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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Bernie Sanders' Deputy Campaign Manager, Ari Rabin-Havt; Coronavirus Deaths In U.S. Rising; Bloomberg Drops Out, Endorses Biden; Biden Extends Super Tuesday Surge With Projected Win In Maine; Coronavirus Cases Confirmed On Another Cruise Ship, CDC Working To Investigate; Man Faces Execution For Murders He Didn't Commit; Three People Missing After Deadly Tornado Slams Tennessee. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 4, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will work to keep it there.

Thank you all.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: -- some guidance for the uninsured?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, guys.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, so there you have the vice president and his Corona Task Force leaving the White House Briefing Room, spending about a half-an-hour making statements and then answering reporters' questions.

I want to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

You were listening carefully. Right now, by the way, there are 100 cases of the coronavirus in 13 states in the United States, 149 cases, when you add in those who were brought in from Wuhan, as well as from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a total of 149 U.S. cases, 11 deaths so far in the United States.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

Wolf, and the vice president sort of made mention of these numbers at the beginning of the press conference, said at the beginning what he said at the end there, the risk to the average American is low.

Interestingly, the risk of what is a question that does come up, the risk of contracting the virus, the risk of getting sick from the virus. I don't know that we can say for certain that the risk of contracting the virus is still low, which was the sort of second point that the vice president brought up, which is really around this testing.

I spent a little bit of time at the White House today, was in off-the- record meetings. But there were certain things that we learned that there's obviously been a frustration with the lack of testing thus far.

And that's going to change, it sounds like, for a couple reasons. One is that they're going to be sending out -- the vice president just said a million-and-a-half testing kits around the country. Commercial labs are going to be allowed to start testing, including big commercial labs like Quest, and then university and state hospitals as well will be getting FDA approval at some point, he said, not yet.

But at some point, these commercial labs and other labs will get approval to do this. So they really want to dramatically increase the ability to test.

People who've been concerned because they say, I have got symptoms, I may have traveled to a place where there was coronavirus, I'd like to get tested, they have been told that they simply can't get tested. It's been frustrating, I can tell you, not only for patients, but for many in the medical field as well, to not be able to do the tests.

Struck me -- a couple things struck me. First of all, Secretary Azar was not there. The surgeon general was not there. Not sure why that was. There was three big meetings they had today, was with the airlines, with nursing homes, and then with these labs, with airlines really talking about the idea that, look, if somebody is sick on the plane, you find out after the fact, what are you going to do? How you going to handle that? How are you going to contact trace?

That's going to be a question for the airlines to address. Nursing homes, especially given what happened in Washington state, where so many of these patients have been diagnosed and, unfortunately, some have died, they want to focus on nursing homes, making infectious disease protocols at the nursing homes the top priority.

And then again the labs, meeting with the labs to try and really increase the testing; $8.4 billion I believe, Wolf -- you can correct me -- was the budget that was passed by the House today to try and do this. And it's going to be expensive, all these different things that they're talking about, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's going to be very expensive. And you're right. The House of Representatives did pass that the spending bill. It's going to go to the Senate now. I assume it'll pass there as well.

Sanjay, stand by.

I want to bring in Dr. Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health.

The elderly, we just heard Dr. Lipsitch, the elderly are most vulnerable. They said people over 60. Well, that's a lot of people out there. And that others who have some serious underlying health-related issues are very vulnerable as well.

How worried should these people be? MARC LIPSITCH, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR COMMUNICABLE DISEASE DYNAMICS: I

think those are the groups of people, as was said by several of the federal officials, that really should take extra precautions, because the risk of them, if they get infected, is significant.

So I think it's too early to say, as Sanjay Gupta just mentioned, what the risk of getting infected is. But, as a precaution, those -- those are the groups of people who should be most taking efforts to avoid it.

BLITZER: What was your basic takeaway from what we just heard from the vice president and his Coronavirus Task Force?

