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NEW DAY

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is Interviewed About Bernie Sanders' Praise of Fidel Castro; Jury Convicts Harvey Weinstein of Rape & Sexual Assault; President Trump Holds Press Conference in India; President Trump Disavows Accepting Help from Foreign Countries in 2020 Election; President Trump Comments on Democrats Ties to Harvey Weinstein; President Trump Criticizes Justice Sonia Sotomayor's Dissent Criticizing Supreme Court Rulings on Emergency Stays; Democratic Presidential Candidates to Hold Debate Ahead of South Carolina Primary. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired February 25, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: For our U.S. viewers, the final debate in a crucial week in the Democratic primary. NEW DAY continue right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Tuesday, February 25th, 8:00 now in the east. We are following breaking news. President Trump just wrapped up a press conference before leaving India. The president was downplaying fears about the spread of coronavirus just one day after concerns that it could turn into a global pandemic sent global markets into a free-fall. So here's what he just said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The coronavirus, which is very well under control in our country, we have very few people with it, and the people that have it are, in all cases, I have not heard anything other than maybe there's something new, because for two days I haven't been seeing too much of that news, very much news, because it's been all-encompassing. We've accomplished a lot here. We had a lot of meetings, as you know. But the people are getting better. They're all getting better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is also weighing in on U.S. intelligence that said that Russia is again trying to interfere in the 2020 election. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, I want no help from any country. And I haven't been given help from any country.

Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Just so it's clear what we just did there. The first thing you heard was President Trump in India just moments ago saying that he doesn't want help from any other country in this election, and hasn't been given help from any country. And then the second bite was from way back in the campaign in 2016 when he asked for Russia to look for Hillary Clinton's emails.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Jim Acosta who was at that news conference, Kaitlan Collins there as well. They are both traveling in India. And Jim, I want to start with you. Specifically, the president did two things on the issue of Russia. Number one, he would not say whether he agrees that Russia is trying to attack in 2020, and then the second thing, and this was facing a question from you, he said he would not accept help from any country, even though in this campaign he asked for help from China, from Ukraine. He told George Stephanopoulos that he'd be willing to listen to overtures from help. So this is a very different response, and the evidence proves his statement is not, in fact, accurate.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. I should point out, I asked the president point blank whether or not he would pledge to the American people that he would not accept any foreign assistance in the upcoming election, and that was when he said, I haven't gotten any help from a foreign country, and I don't want any help. That's not exact verbatim, but he said those words to that effect.

But I will tell you, John, what you just said is exactly right. The president, obviously, did not say whether or not he would pledge not to accept any assistance in the upcoming election. But he also said something that was just flat out false. He has sought help from foreign governments. He said back in 2016, I was a that press conference when he asked Russia to find Hillary Clinton's missing emails. And he was out on the South Lawn of the White House asking for Ukraine's help, asking for China's help. That was obviously what he asked in that infamous phone call with the president of Ukraine, asking for help, asking for dirt, essentially, on former vice president Joe Biden.

And so this is a president, he gets very uncomfortable when he's asked this question. He was asked earlier on in the news conference about whether or not he believes that Russia is trying to interfere in the election. He did not really answer that question to any kind of satisfactory, I think, effect. And that is why I followed up with that questions as to whether or not he would accept foreign assistance in the upcoming election.

The other thing I should point out, John, is this was a pretty, I think, newsworthy press conference. There was a lot of news that the president offered up. At one point he was asked about this so-called purge that is going on inside his administration. He said that he doesn't expect a whole lot of people to be purged as part of this process, but at one point he went on to say that he wants people who are loyal to the country, when, obviously, when you're trying to purge people from your government, purge people from your administration, you are looking for people who are loyal to yourself, loyal to the president. Those are obviously two different things.

And one final thing we should point out. He was going after Democrats in some deeply personal terms. At one point he was asked about the conviction in the case of Harvey Weinstein, and he went after the Democrats and said it's the Democrats who love Harvey Weinstein, at one point said former that first lady Michelle Obama loves Harvey Weinstein. Obviously, presidents aren't typically the kinds of people who attack former first ladies, but President Trump is, obviously, cut from a different sort of cloth, and that played out time and time again during this news conference.

