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INSIDE POLITICS

Markets Tumble Over Global Coronavirus Fears; President Donald Trump Downplays Risk Amid Fears Of Coronavirus Crisis; HHS Secretary Alex Azar: I'm Still In Charge Of Coronavirus Response; New South Carolina Poll: Former Vice President Joe Biden Holds Wide Lead Over Senator Bernie Sanders; CDC Confirms U.S. Coronavirus Case With No Links To Foreign Travel. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: --to the Bernie Sanders campaign message coming out of Capitol Hill. It is good to see you Manu. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Kate.

BOLDUAN: And thank you all so much for joining me today. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Financial markets plummet again as the spread of the Coronavirus sparks fears of a global recession.

Vice President Pence takes charge of the White House response, a move that alarms many Democrats but is viewed positively by a very nervous business community.

Plus two points, five points, or 20 points? A new poll today shows Joe Biden with a giant South Carolina lead. Two others recently had a much smaller gap.

And House Democrats wave their power as Presidential Super Delegates some worry that Bernie Sanders at top of the ticket could hurt the party down ballot. In a briefing today outlines their sway if the nomination fight carries on to the convention floor chill is the Speaker's message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The rules are very clear. The person who will be nominated will be the person who has a majority plus one. That may happen before they even get to the convention, but we'll see. The people will speak and that's what we're listening to, and it's a pretty exciting thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back to that a bit later, but we begin the hour with the Coronavirus crisis. A new medically significant case here in the United States a new confrontation between White House and top Democrats about how to respond?

And new evidence this global health challenge is now also a global economic nightmare. Both Goldman Sachs and Moody's Analytics is showing sober takes today as blue chip companies continue to slash earnings predictions, Goldman Sachs says it now expects American companies won't grow at all this year because of Coronavirus-related disruption.

Moody's Chief Economist now puts the odds of a United States recession this year at 50-50 and says President Trump has yet to demonstrate to investors that he understands the urgency of this challenge. Those worries are roiling the markets.

The DOW down now for the sixth consecutive day you see a big board there. It was down 900 points earlier this morning. Let's get straight to the New York's Stock Exchange and CNN's Alison Kosik. Alison, a lot of turmoil and a lot of worry.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And a lot of volatility today. Hello to you, John. Loses that we're seeing pushing the DOW into a correction that's 10 percent fall from a recent high in fact all the major industries are having their worse weeks since the financial crisis of 2008.

You look at the DOW it's lost a jaw-dropping 2600 points plus just this week. Now a lot of this is fear driven, not necessarily based on what the virus has done. There are a lot of unknowns about what could happen if this virus spreads.

It goes to your point, the Goldman Sachs warning showing that U.S. companies won't generate earnings growth this year if this virus becomes more widespread. It's why we're seeing forecasts being ratcheted down from companies, from Microsoft to Apple to Mastercard even Coca-Cola saying a shortage of its natural sweetener, that could mean its product could be impacted.

Now President Trump is doing little to relieve the fears here on Wall Street. I went down to the floor a little earlier today and sat with a technical trader to see what the Futures trade was doing during his news conference last night between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm eastern time.

And Futures fell they went from positive actually to negative. One global strategist summing up nicely, telling me this that no one really seems be an expert on the Coronavirus at this point and we haven't seen anything like this in our investing lifetime. John?

KING: More questions than answers. Alison Kosik, appreciate that from Wall Street. Here back in the studio, also today some medically significant Coronavirus developments to report. Now the first confirmed case in the United States where the patient has no links to foreign travel.

Last night we heard U.S. government health officials flanking the President at the White House warning over and over expect more cases. But if you listen to the President he has a very, very different tone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just in the course of the last couple minutes, you have disputed some of what the officials that are working in your administration behind you have said about the risk of Coronavirus and its spreading. Do you trust your health officials to give you good information and do you trust your instincts?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Yes, I do. I don't think I have, they've said it could be worse, and I said it could be worse, too. No, I don't think it's inevitable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With me today to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Kaitlan Collins Carl Hulse with "The New York Times" Rachael Bade with "The Washington Post" and Laura Barron-Lopez with "POLITICO."

