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The Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Hospital Director In Wuhan Dies Of Virus; China CDC Report Finds 2.3 Percent Case Fatality Rate; WHO: We Can Save Many Lives Even Without Vaccine; Sen. Bernie Sanders Accuses Bloomberg Of "Buying The Airwaves"; Trump Issues Series Of High-Profile Pardons And Commutations; Displaced Syrians Struggle To Survive Amid Bombings, Bitter Cold; Jury Begins Deliberating Rape & Sexual Assault Charges; Billionaire's Surge In Polls Fueled By Massive Ad Blitz; Amazon Owner's Climate Pledge. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired February 18, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Tonight on THE BRIEF, a hospital director in Wuhan has died from coronavirus, as we get new data on the fatality rate.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pardoned and commuted sentences for several people convicted of white collar crimes.

And as Michael Bloomberg surges in the polls, we'll look at accusations that he's trying to buy the nomination.

Live London, I'm Bianca Nobilo. Warm welcome to the show. Finally, some good news for passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Japanese

officials say those who've tested negative for coronavirus will be able to start leaving within hours.

But the fight against the disease is still a difficult one, particularly inside China, the epicenter of the outbreak. We're seeing more of the

plight of health care workers as the director of a hospital in Wuhan died Tuesday.

Chinese officials say doctors and nurses who died fighting the coronavirus will be called "martyrs." There are more than 73,000 cases around the

world, most of them in Mainland China, all in 1,800 people have died. China's Center for Disease Control says the current numbers show a fatality

rate of just over 2 percent.

Numbers without context don't tell us the whole story. So I asked Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, what we can read into the latest

figures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Bianca, let's talk a bit about this mortality rate. Chinese health authorities are saying it's

around 2 percent. But experts tell us that it is probably lower than that. And the reason is, is that many of these cases of this novel coronavirus

have not been counted.

And that's because, sometimes people don't get very sick, they probably don't reach out to health authorities, ad so those cases aren't counted. So

the more cases you have, as that number of cases grows, that that the mortality rate goes down. So it's 2 percent probably at the most.

What's interesting is that the mortality rate for SARS and for MERS, which are also coronaviruses, that those were much higher. The mortality rate for

SARS was around 10 percent. The mortality rate for MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is around 35 percent. So the mortality rate for this

new coronavirus coming out of China appears to be much lower.

However, this virus seems to be more transmissible. There's a lot we don't know, but that's what it seems like at this time. Let's take a look at the

number of cases. So if you look at this novel coronavirus, there have been 73,415 cases so far. And I emphasize this so far, because this outbreak is

still going on. For MERS, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, it's 2,465 and for SARS 8,098. So many, many more cases for this new virus then for

those other two.

Let's talk look at the number of deaths. Unfortunately, this new virus also has the most deaths - 1,873, again, so far; MERS 858; SARS 774. So,

because, there are so many more cases of this new coronavirus, there are also so many more deaths.

Now there was some talk among Chinese officials that it looks like that this disease has peaked. The outbreak has peaked. However, experts that

we've been talking to say they are very, very cautious about this. They say that the numbers coming out of China have been up and down. They are not

convinced that they're reliable.

There's been some lack of transparency, these experts feel, about the data coming out of China. So they say you know what, let's hang on until we say

that this is peaked time will tell. Back to Bianca.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NOBILO: Thanks, Elizabeth Cohen. The World Health Organization says a vaccine for coronavirus could take 12 to 18 months to develop and test. But

now they want the world to focus on immediate solutions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. MICHAEL J. RYAN, WHO EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HEALTH EMERGENCIES PROGRAM: We can save many, many lives in the coming months with or without a vaccine.

We all want to invest in the vaccine as a long term solution. But there are people sick now, and their health systems that are vulnerable now.

So we need to balance our investments, and invest in the weaker health systems that are old systems. We can save a lot of lives through supportive

therapy, by testing the drugs we're currently testing and by getting everything in our systems working, and then we do the other things and

we've develop the vaccine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: So the end of a long quarantine is just hours away for some passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Matt Rivers tells us what's

next for them. And why the ship isn't completely out of the woods just yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, more bad news off of this cruise ship docked in the harbor in Yokohama with the news coming from Japan's Ministry

of Health an additional 88 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus. That brings the total number of cases on board to 544.

But this news comes just one day before the process of getting all of these passengers off the ship as the ship as the quarantine period is set to end,

that's going to begin starting on the 19th. Let's tell you details of what we know about this process so far.

[17:05:00]

Japan's Ministry of Health says this process will go on the 19th, the 20th and the 21st. And that's largely based around when people get their test

results back. Every single person on board this ship must be tested for the coronavirus. That test must come back negative before Japan will allow them

to get off of the ship.

