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INSIDE POLITICS

Second Confirmed Death In United States From Coronavirus; Cases Of Coronavirus Jumps In United States And Around The World; United States Ramps Up Testing As Virus Spreads To More States; 2020 Democrats Campaign Ahead Of High-Stakes Super Tuesday States; Joe Biden Slams Senator Bernie Sanders, Says Sanders Damage Down-Ballot Races. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 2, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:00]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: And now, the Justices will be taking it up. Thanks Sarah. It is great to see you. I appreciate it.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for joining me today. "INSIDE Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The Coronavirus claims a second life here in the United States. New York, Florida and Rhode Island report their first cases. President Trump says he will push pharmaceutical companies today to go as quickly as possible of producing a vaccine.

Plus the Supreme Court agrees to decide whether to keep provision of the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. President Trump supports that challenge that could abolish Obamacare, but the High Court's decision likely won't come until after the 2020 election.

And 14 states vote tomorrow, Super Tuesday. Bernie Sanders hopes to open a big delegate lead while Joe Biden is counting on momentum from his big weekend win in South Carolina. It is the first time Michael Bloomberg is on the ballot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now Israel is small, we know, but resilient and surrounded by adversaries. And if you caught the last couple of Presidential Debates, you know that I can empathize. We can't even agree on who is the funniest New Yorker, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David or me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We begin the hour with a global Coronavirus crisis and new trouble signs here at home. The weekend brought the first two confirmed Coronavirus deaths here in the United States, two men from a nursing facility in Washington. This morning confirmation from New York's Governor that the virus is in New York City and a guarantee from the Governor that it will spread.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We will be testing for community spread. I fully expect to find community spread. You can't have it in this many places on the globe and in this many places in the country and it not be in New York. So that is going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The number infected here in the United States now approaching 191 cases so far, according to the Centers of Disease Control, who has patients on both coasts. That Health Officials now warning scientific evidence suggests the virus could have spread undetected in Washington State for weeks.

The President today promising to push big pharmaceutical companies to speed up work on a vaccine, while insisting the United States government response is going as planned, and the President says his early action has saved lives. But there are some noticeable hiccups and complaints from the front lines of the virus, like this one, from a New York City an Emergency Room Physician.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MATT MCCARTHY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN: Before I came here this morning, I was in the emergency room seeing patients. I still do not have a rapid diagnostic test available. Well, I'm here to tell you right now, at one of the busiest hospitals in the country, I don't have it at my fingertips.

I still have to call the Department of Health. I still have to make my case, plead to test people. This is not good. We know there are 88 cases in the United States. There are going to be hundreds by middle of the week, there are going to be thousands by next week. This is a testing issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. Elizabeth, this is a complaint we have heard and the government had some issues with the first test. Where are we? Where are the government and the medical community in getting these testing kits to the front line ASAP?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know John, it is still not ideal, we just heard that doctor from New York say that if he wants to test a patient, he has to call the New York State Department of Health. Well, you know what even just a couple days ago it used to be worse you would have had to call the CDC in Atlanta.

Everyone in the country did. So it is getting better. Tests are getting out to state and local health departments, cases in Rhode Island and New York and Oregon and several other states were diagnosed by local testing, not by testing at the CDC in Atlanta.

But still, understandably, and they're right, doctors should have that testing available to them like any other test right there in their hospitals.

KING: Elizabeth, you had some eye openers over the weekend. Those doctors saying they're not getting the treatment guidance that they need?

COHEN: That's right. So the CDC has put out treatment guidance in other words if a patient were to walk into any given hospital in the U.S. with Coronavirus, here's what we know about how to treat it and what to do and what the course of the illness is?

But almost all of that information comes from China, and so doctors I've been talking to and medical experts say, what is going on here? We have had many; many patients in this country recover. Why can't we write that up and publicize it for doctors to see? We did it for one patient, the very first patient.

The CDC and others wrote that up and it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 31st. But a lot of time has passed. They want to know why we haven't done this for the other patients. The more everyone knows the better.

KING: Let me ask one more quick one, the President meets this afternoon with the CEO's of major pharmaceutical companies. He says he wants to get them to go as quickly as possible, but define as quickly as possible. We're still months if not more away even if things go perfectly from a vaccine, right?

