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EARLY START

Democrats Debate Tonight In South Carolina; After Spectacle, Trump & Modi Get To Business; Harvey Weinstein Convicted Of Sex Crimes. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 05:30   ET

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


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[05:30:23]

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

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

ROMANS: And the man at the root of the MeToo movement convicted of sex crimes. What the future holds for convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein.

Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: And I'm Laura Jarrett, about half past the hour here in New York.

Well, Democrats bracing for a high-stakes debate -- a critical showdown tonight in South Carolina. Expect a much, much tighter focus on Bernie Sanders tonight now that he's the undisputed front-runner in the race. A new Marist poll shows Sanders within striking distance of Joe Biden in South Carolina, just the latest evidence of Sanders' growing momentum.

ROMANS: The Vermont senator has been working to broaden his coalition. South Carolina, where a majority of Democratic voters are black, will put that 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.

JARRETT: So far, Sanders' rivals haven't really drilled down hard on his record. That's a break President Trump, his super PACS, and surrogates simply will not give Sanders if, in fact, he becomes the nominee.

So expect plenty of recalibrating tonight by Democrats who mostly left Sanders alone at last week's debate. They, instead, focused their fire on Mike Bloomberg who isn't even on the ballot in South Carolina.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more on 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 has been in the spotlight before and he's been in the center of the stage before, but he has never been a 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 risks of electing a Democratic socialist.

Aides to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg saying they are 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 debate last week in Las Vegas. So he, of course, will be judged as well on the stage tonight.

But this is the last, best opportunity for these Democratic rivals to raise questions about Sen. 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. He's had a very consistent performance.

But now, the night is different, the moment is different. He has never walked in like this much of a front-runner -- Christine and Laura.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Jeff. Thank you for that.

Bernie Sanders doubling down on his praise of Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolution at a CNN town hall last night. The Democratic front-runner again applauding Castro's literacy program as a good thing despite the fact that the Cuban leader also killed and imprisoned dissidents.

Sanders' comments triggered by partisan criticism, including from Florida Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot of -- a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate and he formed a literacy brigade -- you may remember reading that. CHRIS CUOMO, MODERATOR, CNN TOWN HALL: Yes.

SANDERS: 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 Congresspeople that you mentioned just 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: But 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 has 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 a government takeover of health care.

[05:35:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that unchecked capitalism has failed, but 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. Bloomberg, Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth 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: And more ahead on all this. Plus, she put men on the moon. We are remembering a pioneer of space travel.

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ROMANS: All right. Bernie Sanders, the front-runner, broadening his coalition and building momentum ahead of the Democratic debate tonight in South Carolina. The stakes are high but the big prizes are the delegate-rich states voting next week on Super Tuesday.

[05:40:05]

Are moderates' worries about Sanders at the top of the ticket well- founded or could he really beat Donald Trump in the fall?

JARRETT: Joining us live from Washington this morning, Axios White House reporter Alayna Treene. Good to see you this morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

ALAYNA TREENE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, AXIOS: Good morning to both of you.

JARRETT: Thank you so much for getting up with us.

There's an interesting piece in Axios, I know you contributed to, by Jim VandeHei, about whether the framing of the Bernie issue has been off the mark a little bit, and it's interesting.

He quotes Peter Hamby in this, saying that instead of asking if Sanders is unelectable, ask another question. What if Sanders is actually the most electable Democrat?

And then you guys lay out a pretty convincing case. Walk us through it.

TREENE: Right. Well, so, Bernie Sanders -- Sen. Bernie Sanders, a lot of moderate Democrats -- people I'm speaking with on Capitol Hill are really freaked out by his front-runner status. They are worried about having a Democratic socialist as the Democratic nominee. And they think that because of his self-declared label as a Democratic socialist, President Donald Trump will be able to clobber him in the general election.

But really, if you look at some of the national polls that are out already, if you look at some of these swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, Sen. Bernie Sanders is actually in the best position to take on President Trump in those states. And he has kind of that Trump-like energy with the way that he gets his supporters to rally behind him. His social media standing is better than any of the other --

ROMANS: Yes.

TREENE: -- candidates running right now.

And so, a lot of people are worried that if he is the nominee he won't be able to beat President Trump. He won't be able to win in some of those swing states where a lot of people think more centrist and more moderate Democrats will perform better. But actually, if you look at the polls and his standing, that's not necessarily the case as of now.

JARRETT: Yes, and some -- not just the polls. I mean, you point out that he has a much stronger foothold on social media than his rivals --

ROMANS: Yes.

JARRETT: -- and his people write checks. I mean, they have been --

TREENE: Right.

JARRETT: -- quite loyal to him in terms of donations.

ROMANS: There's an energy, too, when you talk about the young people and the coalition that he's built. And there's also an --

JARRETT: Yes.

