staples Center from Kobe's family to Michael Jordan to Shaq, so many people were there taking the stage to remember Kobe and Gigi. Beyonce started the service with a musical tribute and then Kobe's wife and Gigi's mom Vanessa Bryant who had not spoken publicly since that terrible crash, she delivered a very emotional eulogy.


VANESSA BRYANT, KOBE BRYANT'S WIFE: God knew they couldn't be on this Earth without each other. He had to bring them home to heaven together. Babe, you take care of our Gigi, and I got Noni, BB, and Coco. We're still the best team.

We love and miss you Boo-Boo and Gigi. May you both rest in peace and have fun in heaven until we meet again one day.


SCHOLES: And in a powerful moment, Kobe's idol and friend Michael Jordan helped Vanessa from the stage. Later in the ceremony, Jordan would take the mic, and he talked about how he and Kobe talked about everything over the years and how he considered Kobe his little brother.


MICHAEL JORDAN, NBA LEGEND: When Kobe Bryant died, a piece of me died, and as I look in this arena and across the globe, a piece of you died or else you wouldn't be here. Those are the memories that we have to live with and we learn from.

Now he's got me and I'll have to look at another crying meme for the next -- I told my wife I wasn't going to do this because I wasn't going to see it for it next 3 or 4 years. That is what Kobe Bryant does to me.


SCHOLES: Jordan making fun of his crying meme that's been going around the Internet for years. There certainly were plenty of laughs to go around with all the tears.

And Shaq had everyone going telling a story about Kobe's competitive attitude.


SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, FORMER TEAMMATE OF KOBE BRYANT: The day Kobe gained my respect is when the guys were complaining said, Shaq, Kobe's not passing the ball. I said I'll talk to him. I said, Kobe, there's no "I" in team. And Kobe said I know but there's an m-e in that mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED). (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Now, Oregon Ducks star player Sabrina Ionescu was one of the speakers at Kobe's celebration of life. She had developed a special relationship with Kobe and Gigi over the years as Kobe became very involved with women's basketball.

And after the ceremony, Ionescu taking a charter flight to the Bay Area to take on Stanford. Ionescu despite not eating all day as she battled the flu scored 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 12 assists.


And with that, Ionescu became it the first college basketball player male or female to have 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists for a career. And she did it on 2/24/20.

And, Christine, saying that was super special to her because 2 was Gigi's number, 24 Kobe's number and 20 is her number. Obviously she said that was for Kobe and Gigi.

ROMANS: That just gives me the goose bumps. Really, what a day.

All right. Andy, thanks so much for that.

Laura, what's coming up?

JARRETT: All right, Christine. Well, Democrats upping the ante for a one week stretch that could determine who faces President Trump in the fall.