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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA); Stocks Drops Again on Coronavirus Fears; South Carolina Set to Vote; Coronavirus Global Pandemic Inevitable?; Democrats Make Final Push In South Carolina; Second Coronavirus Case Of Unknown Origin Confirmed In California; Trump to Nominate GOP Rep. Ratcliffe for Intel Director. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired February 28, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:29]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we're following breaking news, Wall Street closing out the worst week since the financial crisis of 2008, as concern over the coronavirus outbreak fuels a global market meltdown.

And just moments ago, health officials in California confirmed another case in that state, the 63rd known coronavirus infection here in the United States.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that this is the second case with an unknown origin.

Also breaking right now, President Trump has just announced his pick for director of national intelligence, Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe. This is controversial. Much more on that coming up.

In the meantime, let's go to CNN's Nick Watt. He's joining us from Los Angeles right now.

Nick, yet another case confirmed in California today.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, in Santa Clara County.

And, as you say, "The Washington Post" is reporting that officials up there say that no known origin of that infection. The reason that is important is that, if this person hadn't traveled overseas, hadn't had contact with somebody known to have had the virus, then this virus could be out there in the community.

And authorities a couple of hours north are still trying to figure out how another woman up there caught the virus. She also no travel overseas, no known contact for somebody with the virus, so the fear there is that the virus is out there. And one official up in Northern California actually said, you know what, there could be many more of these people out there and we just don't know it yet.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): One patient in serious condition in Northern California, potentially the first case of community spread in the U.S., now a focus in the fight to contain this virus.

DR. BELA MATYAS, SOLANO COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER: Because the patient did not initially meet the criteria for coronavirus testing, the patient was not in airborne isolation.

WATT: So dozens of health care workers now quarantined and a state of emergency declared in that patient's home county.

Meanwhile, at nearby U.C. Davis, three students now also quarantined, one of them suspected of having the virus.

MATYAS: There are probably cases of coronavirus from community acquisition in multiple parts of the country right now.

WATT: And this confirmed case in California is now changing policy nationwide.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: We haven't been able to test more broadly. We have had kind of a bottleneck. We haven't had enough testing sites.

WATT: Now more labs are online, and the CDC's testing criteria radically overhauled. Used to be only those who had traveled to China or been in known contact with someone who tested positive.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Where, CDC, did you ever come up with a protocol that was restricted to people that only traveled to China? I mean, come on.

WATT: Now, if a doctor suspects coronavirus, they can test for it. Could be the key to prevent a silent spread.

Today, Washington state began testing.

DR. SCOTT LINDQUIST, WASHINGTON STATE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: The goal is if it's in here in the morning, mid-morning, we will have result by 5:00 that afternoon.

WATT: Illinois just kicked its program up a notch.

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER (D-IL): We are beginning voluntary testing at select hospitals.

WATT: Meanwhile, Google just canceled an upcoming summit, Amazon and J.P. Morgan advising employees against nonessential travel, Miami-Dade schools prepping to teach kids online if need be. And Green Day just postponed its tour of Asia. Overseas, in Italy, a soccer game in an empty stadium and a motor show

canceled in Geneva. Best advice to all of us, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer a lot, but CVS now warning demand may cause temporary shortages.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And, today, the CDC did admit that the rollout of the testing program has not gone as smoothly as we would have liked.

Apparently, some of those test kits were flawed. That caused some delay. And it's unclear now, Wolf, how many states are ready and able to test for this virus. But the CDC says, by the end of next week, they want everyone state and every local health department to be testing for this novel coronavirus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Watt in Los Angeles for us watching this story very closely, Nick, thank you very much.

There's more breaking news. We're just learning that the White House is considering tax cuts and other measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

[18:05:01]

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, you're getting new information from your sources. What are you learning?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

A senior White House official says the White House is considering a number of measures including a new round of tax cuts, in response to any damage done to the economy by the coronavirus.