ROMANS: -- anti-establishment flair here -- there really is. And you saw it in 2016, right, with what I always call the hostile takeover of the Republican Party by Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders isn't even a Democrat. Could it be his hostile takeover of the -- of essentially, the Democratic Party?

TREENE: Exactly, and it's something -- it's really remarkable to me that a lot of people still don't think that a fringe candidate, which is what a lot of people described Sen. Bernie Sanders, could win.

And we saw this happen in 2016. A lot of people thought that having President Trump become the Republican nominee would basically guarantee Hillary Clinton's win. Clearly, that wasn't the case. And so, we shouldn't make that same again -- mistake again this time around.

JARRETT: You know, it's interesting, Alayna. We -- obviously, in the debate tonight, all eyes are going to be on Sanders now that he's the front-runner.

But I also want to get your thoughts on the Bloomberg factor. Last time around, everybody came out swinging for him. He's not on the ballot in South Carolina but he's going to be on stage. And it makes me wonder whether Joe Biden is actually the one that has the most to watch out for with him as the factor.

TREENE: Definitely. Joe Biden has been treating South Carolina for several months now as his state to win, his fight to win. And so, his performance here this week and the primary on Saturday is huge for him, especially with his campaign's survival. A lot of it has been based on how he's been able to court African-American voters. Sen. Bernie Sanders is really clawing back some of that and showing that he's narrowing the gap there.

And so, a lot of the fire will be trained on Sen. Bernie Sanders -- not like last debate just a week ago today -- last Tuesday -- where a lot of that heat was on Mayor Mike Bloomberg. And so, tonight -- I know -- I've talked to some of the people on the Bloomberg campaign who said he's coming in with a full arsenal of attacks --

ROMANS: Yes. TREENE: -- against Sen. Bernie Sanders. He's ready to just lob a lot of fire at him. And I'm sure all of the other candidates are ready to do so as well.

JARRETT: Yes. And our reporting is also that he's been working on his prep mindful of how it went last time.

ROMANS: Working on his personality.

TREENE: Right.

JARRETT: And realizing that his personality has shortcomings he may not be able to overcome. And so, he's going to look for those zingers.

Alayna, thanks so much for getting up with us this morning. Always nice to see you.

TREENE: Thank you, both. Thank you, Laura and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, 44 minutes past the hour.

Global markets trying to -- trying to stabilize after yesterday's big sell-off with limited success here. You can see that European shares have all moved lower now, here.

And on Wall Street, looking at futures here in the U.S., they are now turning down a little bit -- barely holding their head above water after what was a terrible day yesterday. Investors fled stocks and rushed to the safety of gold and bonds.

[05:45:00]

The Dow tumbled more than 1,000 points -- worst day in two years. The broader gauge of the stock market, the S&P 500, tumbled 3.4 percent, the biggest decline since February of 2018. The Dow and the S&P 500 are now down for the year.

High-flying tech stocks just simply slammed here. The Nasdaq fell almost four percent.

Markets are coming to grips with the reality the virus -- the coronavirus could slam global growth. Ships are sitting in ports, goods are in floating quarantines, from autos to computer chips to lobsters to wedding dresses -- just about everything. Supply chains are broken.

Now, new outbreaks in Italy and South Korea mean four of the 12 largest economies in the world have coronaviruses.

The White House asked Congress for $1.25 billion in emergency funding. This is a test of the Trump administration's response. At first, the president said China had this outbreak under control and he praised President Xi. Then he said warm weather would kill the virus by April. And now, from India, he is watching the stock market and projecting optimism.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Other than yesterday, which was something pretty bad with respect to the virus and we'll see what happens -- I see the futures are up today -- up fair substantially. Yes, but that's a very serious thing but we think we're in very good shape in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Yes, somewhat overstating the case there on futures, I think is fair to say.

The president in India this morning. He will hold a news conference in about less than an hour. No doubt, he will discuss the economy.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live for us in New Delhi. Kaitlan, he's tweeting overnight about everything from Supreme Court justices to socialism to the economy. What more are you going to expect to hear from him today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, the coronavirus is something that is top of the president's mind right now. You just heard him talking about it at that CEO roundtable that he's having, one of the last events he has here in India before departing in just a few hours after a banquet he had.

But essentially, he's trying to project this sense of calm, something you've seen the president say publicly, even though we know the president watches the Dow closer than anyone. So when you saw the markets with those heavy losses yesterday, that is certainly something that weighs on the president.

And we know that behind the scenes he's actually quite frustrated with some of his officials over their response to this. The fact that those Americans who have tested positive for it were allowed back in the United States. So that's certainly something that they're keeping an eye on because, of course, the president's fear there is that this is going to affect the economy on a global scale and that would, in turn, really go into his number-one argument to voters for why he should be reelected.

So we do expect to hear more on that from the president when he is going to take questions from reporters -- just him and reporters -- no Prime Minister Modi, who has not done any press conferences since he's been prime minister -- later today.

