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tv   The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  February 18, 2020 3:00pm-4:00pm PST

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matters of justice despite claiming he has confidence in the attorney general, william barr. tonight mr. trump admits he's making barr's job more difficult. the president granted clemency to some well convicted criminals including rod blagojevich. who might be spared next. set in stone. roger stone sentencing will happen thursday as a judge tries to ignore president trump's angry tweets and the political furor surrounding the case. he could get a new trial any way. up for debate, michael bloomberg is hours away from the first face off with his democratic poeopponents. the billionaire qualifying for the debate as a new poll shows he's gaining and bernie sanders is dominating. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
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tonight, president trump is declaring he's the nation's chief law enforcement officer while insisting he has confidence in his attorney general william barr. mr. trump spoke out around the controversy swirling around the justice department and his decision to grant clemency for a slew of high profile convicted criminals. he commuted the sentence of rod blagojevich and pardoned police commissioner among others. first, let's go to our chief white house correspondent jim acosta. the president has his thumb on the scales of justice tonight. >> reporter: he does president trump is flexing his muscles in the u.s. judicial system declaring himself the chief law
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enforcement officer a and giving pardons. he's using his pardon powers as he's pushing for shorter sentencing for roger stone and michael flynn. the president sprung from prison rod blagojevich who was convicted after attempting his own quid pro quo. beating his chest over the u.s. justice system president trump is standing by bill barr who is coming under mounting criticism for his involvement in the cases against roger stone and michael anyo flynn. >> i think he's doing an excellent job. he's a strong guy. i never spoke to him about the roger stone situation. i think roger stone has been treated unfairly. i think general flynn has been treated unfairly. >> reporter: the president insisted he wasn't involved in stone case before going onto declaring himself the top law enforcement officer in the country even though that's the job of the attorney general. >> the attorney general is a man with incredible integrity.
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just so you understand, i chose not to be involved. i'm allowed to be totally involved. i'm actually, i guess the chief law enforcement officer of the country. >> reporter: mr. trump is flexing his presidential powers saying he's commuting a prison sentence for rod blagojevich as well as offering pardons for police commissioner kerik and former football team owner. >> rob, you're fired. >> reporter: blagojevich who once appeared on the trump reality show was convicted of trying to sell the senate seat of barack obama after he became president. a crime the fbi caught on tape. >> you know what i mean. >> reporter: the president took a jab at james comey claiming he had some sway over the blagojevich quick conviction. that's not true as comey became director years after the case.
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>> he was on for a short while of the apprentice years ago. seemed like a very nice person. don't know him. he served eight years in jail. it was a prosecution by the same people, comey, fitzpatrick, the same group. >> reporter: as for pardons for stone and flynn, the president said he's nowhere near a decision. >> these are unrelated situations where people have done a strong job but we haven't thought about that yet. >> reporter: the president is hinting he's ready to punish more of his enemies like the writer of a scathing op-ed known as anonymous. >> it's not so much. i know who it is. sdplp w who is it? >> can't tell you that. >> why not? >> reporter: they are trying to take credit for the u.s. economy while he says the obama record
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was horrible even though more jobs were created on average during the last three years of the obama administration than the first three years of the trump administration. >> we had the new normal. we were sending our jobs offshore and barack obama said you need magic wand to bring half a million manufacturer jobs back and president trump was the magic wand because that's what he did. >> reporter: the president is already getting some bipartisan push back on his decision to commute blagojevich's sentence with the current governor of illinois add well add gop lawmakers slamming the move. in making his decision he said he was leaning on recommendations from high profile friends and outside attorney rudy giuliani. the president said he knew he was making life for more difficult for his attorney general as he continued to insist he has the right to intervene in criminal cases. it does not sound like the president is heeding the
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cautionary language from bill barr last week. >> let's take a closer look at the roger stone case as he faces sentencing on thursday. our political correspondent sarah murray is here in "the situation room." he's on track now to be sentenced on thursday. what are you hearing? what's the latest? >> there was a whole back and forth about this, not necessarily in court but sort of because it was over a conference call. amy jackson held a call. she's the judge. stone has been push fing for a w trial. the government has opposed that. she said i'm going to deal with this separately from the sentencing. we're going to move forward. we're going to do this sentencing on thursday. what was really interesting is she did not address the controversy that has been playing out in the background of this case. obviously, the judge has been criticized by president trump who suggested she has some bias here. we saw the four prosecutors who were on roger stone's case resign from it after bill barr