COHEN: Oh, for sure. I mean more than months. What doctors said, what experts have told us, including Tony Fauci is that it's you know a year and a half at the very least. It's not that it takes that long to come up with a vaccine, that's actually in some ways the easy and quick part, it's that you have to test it.

[12:05:00]

COHEN: You can't just unleash it on the public, it has to go through testing, and that's what takes that period of time.

KING: Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate the facts. That's what we have got to try to do as we go through this over the next several months, at least. Elizabeth Cohen thanks very much. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights Margaret Talev with "AXIOS" Toluse Olorunnipa with "The Washington Post" POLITICO's Alex Thompson and Melanie Zanona also with "POLITICO"

The President is going to go to the NIH and CDC this week he meets with big pharmaceutical companies this afternoon trying to project the image of, we got this. However he also tweeting again this morning, I was criticized by the Democrats when I closed the country down to China many weeks ahead of that almost everyone recommended, saved many lives. Democrats were working on the impeachment hoax, they didn't have a clue. Now they are fear mongering. Be calm and vigilant. He can't pick just show command and control and try to set the politics aside.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Now this is a President who is completely focused on his reelection bid. Any time he hears criticism, he sees it in a political realm and he sees people trying to take him down and trying to keep him from winning reelection.

The fact that he is holding a rally today and focusing on trying to rally his troops and rally his base is a sign, that the President even as he holds these meeting, even as he tries to show that he's interested in making sure that this virus doesn't continue to spread, that he is also very much focused on spreading his own political message.

Going to rallies and making sure he is attacking Democrats attacking the media and taking position as a victim in all of this, not the people who actually victims of this actual virus. The President feels very comfortable being portrayed as a victim, and we're likely to see him continue to go on the attack and not do what we've normally seen Presidents do in natural disasters and public health emergencies which is focus completely on the issue and not on politics.

KING: You can't take away the fact that we are in a campaign here that we're in the President's reelection year. However, I was just going to put this map up of the states where we have cases in the United States, and I was just told they now have their first presumptive case in New Hampshire as well.

And so you just see this now, it's on both coasts you have it a little bit in the Midwest, it is in Florida. It is going to spread. There is simply no way around that.

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: yes, that map is going to look all yellow pretty shortly. And you're also seeing is this is a crisis happening in the social media age in which you're seeing a lot of disinformation being spread about this virus on Twitter, on Facebook, everything else.

That is also heightening the anxiety. You're seeing sort of like people - a run on purell at all these CVSS, and I think it is creating a lot of anxiety in the country, and when you have all this political back and forth, it doesn't do anything to help that.

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes I would say the Vice President Mike Pence is really trying to stack in here trying to take charge of this. He's done a number of media interview, he is holding briefings. I think that is part of his playbook to try to tamp down on some of this. But I think the question is can the President stick to the script?

As Toluse was saying, he likes to punch back and there seems to be this conflicting dynamic within in the Trump Administration right now wanting to contain this virus but also wanting to downplay the threat of it for fear of the panic and spooking the markets.

MARGARET TALEV, POLITICS AND WHITE HOUSE EDITOR, AXIOS: There is another question also which is the government really well enough organized and capable and structured to be able to be dealing with this?

My team over the weekend at AXIOS Jonathan Swan and Kaitlan Owens reporting that they're actually concerned about the possible contamination in the CDC lab where these tests were originally run out of, and that testing has been moved now. But even as they try to ascertain how big of a problem was that how connected was that to the actual delays.

Nonetheless, everything from how an individual lab is run to how all the individual agencies are talking to one another to getting a handle on testing is going to be crucial to understanding, how widespread is this in the United States?

Are we panicking when we talk about constraining travel or schools, or are that what we should be talking about? Until we understand those issues, try to politicize this at rallies or try to use political advantage for this is really something that should be kept off to the side. There needs to be a hands-on, nonpartisan effort to try to understand how broad the spread of this is now and how much of a risk it really is?

KING: Right and Democrats should heed that advice as well. We've picked on a President there for that tweet about the Democrats. The Democrats should pick up the slack. You have specific policy concerns about the administration response, raise them. But there has been politics on both sides shall we say.

