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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) is Interviewed About the Coronavirus Response; In 2016 Sanders Wanted Superdelegates to Overrule Voters, Now He Wants to Avoid it. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Continuing in our health lead, members of Congress are demanding answers from Trump administration officials after a whistle-blower at the Department of Health and Human Services claims that more than a dozen workers who received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, may have lacked proper training or protective gear. That increases concerns, of course, that the health workers might have even played a role in spreading the virus.

Joining me now is Congressman Mark Takano of California whose district contains the Air Reserve base in Riverside County where this took place.

Congressman, thanks so much for being here.

REP. MARK TAKANO (D-CA): Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: So, how concerned are you that these health workers might have inadvertently played a role in spreading the coronavirus?

TAKANO: Well, I'm very concerned. The first 195 evacuees from Wuhan came to Riverside County.

And I want to emphasize, there are no confirmed cases among the evacuees -- the cohort of evacuees that I know of. But that's one of my questions to HHS and CDC, is how do you track these 195 evacuees who did not show any symptoms? My concern is that not all of them were tested.

I had assumed that this cohort was accompanied by public service health workers from HHS and that they were properly trained and that they were even equipped with protective equipment since they were on the plane.

TAPPER: One would think.

TAKANO: And I'm not sure -- these are the answers that I need. And in our briefing, in our bipartisan briefing this morning, I posed that question, and it wasn't satisfactorily answered. I don't want to put that as a -- as a pejorative or negative on Dr.

Kadlecik (ph) or Dr. Redfield, both of whom I thought were very -- very forthright and forthcoming when they -- when they informed me the day before that the 195 passengers from Wuhan were going to arrive in my district.

TAPPER: So, I guess one of the big questions is how does this happen where health care workers dispatched by HHS don't have training or protective gear?

TAKANO: Well, you know, that's the question that I want to ask. I don't want to speculate. I will say that my office, and my team, that we cooperated with the Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC, and we did our -- we did our part to get information out.

We -- during the 14-day quarantine in Riverside County, we published a bulletin every day transmitting to our constituents, my constituents, what we knew and what we were able to learn from the government sources.

And it calmed people down when they got information. It's so important for this government to keep credibility and to keep that faith with the American people, and I'm afraid that this is getting so political and so politicized and the president of the United States I think is not demonstrating the kind of leadership that needs to be demonstrated. We need cool-headedness, levelheadedness, and most of all, we need honesty and straight answers.

TAPPER: I agree. At least 50 residents in your district are quarantined over potential coronavirus exposure. More than 8,400 people in California are under similar quarantine across the state. Are you bracing for an outbreak in California?

TAKANO: Well, that's another question that I have.

[16:35:01]

Are we prepared? Do we have the facilities for people to be isolated if they are testing positive for coronavirus?

So, look, a couple of things that came up today in this morning's briefing is the question of cost and whether people have adequate insurance, whether they have bought these skinny plans that are on waivers by this government, by this administration.

People wanted to -- there was a case of someone in Florida who thought they might have coronavirus, went to get tested and was slapped with a $3,000 bill. So, that's -- you can see, we've not -- my district and adjoining districts, mixed households of citizens, permanent residents and undocumented, and if the public charge that's hanging other their head, if they use public health facilities, that that could be used against them in an immigration proceeding, you can see how that's going to inhibit people --

TAPPER: Yes.

TAKANO: -- from getting treated.

So, there's a broader way -- a broad array of public health concerns --

TAPPER: Yes.

TAKANO: --and policies that need to be reviewed in light of this potential emergency.

TAPPER: It's a real recipe for real potential disaster.

TAKANO: Yes.

TAPPER: Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Congressman Takano, thank you so much for being here.

TAKANO: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: We really appreciate it.

Bernie Sanders called on superdelegates to help him get the nomination in 2016 even though the pledged delegates were with Hillary Clinton. Might he regret that now that his message seems to be the opposite?

Stay with us.

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TAPPER: Senator Sanders 2016 delegate strategy is really getting in the way of his 2020 delegate strategy. Back then, even though Hillary Clinton led in pledged delegates, Sanders hoped to appeal the superdelegates to go with him, even though Hillary Clinton entered the convention clearly ahead.

And as CNN's Ryan Nobles reports that is not his current position, and this could be the making of an ugly floor fight at the Democratic convention in Milwaukee.

