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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Source: HHS Secretary Azar Shocked That VP Pence Would Lead Coronavirus Response; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is Interviewed About the White House Coronavirus Response; Whistleblower Says U.S. Workers Without Proper Protective Gear or Training Helped Coronavirus Evacuees; Did Bloomberg Team Offer Yang A V.P. Candidate Slot?; NY Times: "Democratic Leaders Willing To Risk Party Damage To Stop Bernie Sanders"; Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) Is Interviewed About Endorsing Biden; Funeral Held For FDNY Veteran Who Recovered Brother's Body After 9/11 Attack, And Died Of 9/11-Related Cancer. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:16]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.

We begin with the latest in the coronavirus, its impact and the administration's response to it. We learned late today about a whistle-blower complaint alleging that federal health workers who were sent in late January to help receive the first American coronavirus evacuees were not given the right infection control training or protective gear.

Now if the whistle-blower's complaint is correct, it's a sign of just how problematic the U.S. response has been. We're talking about federal employees ordered to help process Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, ground zero of the outbreak. American federal employees who were going to be -- the people who were evacuated, they were going to be sent directly into quarantine.

And these federal employees didn't have protective gear, according to the whistle-blower, despite being face-to-face with potential infected patients. We'll have more on that in a moment.

Also today, we learned new federal guidelines after it was revealed that the first American patient believed to have caught the disease here had to wait days to be tested for it. And there is late word as well on what the public is told and by whom. It all now has to go through the vice president's office.

"The New York Times" reporting that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the face of so many public health emergencies over the years has been told by the White House not to speak out without clearance.

And then of course there is the financial impact the virus continues to have.

The Dow Industrials losing nearly 1,200 points on the day, more than 3200 so far this week. The Trump administration claims that they are ready for anything. Wall

Street it seems has its doubts, a sign perhaps that yesterday's press conference by the president didn't convince many. It was after all heavy on happy talk and self congratulation, more heavy on that than it was on facts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have through some very good early decision, decisions that were actually ridiculed at the beginning, and we did it very early. A lot of people thought we shouldn't have done it that early, and we did, and it turned out to be a very good thing, because of all we've done, the risk to the American people remains very low.

The vaccine is coming along well, and we have a total of 15 cases, many of which within a day I will tell you most of whom are fully recovered. I think that's really a pretty impressive mark.

And, again, when you have 15 people and a 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done.

And, again, we've had tremendous success, tremendous success beyond what people would have thought.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, keeping him honest, some of the president's optimism was belied moments later by his own experts. Here is Anthony Fauci, approved to speak apparently on a vaccine which is close.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Although this is the fastest we have ever gone from a sequence of a virus to a trial, it still would not be any applicable to the epidemic unless we really wait about a year to a year and a half.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There is another top expert adding a reality check to the president's suggestion the outbreak here is already dying out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, CDC PRINCIPAL DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and is responsible for the low levels of cases that we have so far. However, we do expect more cases. And this is a good time to prepare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The president just said it would be down to zero. Vice President Pence, who is now overseeing administration response repeated today that they are ready for anything.

But that's certainly not the message that the acting head of homeland security sent when he appeared before the Senate just two days ago. He didn't seem to realize or believe, perhaps, that the spread and response of to the coronavirus might actually fall under homeland security.

Here he is being questioned by Republican Senator John Kennedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): You're the head of Homeland Security. Do we have enough respirators or not?

CHAD WOLF, ACTING DHS SECRETARY: For patients? I don't understand the question.

KENNEDY: For everybody. For every American who needs one who gets the disease.

WOLF: Again, I would refer you to HHS on that. My budget supports --

KENNEDY: Mr. Secretary, you're supposed to --

WOLF: My budget supports the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security.

KENNEDY: You're the secretary of homeland security.

WOLF: Yes, sir.

KENNEDY: And you can't tell me if we have enough respirators?

WOLF: For the entire American public?

KENNEDY: Yes.

WOLF: No, I would say probably not.

KENNEDY: OK. How short are we?

WOLF: I don't have that number offhand, Senator. I will get that for you.

KENNEDY: But I want to be sure I understand. Somebody --

WOLF: Yes, sir.

KENNEDY: -- is doing modeling --

WOLF: Yes, sir.

KENNEDY: -- on how many cases we're anticipating?

WOLF: Yes, sir. You're asking me a number of medical questions that CDC and HHS are focusing on. KENNEDY: I'm asking you questions as secretary of the Department of

Homeland Security, and you're supposed to keep us safe.

[20:05:04]

WOLF: Yes, sir.