President Trump just tried to assure Americans a few moments ago on the South Lawn of the White House that his administration has a handle on the outbreak, but, as the White House is clamping down on its messaging on the virus, top officials are shifting the blame, going as far as saying that Democrats and the media are hyping the public health emergency to reduce the damage -- or to damage the president's reelection prospects.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With Americans growing more anxious by the day and the stock market plummeting over the coronavirus, President Trump is straining to contain an outbreak of fear?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm spending a lot of time on it, just in coordination. Mike Pence is doing a great job. Dr. Fauci is great. They're all doing really a fantastic -- Alex Azar is right on top of it. We're all watching it very closely.

ACOSTA: Leading the administration's coronavirus response, Vice President Mike Pence discussed new measures for the health emergency with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. That was after Pence attended a fund-raiser in the 2020 battleground state.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to make sure that not only does HHS, CDC, Homeland Security and other agencies have the resources they need for whatever may come. We're going to make sure that states like Florida and your local health officials have the resources to be able to be prepared for any eventuality.

ACOSTA: The vice president's office is now coordinating the administration's coronavirus message, raising up concerns among Democrats that the White House will try to muzzle government scientists who might be too candid about the outbreak.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I do think that if it is true -- and I don't know if it is -- that they're saying, unless you have an approval of the value office, no scientist can make any statements about this, is not encouraging.

ACOSTA: The White House has jumped into damage control mode with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney accusing the media of exaggerating the threat posed by the virus to hurt the president.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The press was covering their hoax of the day, because they thought it would bring down the president. I get a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today to calm the markets?

I'm like, really, what I might today to calm the markets to tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours.

ACOSTA: After a week of steep losses on Wall Street, one big concern for the administration is the economy.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell released a statement saying new stimulus measures may be necessary if the virus seriously damages the economy, adding: "The coronavirus poses evolving risk to economic activity. The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic outlook. We will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy."

The White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, is urging investors to start buying stocks.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I would say, so far, the numbers coming in on the economy have actually been quite good, including today. You might think about buying the dip.

ACOSTA: The president had his eye on the 2020 campaign, tweeting about polls he liked and didn't like, at one point remarking: "Worst polls just like in 2016, when they were so far off the mark, are the FOX News polls. Why doesn't FOX finally get a competent polling company?"

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: And the president just announced a few moments ago in a tweet that he is nominating Texas Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe to be the new director of national intelligence.

It should be noted that the president dropped plans to nominate Ratcliffe last summer after questions were raised about the congressman's qualifications. But he does have one qualification when it comes to the White House, and that is he is a staunch loyalist of the president.

It is unclear, Wolf, just how Capitol Hill is going to respond to all this, as even Republicans were raising questions about Ratcliffe's qualifications last summer. But, right now, the current acting DNI, Ric Grenell, who is the U.S. ambassador to Germany, he's also come under criticism, because he also lacks qualifications and experience in the intelligence field.

So the president has a whole new fix on his hands when he gets back from this rally in South Carolina later on this evening, as he's going to have to defend this controversial nomination of John Ratcliffe as his new director of national intelligence -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It will be very controversial. We will see if the Senate confirms him down the road.

Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's get some more right now on all the breaking news. We're joined by Democratic Congressman Jimmy Gomez of California, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as the Oversight Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.

REP. JIMMY GOMEZ (D-CA): No, thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Well, what about your colleague Congressman John Ratcliffe, Republican? He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

GOMEZ: Yes.

BLITZER: You think this is a good nomination?

GOMEZ: This fits a pattern of this administration, of this president, looking for loyalists and not people who have the experience to fill the positions.

And I think that's why you're seeing just problems throughout the federal government, everything from Homeland Security to intelligence to even the Department of Health and Human Services, is that they value loyalty over expertise.

[18:10:05]

BLITZER: And he is very loyal to the president, John Ratcliffe. We will see what happens in the Senate.

We have also just confirmed a second case of the coronavirus in your home state of California right now.

How concerned are you about what's going on, especially in California?

GOMEZ: Yes, I'm concerned, but I don't think people should panic.

