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Biden vs. Sanders; Interview With Former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin; Trump Administration Prepared to Handle Pandemic?. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired March 9, 2020 - 16:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He spoke at a fund-raiser at his Palm Beach club, golfed with Major League Baseball players, and hosted the Brazilian president for a big dinner with friends.

Though Trump insists he's not worried about coronavirus coming closer to Washington...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not concerned at all. No, I'm not.

COLLINS: ... it just did. Three Republican lawmakers are now quarantining themselves after interacting with an attendee at a conservative conference outside Washington who has since tested positive for coronavirus.

That happened at the same conference where the former acting White House chief of staff accused the media of exaggerating coronavirus concerns.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The reason you're seeing -- you're seeing so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to be what brings down the president. That's what this is all about.

COLLINS: Trump also spoke at the conference, though organizers say he didn't come in contact with the coronavirus patient. The attendee did shake hands with the event's organizer, Matt Schlapp, who was later photographed shaking hands with the president.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president of the united, as we all know, is a quite a hand washer. He uses hand sanitizer all the time, so he's not concerned about this at all.


COLLINS: Of course, Jake, there are now several Republican lawmakers who are going to self-quarantine because of -- they came in contact with this coronavirus patient. Two of those, we know, have had extensive contacts with the president,

one being Doug Collins, who was seen shaking the president's hand when he landed in Georgia on Friday to go visit the CDC, then accompanied him on that CDC tour, therefore spending more time with him.

And, of course, Matt Gaetz of Florida just flew back with the president on Air Force One, and then announced minutes later he is also going to self-quarantine.

So there are two members of Congress who interacted with this patient who has coronavirus that also interacted with the president.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes, it's a good idea during a pandemic to stop shaking hands with people.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Is the United States health care system ready to handle a coronavirus pandemic? One of President Trump's former top health officials joins me next.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Continuing with the politics lead.

President Trump from continuing to downplay the threat from coronavirus outbreak and accusing Democrats of exaggerating the situation for political gain.

CNN is now classifying the deadly spread as a pandemic.

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. David Shulkin. He's the former Veterans Affairs secretary under President Trump. He also ran some of the largest and most prominent hospital systems in the nation.

Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: So, you ran the VA.

You ran a major hospital system in the U.S. Is the United States health care system ready for a massive influx of possible patients with serious medical needs in a way that might be required in a pandemic?

SHULKIN: Jake, we have one of the most expensive health care infrastructures in the world. But you have to be able to know where those resources are.

So, knowing which hospitals have negative pressure rooms -- the Department of Veteran Affairs has 1,000 negative pressure rooms, but whether they're going to be accessible and available...

TAPPER: What is negative pressure room?

SHULKIN: Well, that's where, if you have a respiratory illness, the air in the room actually doesn't flow out into the hallway to infect staff and other patients, but it stays in the room.


SHULKIN: And that's what you need when you need to isolate people, those people that are going to be sick and have to stay in the hospital.

TAPPER: I see people on Twitter and elsewhere who are -- maybe they were at CPAC or at AIPAC or some other place where this virus has been identified, somebody with it, and they're calling their local health care systems and -- or departments of health and being told, we don't have any tasks. We don't know what to tell you. We don't know where to send you.

I mean, we're months into this crisis.


This is really the role of government. Government needs to make sure that people know the answers to their questions and know where to get the tests, know what the symptoms are, know what to do once they're diagnosed.

We don't want people rushing to hospital emergency rooms, where it's the worst place for them to be...

TAPPER: Right.

SHULKIN: Because it can affect others.

And we really want to know where the resources are, what people should do, where they go to find the type of help that's available, because not all hospitals are prepared for this.

So I believe the government needs to begin to step up to begin to answer those questions. How do you get care at home? How do you use telehealth, as an example? How do you get the right type of treatment, should you be ill? And where do you go and who do you call when you get that help?

