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Cuomo Prime Time

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) Is Interviewed About How His State Is Dealing With The First Case Of Coronavirus Community Transmission; President Trump Says No Need To Worry; Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) Is Interviewed About President Trump Blaming The Democrats Over The Market Reaction; New Coronavirus Case Could Be First Instance Of 'Community Spread' In United States, CDC Says; The 2020 Democratic Candidates Make Their Final Push Ahead Of South Carolina Primary. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired February 26, 2020 - 23:00   ET




CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hi, I'm Chris Cuomo doing a special edition of Prime Time live tonight because we have a mountain of news to cover on this Ash Wednesday.

The stage behind me, four major candidates just before the all- important South Carolina primary took to the town hall format to make their case to voters in this state. It's such a big hurdle for the Democrats.

You had Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, each one of them needs to make a mark. Bloomberg, of course, not on the ballot here, but this was his last moment before Super Tuesday, to really introduce himself to this state and all of you in general.

The other big story, the president came forward today with the vice president to make the point that he is ready, that this country is ready for the coronavirus. How compelling was it? How much do the facts back up their preparedness? Is the V.P. the right choice to head up this team?

And the president says it's about politics on the Democrats' side. But we're going to look at what he said versus what the CDC and the facts tell us. There's a lot to cover, so let's get after it.

All right. All four candidates on the stage here in South Carolina took on the president following his wild news conference where he blamed Democrats for, quote, "panic over the coronavirus." While he argued the risks of an outbreak are very low, the CDC says that there is a new case in California, and that they're not sure how it got here. It's not clear to the CDC how the victim may have been exposed. OK.

And, look, that's not unusual here, but the point is don't play it as simple and don't play any concern as politics. If there's any politics being played, it's the disconnect between this president and his own CDC.

Here's what the president said today -- or actually tonight, about what our concern should be.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The risk to the American people remains very low. We're ready to adapt and we're ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads.

I don't think it's inevitable.


CUOMO: Now, look, let's just remember the facts here. The president should be taken at his word. He does have all these experts around him. The threat level should be low at this point, but pandemics and potential pandemics are about preparedness, OK.

They were briefed about this a month ago. There were cuts made in spending that would change the ability to be prepared here. And it does look from the outside and from what we can see as a little bit of a game of catch up.

But the main priority here is what should the real concern level, and how ready are we for that level? Contrast what the president just said with what his own CDC put out about what we should be looking at happening here in the United States.


NANCY MESSONNIER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR IMMUNIZATION AND RESPIRATORY DISEASES: It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen.


CUOMO: Look, you want to be ready for things like this. Of course, you don't want to over hype it. You don't want people running around with masks they don't even know if they need or not, worried that everybody who has a cough has something that could kill you. Of course, you want to be ready and you want to be right and you need to be on the same page.

So, let's do this. Let's take the, it's not if, it's when, let's take the news about this case in California and them trying to figure it out and let's bring in two people who know a lot about this to figure out what matters to us and what our questions are going forward.

We have our doctor, of course, Sanjay Gupta, and Philip Tierno, professor of microbiology and pathology at NYU. Gentlemen, thank you both.

Sanjay, you had an exchange with the president today about where we should be in terms of preparedness, how we should be seeing this. Let's play that for the audience.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Flu have a fatality ratio of about .1 percent.

TRUMP: Correct.

GUPTA: This has a fatality ratio somewhere between 2 and 3 percent. Given that --


TRUMP: We don't know the exact number is.

GUPTA: Based on the number so far --

TRUMP: And the flu is higher than that. The flu is much higher than that.

GUPTA: There are more people who get the flu, but this is spreading. It's going to spread maybe within communities. That's --

TRUMP: It may. It may.

GUPTA: -- the expectation. Does that worry you?


GUPTA: Because that seems to be what worries the American people.

TRUMP: No, because we're ready for it.


CUOMO: Now, look, there's nothing wrong with this president -- in fact, somewhat atypical for him to be honest, Sanjay, to play something down, to not exaggerate the significance of something. And you don't want to create a scare. But first things first. Your numbers about the flu were right. I don't know why he's saying the flu is much higher than that, do you?


