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Four Reported Cases in U.S. of Coronavirus Not Related to Travel; U.S. Health Facilities Prepare for Possible Coronavirus Pandemic; World Stock Markets Falter over Fears of Coronavirus Spread; South Carolina Primary Polls Open for Voting on Democratic Presidential Candidates; Polling Shows Joe Biden Leading Democratic Presidential Candidates in South Carolina; President Trump Accuses Democrats of Politicizing Coronavirus Spread; U.S. and Taliban Negotiate Peace Agreement in Afghanistan; Democratic Presidential Candidate Michael Bloomberg Campaigns in Super Tuesday States. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired February 29, 2020 - 10:00   ET




CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to Saturday. Good morning to you. It's February 29th. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. You are in the CNN Newsroom.

PAUL: We want to get to our top stories for you this hour. First of all, we know there are now at least four coronavirus cases in the U.S. that are not travel related. These are new cases.

BLACKWELL: Also, voting happening right now in South Carolina, the Democratic primary, 54 delegates up for grabs.

PAUL: And the U.S. has just signed an historic agreement with the Taliban that could eventually lead to thousands of U.S. troops coming home.

BLACKWELL: For the latest on the new coronavirus cases we're joined by CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, we now have these four cases that are not travel related. I wonder -- we also know they've not been in contact with anyone who has the virus. Is this now just kind of freely spreading through communities?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. It's actually called "community spread," and that's exactly what's going on here. Once you're finding patients who are getting coronavirus and they didn't travel to China or any other coronavirus hot spot, and they don't know anyone who did, they just got it from somewhere. Infectious disease experts have told me, look, we need to start thinking about this kind of like the flu. When you get the flu, you don't necessarily know who gave it to you. Sometimes you do -- oh, my husband got the flu and then I got it. But sometimes you just get it because it's just out there. And now that we have more tests available, which was not the case even days ago, we're going to see more of this.

PAUL: So when we think of the flu in your perspective here, we think of kids being most vulnerable. It's kind of the opposite with this case, is it not?

COHEN: Yes. With flu we often think of the very old and the very young. And this, you're absolutely right. For this virus and this could change because things are always changing with this virus, but even looking at the experience in China, it seems much more to be something that is devastating for the very old. For example, there was a study that looked at a cluster in a Chinese family, and the two children had no symptoms whatsoever. They were infected but had no symptoms whatsoever. But the grandfather passed away. So it's interesting to see that, that it's not the very old and the very young from what we can tell.

BLACKWELL: So we know that the World Health Organization, the head of the WHO says that this could become a pandemic. What are the preparations now for that potential?

COHEN: Right. So the preparations are, as far as you and me and individuals, what we should be doing, it doesn't really matter what you call it. It really is common sense. Washing your hands, staying home if you're sick, and don't get near someone -- I know this sounds obvious -- but if someone walks toward you and says, give me a hug, how are you, and they are sneezing, have a fever, do not hug them, do not shake their hands. Really, this is common sense stuff. It doesn't matter that it's not being call a pandemic just yet.

PAUL: But we know California is monitoring these, I think with 8,000 people who flew in from overseas on regularly scheduled flights. If they -- so does that mean that if they come into contact with somebody they are automatically at risk? What is the incubation period here?

COHEN: So the incubation period is believed to be about five days, but the range is pretty high. That's sort of what they believe it is approximately. So it's really important. So those people should be quarantined. And so hopefully they are not coming into contact with other people. But it's important to say that these 8,400 people, these are contacts of people who flew in, and the chances are they are going to be fine. When folks have been tracked all over the country who are contacts of travelers, they have turned out to be fine. In fact, the only two contacts that turned out to have coronavirus were spouses of people who had coronavirus. When they tracked their -- traced their friends or the people close to them, those folks did not turn out to have it.

PAUL: Good to know. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much. Good to see you.

COHEN: Thanks.

BLACKWELL: As we mentioned, the World Health Organization says coronavirus has, quote, pandemic potential.