And, unfortunately, we're just not seeing that level of information being supplied right now.

TAPPER: And as a former VA secretary, you must be concerned about the spread of this in the U.S. military or at VA hospitals.

SHULKIN: Well, particularly concerned about our veterans. Many of our veterans now are older.

We actually have 350,000 World War II veterans who are very vulnerable in situations like this. So, getting the right information, being prepared, making sure that we're doing the right things.

In the military, of course, we have people all over the world in close quarters. And the single goal of military health operations is readiness. So this is a very critical issue. So I see them doing many of the right things. They're canceling leaves, making sure that they're doing appropriate screening, something that I think should be done in the broader American population as well, but making sure that they're on top of this to stay ready should those soldiers be needed.

TAPPER: And you have said Americans should ignore the politicians on the coronavirus and listen to experts.

Some politicians have been saying things that we know are false. We try to fact-check it as soon as they say them, but they have huge loudspeakers. They have said -- politicians have said that the infection rates are going down. That's not true.

They have said that anyone who wants to get a test can get a test. That's not true.


What's the impact the impact of all these falsehoods on the American public as they try to get answers?

SHULKIN: Yes. Yes, it's really unfortunate.

This is actually our first Google pandemic. This is where there are more people Googling coronavirus than Donald Trump actually. And now people are getting their information from lots of places that aren't credible, because they're not getting the answers that they need.

And when you don't provide good information, or when you provide bad information or no information at all, that's where fear starts. And so I'm seeing people who are stopping their immunosuppressed medications. I'm seeing people delaying chemotherapy.

So this can actually be harmful if people aren't getting the right information, and they don't believe it, because, in the absence of testing, where we have the right type of data to make fact-based decision-making, people are making up their own answers to the questions. And that's leading to panic and fear.

TAPPER: It's President Trump that I'm talking about, although I know you might not want to acknowledge that.

President Trump tweeted today: "So, last year, 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down. Life and the economy go on. At this moment, there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 22 deaths." Those numbers have gone up since the tweet. "Think about that."

Now, he's right on the numbers, but there is a serious difference between the flu and the coronavirus that make this minimizing dangerous. What is the difference? Explain to us.


Well, the coronavirus is a special type of virus that has a transmission rate that is pretty incredible. So, we're going to see...

TAPPER: Worse than the flu.

SHULKIN: Yes, worse than the flu.

TAPPER: And deadlier than the flu.

SHULKIN: And it is deadlier than the flu. So we're going to see more rapid transmission, without taking actions, and we're also going to see much worse health consequences, including, ultimately, deaths.

And while you do have deaths with influenza -- and the numbers are bigger -- this is a more virulent type of virus. And so I think we have to take it very seriously.

TAPPER: Dr. Shulkin, thank you so much for your expertise. We really appreciate it.

Super Tuesday two, who might the sequel benefit the most? Up next, why for Biden and Sanders, the answer may come down to one state in particular.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: And we're back with our 2020 lead.

Joe Biden hoping to replicate his Super Tuesday magic tomorrow on Super Tuesday two by following a playbook we have definitely seen before. Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris joining Biden on the campaign trail in Michigan this evening, just one week after Biden publicly scored the endorsements of three other former competitors, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O'Rourke.

Let's discuss with our panel.

So, the big prize, Laura, is Michigan, although there are five other states. Polls have Biden up, but polls had Hillary up four years ago, and Senator Sanders won four years ago, so who knows what's going to happen?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, although I would say that Biden is favored heading in to tomorrow.

Michigan has more than 100 delegates. So, as you said, it is the big prize. Even though Clinton lost Michigan, she won the black vote in 2016 by some 40 percent. And Biden is expected to look there for a big chunk of his support.

Also, if we look to Super Tuesday's results, he did well with white working-class voters.

TAPPER: Sanders did?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Biden did on in Super Tuesday...

TAPPER: Oh, OK, yes...

