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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Republicans Look to Ramp Up Investigations of Biden; Dow Plunges; Elizabeth Warren Drops Out; Trump Says He'll Make Burisma a "Major" Campaign Issue; Coronavirus Spreading Across 17 States, 200+ Infected. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired March 5, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with breaking news, a brutal day on Wall Street, as we come up on the closing bell. You hear it there.

The Dow plunging, closing down more than 900 points,almost 1,000.

Let's go right to CNN's Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange.

And, Alison, what is with these wild swings? We had two historic gains this week, then a big drop again, like this one today.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, keep your seat belt on; 1,000 is the new 100, metaphorically speaking today, clearly the Dow closing down only a little over 900 points.

One trader telling me, get used to these outsized moves, at least until investors become more confident in government officials that they have a handle on the coronavirus crisis.

It's fear and uncertainty that's driving this market, fear that the virus will wind up slowing down the U.S. economy considerably, it'll keep consumers from spending, and ultimately hurt businesses.

Uncertainty over just how much the impact of the virus will hurt the global economy -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange, thanks so much.

Now to our 2020 lead.

Senator Elizabeth warren officially dropped out of the presidential race this afternoon. The Massachusetts Democrat made the announcement earlier today, after a disappointing Super Tuesday, saying she has no regrets, and promising to keep up the fight. The focus now shifts to who, if anyone, Warren might endorse. Asked

today the senator said, she wanted to take a little time to think about it. But we know both Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders have spoken to Warren in the last few days, according to their campaigns.

Warren's exit leaves just one woman left in the presidential race, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who has just one pledged delegate to her name.

At its peak, there were six women vying for the Democratic presidential nomination, prompting questions as to whether in the year 2020 women candidates are still held to a different standard and have to fight sexism and misogyny, along with all the other political battles, which Warren was asked about this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Gender in this race, you know that is the trap question for everyone.

If you say, yes, there was sexism in this race, everyone says, whiner.

And if you say, no, there was no sexism, about a bazillion women think, what planet do you live on?

I promise you this. I will have a lot more to say on that subject later on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, Senator Warren saying that she will have a lot more to say on that subject later on.

But let's talk about it, us, right now.

Did Elizabeth Warren and the other women who ran for president -- Tulsi Gabbard still running, but the others, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, et cetera -- did they face a double standard? Did they have to also fight off sexism and misogyny, in addition to the regular political battles?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think women always do. They always face a double standard.

And I think -- and I think, for Kamala Harris, she was probably facing two double standards, because she's a person of color. So that's just a fact of life. And that's the way it is.

And I think that you can go into some specifics about how Elizabeth Warren was treated, people talking about her being sort of a schoolmarm and sanctimonious and all these other things that you wouldn't say about a male candidate.

And I also think if -- I do wonder, if people were so willing to keep lowering the bar for some of these women candidates, the way they have for Joe Biden, if things might not have gone differently for them. And I don't just mean in the media. I mean voters. I think voters are really willing to cut white men a lot of slack that it's hard to believe that, if any of these women had made the mistakes or stumbles that Joe Biden had, that they would be in the position that's he in

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I do think that's a really important point, because, a lot of times, when we talk about this, there's a lot of focus on the media. And this is not to say that there is not -- it's not important how we talk about gender.

But, as a reporter, when I talk to voters, and you hear the sexism, frankly, coming back at you, you have to look at the electorate. I think people have really ingrained biases about what they think a president looks like, what they think a president should be, how they perceive women, how they describe to reporters and two pollsters, how they interpret their character and their presentation.

All of those things mattered. And I think they mattered for Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren and all of the women who ran in this race. Hillary Clinton knew this very well. It was hard for everybody to analyze what happened with Hillary Clinton because she had such a long history.

But now we look at women who have much shorter histories, and we see a very similar pattern. And this is going to be one of the most difficult things to really -- to unpack in our electorate, where you have sexism not just coming from men, but also coming from women.

There are a lot of women out there who don't think that a woman necessarily should be president, or they can't say which woman they ever would be comfortable with being president.

[16:05:05]

We have to grapple with these hard issues. And I think that's what's behind some of that.

TAPPER: And, Amanda, you're a Republican, but you were at times during this campaign bullish on Warren.

There was obviously -- even if you disagreed with a lot of her policy positions, there was something about her that you -- that you seem to applaud often.