PAUL: And U.S. health providers this week raised their level of readiness for a possible pandemic. Hospitals and clinics have been taking a look at their supplies. They're wondering if they're going to have enough for a worst-case scenario. CNN's Natasha Chen is with us now. Help us understand what is happening in terms of preparation, because I know that they are running drills now as well.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Christi and Victor, we are talking to some metro Atlanta area hospitals who tell me they're running live actor mock scenarios. And we visited one clinic yesterday that ran mock patient drill with one of their staff members.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I recently traveled outside of the country, and I'm thinking I possibly was exposed to the coronavirus.

CHEN: This is a drill, and this woman does not have the coronavirus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you put one of these masks on? Just wait right there and I'm going to come around and get you.

CHEN: She's actually a medical assistant at an American family care clinic in Marietta, Georgia. Like many hospitals and health care providers across the U.S., this network of clinics is running drills with mock patients to practice responding to a coronavirus outbreak.

Were you surprised when you heard that American family care clinics were doing drills this week?

DR. ADIL ANSARI, CLINIC PHYSICIAN: No. I was anticipating this was going to happen eventually.

CHEN: That moment came when their chief medical officer, Dr. Benjamin Barlow, heard this phrase from the CDC on Tuesday.

DR. NANCY MESSONNIER, DIRECTOR OF CDC'S NATIONAL CENTER FOR IMMUNIZATION AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES: It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.

DR. BENJAMIN BARLOW, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER OF AMERICAN FAMILY CARE CLINICS: That actually is what sparked this for me, because I've been thinking about it. We've been preparing in the background. But as soon as they said that, it was when we decided, all right, let's roll it out, and let's get moving.

CHEN: They are drilling everything, taking the patient to a designated room by the exit, testing a swab to rule out the regular flu, bringing in a doctor for further screening, and everyone putting on and removing gear at the right times.

ANSARI: It really doesn't allow anything to kind of go through. It's a little bit better than some of the standard masks that you would use. CHEN: But will there be enough of them during a pandemic? The Food and

Drug Administration said it is currently not aware of specific widespread shortages, but it has heard reports of increased market demand and supply challenges for some protective gear. While this clinic said they have enough, doctors and health officials across the country say they have received notices about current or anticipated shortages, especially N95 Respirators. In the meantime, drills with mock patients --

ANSARI: From here you would immediately go home. We would give your information to the health departments.

CHEN: -- are being done at some hospitals around the metro Atlanta area. Others say they regularly practice for general pandemics, which can apply to a coronavirus outbreak.

BARLOW: I don't think we should be overly excited about it, but being prepared is the best way to go when you are facing possibilities like these.


CHEN: The National Nurses United Union said yesterday that 124 nurses and health care workers at U.C. Davis are now self-quarantined after they were exposed to one patient there, and they stress the importance of facilities being prepared with plans and resources like we just saw. Christi and Victor, back to you.

BLACKWELL: Natasha Chen for us. Natasha, thank you.

PAUL: Let's talk about global markets, too, because they are rattled by all the uncertainty around this outbreak. This was the worst week for stocks since the financial crisis in 2008.

BLACKWELL: It's also putting pressure on supply chains, especially in China. Joining us now, CNN global economic analyst Rana Foroohar. She's also a global business columnist and associate editor for "The Financial Times."

PAUL: Rana, thank you so much for being with us. I want to take a look at some of the things that we use on an everyday basis that people may not realize we depend so highly and heavily on China to receive. Medical devices and drug ingredients, but they are the first in exporting medical devices, the second in exporting drug and biologics to us. The Commerce Department in 2018 said China accounts for 95 percent of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, which is Advil, and 70 percent of acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. What would the disruption of these imports look like here if that does happen?

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: We know it's already happening, and it's happening in ways that you can see and in some that you can't, sort of like the virus itself. Sixty percent of companies that are doing business in China say that they have had severe disruptions to their supply chains. You've already seen a lot of them trying to move production to places like Vietnam or Mexico. But those countries can't pick up all the slack. And that's one reason the investment bank, Goldman Sachs, has now predicted that they're not going to see any profit growth in major American firms this year.

