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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Trump Claims U.S. is Doing Great Amid 3,300 Plus Cases of Coronavirus Throughout the U.S.; Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to Face Off on the Debate Stage Minus the Audience; Interview with DNC Chair Tom Perez about the Democratic Debate. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 15, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Coming together in this big election. The numbers, of course rising fast. You must not be surprised. 3400 cases right now in every state but West Virginia. We have 65 people who've lost their lives to this virus so far.

The president said, quote, "Relax, we are doing great, it will pass." Now, his top scientific adviser, Dr. Tony Fauci said, "The worst is yet to come."

Throughout the day people learned of big changes coming in their lives. New York's governor announced schools closings in the biggest districts in the country, New York City and surrounding counties, West Chester County, Nassau County.

Dr. Fauci warned of even more dislocation in everyday lives. Hospitals are preparing for capacity issues. Cases will be coming to hospitals. Will they handle them? We'll see.

The Federal Reserve Bank announced drastic action to boost the economy, Anderson. That was a big deal.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes, it was. And the purely medical and public health questions of course are looming large.

Joining is Dr. Seema Yasmin, director of the Stanford Health Community Initiative, a former CDC disease detective. Also back with us, Dr. Leana Wen, former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

Dr. Yasmin, the president says the novel coronavirus is, quote, "something we have tremendous control of." Is that true?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, DIRECTOR, STANFORD HEALTH COMMUNICATION INSTITUTE: No. He also said relax which I think is really patronizing to millions of people who are perplexed and confused about what to do and really how grave the situation is.

Anderson, at times like this, we have a playbook for how you communicate during a public health crisis. That playbook talks about consistent, clear messaging and it also talks about this thing called anticipatory guidance which is basically giving people a heads up that things are going to get bad. They could get worse before they get better and get ready for it. That's really the kind of messaging we need now. Not mocking Americans for panic buying because what else do people do when they feel a lack of personal control? They do things that are irrational like buying toilet paper. What we need now is clear messaging about how testing is going to roll out but also about social distancing. That's key in controlling this pandemic but it's especially key right now.

COOPER: You know, Dr. Wen, Vice President Pence said at the press conference today the administration is going to have 1.9 million tests available this week. I mean, we certainly heard Vice President Pence talk about, you know, a million tests are going out there are already out there. You know, you can get tested if you need it. Is that enough? I mean, if in fact 1.9 million are going to go out this week, is that significant?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I mean, it sounds like a lot of tests but the question is where are they going? And what is that reality look like on the ground? Because I'm talking to patients who have symptoms, who may even have exposure to someone who has coronavirus, who are calling around to their doctor's office, to an urgent care center, to their ER, to their hospital. They're not getting answers.

I speak to very frustrated doctors and nurses who are seeing their ER waiting rooms filled with patients for coming in, who are not sick. I mean, they may not be feeling well, but they don't need acute care services in the ER. But they're taking up room in the ER and patients were having heart attacks and strokes are not able to get the care that they need.

So we really need to know where are these tests going, what's the plan to roll them out, who has access to these tests and what does it mean for doctors and patients on the ground.

COOPER: Dr. Yasmin, I mean, you know, one of the things that reasoned people care about tests is not just to, you know, know whether or not they have the virus but for health professionals to be able to then trace where that person has been, who they may have come in contact with, given the fact that a lot of people cannot get tested, there is not that tracing being done. So what impact does that actually have on tracing the spread of this virus and the continuing spread of the virus?

YASMIN: Why it completely slows down your response, and that's why so many of us has been hammering on about testing actually from really early on, Anderson, because early testing in an epidemic response almost acts as prevention. You start to identify whether a (INAUDIBLE) of disease, you start giving really focused public health and safety guidance to people in those communities.

Now we are 45 days into the declaration of this being a public health emergency. And the U.S. has done a fraction, a tiny fraction of the number of tests we really should have done. That means we just don't know the true extent of spread in this country. And it means we are about to see is what we call an epidemic of detection where you suddenly stop see the numbers go up and up but really we should have been seeing that weeks ago.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, I mean, you're a doctor. You advise patients, what do you tell your patients when they ask you who do I listen to?

[19:05:03]

I mean, do I listen to what the president is saying or do I listen to what Dr. Fauci is saying or what the vice president -- I mean, there is a lot of people talking when it's not clear who's actually, you know, giving factual information. That's -- that makes it more scary.

WEN: Well, I would definitely tell my patients to listen to the public health experts and their doctor and their local health officials as well. But you're right, the message is muddled because we have the president saying things are going to be fine when they're really not. I mean, how can things be fine when we're seeing that the cases of patients are doubling every few days. We just watched the numbers of patients with coronavirus, the patients dying from this disease every day.

So we need the clarity of message and we also need to be very clear with the American people that this is very serious. That these are extraordinary times. This is not the time to live your life as usual. I mean, I see in my neighborhood people going around and having birthday parties and celebrations and Saint Patrick's Day celebrations. The bars are crowded.

I mean, this is exactly the opposite of what should be happening right now. And everyone needs to be clear about what we should do going forward.

COOPER: Dr. Wen, Dr. Yasmin, I appreciate it. We'll talk to you throughout the night. Thanks very much. Chris?