But here's the rub. It takes a few days for the results of these tests to come back. And the testing process continues up until the 18th - up until

today. And so as a result, if let's say you were a person that received a test today, well it could be the 20th maybe the 21st before you get your

results back.

So even if you're negative, you're going to have to remain on the ship beyond this 19th date, which was the date that Japan said the quarantine

would end. Functionally that's just not true anymore because they say people will have to remain on board the ship until their tests come back

negative. If they come back positive, of course, they will be taken off the ship right away and put into local hospitals for treatment.

We're also learning that other countries are following the lead of the United States in terms of trying to evacuate their citizens. We know that

the Canadians, the Australians and the Italians, among others, will be evacuating their citizens on government planes over the next several days.

So the timing - the exact timing of that remains unclear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: Matt Rivers reporting for us that there.

There will be a new face on stage when the U.S. Democratic presidential candidates square off tomorrow night. For the first time former New York

Mayor Mike Bloomberg has qualified for debate by meeting a polling threshold. A billionaire hasn't even competed in any primaries yet, but his

massive spending on political advertisement is clearly paying off.

A new poll shows Bloomberg has sold to second place nationwide. But Bernie Sanders is also on the rise, extending his national lead to remain in first

place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win this election, not because we are buying the airwaves, as Mr. Bloomberg is,

we're going to win this election, because we are putting together the strongest grassroots movement that this country has ever seen.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: Bloomberg is also under fire for inflammatory comments he's made in the past about race and allegations that he made sexist remarks and

fostered a culture of discrimination against women at his company decades ago.

We won't know whether or not these accusations will actually hurt Bloomberg at polls until he competes in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3rd. And

we're going to dive deeper into that accusation, and what Bloomberg is trying to do with the election in about 10 minutes' time with our

journalist Alex Burns who wrote about this, "Bloomberg trying to buy the election" for "New York Times."

U.S. President Donald Trump has issued a series of pardons and commutations for high profile figures. He commuted the sentence of former Illinois

Governor Rod Blagojevich and granted pardons to disgraced financier Michael Milken; Former New York City Police Chief Bernard Kerik; and the former

owner of the San Francisco 49ers Edward DeBartolo.

It's the Blagojevich commutation that's really raising eyebrows. He was convicted of abusing his office by soliciting bribes for political

appointments, including that senate seat the once belong to Barack Obama, or as the governor so eloquently put it in one caught on tape moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I've got this thing and (beep) its golden. And I'm just not giving it up for (beep) nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: OF course, all this comes down to just two days before the sentencing of Trump ally, Roger Stone. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Beverly

Hills, California. So Jeremy, there are some big overarching themes in these criminal cases. They're powerful men and elected officials abusing

their power. Why did President Trump want to help them?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianca, I think to understand why the President actually chose to do this, now, you have to

understand two things.

One is the moments in which this president finds himself in and that is in this post impeachment glow, where the President is really feeling

emboldened to use his executive authority to act to reward his allies and to punish his enemies. That is the moment that this President finds himself

in. And it's very important context for understanding why the President actually moved forward with this.

Then the second thing you have to understand is the process by which Trump has used in order to issue these pardons and commutations. The individuals

who - there are 11 individuals who received pardons and commutations but the most notable names are individuals whose received these pardons or

commutations not through the normal pardon office structure that is typically used to issue pardons. At least that's what past presidents have

done.

Instead, the President was really relying on the recommendations of many of his allies. Listen to what he said just earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have Bernie Kerik, we have Mike Milken, who's gone around and done an incredible job for the world

with all of his research on Cancer, and he's done this and he's suffered greatly. He paid a big price - paid a very tough price. But he's done an

incredible job. And yes, these are all people that you have to see the recommendations. I rely on recommendations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: And many of those recommendations were from the President's political allies. So the President got these recommendations to pardon the

former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, who is an ally of the President's Personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani,.

Rob Blagojevich - the President - many of the President's allies had been lobbying to pardon Blagojevich for several years now. And then you also

have Michael Milken, with several powerful Republicans were urging the President to pardon the famous Wall Street financier.

[17:10:00]

And, of course, looming all over all of this, Bianca, as you mentioned, is the pardon of Roger Stone and whether or not that is something that could

come down. The President today denied that that is the case. But we have heard from sources that the President has been discussing that possibility.

Bianca?

NOBILO: Jeremy Diamond, thank you.

Turkey is sending more troops to Northwest Syria, where it's clashed with regime forces. The Syrian military is carrying out a major offensive there,

sending 900,000 people from their homes. Now that camps are being bombed, and the UN warns of a possible bloodbath. CNN's Arwa Damon saw that grim

living conditions firsthand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The numbers of those being displaced, those trying to outrun the encroaching war and violence

are jumping dramatically by the day, and 60 percent of the are children.