LIPSITCH: I was really encouraged that the lack of testing is now being really addressed head on in a big way. I was -- a lot of the -- it was a real logjam for a long time. And it sounds to me as though they finally got the message that it needs to be scaled up by a very large factor.

And the steps taken are good ones. It sounds as though people are taking this seriously to a new degree. I'm still concerned that they -- that what's really a sort of a poorly understood situation in the United States because we haven't tested yet to date is being characterized as low-risk, when in fact, we just don't know how many cases there are out there.

[18:05:06]

And I think we're going to be finding a lot more. It's one thing to focus on the data. But we also have to focus on what may be the data in a few days.

BLITZER: Yes, we're going to obviously stay on top of this story, because there's enormous concern out there.

Dr. Lipsitch, thanks so much for joining us.

Sanjay, we will, of course, get back to you as well.

There's other important news we're following right now, including major developments in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Tonight, Joe Biden is extending is stunning Super Tuesday success with a projected when in a 10th state. We're talking about Maine. The Democratic presidential race has been dramatically reshaped into a Biden-Bernie Sanders showdown.

Mike Bloomberg, he has officially bowed out, formally announcing his endorsement of Biden just a little while ago. Elizabeth Warren is said to be weighing her next move.

And Bernie Sanders now is drawing sharper distinctions between himself and Biden, as he looks to the next round of contests.

This hour, I will speak with representatives of the Sanders and Biden campaigns. We're watching all of this very closely. But, first, let's go to our political correspondent, Arlette Saenz.

Arlette, you're there in Los Angeles, where Joe Biden spoke just a little while ago. What's the latest?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, Joe Biden took a victory lap here in Los Angeles after that wave of wins on Super Tuesday.

And Biden is in part taking credit for driving up voter turnout in many of these states, saying that he's the candidate that's building a movement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing!

SAENZ (voice-over): Joe Biden basking in a historic political comeback.

BIDEN: And we were told, well, when you got to Super Tuesday, it would be over. Well, it may be over for the other guy!

SAENZ: In the wake of Super Tuesday, a major jolt to the race coming as billionaire Michael Bloomberg dropped his presidential bid and officially endorsed Biden.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad to say I endorse Joe Biden. And I hope you will join me in working to make him the next president of the United States of America!

SAENZ: This after Bloomberg poured more than a half-a-billion dollars of his own fortune into the race, and only came up with one victory in American Samoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do it for Joe!

SAENZ: It's the latest sign of the more moderate candidates coalescing around the former vice president.

After a rocky start to his campaign, Biden racking up wins in 10 Super Tuesday states, with a sweep across the South, overtaking Bernie Sanders in the fight for delegates, with California still up for grabs.

BIDEN: I'm here to report we are very much alive!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SAENZ: Sanders' victories came in his home state of Vermont, Colorado and Utah, and he's leading in California, where the campaign hopes to rack up delegates.

But there are questions if Sanders can expand the electorate, as the contest has quickly turned into a two-person race. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe has his ideas,

his record, his vision for the future. I have mine. And I look forward to a serious debate.

SAENZ: Sanders already looking to the contests ahead, running new TV ads targeting Biden and attempting to tie himself to President Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless.

SAENZ: One candidate's fate up in the air, Elizabeth Warren, who had a disappointing showing on Tuesday, including a brutal loss in her home state of Massachusetts, Warren assessing the state of her campaign.

But one of her adviser says her biggest decision isn't whether to end her campaign, but whether to throw her support behind Biden or Sanders.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAENZ: Now, Michael Bloomberg spoke with Joe Biden today and offered to help in any way that he can.

Bloomberg has a massive amount of cash, but he also has field organizations across the country, including in a lot of those contests that are coming up in the next few weeks. The Bloomberg campaign is working to determine how they can best leverage that to help Biden -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arlette Saenz in Los Angeles for us -- Arlette, thank you very much.

Also tonight, President Trump appears to be preparing himself once again for the possibility that he will face Joe Biden in the fall.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president has had plenty to say about the new twist in the Democratic race.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly has, Wolf.