CUOMO: What's the trick? What the doctors just said is the right information but it's tough to hear if you're the one who has to do the forbearance. And that is what we see the president falling prey to again and again. He wants to stay popular through this. It's tough to lead in a tough time. He's learning that lesson.

Anderson, we'll be back to you in a second.

The pandemic of course not just the backdrop to tonight's debate. It is the foreground as well and everything in between.

Joining us now for a look ahead, CNN's Jeff Zeleny. Often presidential elections are about something that was unanticipated when they began. That's where we are.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Chris, there's no question about it. And this is a different moment in every way. For the first bit, and we're going to see Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders alone. This is the first debate that they've been alone. But there's not going to be a studio audience. They were supposed to be in Phoenix, Arizona, so everything about the mood and the moment is entirely different here. Joe Biden, of course, wants to show that he is the epitome of

presidential leadership. He's been making this argument for the last year. Now is his chance to show it. His advisers I've been talking to you throughout the day that he does indeed want to show presidential leadership and how he would sort of be directing this country in a time of crisis.

He also, though, Chris, needs to do something else. He's going to extend an olive branch yet again to Bernie Sanders supporters. This is still a contest going on in the Democratic campaign. He is ahead in delegates but he's trying to reach out to Bernie Sanders supporters. So he's moved in a couple of different directions. He's assigned on now to a bankruptcy bill Elizabeth Warren once supported. He's also now supporting free college. So it was a plan not quite as extreme or far reaching as Bernie Sanders' proposal. But that is what he is going to do.

So there also is a sense from Senator Sanders that he wants to press Joe Biden on the argument of progressive leadership. He wants to press him on those ideas. So this is something that is going to be certainly fascinating. But you're right, the pandemic is front and center in all of this as these two men square off here tonight -- Chris.

CUOMO: Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

ZELENY: Sure.

CUOMO: Let's take it to the panel. Van Jones, coronavirus is going to be literally all over this debate tonight. Challenge for both sides?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, challenge for both sides, I think, first of all, the Democratic Party have an opportunity to put forward two statesmen in a time of crisis, in a time of real unrest and uncertainty who can speak to our better angels and try to bring us together, or they can try and tear each other apart. I don't think the country wants to see two old guys screaming at each other tonight. What they want to hear are what would you do and what would you in a situation like this, to make sure that we get through this thing well.

And so I think that both campaigns have to know that. Bernie Sanders has to make a decision, does he want to destroy Biden or develop him? In other words, by challenging Biden, he can do it in a way that really undermines Biden or he can do it in a way that builds him and moves him in your right direction. That's the kind of nuance that we're going to be looking for tonight. Is Bernie trying to reassure the country or take out his opponent? Is he trying to destroy or develop Biden?

CUOMO: It's tough to do in the context of coronavirus. Right? Because there's going to be so much emphasis, Kirsten, on coronavirus because it's consuming the country and it's really not what Bernie Sanders wants to talk about. That's a tough balance for him.

KRISTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right. I mean, and there's also the fact that Bernie wants to win the presidential election. Right? CUOMO: That's right. He doesn't want to build up Biden, he wants to

beat him.

POWERS: Yes. So I think if Bernie decided well, I'm not going to win then it's why -- I need to bring Biden along. But I don't think Bernie is there yet.

CUOMO: Yes.

POWERS: I think Bernie still wants to try to win but he's got to strike the right balance because I think that because we're in this very difficult time as a country, Van is right, people do not want to see these two going after each other in any kind of personal way.

[19:10:10]

But, you know, Bernie has said he wants to go after Biden on policy issues. And that's completely acceptable, there's nothing wrong with that. And so I would expect them to be very, you know -- draw some clear distinctions with each other but I would be surprised if there was any personal attacks.

CUOMO: Governor, I just want to point out to people, if you could show all of us for a second. This is not a subtle message that we're sending. We are farther apart. Look how small Van's head is on your screen right now. We are farther apart -- because it's a shame, he's got one of the most (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: We're trying to send a message that separation is obviously something. You'll see on the debate stage tonight, the two -- the debaters are going to be six feet apart. All right, those podiums wider apart than normal. This is all about just trying to surrender the me to the we. Right? And just trying to be consistent, Governor, on the message that we've got to take this seriously.

Now, how does this -- this is a tricky thing tonight, this debate because again, Bernie Sanders wants to win. Coronavirus is consuming the country. That's not a good battleground for him. He does not distinguish himself from Biden. He'll try to make it a healthcare issue. But it checks a lot of boxes. We've been talking about Bernie. What is the challenge for Joe Biden?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, ENDORSED BIDEN: Listen, it's very simple for Joe Biden tonight. Americans are looking for someone who can lead. We're in a crisis today in our nation, and global. They want someone who has the experience to lead. And I'm sure Joe Biden will talk about how he did the auto bailout, the Recovery Act, a very difficult time. He was able to bring our country together.

Listen, the math is almost impossible for Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden is the likely nominee and I think going into this debate, I agree, I think that Bernie is going to want to make some points on policy issues. But listen, we have to bring our country together. We have a president today -- CUOMO: How do you do that, by the way? Everybody is freaking out

because they're getting mixed messages. They can't get tested.