But what we want to do is make sure that this administration is following appropriate protocols to make sure it's not spreading, to understand the seriousness and the urgency of the moment, but not to try to go in their bunker to prevent information from getting out. That's the worst plan.

BLITZER: Because this is the second case where the individual who's now been confirmed with coronavirus, there's no indication this person had traveled abroad and came to the United States from China, let's say, or some other country or had been in contact with anyone who had coronavirus.

They're trying to figure that out.

GOMEZ: Yes, correct.

And one of the things, I was just in a briefing with the CDC this morning, and what they said is that the coronavirus can -- you can be infected and not show any symptoms. The people on the cruise ship, half of them that were infected had no symptoms, but they were still contagious. That's the challenging aspect of this virus.

BLITZER: Tell us about the whistle-blower, because your office was in contact, I'm told, was approached by the whistle-blower, who complained that officials from the Department of Homeland Security -- Health and Human Services, I should say, actually went and met with this -- the first patient in California who had unknown contact with someone, and as a result she came down with the coronavirus.

But they went in there unprepared, they didn't have the background, they didn't have the protective equipment, protective gear to deal with this. So this is a serious problem.

GOMEZ: No, this is a big deal.

So, the whistle-blower contacted my office last week, informing my office of the breach of protocols that their staff experienced when they went to Travis Air Force Base. So that's when it raised a lot of red flags.

They reported the situation. The higher-ups in the Health and Human Services brushed off those concerns. So the concern is, one, they didn't have protective -- personal protective equipment. They were working alongside folks from the CDC who were in full hazmat gear, but they're sitting there with masks, maybe gloves, maybe no gloves, and the protocols were completely broken.

At the same time, they were allowed to fly home, some on commercial airlines that we know of. And there was no protocols on monitoring those individuals if they're developing symptoms or have been tested at all. BLITZER: Your committee wrote a letter to the secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar.

Let me read a sentence: "The whistle-blower also reported that when staff raised safety concerns, they were admonished by" -- and this is redacted -- "for decreasing staff morale, accused of not being team players and had their mental health and emotional stability questioned."

What steps are you taking to protect this federal worker? She's highly regarded, lots of kudos for her. But she's concerned about her future.

GOMEZ: Well, one of the things, Wolf -- I'm not confirming or denying if it's a man or a woman. That's one of the things to protect this whistle-blower.

One of the things that we're trying to do with this whistle-blower is that her or his information comes through my office first, and then we work with the Ways and Means Committee. That's how we protect that whistle-blower's identity, and make sure that no more retaliation occurs.

BLITZER: Have you personally met with the whistle-blower?

GOMEZ: I have not met with the whistle-blower. I know the whistle- blower before I was ever elected to office.

I worked in Washington, D.C. The whistle-blower is somebody that is highly passionate about being a career civil servant.

BLITZER: And her main concern right now is, what, that these individuals were in potentially contact with someone who had coronavirus?

GOMEZ: Yes, correct.

The main concern is, one, that the protocols were breached, that they were in contact with individuals that have coronavirus. When they complained about it, they were not given the proper tests, quarantined, and were allowed to fly home.

The staff was never tested. And at the same time, when they -- the breach of protocol was not taken seriously. Now we also have a situation where the whistle-blower is being retaliated against.

What I want to do is push this Health and Human Services, test these individuals, so you can rule them out as a cause of the spread in California.

BLITZER: And, as far as you know, they haven't done that yet?

GOMEZ: They have not done that.

BLITZER: That's a serious issue.

Congressman Jimmy Gomez, I know you will stay on top of this. We will be in close touch with you.

GOMEZ: Yes, thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much for coming in, Jimmy Gomez of California.

There's more breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM, with more on a troubling new case of coronavirus in California, reportedly -- once again, this is the second case of unknown origin.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:19:14]

BLITZER: More now on the breaking news.