President Trump is not getting the outcome he wanted, as Joe Biden is gaining momentum in the Democratic field. For weeks, Trump campaign advisers that said privately they want to see Bernie Sanders win this nomination.

The president told reporters earlier today he doesn't care who he runs against in the fall, but his campaign staffers are gearing up for Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump is playing the pundit in chief, sizing up the Democratic field after Joe Biden's big night on Super Tuesday, complaining that Elizabeth Warren's decision to stay in the race --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She was very selfish, from that point of view.

ACOSTA: -- hurt Bernie Sanders and helped the former vice president.

[18:10:00]

TRUMP: She was really a spoiler, because other people got out, and those votes inured to Joe.

And those people really helped Joe. So Bernie would have won states that he lost, and he lost fairly easily, but, in particular, Massachusetts. I would say Minnesota in particular. I would also say Texas. And there's some others.

ACOSTA: The president is signaling that he's watching Biden's resurgence carefully, taking swipes at Mike Bloomberg, who dropped out of the race.

TRUMP: He made a fool out of himself.

ACOSTA: Noting the former New York City mayor could put his billions behind a Trump takedown.

TRUMP: He's going to try and save face by putting some money into Biden's campaign. And we will see what happens. I don't think that's going to have an impact.

Now he's doing that because he's spiteful, and he's a spiteful guy. I know him well. He is a very spiteful guy.

ACOSTA: But Bloomberg's team seemed ready for Mr. Trump's attacks.

After the president tweeted, "I could have told Bloomberg long ago that he didn't have what it takes and he would have saved himself a billion dollars," Bloomberg responded with force, replying with a "Star Wars" clip and adding, "See you soon, Donald."

The president told reporters it doesn't matter who he faces.

TRUMP: Do I care? No, because we're just waiting to find out who we're running against.

ACOSTA: But that's not quite the case, as Trump campaign officials have told CNN they would prefer to face Sanders.

One Trump adviser said the president's team will go back to attacking Biden son Hunter's work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. On the campaign's plans for Biden, a Trump adviser told CNN: "We attack. Biden still hasn't provided a good answer on Burisma" -- an echo of the president's call to Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens from last fall.

TRUMP: They should investigate the Bidens. By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. ACOSTA: Top Trump allies agreed Biden would be hard to beat.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think he'd be tough. I told the president that I think Joe Biden's got a -- a good reputation, and he would be tough. He would be more moderate than Bernie. But I still think it's Trump's to lose.

ACOSTA: Even as one ex-Trump official, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci told CNN, he's already endorsing Biden.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I'm a Republican for Joe Biden, because the president's not a Republican. At the end of the day, the Republicans that are around the president...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But nor are you.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I'm not a Trumpist. I'm an old-school Republican like Mitt Romney, old-school Republican like George Herbert Walker Bush. I'm not a Trumpist.

QUESTION: Will you campaign for Biden?

SCARAMUCCI: If he asks me to, I will.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, Trump campaign sources have long wanted a race against Bernie Sanders.

One Trump campaign official went further than that, telling me that their ideal scenario was for Democrats to be stuck with a contested convention later on this summer, as the Democratic Party coalesces behind Joe Biden, though that convention chaos scenario may not be what the Republicans and the president's campaign ends up getting later on this year.

One thing we should note is that the financial markets did recover today, after another steep drop yesterday. The Dow was up more than 1,100 points. The experts, though, on Wall Street are chalking that up to Joe Biden's big night on Super Tuesday, Wolf.

That kind of headline is not going to sit well with the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You're right.

Jim Acosta, thank you very much for.

Joining us now, Bernie Sanders' deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin- Havt.

Ari, thank you so much for joining us.

What is Senator Sanders going to do to turn things around? Because yesterday was clearly not a great day for him, and he needs to turn things around right now.

ARI RABIN-HAVT, SANDERS DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, Wolf, look at where we are right now.

As more results come in, in California,a state we won, Colorado, a state we won, and Utah, a state we won, three states with the overwhelming majority of delegates still out from last night, it looks like this is going to end up a very, very close race.