MCAULIFFE: yes.

CUOMO: And things are shutting down around them, and they are not -- they're increasingly not living the lives they want to. So how do you bring them together?

MCAULIFFE: And that's a good point. And that's why they don't want to see everybody screaming at one another. They want to see leadership. They want to show that the Democrats, and we need to show that, are able to take this mantle on a very difficult time.

You have a president who compulsively lies day in and day out. From day one, if you'll remember, this is just one man from China. We'll stop it. A week later, we've stopped it, don't worry about it.

CUOMO: Hoax.

MCAULIFFE: A week later, he said it will miraculously go away. When springtime comes in April, I mean, really? And then he went out there and told the other day that the testing has been solved. People are dying to be able to get test. They need to see the testing. And that's the problem that Trump has had. He said that there were 1700 whatever engineers working on it. Well, the company only has 1,000 people. It's doing a small test in San Francisco. So we don't have the testing. Tonight, it has to show the Democrats are ready to lead. We will tell you the truth no matter what happens in a crisis. We will lead and we will tell you the truth to give Americans confidence.

POWERS: So I think that you're saying, you know, that this isn't where Bernie Sanders wants to necessarily be arguing, but to a certain extent it is, because his fundamental argument is that our medical system is broken. Right? And thank God it has -- it hasn't happened here yet what has happened in Italy, but God forbid that happens because we're not ready. We do not have enough beds. We have far fewer beds available that you see in a lot of these horrible socialist countries. Right? And I think that that's the point he's trying to make. That this is actually going to show us exactly how broken our system is. And that's the conversation that he wants to be having.

CUOMO: Although I must say, he's talking about funding mechanisms and providers, capacity is a little bit of a nuanced issue that he hasn't really dealt with. But it's going to come up tonight in a lot of different ways.

Let's hold it there for now. Take a break, we have plenty of time to talk about this. It's going to be important for two reasons. Everybody is home. So a lot of people are going to be watching tonight.

And you've been hearing so much about coronavirus. For the first time politics will be a little bit of a break in terms of what we've all been dealing with in terms of urgency and there are a lot of questions about leadership. Is there somebody who could do a better? You're going to hear it from two men who'll say yes about 45 minutes away. We're going to be joined by the Democrat in charge of what once was

compared to hurting cats. Keeping the party in line and on message. Of course, that's party chair Tom Perez joining us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:18:19]

COOPER: We are looking now at the side of tonight's CNN Univision Democratic presidential debate. At this point we would ordinarily mention that the hall is filling up. Tonight you're looking at the political equivalent of social distancing as Chris pointed out earlier. On the one hand, none of the kind of electricity that comes from having an audience actually on hand.

CUOMO: It's a meeting of my fan club in that audience right now.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: And look, you know, a lot of people are home, though, right? So people are going to be watching this by default, right, because they're looking for some opportunities but also because of the moment we're living right now. People care about government right now in a way that maybe they didn't earlier in the election and certainly leadership has been brought into very sharp focus.

So this is kind of like 2008 if you think about it. The economy was melting down. There was new context injected into that election where there again now. So the question becomes well, what does this mean for Democrats and what does this mean for the two people who want to lead them right now?

Let's get perspective from someone trying to hold the party together. Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez.

So tonight you have to balance huge national concerns, I am sure you're hearing it from your own family, from your own friends, you know, the concerns. What does that have to mean on the stage tonight?

TOM PEREZ, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: This is a leadership moment. This is a moment that calls for clear, compassionate leadership. Leadership that is not afraid of the facts. Leadership that will enable the American people to see that our Democratic candidates are truly able to meet the moment.

This is a serious and somber time, Chris. We all know that. Our lives are upended in ways that we didn't imagine and frankly and frustratingly are self-preventable because we have a president who didn't prepare for this.

[19:20:12]

And so that's what we are going to see tonight. I think it will be more somber. You will see the candidates really talk about the need for us to come together, talk about how they have in fact dealt with similar issues in the past. And you know, there will be disagreements here and there. But I think what you're going to see more than anything, Chris, are two leaders who are exuding that leadership. And the American people desperately craves that sort of leadership right now.

CUOMO: I got two challenge questions for you. One is about the past, the other is about the future. The question about the past. Do you believe it is fair criticism for the president and his supporters to point out what happened during h1n1, the swine flu, that Biden was supposed to be overseeing that. It wasn't handled well, a lot more people died, and that a lot of the challenges for this administration are laws passed during the Obama administration. Fair criticism or no? And why?

PEREZ: Absolutely not. And here's why, the president walked into h1n1. That -- and by the way, the epicenter or an epicenter of h1n1 was Mexico. And because they actually understood preparedness, they were able to prevent what could have been far worse by the fact that they actually looked at the science. They were prepared and they acknowledged. They did everything that Dr. Fauci does every day, and everything that Donald Trump should be doing, but isn't doing.

And so -- and then, as you know, in the aftermath of Ebola, President Obama who as a Senator Obama introduced a number of bills about preparing this. And so they created an office of preparedness in the White House. And what does this president do? He eliminates it. And when you're talking about national security, national security isn't simply issues of guns and terrorism. That's a huge part of it. But national security also involves pandemics and things of this nature. And this president just didn't get it. So night and day, Chris. Absolutely night and day.

