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NEW DAY

Seven Dems to Face Off in South Carolina Debate Tonight; Trump Downplays Fears of Coronavirus Spreading; Global Markets Rattled as Coronavirus Fears Grow. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are going to enter this debate with the full knowledge that tens of millions of Americans want fundamental change.

[05:59:40]

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A massive selloff in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and in stock marks worldwide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sudden increase of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, February 25, 6 a.m. here in New York, and seven Democratic candidates take the stage tonight for a pivotal debate in South Carolina. Many of them say they will have a new strategy: take down Bernie Sanders.

Joe Biden may have the most to lose. The former vice president has staked everything on South Carolina. He's called it his fire wall. Recent polls show Biden has some serious competition there from Sanders.

At a CNN town hall last night, Sanders doubled down on his praise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, despite fierce bipartisan criticism. So we will play that for you. BERMAN: Also breaking overnight, the coronavirus outbreak sending global markets into a freefall. The Dow suffered its worst loss in two years, plummeting more than 1,000 points. We're watching U.S. stock futures very closely this morning. You can see right there, slightly up. They've been down. They've been up. We have our eye on them all morning long.

There is concern that this coronavirus issue could turn into a global pandemic and, even if it doesn't, that it could have a lasting and damaging economic impact.

But President Trump is downplaying fears of coronavirus spreading in new comments that he made just moments ago. We're expecting to hear from the president again at a press conference in India in just a few minutes.

Let's begin our coverage, though, with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live in Charleston, South Carolina.

Abby, these are the most important eight days of the Democratic race for president. We're right in the middle of it.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a pivotal time for all of these candidates, John, but probably no more than for Bernie Sanders. The national frontrunner as we are just days away from the South Carolina primary and the big delegate prize of Super Tuesday.

We've already heard from his aides that he is doubling down here in South Carolina, boosting his ad spending and his events on the ground. But the signals that we are also getting from the other candidates is that tonight might be everyone versus Bernie Sanders.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP (voice-over): After strong finishes in the first three contests, Bernie Sanders paving the way to be a prime target of tonight's debate.

SANDERS: It is a little bit funny to find myself as the so-called frontrunner.

PHILLIP: His praise of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro drawing criticism from his rivals.

SANDERS: We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba, but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know, when Fidel Castro came into office, do you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?

PHILLIP: Sanders did not apologize for those comments in a CNN town hall last night.

SANDERS: Do you know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing. The truth is the truth, and that's what happened in the first years of Castro regime. PHILLIP: Pete Buttigieg says Sanders' views could be extremely harmful

to Democrats' chances of defeating President Trump.

BUTTIGIEG: 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.

PHILLIP: And also reminding voters to remember his early success in Iowa.

BUTTIGIEG: I'm the best alternative to Senator Sanders, because I'm the only one who's beat him this year anywhere.

PHILLIP: Joe Biden is laser-focused on winning the first in the South primary.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It all starts here in South Carolina. It starts here, for real. For real. Because now we have a state that looks like America.

PHILLIP: Tom Steyer previewing how he plans to knock down Sanders's approach.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to say, I disagree with his solutions in many instances. I don't think a government takeover of major parts of the American economy is a good idea.

PHILLIP: Despite a disappointing start to the primary season, Elizabeth Warren is assuring voters she's not ready to back down.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At this moment, when so much is on the line, do we back up? Do we get timid?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

WARREN: Do we lower our voices?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

WARREN: Or do we fight back? Me, I'm fighting back. I'm fighting back.

PHILLIP: And Amy Klobuchar emphasizing the importance of uniting the country.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to put someone at the top of this ticket that gets it. That gets how to bring people in instead of shutting them out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Now, Michael Bloomberg is not on the ballot in South Carolina on Saturday, but he will be on the debate stage behind me tonight. And we are hearing from his aides that they plan to switch up his strategy and focus more squarely on Bernie Sanders, hoping to change voters' view of him after last week's disastrous debate before those all- important Super Tuesday states just a week from today, John.

[06:05:08]

BERMAN: All right, Abby, stand by for us in Charleston.

In the meantime, we're expecting President Trump to hold a news conference very shortly as he wraps up his trip to India. After growing pressure, the White House has finally asked Congress for more than a billion dollars in emergency funding to address coronavirus.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins live in India, in New Delhi, where the president is with much more on this -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they have been facing growing pressure, calls from lawmakers asking the White House what their plan is going to be. Because so far, they've just seen the president downplay this in recent weeks, say he doesn't think it's going to be as big of a deal as some people have predicted.