Before the coronavirus, just to compare, they were expecting six percent profit growth for U.S. companies. That's one of the key reasons why you saw this huge decline in the stock market this week.

PAUL: Goldman Sachs warning even of a recession at one point, saying worst case scenario. When you throw that word out there, that really hits a lot of nerves. How realistic is it?

FOROOHAR: Well, at this point, it depends on how quickly the virus spreads in the U.S. and how businesses and the government responds to it. So if we get to a situation where people are being asked to stay home, where workplaces are shuttered, where kids are out of school, and parents have to stay home in order to care for them, that means that people can't be working. They can't be spending. And in an economy like ours that has made up 70 percent of consumer spending, when people can't get out to the stores, that's a big deal. That's when you could really start to see a risk of recession being quite real.


PAUL: When you talk about the response from the U.S., we know that the next Fed meeting is in about three weeks, and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said if the coronavirus seriously damages the economy, he could move to perhaps implement some stimulus measures. This is exactly what he said. "The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. The Federal reserve is closely monitoring developments. There are implications for the economic outlook. We'll use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy."

Now, if it does cut the interest rate by half a percent, which is what is expected, that would be the first emergency rate cut since 2008. What kind of impact would that have, and how long might it take to feel some effects of it?

FOROOHAR: Yes, that's a great question. Well, for starters, we are really back at the worst week in the stock market since 2008. Unfortunately, over the last decade, the Fed has already used a lot of their firepower. We've had a decade of relatively low rates and easy money being pumped into the markets by the Fed. So my expectation is, and the markets are expecting this, too, that if you see a rate cut, you might see a slight rally. But I think the underlying story doesn't change. If we are still worried about those factors that I mentioned before, work places being closed, consumers not being able to shop, supply chains disrupted, I think that we're going to see the markets quickly dip again. And I think at best you're going to get a double "w" shape where they're up and down, at worse you might see more of an "l" shape where they're down. And then what's interesting, and what I'm thinking a lot about, is where does that leave us for the presidential elections in November.

PAUL: Yes, we'll see what the political implications of that could be certainly. Rana Foroohar, always so good to have you with us. Thank you.

FOROOHAR: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Still to come, the South Carolina Democratic primary. Polls have been open for a little more than three hours now. The state party chair says there are signs of stronger turnout than 2016. So who has the edge? We're live in Charleston, next.

PAUL: Also, it is one historic handshake. Take a look at it here. Representatives of the U.S. and the Taliban agreeing to work toward peace in Afghanistan. You hear the cheers there. What this new agreement, though, says about U.S. troops coming home and conditions being met.



PAUL: Today is the day a lot of people have been waiting for. Primary day in South Carolina, and people are voting as we speak. Former vice president Joe Biden, who is vying for a victory here, was in Greenville, South Carolina, earlier. And Senator Bernie Sanders is behind him in second place, according to recent polling.

BLACKWELL: So the outcome of today's primary could determine the course of the Democratic race moving forward, especially heading into Super Tuesday. Nearly every candidate is campaigning in a Super Tuesday state where voters in 14 states and the American Samoa will go to the polls next week.

PAUL: So in Charleston, South Carolina, right now, CNN national correspondent Athena Jones and Digital Editor for the Post and Courier Emory Parker. Athena, want to start with you first. I know you are talking to voters as they go into the polls and maybe come out of them. What are you hearing from them?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, this is really interesting. A lot of the voters we talked to yesterday were still deciding. Of course, they've decided by now when they go into that voting booth. And I talked to about 50 or so of the more than 300 people who have voted at this polling location in North Charleston, so about 15 percent of them. Joe Biden is very much in the lead here. I've talked to folks of all ages, white folks, black folks, old and young, and many of them are pointing to Joe Biden, talking about how they like his experience, they like the fact that he was the vice president for Barack Obama. They believe that he would pick up where Obama left off.