Like, I think we are premature on the delegate math. Then we had to Michigan. And we have to ask ourselves, in a state like Michigan, critical for the general election, do Democrats want to nominate a candidate like Joe Biden, whose support of trade deals like NAFTA, PNTR with China, WTO, et cetera, has cost thousands, tens of thousands of jobs in that state?

And we are going to draw those contrasts and talk about Joe Biden's position on those issues, while talking about Bernie Sanders' spectacular record on those issues.

BLITZER: Because the vice -- the former vice president makes a point -- and he did once again today and yesterday, almost every day -- that he and President Obama saved the U.S. automobile industry, which was in deep trouble, and they have a strong record on that, to which you say?

RABIN-HAVT: Look, to which I say -- I would go back to these trade deals.

You look at states that are critical for Democrats to win, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, three states I think we all agree must-win for Democrats, three states devastated, devastated by NAFTA, PNTR, WTO, and all the trade deals that, to this day, Joe Biden still supports.

That is a problem for these voters. It is a -- it will be a problem in the general election. It is something -- over and over and over again, Bernie Sanders has been right on critical issues to the American people, be it the war in Iraq, be it credit card debt, be it the bankruptcy bill, where Joe Biden is going to have to answer for these policy positions.

[18:15:15]

It is a critical electability issue. It's not even a policy issue. We have our policy disputes. And, by the way, our disputes with Joe Biden are purely policy. They're not personal. Bernie Sanders thinks Joe Biden is a great guy.

The problem is, he's wrong on policy. And that policy leads to an electability problem, especially in these critical states.

BLITZER: There are significant differences on key policy issues. You're right about that.

And I assume -- do you assume, first of all, this is now a two-person race? RABIN-HAVT: Look, Bernie Sanders has said the person with the most delegates who got the most votes in the primary should be the nominee of the party.

There are two candidates who are left in a position to do that, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, who can do that. And that is our position.

BLITZER: Senator Sanders admitted today that young people haven't turned out of the numbers he had hoped for. Why would that change between now, let's say, and next Tuesday and the following Tuesday, where there are key more -- there are several key contests coming up?

RABIN-HAVT: Look, we want -- the Democratic Party needs young people to turn out, but we also need Latinos to turn out.

And our campaign has built a coalition that has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in bringing Latino voters into the party. We have succeeded in a number of those key demographic groups. In particular, if you look at your California exit polls, you will see us, for example, getting I think about 80 percent of the vote among young Latinos, a critical coalition for -- that will help determine electability in November.

BLITZER: Senator Sanders is out, as you well know, and our viewers probably know by now, with a new ad today touting his relationship with former President Barack Obama.

Let me play a little clip. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bernie is somebody who has the virtue of saying exactly what he believes, great authenticity, great passion, and is fearless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Sanders, you know, he's run his entire campaign against the establishment, not just the Republican establishment, but the Democratic establishment as well.

So, why is he now suddenly embracing the former president?

RABIN-HAVT: Bernie Sanders has always had a good relationship with the president.

They have had policy differences on some issues, but they have always had a solid working relationship. That continues. That continues to this day. I think touting Barack Obama's own words is something that the Democratic electorate deserves to hear about Bernie Sanders.

BLITZER: Ari Rabin-Havt, thank you so much for joining us.

RABIN-HAVT: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, good luck out there. Just ahead: The Democratic presidential race is essentially, for all

practical purposes, right now a two-person race. we will talk about the strategy going forward for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

And we will take a closer look at the controversy over how top officials have handled coronavirus testing here in the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:22:17]

BLITZER: Tonight, the comeback Joe Biden began in South Carolina over the weekend is now supersized, after his upset victories in 10 Super Tuesday primaries.

The former vice president now leads Bernie Sanders in the all- important fight for delegates. But the final outcome in delegate-rich California is still undecided right now. And there are many more contests in the weeks ahead.

Let's bring in our political team to discuss.