GUPTA: No, I don't know. That was a little confusing. I mean, the reason that we brought it up, the reason this exchange even happened because the president was comparing this coronavirus to the flu. And in many ways the comparison has really been about the fact that these are both very transmissible viruses they can spread pretty easily.

But the -- you know, when you're looking at this, you got to look not only at transmissibility, but also lethality or how likely it is to kill. I mean, that's the other part of the equation.

And with you, you know, and we just calculated the numbers again. I wanted to make sure I was right on this, Chris. It's about .1 percent fatality ratio, .1 percent of people who contract the flu die from the flu.

This coronavirus the largest that it so far shows that it's around 2 percent, 2 to 3 percent, so 20 times higher. You see the point here. If the transmissibility is the same, but the lethality is 20 times higher, that's where the concern is.

Obviously, nobody wants that to happen. Everyone is hoping that doesn't happen. But that's the concern. When we say we want to be prepared, that's what you want to be prepared for.

CUOMO: Right. And as you were explaining last night with Tony Fauci, obviously another one of our public health officials on the federal level, was that, we're hoping that with coronavirus, we're wrong about the denominator number, which is we're only hearing about the worst case.

GUPTA: That's right.

CUOMO: And that there are other people who have it in these other countries and they're not getting that sick so that they're getting into a position to have to report themselves or something like that.

But that's a little bit of wait and see, a little bit of hopefulness. So, let's deal with preparedness, Sanjay. You've been around a lot of these team efforts on the federal level and assessed them in the past. How does this feel to you in terms of who is involved, what kind of resources they're bringing to bear and having the V.P. at the head of it?

GUPTA: Yes. You know what's interesting? Because I think, you know, the president sort of ended that exchange with I'm not worried because we are totally prepared. And again, you know, I understand the need to, to not be alarmist in any way, but, you know, when you're talking about this -- when this started to break out in China, the idea of doing the largest quarantine in human history, putting in the travel restrictions, it was all done to basically slow this thing down, Chris.

I don't think anyone was under the illusion that you could completely contain this. It's a little virus. You know, it's not going to respect borders. So, what happened with the time? That's really been the question. The time that was bought by slowing it down, what happened?

Our public health systems, local public health systems more ready, are we more likely to have therapeutics, where are we with the vaccine. Our individuals --

CUOMO: Right.

GUPTA: -- sort of educated about what to do. I think the reality is that we don't have many of these things. Some of that's nobody's fault. I mean, it takes time to develop therapeutics and to do a vaccine trial. But two months into this now with the time that we bought, I'm not sure we have a plan exactly with what to do if we start to see community transmission of this. What would you do? What would the person do? We need to know. CUOMO: All right. And now that's why I asked Professor Tierno to come

in. I've been leaning on you for many years since I was back at ABC News.


CUOMO: It's great to have you here and it's great to get your expertise again.

Let's start with the very basic level. What do you want people to know, professor, about what this presents as in terms of what you might see? And you know, they put out the word that -- I want to get their language right.

The HHS secretary said -- I'm sorry, the U.S. NIH director, the National Institutes of Health director said, public health measures must be used in the interim before coronavirus vaccine will be ready. What does that mean? How does a virus like this spread and what are some of these interim measures that we should use?

TIERNO: All right. The sad part is viruses like this spread very easily because people, ordinary people are involved and have no idea as to how to prevent themselves from getting ill. Eighty percent of all infections are transmitted by direct and indirect contact.

Now, direct like coughing, talking, sneezing on a person, kissing a person. Indirect, like touching a fomite or an inanimate object. Now with this virus, we are not sure that you can pick it up on inanimate objects. We know it can survive on those objects up to nine days.

So, the bottom line is that the public is unaware of how to prevent themselves from getting ill. They don't wash their hands appropriately. Even under ordinary circumstances.

So, to protect yourself, wash your hands prior to touching your face, your eyes, nose or mouth, which are the conduits of entry into your body. Don't hug or kiss an individual who is overtly ill.


Simple things like that can go a long way to prevent yourself from getting ill.

CUOMO: And quickly, professor, what about the masks, everybody is walking around wearing masks now in airports, and we're seeing it more and more in cities. What's the plus/minus on masks?