And we're even hearing that from the president this morning, though it's a little bit harder for him to say it because, of course, you saw the markets suffering those heavy losses. And there is no one who pays closer attention to the Dow than the president.

John, listen so what he was saying just a few minutes ago at a business round table here in New Delhi before he wraps up his trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that's a problem that's going to go away, but we lost almost 1,000 points yesterday on the market. And that's something, you know -- things like that happen where -- and you have it in your business all the time, had nothing to do with you. It's an outside source that nobody would have ever predicted if you go back six months or three months ago, nobody would have ever predicted. But let's see. I think it's going to be under control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So now we do know that the administration has requested over a billion dollars. They also want access to about half a million dollars that's already been appropriated by Congress for this, because they've already burned through $100 million in funds trying to combat this.

So there are going to be questions facing the administration over what exactly their plan is going to be for this. And we know that while the president is publicly downplaying all of

this, John, behind the scenes he's pretty frustrated with officials because, one, he didn't want the Americans who were testing positive for coronavirus to be allowed back in the United States.

And, two, we know he's been siding with officials in Alabama over an idea to quarantine some of the officials -- or some of these patients at a FEMA facility there. And instead, they are going to be located elsewhere now.

But of course, there are still a lot of big questions facing them over the next few days as they are keeping an eye on this and how it's going to affect, of course, the economy.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Kaitlan, thank you. I mean, it's good to know, I guess, that they're pumping money into the problem now, as long as it is targeted towards the right things. And that's just still so uncertain.

BERMAN: Yes. Much more on that coming up.

CAMEROTA: OK. Tonight is shaping up to be Bernie Sanders versus the rest of the debate stage. How will they stop his momentum? What's the plan? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:11:58]

CAMEROTA: The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will face off tonight in a crucial debate, just days before the South Carolina primary. For some it will be their last shot at slowing Bernie Sanders down before Super Tuesday.

BERMAN: I don't know that anyone is going anywhere, so --

CAMEROTA: You mean getting out before Super Tuesday?

BERMAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes. No, for sure. Joining us now -- but we'll find out. What do our panelists think? CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip; Bakari Sellers, former Democratic South Carolina House member; and Krystal Ball, co-host of "Rising" on Hill TV.

Bakari, what dynamics are you watching for this evening?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it was everybody versus Michael Bloomberg last time. I think this week is going to be everyone versus Bernie Sanders, looking at Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner. It's going to be the scrutiny that Joe Biden had to go through this summer. Bernie Sanders is going to have to go through it now.

And so, I mean, I -- if Bernie Sanders is anything he's consistent, so I do anticipate him able to withstand any onslaught. I don't anticipate him getting actually Bloomberged like we saw last week, That's now a verb, by the way, to get Bloomberged. So I don't anticipate that happening.

So I think tonight is going to be an exciting night. The last debate was one of the best debates that we've ever seen. I think tonight's going to be a rematch and a preview of what's to come. It's going to be a very, very long race.

BERMAN: And we know, as you say, he may not get Bloomberged, as Bakari says, but he will get Sandersed.

CAMEROTA: No, it doesn't work.

BERMAN: It doesn't work? But we've had a taste --

SELLERS: No, it doesn't. It doesn't work, John.

BERMAN: We have tried. Look, I'm trying. We got a small taste of what that's going to be like last night at a CNN town hall. Pete Buttigieg talking about the comments from Bernie Sanders where -- well, let's let Pete Buttigieg say it in his own words. This is about some of the things that Sanders has said about Fidel Castro and Cuba.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUTTIGIEG: 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)

BERMAN: You know, let's play a little bit of how Bernie Sanders has been responding to this. This is S-30 from Bernie Sanders and how he responded to this notion in the CNN town hall last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: When Fidel Castro first came to power, which was, when, '59? Does that sound right?

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

SANDERS: OK. Do you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. There was a lot of -- a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate. And he formed a literacy brigade. You may read that. He went out, and they helped people learn to read and write. Do you know what? I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So the truth is the truth, Krystal, is how Bernie Sanders is handling this. How would you respond to this if you were Bernie Sanders? What more, Krystal, do you think he needs to say on this subject? KRYSTAL BALL, CO-HOST, HILL TV'S "RISING": Well, I thought he did an

effective job last night. I mean, what you don't point -- what you didn't play is that he also unequivocally, again, condemned the brutal authoritarian tactics of the Castro regime.

[06:15:08]

And it's not like he's just, like, bringing this up out of nowhere. He's getting asked questions about this, and he's responding.

The one thing that he and his team should also point out is that Barack Obama said almost the exact same thing, and I don't remember Pete Buttigieg, and I certainly don't remember Joe Biden, being so outraged about that at that time.