One man told me, I know Joe, and Joe knows me. Another older man said, my heart said Bernie Sanders, but my brain said Joe Biden, and I went with my brain. Another person said they were just worried that Sanders was too far to the left. So a lot of support for Joe Biden here, and that's exactly the sort of thing he was hoping for. Polls have shown him ahead, but of course today is the poll that matters.

And one important thing about this state, the first state in the south to vote, the first to go that has a large African-American population. Many, many of the African-American voters I've talked to here support Joe Biden. They say they are longtime fans. And African-Americans made up 61 percent of the electorate, the primary electorate in 2016. We certainly expect him to make up more than half this time around. And Biden is hoping that it's those voters, his strong support among black voters that will send him across the finish line.

And one thing that may have helped also is the endorsement on Wednesday from Representative Jim Clyburn who was, of course, the highest ranking African-American in Congress and a very influential voice here in South Carolina. So far from here anecdotally, looking like a good day for Joe Biden.

BLACKWELL: Emory, let me come to you. There was, after the endorsement from the Majority Whip James Clyburn, we heard from the mayor of Charleston who also endorsed Joe Biden yesterday. Let me ask you, we heard from Clyburn that a single point, two or three, isn't enough to boost him to Super Tuesday. Does it seem like that point spread potentially will be in the double digits based on what you're seeing there?

J. EMORY PARKER, DIGITAL EDITOR, "THE POST AND COURIER": Yes, I think that's going to be the big question. Certainly, some of the polls that we've seen going into it suggests that that's what's going to happen. Of course, our most recent poll that the "Post and Courier" conducted with Change Research actually shows a much more narrow spread. And I think that's going to be the thing to look for when the results come in this afternoon is how big is that spread? This is definitely -- South Carolina is certainly Biden's firewall, and he needs to perform really well here to maintain that momentum and that lead. And I think that's what we're going to be looking out for this evening when the votes come in.


PAUL: Athena mentioned that one of the things she's consistently heard from several people is that I don't want to waste my vote. Their heart might be, as she said, in one place, their head is in another place, and they have to decide which they they're going to lean in on that. I know that on a podcast you spoke to a political reporter who characterized the South Carolina primary as clarity with a side of cluster. Is that indicative of why these people are going into this torn?

PARKER: Yes, I think so. There's a lot of options this time around. Last time, it was really between Clinton and Sanders. This time around, South Carolina voters have a lot of choices. I've heard from a lot of voters, too, who are really confused about the fact that Bloomberg, who has kind of risen to prominence in the last couple of debates, isn't actually going to be on the ballot. And we don't actually have the option to write in candidates. So I've heard from a few voters who actually wish that they maybe could vote for him. Yes, there's going to be a lot of strategic voting, too.

Another interesting thing about this is that we're kind of looking to see -- there's this plan that some Republicans in kind of the upstate area come up with to vote strategically, too, because we have this open primary. And we're kind of waiting to see and pay attention. Does that come to fruition? Do they show up? And does that make an impact?

BLACKWELL: The president tried to reinforce that last night when he was in north Charleston trying to get Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary. Is Athena still with us? No, we lost Athena. So last point to you, Emory, here. Tom Steyer, he spent a lot of money there on ads, he spent a lot of money hiring staff and getting some local elected officials to support him. But where does even an impressive finish here take him? In the vein of what you discussed was people don't want to waste their vote. A vote for Tom Steyer pushes him to what next? What are you hearing from his campaign?

PARKER: That's a fantastic question. He's actually spent more in South Carolina than all the other candidates combined. And where has that gotten him so far? He's in third place in our poll and in most polls. So I think probably we're going to see him perform somewhere around that range. What does that accomplish? I think that's a great question, and unless he manages to perform much better than that, unless he manages to pull out a second-place victory, it is hard to imagine, where does the campaign go from here?

BLACKWELL: And even a second place, we'll see after the returns come in and potentially tomorrow morning what Tom Steyer says is next for his campaign because there is Alabama and Arkansas and Oklahoma and Tennessee on Super Tuesday.

PAUL: That's 14 states.

BLACKWELL: So a strong showing in one southern state, maybe that can translate to another. J. Emory Parker, thank you so much for being with us.