How much, Ron Brownstein, did last night's results change the playing field for Joe Biden?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Astonishing.

I mean, this is the 10th presidential primary I have covered, and I think it is fair to say it is the most movement we have ever seen in one week of a primary, starting with the Jim Clyburn endorsement, through the results in South Carolina, through the incredible consolidation by the former rivals on Monday.

Even when Bernie Sanders was winning those early contest, he was winning with between one-quarter and one-third of the vote in Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire.

What all of this did was send a very clear signal to that somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of the party that is skeptical about Sanders that the time had come to consolidate. And I think Sanders compounded his own problem.

I mean, when he emerged as the front-runner, his tone was very confrontational for his own party. He talked about running against the Democratic establishment as much as the Republican establishment.

And you look at through the exit polls last night, one of things that really jumped out to me, among self-identified Democrats, people who identify as Democratic partisans, he usually lost by between 20 to 30, sometimes 50 points.

It is hard to be the nominee of a party when the core voters in the party are expressing that level of skepticism. He's got to find a second act. We will see if he has one.

BLITZER: Mitch Landrieu is with us, the CNN Political Commentator, former Mayor of New Orleans.

What do the results, Mayor, tell you about where Joe Biden as a candidate, his strengths stand right now?

MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, just a minute ago, you announced that he won the 11th state. That was rolling thunder last night across the entire United States, from the South to the East, all across to the West.

Remember, before last night, people thought that Bernie was going to win Texas, and he was going to wipe him out in California. And the vice president demonstrated really good command of all of the segments of the population that we need to be able to win in order to win the presidency.

And I think he's in a very strong position. Clearly -- and I agree with Ron -- this is the biggest comeback in our modern political history that we're seeing. And I think I expect the momentum to continue.

BLITZER: The Louisiana primary is coming up Saturday, April 4. Who do you support?

LANDRIEU: Well, I'm endorsing Joe Biden tonight. I have been knowing Joe Biden for 30 years. He is a man of -- as you know, a decent guy, a good guy, but a guy of great experience, and he's tough.

But, essentially, we need -- the United States of America needs and deserves someone that's going to use the power of the presidency as the people of the United States intended to lift people up, rather than to tear him down, to bring us together, rather than to separate us, and somebody that can actually represent the entire country.

[18:25:09]

And I think he's demonstrated that he's the right person to do that.

BLITZER: Sabrina, the -- Elizabeth Warren, she's got to make a major decision fairly soon, whether she stays where she goes.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

And Elizabeth Warren's campaign manager, Roger Lau, sent a very frank e-mail to staff this morning, where he said that Elizabeth Warren is meeting with her team to assess the path forward. He said they are obviously disappointed in the results on Super Tuesday.

He acknowledged that the campaign fell well short of their projections and viability goals. And so I think that the campaign -- it was a major blow for them to lose their home state of Massachusetts. But going into Super Tuesday, they had hoped that perhaps she could perform well in some of these delegate-rich contests, like California and Texas, and perhaps come away with enough of a delegate haul that she could say that this going to go to a contested convention or perhaps justify remaining in the race. But, according to CNN's delegate tracker, she currently stands at just

26 pledged delegates, compared to Bernie Sanders at 381, Joe Biden at 435. And so, although they're still waiting for some of that final math to come out of these Super Tuesday states, she has fallen so far behind, that it is becoming harder (AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: -- significant if she -- if she drops out, but then does she endorse Sanders? Does she endorse Biden?

Where do you see all this, Bianna, heading?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, the narrative that came out of last night was that Democrats want Trump to be out of office come November.

And that is something that we saw from the sheer volume of voter turnout yesterday and the consolidation within the party only within a matter of days.

I agree. Jim Clyburn gave the vice president a huge boost. And then when you saw the others, Amy Klobuchar and Buttigieg, leave, then all of the sudden you saw the Democratic Party throughout those states unite behind the person who they think can make President Trump a one- term president.