Look, Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner. He may already be unstoppable. Let's not forget that a million Californians have already cast their ballots. Half a million Texans, which also goes on Super Tuesday, have already cast their ballots. So a lot of this cake is already baked, but they're trying to grab onto anything they possibly can here.

We should also talk about Mike Bloomberg, who's also been trying to go after him on this, in today's era is an apologist for the brutal Xi regime in China that has a million Uyghurs in prison camps. So if we want to talk about dictators, let's have that conversation.

CAMEROTA: Abby, one of the thing [SIC] that has struck people, or the things, is that Bernie Sanders seems to be unapologetic in the way that Donald Trump was unapologetic in that primary. I am who I am. This is -- this how I feel. And all the things that normally, you know, the kind of conventional wisdom of what people will turn on isn't happening at the moment.

So, you know, I think that those parallels between President Trump and Bernie Sanders can often go too far, but just in this way of sticking to your guns.

PHILLIP: The theory of the case for Bernie Sanders is essentially that voters respond to politicians with conviction and that when you start backing off of what you believe in, that's when people start wavering on you.

So in the limited band in which we can kind of draw parallels in political style, I think what Bernie Sanders is doing -- and, frankly, he's probably been doing it much longer than Donald Trump -- I mean, Bernie Sanders's views haven't changed in 30 years, by and large. And he's essentially saying going into this election that -- that he believes that he can bring the country along with him to where he is on a host of issues, whether it is his world view, whether it is on Medicare for all and on a host of other issues.

And so that's the question, but it's also the test. It is largely untested on the Democratic side. I think we know how it went on the Republican side, but the caution for Democrats is that Donald Trump still lost the popular vote. I mean, yes, he won the Electoral College, but millions of people, millions more people voted for Hillary Clinton.

So you have to be sort of careful in drawing too many -- extrapolating too far from the Trump example. And I think the Bernie Sanders case is going to have to be -- and it has been -- we can bring more people out.

Well, we've looked back at some of the primaries and caucuses that we've had so far, and the data doesn't really show this, like, groundswell of new voters coming out of the polls. So there's a lot more that Sanders needs to prove, particularly on Super Tuesday, about whether he can juice up turnout and whether he can really bring public opinion to where he is when we get into a general election. And I'm not just talking about Democratic voters in a primary contest.

BERMAN: We're going to have Ro Khanna, who's one of the co-chairs of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign on, and he acknowledges that turning out new voters hasn't happened in the numbers that the Sanders campaign would like to see just yet. They think there's promise going forward, but they'd like to see more of it.

Bakari, having you there is like having a spy in South Carolina. So you can tell us exactly what's going on there and what the stakes are heading into Saturday. Just so people can see some of the most recent polls, the Marist moll has Joe Biden up by 4 points right now. That's sort of the low end of the spectrum that we've seen. Other polls have had that margin higher.

Among African-Americans, who will make up some 60 percent of the Democratic primary vote, Joe Biden's lead is 15 percent.

But what are you seeing, what are you hearing in these final few days, Bakari?

SELLERS: Well, I was in -- I was in Marion, South Carolina, yesterday, which is one of the poorest counties in the entire country, speaking to some elementary school kids. And all the conversation was about Joe Biden, and you had a few Bernie Sanders supporters. And I give you that anecdote so you know that I believe Tom Steyer is cratering a bit here.

Tom Steyer in South Carolina was the one who was taking away or syphoning votes from Joe Biden, and I think that's beginning to firm up. I think tomorrow morning the likelihood is that you'll have an endorsement, I think many people believe, from Jim Clyburn for Joe Biden. And that's going to make sure and expand the lead for Joe Biden. I don't anticipate this race being that close.

But I do want to say, I think that Krystal is one of the most progressive and intelligent progressive voices we have on the scene. Now, I just disagree with her on the fact that this cake is already baked.

I think Bernie Sanders has to prove that he can expand the electorate, including black voters. He got 26 percent in South Carolina in 2016, and I don't anticipate that increasing.

[06:20:10]

If Bernie Sanders wants to prove he can be the Democratic nominee, he cannot get wiped out in the south. That means he has to do well in Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, North Carolina. And when I say well, I mean win with more than 20 percent. And I don't think he's going to be able to do that. And I think the evidence of that starts Saturday in South Carolina, when I believe Joe Biden probably will expand his lead.

CAMEROTA: Krystal, your thoughts.

BALL: Well, I mean, I think we saw in Nevada that he had overwhelmingly the most diverse coalition of any of the candidates. We've seen recent polling since Nevada, including Morning Consult, that shows him leading with black voters.