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intervene and pressed for a lesser sentence than the seven to nine years that prosecutors suggested for roger stone. this is playing out in the backgrou background. she addressed none of that on the call today. >> even if stone is sentenced, the president could commute the sentence, pardon him, do whatever he wants. >> absolutely. he could do it by tweet. we've seen him do that before. we saw the president saying that's not something he thought of. there's a process for this. we do know this is something that president trump has thought about a lot. we know he and roger stone have been friends. they have worked together over the years. they have known each other for decades so that's a possibility that we're on alert for. >> he could pardon him before he starts the prison sentence. >> we have to be ready at any moment. >> thanks very much for that. joining us democratic congressman. a member of the intelligence and oversight committees. thanks so much for joining us. what message do you believer the
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president is sending with these pardons and commutations? >> i think he's sending a mess a j to folks like michael flynn and roger stone and others in which is that if you stay on the team, you keep silent about any other information that you know with regard to the president, then you might be rewarded as well down the road. >> the republican congressmen signed onto a statement saying they are disappointed in the sentence for the president to commute the sentence of rod blagojevich. they say this, as our state continues s ts to grapple with political construction, we shouldn't let those who breach the public trust off the hook. do you agree with them? >> in general, i do. unfortunately, our state has a history of corruption. in this particular case, rod blagojevich shook down the head of a children's hospital for a campaign donation.
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i think that he hasn't shown any he morse or contrition for what he did. on top of all this, the process by which rod blagojevich sentence was commuted seems very whi whimsical. it's not based on facts and fairness. i think all of that leads one to believe that this is inappropriate. >> just last week the attorney general, bill barr, warned the president not to get involved in these politically sensitive cases but today the president is saying he's the chief law enforcement officer of the country. what does that tell you? >> i think that's a bad sign. one of the reasons we call the attorney general is chief law enforcement officer is the person is entrusted the
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responsibility to administer the law even if the applications vo involves the executive branch and even the president. people become very, consider concerned about whether those law will be applied evenly to the president and to his administrati administration. >> bill barr is facing some serious calls for him to resign because of his involvement in the stone and flynn cases. we don't expect him to heed the calls. what's next? what could your committee, the oversight committee, do here to deal with this? >> i think there are two things that will probably happen in the house and congress. one is, increasing efforts to surface information brings sunshine onto, for instance, the roger stone sentencing issue. the issue of the second guessing or the second line of prosecutors who are
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micromanaging the michael flynn prosecution and this inbox that's been created at the department of justice to receive rudy giuliani's information or dirt about bidens and trump's rivals source fd from the ukrai. within the judiciary committee and other committees where the department of justice and other cabinet agencies come forward for request for more money or new programs, i think there's going to be a lot of conditioning of that support on better behavior at the doj. i think they will probably have to expect that when they come to capitol hill going forward. >> we'll see what happen ons that front. thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you. just ahead, do president trump's flurry of pardons foreshadow clemency for roger stone, michael flynn, perhaps others?
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also a strong lead for bernie sanders and rising numbers for michael bloomberg in a poll that qualifies the former new york city mayor for his first democratic debate. d puppy, and my lack of impulse control, is about to become your problem. ahh no, come on. i saw you eating poop earlier. my focus is on the road, and that's saving me cash with drivewise. as parents of six, this network is one less thing i have to worry about. (vo) why the aceves family chose verizon. we all use our phones very differently.
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vo: leadership in action. mayor bloomberg and president obama worked together in the fight for gun safety laws, to improve education, and to develop innovative ways to help teens gain the skills needed to find good jobs. obama: at a time when washington is divided in old ideological battles he shows us what can be achieved when we bring people together to seek pragmatic solutions. bloomberg: i'm mike bloomberg and i approve this message.