But to your point, this is the beginning. February, here's where we are, at 91. They just have the case in New Hampshire, so that is likely 92 a presumptive positive there. There is just nothing you can do with the virus of this strength and the spread. This is going to keep going up.

The question is, will we get, will we get this is the week there were some confidence that by the beginning of the week and here we are in Monday, that you would at least get a sweeping bipartisan agreement to spend several billion dollars up front to improve some of the questions you have about the testing and about the test kits, about the cooperation with state and local governments to help them. Will they get there, or will the politics inevitably cause a hiccup there, too?

[12:10:00]

ZANONA: Of course it always can but what we're hearing right from now from Capitol Hill is they are closing on a deal where they eying a $7 billion package, which is far higher than what Trump had initially requested.

But listen lawmakers on both sides don't just want to hand Trump a cheque. They want to some restrictions on this. They want to make sure that Trump just can't spend the money on other things in the future. They also want to make sure this vaccine is going to be affordable and come to market in a relatively quick manner. So those are the types of details that are being hashed out right now.

KING: And the President didn't mention Coronavirus specifically, but he started tweeting a text on the Federal Reserve again today. And there had been an issue here. You saw what happened in the markets last week, it's been a far better day so far in the markets today, I believe, at least when we came on air. It has been slightly better day in the markets.

But the President worried about this, and Neil Irwin writing in "The New York Times" over the weekend, if potential Coronavirus down turn where fired the recession fighters would be like a fire brigade low on supplies, fighting among themselves, and probably lacking the right chemicals to quench the flames, anyway.

The point there being interest rates are already very low what more can the Fed do even as the President yells at them?

OLORUNNIPA: Not too much. I mean, obviously the interest rates have been low and the President has been complaining about that for several weeks and months, even before this virus took over, and I think the President is going to continue to berate his own handpicked Fed Chair.

But I don't know that there's much that can be done other than sending a message to the market and that is already been done. And I think the President is going to send the message as well with his tweets over the next few weeks.

THOMPSON: When you saw Elizabeth Warren tried to take Trump on, on this point on Saturday night saying that she had been warning about an economic potential recession for months. Just true and she said all you needed was a shock to have the economy "Crumble".

And she said the Coronavirus is that shock to the system and she's trying to really use that as an issue that she can use to revive her campaign, but she's been taking Trump on this she released like a very detailed plan about what she thinks that needs to be done.

KING: Well, you see it in the campaign there as well. And to the campaign and when we come back to 2020, tomorrow is Super Tuesday. A giant day, one candidate just left the race, but will Pete Buttigieg still try to make an impact?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:00]

KING: To the 2020 Presidential Race now, and the final sprint to Super Tuesday. Here's a look at where the candidates are today according voters in the 14 states, 14 states holding primaries on the biggest day of the Democratic nominating contest.

More than a third of the party's pledged delegates are up for grabs tomorrow, and Bernie Sanders is looking to open a healthy delegate lead. Joe Biden cannot compete with the Sanders Organization. But he is hoping for a big bounce from his blowout weekend win in South Carolina.

He is also hoping to win the backing of former rival Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Buttigieg bowed out of the race last night and two sources telling CNN he is now weighing a Biden endorsement. In his exit speech in South Bend, Buttigieg again making clear he sees Senator Sanders as the wrong choice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need leadership to heal a divided nation, not drive us further apart. We need a broad based agenda that can truly deliver for the American people, not one that gets lost in ideology.

We need an approach strong enough not only to win the White House, but to hold the House, win the Senate and send Mitch McConnell into retirement. That broad and inclusive politics that is the politics that we have attempted to model through this campaign that, I believe, is the way forward for our eventual nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Jeff Zeleny joins us live now. Jeff, tell us more what you're learning about from the Buttigieg Campaign and these conversations with team Biden?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, we know after Mayor Buttigieg made that speech last evening here in South Bend, Indiana, he had two very important phone calls. One was from Joe Biden, they connected and the Former Vice President congratulated him I'm told on a strong campaign and a good race. He also asked him for his support.