You heard Alison talking about being with a trader during the President's remarks. We're watching what happened to the Futures during the President's remarks, not inspiring confidence there.

The question is now that the Vice President is in charge, the business community is happier because it believes he will pick up the phone, but Speaker Pelosi saying just moments ago she had a conversation with him this morning, wished him well, but brought up his tenure as Indiana Governor when there was a spread of the HIV AIDS virus and the Democrats believe the Vice President was part of the problem.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: That is going to overhang the Vice President here. This was a bad crisis in Indiana. It was this rural county where they had an outbreak of AIDS from intravenous drug use.

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HULSE: At the time he was seen as very slow to adopt the idea of needle exchange, but eventually did. People still didn't think it was administered very well. I mean, so there are a lot of people out there who have no confidence in the Vice President's ability to do this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Which is interesting he's not going to be the lead health expert on this, they just picked a State Department person to do that the President said that was coming yesterday. When the Obama Administration appointed someone to oversee the Ebola crisis, they weren't a health expert, either, they were an attorney.

I think the reason the President picked Pence to do this is because he was watching the coverage people were questioning of his administration was prepared to handle something like this. And he didn't like that. He was frustrated with that.

He had been annoyed with Health and Human Services Secretary Azar for some time. And so hopefully he believes putting Pence in that role will help calm these fears amongst some of these lawmakers who had been asking, who is our point person here? Who do we go to?

Now what other people are saying is that he is pretty much given Pence a very impossible job here. Because there is a chance if this doesn't go well and it's not Pence's fault, it's because this becomes a pandemic and it spreads. And there are questions about how that will be handled? So he really does have a lot that he is got on his plate now that he is taking on this responsibility.

KING: And one would help at a moment like this there would be a step back into adult bipartisan conversations but that Washington doesn't exist anymore. For better or worse I would argue for worse. But today from the top Democrats, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, a very sternly worded joint statement in which they say, Mr. President, we want to help.

Mr. President we're prepared to spend whatever it takes to deal with this, but they want to put some strings on it. Lives are at stake this is not the time for name calling or playing politics they say.

Any emergency funding supplemental the Congress approves must be entirely new funding, not stolen from other accounts, and including at a minimum, strong provisions that ensure that the President cannot transfer these new funds to anything other than the Coronavirus and fighting infectious diseases.

This is a carryover from the Border Wall fight where the President is going into other government accounts and transferring money to the Border Wall. They're saying we're going to give you money but in the House, the Democrats control the House, and it is a very narrow margin in the Senate. So presumably they can tie some strings to it.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, it is just again just shows how toxic the atmosphere here in Washington has become over the past few months with impeachment. The Democrats have a bad taste in their mouth from appropriations when it comes to this President.

I mean, he has gone around Congress. The constitution clearly specifically says Congress has the power of the purse their specific take where federal money has spent and Trump has ignored them and used money from various accounts to fund his Border Wall.

And so clearly what you see is Pelosi and Schumer trying to say, no, we're not going to be moving that money around. And you know presumably Republicans will want to get this past. We'll go along with sort of keeping those stipulations.

Whether the President will listen to them or just do what he wants, I think remains to be seen. But again this is typically a time of national crisis when we're facing a national emergency. You see people coming together. Right now you see sniping, Trump going after Pelosi and his press conference. Pelosi and Schumer hitting back at him this morning with statements in their own comments saying that he is not handling this well, it's ugly.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: In addition to that, Pelosi isn't happy that he put Pence in charge. He came out this morning during her presser and said that she was concerned about the fact that he was put in charge. She had conversations with him this morning and said that they were - it went okay, but not as well as she would like although she did say that she's expecting that they'll be able to come to some kind of agreement very soon.

Also on the note about the Health and Human Services Secretary Azar, is that "The Washington Post" is reporting that he wasn't told until moments before Pence was put in charge, before it happened, which is just an internal dynamics again at play within the administration.