TIERNO: The masks are different types. The N-95 is the better mask to wear. But at the present time we don't need to wear masks. As far as a surgical mask, that's good to prevent the person from spewing out aerosols to other people, so it protects other people, not yourself, because the surgical masks --

CUOMO: Got you.

TIERNO: -- actually have areas where you can breathe appropriately and bring in the particles, viral particles.

CUOMO: So, the people wearing the masks should be the sick people, not the people who are trying to keep themselves from getting sick.

TIERNO: Exactly.

CUOMO: As people learned that it will just spread more concern every time you see a mask.

TIERNO: Exactly.

CUOMO: All right. Fellas, listen, thank you very much. We got to stay with the information and follow it with the analysis. Sanjay, as always, it's great to have Dr. Gupta in the house. And Professor Tierno, once again, thank you for helping us how to use common sense in situations like this. Thank you both.

TIERNO: Very well.

CUOMO: So, now we've heard from the president. He put out his team. The V.P. is going to head it up. Do we feel better about things? Do we feel that now we're ready to go?

Let's talk to a lawmaker from California. His district is where this is hitting home. Are they getting the federal response that they need? What is that level of confidence? Next.



CUOMO: All right. The latest information we have on the coronavirus in the United States does give us something that we need to look at more closely, all right. We may have, OK, may -- have the first case of an American who may have caught this virus without traveling or being exposed to another patient in California.

Congressman John Garamendi is a friend of the show, he's the former lieutenant governor there, obviously, he's a congressman now. But this is in his district. So, first of all, congressman, do I have this right? I'm getting this from the CDC obviously, that there's a case in your district where it's not explained by --


CUOMO: -- because they just came from China or they were with somebody who had traveled. Do we have that part right?

GARAMENDI: That is correct. They call it a community infection or community transmission. That is what they believe this to be. They have no indication that this fellow was involved with a sick person or traveled from a country from which there was extensive coronavirus.

So, yes, we have perhaps the first community transmission in the United States. And, yes, it is in my district and the individual is in a hospital, as we understand it, in Sacramento. CUOMO: Now, so what is your concern here?

GARAMENDI: Well, I think it's a concern that all Americans have. It's certainly a concern that the president spoke to today and I'm grateful that he did. His proposal of $2.5 billion, 1 billion for the development of the vaccine, terrific, but that will be probably six months to a year off before that's available. Equipment, masks, other kinds of equipment that's good too.

CUOMO: At least.

GARAMENDI: But what we really need is to beef up, make sure that the public health system, which every state has but which in many places is dormant or inactive, that that be fully funded, brought up online very, very quickly so that when you do have a case such as this, they're able to track down where that contamination may have occurred and then put together the normal isolation programs.

CUOMO: So, Congressman, help us understand this.


CUOMO: Because a lot of this is foreign language. We're not used to dealing with this. We know that people come over on a cruise ship, they were quarantined --


CUOMO: -- at I think at AFB Travis out there for 14 days. When you say we need to ramp up the public health systems and make sure we can identify -- what's supposed to happen that you don't think can happen already?

GARAMENDI: Well, fortunately, the United States does have public health systems. Every state has one. In many cases they have not been exercised thankfully by some sort of an epidemic, and they're not ready prepared, they may not have the right people on their staff, and it's going to take money.

We're talking probably 24/7 here -- not probably. We're certainly going to be talking 24/7 in the Sacramento, Solano County region as they try to track down all of the potential places where this individual may have come into contact with the virus. That's going to take a lot of people. And the federal government should be funding that.

Also, we do know that for California and a couple of other states a very special burden was placed on the local hospitals and the local communities because California and others were the recipients of the evacuees.

We certainly have great sympathy for that, but that's an expense. So, as we look at this issue from the point of view of Congress, this recommendation that the president has made, we need to be aware of all of the costs that are going to be incurred and make sure that the resources are there. Not every state, not every community, and certainly not every county

in California is capable of funding an all-out public health response to an infection that might arise in, say, the rural counties of California. They simply won't have the resources. So those resources are going to have to be available.

CUOMO: Right.

GARAMENDI: That's something we should be doing in Congress now.

CUOMO: And you need to have a system of coordination so you don't have resultant litigation.



CUOMO: Settling this while there's sick people in the balance. So, Congressman, let's do this.