CUOMO: OK. On one level, given the state of play right now, you're lucky you're not running against Tony Fauci. I think you'd have a tough task on your hands. So now in terms of the challenge for you going forward. National security, you just said. If there starts to be a call of the primaries, they're too dangerous, too many people coming out. We just had Governor Pritzker from Illinois say, there's been plenty of pre-voting, I'm not worried about long lines in Illinois on Tuesday. That's a lot optimism. He had eight million voters in 2016. If there starts to become more pressure on you, the primaries have to stop, maybe no convention, are you worried about a domino effect?

PEREZ: I don't think we're going to need to deal with that, Chris, because fortunately there are so many states where, for instance, you look at Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, there is vote by mail. No excuse, absentee voting. When you spread out early voting, you can eliminate or minimize the extent of lines.

There's a lot you can do and frankly Democrats have been fighting to make voting easier for eligible people. And unfortunately Republicans have been fighting to make voting harder. So we don't minimize at all the challenges that exists and making sure that we protect our campaign workers, our poll workers, and our candidates. We don't minimize the seriousness of that.

But we can do this. If you look at the elections that have taken place so far, last Tuesday, Super Tuesday, throughout, we've been dealing with this issue throughout, and to the best of my knowledge, we've been able to handle it. And we're going to continue to consult with public health officials. I think we can move forward. All four of the states, Tuesday are moving forward. And by the way, this coming Tuesday is the third biggest haul of delegates. It may be only four states. But it's a large amount of delegates, it's about 14 percent.

And so we're going to continue our efforts moving forward. We're always going to put people's health first and I think we can also move forward with our democracy.

CUOMO: Well, I appreciate the answers obviously. It means one thing with the set of facts we have now. Let's see how the situation on the ground changes our analysis of what is safe and not safe.

Tom Perez, good luck with the debate tonight. Thank you for joining us as always.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure, Chris.

CUOMO: Anderson?

COOPER: Yes, things moving very quickly on the ground.

OK, our own political team is with us now, lending perspective throughout the debate now. David Axelrod, Gloria Borger, David Chalian, Laura Barron-Lopez.

What are you expecting tonight for this debate, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they're not going to be frontally attacking each other the way they might have been at this particular moment.

COOPER: It's going to be a tone, the kind of tenor we have not heard.

BORGER: Very, very different tone. If you've just had these two fellows on the stage together and they were still duking it out in the middle of a regular campaign, it would be very different.

[19:25:03]

I think tonight they're going to unite against Donald Trump and the way he has handled the coronavirus. And I think you'll hear from Joe Biden about how they would have handled it differently in the Obama administration. But I also do believe that you are going to see a lot of Bernie Sanders saying to Joe Biden, I told you so. He's coming around to a couple of Sanders positions on college affordability and bankruptcy reform, and so you're going to see Bernie Sanders saying to Biden, better late than ever because what Biden wants to do tonight is really kind of unite the party.

COOPER: David, I mean, do we know how the coronavirus, how this is going to affect the primary on Tuesday in those states? I mean, there's been a lot of early voting as we've been talking about. DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We don't. And, you

know, Governor Pritzker took that question. The governors in the other states can take that question. We really don't know how it is going to impact. They all seemed determine to move forward, a lot of early voting in those states.

But, Anderson, we should focus for a second on how astounding it is. It was just 18 days ago that they had their last debate. There were seven candidates on the stage. The speculation was that if Joe Biden didn't do really well in South Carolina, his campaign might be over. Bernie Sanders was the putative front runner in that race. The virus was emerging as an issue but it wasn't front and center.

Think how dramatically the world has changed now. Biden is in a very commanding position. And one effect of the viruses is it may freeze in place the advantages that he has here. But the -- so the tone and tenor of this debate will be different. And I think Biden is thinking as the likely nominee of the party now, and he's going to try and use the debate to throw olive branches to Sanders' supporters. That's why he did the bankruptcy -- adopted Elizabeth Warren's bankruptcy proposal.

That's why just today he reiterated his support for a version of free college, not universal like Sanders' but up to 125,000. He wants to signify to those particularly young Sanders' supporters, I hear you, your concerns are my concerns and we're going to march forward together.

COOPER: The virus, though, we have no idea. I mean, obviously how long it's going to last, how bad it's going to get. Fauci saying it's going to get worse certainly before it gets better, worse from where it is now. But I mean, now, you know, people work in bars, people work in restaurants, people work in hotels. The service industries. There's going to be, you know, a lot of people out of work with all these, businesses that are shutting down, kids out of school.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. American life has changed. I mean, American life is going to be completely changed. It started changing last week. We saw even much more so this week as you head into a workweek, as you head into a school week where you'll be working from home or students are home and there is no school in person, in class.

And that is why what's so intriguing about tonight, Anderson, it's two reasons why this debate is so different. One is the coronavirus, obviously putting this in a completely different context than the entirety of this presidential election to date. The second point is because the race itself is in such a different place. Joe Biden started turning to the general election this past week. When he went out Thursday to give a speech about coronavirus as a contrast with Donald Trump, that was his signal that he was moving on to a general election context even though Bernie Sanders is continuing his candidacy.