And that's not to say that there aren't disagreements between some of the issues that Bernie Sanders is bringing to the table. But, that having been said, I think the understanding from last night was, to address those issues, you have to have somebody who can win.

And in their minds, at least from what we saw last night, that person is Joe Biden.

BLITZER: It's clearly a critical moment right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.

GOLODRYGA: And you saw it in the stock market reaction as well today.

BLITZER: Yes, it went up almost 1,200 points, in part because some of those people were happy about Biden.

All right, everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we're following.

Biden has a huge new jolt of momentum. I think that's fair to say. But does his campaign still need to make some significant changes?

I will ask a key supporter, Senator Chris Coons. He's standing by live.

We will also have the latest on the state of emergency right now in Tennessee, after a devastating tornado and deadly storm damage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:30:00]

BLITZER: Tonight, Joe Biden is feeling the impact of his historic Super Tuesday comeback. Michael Bloomberg is now out of the race and in Biden's corner, while his main opponent, Bernie Sanders, is suggesting that Democrats must now choose, in his words, which side are you on?

Joining us now, Democratic Senator and Joe Biden supporter, Chris Coons.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. Your candidate, Joe Biden, he did have a very good night last night, won ten states out of the 14 on Super Tuesday. You've known him for a long time. First of all, have you spoken to him about the victory?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): We haven't spoken directly today. I'm doing hard work for the campaign as well as my work in the Senate. I was on the phone today with a dozen state representatives around the country in the next group of states trying to urge them to endorse Joe Biden.

I've known Joe for 30 years, as you mentioned, Wolf, and I know his heart, I know his character, I know his ability to bring our party together and to bring our country together. And I am convinced he is the right candidate to beat Donald Trump in November and to move our country forward.

BLITZER: But until that happens, as you also know, Bernie Sanders, he's pretty much on Biden's heels right now as far as the all- important delegate count is concerned. Does Vice President Biden need to change anything about how he's campaigning now that it's essentially for all practical purposes a two-man race?

COONS: Well, I'll say this, after last night, after Super Tuesday, Joe has a lead in the number of states he's won, in the number of popular votes he's earned and in the number of delegates he's got. So I think he has a solid and what will be a sustained lead in the race to our convention in Milwaukee in July.

Just think about three of the things that have happened that really are breaking news in the last couple of days. Coronavirus, the news today that Iran has enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, and then some of the challenges we face in the Supreme Court, where they're hearing a case against the Affordable Care Act.

In all three of these, Joe has a real record of accomplishment, not plans, not speeches, not rallies but actual accomplishments. He is part of the Obama/Biden administration that put the Affordable Care Act in place.

[18:35:03]

The Trump administration has been tearing it down. And in the face of the coronavirus, there are millions of Americans who have lost their healthcare because of what President Trump has done. That puts us at greater risk. And Joe Biden's got the kind of record, progressive record, of delivering on healthcare promises that I think are going to matter at the polls in the next couple of rounds of states that are up for contest.

Last about Iran, Joe Biden, as vice president, was in the situation room, not this Situation Room, Wolf, but the real one in the White House. And he was part of putting together the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump has promised that his maximum pressure campaign will put Iran back on their heels and stop them from getting a weapon. But today's announcement suggests that we need a leader in Washington who knows how to apply both pressure but also diplomacy.

I think there's a lot of reasons why his campaign is on the right track going forward, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Sanders came out today. He said Joe Biden is a good guy and all that, but he really came out swinging, saying, they have major disagreements on key policy issues. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe is going to have to explain to people, the union workers in the Midwest, why he supported disastrous trade agreements like NAFTA. Joe is going to have to explain to the American why he voted for a Wall Street bailout.

Joe is going to have to explain to the American people who are so tired of endless wars which have cost us too many lives, destabilized many regions around the world, have cost us trillions of dollars while he was a leader in getting us involved in the war in Iraq.

Joe essentially wants to maintain what I consider to be a dysfunctional and cruel healthcare system.

Joe has his ideas, his record, his mission for the future, I have mine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what's your reaction to that, Senator?