A new coronavirus case just confirmed in California, with "The Washington Post" now reporting that this is the second case with an unknown origin.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Ron Klain is joining us, former White House Ebola response coordinator during the Obama administration, and Dr. Zeke Emanuel, the former White House health policy adviser. He's the author of the book "The Trillion Dollar Revolution."

All right, Zeke, let's talk a little bit about this second case. How concerning is this to you?

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL ADVISER: I think we have reached an inflection point.

The character has changed in the United States. We were able to trace back each. There does suggest that in the community there are a lot more cases that we haven't been able to diagnose, partially because we're not testing as many people as we should, and partially because there are probably a lot of asymptomatic people out there who they met with someone from China or they met with someone who met with someone from China.

[18:20:08]

And getting, you know, second- and third-generation spread here.

BLITZER: The fear is if there's a second case, there could be potentially a whole bunch more out there in California or elsewhere.

EMANUEL: Totally. Totally. And there could be thousands of cases. We just don't know. Partially, we haven't done enough testing, as I mentioned.

And there are lots of people who are asymptomatic, and that's probably spreading. And it's another element of unknown about this virus. BLITZER: The Centers for Disease Control announced -- and I want to

be specific, Ron -- that it wants every state and local health department testing for coronavirus by the end of next week. Is that doable?

RON KLAIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it should have been happening by the end of the week before or the week before that.

We have known this virus was on its way here for two months. The Trump administration strategy had been to use travel restrictions to delay its spread. Delay only is good if you use the time profitably.

And this should have been a top priority of the White House, of the CDC, of the HHS to rapidly develop these diagnostic tests, rapidly distribute them to state testing labs, and to major...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, who's to blame for that not happening?

KLAIN: I think the blame obviously with all problems will rest back at the White House.

They set up this coronavirus task force. This should have been task one for the task force, to make sure we're in a position. As Zeke said, we just don't know how many cases of coronavirus we have in America.

In South Korea, they have tested 100,000 people. In America, we have tested 500 people. So we're way behind other countries. And as a result, we may not know exactly what we're looking at here.

BLITZER: Why is that?

KLAIN: Why?

BLITZER: Why are we way behind these other countries?

EMANUEL: There has been a problem with the test kits and getting the test kits -- the way the CDC went about assembling the test kits.

BLITZER: Are there elements of the test kits that are made in China, for example? That may be a problem?

EMANUEL: No, it's not that.

We wanted to develop our own test kits. Hospitals that had developed their test kits, the FDA approval process was slow and cumbersome. As Ron says, if you're going to delay the virus, which was the right thing to do, you have to use the time profitably. Otherwise, you're going to be behind the eight ball.

By the way, next week is already seven days from now. It could spread massively in the next seven days, since the period of time between spreads is about 2.3.

BLITZER: How easy is it to spread it?

EMANUEL: It seems to be very easy, easier maybe even than flu.

And so that means that a lot of people -- so each person connect with 2.3 to three additional people, five or six days incubation period. We're going to have a whole another generation of spread here by the time we get testing, and then labs around the country are going to have to learn how to test it, calibrate it.

We -- as Ron said, probably a month ago, we should have been doing this, and we should have been doing it on a very large scale.

BLITZER: Ron, you oversaw the Obama administration's effort, the response to deal with Ebola, what lessons did you learn then that should be implemented now?

KLAIN: Well, so we started with the idea you needed a coordinated response from the White House. You needed to really leverage the entire government, whole-of-government response, a lot of agencies, a lot of resources.

But it needs to be organized and prioritized. And I think we have seen over the past couple days the signs that that's not really happening, this confusion about how to bring these people back from the cruise ship, the confusion about how to deal with them, the whistle-blower report on how they were dealt with when they arrived back here, now this problem with testing.

And so this starts with a list of tasks and a process to drive the agencies to achieve those tasks. We have incredible talent and resources in this government, fantastic experts, fantastic people. But they have to be organized. They have to be mobilized.

BLITZER: Very quickly, what should Americans who are deeply concerned right now be doing to protect themselves?