BARRON-LOPEZ: ... across the board, this Super Tuesday.


BARRON-LOPEZ: So in about eight or nine of the Super Tuesday states, Biden actually beat Sanders with white voters without a college degree, as well as white voters with a college degree.

So that could maybe bode well for him going into Michigan.

TAPPER: As Biden racks up endorsements, CNN's Harry Enten notes -- quote -- "No candidate has picked up as many endorsements as Biden has in the last week at a comparable week in the last 14 primaries."

And the Democratic establishment really is coalescing around Biden.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I think it's less about the individual endorsements. I don't know that endorsements matter as much in today's politics as they did decades ago.

I mean, I covered a campaign in 2016 where then candidate Trump got very few endorsements, and it didn't really make a difference. I think the difference here is that it's more about the momentum that that gives. There's obviously a certain narrative around racking up these endorsements day after day after day.

And, obviously, that is giving Joe Biden a huge amount of momentum going forward. Obviously, if he can win Michigan as well, that will just add to that media narrative and add to the momentum that Biden has heading into the convention.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: You know what endorsement really did make a difference? Jim Clyburn.


TAPPER: Yes, for Biden. Yes.

KRISTOL: All these others were trailing along. Clyburn in South Carolina that Wednesday, people forget how down and out Biden looked after Nevada.

And he had some strength there anyway, obviously, and did OK in the debate the night before. But Clyburn really is the most valuable player for the Biden campaign, I would say, in this campaign.

TAPPER: Take a listen, Karen, because Cory Booker was asked about Senator Sanders' argument that the Democratic power brokers, the Democratic establishment, pressured Klobuchar and Buttigieg to rally behind Biden, that this was the establishment coming home.

Here's what Cory Booker had to say.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): I don't think so.

First of all, Bernie's my friend. I have a lot of respect for him and have worked with him in Washington, D.C. I just want us to get beyond pointing fingers at each other, trying to tear each other down.

We can't tolerate that right now.


TAPPER: That's a tough argument to make during a primary. You can't attack anybody.

I mean, how else are you supposed to win a primary? But that's the Biden-Booker message, which is time for us to come together to uncle Joe.

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You can make attacks, you can draw contrasts, but you don't have to keep telling the church ladies, for God's sakes, that they are establishment, evil, ganging up, because, I will tell you.

I have mentioned this after South Carolina. I'm still hearing it. People, rank-and-file Democrats who knock on the doors and do all the work in between, they're sick and tired of it. And people feel scared.


I mean, the dynamics of 2020 are very different than 2016. People are afraid. They want to beat Trump. And I think people feel less like we're going to coalesce into some big, scary establishment, and more into, we're going to come together around a nominee that we think can beat Trump, so that we can move this country forward.

I don't think people feel as much of the take down the establishment sentiment that they might have in 2016, because now -- I mean, particularly if you are low income, if you're a person of color, you don't have the slack to screw this up.

TAPPER: Well, that's the argument from the Biden campaign and that a lot of people who support Biden are making.

Senator Sanders has an argument to a lot of people in Michigan. Here's an ad he's running going after Biden for some of the trade deals that Biden has supported over his 45-year career. Take a listen.


NARRATOR: Only Bernie Sanders has consistently fought job-killing trade deals. Joe Biden? He supported NAFTA and every other bad trade agreement. With a record like that, we can't trust him to protect American jobs

or defeat Donald Trump.


TAPPER: Now, this is what Sanders said to me when I asked him over the weekend, do you think that Joe Biden can't beat President Trump in these Industrial Midwest states because of his support for those trade deals?

And Sanders basically said, I think he can beat him. But I think we need to have a stronger contrast.


And so this was a deliberate shift for Sanders' campaign was to attack Biden here, to attack Biden more aggressively on Social Security with these ads, because, up until this point, they hadn't been purchasing negative ad buys.