KING: That's an interesting point. And so let's deal with that right now in the sense that he spent the entire day, Alex Azar the Health and Human Services Secretary saying there is no need for czar. I got this. I'm good.

Then he is part of that White House meeting in which the President says the Vice President is in charge. And he announced as Kaitlan just noted, they're bringing somebody over from the State Department who has global health experience to be a coordinator under Vice President of United States. So the Secretary of Health and Human Services told essentially you report to the Vice President he is getting some help from the State Department but Alex Azar says I'm good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I think you're not getting the point here - I'm still the Chairman of the task force. Having the Vice President gives me the biggest stick one could have in the government on this solo government approach.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you're telling you are being replaced?

AZAR: Not in the least. I'm - when this was mentioned to me, I was delighted that I get the Vice President helping in this way delighted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The President smartly leaving the room at that point. I guess he could have cleared that up. He decided he didn't want to. Forgive me I believe the flow chart of United States government puts the Vice President ahead of a Cabinet Secretary, right?

COLLINS: Yes, it does. And that's why it was so confusing when the President was like he's not czar because the White House has been denying reports all day that they were going to pick one. Even though people accurately reported that is something that they had weighing.

So that was really the attempt there as to not try to confirm these media reports. Something the President has done in the past. But what was unclear was what the chain of command here is because he was saying that Pence is in charge of leading the response now.

[12:10:00]

COLLINS: He is going to be overseeing it. But then he was Azar would be reporting to Pence who would be reporting to Trump but then sometimes both of them would report to the President. It is just as unclear with this new State Department person they've picked to coordinate this.

She is on the task force but she reports to Pence, but she is also working with National Security Council, so it's just not a lot of clarity. That's what lawmakers wanted yesterday is, they wanted to know who they're going to report.

KING: And to that point and let's hope they get their act together. This was just announced yesterday let's hope they get their act together. And everything goes smoothly from here. We should all hope that as Americans, but to that point yesterday.

As this was all playing out in the White House, a number of business executives including some airline people went to the White House trying to get some clarity on what was happening here. They left those meetings, they called them horrible, and they went up to Capitol Hill.

Their message to Capitol Hill was these guys don't get it. They don't get it they don't know how to communicate this? They don't know how to spread the seriousness? They don't have to be reassuring in the airs they should be reassuring to the American people the airline industry where people just won't travel at all even though it is relatively safe trip.

So I was struck by this, this morning from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Listen to his tone compared to the President.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): As our public health experts remind us, a nation of nearly 400 million square miles and more than 300 million people cannot be hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world. There seems to be little question that CORVID 19 will eventually cause some degree of disruption here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's not what the President says.

HULSE: So the White House approach is to downplay this as much as possible, you have everybody else in town that has been around for some of these things trying to be realistic about it. I think that was a real effort by Mitch McConnell to say, hey, this could happen so let's get ready.

One thing about the Democrats and the Republicans here, the Democrats remember and think that the Republicans were totally unfair in 2014 and 2016 in attacking them on funding for Zika and Ebola. And they really got hammered for that.

That leaves a scar and I don't think they're going to sit around this time and say, hey we're not going to - we probably won't go as far as you did back then, but we're make our political points here. BADE: Yes, it feels like McConnell was obviously trying to put out that those are realism, that the President wasn't willing to accept saying, this - we're going to see more cases in the United States. I mean, the President seems to not even be acknowledging that during this press conference.

You know it is interesting because obviously the President is trying to calm the markets. Stock markets how people are feeling in the economy right now. This is a big part of his 2020 reelection, and so part of this is just trying to calm everyone so that folks are not losing a lot of money and he's doing okay for his reelection, right?

But in trying to sort of say put on these rose-colored glasses and say, everything is going to be fine when it turns out that it is not fine you know the markets are going to go even more crazy. So McConnell was clearly trying to change that message and say look, just because it is spreads a little bit and we could see more cases here doesn't that mean you know we're going to lose control over this here in the United States.