CUOMO: As you learn more about the case -- we've known each other a long time -- I'll be reaching out to you through my office on a daily basis to get more information. And you've always had this and you always will have this as a platform to get out information to people in your state and the country need know about the progress or the problems you're having in your state and your district. OK?

GARAMENDI: Let me just add one thing. Each individual in America is the first line of defense. You know, practice good hygiene. Don't cough, don't be around somebody that is coughing, stay home if you get sick. Don't spread the illness.

CUOMO: Understood. Good advice as always. Congressman Garamendi, thank you.

GARAMENDI: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. So, look, we got the practical part of this. And I wish that's all we needed to be concerned about. But it isn't. This is an election season and there's politics are being played here. The question is by whom and to what effect?

Now we have a defender of the president coming on about what's being done so far, but also what he's communicating to the country. The only contagion we're dealing with is not coronavirus. It's a toxic kind of politics that's dividing this country when it doesn't need it. Let's take this on next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are financial markets overreacting here?

TRUMP: I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.


CUOMO: Now, look, this is a press conference where he's announcing his team. He's putting the V.P. in charge, all right. Yes, it's true, during Ebola with President Obama, then citizen Donald Trump mocked then President Obama for putting someone in charge of Ebola with no medical background.

And not only does Pence not have a medical background. But you could make a pretty salient argument he doesn't believe in science when it comes to lots of key areas. Put it to the side.

There are a lot of health professionals there. They were on the stage today. Let's take some confidence in that.

However, what he just put out there is demonstrably false at a time we need it least. How do we know? The stock market crashed hours before the candidates were on stage. The reason the markets crashed has been explained again and again by analysts and traders as what? Uncertainty. Uncertainty fueled by what? Fear. Fear driven by what? Not understanding the extent of where this virus will go and how it will impact health and economic situations. It's common sense. Why play politics?

Let's bring in Republican Congressman from North Carolina, Mark Walker. Good to see you again, sir.

REP. MARK WALKER (R-NC): Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: We both will share the -- we will both share the good news that the federal government has a plan, has a team, has money being allocated. We can argue about whether it's not enough. You know, there can always be more money. That argument is good to have, too. That's all fine.

My problem is why inject politics into this? Why talk about Democrats on the stage when it had no connection to what happened? Why do that now?

WALKER: I believe the president was responding specifically to a question was asked. And if you want to talk about interjecting politics -- and I agree with you. One of the statements you made, pandemic is about preparation. The other component is this is no time for politics.

But if you want to look at who started this whole process, it was Speaker Pelosi talking -- going after the president on the time line. And if you look at the situation, really Speaker Pelosi coming at it from a moral high ground when in San Francisco, they've had to declare a public health emergency due to 300 opioid deaths due to overdosing. This is not a time for politics. I do agree with you. This is a time

to focus. Listen, I'm ranking member on homeland security intelligence and counterterrorism. This is an economic crisis. It's a security crisis, but most importantly right now where our focus needs to be is a humanitarian and healthcare crisis.

CUOMO: Yes, I hear you on that. But I mean, let's just -- you know, let's just keep apples to apples here. The reason California is declaring emergencies right now is because they want to release funds to deal with the people who are going to be coming in off their coast and the cases that they have, and now this new case they have that they can't track down.

This isn't about opioids. We have plenty of problems in this country. I'm just saying look, even what you did there, he's OK to play politics because Pelosi started it. At what point does our president become the main point of accountability?

And even if you were right, and I would argue on the facts that you're wrong about Pelosi precipitating this, we've got one president, we have one person at the head of our government that's supposed to be a leader in a situation of crisis. How can it OK, even if provoked, if he takes the bait and makes the situation about coronavirus about playing political pay back?

WALKER: Chris, he has not made this about politics. If you look at his time line, it was, go back to January 6. There was no political posturing here. This is when he tried to get Americans in there to help. He put travel restrictions. He made sure that flights weren't coming in. This is nearly two months ago.

We don't think on the Republican side this is about politics, and it shouldn't be. This is something that -- our time period -- America has in the past any time there's been a serious situation when it comes to a national emergency or healthcare crisis, we have risen above that and I hope we can continue to do so in this process.