PAUL: Good to have you.

So as we were talking about, President Trump is pushing back on criticism of how his administration has handled the coronavirus outbreak. What he's accusing the Democrats of now, that's next.



BLACKWELL: At a rally in South Carolina last night, President Trump accused the Democrats of playing politics when it comes to the coronavirus.

PAUL: So we have CNN White House reporter Sarah Westwood with us now, because, Sarah, we know the White House has been criticized for their response to the outbreak. Any indication that that's what prompted the president's remarks?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It is, Christi. President Trump responding to criticism from Democrats that the administration is not responding to this outbreak with enough urgency, including that they didn't ask for enough when this week the White House went to Congress to ask for emergency funding. The president claiming that Democrats and the media are fanning the flames of fear about this outbreak and that they're just looking for a new avenue to undermine his presidency now that the Russia investigation and impeachment is over.

He also talked about Democrats, what he described as their open border policy contributing to the coronavirus crisis. This comes as the White House and top administration officials have been trying to ease concerns that have sent the market plunging over the outbreak. They have now tried to crack down on messaging as well, Victor and Christi, with all messaging about coronavirus having to be run through the vice president's office after confusing messages out of this White House over the past couple of weeks.

PAUL: Nancy Pelosi was talking about that yesterday as well. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much for the update.

BLACKWELL: With us now, former special assistant to President George W. Bush and CNN political commentator Scott Jennings, and Jalisa Washington-Price, former South Carolina state director for the Kamala Harris presidential campaign. Welcome to you both.



BLACKWELL: So let's start here. For people who had not heard what the president said last night in north Charleston, this is what the president said about Democrats and his accusation here that they're politicizing coronavirus.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus.


TRUMP: They are politicizing it. Whether it's the virus that we're talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans.


TRUMP: Now you see it with the coronavirus. You see it. You see it with the coronavirus. You know, you see that. When you have this virus or any other virus or any other problem coming in -- it's not the only thing that comes in through the border. And we're setting records now at the border.



BLACKWELL: So, Scott, he accuses the Democrats of politicizing coronavirus at a reelection rally, comparing it, or pairing it with a policy disagreement, and then later called it a new hoax, comparing it to the Russia investigation and impeachment. Is he not politicizing it as well?

JENNINGS: Look, Donald Trump is reacting to what's happening in the Democratic Party today. You've got Mike Bloomberg and Joe Biden at their campaign events claiming that the president completely defunded the Centers for Disease Control, which is a flat falsehood. You've got columnists for "The New York times" calling it "Trumpvirus" and cheering on big drops in our stock market. They are absolutely politicizing this, and they are telling the American people things that are flat untrue about this situation. The Trump administration, our federal government, our scientists and our experts are doing everything they should be doing to keep this under control. And yet Democrats, yes, Democrats, are out because they want to see --

BLACKWELL: How about the president? Is he politicizing it?

JENNINGS: -- Trump fail. They want to see him fail, and they are cheering it on. It's terrible. No. He's fighting back against what they're doing to him. They've done everything they need to do, and the hoax is, the falsehoods perpetrated against his administration. It's outrageous what they're doing.


WASHINGTON-PRICE: It's unfortunate that the president is using this as an opportunity to, himself, politicize what's going on in and the seriousness of what's happening with the coronavirus. I think voters on both sides of the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats, are paying attention, and they're going to really come out in November because they want a candidate, or a president that's really going to take this issue serious. So it's really sad and disheartening to see.

BLACKWELL: Let's listen to an exchange between CNN's Manu Raju and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week. And he asked her, I guess, put to her something the president said, and I want you to listen to her response.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Coronavirus is under control, according to the president. Your reaction to that?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't think the president knows what he's talking about, once again.


BLACKWELL: So Jalisa, yes, there is a disagreement about preparedness. There's a disagreement on how much to fund that preparedness for potential, as we heard from the WHO, pandemic. But what's the line for Democrats in dealing with this and their criticisms of this president?