COONS: That's pretty striking, but it's in keeping with what I saw last night. After Super Tuesday, we had two candidates last night give victory speeches. One chose to focus on how he is bringing our party together and how he can move us forward and one chose to attack and criticize another Democratic candidate. That's more of what you heard just a few moments ago there.

And I'll put Joe's record up against anybody. His record of actual accomplishments, of getting things done that affect the kitchen table issues, that impact the families that Joe has been fighting for for decades. He's never forgotten where he's from and Joe is somebody who in his heart and in his record is the right candidate to stand for America's forgotten middle class and the right candidate to get us us to a stronger place in the world.

BLITZER: Former President Obama chose Joe Biden to be his vice president. Why not come out now and publicly endorse Joe Biden? What is the former president waiting for?

COONS: That's a great question. I haven't spoken to him about that. But I think when you've got candidates from Bloomberg to Sanders running T.V. ads that sort of suggest or intimate that they have former President Obama's support, it's important to set the record straight and make it clear that Barack Obama trusted Joe Biden to carry forward some of his most important initiatives, from the stimulus program right after the terrible recession in 2008 and '09 to the fight for the Affordable Care Act.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama worked side by side for eight years and I am very optimistic that in the end, once our primary process resolves itself, that former President Obama will be campaigning hard for a nominee and I think our nominee is going to be Joe Biden.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Chris Coons, thanks so much for joining us.

COONS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, as coronavirus cases are confirmed on another cruise ship right now, there are new questions about the availability of tests for the virus. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: We have breaking news on the coronavirus. The CDC is investigating another cruise ship with confirmed cases of the virus. The ship is getting ready to dock in San Francisco after a so-called small cluster of coronavirus cases were traced back to its previous voyage.

Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, this breaking news comes amid concerns about testing for the coronavirus.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, testing, Wolf. And just a short time ago, Vice President pence sent out some very positive messaging about where the U.S. is in testing people for coronavirus. But by almost any measure, America has been playing catch up when it comes to testing.

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TODD: The vice president with reassuring words for the American public tonight about the bottleneck of testing in the U.S. for coronavirus.

MIKE PENCE, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Now, all state laboratories, all university laboratories at the state level can conduct coronavirus tests.

TODD: Mike Pence also says thousands more testing kits are being sent out but there's been controversy over how top officials have handled testing for the virus in the U.S. up to this point. They've been criticized for being too slow to roll out testing kits, for being too strict about who could be tested and not making tests available widely enough.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Right now, we can only test about 100 samples per day.

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We want to get that up to 1,000 samples per day.

TODD: Kim Frey was worried after numerous cases were reported in the nursing home near Seattle where she visited her mother. She wanted to be tested.

KIM FREY, DAUGHTER OF NURSING HOME PATIENT: The answer was no, you have to fit a certain criteria in order to get that test.

TODD: Today, a reversal, she was told to report for testing. Officials say the narrow criteria to get tested had been opened up, and test kit production is up.

But not everyone can be tested.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There aren't enough resources to do what every single emergency room and every single center.

TODD: But the government is planning to test for anyone with symptoms in six cities for starters.

FAUCI: When people present with symptoms that look like they might be coronavirus, even though they have no connection with anybody who has coronavirus, they didn't travel anywhere and test them.

TODD: Public health officials say now that coronavirus tests are expanding, officials will be able to get a better read on just how bad the outbreak is in America.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: We will see exactly how widespread now coronavirus is in the United States. Is it just focal here and there and a little bit of spread here and there, or suddenly is it revealed that we have widespread coronavirus infection? I think the next week and a half or two weeks will tell the tale.

TODD: Is America paying too costly a price now for those testing delays and other problems?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: It would have been great to have had it sooner. Whether or not that's going to affect the health of the public overall is going to be a question that's impossible to answer.