And I'm told that Mayor Buttigieg said that he is essentially going to sleep on it. He's going to give it some time to think about what the best timing is for an endorsement like this. A variety of people around the Former Mayor's Campaign believe that at some point he will, indeed, endorse Joe Biden.

But the question is will he do it in the coming hours before Super Tuesday? There is a mixed thought on this. The Biden Campaign believes this is setting up as a choice between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. They're not necessarily sure that an endorsement would help at this point, so that Biden Campaign also controls some of the timing of that.

But look, I think it would help, and the reality here is that Joe Biden needs all the help he can get. So we will find out in the coming hours if he's going to do an endorsement before Super Tuesday or not. We simply do not know.

We do know that the Former Mayor is on the phone right now with his campaign aides, he is thanking them for all their work. This is a process they have to get through. And of course all the acrimony just thinking back to between Buttigieg and Biden, they went after each other quite a bit. That's common in these races.

Remember the acrimony from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other campaigns. It never reached that level at all. So the reality here is Pete Buttigieg is not supportive of Bernie Sanders' policies, so the Biden would be a home for him. We just don't know exactly when that would be.

As per the other endorsement Barack Obama did something he is not done at all over the weekend called Joe Biden and congratulated him. That he said he is still staying on the sidelines of this. He believes he is the unifying factor in all of these, John.

KING: Biden would like that one more than Mayor Buttigieg but he's going to have to wait at least a bit longer. Jeff Zeleny, appreciate the reporting there. And let's talk about Super Tuesday. Buttigieg out I'll come back to Biden in a minute, but I want to start with Bernie Sanders. And we can go through each of the candidates over the next few minutes and go through where they are?

Bernie Sanders has the lead at the moment with 60 pledged delegates. He was second in Iowa, first in New Hampshire, first in Nevada, second in South Carolina. He has spent about $17 million on 13 states on Super Tuesday. He has the next to Bloomberg he is the only one who matches him in terms of spending.

So we can look at a map and you look at the delegates and if you're Bernie Sanders, you're looking to run it up big in California, the biggest prize on Super Tuesday. You're looking to run it up with a healthy lead, you hoping in Texas, the second biggest prize on Super Tuesday.

North Carolina more interesting Joe Biden is competing there, but if you're Sanders you're still thinking you're going to get a decent haul of delegates if not a win out of North Carolina.

[12:20:00]

KING: Then his own state of Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. Up at home in New England up there and there are other places as well. Minnesota Sanders is going there today it is Amy Klobuchar's home state.

But when you look at this map, especially the big prizes Sanders is poised to get a big delegate haul. I guess the question is how big?

ZANONA: And how big is the gap between him and Biden perhaps right? I think as map favors Bernie Sanders. He probably will come out with the most delegates, but is Biden able to keep it close or does he run away with it Sanders knows?

KING: And to that point he does know - Sanders knows Biden has a bit of a bounce coming out of South Carolina, so listen to this Sanders' rally where he wants to remind voters, maybe you're giving Biden a second look. Please don't.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Please do not forget Joe Biden voted for the war in Iraq. Joe Biden voted for a bankruptcy bill which hurt the working families of this country big time. My point here is not to just be negative about Joe. My point is to ask you all, what campaign is going to defeat Donald Trump?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not a coincidence he gets tougher on Biden after Biden--

TALEV: Now that he thinks he needs to be tougher on Biden again, right? There's been a lot of recalibration since the results Saturday night and the breadth of the results Saturday night in South Carolina.

Look in a really huge state, the size of a crowded rally tells you nothing about anything. Momentum is important and the crowds are important, but in a massive state with like 35 million people or whatever, it's much more about how you're reaching people at home, on their TVs, in social media like the ad penetration is important, but there are other things that are important also.

So I think we're going to see the Latino vote, be really an important factor in California and in Texas, and we're going to see whether Michael Bloomberg's bid to hit 15 percent thresholds in Congressional Districts all over Super Tuesday States has had an impact.

On the one hand, it could take away votes from Biden, but on the other hand, it would take away votes from Sanders and that's really what the game that Sanders has to play again. So there are like a few different ways to watch these numbers, but the Latino vote is going to be important. Those huge populations in the two largest states in the country are going to be very important.