EMANUEL: Well, they -- so the flu vaccine. Washing their hands. They need to be not sharing items, utensils with other people who might be sick.

And if they get sick, they need to stay home, and they need to call ahead if they're feeling the fever, the sore throat, the shortness of breath, before they go into the doctor. So everyone is prepared that they might come.

But, remember, the administration also has the plan. This is unlike Ebola, where you would have a few cases. This is possibly thousands of cases, as we have seen in China.

We may overwhelm the system, and that will be a very bad thing. We might run out of protective equipment, put our health care workers at risk, and that would actually decrease our ability to make a response.

We could actually have clogged hospitals. We have to have a way of responding to that. There are many things we need to plan for. And as Ron says, you got to start today for a week or two or three weeks down the line.

BLITZER: Yes.

EMANUEL: We need to be doing that planning. That's what has to be job number one.

Money is only a small element. Human talent and the medical resources are what we need.

BLITZER: Zeke Emanuel, Ron Klain, guys, thanks very much for coming in. Really appreciate your thoughts.

EMANUEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, all eyes on South Carolina, where tomorrow's primary could reshape the Democratic race for the White House.

[18:25:01]

We will talk about it with Bernie Sanders' senior campaign adviser, much more, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Democrats are making one final pitch to voters before tomorrow's South Carolina primary.

CNN's Jessica Dean is joining us right now from Columbia, South Carolina.

Jessica, the former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping tomorrow's contest is a turning point for his campaign. What's the latest? What are you hearing?

[18:30:00]

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he certainly is, Wolf. Look, the Biden campaign long pointed to South Carolina as the place where the former vice president could really show his strength as a candidate considering it his firewall. And tomorrow, we get to see if that prediction comes through.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: On the eve of the South Carolina Democratic primary, candidates delivering their closing arguments to voters.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What America stands for is at stake right now.

DEAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping for a convincing win that could slingshot his campaign into Super Tuesday with a jolt of momentum.

BIDEN: It's been the launching pad for Barack and I believe it would be a launching pad for me. We'll see how much I have to win by. I don't want to jinx myself along the line here. I feel very good. I have worked hard to earn these votes and I think I'll do well, I think.

DEAN: Biden telling CNN's John Berman, despite questions over his fundraising, he has the money he needs to run his race.

BIDEN: Since the debate, we have raised over $2 million. I got in this thing late. I didn't have a fundraising base. I have been out of office for three years. It's just beginning to build. I have said from the beginning, it takes time to build this.

DEAN: Biden, among the Democratic hopefuls focusing on the Palmetto State today while other contenders fan out across Super Tuesday states, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopping in Tennessee. Speaking with CNN, Bloomberg contrasted his experience and Biden's.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Both of us are, to some extent, in the same lane, although it's a very different thing you're voting for. Joe is a legislator. His experience is in writing legislation and promoting it. My experience is in dealing with crises like the coronavirus and like unemployment and like crime in the streets and being ready for terrorism if it occurs.

DEAN: Bloomberg also addressing his record on stop-and-frisk.

BLOOMBERG: I did the best I could. It got out of control and I realize that. I cut 95 percent of it out and I apologized. I asked for forgiveness.

DEAN: While the candidates took jabs at each other's records, they were unified this their deep criticism of President Trump's handling of the coronavirus.

BIDEN: No one takes the president's word for these things. He, at a minimum, exaggerates everything. And the idea that he's going to stand there and say, everything is fine, don't worry, who's going to believe that? Let the experts speak like we did in our administration.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is his Katrina event, where it's like, whoa, like I have to do a job, who knew? He is incompetent and this is the proof. We are way behind on this.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the midst of a global healthcare crisis, when we need a president who is on the phone talking to scientists, talking to healthcare experts. He is here in South Carolina for the only reason of trying to disrupt a Democratic primary. How pathetic. How pathetic is that?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DEAN: And remember, we've got just a tiny amount of time between tomorrow's primary here in South Carolina and then, of course, Super Tuesday, when so many states and so many delegates are up for grabs. And that end, only two of the candidates will be here in South Carolina tomorrow night after the polls close, Joe Biden who's, of course, expecting to win, and Tom Steyer who's put a lot of resources, a lot of money into this state. Wolf, everyone else will already be in Super Tuesday states.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens tomorrow. All right, Jessica, thanks very much, Jessica Dean in South Carolina.