Right now we're talking about more than half a million children who have been displaced since December. There is not enough humanitarian assistance.

The scale of this crisis is by far greater than what humanitarian organizations are able to supply. Temperatures are freezing.

And every day the Assad regime is gaining even more ground, despite statements being made by Turkey warning, Assad forces to move back to that

previously agreed upon demarcation line. That was met in theory some two days ago to create what was supposed to be a de-escalation zone inside

Idlib.

Listen to the words of what the UN's humanitarian emergency coordinator said, talking about what's happening inside. He called it the biggest

humanitarian horror story of the 21st Century. It's not just the violence that people are fleeing from. They're also deathly afraid of being

surrounded by the regimes forces. They're afraid of a widespread massacre. They are afraid of being detained by regime forces and disappearing into

the regime's prison system.

They're afraid of the regime moving in and cutting off the roads that lead to the border crossings with Turkey, not because the Turkish border is

empty, but because they know that what humanitarian supplies are able to move in, are moving in from those two vital border crossings

They're afraid of the cold, of the children getting sick. There's not enough hospitals. There's not enough medical facilities. They too, are

being bombed or under fire and are being forced to shut down as this regime is continuing with this ground defensive and of course being backed by the

Russians - especially by the Russian air power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBILO: Arwa Damon there for us.

The jury deliberating the fate of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has wrapped up for the day without reaching a verdict. The seven men and

five women jury got the case several hours ago. They'll continue deliberations on Wednesday. Weinstein has been charged with five counts of

rape and sexual assault.

Six different women testified during the four-week trial. Weinstein's lawyers claim that sex was consensual in all these cases. The accusations

became a driving force behind the MeToo movements.

Jean Casarez is near the courthouse Jean, what evidence will the jury have to consider?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's a lot of evidence and so many things in this six-week trial, but I think it comes down to six women

testified that they were either assaulted or raped by Harvey Weinstein. And the women are being used for different purposes.

But the alleged assault and rape that occurred here in New York City, that is what the jury really has to focus on, because we are in New York State.

And Jessica Mann is testifying that she has actually was violently raped in New York City hotel room. Miriam Haley testified she was assaulted in

Harvey Weinstein's apartment, and Annabella Sciorra, an actress testified that she was raped in her own apartment back in 1993 and '94, so long ago,

but she is important to the prosecution.

[17:15:00]

And that is because the main charge here is predatory sexual assaults. The life felony. And if convicted, Harvey Weinstein is a predator. And that is

the main charge, that is the main evidence. The jury will come back tomorrow at 9:30 to keep trying.

NOBILO: Jean, thank you. I'm sure we'll be speaking to you more in the coming days. Jean Casarez there for us. coming up on the program. Mike

Bloomberg is spending his fortune in the campaign blitz for U.S. President. Next we're going to take a look at the unorthodox strategy fueling the

billionaire's rise.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOBILO: So we now know Michael Bloomberg will be on stage for Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate. But just how did he get there? The

billionaire is pouring hundreds of millions of his own massive fortune into a huge ad Blitz, practically throwing money at TV spots and courting

younger voters through social media and memes like this one, which I saw earlier involving and meatball.

Bloomberg is fighting back against a barrage of negative headlines about his past comments on racism, sexism, criminal justice, and more. But in the

years since leaving the mayor's office, Bloomberg has built up a huge national network of influence

Bloomberg consistently donate massive amounts of money to support progressive causes and his Super PACs spent more than $100 million helping

Democrats flip control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms.

Bloomberg campaign strategy, skipping the early states and instead going hard on national advertising is rising concern among some Democrats. "The

New York Times" writes, quote, "His political rise has become a test of the impact of one man's wealth and what it can have as he applies it to the

political system with driving sophistication."

Alex Burns, one of the authors of that New York Times piece joins me now. Alex, great to have you on the program. Thanks for joining us.

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Thank you.

NOBILO: Let's begin by talking about numbers. So how much is Bloomberg spending exactly and where is he distributing those funds? So how much of

that is going into digital advertising, TV ads, social media and stuff?

BURNS: Well, as of right now, what we know is that he has spent around or in excess of $400 million on television and digital advertising, which as a

point of comparison is about 10 times what the next highest Democratic candidate who is not a billionaire has spent in those areas. It's an

extraordinary onslaught, and he's only been in this race for about three months at this point.