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RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As it stands now, Bernie Sanders leads the Democratic primary delegate count. Sanders has made it clear, if he maintains that lead going into the Democratic convention in July, he should be the party's nominee, even if he hasn't won the 1,991 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I or anybody else goes into the Democratic Convention with a substantial plurality, I believe that individual, me or anybody else, should be the candidate of the Democratic Party.

NOBLES: That position is different from the one he took in 2016 when he was trailing Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. SANDERS: It is virtually impossible for Secretary Clinton to reach

the majority of convention delegates by June 14th with the pledged delegates alone. In other words, the convention will be a contested contest.

NOBLES: The rules for the 2020 convention, which Sanders helped to craft, are pretty clear. In order to win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot, a candidate must have earned a majority of pledged available delegates or 1,991 delegates through the primary voting process. If a candidate falls short of a majority on the convention floor, it moves to the second ballot.

And in this round, all 3,979 pledged delegates plus an additional 771 superdelegates who are elected officials and party leaders will be free to vote for any party they wish.

Already, Bernie Sanders and his warning that if it gets to the second ballot and he's in the lead, and the delegates change their vote, it could backfire on the Democratic Party.

SANDERS: I think that will be a serious, serious problem for the Democratic Party.

NOBLES: But in 2016, Sanders argued the opposite, suggesting that party leaders should assess who has the best chance to win in November.

TAPPER: And the question is just a simple yes or no, should the person with the most pledged delegates be the Democratic nominee?

SANDERS: You got 700 delegates. And I'm not a big fan of superdelegates, but their job is to take an objective look at reality and I think the reality is we are the stronger candidate.

NOBLES: And now, Sanders' rivals are seizing on his shift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you explain why the will of the voters should not matter if no candidate reaches a majority of delegates?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So, you do know that was Bernie's position in 2016.

NOBLES: And signaling they won't cede the nomination to him if he's not won a majority of the delegates.

When we were putting together -- they were putting together the 2016 platform for the Democratic convention, those are the rules that he wanted to write.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBLES: And to be clear, the Sanders campaign is not suggesting that the rules change and they do believe Sanders will earn the majority of the delegates by the time they get to Milwaukee. But what this amounts to is a P.R. campaign, a not so subtle message to those delegates and super delegates that if Sanders has to most delegates when the convention rolls around in Milwaukee, he should become the nominee or things would be very difficult for the Democratic Party to unify as they head into the November election -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles with the Sanders campaign in South Carolina.

So, Alexandra, let me start with you, as the progressive who supports both Warren and Sanders for the nomination. He has seemingly changed his position. Why is it OK for him to change his position now, do you think, considering back then he was saying, look, if Hillary Clinton doesn't have the majority, I'm going make the case to superdelegates they should be even though I'm behind.

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, the rules were completely different in 2016 in that superdelegates actually were able to vote on that first ballot. That is different from 2020, in which the superdelegates are now able to vote on the second ballot.

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And so I think that the context, as someone who worked on the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign, from the very beginning, superdelegates had come out from Hillary Clinton.

So I think the Bernie Sanders campaign, like other candidates right now, are taking positions where, even if it's not a plurality or majority of the delegates, they might also go into a contested convention.

That is the -- Bernie Sanders was trying to operate in 2016, when there was two people there. So I don't think it's that big of a change. I think it's politicians seizing on moments for the Democratic front-runner, and it's another moment where it shows the strength...

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KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It sounds -- it's very politically craven.

I mean, Senator Sanders is acting like a politician. He is now the front-runner, so he wants the rules that will work better for him. That's what it feels like.

It's so disturbing, too, because having also worked on, not just Hillary's campaign, but on the platform committee, I mean, there was so much work done to try to accommodate Senator Sanders and so many changes were made, ironically, to the caucus system, which ended up being problematic.

And specifically, this whole change on superdelegates, this is what he wanted. And here it is. And now he's saying, oh, no, no, no, no, I don't want to follow those rules, because it's inconvenient for me. That's not right.

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ROJAS: Sure. Sure.

But I think a lot of people that I also know that are on the Unity Reform Commission also tried to get to abolish superdelegates. That is Bernie Sanders' position is to abolish superdelegates, because they are not a democratic way of being able to do things.

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ROJAS: And now the compromise position for that was to have the scenario that we have right now.

So I think it's also equally as disingenuous to be able to suggest that he is taking a stance here that's different, when he wants to abolish superdelegates.

FINNEY: It is different.