So let's get more on what's at stake in South Carolina, then a few days later on Super Tuesday, 14 states have primaries that day. Jeff Weaver is a Senior Campaign Adviser for Bernie Sanders. He's here with me in The Situation Room.

Jeff, thanks very much for coming in.

JEFF WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Happy to be here.

BLITZER: So if Joe Biden has a strong finish tomorrow in South Carolina, which a lot of people expect he will, do you expect that will slow down your candidate, Bernie Sanders, going into Super Tuesday?

WEAVER: No, not at all, Wolf. You know, we're competing everywhere. Our internals in a lot of states are -- we're doing very well, and I don't think anticipate that that momentum is going to be checked by Joe Biden, even if he wins in South Carolina.

BLITZER: So how well do you think Senator Sanders will do on Super Tuesday, 14 states, including huge ones like California and Texas with a lot of delegates at stake?

WEAVER: Yes. Well, I think all the public polling in our internals show us in California way ahead of everybody else, ahead in Texas, ahead in a lot of other states. At this point, it becomes about delegate accumulation. We learned the hard way in 2016 that if you come out of Super Tuesday down in delegates, it's really hard to catch up because of the way Democrats do their delegates.

So we're working very hard to make sure we come out of Super Tuesday with the delegate lead that will serve us to the end.

BLITZER: Well, speaking of delegates, your candidate, Senator Sanders, has come under criticism for apparently changing his position on who should be the nominee as far as plurality and the majority of delegates going into the convention is concerned. Senator Elizabeth warren accused Senator Sanders of wanting to change the delegate rules to his advantage.

[18:35:00]

I want to play two clips. This is what Senator Sanders said in 2016 and what he says now.

WEAVER: For sure, for sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you do not secure the majority of pledge delegates, do you still believe that super delegates should switch and back you as rejecting the opinion of the voters?

SANDERS: If those super delegates conclude that Bernie Sanders is the best candidate, the strongest candidate to defeat Trump and anybody else, yes, I would very much welcome their support.

I think that the will of the people should prevail, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, guys.

SANDERS: Those folks should become the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So he says now, even if he doesn't have a majority going into the first round at the Democratic convention in Milwaukee, whoever has the most delegates going into the convention should be the nominee.

WEAVER: Right. Well, look, we're operating under a different system than we're operating under the last time. As you remember, Wolf, CNN and other people had 4 or 500 super delegates who already declaring for Hillary Clinton before the first vote was cast. So we were operating in a system where super delegates were on par with the pledge delegates. That's not the case anymore. We have changed the rules, so now the super delegates don't vote until the second round.

The question is should super -- someone goes into the convention with 10 percent of the delegates or 12 percent of the delegates, should the super delegates then be able to make them the nominee? I think people (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Well, the rules are the rules. You support the rules.

WEAVER: Of course. But you have to look at the practical effective of doing it that way. If somebody goes in there, Wolf, down 20 points and gets anointed by super delegates, I think there will be a real upset among rank and file.

BLITZER: So what does that mean, a real upset? What would happen, let's say, this is very hypothetical, that Bernie Sanders has the most delegates going in but not a majority, somebody else is relatively close, but in the second round at the convention in Milwaukee, the second place person emerges with the most delegates?

WEAVER: Well, we'll see when we get there. We'll see where the margin is. I mean, obviously, the margin matters a lot. If you're going with one delegate up, that's very different than if you go up by 5, 10, 15 points above the next person.

BLITZER: But you're confident that Senator Sanders will have the most delegates going into the convention?