TAPPER: Fact-based attacks, we should point out. They're accurate.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. Yes, they are.

And so, although to the point that we were making earlier, Congressman Khanna, who is a co-chair of Sanders' campaign, did say that he thinks Sanders should be a bit more specific when he's making those attacks against the establishment, meaning that he should specify that it's against special interests, it's against pharmaceutical industry, it's against the insurance industry, and not that it's necessarily against the Democratic Party, writ large, acknowledging that the party has been a force to help battle Jim Crow, to help work along with civil rights leaders.

So, Khanna, one of Sanders surrogates, thinks that the campaign needs to shift the message slightly.

TAPPER: Although we should point out, in 2016, when he was attacking Hillary Clinton for being part of the Democratic establishment, he was -- Senator Sanders also talked about Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign, the pro-LGBT group as part of the establishment.

FINNEY: Right.

That's true, and that actually was problematic for him. Look, I think, very quickly, his trade argument also worked against Hillary Clinton. So we will have to see coming out of tomorrow, does it work against Joe Biden? Biden's counter also is saving the auto industry in Michigan. That's a big deal.

TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around.

Next, we hear from voters who will help decide if Sanders or Biden walk away with tomorrow's biggest prize.

Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today: Six states are up for grabs in tomorrow's Democratic primaries, and all eyes are on Michigan. That's a state Senator Bernie Sanders won in an upset in 2016.

But brand-new polls out today have former Vice President Joe Biden leading in Michigan as the clear front-runner after last week's Super Tuesday. Could Michigan be Bernie Sanders' last stand/

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich reports from Detroit.


JOHN HATLINE, GM WORKER/UNION MEMBER: health care is important all of us.

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS REPORTER (voice-over): We met John Hatline in this exact spot six months ago on strike against General Motors in Detroit, fighting to keep his union-paid health insurance.

On Tuesday, he's voting for the candidate who could take it away.

HATLINE: MY vote is going for Bernie here in Michigan. I'm hoping that Bernie Sanders will have as good as health insurance that I have for the whole country.

YURKEVICH: The union vote, crucial here in Michigan, nearly 600,000- members strong. Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 with their help, but now Joe Biden is fighting to bring them to his side.

President Trump won Michigan by a razor-thin margin in 2016, with the help of Macomb County, a white working-class suburb that voted for President Obama twice, then Trump. A Sunday brunch here, Elizabeth Warren supporters now looking for another choice.

SARA GIELEGHEM, WARREN SUPPORTER: I'm leaning towards Joe Biden right now.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Some would say that Bernie Sanders actually aligns more with Elizabeth Warren's platforms.

GIELEGHEM: Yes, in as -- so much, he does.

YURKEVICH (voice-over): Fellow Warren supporter Rhonda Warner is also voting for Biden.

RHONDA WARNER, WARREN SUPPORTER: I think Joe Biden's experience and the support from other Democrats that I know he will need to get policy passed make him the choice for me.

YURKEVICH: Bert's Market Place in downtown Detroit has been a staple in the African-American community for decades. A picture of the Obamas hangs inside. For voters here, Tuesday's election is another critical moment.

JAI-LEE DEARING, OWNER, BERT'S MARKET PLACE: I feel like my life depends on it. We're praying like hell that Vice President Biden is the nominee.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Is he just automatically a shoo-in with the African-American community?


YURKEVICH (voice-over): Letrice Murphy is leaning towards Sanders.

MURPHY: Bernie Sanders was marching beside Martin Luther King. So, I feel that he could get the African-American vote because he was basically down in the trenches with us.


YURKEVICH: No matter who voters are supporting on Tuesday, one thing the voters we spoke to said that they could all agree on is that they would support the Democratic nominee, no matter who it is, because their number one priority, Jake, is beating Donald Trump come November -- Jake.

TAPPER: Vanessa Yurkevich in Detroit, Michigan, before the Michigan primary, thanks so much.