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tonight president trump's attempt to defend his attorney general may be adding to questions about the justice department and its credibility. the president declaring he, he is the nation's chief law enforcement officer who has the right to intervene in federal cases if he so wants. let's bring in our legal analyst, jeffrey toobin. this comes as the president's pardon, among other, the former new york city police
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commissioner. he pardoned him today. you were the u.s. attorney in his case. rudy giuliani tweeted this. if anyone deserves a pardon it's my friend kerik and i did proudly recommend to pardon to the president. what's your reaction for this decision to pardon him? >> it's the president's choice to pardon whoever he wants. it's not first time that case out of the southern district i had some supervision of resulted in a pardon by the president. there was one a year or two ago. the president can exercise that responsibility and right without any avenue of recourse. it's the broadest power in the constitution. i respect that. i have no personal or professional skin in the game with respect to bernie kerik himself. what i do feel as a private citizen who cares about the
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justice, is that he's exercising it in a wise and just and equitiable way. the pattern of his pardons, repeat again for the critics, he has a right to do. the pattern of pardons kerik k, blagojevich and others, he seems to want to pardon people who are famous. some who have engaged in conduct that seems to mirror what the president has done himself. maybe there's some projection going on. there's lots of worthy people who might be available to have their sentences commuted. donald trump doesn't seem to care about those folks. only a certain kind of folk that is brought to his toengs attent. i would like to know if the president followed the normal protocol which is to go to be pardon attorney, consult with the former prosecutors and the judge in the case.
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bernie kerik, served his time. i don't see how he's a worthy candidate of pardon. >> kerik pardon, one of 11 new clemency grants the president gave today. what signal do you believe the president is sending? >> it's about authoritarianism. the idea that the law doesn't matter. the systems don't matter but what matters is the attention of the leader. the leader gets to tap certain people on the head and say, you are free. you are pardoned and gets to tell other people you are going to be prosecuted. the whole idea of how the justice system, especially the federal justice system is supposed to work since watergate is it's a professional operation. it's dealt with by the justice
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department officials. the president is saying that's not how it works anymore. i decide who gets tapped for good or for ill. >> these pardons come two days before roger stone, the president's long time friend, associate is set to be sentenced by a federal judge here in washington. he was earlier convicted. the president said he hasn't given any thought whether or not to pardon stone. do you believe that? >> no, i do not. he has pardon on the mind, on the brain. he knows it's an asbestbsolute he has. he has oe pipined by the prosecn and he has pardoning on the mind. it's almost certain that's a falsehood. whether or not he will pardon roger stone, which may be your next question. i don't know. i think there's a great likelihood depending on the sentence. >> and michael flynn. both of whom were prominent
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cases brought by robert mueller. we know how the president feels about the mueller investigation and the fact he has been attacking the stone conviction, the michael flynn conviction, which was a guilty plea. i think a pardon is a virtual certainty. >> i want to get both of your thoughts. when the president calls himself the chief law enforcement officer of our country. those are his words. what do you think? >> that's not how we think about it. we usually think the attorney general is the chief law enforcer. every one is supposed to be equal before the bar of justice. as jim acota posted, the white house's own website refers to the attorney general as the chief law enforcement officer of the country. beyond that, the knif language e president uses doesn't matter. if he wants to declare himself
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the king of spain, i guess. the president thinks whether he has the right and authority to do it or not, if he thinks it's his privilege he's going to enjoy, to single out people by name. forget about the pardon power, that he wants targeted and investigated whether it's jeff bezos or biden or anyone else, that he feels should be treated differently because they're an ally of his, that's not what we think of equal justice at law. that's not what we think about when we think about a democracy. maybe he has the authority to do it. it's not a crime to do that but it's wrong and improper as is this declaration if he means what i think most people think he means. >> it's just another example of the president changing the norms by which presidents have operated for decades. the idea that the justice system is supposed to operate quasi
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independently. it is true that the president is the boss of the attorney general. he can fire him. he can hire him. in that respect he's above the chief law enforcement officer. it's not the way equal justice has been understood ever since watergate. >> it's also interesting the president admitted he does make the attorney general, bill barr's job more difficult because of his tweets and statements. he says he's not going to stop tweeting. social media is critically important for him. >> it is. it's also been critically important to various lawyers in his own justice department and others because he digs himself holes when he says things on twitter that he otherwise has people in his department saying, were not true. in some ways his twitter feed becomes ripe evidence against him because it betrays his state of mind and it's mbig of him to
