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Trump To Hold News Conference On Coronavirus At 6:00 P.M. Eastern Time After Briefing From U.S. Health Officials; Influential Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Endorses Biden; Study Abroad Programs Suspended Over Coronavirus Concerns. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 26, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Johnnie Cordero, endorsed Tom Steyer in the election, thank you so much today. A lot of news today. We look forward to having you back as we continue to cover this race.

CORDERO: Okay. And may I just say one more thing? The dynamics of this race are going change. You are going to be surprised of what happens on Saturday.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Well, we'll all be watching Saturday. You can bet that. The polling has been fascinating, especially for Steyer. He's been rising in this state. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And that's wise advice. This thing could change very quickly.

CORDERO: Yes. And that's why he's rising.

HARLOW: Thank you.

CORDERO: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: A very good busy Wednesday morning to you, I'm Jim Sciutto.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're following breaking news. President Trump addressing the nation just hours from now as the deadly coronavirus spreads around the world. A top infectious disease doctor says, we are inching closer and closer to a pandemic.

SCIUTTO: Now the White House is mulling, and listen to this, additional travel restrictions here in the U.S. to stop the spread of the virus here.

Let's begin with CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood.

John, what more do we know about where the president's mind is on this? Because he's deliberately tried to downplay this, he's tweeting about that again in the morning while the information we're hearing is of this becoming more serious.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, I think it's pretty clear, the president's mind is not in a good place. He did, as you mentioned, try to sunny side up the message when he was in India, so did aides like Larry Kudlow back in Washington, saying that, yes, the stock market is dropping but it's a buying opportunity for investors and we've got this thing under control.

Privately, what our reporting has shown is that he is upset and second-guessing aides for things like letting those 14 passengers fly back to the United States after they tested positive for coronavirus. He is very concerned about the decline in the stock market. The potential, as Kevin Hassett discussed with you a few minutes ago, of a global recession if this thing escalates into a pandemic.

And we saw the president sort of preemptively in India trying to absolve himself of responsibility. He was talking to business leaders and he said, you know, this coronavirus thing is like an external shock that could hit your business that had nothing to do with you. You can bet that the president, if this thing becomes a bigger problem, is going to say it's not his fault and he's out blaming Democrats this morning.

HARLOW: You know, John, we should note Bloomberg brought up an important point in the debate last night that this administration cut funding to the CDC and let go of people who deal with pandemics. Those are just facts. How prepared now is the Trump executive branch for this?

HARWOOD: Well, what we know, Poppy, is that the Trump executive branch is weak. He has numerous officials serving in acting roles. His second and third choice cabinet members, top aides of various kinds, his acting Homeland Security secretary was grilled yesterday by a Republican senator on Capitol Hill. He was asked to estimate the fatality rate and compare it to normal influenza. He was off by a factor of 20 in what he described. And we know that the administration has repeatedly tried to cut NIH, CDC.

Now, Republicans have ignored him in the Congress so a lot of those aids haven't been cut. But the clearing out of the executive branch and forcing out of career officials just underscores what we're seeing on the national security realm post-acquittal. He's forcing out career officials, appointed officials who he thinks are disloyal. He's reviewing posts in the executive branch on the basis of loyalty. That's not how you run an efficient executive branch to handle an issue like this.

SCIUTTO: Listen, if there's a time when experience and knowledge matters in government, it might very well be --

HARWOOD: This is it.

SCIUTTO: -- when you have a health issue. And, listen, it's a test.

HARWOOD: John Harwood at the White House, thanks so much. Let's talk to our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, thank you so much for being here. And, I mean, if you were the first one called on tonight, for example, at the president's press conference, what would you ask him?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Are we prepared? I think that's the big question. Look, we've all seen the amount of resources that goes into even taking care of these 57 patients, people who need to be in isolation within hospitals. You know, the public health system in the United States is amazing in so many ways, but this idea of surge capacity, you know, hospitals are already full.

If you start to see lots more patients, thousands more patients, where are they go to go, how are they going to be isolated, are we going to start looking at public spaces such as big gymnasiums and things like that as places for patients to receive their care? It is possible. That's part of the pandemic preparedness plan that Dr. Fauci often talks about.

But are we prepared in terms of hospital? Are we prepared in terms of community? People staying home from work, kids staying home from school, pharmacies being able to provide medications and are we prepared in terms of money?


I mean, we're hearing this number, $2.5 billion.

I've covered Ebola that was -- the initial request was for $6 billion. I covered H1N1, the initial request was $8 billion. Most public health experts I talk to say this is really low-balling. You've heard that but this is really low-balling by a factor of a half or a third.