But can we just be honest? Going into the convention, it wasn't just she you had more delegates and superdelegates. She had three million more votes. So if we were going to go get by...

ROJAS: And guess what he did? He decided to campaign with her in 26 different rallies.

So I think that he got behind, he rallied with...

(CROSSTALK)

ROJAS: ... for Hillary Clinton.

FINNEY: Begrudgingly.

TAPPER: You went through this.

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

TAPPER: You went through this with the Republican Convention in 2016.

SHIELDS: Right. Yes.

Well, we don't have superdelegates. We let the voters decide. And we don't give extra weight to someone because they happen to be a former elected official in the establishment to kind of fix the process.

And so, for me, as a Republican watching this, I think Senator Sanders is consistent, because his consistent message is, don't steal this from me. That's his consistent message both times. Don't have the DNC chair have to resign the night before the convention because it's being stolen from me.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: What do you think of it all?

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: The Trump campaign is doing its best to promote Sanders. SHIELDS: Yes.

KRISTOL: And Mike's doing that now because they think they can beat Sanders most easily.

But it's all this delegate talk is nice. Half-a-million South Carolinians are going to vote tomorrow.

TAPPER: Yes.

KRISTOL: The first primary, not a caucus, in a truly diverse state. And let's see what the results are.

Let's see whether we're so confident after that that Senator Sanders is cruising towards a majority or even a very high plurality in delegates.

TAPPER: OK, let's do that. We will see that, and then we will reconvene.

Everyone, stick around.

Republican outrage over President Trump's peace deal with the Taliban to end America's longest war, that's next.

Stay with us.

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TAPPER: Our world lead now, top Republican lawmakers voicing their fears about the pending peace deal with the Taliban expected to be inked tomorrow in Qatar with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on hand.

In a letter to Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, 21 members, including the chair of the House Republican Conference, Liz Cheney, write, the Taliban is a -- quote -- "terrorist group that celebrates suicide attacks," adding -- quote -- "We are seeking assurances that you will not place the security of the American people into the hands of the Taliban and undermine our ally, the current ally, the current government of Afghanistan."

The Afghan government says the agreement could give a victory to the jihadist group.

CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon for us.

Barbara, what is expected from this peace deal and what might it mean for U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, the idea is that, right now, if this all works, the U.S. will be able to draw down, bring some trees tome rather quickly, 12,000 to 13,000 there right now, come down to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan still there to fight the remnants of al Qaeda and ISIS. That's the whole idea, if all of this works. They ink the deal

tomorrow. That's the schedule. But on this question of secret annexes, there may be good reason for Congresswoman Liz Cheney to be asking these questions, because, right now, none of the documents have exactly been made public.

The world has not seen what everybody, especially the U.S., plans to sign. There are indications, the administration says, we're not entering into some new cooperative relationship with the Taliban, but a lot of questions, a lot of worries.

Look, it has been a very long war. This is a war that ends with diplomacy, more than 2,000 troops killed in this war -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Barbara, speaking of U.S. service members, Secretary of State Pompeo was on Capitol Hill today.

And he was questioned extensively by Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman about how the president downplayed the impact of a very serious problem, traumatic brain injury. This was, of course, after the Iranian strike in Iraq last month affected more than 100 U.S. service members, causing TBI.

STARR: Well, here at the Pentagon, we just had a lengthy briefing from a top military doctor about what the military is trying to do to help troops suffering from these injuries.

And then we had Pompeo today, which made it very bizarre to listen to his tone. Have a listen to that exchange on Capitol Hill.

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REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): Nineteen days after that -- those injuries, the president said: "I heard they had headaches. I can report it's not very serious."

Thirty of them are still in the hospital. All of them will be suffering their whole lives.

Do you want to take the opportunity here today to apologize to those service members for trivializing their injuries?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Congressman, I have never trivialized the injuries.

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SHERMAN: OK. Do you want to apologize on behalf of the administration for trivializing their injuries?

[16:55:04]

POMPEO: Sir, I have never trivialized any injury.

We take seriously every American service member's life. It's why we have taken the very policies in Iran that we have. (END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: Well, look, what we have right now is about 112 troops reported with mild traumatic brain injury. Thankfully, many of them have been able to return to duty -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.

Tune in this Sunday morning for CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." I'm going to sit down with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the latest on the White House response to the coronavirus.

And we're also going to have Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden fresh off whatever happens tomorrow in South Carolina. It's all at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern on Sunday.

Questions about CDC screening, as there's fear...

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