WASHINGTON-PRICE: I think Democrats just have to stick to how serious this issue is. They need to just stick to not politicizing what's going on. Here in South Carolina, health care is very important. Public health and public safety is very important. I think Democrats just sticking to how the seriousness of this issue, sticking to combating what this administration is doing in not protecting their citizens. And it's scary. Quite frankly, it's scary. But I think Democrats, Speaker Pelosi, and a lot of the candidates have been doing a great job just sticking to issues and making sure that the American people are being safe.

BLACKWELL: Scott, to --

JENNINGS: Victor, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

JENNINGS: Can I just respond? I agree with you, we should be treating this seriously. But when Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg and other Democrats jump on a stage in South Carolina and tell their supporters that the president and his administration have defunded the Centers for Disease Control, who is inciting public panic? Who is taking this seriously? That is a flat falsehood. Funding for the CDC has increased, has increased. And so I think to say we should --

BLACKWELL: Is that what he proposed in his budget? Is that what he proposed in his budget? Aside from what has -- the increase in the funding, what was in the president's budget for the CDC?

JENNINGS: The president's budget did not defund the CDC.

BLACKWELL: Did it cut funding for the CDC?

JENNINGS: The president -- the appropriations bills the president signed into law --

BLACKWELL: Did he propose a cut for the CDC, Scott?

JENNINGS: -- increased funding for the CDC, and for preparedness.

BLACKWELL: Scott, did he propose a funding cut for the CDC?

JENNINGS: He proposed reductions in federal spending across the board, but he did not defund the CDC.

BLACKWELL: That's also known as a spending cut. Yes, you're correct. To say the CDC was defunded is incorrect. It is wrong. But we should also point out the president proposed a funding cut for the CDC.

WASHINGTON-PRICE: Across the board.

BLACKWELL: He also says that there will be a miracle that comes along and will take care of coronavirus, and that when the weather changes that coronavirus cases will decrease.

Let's move on to something else here. South Carolina has an open primary which means that members of either party or no party at all can vote in this primary, presidential preference primary today. This is what the president asked of his supporters last night.


TRUMP: By the way, the Republicans allowed to vote anyway? Let's do it together.


I assume this is OK from a campaign finance standpoint, I assume. Lindsey, Tim, our great congressmen, are we allowed to do this? So am I allowed to request -- first we have to figure out, who would be the weakest candidate against President Trump? So I don't know what the record attendance is in this arena, but I was told that we broke it by a lot.


TRUMP: And you get the people outside. Are we allowed to tell them who we would like them to vote for?


BLACKWELL: Why is the president doing this, Scott?

JENNINGS: Oh, look, I think it's psychological warfare. This happened back in 2008 as well. A lot of conservatives were trying to have Operation Chaos they called it back in 2008. I don't know how many Republicans will actually vote in the Democratic primary.

I'm not personally a fan of open primaries, by the way. I think people who belong to a party ought to choose their party's nomination. I don't like the open primaries in New Hampshire for that reason. But I do think the president is engaging in a little psychological warfare here to just mess with his opponents.

BLACKWELL: Jalisa, is it time to close the primaries in South Carolina?

WASHINGTON-PRICE: It's very unfortunate the president is looking to influence the South Carolina primary. South Carolina voters are smart. They know that what the president and Republican administration is trying to do. So I think you're going to see record number turnout for Democrats here in the South Carolina primary. We'll see later on today how much the president's remarks really influence Republicans to come out and vote for another candidate. But it just shows you, too, who President Trump is afraid of facing in November.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jalisa Washington-Price, Scott Jennings, thank you both.

JENNINGS: Thanks, Victor.

PAUL: It's a historic moment for the U.S. and Afghanistan this morning. Representatives from each signed an agreement today designed to bring peace to Afghanistan. What this agreement says about bringing American troops home and about provisions and conditions the Taliban has to follow. BLACKWELL: And be sure to watch the latest episode of "Race for the

White House." With the nation still reeling from JFK's assassination, his successor fights to prove he deserves the job. LBJ versus Goldwater, "Race for the White House," tomorrow night at 9:00 on CNN.