CUOMO: I know, but I think that this president is making it difficult. That's why I wanted to talk to you.

Our understanding of the time line is you had HHS come in with some other agencies and brief a month or so ago, and there was some slowness to action. I think that happens sometimes, by the way. You don't really know something that's going on in China is going to all of a sudden affect you here. I think there has to be an allowance for a learning curve.

But when you look at what's been done politically here, this president has been at odds with his own CDC, and I'm all for not spreading panic.


We don't need the president to say it's not inevitable. We don't need the president to argue with Sanjay Gupta about the lethality rate of the flu when he is dead wrong. This president doesn't know what he is talking about with those things. Obviously, Gupta was right, he was wrong. Why is he minimizing it? The temptation is to see it as for political benefit. I think that's a concern, congressman.

WALKER: Well, certainly, all of this is a concern. I grew up on the gulf coast of Florida as a youngster. To me, this reminds me of a hurricane being out in the gulf. You didn't know when or how or maybe even the force of when it might hit, but you started preparing.

I think that's where we are in this crisis. We don't know what's going to happen in the future. But the time to prepare is not then, it is now. I don't disagree with you on that point. And I don't believe the president does either.

This is something that we are taking serious. I've had five different briefings with my position, two of those were classified. We've got another one with the full slate of administration this Friday morning in two days, early that morning for all the members of Congress. This is something that we are staying focused on and we should.

CUOMO: I'm just saying I think it's a good time for people from this party because you are the only ones he has a chance of listening to, to say let's not make this about politics. Just stick to the virus. Don't worry about what Pelosi says. Don't worry about what Democrats do.

You don't have to put out a story. You're not on defense here. Just put the country first. That's why I'm happy to have you on, congressman. I know you know your priorities as a public service member. As you get information that the people need about this, you know you're welcome on this show to spread it.

WALKER: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate that. We'll be following up with you soon.

CUOMO: All right. God bless. All the best to you and your family. All right, so look, we got to follow coronavirus. I promise you that my only pledge is that I'm not going to get ahead of the information, all right? I'll bring you the experts. I'll talk to politics. I'll shout it down

when I can because we've got to test it. We've to get after any abuse of politics in a situation where health can be on the line.

That said there's a lot of politics to talk about here in South Carolina. This was an interesting set of town halls tonight. We have some interesting poll numbers that are out, too, which cause the urgency, especially for Joe Biden. I was on the stage with him tonight and it was interesting watching him with this audience and the resonance of it afterwards. He's got a big challenge in front of him. How did he hold up to the scrutiny? Next.



CUOMO: So, big night. You saw former Mayor Michael Bloomberg from New York first time in a town hall environment. He made some news tonight. He said even if he doesn't become the nominee, this uncertainty about what he would do vis-a-vis Bernie Sanders, he cleared it up. Listen.


MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's easy for me to make the commitment that I will support any of the Democratic candidates if they get the nomination because --


BLOOMBERG: But it's easy to do it because the alternative is Donald Trump and that we don't want. Let me also say I made a commitment that we have these campaign offices all over the country, and we will keep the main ones open through November 3rd, so whoever is the nominee can use those.


CUOMO: All right. So, even if it's Bernie Sanders, Bloomberg will put his money into that race. Then we heard from one of Sanders's people, we don't want it. What does that say about the state of play? We got Bakari Sellers and Joan Walsh here. It was good to hear Bloomberg say, you know, because this is a party desperate for unity --


CUOMO: -- going on. So Joan, what did it mean to you that he said that and then the response from the Sanders's campaign?

WALSH: I was surprised. I had not heard that. I think he did make news tonight with that. I think it's great. I think Bernie would be crazy not to just say thank you very much --

CUOMO: Crazy Bernie. That could stick.

WALSH: Well, I didn't call him --


WALSH: I did not --

CUOMO: You didn't hear it.

WALSH: I did not say that.

CUOMO: That's for sure.

WALSH: It would be crazy --

CUOMO: Right.

WALSH: -- but I don't think he'll do it. I think he will be under so much pressure from the party. Again, as a unity gesture, if nothing else, he'll need it. I know he has this phenomenal army of small donors and they are to be praised. But this would be an incredible additional --

CUOMO: Or is it about authenticity, Bakari? Bernie people will say we don't want that kind of money.