WEAVER: Yes, I am. But this applies to anybody. This is applies to Joe Biden, if Joe Biden has a good night tomorrow night, and starts running the table and gets to the convention with more pledged delegates, then he should be the nominee. BLITZER: Where is your senator going to be tomorrow, in South Carolina or some other state?

WEAVER: He's going to be -- well, he's in some other states tomorrow. He's in Massachusetts and he's going to finish tonight in Vermont, which also is a Super Tuesday state.

BLITZER: So is he simply assuming he's not going to do well in South Carolina?

WEAVER: No, not at all. We typically do this. We typically, after the first two states, have moved on, you know what, Nevada where he had an outstanding victory, you know, he was in Texas when those results came out.

BLITZER: He gave his victory speech in San Antonio.

WEAVER: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: At the time that we have first covered that.

The New York Times, you probably saw this today, is reporting that President Obama says he would enthusiastically support whoever the eventual nominee is. But the president, according to The New York Times, says it could be difficult to unite the party around Bernie Sanders. How do you respond to that?

WEAVER: Well, look, I think when we get to the end of this process, the party is going to unite around whoever the nominee is. I think there's a great unifying factor out there for Democrats and for Democratically aligned independents and other people of goodwill, which is Donald Trump. And I think that the imperative of beating Trump, I think, will bring a lot of people together.

BLITZER: Because you have seen all these Democrats express concern, down ballot Democrats in purple districts are going to be in trouble if a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist is atop the ticket.

WEAVER: Yes. Look, I think these people forget that Bernie Sanders, when he was elected to the Congress, people think of Vermont as a deep blue state. It wasn't a deep blue state then. He won a seat that had been held by Republicans for decades. He runs for re-election, he wins 25 percent of Republicans, typically rural Republicans. So he has great crossover appeal. He does very, very well with independents, as you know.

So I think I understand people have concerns but I think those concerns are really misplaced.

BLITZER: Jeff Weaver, good of you to come here into The Situation Room. Thanks very much.

WEAVER: Anytime, Wolf. Anytime.

BLITZER: I appreciate it, Jeff Weaver joining us. There's more breaking news next, Wall Street suffering its worst week since the Financial Crisis as concern mounts over the coronavirus and it sends stocks plunging again.

And governments around the world scramble to contain the outbreak as officials declare a public health emergency.

Much more news right after this.

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BLITZER: We have breaking news tonight, the newest confirmed case of coronavirus here in the United States is the second case of unknown origin. Our Chief International Correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is joining us from London right now with more on the global impact of the outbreak.

Clarissa, more countries are now taking very dramatic action to prevent the virus from spreading. What's the latest?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are scrambling, Wolf. And so far, with limited success, the virus has now spread to every single continent with the exception of Antarctica, just in the last 24 hours, another six countries coming forward saying they have now detected the first cases of the virus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WARD: Governments around the world are in crisis mode as they struggle to contain the coronavirus.

In South Korea, the most affected country outside of China, authorities are scrambling to track down and investigate almost 3,000 members of a religious group at the heart of the country's biggest outbreak. South Korean authorities believe a large number of people infected with the virus attended a service of the religious group.

In Japan, all primary schools were asked to close starting Monday. The request comes amid fears that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics may be postponed if authorities failed to contain the virus.

[18:45:02]

WARD (voice-over): In the Middle East, Iran's death toll continues to climb with 34 dead, 388 have been declared infected, but health experts warn the actual number may be much higher. Parts of the country even cancelled Friday prayers, a rare decision.

And in a historic move, Saudi Arabia suspended tourist travel for pilgrims to Islam's holiest sites of Mecca and Medina.

Meanwhile in Europe, the Geneva Motor Show, one of the world's biggest car shows, has been cancelled. It's the latest in a string of international events scrapped because of the virus. Experts say the coronavirus is also fast becoming an economic

pandemic, with global markets on track for their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

As the virus spreads, it is fueling a sense of panic over the fallout if it cannot be contained.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WARD: And, Wolf, one of the real concerns among health experts is that they're only seeing a part of the full picture. Countries like Iran, for example, North Korea, potentially really under estimating the number of cases that they're actually dealing with, and then there could be many more countries, particularly in the third world that simply don't have the infrastructure and don't yet have the knowledge of whether or not there may be infections or cases. So a lot of reasons that people are still very concerned that this crisis is far from over, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, and those reasons, Clarissa, are really, really good reasons.