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say he's making the attorney general's job difficult. he can say plenty of things on twitter. the one area jeff and i agree on, that he should stay out of because it's not the way we have been doing business is to stiet of the business of law enforcement with respect to particular people. >> he says that's what he's going to do. what we learned is that there is no check on him in the republican senate. the house, sometimes hoelds hearings and they will call barr on march 31st. i think theless soften the impeachment trial is the snats -- senate is a rubber stamp for anything the president wants to do. he will continue to accumulate the powers until someone stops them which doesn't seem like any time soon. thank you. there's more news we're following. bernie sanders and michael bloomberg are trading jab as
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they are about to share a debate stage for the first time. also, the death toll from the coronavirus just hit a disturbing new level. we have details. much more coming up. ♪ as the day begins ♪ time for reflectin' on family and friends ♪ ♪ and hey, we got somethin' ♪ ♪ just for you (sniffing) ♪ it's a cup of your favori-i-i-ite... ♪ (loud splashing) (high-pitched laughter) dang woodchucks! with geico, the savings keep on going. just like this sequel. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. car vending machines and buying a car 100% online.vented now we've created a brand new way for you to sell your car. whether it's a year old or a few years old, we want to buy your car. so go to carvana and enter your license plate, answer a few questions,
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there's big movement in the democratic presidential race.
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just four days before the next contest in nevada. bernie sanders has opened a double digit lead in his rivals in a new national poll and michael bloomberg has risen to second place earning him a spot in the 20 20 debate. sanders and bloomberg are trading jabs as they get ready to share a stage for first time tomorrow night. >> bernie sandest just wrapped up a campaign rally here on the campus of unlv. he offered a preview for what he plans tomorrow. he said elections are not for sale. that's a not so veiled mention of the fact bloomberg is spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his own fortune in this race. they have been trading barbs from afar for months now. it's intensified in the last several days. tomorrow night they come face-to-face here. it's going to be a debate unlike any we have seen. >> we're going to win this
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election not because we are buying the air waves as mr. b bloomberg is. >> reporter: bernie sanders is laying out the welcome mat for michael bloomberg's debate debut. sanders is establishing himself as the candidate to beat in the democratic premare figimary fig joe biden falling behind. >> they're trying to figure out all kinds of ways how do we stop bernie and the movement. they are not going to succeed. >> reporter: bloomberg will get his first face-to-face opportunity on wednesday after qualifying to join his democratic rivals on stage for the first time. the former new york city mayor who is spending more than $400 million on ads alone in hopes of making a super tuesday splash
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has been tangling with sanders. his campaign using an online video of accusing sanders of not controlling the vitriol from supporters. he's been holding mock debate sessions preparing to defend a controversial stop and frisk policy, allegations of his business and other decisions in his life. elizabeth warren saying it's a shame mike bloomberg can buy himself into the debate and now primary voters can get a live demonstration of how we take on an ego maniac billionire. bloomberg is turning to yet another tv ad. presenting himself as a partner to former president barack obama. one of the most revered figures in the party. >> he's been a leader throughout the country for the past 12
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years, mikechael bloomberg is here. >> reporter: democrats scramble to prepare for the caucuses just four days away. party officials hope to ape void the embarrassing meltdown in iowa earlier this month. even as early voting finishes after long lines and days of confusion, several campaign add visors tell cnn they are concerned how smoothly saturday's caucuses will go. as for the debate there's no question michael plobloomberg h been preparing for some time. we have seen so many debates this cycle but this will be the first one with michael bloomberg at the center of the stage. he's not compete ing in the neva caucuses. he's keeping his eye on super tuesday states but there's sure
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to be a clash between bernie sanders and michael bloomberg. both of them see it in their interests. >> what are you learning about the early voter turn out in the past few days in nevada? >> reporter: we are learning some mu informatinew informatio evening. 36,000 people have come out early voting on saturday, sunday and monday. that does not include the total so far yet on a tuesday here. people will be voting on this evening here. the question, this early voting is very unusual. they have never done it in caucuses before. how they blend the early vote with the actual participation on saturday when people are showing up to their neighborhood meetings across nevada, that is the potential area for concern. several campaign officials are telling me that's the thing they are keeping an eye on. can they avoid an iowa like meltdown because blending that early vote with the in person vote is something no one has tried before. they say it's for convenience.