[08:05:03]

But I think that there was some movement in terms of this foreign interference question because I think what you heard the president say today was somewhat unlike what we've heard in the past in that he doesn't want help in the upcoming election. Whether or not that matches the reality over the next 10 months or so, we're going to find out. John?

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, his comments on Harvey Weinstein we just need to dissect for a second. He said he hadn't heard much about the case. He really didn't know about that case. That case has been everywhere on cable news. It does strain credulity that the president wouldn't know what was happening in the Harvey Weinstein case unless the people, his advisers are just not -- are keeping the information from him. But he also said he doesn't watch much TV, I think he said at some point during that, which, of course, the evidence over the past three years has proven otherwise.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the president certainly does watch TV. He certainly does keep up with things like this, especially because this was playing out right in New York with Harvey Weinstein. And the president, of course, was being critical of other people who had close ties to Harvey Weinstein, though. Of course, there are also photos of President Trump and Melania Trump with Harvey Weinstein, so we should note that.

But really it was the question he was being asked. What is your message to women in the wake of this, and, essentially, should they feel comfortable coming forward? And the president demurred, did not want to answer that question. And of course he's a president himself who has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by several women as well, something that the president has refused time and time again to address, even though officials have said, yes, he's addressed this in the past, we're moving on from this. That certainly hasn't been the case.

Another question he really didn't seem to want to answer at this press conference, which I thought was notable, was the question about religious freedom here in India. That was something that we were told by White House officials the president was going to bring up with Prime Minister Modi, that new act, of course, that essentially critics say is paving the way for a religious citizenship test here in India. And the president did bring it up privately. He said that he had this question in front of multiple people and that Modi told him he does want religious freedom, though, of course, there are questions about that as well given the fact this law has passed and it is a law that seems to try to exclude Muslims from being able to get citizenship. However, the president did not say exactly what his message to Modi was. He seemed to take him at his word for that. So that was a notable moment.

And of course, one thing we should point out in addition to what Jim just laid out there is the president's comments on coronavirus, where he is trying to soothe the markets pretty clearly there by downplaying these fears, saying he doesn't think it's going to turn into a problem, even though, we should note, 24 hours ago, his administration approved or asked for over $1 billion from Congress to help fight this because they're still trying to figure out a game plan here, and they want to be able to tap into another half-a-million dollars of money that's already been appropriated by Congress.

But one thing he was asked about by Peter Alexander of NBC News was, how is it different now, because when Ebola was something that was happening, the president was highly critical of the president at the time then, saying that Americans who contracted it should not be able to come back into the United States. And he was asked, how is it different now that you are president and people who have tested positive for coronavirus are being allowed back in the United States? He said it is a very big difference in his opinion, essentially as big a difference as night and day.

BERMAN: One of the other interesting parts of the news conference is when the president was pressed by John Roberts of FOX about comments he has made about Justice Sonia Sotomayor who wrote in a dissent yesterday, or it came out Friday, I suppose, critical of the Supreme Court observing her hearing or granting so many stays asked for by the government. I want to listen to the president's answer, and we're going to talk about how it matches up with what actually happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just thought it was so inappropriate, such a terrible statement for a Supreme Court justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was inappropriate about the statement. I'm not an attorney so I can't really looking into --

TRUMP: You know what the statement was, John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But she seemed to criticize the White House for running to the Supreme Court at the drop of a hat.

TRUMP: No, I don't think that was it. But I think what she did say is she's trying to shame, the way I look at it, she's trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way. What Justice Sotomayor said yesterday was really highly inappropriate, and everybody agrees to that, virtually everybody. I've seen papers on it. People cannot believe that she said it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Jim, what's so interesting if you watch the full exchange, it was clear the president has no idea what Justice Sotomayor actually wrote. What she wrote is that, quote, "claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases. It is hard to say what's more troubling, that the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the court would grant it." She's upset about how many cases the court is hearing to overturn stays, but she writes it in the type of legalese that is in so many dissents that we see over the years.

[08:10:07]

ACOSTA: That's right, John. I think it just goes to show you that the president has an unlimited number of political grievances. And when he runs out of his grievances at any given moment he comes up with new ones, invents new ones, in this case, attacking justice Sotomayor.