How he balances that tonight in a one-on-one debate is going to be important to watch. And David mentioned the olive branch and the outreach, this is as important it is for Bernie Sanders to bring his supporters on for unity in the party, this is Joe Biden's responsibility and a burden on him to actually do it in a way that works for him and for the party.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, POLITICO: And to your point, David. Sanders' campaign, his campaign manager actually told Politico that they're not, quote, "naive." That they know that this is a very uphill battle for them. That it's going to be a hard path if they even want to come back. But they are hopeful that the debate tonight can change the dynamic. And they actually do think, one of his coach chairs told me that they feel as though the coronavirus provides an opportunity for Sanders to highlight what he considers the dysfunction of the American healthcare system and that he'll plan to try to distinguish himself with Biden in that way and push Biden up more towards his policy.

COOPER: We're going to stay with us. When we return, someone who debated both men who are going to be on stage tonight. Andrew Yang joins us to talk about how both candidates might handle the questions about the virus and the huge stakes in the event. We'll be right back.

[19:33:31]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're about a half hour from the next Democratic debate. A lot of firsts tonight.

As we mentioned earlier, it's the first with just two candidates. The first since Joe Biden's dramatic change of fortune going from poor finishes in the first three contest to major wins that have made him the frontrunner in the race.

It's also the first to go without a live studio audience because of the coronavirus.

Joining us now is someone who knows the debate stage well and put through his support behind Joe Biden, former candidate and CNN political commentator, Andrew Yang.

Andrew, how do you think the coronavirus is going to impact the dynamics of tonight's debate and also just the financial -- potential financial ramifications of what this country is about to and is going through?

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The coronavirus is likely to dominate a significant part of the debate because it's dominating the news, it is dominating the public's attention.

It's one reason why a lot of people I think are going to be watching the debate tonight because everyone is stuck at home. There are no sports.

And for Bernie, it's both an incredible opportunity and a challenge. It's an opportunity because he has a very powerful critique of the healthcare system that many Americans right now agree with.

And he can paint Joe as a bit of an element or defender of the status quo that many Americans feel is not up to the challenge of the coronavirus.

The issue for Bernie is that because everyone in America is so focused on our own families, our schools closing, being too aggressive is going to not serve Bernie that well. So he has to try to balance in having a critique, but also not attacking too much because it's going to come across negatively since most Americans right now have bigger concerns on their minds and don't want to see him -- don't want to endorse someone who just seems like they're playing politics.

[19:35:12]

COOPER: Do you -- I mean, one can imagine Joe Biden wanting to focus on President Trump and obviously focus on the General Election, do you see Sanders going after Joe Biden?

Obviously, you know, Sanders is -- they differ on Medicare-for-All. Biden is -- you know, has kind of put out olive branches on various positions trying to appeal to younger people and with some Bernie Sanders supporters.

But do you see Sanders, you know, going double barrel against Joe Biden at this stage?

YANGL Well, we know exactly what Joe is going to do. Joe is going to pivot towards Trump in the General at every opportunity.

And so it really is more in Bernie's hands, how aggressive he wants to be in trying to paint policy contrasts.

The fact is, Joe and Bernie, get along. They're friends. And I think Bernie has a sense of the context of the race, and is not going to want to be too aggressive while trying to drag Joe towards policy positions that are more consistent with Bernie's on healthcare, on trying to remedy income inequality, on school loans and education.

COOPER: I'm wondering what do you make -- you know, the other thing that has happened just before this debate is the latest press conference involving the President and the Taskforce.

What are you making of what you heard today from the White House, from the administration, and also from the Federal Reserve just cutting interest rates?

YANG: Cutting interest rates does very, very little for most of the Americans who are going to be suffering the most, and you just talked about them.

Anderson, it is the bartenders, the hotel workers. I just passed a restaurant and it said we are closed until further notice because of the coronavirus.

So think about the chefs, the wait staff, the parking attendants, they're going to go home and lowering interest rates does nothing for them. That's why we need to put cash directly into Americans' hands in the form of a stimulus, of a dividend or universal basic income that helps keep families able to manage this crisis. Because people have been only home for a day or two, but the fact is,

we could be at this for weeks or even months.

It's unclear when we're going to get an all clear sign because we don't have very good data on the infection rate, or how widespread it is in our communities.

COOPER: Andrew Yang, appreciate it. Thanks -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson. So, you know, let's bring back the panel right now. On one level, all of this is very complicated, and it's in flux, and it's scary.

But in terms of leadership, it comes really down to very basic and simple precepts that have been ignored in this election and mocked really.

Someone in power, Van, has to tell you the truth when it matters.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

CUOMO: That is now a precious commodity. How does that play? Is it just presumptive that anybody does better than Trump on that level?

JONES: Well, it's hard to know, but I'll tell you what, Bernie Sanders has a reputation and a brand of being the guy that tells you what he thinks, and he's a straight shooter. And he does have an opportunity tonight.

Now, we kind of assume that he's going to go out there and kind of deal with kids clubs. We have seen debates actually flip the whole thing upside down when we saw, you know, Bloomberg get taken out by Elizabeth Warren.