SELLERS: I think one of the things that Bernie Sanders and his crew and many of the supporters fail to realize is that politics is a business of addition, not subtraction.


SELLERS: And so if someone like Michael Bloomberg -- and trust me. As Bakari Sellers sits here, a Kamala Harris supporter, everybody asks me, who are you endorsing? I'm still endorsing Kamala Harris. I still support Kamala Harris to this day. And to see a billionaire come on stage and still have this level of success, it irks me, no doubt about it.

However, Michael Bloomberg, if he wants to participate in the process, you have to let him. Unilateral disarmament is not what we need in the Democratic Party. Donald Trump is not going to run out of money. I think it's silly to say that if Bernie Sanders, the leader of the party, I mean, to help down ballot races, you're going to turn away $100 or $200 million?

CUOMO: Now, the question becomes does the money beat the label. That was something that Joe Biden dealt with tonight in the town hall, the label of being a socialist, what it means, what it could mean. Here's what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What's happened is we have moved in the direction that, in fact, the progressive -- now progressive means Bernie. It means democratic socialism or whatever the phrase is.


BIDEN: I think Bernie is a decent, honorable man who means what he says. And I think -- but I think it's going to -- it's not enough just to win, beat the president. The next president has to be able to win back the democratic senate. Do you think it helps you or hurts you to have a self-proclaimed socialist at the top of the ticket? I'm not being a wise guy. That's not going at his character. It's going at his position.


CUOMO: Now, I need your help on this one. He made another argument -- I was the funny guy standing behind him -- that when it came to 2018, they didn't ask Bernie to go campaign in all those different districts, they asked Joe Biden. That argument I get. If Bernie is good enough to win for president, Joan, why would he not be good enough to help down ballot?

WALSH: I think he will help -- he will help some people down ballot. I think he might hurt some people down ballot here in South Carolina.

CUOMO: So you can win for president but still be a negative in some places? WALSH: Yeah, because you're winning in different places. He did campaign for some folks and he did -- he has allies in the new Congress, Bernie does, so it's not true that he wasn't asked or didn't go out and do anything. But there are going to be some purple district Democrats who may have a hard time with this.

CUOMO: Even if he starts looking strong against the president?

SELLERS: I think that he has allies in the United States Congress, but those allies aren't in swing districts.

WALSH: Right.

SELLERS: I mean, we're sitting in Joe Cunningham's district right now.

CUOMO: Right.

SELLERS: Joe Cunningham pulled off one of the largest upsets -- thanks to one of my good friends, Tyler Jones and Amanda Loveday, and all those people who helped out Joe Cunningham. He pulled off one of the largest upsets that we had during the electoral cycle.

WALSH: Right.

SELLERS: And that's a fact. If Bernie Sanders is at the top of the ticket, Nancy Mace, who is the Republican who is going to run for that seat, will beat Joe Cunningham if Bernie Sanders is at the top of the ticket. That's a fact.

I mean, democratic socialism does not play well outside of the Twitter sphere. It doesn't play well in these purple districts. And people are starting to understand that. No, he will not do well down ballot. He may win. If he wins, give me a Bernie Sanders t-shirt.

But I am deathly afraid of what will happen for the United States Congress, United States House, United States Senate. I'm afraid of how that would affect us down ballot.

WALSH: They're already calling Joe Cunningham a socialist. They're already tossing that around.

SELLERS: It's not about them calling us because they called Barack Obama a socialist.

WALSH: Right. But --

SELLERS: Nobody is worried about what they will call us. The fact is that Bernie Sanders calls himself that.

CUOMO: That's right.

SELLERS: And so the party is enveloped in that label. Bernie Sanders, to Joe Biden's point, has brought in so much energy to the party. He shifted the paradigm. We now look through a different window. We are way more progressive. But to say that Bakari Sellers or Barack Obama or Joe Biden is not progressive because they actually brought in Affordable Care Act or they save the automobile industry or they the stimulus which we built new schools in South Carolina because of or Lilly Ledbetter. I mean, there are actually people -- people are trying to primary Nancy Pelosi.


SELLERS: Right? It's absurd.