Do you think she faced a double standard from voters and from the media?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure. I'm eager to hear what she has to say because it happened to her.

Listen, she raised a lot of money. She had a great organization. She did well in the Iowa polls. But, that said, there is a question about women running for office.

And I think the big problem is that we don't know what a female president looks like, because we haven't had one. Like, our stereotypical image of a president is a white guy with a side part in a suit, right?

And so we're not there yet. So -- but I do feel hopeful, even as a Republican, watching all the Democratic women run, because they are showing what it could look like. And I think we're just going to have to keep showing and showing and showing until it happens.

But if I could change one thing from here on out when it comes to covering women, whenever someone says, I just don't know if I like her, that's usually cover for something they don't want to say. And they need to be asked, what is it specifically that you don't like?

Is it her tone? Is she not qualified? Because we need that specificity. Otherwise, it's just giving cover for things that are unsavory, in my opinion.

TAPPER: Xochitl, do you think that Elizabeth Warren is going to endorse one of these two candidates?

I can't help but think back to 2016. She was the only Democratic woman senator who did not support Hillary Clinton. She waited until the very end. She kind of likes to be Switzerland on these kinds of things.

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, she obviously wants to have a role in this process, in terms of making sure that whoever our nominee is will beat Donald Trump.

And she said today, she wants to take time. These are very personal decisions to get out of a race, I think, and especially being a woman and someone trying to figure out what will be -- what will my role be moving forward?

But at the same time, I think any -- if she -- if anyone gets her endorsement, they will be extremely lucky. She will be a very effective advocate. But at the same time, I'm not sure that she will endorse.

I mean, today, she sort of signaled that she was going to go back and do some work and talk to some folks. But I think that when it comes to Elizabeth Warren, she's going to do what is best for our party. And we will see from there.

TAPPER: She clearly is more, policy-wise, aligned with Senator Bernie Sanders. And this is what Sanders had to say. He made a pitch to her supporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: While Senator Warren and I had nuances of differences -- we did -- that there is no question that her agenda, what she fought for in the campaign, was far closer to what I am fighting for than what Joe Biden believes in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's true?

POWERS: Yes.

No, I think that that's true. I do think that everyone needs to give the Warren supporters kind of a minute to process this. And I think that they need -- that it's not right to assume that they go automatically to Bernie or that they're even necessarily aligned with Bernie.

A lot of them -- I mean, anecdotally, I can tell you a lot of people I know, they were Hillary supporters. And so they already have bad blood with Bernie from the Hillary situation. And so now to bring them around to that is going to -- is going to take a lot of work.

And so I think everyone needs to kind of take a step back and leave them alone a little bit. And I just want to say quickly on the earlier conversation about the sexism, because I think some people will hear us talking and be offended and say, well, I'm not sexist because I didn't support her.

And the thing is, so much of -- so much of the way we think about women is internalized, and we don't even realize that we do it. So, even -- I'm sure I do it, right? It's like we just -- we have learned to think about women a certain way. We have learned to think about what a leader looks like.

And I think, a lot of times, we're very uncomfortable with women who have it all together, like Elizabeth Warren does. She's so competent. And I think that people will start to feel like, I can't relate to you or you're too harsh or something.

And so I think we all have to just try to be aware of the fact that we have these kind of biases that we're not even aware of.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

Super Tuesday did not only change the Democratic race for president. It also reignited Republican focus on Joe Biden and his son Hunter, but not every Republican in the Senate is on board.

Then, the number of cases appearing to be growing by the hour -- the latest on the coronavirus outbreak and new deaths reported.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:13:20]

TAPPER: In our 2020 lead: As Joe Biden reemerges as the Democratic front-runner, so too are Republican efforts to investigate his son's involvement with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company.

But after the Senate Homeland Security Committee made moves in that direction, at least one Republican senator on that committee is saying, not so fast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH: There's no question but that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political.

And I think people are tired of these -- these kind of political investigations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The chairman of the committee disputes that.

But, as CNN's Jeff Zeleny now reports, Senator Romney could be a crucial vote in whether this investigation goes further.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perhaps the best sign that Joe Biden's rise is real, he's suddenly back in Republican crosshairs.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I think the one thing the president doesn't want to do from the very beginning is face me.

ZELENY: From the White House to the GOP-controlled Senate, there's new talk of old Biden investigations.

BIDEN: It's a good night.