We don't know what Bernie is going to do. I'm going to tell you what we could do. There are -- on these kind of issues, there are people, there are constituents that could hear a Bernie Sanders message tonight and hear it totally differently.

If you've got a bunch of student loans, if Bernie Sanders comes out, why don't we just forgive all your student loans? We just put a gazillion dollars into the banks and everything else. Let's get your student loans off the table.

Why don't we have a nationwide moratorium on evictions for everybody until this thing is over?

If you're in prison, especially if you're awaiting trial and you're sitting there, you know, waiting for three months, six months, lets you come home.

Homeless people, you've got a bunch of schools, campuses sitting there, hotels, open and empty. You could come out with very bold ideas that might actually put Biden in a position of seeming -- like he's not actually up to dealing with the full scope and scale this challenge. So you could see a debate performance from Bernie that changes this

race.

CUOMO: It could happen. Let's get quick takes. What do you think?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think also, this is this is a one on one debate. There isn't -- you know, Biden typically has not done that well in debates. He's had a couple of debates where he's done well.

Bernie typically doesn't mess up. He's always on point. He's always going. He's not confused, and sometimes when Biden has people go after him, he can get -- he can stumble a little bit.

And so there's nothing to deflect to here. There's no other person that's going to jump in. And so I think it'll be interesting to see that dynamic if Bernie starts going after him even on policy, what that kind of interaction is like.

CUOMO: You think there's a chance that Bernie does what Van is suggesting in the extreme, which is, we need a truth teller right now.

Joe, I love you. You're a friend of mine. You've struggled in the past, and this country needs somebody that they know will tell them the truth every time out. That can only be me, only I can tell the truth every time to paraphrase the President.

TERRY MCAULLIFFE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: If he could, if I am Joe Biden, I want to go calm, cool presidential. I can respond to that very simply.

CUOMO: How?

[19:40:05]

MCAULIFFE: Because the American public, as I say, we've talked about this, we are in a crisis and they want to see somebody, look, I can be President. That's what they want to see.

And they want to see -- so the hotter that Bernie may go with Joe, the smarter Joe would be to say, look, I'm presidential. I can deal with this.

I mean, here you have a President of the United States today, Chris, in the middle of this pandemic crisis globally. What is he doing? He's tweeting about Hillary's e-mails. He's tweeting against Chuck Schumer? And he's saying I may give a pardon to Michael Flynn.

The world is worried to death today, and I remind you, that it was Donald Trump who cut in 2018 the Epidemic Response Unit inside the White House. He then has cut the C.D.C. funding for epidemic response by 80 percent.

We were forward leaning in 49 countries. We reduced that by a third now because of the funding cut and guess who got cut, China where this whole thing started. Trump owns this and both Bernie and Joe tonight, make sure the

American public knows the truth about this.

CUOMO: Well, the big debate is only 20 minutes away. So we will see how this plays out in real time as the nation without question, faces a historic crisis. And a lot of people will be home watching, so let's take a break now. Stay with CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:45:16]

COOPER: Some breaking news in the virus. New guidelines from the C.D.C. and I just want to read a portion of it and I'm quoting now, "Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities."

The statement continues. "Therefore, C.D.C. in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings recommends that for the next eight weeks, organizers whether groups or individuals cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States."

CDC says this recommendation does not apply to the day-to-day operation of organizations like schools, institutes of higher learning or businesses.

Back now with our political team. I mean David Chalian, this has ramifications for primaries -- for upcoming primaries and we're sort of -- we're on unchartered waters.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean 50 people, not that large of a group. Right? And so hearing that, we've seen cities and states say bars and restaurants are going to be closed. But some cities here in Washington there were guidelines not to close, but to keep it under a certain number.

Well, 50 I don't know how -- I know it says it doesn't apply to businesses, but I don't know how you can gather in any kind of public space in that kind of way, if you're limiting at 50.

So whatever we thought about how life was going to change and the different things that we were going to have to do as individuals to alter our behavior, I just think hearing that information, Anderson suggests that it's going to be so much more than we thought we're going to have to do.

COOPER: I mean, there's even the question then of the conventions this summer, the Republican Democratic Conventions.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And both the Democrats and Republicans have said that they've been looking into contingency plans and that they're preparing in case they do have to cancel, which would be a mass gathering of thousands of people at each convention. Campaigns have already started to adapt to this new normal, which is

that we've seen, Sanders and Biden both hold virtual Town Halls, virtual fireside chats. Their campaigns aren't doing door knocking anymore.

Sanders campaign says that they are just resorting to phone calls, phone banks and texting. We've also got a number of activist groups and mobilization groups across the state say that they are now doing that just as of a few days ago.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But you know, this is two months. This is not do it for the next couple of weeks, and then we're going to reassess. This is two months.

And that gives you an idea of the severity that the C.D.C. sees here in wanting people to socially distance themselves.

So as Tony Fauci talks about that curve, and he wants to see the curve kind of flatten rather than peak, this is what they're trying to do.

And by keeping people apart for two months, they feel that maybe they can do that.

So on the one hand, you know, you have a President who says relax, we're doing great. It will pass.