KENNEDY: And you need to know the answers to these questions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Certainly someone needs to know. Ignorance doesn't kill viruses and wishful thinking or vague happy talk won't contain outbreaks or reassure investors or employers or any of us.

With that in mind, listen to what the president had to say just before air time tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's going to disappear one day. It's like a miracle. It will disappear.

From our shores, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: One other indication of the president's approach comes in reporting from "The New York Times" on the president's choice of Vice President Pence to be point man on the outbreak. "The Times" citing a few people familiar with the president's comments he told people the vice president, quote, didn't have anything else to do, unquote.

Let's go now to CNN's John Harwood who sat the White House, got some reporting over his own on the vice president as well as details about the presidential press conference.

So, John, let's start with that. What are you learning about the hours leading up to the president's press conference last night? How engaged was he leading up to -- what kind of information was he getting from his advisers?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was pretty chaotic, Anderson. And we know that advisers have been trying to give the president broad brush strokes about the situation, not a lot of detail, because they know he is somewhat inattentive to detail.

The problem with that is when he hears detail from others who are alarmed by the details, he gets angry about that. He had been blaming Alex Azar in the hours moving up to that press conference.

The other problem, though, is he has difficulty accepting that adverse developments happen on his watch. He either pretends that they're not that bad, as we saw in some of the clips that you played, or he deflects responsibility on others. And if you want to know how that went over with the American public, it wasn't just the market reaction the last couple of days.

During the press conference, the futures market went down while the president was speaking. They were not persuaded.

COOPER: Did Health and Human Secretary Alex Azar know that the president was going to put Vice President Pence in charge of the response?

HARWOOD: No. And it's clear how much advance notice Vice President Pence had either.

Remember, during the afternoon, ahead of that press conference, the administration had on the record denied that they were going to have a new czar to coordinate response on coronavirus, and we saw the pushback from Alex Azar in the press conference itself when he pointed out that I'm still the chairman of the task force. But while the president was there, and then you had this awkward situation today when the first meeting of that task force after the press conference occurred on Azar's turf at HHS, Pence was there. He ostensibly was in charge of it. But Alex Azar spoke first.

COOPER: And the vice president announced he has brought on an additional doctor to be the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House in addition to himself and Azar. Is it clear who is in charge?

HARWOOD: No, it's certainly not clear who is in charge. However, the appointment of Deborah Birx, who is a respected official, who had been leading global anti-AIDS efforts for the United States under multiple presidents, started with President Obama in that role, has continued under President Trump, that is considered a positive step forward by the administration to get her expertise applied to this problem.

COOPER: And any reaction -- obviously the president watching the stock market closely. Any reaction from the White House about today's drop?

HARWOOD: Well, the president doesn't like those drops. But what we've seen again, deflect the blame on others, blame Democrats. He was asked about that this evening. Are we headed for a recession? He said, well, we're really going to have a crash if the Democrats take over.

I asked a senior White House aide this afternoon. Has anybody really warned the president that we could be heading for a recession in his reelection year that would be a huge problem? The aide responded, well, that's been on television a lot. I assume he's picked it up from there.

COOPER: John Harwood at the White House -- John, thanks very much.

Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.

The president saying earlier just before air that this may just kind of magically disappear from our shores. I don't really know what he is talking about. I guess, he's previously said that maybe in April, it might dissipate, which is -- SARS went down during April. Obviously, this is a novel coronavirus. It's one we haven't seen before. So, we're not even sure how different it is from other coronaviruses. So, it's not clear if like the flu or colds, it might dissipate in warmer weather, let's hope it does.

But we can't say for sure one way or the other.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): There is really deepening bipartisan alarm at this happy talk, the apparent intent of the administration to clamp down on information and control the message more than keeping people safe. They talk about a miracle, dispelling the threat of a major epidemic in this country.

What we need is not happy talk, but action and the kind of resource -- swift, strategic, smart responses and preparedness that depends on science. And now, we have the administration in effect censoring Dr. Fauci who would talk truth to the American people, not to panic them, but simply to inform them and make sure that they do trust our government to do the right thing, provide those masks, the equipment, the vaccine, but also the diagnostic tests that are essential.

COOPER: What is surreal to me about that press conference last night is what the president is saying in that, and then his own officials are saying, well, actually, the virus, a vaccine might take a year, a year and a half. And actually, the president says it's going to go down to zero from the 15 cases, and then his own experts are saying, well, we expect this actually to go up.

BLUMENTHAL: The administration has really hollowed out the national security advisers who know something about bio defense.

COOPER: Do you think that's really what we're seeing here? That this is part of the hollowing out. The administration has been hollowed out from the inside?