CUOMO: Well, it's absurd on one level in terms of party politics, but it's totally understandable. I don't get this Bernie is like Trump dot, dot, dot analysis that is starting to spread through --

SELLERS: Bernie is better than Trump.

CUOMO: But I'm saying --

SELLERS: Ten times better than Trump.

CUOMO: -- this idea that --


CUOMO: -- I don't see it, but that's something you guys have to reconcile within the party. But what I do see is people are disaffected with the system, they're angry at it, they expect people to be liars and be corrupt and not to be able to trust them. That's why they forgive Trump so much. Because that's the way they think everybody is in that business.

WALSH: Yeah.

CUOMO: Those people believe in Bernie also. Do you sleep on the movement at your own risk?

SELLERS: Bernie Sanders has something that most politicians wish they had, which is the level of consistency that is only matched by Michael Jordan.

CUOMO: And a movement. He's got a movement.

WALSH: Right, he has a movement. It's a movement.

SELLERS: He built that movement. He's a movement builder. I don't -- you cannot take away Bernie Sanders or take away that from Bernie Sanders.

CUOMO: No way.

SELLERS: He built that movement and he's consistent. The politician Bernie Sanders is today is the same politician he was three decades ago.

CUOMO: Yes. SELLERS: I don't knock Bernie Sanders's character. The Bernie Bros, I love them. I'm glad they're part of the process, sometimes.


CUOMO: You're killing me right now.

SELLERS: I know. I know.


SELLERS: But in general --

WALSH: But they don't exist.

SELLERS: But I'm glad they are part of the process.

CUOMO: They exist.

WALSH: I know.

SELLERS: My only point is that Bernie Sanders has a lot of energy that's brought to the party. It's just not something that South Carolina Democrats are going to buy into.

CUOMO: Right.

SELLERS: It's not something that purple Democrats are going to buy into. And it's something that we're going to have to overcome if he's the nominee.

CUOMO: I appreciate you both. We're going to take a break. When I come back, I'm going to bring in Mitch Landrieu. I'm going to push --

SELLERS: I love Mitch. He should have run for president.

CUOMO: I'm going to push a theory -- anything can happen. I'm going to push a theory of him that South Carolina could have been a huge change in the narrative of this party but it's not going to be, and we're going to debate why.


CUOMO: Stay with us.

SELLERS: Nobody believes that, Chris.




CUOMO: Let's bring in former Mayor Mitch Landrieu. South Carolina, I think, is going to be a different story than it might have not -- might have been if it were not for Tom Steyer. Not to villainize him, he's got every right to do his campaigning, but he has taken a bite out of Biden's behind in this state. We don't know how much.

Bakari Sellers was just telling me he knows South Carolina very well. He is friend of yours, friend of mine. He believes Steyer is on a fade here. But you could have had -- you know how the media loves turning the narrative, Mitch.

You could had a thing here where Biden won with such a big thing that they start talking about him in a way that might be equally and justified as the way they're talking about him now. You think it still happens with Steyer?


MITCH LANDRIEU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: I do think it's going to happen. I think the vice president looked like he got hit with a cattle prod the other night during that debate. He almost jumped off that stage with the level of energy that he had. And then of course tonight, you know this format of the town hall really favors him.

I thought that Mayor Bloomberg did a great job tonight as did Amy and Senator Warren. But you can see how the vice president shines when he's got a little room to run, and he actually can connect in a very human way with people who have been through tremendous pain. I think that pops off the screen at people.

So, my guess is based on what everybody has been saying he's going to have a pretty good night in South Carolina. Remember a couple weeks ago, people were writing him off and thought he was going to be dead. It looks like he has got a little bit of life. We will see what Super Tuesday brings, which of course, as you know, is just a whole new ball game.

There's no doubt it is Tom Steyer. Look, I like Tom. Tom has done an unbelievable job with the amount of money he has invested in climate change and the impeachment piece. But I don't know exactly what he's doing or what he thinks his prognosis for his success is going forward. I think he is definitely hurting the vice president more than anybody else.

CUOMO: Look, every time we look at the poll number, Steyer numbers is almost arithmetically exactly the difference between where Biden was and where he is now. So I don't know how it can be coming from anywhere else significantly. But again, you know, that is fair play and Steyer has to answer for it.