TODD: Meanwhile, mass gatherings, museums and theme parking across the globe are feeling the effects of coronavirus. Asia's Disney themed parks have close, Paris famed Louvre Museum closed and reopened Wednesday. Olympic officials are trying to tamp down speculation that the Summer Games in Tokyo could be cancelled or postponed. PHILLIPS: There's concerned about mass gatherings because it puts

people on close proximity to each other, and as we don't know entirely if people are transmitting the virus asymptomatically, that naturally common sense tells you it puts you at higher risks.

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TODD: Health experts say we can expect more mass gatherings be cancelled. But in many cases, simply altering them can be affected, scaling them back, shortening them. Corporations not making it mandatory for employees to travel to attend large meetings or conventions.

One public health expert told us he's heard of an upcoming convention where organizers are making it a non-handshake event. Get ready for those fist bumps, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you very much.

Brian Todd reporting for us.

More news just ahead.

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BLITZER: A controversial case in Alabama is drawing attention tonight. The state is poised to put a man supporters say is innocent to death for three murders they say he didn't commit.

CNN's Martin Savidge has more.

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MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a fact no one disputes. Alabama is about to execute 44-year-old Nathaniel Woods for the murders of three police officers he did not kill.

June 17, 2004, three Birmingham police officers are gunned down attempting to serve a misdemeanor warrant on Woods at a home on the city's west side. Woods had surrendered to police when another man Kerry Spencer in the house opened fire with an assault rifle, killing Officers Charles Bennett, Carlos Owen and Harley Chisholm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never in my life have I ever imagined going to three funerals in two days and feeling the pain and the hurt that we've all experienced.

SAVIDGE: The shocking murders left a city grieving. Spencer confessed to the shootings and said soon after his arrest that he had acted alone. He was convicted of the murders and sits on Alabama's death row.

But for prosecutors, one conviction wasn't enough. They charged Woods with three counts of capital murder, accusing him of conspiring or being complicit in the killing of the officers.

LAUREN FARAINO, NATHANIEL WOODS' ATTORNEY: In order for a person to be convicted on complicity, they have to be involved in a plan or a scheme to kill.

SAVIDGE: Prosecutors alleged a calculating Woods intentionally lured the officers into the home where Spencer was waiting.

FARAINO: Absolutely not. He was terrified when they came into the house.

SAVIDGE: Woods was found guilty. Even though he hadn't fired a single shot, he was sentenced to death.

PAMELA WOODS, NATHANIEL WOODS' SISTER: He thought it was the craziest thing in the world. He was like how? How? You know, he didn't do anything wrong.

SAVIDGE (on camera): How much do you think race played a role in this case?

FARAINO: I think it did play a role. I mean, I think that if you look at the victims, it's three white officers. And if you look at the people who are sitting on death row, it's two black men.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Woods' current defense team says his conviction was one of many legal wrongs, including years of bungled appeals by other attorneys. Now down to his final hours, Woods' family believes their only hope is for the public to convince Alabama's governor that killing a man who killed no one is wrong.

WOODS: I love my brother. People need to know about this.

SAVIDGE: We wanted to know what the families of the murdered police officers thought of woods. We reached two of them who couldn't or wouldn't talk to us.

But in a local radio interview last year, the granddaughter of one of Officer Carlos Owen reflected on his loss and the whole it's left on all their lives.

EMMA OWEN, CARLOS OWEN'S GRANDDAUGHTER: I remember how special he made his grandkids feel.

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That was something that he was so good at, making others people loved and special.

SAVIDGE (on camera): What would you say to the families of the officers who died?

FARAINO: We are deeply, deeply sorry for what happened that day. But the murderer of their family members is sitting on death row. He has confessed. He is being punished. They don't need an innocent man's blood as well. SAVIDGE (voice-over): Martin Savidge, CNN, Birmingham, Alabama.

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BLITZER: And just ahead, three people are missing after the deadliest tornado in seven years hits Tennessee.

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BLITZER: Tennessee is under a state of emergency right now after severe storms and at least one tornado ripped through the Nashville area, killing at least 24 people and injuring dozens more.

We'll continue to follow this story. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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