I will tell you, John, this is a part of a pattern for this president. He has sort of a cool view when it comes to the separation of powers. He has made -- he hasn't been bashful about attacking judges that he doesn't like, people like Amy Berman Jackson, the judge overseeing the Roger Stone case, and so on. And my guess is that you're going to see this moving forward.

I think one of the questions that would have been good to ask of this president if we're going to be on the case of the Supreme Court is, if he's reelected, what will that Supreme Court look like moving forward? Obviously, he would replace any vacancy in the court with another conservative justice, and that would, obviously, shift the balance of power in the Supreme Court in a much more rightward way and have dramatic effects on a whole range of issues that affect Americans across this country. So I do think you hear the president banging up against these institutions from time to time, whether it's the press. He was coming after the press during this press conference but he certainly has plenty of grievances, it seems, when it comes to the high court as well, John.

BERMAN: Jim Acosta inside the news conference, Kaitlan Collins in India as well, thank you both so much for your coverage from over there, I really appreciate it.

Our other top story this morning, the 2020 race entering this crucial stage. Tonight, seven Democratic candidates will face off in a debate in South Carolina, and many of them are taking on the front-runner, Bernie Sanders.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna. He is the co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign. Congressman, it is always great to see you. And in case you didn't already know, it's on. It is full on in this campaign. We had Tim O'Brien, who is a senior adviser to Mayor Michael Bloomberg who will be on that debate stage. And I want you to listen to what Tim O'Brien told us moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN, SENIOR ADVISER, MICHAEL BLOOMBERG PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Bernie has gone through this campaign without being held accountable. He hasn't been vetted as thoroughly by the media as some of the other candidates, other Democrats on the stage haven't challenged him on the debate stage as much as they've challenged each other. And Bernie has a very trippy record, to say the least.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: A trippy record, to say the least. I have two questions on this. The first one is, how is the senator preparing for tonight in what will be, I think, a different debate for him?

REP. RO KHANNA, (D) CALIFORNIA: John, the senator is going to stick with the same message that he's been delivering for 30 years because it comes from a place of deep conviction, and he knows that's what the American people want. He's going to talk about health care as a human right. He's going to talk about getting out of endless wars. He's going to talk about free public college and making education accessible. And the idea that his record hasn't been vetted, this is a person who ran in 2016 and has faced extraordinary scrutiny for the last five years. So it's a bit ironic for Mayor Bloomberg to be launching that given that Mayor Bloomberg didn't even compete in the early states.

BERMAN: To the charge that part of Senator Sanders' record is trippy. Now Tim O'Brien listed a bunch of things that have to do with writings from Senator Sanders in the 60s and 70s. Those are things that have been addressed and will be addressed going forward. But I want to focus on comments he made about Fidel Castro. He was asked again last night in a CNN town hall whether or not he stands by his comments, which seemed to praise Castro's record when it comes to literacy. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was 59, 60.

SANDERS: OK, you know what he did? He initiated a major literacy program. There was a lot of folks in Cuba at that point who were illiterate. And he formed the literacy brigade. 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Are you as a congressman comfortable with praising Fidel Castro's record on literacy? KHANNA: I don't think that's what Senator Sanders was doing. I have

spoken with Senator Sanders, his foreign policy team. He understands that Castro came to power on great human rights abuses, that there were mass shootings, that there was execution. He understands that Castro has been a dictator. What Senator Sanders really does believe, though, is that, a, we need to normalize the way President Obama was doing our relationships to Cuba and reject Trump's policy. And, second, as a matter of course for the United States, we ought to be making more investment in literacy and education. And where he has compared policies, he's talked about the Scandinavian model of education.

[08:15:04]

He certainly is not talking about Castro's model which was indoctrination in many cases and a state ideology.

BERMAN: But he specifically was talking about in the years that Castro went to power or gained power. He wasn't as President Obama later did when he tried to normalize relations with Cuba talk about the net effect decades after. He was talking about those moments that were very controversial and it's not just Cuba.

As you well know, you know, Senator Sanders when he was a mayor went down to visit Nicaragua and met with the Sandinistas and had some words about what was going on in Daniel Ortega's regime. He visited the Soviet Union when it was still in power with his wife, and talked about the subway stations and how they work.