And what our investigation, of course, showed is that all of that money is coming in on top of years and years of hundreds and billions of dollars

distributed to Democratic groups, Democratic candidates and causes near and dear to the hearts of Democrats that have really ingratiated him with both

the leaders of the party and with a lot of rank and file voters.

[17:20:00]

NOBILO: Alex, what do you think the implications are for democracy if a candidate is able to essentially write a personal check to cover so much

massive campaign spending?

BURNS: You know, I think under almost any circumstances, that would be a deal breaker for many or most democratic primary voters. This is a party

that, at least ostensibly, is very concerned about money corrupting the political system, and in general the concentration of wealth and economic

power in the hands of a tiny number of people.

You've heard his opponents like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders make the case that if Mike Bloomberg is elected President, then going forward, the

only choice Americans will have is which billionaire they can stomach in the presidency.

But, you know, right now, so many democrats are so single minded in their focus on defeating President Trump that we haven't necessarily seen that

argument disqualify Mike Bloomberg, in the eyes of Democratic voters. There seem to be a good number of them out there who feel like, you know, what,

if buying the presidency is what it's going to take to beat Donald Trump, then let's get a guy with a checkbook that can afford it.

NOBILO: Well, exactly. And it was a play that many people were expecting from President Trump back in 2016. So do you find that that does have quite

a compelling appeal, the fact that Bloomberg could be the best to take on Trump, because he can talk about his business acumen, he can talk about the

fact that he's a billionaire. That could potentially be a weak spot for Donald Trump and his business background.

And also the fact that Bloomberg is willing to engage so freely on social media. He is clearly showing a self-deprecating sense of humor, and he's

kind of turning a lot of Trump's insults back on him.

BURNS: You know, it's really interesting to see as Bloomberg record as mayor, and as you mentioned before his comments, since leaving office,

about a whole range of issues and policies that are highly sensitive in the context of a Democratic primary election.

As all of that comes under the political microscope, you see him continually ratchet up his personal conflict with President Trump. And it's

pretty clearly a political strategy to show liberal primary voters that, look, you may or may not like everything about me and there may in fact be

elements of my character or my record that are profoundly distressing to you. But watch me go after Donald Trump.

There are a lot of primary voters who seem willing to applaud what Bloomberg is doing relative to Trump, even as they continue to express real

reservations about his record, especially on law enforcement and on gender and the workplace.

NOBILO: It seems that fairly overused political cliche that "Republicans fall in line and Democrats fall in love." But maybe because of what

Democrats perceives as the stakes here, they're more likely to fall in line.

I'd also like to ask you about this strategy that we've seen exploded in recent weeks - the use of memes to target that really difficult to reach

electoral base of under 25. How clever of a strategy Do you think this is? There's no chance that's going to backfire?

BURNS: Well, I think we will find out in the debate this week whether that's a sustainable strategy. It is, in my view, a pretty clever way to

try to make somebody like Mike Bloomberg, who is by no means a young person's idea of a cool and charismatic candidate, you know, a way to give

him a sort of online persona that might make him more accessible to some people.

But that is fundamentally not who Mike Bloomberg is when you interact with him face to face or see him speak in public and there are a lot of people

out there who may have seen him in these memes or in his very carefully curated TV ads, who will see him on the debate stage and see him in the

flesh really for the first time. And we're going to have to wait and see whether the dissonance between those two images becomes a political problem

for him.

NOBILO: Thanks, Alex. Alex Burns, for us there. If you haven't read his article in "New York Times," you should, it's great.

Just hours from now, CNN kicks off a series of five town halls in Nevada over two nights, Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden and Warren, all

making their case to voters ahead of the critical next contest. It all start today 8:00 pm. Eastern time. That is 1:00 in the morning in London,

or 9:00 am, Wednesday in Hong Kong.

When THE BRIEF returns Jeff Bezos splashes the cash to help fight the climate crisis, and it's a huge amount.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:00]

NOBILO: Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has pledged $10 billion to fight climate change. Mr. Bezos has an estimated net worth of more than $130 billion. So

the pledge represents almost 8 percent of his entire fortune.

The enormous sum sets up a new fund to back scientists, activists, and organizations. But as the well-known saying goes, charity begins at home

and home for Jeff Bezos is Amazon, and their employees have been pushing this issue for the best part of a year - well, longer.

Thousands of employees signed a letter and many walked out in protest, urging Bezos to do more. Amazon says that it wants to be carbon neutral by

2040. But right now, it emits 44 million metric tons. About the same as the whole of Norway.

Everyone will be known receiving such a massive amount of money from philanthropy, but where companies like Amazon go next could play a huge

part on us getting a grip on the climate crisis.

That's all for THE BRIEF this evening. Have a very good night. I'm Bianca Nobilo, and "WORLD SPORT" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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