BLUMENTHAL: The administration has hollowed out its national security staff and it has dismantled the building blocks of mental health. It has sought to slash the CDC and the NIH.

The amount of funding it's proposed, $2.5 billion, is tremendously inadequate. And there's agreement on both sides of the aisle that we need a bipartisan approach here. And now is the time the end of happy talk, the end of political name-calling.

COOPER: It's also, you know, we have so many jobs that are unfilled in the administration, acting secretaries, you know, to avoid people actually going through confirmation hearings, which could be difficult for some of them given their experience or lack of experience.

To see the acting head of homeland security whose -- you know, had jobs in homeland security under Kirstjen Nielsen, I think was a lobbyist for 11 years before that on homeland security issues and other things, and then prior to that had some prior experience. But the idea that he basically is saying that's kind of a CDC/HHS thing, this is clearly -- I mean, any -- if there is a pandemic in the country, that is a homeland security issue. BLUMENTHAL: It is a homeland security issue, and it requires a whole

of government all-hands-on-deck approach, just as President Obama did with Ebola, appointing someone responsible directly to him, facing the truth, dealing with facts, talking truth to the American people. And that's the kind of leadership that's required here.

But instead, we have denial. It's denial of science, censoring scientists, and in effect putting people in charge who are totally unqualified or who lack the facts, as you saw in that exchange between my colleague, Senator Kennedy, a Republican and the acting secretary.

COOPER: And, you know, Vice President Pence has been appointed -- again for somebody who hasn't really embraced science, I'm not sure many scientists would be impressed. And, you know, he has a record. There was an outbreak of HIV linked to intravenous drug use when he was governor of Indiana. He was criticized for really not responding to it and responding much later on.

BLUMENTHAL: He's also questioned the science around smoking, whether it causes diseases.

If you were to pick someone in the United States government right now to perform that role, the last person or one of the last would be secretary -- the vice president. And he really should not be in that role. It ought to be someone with the credibility and the expertise so as to restore trust.

And I come back to the first point that I made -- public trust in public health is absolutely critical.

COOPER: Senator Blumenthal, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

Coming up next, a doctor's view on how prepared we really are for the coronavirus and answers some of our questions. Sanjay Gupta joins us.

And later, primary politics and major endorsement of Joe Biden now has going into Saturday's voting in South Carolina.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:18:34]

COOPER: We mentioned it before the break. A whistle-blower complaint alleging the health workers sent to help evacuate Americans from Wuhan, China, did not have the right protective clothing or the right training to stay safe when they were face-to-face with the evacuees.

"The Washington Post" broke the news.

Let me get perspective from Lena Sun who shares the byline on "The Washington Post" story.

Lena, what is the whistle-blower alleging here?

LENA SUN, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: The whistle-blower works at HHS and supervises people for -- who work for one unit of HHS. These workers were dispatched by other HHS officials to help with meeting and receiving and helping the repatriated Americans who were flown back from Wuhan, China.

COOPER: Were the Americans who were sent -- sent back from China, were they then quarantined or were they just sent on?

SUN: No. Those Americans, those first two flight, if you remember, they were quarantined on those military bases for 14 days. And the reason they were quarantined is because they were considered to be at higher risk for exposure to the coronavirus --

COOPER: Which makes it all the more stunning of what the whistle- blower is alleging then. These are people at the epicenter, first ones back in America. You would think -- the administration says they're ready for anything. Vice President Pence said that today. The president said, you know, they're ready for anything yesterday, essentially.

You would think if the whistle-blower is correct that they would have sent people with the proper equipment with at least some training. The fact that first shipment of Americans coming back were not met that way is really stunning.

SUN: These people are normally deployed to help out in hurricanes and natural disasters. They provide so-called human services. But they don't have the training. This was a public health emergency. You're dealing with a novel coronavirus, a brand-new pathogen, and they were working alongside teams from the CDC, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of whom were in full protective gear.

And some of these workers who were deployed by HHS were in face-to- face contact with passengers.

COOPER: And they did not test the HHS people. They said they didn't show signs of symptoms. But as we know, many people remain asymptomatic for quite some time.

SUN: Right, right. They did not test them. You know, at the time, none of these workers met the very restrictive criteria for testing. And then they went on to commercial flights to their offices and homes elsewhere in the country and could have passed it on. That was the worry that the whistle-blower had.

COOPER: And the whistle-blower is alleging not just that screw-up, but there was retaliation when she raised concerns.

SUN: Yes. She raised concerns and sent them up the chain of command all the way up to the Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to someone in that office. And a little over a week later she was informed in a memo that she was being reassigned to a new job for which she had no experience and no background, and she wouldn't have anybody under her, and that the reassignment would be effective in 15 days. And if she chose to decline the assignment, she would be terminated.