It's this type of language that has some members of your own party, including members from Florida, very concerned.

What do you say to them?

KHANNA: John, I say listen to his speech that he gave in 2017 where he lays out his foreign policy. He has criticized Ortega's human rights violations. He has criticized authoritarian regimes.

And Senator Sanders' vision is one of multicultural, multiracial democracies that will work together to solve climate change, to fight disease, to expand education. He is not going to, in any way, stand up for human rights abuses. And I think when you look at the totality of his comments, that -- that will become clear.

BERMAN: I do want to ask one other question, because in the Nevada victory, it was a broad coalition that did propel Senator Sanders to a commanding win there. He did very well among all demographic groups. But one thing that has not happened yet in this election, and this is something you've noted, is drawing new voters or large numbers of new voters into the fray.

"The New York Times" wrote overnight: The first three nominating contest reveal a fundamental challenge for Mr. Sanders' political revolution. He may be winning but not because of his longstanding pledge to expand the Democratic base. What I noted in this article wasn't just that quote, but you also are

in that article as well saying you would like to see more voters come in, that it is a bit of a disappointment so far. Why?

KHANNA: Well, Senator Sanders would like to see more voters come in. I mean, we want to continue to increase young turnout. We want to continue to increase working class turnout.

But here's what I'll say. He has been doing the most to increase turnout of any candidate in the field. What we need to do in my view is unify and have massive voter registration drives in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and Michigan.

So, it would be wrong for any of us to be complacent. I mean, Donald Trump is going to have a turnout machine. We believe we need to match that. We believe Senator Sanders is the best to do that. But we're not complacent. We need to be better to be able to defeat Donald Trump.

BERMAN: What does it you about the possibility of beating Donald Trump that the new voters haven't been turning out in droves?

KHANNA: I believe they will. I believe when Trump is on the ballot, a lot of people are going to turn out. It's harder to get turnout when you have a multi-candidate field, as it becomes closer and closer to the general election.

But what we have been doing is laying the machinery, the volunteers, the organization to do that. And it's indisputable that Senator Sanders in the field resonates most with young people. We've seen candidates and movements like Barack Obama or huge turnouts, it's usually because of young folks out there. That's what I think will ultimately help Senator Sanders win.

BERMAN: Congressman Ro Khanna, it's always great to have your voice on our show. Thanks so much for waking up. I really appreciate it.

KHANNA: Thanks so much for having me.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, Harvey Weinstein's rape conviction is being called a landmark moment in the #metoo movement. One of the reporters best known for his investigations into Harvey Weinstein and #metoo is Ronan Farrow. He's won an award for this, and he joins us with his thoughts, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:22:22]

CAMEROTA: Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is now hospitalized. He was complaining of chest pain after he was convicted yesterday on rape and sexual assault charges. Weinstein faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced next month.

Joining us now is Ronan Farrow. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting that exposed allegations against Weinstein which helped ignite the #metoo movement. Ronan, what a day that was yesterday. It didn't -- it didn't always

look as though it was going to go that way. And what did you think when you heard that he had been convicted?

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: This was a challenging case on many levels, legally, culturally. You are dealing with allegations where there's not a lot of physical evidence attached, where sometimes the witnesses had reported this some time after the alleged incident, and where you're not sure at this moment of transformation, whether a jury is going to believe women with these kinds of claims.

And they spent a long time. They sent back a lot of requests for clarification from that jury where it seemed like it wasn't clear they understood the instructions. And I think a lot of the women who accused Weinstein of these crimes were bracing for what happened year after year after year which was no accountability.

BERMAN: What intrigues me so much about this is that this is really a legal and cultural pivot point. As you mark here legally speaking, this does open the door to more cases being brought that don't necessarily have slam-dunk forensic evidence where you are taking the word of a woman who might have a complicated story that she was in a relationship but she was also raped. So, legally, it's interesting. Also culturally, because you may have more women willing to come forward to tell their stories.

FARROW: And more pressure on prosecutors to bring these kind of cases, even when it means going up against a powerful set of interests.