And what Biden has to do, it seems to me, is work on those other states where the African-American vote can be very important, southern states and states where he may have be enabled to have more impact with less money. He has had no money to compete in places with like California on the air.

KING: That's the issue. He is raising money now but he has had no money to compete really on Super Tuesday. And so let's take a look at Joe Biden and let's start with this. You just heard Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden gets a big one in South Carolina Sanders turns up the heat.

Joe Biden gets that big win South Carolina and you see him here, he has 53 pledged delegates. That put him back in the hunt right? He almost caught up to Bernie Sanders in the delegate hub there. He was fourth in Iowa, very disappointing, 5 in New Hampshire, even more disappointing, but now at the moment you think he has some momentum.

Second in Nevada, first in South Carolina, but to your point Margaret, only $1.5 million spent by the Biden Campaign his Super Pac even was missing as well in eight states. That's nickels and dimes, really.

And so the question is when you look at the map, if you look at the map here he's in Texas today. Joe Biden hoping to do some business in Texas there is a big Latino population and a big liberal population, but you also have moderate and conservative Democrats in a big state like Texas.

If you look at these southern states, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee - I'm making a mess of the map here. Let me just come back and do it this way, draws the line up bigger. There are a lot of states in the south here where he is hoping like South Carolina. He can get African-American votes.

Now he needs some wins, the challenge is to try to run it up in those other states to offset right? What they expect to be big Sanders win in California especially?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, he needs to do very well in the south. He needs to replicate what happened with that coalition he built in South Carolina. African-American voters, a lot of modern white voters, some suburbanites, and he needs also have that coalition in some of the states where it's more competitive, North Carolina and Texas.

And trying to build up his turnout among suburban voters, moderate voters hopefully late-breaking voters we've seen a lot of late- breaking voters in first 4 states that made up their minds in the final days of the campaign. You know if that continues tomorrow if there are a lot of late breaking voters that could help Biden.

He could get a little bit of a bounce out of South Carolina. That's really what he has to hope for because he hasn't been on TV, he hasn't been spending a lot of money to get his message out there, so he has to hope for the earned media and media back the addition from South Carolina hopefully, for him, he's got to hope that will help him because he hasn't really had the money to compete yet.

KING: And part of that, just as Bernie Sanders looks back at Joe Biden's vote for the Iraq War, thinks Joe Biden is down in the bath, Joe Biden urging voters now that he has the momentum out of South Carolina look that way.

Urging Democrats, think about Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket. Joe Biden making the case Sanders disagrees Joe Biden making the case Sanders at the top of the ticket would hurt Democrats down ballot.

[12:25:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He will have great trouble bringing along other Senators, keeping the House of Representatives winning back the Senate and down ballot initiatives. So I think it is a stark choice and it's not about whether or not we restore the soul of the Democratic Party, it's about restoring the soul and unite this country, the whole country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I don't doubt that Biden believes this, and a lot of Democrats pass at this and Sanders disagrees, but is that the right argument to make in a primary? To not talk about - you know talk about health care, talk about yourself and your record, issues and policies as opposed to, that guy is bad.

THOMPSON: Well, it's a very processed argument and it's one that Joe Biden has made from the beginning. I mean, this is a guy that started showing polls in his ads all the way back in August. So he's always been making these sorts of processing arguments, and whether or not they motivate voters, we're going to find out on Tuesday.

The problem is he's so far behind on organization. There was a story just the other week where the day before California early voting, that Bernie Sanders' Office in Los Angeles was buzzing with activity, whereas Joe Biden's Office was padlocked, nobody there. He is way behind not just on advertising but also on boots on the ground. He is going to be relying completely on momentum and media.

KING: He needs to try to come out of Super Tuesday somewhere in the ball park of 100 delegates down or fewer if it's much bigger than that, it gets hard. We're going to do more of this math as we go ahead through the program.

This quick CNN programming note, an exclusive tonight right here on the eve of Super Tuesday one-on-one interviews with the Democratic Presidential Candidates. It's all live starting tonight at 8:00 pm Eastern on CNN. When we come back, we'll keep going through the candidates and the Super Tuesday stakes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)