ZELENY: It's all in the wake of that Super Tuesday surge. Senator Ron Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, now saying he will release a report in the next two months on the probe of Hunter Biden's ties to the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

The renewed interest started the day after Biden's big South Carolina win--

BIDEN: Just days ago, the press and the pundits had declared his candidacy dead.

ZELENY: -- when, on a Sunday, Johnson sent this letter, saying his committee was considering issuing a subpoena to a U.S. company that worked with Burisma.

It was the first indication Republicans were accelerating their investigation into Burisma and the Bidens, investigations that seemed to have gone dormant when Biden's front-runner status slipped away and his candidacy faltered.

QUESTION: They're coming after you more?

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Of course. There's nothing there.

ZELENY: The president and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine. The president making clear on Fox News that Hunter Biden's business dealings will be front and center in the race if Biden is the nominee.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That will be a major issue in the campaign. I will bring that up all the time.

ZELENY: Not all Republicans seem willing to play along, including Senator Mitt Romney.

ROMNEY: There's no question but that the appearance of looking into Burisma and Hunter Biden appears political. And I think people are tired of these kind of political investigations.

ZELENY: While on the Democratic side as the race narrows to a head to head battle with Bernie Sanders --

SANDERS: Joe is running a campaign which is obviously heavily supported by the corporate establishment.

ZELENY: -- the Biden campaign is also bracing for criticism from the left.

SANDERS: So what does it mean when you have a campaign which is funded very significantly by the wealthy and powerful.

ZELENY: It's raising fears among some Democrats it could turn into a 2016-like battle that divided the party.

SANDERS: We have taken on the political establishment, and they're looking around them, saying, who are all of these people?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZELENY: Now, many Democrats are concerned the next chapter of the Democratic primary fight could become divisive. Yes, there are policy issues between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and those will be laid out. But there's one difference from four years ago, Jake, and that is President Trump himself. There's a unifying feeling among Democrats that he must be defeated.

But Trump for his part is trying to keep dividing the Democratic field as well. He is saying that Sanders is getting a raw deal from the establishment. So, Trump is still playing a central role in this primary race -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Let's continue our conversation. Let's start with Senator Romney's criticism of the Senate Homeland Security Committee's investigation into Burisma and Hunter Biden. Just a reminder that this all started back in 2014, and there was really no interest expressed by any Republican investigators until Joe Biden became a presidential contestant in 2019.

Do you expect any other Senate Republicans to side with Romney or take a look and say like this really just makes us look bad?

CARPENTER: I don't. I mean, we went through a whole impeachment over this. And they were just ready to go after this stuff if given the chance.

And so, yes, certain people are going to use levers of government to gin something up. But what I'm really worried about this election should Joe Biden get the nomination is that there's something produced on the internet that looks like something and then all journalistic standards are tested, how to report something that may or may not be true, like we saw with WikiLeaks hacking and everything else, because after all the criticism of Facebook and social media, we still don't have any guardrails --

TAPPER: Yes.

CARPENTER: -- for this kind of stuff. And there's no reason that Trump people wouldn't repeat this again. I mean, what's Rudy Giuliani doing? Anybody know what country he has been in the last week? I sure don't.

TAPPER: Not only that, but there are reports, of course, that Russia was actually hacking Burisma and who knows what they got. President Trump --

CARPENTER: Or what they'll make up is what I'm saying.

TAPPER: Or make up.

CARPENTER: If there's actual information, if there's real information, let's see it. I am worried about what will be made up and covered like it is true.

TAPPER: President Trump has clearly stated he's going to bring up Hunter Biden's work with Burisma as much as he can. Here he is just last night.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: That will be a major issue with the campaign. I will bring that up all the time because I don't see any way out. I don't believe they'll be able to answer those questions. It was purely corrupt.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think?

POWERS: Well, I don't see any way out like I have to talk about this. It just -- it gets tiring to have to keep going through how completely manufactured this is, the fact that there's really nothing to talk about.

You could say that perhaps you shouldn't have been on that board. OK. What does Joe Biden have to do with that? That's not -- the idea that Joe Biden was somehow playing a role in that has been so thoroughly debunked, it is just incredible to me there's anybody that even can listen to this any more, that there are voters that don't understand what happened.

And I just -- I guess if this is what Donald Trump wants to make the election about, I don't actually see how it harms Biden. I don't know. I don't know --

TAPPER: Well, I will say Biden hasn't answered this well himself. And he's going to need a much more robust effort this summer than he did previously.