KING: Consistent facts would help, consistent facts all of them being on the same page would say have not been. We'll see what happens from today forward. We'll come back to the story a bit later in the program.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to join us, if you have any questions for him about the Coronavirus, you can tweet us using the #insidepolitics we would try to get to those a bit later. Up next 2020 politics, a new poll giving Joe Biden extra confidence in Saturday's big South Carolina Primary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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KING: We're just two days away now from the South Carolina Primary, the last date to vote before Super Tuesday. You can see live pictures right here in events from Michael Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders both out on the campaign trail this hour.

This is crunch time on the campaign trail all eight Democratic Candidates holding events today, half of them in South Carolina, half deciding it is best to spend time in Super Tuesday states instead. Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, they're focusing on Saturday's Primary the others choosing to focus on the context up next Tuesday.

Now some polling numbers might explain why? A new Monmouth University Poll showing the Former Vice President with a massive lead over his rivals in South Carolina. Look at those number 36 percent of likely Democratic Primary voters say they plan to vote for Joe Biden.

Senator Bernie Sanders next at 16 percent, Tom Steyer has 15 percent. No other Democratic candidate breaks single digits. So here's my question. There was one poll that had Biden up two, another poll that had Biden up 5 both of those taken in the last week. This one is a little later that now Biden is up 20.

BADE: What happened?

LOPEZ: I would say that it seems to assume that Biden is up by a decent amount. Whether or not it's 20 is hard to tell. Who knows also how much the Jim Clyburn endorsement helped him or not. I was in South Carolina in January. There was very much an air of in inevitability around Biden.

He was certainly weakened by the loss in the first two states and then I think the second place finish in Nevada definitely helped him heading into South Carolina. It's just remains to be seen whether or not someone like Sanders can get close to him, or Steyer.

KING: And if, emphasis on "IF", Biden has a big win like that, that will give him a balance into Super Tuesday. But it is a big challenge because he does not have as much money he is just barely on television. He was on one state yesterday morning, and then they added some other states, pretty modest buys, after that. He needs a rocket out of South Carolina.

HULSE: Yes, I think that his staff likes 20 point difference. He needs that cushion given the way things have been working in these primaries. It looks like he's going to win finally win a primary, and they hope it does catapult him out there. But he hasn't been doing a lot in these Super Tuesday states, so it's like, how long is this bounce going to last?

But he do start to hear people like let's how do we coalesce around Biden if that's our last chance to stop Bernie Sanders, and I think you'll hear a lot more of that, if he has a big win, especially.

KING: The issue is that thing has never happened before is the unlimited spending of Michael Bloomberg and does Mayor Bloomberg get that message not before Super Tuesday.

[12:20:00]

KING: He won't, he is on an all 14 of these states. I just want to - this sounds a bit presumptuous I get what Joe Biden is trying to talk about, but this is what he told at Charleston posting career on Wednesday. Assuming he gets a big win in South Caroline.

They would have to consider dropping out not because I want them to or anybody else does, but because the victories and loses are going to dictate it. How do you stay in if you've demonstrated you can't get any African-American support?

How do you stay in if you don't get support in South Carolina? So I just think the process is going to take care of that. I don't think it requires anybody to say get out of the race. Meaning, if he wins big in South Carolina he thinks Senator Klobuchar, Mayor Buttigieg, I assume he means Mike Bloomberg as well are just going to say oh, Joe Biden finally got one win I'm getting out.

COLLINS: I like all that stuff - as now when he is the one who was performing so badly in the other states, they really played it off, said that wasn't where his support was, they were waiting for South Carolina, but of course that was when those other candidates were really capitalizing on that, people like Klobuchar, to their momentum. So I do think that is - he is saying he is not telling them to get out, but I think that's the wishful thinking.

KING: And yet it is a challenge for other candidates in the sense that if you're Elizabeth Warren, you don't have a win yet. If you're Amy Klobuchar, yes, you have surprised people, you ran stronger in New Hampshire then people thought a little stronger in Iowa than people thought. But you don't have a win yet.