SCIUTTO: Sanjay, you have the president here deliberately downplaying this. And, listen, we want to just present the information as best we know it. That's what we consider our role here, CNN does. You have the president deliberately downplaying this when you have, it seems, contrary information about the number of cases. We had a doctor, Dr. Gounder, just a short time ago who said that you should call this a pandemic now.

Tell us for folks at home who are watching this, what do the facts tell us about the spread of this and particularly the risk here in the U.S.?

GUPTA: Yes. Well, I mean, the numbers that we are hearing are still, you know, low. And I think that if you hear from the public health officials, they're saying the risk to the average person is still low, that if you're getting sick, you're exponentially it's more likely to be the common cold or the flu virus.

But there's a couple of things I think that are important. One is that, I interviewed the head of the CDC last week who said, this is going to get a foothold, his word, in the United States and it's going to start spreading within communities. So, I mean, I think that they have anticipated this. Even when they looked at this large quarantine happening in China, largest quarantine ever recorded in history, I don't think it was ever this idea that was going to stop the outbreak. It was more to delay it and to try to buy time, as they say. The question, I think, is have we done enough with that time so far.

I do want to give important context, and I think that this sounds frightening to people and understandably so that this new pathogen is likely to be spreading within the United States as it has in other countries around the world. But the 80 percent of people roughly according to some of the largest studies would have minimal or no symptoms from this. So it's not to minimize it in some way, but the vast majority of people won't really get very ill from this.

SCIUTTO: Important perspective. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, that's why we bring you on, thanks very much.

Joining us to discuss another element to the story, of course, the economic element of it, Rana Foroohar, she's a global business economist and Associate Editor for The Financial Times, and Matt Egan, CNN Business Lead Writer.

Rana, if I could begin with you, we had Kevin Hassett on just moments ago, of course, the president's former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. He said that China -- that the economic damage from this decline of 10 percent to 15 percent. And to be clear, we checked with him afterwards and say, are you saying China going into negative growth. That's a big deal when you're talking about global output. He said, listen, if it is not contained, we are talking about a global recession. That made our eyes widen. Tell us what your view is.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: Listen, it's a realistic fear. I mean, if you look at what's happened already and compare it to, say, SARS that happened 20 years ago, that had a short term but significant impact. Coronavirus has already infected ten times as many people and killed three times as many people in China.

And China actually has a better way of containing it than a lot of other countries do. I mean, that's the sort of small upside of an autocracy. You can actually make people stay home.

SCIUTTO: Lock them in their homes.

FOROOHAR: Lock them in their homes. Now, you're seeing the spread in Italy, in Switzerland. And now, we're being warned in the U.S.

The thing that's very risky to me is it's coming at a time when markets are already ready to tip. You've got profit margins very tight. You've got consumers starting to become more cautious about spending. You've got an election that's rattling people. We don't know which direction it's going to go.

So this is a real tailwind to jitters that were already happening.

HARLOW: To Rana's point about the consumer, it is the consumer that has saved this economy so far through the trade war. You have a fascinating new piece up on CNN Business this morning, Matt. I mean, how likely is it if the U.S. consumer falters then we do tip into a recession?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, the economists I'm talking to say that is a real concern right now. We've seen that play out in the stock market this week. And that's precisely because of what you said. The American consumer is the brightest part of the U.S. economy, if not the entire world economy. Manufacturing, because of the trade war, has just gotten really crushed. Business spending has been soft, as we were just talking about. Overseas economies have been weak. It's been the willingness of U.S. consumers to keep spending. That's propping things up.

But if there was a health scare here, which hopefully there won't be, but if there were, it's easy to see how this health crisis could turn into an economic one because people might not be willing to go to crowded malls and restaurants and movie theaters, and that would deal a real blow to the economy.

SCIUTTO: Yes, confidence is such a mushy thing, right? It's a feelings thing and it could move quickly in either direction, let's be frank.

But, Rana, in China, the big cause of the economic effect here was, as you said, they shut things down.


We showed video of the cities where streets are empty, the factories are empty. This has enormous impact. Doctors are now talking about travel restrictions here in the U.S., the possibility of shutting things down. And to be clear, to folks at home, we're not there yet but they're talking about that possibility.

In the worst-case scenario, what kind of economic effect does that have?

FOROOHAR: Huge. Because it's not just the travel industry, it's retail, it's food services, it's all the things that have actually been growing the fastest in the economy over the last few years that would be hit.

It's interesting, about six months ago, I was talking to a number of analysts and economists about what could be the domino effect. If we were going to see the markets turn, what might it be? And a couple said to me, a global travel and tourism crisis. Because if you look at who has driven the global economy, not just the U.S. consumer but Chinese, Chinese travelers.