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they want to increase prapkreec participation. we'll see if they can pull it off. >> thank you. there's a lot to discuss. our political experts are here. they are standing by. we'll discuss right after the quick break. ♪ that's why it's important to be prepared for anything life brings. at fidelity, we'll help you build a clear plan for retirement. one that covers health care costs, taxes, and any other uncertainties while still giving you the flexibility to make changes to your plan as often as you need. because when you're with fidelity, a partner who makes sure every step is clear, there's nothing to stop you from moving forward. ♪ here's wishing you the bluest sky ♪
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we're counting down to the first of cnn's back to back dckn halls in las vegas. you've been out on the trail.
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this debate potentially could shape up between bernie sanders and michael bloomberg who is doing really well in the polls even though he's not on the ballot in nevada. >> i don't think bernie sanders ca campaign would be all that disappointed. they like the distinctions that can be drawn between the two campaigns. bernie sanders campaign is railing against billionaires and they have been critical of michael bloomberg's role in this race. they don't think it's fair he's able to gain access to the debate stage. despite the fact they think he should be vetted in a forum like this. i do expect them to take specific aim because as the polls are starting to show, he is emerging as the biggest competitor to bernie sanders. >> he is even though in the first contest he is waiting for super tuesday march 3rd. is this debate going to help or hurt michael bloomberg? >> it depends on he does. he's not debated in some time.
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he's practicing now as jeff said. this will be the first time where his record is going to be vett eted on stage with these opponent who is want to take it to him. not only bernie sanders. if you're any of these people who have been losing altitude. joe biden has been losing a lot of altitude among moderate and conservative voters. they have been going to michael bloomberg. he's got to get up there and prover he's the person we have been seeing on these ads. he's been flooding american's homes, $400 million in ads. how close is he to that person that some people have come to like and respect. i think he will have a problem in terms of he's not the necessarily the most ka -- charismatic. he comes across as wood. >> he's not used to people coming out and challenging him. the biggest problem will be him keeping his cool. he will have a lot of people ke
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questioning his record and motivations for being in politics nor saying some of the things he's said on racial issues. he has to keep calm. otherwise, i think things could really go sideways. i think -- but at the same time i think the bar is a bit low for him. people are expecting he will be a little rous trusty compared t other competitors. he needs to treads water tomorrow night. he needs to get through the south carolina debate and it's onto super tuesday and then we will see whether he has what it takes to pick up the delegates. >> the 400 plus milli$400 plus n bloomberg has spend on his campai campaign. >> thatst been a big criticism. he will make it on the debate stage without one of the key criteria that the dnc set and that was a certain number of
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donors to your campaign. he has no do nnors. >> he's got one. they wanted to get more investment from grass root supporters which is the foundation of the bernie sanders campaign. the fact he was still able to gain access, you see elizabeth warren being critical. it seems as though they are allowing bloomberg onto this stage despite the fact that some of these other candidates that are no longer around didn't have that same opportunity. i'll be interested to see how this plays with the average democratic voter. is this something they care about that he sidestepped these rules especially given the fact there was not too long ago that michael bloomberg wasn't a democrat. >> or do they care about the fact he has $60 billion to spend in. >> the average democratic want someone to beat donald trump. >> how willing are they going to be to put aside some of these issues about billionaires and influence in politics.
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i don't think sort of middle of the road democrats care that much about that as do the bernie sanders supporters. i think it is these other issues around race, around gender. some of the comments he's made and the lawsuits he's faced because of the culture he created at bloomberg. that will probably be an issue for him as well as the racial issues. >> in some cases it feel like the fact he has an unlimited pot of money is a proof point for some voters he has what it takes to go up against trump. they understand trump is raising ton of money and having money at their disposal in november will be a big part of it. i think these candidates really need michael bloomberg to be on the stage tomorrow. >> a foil. >> they need to be able to take him down a notch because these ads are having an effect. michael bloomberg is running an ad featuring barack obama prom .