So we are waiting to see what the president has to say about that and, of course, his two-day trip here where he's going back to a Washington where we know that he's been wanting to make staffing changes ever since that post-impeachment vote. That is something we are expecting could play out when he returns to Washington.

JARRETT: All right, Kaitlan. Thank you so much. See you very soon.

ROMANS: Yes, and with futures turning a little bit lower here, this is why presidents and their economic teams generally don't give you investment advice --

JARRETT: Yes.

ROMANS: -- in the middle of a crisis because things can move very quickly here. The president said that futures are up substantially. They are not.

And, you know, I've been closely watching this. European shares have moved lower as well. You want to see stabilization or even a rebound after a big day -- 1,000 points down in the Dow yesterday.

JARRETT: Yes.

ROMANS: He would like to see a rebound -- a snapback. So far, we're not seeing that. Three hours to go until the opening -- four hours to the opening bell, so we'll watch.

JARRETT: But you wouldn't know it if you saw --

ROMANS: Yes, I know.

JARRETT: -- him at this business roundtable.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: All right, we'll be back.

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[05:53:05]

ROMANS: 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 women could be raped by Weinstein and still maintain a 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 groups that includes Weinstein accusers, called the verdict just a drop in the 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 her 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 taken into custody, Weinstein is facing between five and 25 years in prison on that charge of a criminal sex act and up to four 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 non-consensual sex. Much of that, of course, coming in the wake of reporting in "The New Yorker" and "The New York Times" in 2017 that detailed some of these allegations.

[05:55:01]

His attorneys tell 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 is accused of raping one woman and assaulting another in 2013. The charges were announced on the very same day that this trial started, Laura and Christine, here in New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

Katherine Johnson, the legendary NASA mathematician who helped make it possible for Apollo 11 to land on the moon, has died. Johnson was 101 years old.

The story of her extraordinary genius in overcoming segregation at NASA was told in the 2016 hit movie "Hidden Figures."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Katherine G. Johnson.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: In 2015, President Obama honored Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mr. Obama said yesterday, "After a lifetime of reaching for the stars, today, Katherine Johnson, landed among them."

JARRETT: 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 is all about precipitation and far too much of it.

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 portions of the eastern Great Lakes where as much as six to 10 inches is possible.

But, go to Chicago and the bullseye here for some snowfall as well. Indianapolis gets in on some snow. And you work your way a little farther towards the east, you get into portions of New England. Of course, snow abounds there as well.

But winter weather advisories and winter storm watches have been prompted across this region. Over 20 million people impacted by it as well.

So we kind of highlight what has been happening here. It has been a very mild winter. We've had quite a bit of wet weather. And the ice over on the Great Lakes has been among the lowest on record -- fourth- lowest, to be precise. Nine percent ice coverage on the Great Lakes. It should be close to 42 percent of the Great Lakes covered by ice at this point in the season.

And you notice with this next system, again, plenty of water remains across the Great Lakes. It is not frozen and you bring in strong winds. Lakeshore flood warnings prompted across portions of Lake Michigan. 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: All right, Pedram. Thanks so much for that.

Well, Antarctica is melting. Before-and-after satellite images of the northern Antarctica peninsula, taken just nine days apart -- nine days apart this month. Where there used to be white icecaps there are now brown blotches of land and ponds of water. The region had record high temperatures this month. On February sixth, it was 65 degrees, matching Los Angeles.

ROMANS: All right. The late-night hosts are back and while you were sleeping, they waxed comedic on the Nevada caucus results.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CORDEN, HOST, CBS "THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN": Bernie is, of course, thrilled about this. It must be an incredible feeling. Almost nobody spends the weekend in Vegas and feels good about how things turned out.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, CBS "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": This past weekend, Democrats did something that once seemed unimaginable. They counted the votes in a caucus.

The Nevada results were also a boost for the flagging campaign of Joe Biden, who came in second with 20 percent of the vote and told supporters that Joe Manchin is back.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You put me in a position -- you know, the press is ready to declare people dead quickly. But we're alive and we're coming back and we're going to win.

COLBERT: Bragging that you're alive may not be the most stirring campaign rally. Folks, we're breathing on our own, the tubes are out, the pants are on. This morning, I ate a whole thing of applesauce. Now, sponge-bathe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The glasses -- the glasses really killed me. Stephen Colbert, oh my goodness.

I want to take a real quick check on futures again as we're heading to the end of our program. Holding on here, barely positive -- about 28 points, the Dow futures. The Dow was down more than 1,000 points yesterday so all eyes on whether this can stabilize today.

Thanks for joining us, I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: We are going to enter this debate with the full knowledge that tens of millions of Americans want fundamental change.

BUTTIGIEG: The politics he is offering says if you don't agree with me 100 percent of the time, you don't even belong at my side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're very thin in their efforts to flail at Bernie Sanders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases is on the rise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A massive sell-off in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and in stock markets worldwide.

DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The sudden increase of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman. END