PAUL: The U.S. and the Taliban signed this historic agreement this morning that is designed to bring peace to Afghanistan.

BLACKWELL: The agreement sets a timeline for the withdrawal of American troops. It also establishes the framework for future peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Nic Robertson is live in Doha, Qatar. And Nic, tell us what is outlined in this agreement.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, basic principles are that the United States agrees to draw down its forces down to 8,600 after 135 days, within 14 months all U.S. troops gone. The Taliban is buying into that, but what the Taliban also have to do in their commitment is to go after Al Qaeda and ISIS. And, remember, back in the day, the Taliban gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda. It was Al Qaeda that targeted the United States on September the 11th. When the United States asked the Taliban back then to hand over Usama bin Laden who was responsible, they refused. They've been harboring Al Qaeda in the 20 years since then. So this is a big ask of the Taliban, but they say they're going to stand up to it.

And we heard from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today saying our commitment to withdrawing troops is going to be calibrated and based on what the Taliban do. He also warned the Taliban against doing a victory lap over this.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I know there will be a temptation to declare victory. But victory, victory for Afghans will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper. Victory for the United States will only be achieved when Americans and our allies no longer have to fear a terrorist threat from Afghanistan. And we will do whatever it takes to protect our people.


ROBERTSON: What have we heard from the Afghan leadership today? They say that the United States signing this deal ends the occupation of Afghanistan and ends the subjugation of the people in Afghanistan, not the kind of language perhaps Secretary of State Pompeo wanted, but there was an expectation the Taliban were always going to play up this day for propaganda.

The next big hurdle is going to be the Taliban are expected to get into talks with the Afghan government, and that's a tough hurdle for the Afghan government to swallow at the moment because they're expected to hand over 5,000 Taliban prisoners and get 1,000 of their own prisoners back from the Taliban in exchange by March the 10th. March the 10th is the date in the deal, in the paper that was agreed -- the agreement, that the Taliban and Afghan governments sit down to begin talks about a future peace within the country. And at the moment, the Afghan government doesn't look as if it's going to buy that kind of timeline.

PAUL: Nic Robertson, we appreciate all your great reporting this morning. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: There's voting happening right now in South Carolina in the Democratic primary, 54 delegates at stake here. So two questions -- what's on the line for former vice president Joe Biden? And what's on the line for the current frontrunner in this race, Senator Bernie Sanders. We'll talk about them both, next.


PAUL: So next week we reveal our first CNN Hero of 2020. Here first is an update on last year's Hero of the year. Ethiopia's Freweini Mebrahtu was honored for her innovative efforts to end the stigma around menstruation. Well, now CNN's recognition has helped her opened some minds and some doors back home.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The 2019 CNN hero of the year --


FREWEINI MEBRAHTU, CNN HERO: I just could not believe it. To work so hard for this long, I felt like it is really important. Almost the entire town was waiting for me at the airport. I don't deserve it. But the cause deserves it.

The Ethiopian president has been wonderful. It's like, wow, I am in the national palace to talk about periods. We have a lot of work to do, but the silence has been broken.


PAUL: Watch Anderson Cooper's full update, and nominate someone you think should be a CNN Hero. We would love to meet them at

BLACKWELL: It's primary day in South Carolina. Right now, voters are heading to the polls. Some have already been up. We're almost four hours into voting. And 54 delegates up for grabs in the first primary in the south.

PAUL: A lot of eyes on Bernie Sanders today, and on Joe Biden. Sanders right now leads the field with 45 pledged delegates. Recent polling, however, suggests the day could belong to Joe Biden.

[10:50:08] BLACKWELL: CNN's Jessica Dean is following the latest from Columbia, South Carolina. So what's at stake in this race? I imagine the former vice president has a lot on the line.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor and Christi, you're exactly right. South Carolina is a big one for Joe Biden. He needs a win here. His campaign has long pointed to this state as where he can really show his strength as a candidate. And so he needs to come out and be able to show that tonight. He's long had solid support from African-American voters that we've seen in polling, and his campaign has pointed again and again to that fact. And they are hoping that that means a big, perhaps a double-digit victory for them tonight here in South Carolina. They're hoping that that would then propel him into Super Tuesday with a whole lot of momentum.