HARLOW: By coming to the U.S.

Guys, just before you go, could you listen to Larry Kudlow right now? I'm sure you saw this, everyone is talking about it. But here is Larry Kudlow just yesterday with a pretty rosy outlook.


LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We have contained this. We have contained this. I won't say airtight but pretty close to airtight. We've done a good job in the United States.

I don't think it's going to be an economic tragedy at all.


HARLOW: Two days, $1.7 trillion wiped off the stock market value, 2,000 points off the Dow and numbers are looking good for the U.S.?

EGAN: No. Yes, I mean, the Dow, 1,900 points, 6 percent, just two days. Markets bouncing back a little bit but not all that much. Investors are definitely taking this really seriously, and that's because we're starting to hear some concern from corporate America. I mean, it's two-pronged. One, their supply chains are being disrupted. You heard Apple talk about iPhone shortages, Coca-Cola talking about shortages of artificial sweetener, things we don't really think about but has a real economic impact.

And there's the demand side. United airlines talking about demand for flights to China and Asia falling off, Mastercard talking about lower spending. All of that has a real impact for stocks and ultimately the economy.

SCIUTTO: And they're also big components with the Dow. Think about those companies, whether it's Apple but also American Airlines, it has a real immediate impact.

HARLOW: Blue chips.

FOROOHAR: The long-term story, this is going to speed up decoupling between the U.S. and China.

HARLOW: I was reading an interesting point you made this morning. Guys, thank you very much, we appreciate it, Matt Egan, Rana Foroohar.

Just days ahead of the South Carolina primary, Joe Biden has a good -- let's call it a great morning, right? A key endorsement from one of the state -- the state's most prominent lawmaker.

Also, Senator Sanders feeling the heat last night as his Democratic rivals put him in the hot seat. We'll discuss.

SCIUTTO: A different kind of burn.

And a bipartisan group of former lawmakers slamming Congress for not fulfilling its constitutional duties. We're going to speak to one of the lawmakers who signed that, just ahead.



SCIUTTO: A key endorsement, perhaps a key moment in the South Carolina race. House majority whip Jim Clyburn giving a boost to the former vice president, Joe Biden, ahead of Saturday's primary. We expected that endorsement and it will likely help him.

Tonight's town halls here on CNN will give several more candidates a chance to make their pitch before the South Carolina primary as well.

HARLOW: But all of this follows a pretty messy debate last night. Bernie Sanders was finally treated like the frontrunner that he is and attacked by just about everyone but he returned his fire. Watch.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think I would make a better president than Bernie.

PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie, in fact, hasn't passed much of anything.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not think that this is the best person to lead the ticket.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Joe has voted for terrible trade agreements. I will tell you, Pete, what the American people want, and, Joe, what the American people want. They don't want candidates to be running to billionaires for huge amounts of funding.


HARLOW: Let's talk about the night that was and what happened this morning.

With us now CNN Political Commentator, Aisha Moodie-Mills, she's a Democratic strategist, and Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief for USA Today.

Well, Aisha, if you ask Rahm Emanuel, of course, the former mayor of Chicago, served as Obama's chief of staff, he said he whole Democratic Party is in a sense of panic over Sanders. Likes the guy, doesn't like his policies, they're all panicking. If that's true, did they do a good job trying to squash Sanders' chances last night?

AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I would say that the -- hey, Poppy. I would say that the vast majority of America is panicked (ph) right now about what another four years under Donald Trump regime would look like. And so, yes, folks are scrambling, Democrats are scrambling. And the truth is is that, coming out of this, I'm actually down here in South Carolina right now and so we were all sitting in that debate hall and I was just watching people's reaction and then coming out talking to folks who are actually going to vote here. I don't know that anyone is more decided after that debate than not but everybody is still afraid.

And so part of what I think has been interesting about the conversation as they are trying to attack each other is that folks, especially Elizabeth Warren, finally started to talk about why they are better than Donald Trump to lead the country. I think the voters are going to want to hear a lot more of that than just nit-picking at each other about why they're not good, because at the end of the day, that's the real threat.

SCIUTTO: So, Susan Page, to Aisha's point, James Clyburn, in delivering his endorsement of Joe Biden just a short time ago, he referenced that larger, broader concern. Have a listen and I want to get your reaction.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): As I stand before you today, I am fearful for the future of this country.


I am fearful for my daughters and their futures, and their children, and their children's future.