Great example right in this case. Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, in 2015, this is one of the stories we broke in "The New Yorker", shut down an effort to charge Weinstein, even though they had a taped confession from a police sting of him admitting to an assault. They dropped that effort to charge him.

And then just in the last 24 hours, you have Cyrus Vance celebrating this conviction and saying it doesn't matter if a woman reports immediately or years after, it's a crime. It's a crime. It's serious.

So, you see a real transformation in how leadership figures in the criminal justice system have to behave around this.

CAMEROTA: Harvey Weinstein was no ordinary defendant. He was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood at one time. There are so many young women, women whose names we'll never know, women whose names we didn't know, and powerful actresses who had to run through his gauntlet.

[08:25:06]

And yesterday, I thought it was really interesting. The former CEO of Focus Features wrote this: Harvey Weinstein is the one going to jail, but the entire film business, all of us, who have sustained and benefited from the hierarchies of power who allowed his crimes to multiply and victims to multiply, it is we who were found guilty today.

Just the -- the tidal wave or the -- I guess repercussions of this conviction. What does it tell you about how Hollywood has behaved and going forward?

FARROW: I spent three hours yesterday with Rose McGowan, one of the first women to go on the record in my reporting, someone who made noise about this very early on and faced a lot of blowback for it. And there was an interesting conversation about coming full circle and what her life, like the life of so many of these sources, has been like in the last few years.

And very often what you hear from her and others is, there are a lot of statements of how much we need change, how much those hierarchies of power need to be dismantled. But is there anything other than statements?

You know, she and so many other women who spoke in these stories are not being flooded with requests for work, are not being thronged by the support from the industry that one might expect to follow on from those statements. It's a long way to go.

CAMEROTA: Fair. But can't we say the industry has changed today? Can't we say that men are on notice? Are people still behaving the way that Harvey Weinstein was?

FARROW: Well, that is the theme of the interview I just mentioned which will be a bonus interview on the "Catch and Kill" podcast which goes out this week. So, there's a plug for you.

But in all seriousness, you know, I think that's a question mark. And I think, yes, absolutely, we are seeing vastly overdue change in the legal system, in the culture, in the way companies handle nondisclosure agreements, in the way media companies are willing or not willing to cover up these kinds of crimes when they have evidence of them. That is all a relief to many of the women who suffered at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, who raised these allegations. But there's a long way to go is my point.

BERMAN: I was going to say, what happens next? I mean, is this change universal? There's a claim that the film industry may have changed. What about the news business, for instance, where there are these outstanding allegations as well?

FARROW: Yes. Both allegations sort of within our own house in the media where everyone needs to look at, do we have people in elevated positions of power where we could do more to hold them accountable rather than sweeping things under the rug and keeping them in those jobs so people continue to get hurt?

And also, in terms of what we do to cover these kinds of crimes, it is hard for news organizations to go up against power. It takes guts. It takes a willingness to assess, OK, how do we do this safely from a legal standpoint but also not just rely on lawyers to shut this thing down. And we need to depend on our major media companies embedded in larger

corporate ecosystems. CNN, all the major networks have parent companies, to make sure there's a firewall, so you don't get, you know, the boss's boss's boss getting a call from Harvey Weinstein, as happened so many times over the years when this story got shut down. And then a news organization that has to follow those orders. I hope we never see that again.

CAMEROTA: You lived it. You lived it. You experienced what it was like to have the scoop, to have the victims coming forward and to have it all be shut down. It's all in "Catch and Kill." Everybody should read that book. What a moment yesterday it was.

BERMAN: I will say, one of the most impressive things is when yesterday it all happened, instead of taking any credit, Ronan said the credit came to the women who had the courage to come forward and tell their stories too.

FARROW: That is absolutely the truth. We owe this moment, this conversation to the fact that sources were incredibly brave in going to journalists and upending their lives to shine a light on this, where the criminal justice system failed to do so. And then in taking another step and talking to prosecutors.

(CROSSTALK)

CAMEROTA: We'll talk to one -- you did, you did, Ronan, but we'll talk to one of those very women coming up just moments from now.

FARROW: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: All right. Other big news this morning -- Democratic front- runner Bernie Sanders is preparing to fend off attacks in tonight's debate. No doubt he will face questions about his past comments about Fidel Castro. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END