So they both did CNN Town Halls Massachusetts is a Super Tuesday state that is Elizabeth Warren's home now. Minnesota is a Super Tuesday state, that's where Senator Klobuchar is from, and so?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Massachusetts is going to vote. It's a must-win for you in Massachusetts?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I'm out here fighting for every vote I can get.

LEMON: Is it a must win? I got to go?

WARREN: I'm just grateful of those votes.

DANA BASH, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Your home state, yes or no, is that a must-win for you to continue in the race?

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never set litmus tests, but I know I'm going to win Minnesota.

KING: They have to win somewhere, don't they? You would assume the place is at home. No disrespect, it's really hard to run for President. Sometimes I think viewers think we're beating up on their candidates. It is really hard to run for President. It is a drain on you physically, and everything else on your staff and everything else. But at some point, you have to win, right?

LOPEZ: Right, but also candidates like Warren and Buttigieg and Klobuchar are all looking and saying I have delegates. And so it's so difficult to get out of the race when you have delegates, and someone like Warren has verbalized more and more in the last few days that she very much is ready to take this to the convention floor if Sanders only gets plurality and not the number needed.

And that she's willing to battle all the way through the second ballot to get the nomination. So what's interesting though in the case of Warren in Massachusetts, is that it looks like Bernie could actually beat her there.

BADE: That's never a good look in your home state I think it is interesting you know Klobuchar, she is finding her moment toward the end - well, not the end but in the middle of this primary season when people do want candidates to drop out and to sort of coalesce around fewer candidates. So we can find out who this nominee is going to be.

I mean, she has done pretty well in the debates recently. She obviously had good showings in New Hampshire, and so you know she wants to stay in. But, again, you have people like Biden who could really benefit, or Buttigieg, from her supporters, if she were to drop out to sort of get behind who is that moderate candidate? Who is going to own that lane? But again this is sort of - she sort of feeling that right now and clearly wants to stay in.

HULSE: John I think you would agree with me on this, the difference from the past is that people did drop out. You know we would start these primaries and people would say you know I'm not viable I'm going to drop out.

These folks are hanging around and it's making it hard for them to find a candidate. It's tough when you've been running around and people keep telling you, you should be President, you should be President, to throw all that away. But in the past people were able to walk away.

KING: There are a number of reasons for that. In the past there was a stronger Democratic establishment that could pick up the phone and say, you need to get out of the race. Both parties there are no such thing anymore.

Number two, you can now raise money online you couldn't do that 25 years ago and so you couldn't get out. But also the idea that until somebody emerges, if one person emerges then you has a stronger argument. If nobody has emerged as the alternative to Bernie, then you have got delegate. You have got delegates why?

So we'll see that more after Super Tuesday that before Joe Biden thinking they're going to get out, people in South Carolina are, shall we say, a tad optimistic. You can watch our Special Live Coverage of the South Carolina Primary right here on CNN brew some coffee, make some popcorn start Saturday afternoon at 4:00 pm eastern. It is going to be a great day. So don't go anywhere else but right here.

Up next for us, amid growing concerns here at home a new Coronavirus case suggests the disease could be entering a critical new phase. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to talk it over.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:25:00]

KING: More now on the Coronavirus and the new case that raises concerns that the disease could be spreading. There are now 60 confirmed cases here in the United States. Most were passengers on the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship or individuals who recently returned from travels to China.

But the CDC has now confirmed a new patient in California with no known relevant travel history or contact with other patients. Our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins us now in studio. What is the significance of this case, no known travel history?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So it hasn't travelled to one of these areas, hasn't come in contact with someone has a known infection, it suggests and they're going to chase this down a little bit more John.

But it suggests that that means the virus is now circulating in the community, that there are people walking around carrying this virus, most of them with either no symptoms or just minimal symptoms, but they're there. They haven't been counted because they haven't really been sick, and if this person got the virus from-

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