And the hope is that yes, it will pass. But the question is when because the C.D.C. is now saying for two months, you have to change the way you live.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And we have overlapping crises here because there are such severe economic implications. There are so many, as Andrew Yang was saying earlier, you know, what was interesting earlier in the week, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden had kind of back-to-back statements after Trump's disastrous Oval Office speech.

They each wanted to rush in and show people what their presidential statement would look like. But they were they were different in some ways, because Biden focused very much on the protocol of what a government should do.

And Bernie Sanders focused very much on the kind of human dimensions, particularly economic dimensions and the personal dimensions of people whose kids are home from school and they have no way to take care of their kids. So they can't go to work or --

You know, there's a whole range of issues here. So it would be interesting in this debate, to see how much of a discussion evolves over those fundamental issues, which I would guess is what people are thinking about, as they're sitting at home tonight, wondering what the future is going to be like.

BORGER: And canceling their plans. You know, people have planned vacations with their families over spring break, they now have to figure out well, we're not going to do that, how are we going to pay -- how are we going to pay the babysitter if we're at home?

AXELROD: Right.

BORGER: How do we -- you know if you work as a waitress or if you're -- so it's your personal financial situation. It's your business, and what does your business do if your business has to cancel?

AXELROD: But you know what? Wouldn't it have been great -- and I don't want to harp on this, but it's so important.

You know, when Churchill took over in 1940, he didn't say you know, the Germans are coming, but I've got this. Don't worry about it. Relax.

[19:50:06]

AXELROD: I mean, there really is -- it is really so important for the leader to say, this is a bad situation. We've got a real challenge here, and we're all going to have to be a part of meeting that challenge and we just haven't seen that and we'll see if we see it tonight from these guys.

COOPER: It's also, I mean, it's very rare that you have a situation in which each of us is a player in the solution to this.

I mean, it requires a massive societal change in behavior and you know, willingness to wash your hands more regularly and not getting in someone else's face and --

BARRON-LOPEZ: And not go to bars and not go to restaurants. I've refrained from doing that. POLITICO and I know other news outlets have already started teleworking, so other than coming in tonight, a lot of reporters are staying away from the Hill or staying away from their newsrooms.

So it's definitely a change in life as any of us are used to it. And it'll have to continue clearly for the foreseeable future.

One thing I'm also looking at tonight, though, is whether or not any of the candidates talk about the notable exemption in the House Bill, which is that for the paid sick leave that was applied, it doesn't apply to companies with 500 or more employees.

So that leaves out companies that are like CVS or Walmart or Amazon, and it seems like something that Sanders would definitely jump on in a debate like this.

It'll be interesting to see whether or not Biden joins --

CHALIAN: It was the last minute sticking point. I mean --

BARRON-LOPEZ: That's right.

CHALIAN: The Democrats wanted to go that way and the administration, in final negotiations, this is the only place that they could have landed for Nancy Pelosi to pass it. BORGER: And I think they're going to try and go back at it because

they couldn't -- they couldn't get it this time. This whole --

CHALIAN: Or she'll say to pass something that would get the President's signature.

BORGER: This reminds me of John McCain and his campaign was talking about being a part of something that is greater than yourself. And that is what leadership sometimes has to ask of the public, to be a part of something that's bigger than you are for the greater good.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: And that is something we have not yet heard.

COOPER: And it's not something frankly, that I mean, that this President has been involved with, really, in his life in another capacity. It's a very different kind of situation he finds himself in.

I want to turn this over to Chris. His panel for their take on the C.D.C. breaking news -- Chris.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Thank you very much, Anderson. So 50 or less, let's avoid it. What does that mean?

JONES: Well, I mean, the obvious thing is that there's not a polling station in most parts of America that can meet that standard. So I don't know if anybody's doing the math on this, but what does it say about Tuesday?

We've got Super Tuesday 3 coming up. We got a -- we're in the middle of a national election. These things are starting to collide now.

CUOMO: So the C.D.C. said it, but Terry, as you were talking earlier on, the states control voting, so C.D.C. says nothing 50 or above. Van's point is right. What happens to the State Primaries?

MCAULIFFE: No, you still run the state. The governors running in your particular state with your Board of Elections, you've got to make the decision.

People are going to vote on Tuesday. I mean, we already have a lot of people who have already voted by now. These four elections are going to go on Tuesday, and I think C.D.C. guidance for, you know, other big events around, but you're not stopping the Primaries on Tuesday.

JONES: I want to say, I think that it is good that we're starting to get some Federal guidance, and I think taking the stuff seriously is important.

Look, if you look at Italy right now -- that is a country that's on its back because they didn't manage this thing. And again, it's not that you can't deal -- if you have enough time, you can deal with all kinds of sick people. You just can't deal with them all on one day.

And so that's why you're trying to keep people from getting close to each other and spiking those numbers. However, this is a tricky balance here.

MCAULIFFE: And just on the voting. We have Democrats who are able to vote by mail to make it easier for people to vote. Early vote extending.

The Republican legislators around this country have systematically stopped all of that legislation. Maybe this will be an impetus to finally get this country to make it easy for everybody to exercise their right to vote.

CUOMO: Well, except, what's the problem? Right? Nobody wants to talk politics right now in the country. They just want things to work and get it done. There's a lot of mixed messaging.

Anderson was making a great point at the end of his panel, which is, you know, this President has struggled with surrendering meat of the week, to put it mildly.