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a lot of people think barack obama endorsed him. >> or obama endorsed bloomberg. >> they need to take him down a notch. get him to every single living room and those ads are having an efkts. >> my kids know who bloomberg is because he's on youtube so much. >> if you're in some of those super tuesday states like california or texas or virginia, his ads are all over the place. >> no matter where you are. they're in south carolina because he's doing this national ad buy. he's on stations that african-americans watch a lot. cnn, own. >> those super tuesday states start now. it's three days after south carolina. there's not a lot of time to campaign. the ads that are airing right now matter. >> 14 states. a big chunk of the delegates who will go to the convention. stand by. there's more news we're following. stay with cnn for not one but
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two presidential town hali vel events starting tonight. bernie sanders is at 8:00 p.m. followed by pete buttigieg. a new jump in the global death toll from the coronavirus. we'll have the latest on the cases right here in the united states as well. er, like... a business borrowing solution to help get a little more space with a lot less mom. or home insight, to search for a new house within your budget. because, they really need their space. pnc - make today the day.
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as the global death toll from the coronavirus outbreak passes 2,000, passengers on board a quarantined cruise ship who tested negative for the virus are set to be released from the vessel starting tomorrow. nick watt is outside the university of nebraska medical center where several americans previously evacuated from the ship are being treated. nick, what are you learning? >> reporter: wolf, it is amazing to think that more of the coronavirus cases outside of china were on that boat, the diamond princess. there are still around 100 americans either on the boat or in hospitals in japan. and the cdc has just told them that they will now have to wait another 14 days before they are allowed back into the united states. now, the u.s. is already e v evacuated more than 300 people flown early monday into the u.s.
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as did yyou mentioned the 13 pe deemed to be the most high risk are now here at this medical facility in omaha. >> i'm not able to leave this room at all. >> reporter: for 13 americans evacuated from the diamond princess cruise ship, this is home for at least the next two weeks. there's a tv, wifi, expert care, but -- >> no clothes, no tooth brush, no brush, no nothing. >> reporter: she's in the quarantine unit right now. but jerry goldman's husband carl has tested positive for novel coronavirus and is in the biocontainment unit. we spoke to him on the phone, sounds upbeat. he's being treated by nurses and a doctor all wearing hazmat suits. >> we feel like we are a resource and doing something for the national good. so, these are u.s. citizens. they need to come home. we want to make sure that's done
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safely. >> reporter: three ebola patients were treated here. the victim is staffed for diseases like this one. >> although in the united states right now, the risk is minimal. this day, it's minimal. but if it turns into a global pandemic, we could have a significant problem. >> reporter: meanwhile scientists scrambling to find out how this virus spreads. viruses can live outside the body on glass or plastic for up to nine days if the surface isn't disinfected. deep cleaning or destroying potentially infected cash. chinese authorities have calculated this coronavirus's death rate at 2.3% among those infect. and that may fall. right now it's higher than
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inflinfl influenza, and sars 9.6% and mers staggering 35%. >> the quarantine, it was -- i feel good. it was great. they're doing a very good job. so, we have very efficient. >> reporter: their two-week quarantine finally over. >> nick watt, thanks very much. much more news right after this. let me tell you something,
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. i've asked michael bloomberg about running for president several times over the years. here's what he told me back in 2007. >> i need another candidate and i am not a candidate. i told you what, i'm going to speak out though. i have every intention of speaking out and traveling around this country and trying to get people to say look, you who are running, tell us what you'll do and how do you stop this constant fighting that has immobilized congress, both parties and both ends of enapproximate pe enpennsylvan enpennsylvania avenue. we've got to fight terrorism globally and trade global ri and have science globally. we've got to have answers on how to fund medical care and social security. i don't hear any of this stuff. >> a lot of people are clamoring. they're not happy with the democrats, the republicans.
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you could be that third party candidate that some people want. >> i'm very flattered that you would even bring it up. nevertheless, there are plenty of candidates who will be able. >> erin burnett "out front" starts right now. trump's bail out blitz. tonight he is pardoning a number of white collar criminals and shortening the sentence of a man who tried to sell obama sentence. bernie sanders is pulling ahead after two strong finishes in iowa and new hampshire. congressman clyburn, is he ready to crown someone in that state. he's my guest. let's go out frochblt. good evening. i'm erin burnett. welcome to a special edition of out frochblt we are live in las vegas tonight. in l


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