SCIUTTO: He's, of course, talking about the prospect of Trump's re- election. Why aren't you hearing that more from the Democratic on the stage instead of the circular firing squad that we've seen now every week for the last couple of weeks?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: I talked to Congressman Clyburn last week. He said he wasn't sure whether he was going to endorse before the primary. This is a huge benefit for Joe Biden, who had a pretty good night last night, a better debate than he's had before who must win South Carolina.

You hear Congressman Clyburn talk about two threats. One is the threat of a second term of Donald Trump. He has also talked about the threat of a Sanders' candidacy for down-ballot races in South Carolina and elsewhere. And I think one reason he decided to step forward with this emotional endorsement of Joe Biden is to try to stop Sanders, which I think was really the fundamental dynamic of the debate last night.

HARLOW: Susan, you say that Mike Bloomberg was less worse than before. Is less worse going to cut it?

PAGE: Well, I think less worse only works if you've got like a billion dollars behind you to spend.

HARLOW: Or 60.

PAGE: Yes. So he wasn't as terrible as he was in the first debate. I wouldn't say he was good. But I don't think -- you can see that some of the other candidates being forced to drop out in a week after Super Tuesday, one of the advantages Mike Bloomberg has is he's got a financial cushion that will take him on for at least a little while.

SCIUTTO: Aisha, as we turn from the early primary states, Iowa and New Hampshire in particular not reflective of the diversity of the American population, Nevada a bit more but South Carolina certainly so, particularly higher percentage of African-Americans. How does that -- how is that reflected, do you expect, in the results going forward? Certainly expectations of a Biden stronger performance in South Carolina, but how about after that?

MOODIE-MILLS: Yes. One of the things is that it's going to change this calculus about what is electability and what does that look like. Because we've been talking so much about electability as if only moderate white men or maybe moderate white woman is who's electable in America. And that's just quite foolish.

One of the things that came up for me last night and I was talking to Mr. Clyburn about it as well is that this debate was staged. It was in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. It was here in Charleston. The expectation is that issues of racial justice, issues that affect black Americans would be front and center, especially because black Americans are the electorate that everybody is going after here in South Carolina. And I for one was disappointed and I know some of the members of the CBC were curious as to why there wasn't more of a talk about a real black agenda for America.

The candidates on that stage have all been called into account in different ways about their issues. Mike Bloomberg has a lot of explaining to do, for example. Recently, we just put out with Alicia Garza Black Agenda 2020, which really lays out policy priorities for the black community. None of that was touched on.

And so I think when we go into Super Tuesday, there's going to need to be more conversation happening that gets to the issues that communities of color actually care about. So we need to talk about the economy and we need to talk about the dignity of work and we need to talk about criminal justice reform. We need to talk about education. There's so many issues that matter. It's not just simply pandering with some retail patronage politics around black voters.

HARLOW: Yes. I'm so glad you made that point, with all white candidates, by the way, on that stage last night.

SCIUTTO: And voters -- never underestimate the voter, right? Voters are informed this cycle, they're listening, and voters often have more -- way more often have more than one issue that drives them.

HARLOW: 1,000 percent. Ladies, we'll have you back. Thank you, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Susan Page, we appreciate it.

Also tonight, make sure you watch our series of town halls in South Carolina continues. Tonight, you'll hear from Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. That all is at 7:00 Eastern only on CNN.

SCIUTTO: And still ahead this hour, fears over the coronavirus now impacting U.S. college students. Several universities are cancelling study abroad programs over the outbreak. We're going to have details of that and other steps, next.



HARLOW: All right, this just in to us at CNN. Several universities in the U.S. are telling students studying abroad in Italy and South Korea to come home now because of concerns over the coronavirus.

SCIUTTO: The first steps really we're seeing the U.S. take to control this.

CNN National Correspondent Brynn Gingras with us now. Tell us what more and how broadly this goes and how many students it affects.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's affecting hundreds of students at six different schools that we know of now. But, of course, this number could certainly go up.

Let me run by those schools right. We have Elon University in North Carolina, Syracuse, of course, in New York, Fairfield University in Connecticut, NYU, USC and Florida International University taking this step. Mainly it's dealing with the northern section of Italy, taking their students out of Florence. And it's two-pronged. It seems like one, of course, is of the safety, but second, they're worried a quarantine is going to go in place and then it's going to be harder to extract their students and faculty from these areas.

SCIUTTO: Right. So you're there and then you're stuck there.

GINGRAS: Exactly. And also let's think about these students, right? I mean, some of them might be seniors getting their last credits to graduate or you need those credits to stay on track for your curriculum.


So they want to get these students back and here for some time in the United States before they can go back to school after the spring break. So that's sort of the thinking that we're --