PHILLIP: I do wonder, though, I mean, to your point, this has been kind of out in the world now for a long time. It's been maybe not thoroughly hashed out in the sense of answers --

TAPPER: But the president got impeached over it.

PHILLIP: But the president -- exactly, the president got impeached over it. We had a little bit of this conversation.

So what kind of impact does it have since it seems to be priced in with voters right now, certainly with Democratic voters it has been priced in. And if you are a Republican voter, you already know how you feel about it.

So, who is the president going to persuade if he goes down this path?

[16:20:01]

And I do think that the argument you're going to hear probably on the Democratic side is that now, you know, the president and Republicans are basically admitting everything the impeachment was all about. They're saying it was political in nature, they're saying they don't care whether or not the president used levers of government to pursue a political agenda, and in fact, Republicans on Capitol Hill will help him do it.

So as it feeds into the Democratic argument about sort of a culture of corruption around this president, it play -- it goes both ways.

TAPPER: Xochitl, I just want to ask you, because Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary and a CNN contributor tweeted, the only way to fight fire is with fire. Democrats in the House need to do a thorough investigation with subpoenas of Don Jr., Ivanka, and Jared.

Is that the right approach, do you think?

HINOJOSA: Well, first of all, when it comes to Donald Trump and talking about Burisma, it is very transparent as Abby said. They started to talk about this right after South Carolina.

If they want to talk about this and not health care, go ahead. We will fight you on health care and we will win. And if election has anything to do with it, look at the last three elections, we will win on the issue of health care. And so, I think the House will do whatever they need to do in terms of an investigation, but if he is going to make this an electoral issue, we will fight back, and we will go right to the voters. And there's no way Donald Trump wins the election.

TAPPER: All right. Everyone, stick around.

New coronavirus cases in the U.S. reported almost every hour. Now a stunning revelation about the lack of test kits.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:26:23]

TAPPER: We are back with the politics lead.

As the number of coronavirus cases and deaths grow in the United States, President Trump phoned into his favorite channel and said this about the latest estimate of the novel coronavirus fatality rate, 3.4 percent.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: I think the 3.4 percent is really false number. Now, this is just my hunch. But based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this and it's very mild. They'll get better very rapidly, they don't even see a doctor, they don't even call a doctor. Personally, I would say the number is way under 1 percent.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump who frequently questions the scientific and medical communities says he is going off his hunch in his message to the American people. That 3.4 percent figure comes from the director general of the World Health Organization who said this week, quote: Globally, about 3.4 percent of coronavirus cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected, unquote.

Now, some medical experts cautioned that 3.4 percent is a ratio of deaths, divided by confirmed cases of the virus, confirmed. So, it does not include unconfirmed cases, asymptomatic people or those who have mild symptoms. If you include them, then of course the fatality rate would be lower.

And it may be that that's what the president was trying to communicate but it's hard to argue that if that's what he was trying to say, he did so in a clear and understandable way with all the talk of hunches and his personal view. Instead, the president added to the confusion.

speaking of which, the president took to twitter today to complain a different comment he made about the crisis was being misrepresented. Quote: I never said people that are feeling sick should go to work, he tweeted. This is just more fake news and disinformation, unquote.

This is what President Trump actually said.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around, even going to work. Some of them go to work. But they get better. (END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, it is true the president never said people that are feeling sick should go to work. He also did not say that they should stay home which is what experts say they should do. Stay at home. Don't go to work.

But that was not conveyed in those comments or in the follow-up tweets, all of which was bereft of expertise, short on clarity, long on confusion -- in other words, the exact opposite of what a public health crisis calls for, particularly as the coronavirus is spreading across the nation with more than 200 confirmed cases in at least 17 states, as Nick Watt now reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Washington state, now 70 cases, 11 deaths, seven tied to this nursing home. Quarantine centers being prepped to contain the spread, this motel, and a Department of Corrections site.

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: I'm very confident that is a safe facility, it is geographically remote.

WATT: Also, now, blanket advice for everyone.

INSLEE: We think people should give serious consideration about whether they go to nonessential congregations of people.

WATT: Amazon now telling Seattle area employees to work from home through the end of this month.

In New York state, the case count doubled overnight from 11 to 22.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: Eight of the new cases are connected to the attorney from Westchester, New Rochelle area, two are in New York City, and one is on Long Island.