Clarissa Ward with an excellent report for us. Thank you very much.

There's more breaking news next. President Trump announces his nominee for director of national intelligence, a congressman who previously withdrew his name. We'll have the latest.

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[18:51:31]

BLITZER: More now on the breaking news, President Trump announcing he's picked Republican Congressman John Ratcliffe for director of national intelligence.

Let's dig deeper with our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, and our legal analyst, Elie Honig.

Jeff, the Democratic senator -- the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, he tweeted this in response to the president's intention to nominate Ratcliffe. He tweeted: The last time this nomination was unsuccessfully put forward, serious bipartisan questions were raised about Representative Ratcliffe's background and qualifications. It's hard for me to say how anything new has happened to change that.

So, what do you think? Is there going to be bipartisan opposition to this nomination?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think what's changed is that Donald Trump was acquitted in the Senate and he's decided that all he cares about is loyalty, not competence, not experience, not qualifications. Ratcliffe was rejected in a bipartisan way because -- largely because he lied during his campaign. None of that has changed. But, you know, he -- the president has a very, you know, malleable

Republican majority in the Senate and they do what he says and I suspect they'll do what he says here.

BLITZER: What -- Elie, what does the president's decision to nominate Ratcliffe now for a second time tell you?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it tells me he's not worried about actual qualifications. Ratcliffe is wildly unqualified for this position. He has next to zero background in national security or intel issues. In fact, when he got caught lying about it, Jeffrey just alluded to it, he tried to puff himself up and say when he was a federal prosecutor, he had been involved in prosecutions of terrorist groups and it turned out he had marginal involvement in just one case.

So, this nomination has nothing to do with actual qualifications for a vital position.

BLITZER: Another development today, Jeff, a federal appeals court has now said that the former White House counsel Don McGahn does not need to testify before Congress. This case was a test by the White House. The decision could now have a major impact. What are the ramifications?

TOOBIN: Yes, this is an enormously important case, Wolf. And the decision is a huge victory for the White House and a huge defeat not just for the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives but for the whole idea of congressional oversight in the executive branch, because if this decision stands, if it's appealed to the Supreme Court and upheld on these grounds, it means, I think the way I read this opinion, that the courts will never force an executive branch official to testify in a congressional hearing.

The judge says this is something that is outside the confidence and the jurisdiction of the federal court. That's not something that I think has ever been said before and it has a major, major -- it will be major if it stands.

BLITZER: Elie, what do you think?

HONIG: Yes, Wolf, this is a constitutional earthquake if this stands. This will fundamentally alter the constitutional balance of powers. What this means is now the executive branch, the White House can receive a congressional subpoena, can laugh, tear it up, throw it in the garbage, and the courts if they follow this court's example are going to say nothing we can do about it.

I don't know if that's how the framers intended for the checks and balances between Congress and the White House to be, and it will certainly be appealed to the Supreme Court. The question will be whether they take it. But for now it is an enormous victory for the Trump administration.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, hold that thought because, unfortunately, we've got to take a quick break.

[18:55:01]

Much more right after this.

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BLITZER: Finally, tonight, what we're seeing around the world right now because of coronavirus is disturbing and almost unthinkable. More than 83,000 people infected, over 2,800 dead. Elementary, middle, and high schools in Japan likely down for a month, forcing millions of kids to stay home. Religious pilgrimage to holy sites in Saudi Arabia banned for all foreign Muslims. Annual U.S. military exercises with South Korea cancelled. Baseball and soccer games around the world played in empty stadiums.

Will we see any of that here in the United States and how will the Trump administration manage this situation? We'll be watching very closely.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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