Here is the former vice president talking to a crowd in South Carolina last night. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I take nothing for granted, take nothing for granted. And folks, I believe if you send me out of here with a victory and with, like, God love him, like you're doing former representative, and Jim Clyburn, and so many others that supported me, you send me out of here with a victory that's significant, and I think I'm going to be the next nominee of the United States --



DEAN: So Biden and his campaign certainly hoping for that tonight. This has been a good week for them. He had a strong debate performance, a strong town hall. He's really kind of found his groove here in South Carolina. So for Joe Biden, that's what's on the line here.

You mentioned Bernie Sanders, who is still the frontrunner for this nomination, and he, like other candidates in this race, have now turned their attention to Super Tuesday. He'll actually be in Super Tuesday states today trying to get -- solidify support all across the nation as so many states and delegates will be up for grabs on Tuesday. Christi and Victor, we are entering between now and, let's say, next Wednesday early in the morning a very critical period in this Democratic nominating process.

PAUL: Yes, we're just heading into it, aren't we? Jessica Dean, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: And waiting for the former vice president in those Super Tuesday states, former mayor Michael Bloomberg. Let's go to CNN's Cristina Alesci who is in North Carolina covering Michael Bloomberg. He spent a lot of money. He has got the infrastructure. How is he preparing? CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: That's

right. The stakes are high for all of the candidates heading into Super Tuesday because there are 1,300 delegates up for grabs. That is nearly a third of delegates up for grabs. And that's going to be the first time that Michael Bloomberg is on the ballot in in this race. He skipped the first four.

And he has two big advantaged, both tied to his deep pockets. One is his ad buy. In those Super Tuesday states, those 14 states, he's already spent $167 million, way ahead of everyone else. And I was with him all week, so the other big advantage here is the ground game. He was in some of those Super Tuesday states making closing arguments to voters in Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas. And the big message from Michael Bloomberg there was, look, we have been here building the ground game. I visited before.

Now, if Michael Bloomberg does not perform well on Super Tuesday, then he's going to face pressure to drop out so that support can coalesce around one moderate Democratic to take on Bernie Sanders. And I asked Bloomberg about that dynamic and what he plans to do if he doesn't do well on Super Tuesday, and whether he's worried about fracturing the Democratic vote. Listen.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), FORMER NEW YORK MAYOR: No, any more than he's worried about him fracturing the vote. 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. It's just very different -- we have very different backgrounds, very different experiences, and very different people to do the job.


ALESCI: It's very interesting to hear Michael Bloomberg talk about the differences between him and Biden because, for the most part, Michael Bloomberg has been talking about Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and running against them. So we'll see how the campaign strategy evolves from here, Christi and Victor, but certainly a lot on the line.

BLACKWELL: Cristina, before you go, does he say where he will win? Doing well is one thing. But where does the mayor think he will win on Tuesday?


ALESCI: Well, he's hoping that he's going to win in those states where the other Democrats haven't shown up because they were focused on the first four. They're not giving me specifically -- they don't want to set expectations and say we're going to win in Arkansas and we're going to win in Oklahoma. But what they are telling me is we are in places where Joe Biden isn't because he was focused on the first four states, like Arkansas, for example, like Oklahoma, those are places that probably Joe Biden feels pretty good about. So he may not be there necessarily. Michael Bloomberg, however, has been there and has built a team on the ground in those places.

BLACKWELL: All right, Cristina Alesci for us there in North Carolina, thanks so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Cristina.

ALESCI: Of course.

PAUL: And thank you so much for spending time with us this morning. Don't forget to tweet us. We love to hear from you, @Christi_Paul, @VictorBlackwell. We hope you make good memories today.

BLACKWELL: Twitter and Instagram. There's much more ahead in the next hour of CNN's Newsroom. Fredricka Whitfield is up next.