But the country doesn't believe that leaders are about that anymore. What is the message you think that resonates best tonight from the podiums?

POWERS: I think, you know, a message of truthful leadership of somebody who is actually speaking the truth and not, you know, not doing what Donald Trump has been doing, which is really saying a lot of things that A, aren't true, sending a lot of mixed messages, telling people to do things they shouldn't be doing.

And so you know, I think in this one, the favor goes to Biden for sure, right, because he's a former Vice President. And so I think people are in this moment are looking for somebody who is very steady, who has experience.

[19:55:03]

POWERS: And they're feeling unsafe. They're feeling unsure. They're feeling scared, and so I think when it comes to those kinds of moments, you are looking for somebody more like Joe Biden.

CUOMO: So Anderson, we're waiting on the two debaters to come out. It's supposed to happen any second now. Of course, as we pointed out earlier, those podiums are farther apart than we're used to seeing. Right?

COOPER: They are six feet apart, and done in consultation with a number of folks. There you see, former Vice President Biden starting to come out, also, Senator Sanders will be out there shortly.

We're told that they won't be shaking hands, but I'm -- that's the advanced word I got, I'm not sure if that is in fact the case.

CUOMO: We will. Here's the moment. Do they keep this social isolation thing? There we go.

COOPER: There we go. All right.

CUOMO: Was that an elbow thrown at the jaw of Bernie Sanders by Joe Biden?

COOPER: No, it was not. It was this sort of an elbow forearm bump. There's going to be a bit of a pool spray. So there's photographers taking pictures of them. That's why they are standing there like that.

And again, that six foot of distance, something we have not seen. I mean, frankly, we've never seen any kind of debate quite like this -- Chris.

CUOMO: No, I mean, really, you know, as journalists, you know, we're always excited about being witnesses to history. We've been saying it a lot.

We've never lived through anything like this before. So, Anderson, keep me honest, as soon as we know that this is going to start, let me know.

Then in terms of the uniqueness of it, how do you speak to the uniqueness of this moment? When it's not oh, cool history. This is terrible in a different way every day.

JONES: Look, I think we're going to look back on this as an inflection point for all of our lives.

First of all, you have a lot of people who for the first time are really having to take -- listen, Democrats have been talking about oh, we need a healthcare system. We need a government that works.

You now are looking down the barrel of a real challenge, and you know, this election matters and how a leader steps up to the plate in a moment like this is going to matter for a lot of people.

But also you have people who are having to think differently about their neighbors, think differently about their responsibility to each other, think differently about the need for unity. It doesn't matter.

Listen, this virus doesn't care who you voted for. It doesn't care what you look like. This virus is coming for all of us. And I'm starting to see some people turning to -- the question is, do you turn to each other or on each other in a moment like this?

I think that's really going to be the opportunity for politics to change, for society to change. And it's a big test.

CUOMO: It's the first time in a long time, Kirsten that we've been told, you guys are interdependent.

JONES: Yes.

CUOMO: I'm only going to be as healthy as you help me be and vice versa. Maybe that was the message this country needed more than anything else.

It's horrible for it to come in a corona crisis, but it's an important message, especially for this country. POWERS: Yes, I mean, I think -- I do remember that we're all

interconnected and that we're in a community and even when people are panicking and starting to hoard, whatever it is that they're hoarding to stop and think, you know, wait, there are other people that are going to need these things.

So you know, take as much as you need. Be reasonable and plan.

But remember, there are other people that are going to come to that store and they have families and they need to be able, you know, to have access to the same things and to be thinking about it that way.

CUOMO: Very different drumbeat than the us-versus-them, which has been dominating politics since the beginning of this administration.

MCAULIFFE: Real opportunity for the Democratic Party tonight to come out unified. This is a real opportunity.

You've got Trump with all of his insanity. I'll be delicate how I say this. You watch his tweets today. There is something seriously wrong with this guy.

And we have an opportunity to be big, to be bold, be presidential, and show leadership.

I'm hoping that we come out of this debate tonight unified as a Democratic Party.

CUOMO: Opportunity is only as good as it is captured by the people involved. Anderson, we're going to see that any second.

COOPER: Yes. And you know, Chris, there's now going to be a lot of people watching this debate with a different situation they are facing in their own lives.

They are facing the potential of losing their jobs in the restaurants they work at, in the hotel they work at. When the airline they work for, when the company that they work for, and they are suddenly going to be looking at it well, what sort of a safety net is there in a situation like this, that they have not been in before?

CUOMO: And it's one of the few times up -- look, we've been beating up on government and our institutions for three years. Now, they were looking to Congress.

What are you going to do if I have to be quarantined for two weeks? I don't have, you know, that kind of deal with my employer. Congress acted.

It's good to see government work. But this is just the beginning, especially as we see the cases come, there's going to be needs at these hospitals that cannot be met. What is government doing right now to plan for what they know is going to happen?

COOPER: Yes. And again, this debate is going to be seen by an awful lot of people, three questioners. CNN/Univision debate. It's going to be fascinating. We've just never seen anything like

this, Chris.

It is about that time. The CNN/Univision Democratic Presidential Debate starts now.

[20:00:00]