And look, Bakari is absolutely right: It's a vital and key constituency that I know the Sanders campaign has been really focused on.

But just to lay on again the stakes of the debate tonight, which I think are very high, especially for everyone not named Bernie Sanders, in the NBC polling of South Carolina, Joe Biden had a ten-point lead going in -- in surveys going into the last debate, and it was dead even in surveys coming out of the last debate.

So, look, I don't think Bernie Sanders has to win in South Carolina, but Bakari is absolutely right, he needs to show that he can do well. He needs to show that he does have strength with black voters, so we will see what happens.

CAMEROTA: Well, I would just say also stick around in our 7 a.m. hour. I have a sit-down, a voter panel, with black South Carolina primary voters about how they are feeling today and who they're going to vote for; and it's fascinating. That's all I'll say.

Thank you all very much.

BALL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Also, CNN's special two-night town hall event will continue tomorrow night. That's live from Charleston with four more Democratic candidates taking questions from voters. You can watch tomorrow night beginning at 7 Eastern only on CNN.

BERMAN: Can we get Bakaried? Can one get Bakaried? I'm going to try to use everyone's name as a verb.

CAMEROTA: Well, Buttigieged is also hard. I was trying to do it, but that's difficult.

BERMAN: We're going to work on that.

In the meantime, coronavirus fears rattling global markets. Are we in for a repeat of just the horrific day in the markets yesterday?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:26:21]

BERMAN: All right. Developing story, coronavirus fears around the world rattling the stock markets as the number of cases outside China continues to grow. Can the stock markets stabilize after the huge selloff yesterday?

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us now with much more -- Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: You guys, it was a truly awful day across the board. Now, Asian markets overnight couldn't bounce back. European markets lower now a second day on Wall Street. And futures -- futures right now are barely above water, U.S. stock index futures.

Now, investors fled stocks. They rushed to the safety of gold and bonds. The Dow tumbled more than 1,000 points, the worst day in two years. The S&P 500, that's the broadest gauge of the stock market. That was down 3.4 percent, the biggest decline since February 2018.

The Dow and the S&P 500 are now lower for the year, and the high flyers, the tech stocks, got really slammed. The NASDAQ fell almost 4 percent.

Now, the White House asked Congress for $1.25 billion in emergency funding. This is a test of the Trump administration's response, no question.

First, the president said China had the outbreak under control, and he praised the Chinese president. Then he said warm weather would kill the virus by April. And now from India he's watching the stock market and projecting optimism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), 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 fairly substantially, but that's a very serious thing. But we think we're in very good shape in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Fact check, your futures have not been up substantially this morning. They're barely holding above water here.

And companies are warning the outbreak will hurt them. We've heard from Apple. And then yesterday, in a rare move, United Airlines withdrew its guidance for the year. Near-term demand for flights to China has fallen to near zero. It has no visibility there. And Mastercard said the outbreak will slash its sales growth 2 to 3 percentage points -- John.

BERMAN: Romans, stand by, if you will, because you're going to be very interested in what we're reporting next. Our Kaitlan Collins is live in India where the president is traveling. Abby Phillip is with us also.

But, Kaitlan, I understand the president in a round table was just talking about the stock markets and said the type of thing, honestly, that presidents never say and for a reason. Go on, tell us what he said.

COLLINS: Yes, this is a round table with business CEOs, one of his last stops while he's here. And he's repeating a line that we've heard from him in some rallies, which of course, as Christine knows, this is really rare for presidents to comment on the stock markets. But of course, the president has made, you know, no -- he's not trying to hide the fact that he does comment on them often.

And he was saying, essentially, that he feels that, if a Democrat wins, the markets are going to go down, that of course, he predicted that if Bernie Sanders is the nominee and he becomes president, there is going to be a stock market crash.

But one interesting thing he said that I haven't really heard him mention lately is he said he believes the market is going to jump around a lot before November's election. He seems to be providing himself with some breathing room there, because of course, you saw yesterday those heavy market losses, the Dow down 1,000 points, something the president watches very closely even when he's here overseas meeting with another world leader. That is something he keeps his eye on.

And then, of course, right around then, you saw the administration make the request for over a billion dollars for this coronavirus. And that is something that initially they said they didn't feel like they needed. So now they seem to be changing. And of course, the question is whether or not the president is going to continue to downplay it.

And the reason several sources told me that they believe he's doing that is because they think if he talks about -- he thinks if he talks about it realistically, it's going to make things worse, though there's no reason for why it is the president thinks that.

END