The question is, does Biden become one and done, which is let's say he can't win by one point. If he wins by one point, I don't think it is going to be enough for the media, let alone the donors. But let's say he wins by seven, 10, 12, Bakari thinks it could even be higher than that. Is he still just one and done because Super Tuesday, he hasn't put the money to work, or it could be enough momentum?

LANDRIEU: Well, let me say this. I think this is sure about all the candidates. I think Mayor Pete, I think Amy, I think -- the thing is you can keep going until you can't go anymore. Senator Warren, for example, is having a really great fundraising week, so she can keep going as long as how the money last.

If the vice president is not able to raise money because people don't have confidence, he is going to have trouble. But if he comes into this thing strong and he looks really good and he looks like he is more on this game this week than he was last week, he may be able to raise money to compete.

By the way, what Steyer is doing to him here, Mike Bloomberg is doing to him in every other state. There is a poll that came out in Texas that has Bernie and the vice president neck-in-neck, and then Bloomberg is, you know, eating out of the vice president's numbers, they random poll with the vice president with Bloomberg and without him.

It's clear that Bloomberg is doing the same thing to him in other states that Steyer is doing to him in South Carolina. He has got folks nipping at his heels and kind of, you know, standing right in front of his face.

CUOMO: What do you think of the idea that at the end of the day, Bloomberg is going to help Bernie Sanders because he is going to kill off Biden, no other moderate is going to get traction because he is eating up the ad space, and Bernie Sanders is going to go roll in there with 40-41 percent of the delegates? Thanks to Bloomberg.

LANDRIEU: Well, I think there is a very good chance that that is going to happen. I don't think they anticipated that. But I think Mayor Bloomberg's first debate performance scared a lot of people about the possibility.

I think he acquitted himself very well the other night and I thought his town hall was exceptional tonight. You can see a person that has great depth, great experience. He was able to explain, you know, the positions that he had. He got some tough questions but he did fine. But it is quite possible because of all the moderates splitting up the votes that Bernie Sanders can roll with this thing.

But I share the same concern that Bakari does and a lot of other Democrats in purple states with Bernie Sanders being the nominee. I think it is going to be very difficult for many of those states to vote for somebody that is a self-declared Democratic socialist. What really concerns me is that as much as I like Bernie Sanders and of course with the movement that he's built, he won't seem to yield at all or move to where some other folks are.

That sense of being an ideologue and being hard-headed and not being malleable really at the end of the day goes to whether or not you can govern across the aisle, and actually just pontificate about what needs to be done or speak to the aspirational hopes of the American people or actually put some meat on the bones and move policy from point to point. I think he's going to get tested on that theory in the next couple of months.

CUOMO: You think this virus is going to play into the race?

LANDRIEU: No question about it. First of all, in every campaign that you have covered that I have been in, there's something unanticipated that's come into that's change the trajectory of the race.

Secondly, everybody, no matter what their plans are and theory of governing, they always get interrupted by a massive crisis, whether it is a national disaster like a hurricane, a terrorist attack or in this sense what could potentially be a very serious public health threat.

If you don't prepare for the worst and hope for the best and actually have a strategy in place and resources to deal with it, then you could get into real trouble.


LANDRIEU: We want to be hopeful that this virus doesn't spread but they call it viral for a reason because it spins out of control more quickly than you can contain it.

CUOMO: Yeah.

LANDRIEU: And there are a lot of people that feel like the way this has come out of the gate with -- with (INAUDIBLE) who by the way a really smart guy saying one thing --

CUOMO: Yeah.

LANDRIEU: -- and the CDC, and then the president said something, and then Kudlow making comments about this. That shouldn't happen. The scientists and the commander-in-chief should speak with one voice.

CUOMO: You know who puts him out there?

LANDRIEU: You know, I hear you but --


CUOMO: The president puts Kudlow out there to make excuses. He blames the Democrats. He is putting politics on this. We got to leave it there, Mitch, because we are out of time. I appreciate you very much.

LANDRIEU: Sure, take care.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you very much. There is a lot of news going on. You had virus, you had these town halls, and the big election news. That's all reason to be watching not just us but Don Lemon on a special edition of his show. He is coming up right after this.