COOPER: And has there been any response from the Department of Health and Human Services about her claims?

SUN: They said that they are looking into this, and Secretary Azar said in a hearing today he was asked this specifically, that it would not be protocol to send people who are not trained properly into these quarantined situations and that he would -- they would look into this.

COOPER: It's a remarkable story. Lena Sun, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SUN: Thank you.

COOPER: We have more now on what could come next. Another woman being treated in California has apparently become the first known case of unknown origin in this country. And it's important because although coronavirus seems to spread like flu, it is deadlier.

CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out to the president just last night. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: In comparison to the coronavirus, flu has a fatality ratio of .1 percent.

TRUMP: Correct.

GUPTA: This has a fatality ratio somewhere between 2, 3 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We don't know exactly the number, and the flu is higher than that, the flu is much higher than that.

GUPTA: This is spreading -- it's going to spread in urban communities, that's the expectation. Does that -- does that worry you because that seems to be what worries the American people (ph)--

TRUMP: No, because we're ready for it. It is what it is. We're ready for it. We're really prepared.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sanjay Gupta joins us now.

I mean, I don't know if that's just him putting a brave face on it. I don't know if he feels we're really prepared. Again, "The Washington Post" story to me seems to indicate if the first group of Americans who were thrown back here if in fact the whistle-blower is correct and the federal health officials who were sent there by HHS don't have gear and don't have training, that is alarming to me.

GUPTA: This is a chaotic response, Anderson. I mean, I just have to say it feels very uneven now as we start to learn more and more about this. There are just some basic things that are known, basic public health strategies. You provide personal protective equipment. You train people how to use

it. They were coming in contact with people that came out of this so- called hot zone in the Hubei province. And, you know, if that -- if that -- these whistle-blower complaints are correct, some basic protocols just simply weren't followed there.

Some of the testing that we're hearing about not being done. You know, in Korea, they've been testing several thousand patients a day. We've tested, you know, several hundred over a few weeks.

If we're not doing surveillance, which is the primary pillar of any kind of public health system, we don't even know what we're dealing with exactly. Again, sort of 101 stuff when it comes to preparedness here.

So, it's a little confusing when I was talking to the president yesterday sort of making this point that yes, coronavirus and flu very transmissible, very contagious, but flu has a fatality ratio of .1 percent; 0.1 percent of people who get it will die. Coronavirus 2 percent. That's 20 fold higher.

Nobody wants obviously this to spread and to realize those sorts of fatalities. But if you're not recognizing the numbers and recognizing what you're dealing with, if you're not doing the surveillance and recognizing that, if you're not protecting the workers, there seems to be some real uneven lapses here, Anderson.

[20:25:07]

COOPER: Yes. I don't know if our control room can get the sound what played earlier from the president from just earlier this evening, where we talk about sort of it might magically kind of just go from our shores. We'll try to get that sound.

But I want to ask you about the California -- the California case. A patient who appears to have contracted the virus but didn't travel anywhere known to have the virus, there is some new information that we just learned than patient's status.

GUPTA: This patient is quite ill. We're just learning that the patient is in the hospital, came in to the hospital. You know, they had talked about testing, but testing wasn't done for several day, and after the testing was done, it took a few days to come back. Subsequently was diagnosed with coronavirus.

But this patient is ill. My understanding is now requiring ventilator breathing machine sort of support. So, it gives you an idea this obviously can be a serious virus.

And I do want to point out something else as well, even again in the exchange I had with the president, the question that everyone's been asking, is this going to start spreading in the communities. Apparently, this was known yesterday before the press conference that this patient represented someone who likely developed this because of spread in the communities. They already knew that at the point they said maybe or it's not inevitable. I just don't quite understand that now in retrospect because we knew

it at the time. Why wasn't that disclosed during that press conference? This is a significant event.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: If you look at -- if you look at these outbreaks, first, you have this sort of containment phase. At some point once it starts to spread in the community, as Dr. Tom Frieden talks about, that's a second phase and it's an important phase. You've got to deal with it for what it is.

COOPER: And I want to play the sound from the president. This is from earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It's going to disappear. One day, it's look like a miracle. It will disappear. From our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The folks around the table are going it may dissipate and disappear. Just to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he is referring to his theory that in April, it's going to dissipate because SARS went down in April.

GUPTA: Yes.

COOPER: Is that we can assume what he is talking about?

GUPTA: Yes. I think, you know, this idea that maybe there is some sort of seasonal variation with this thing is possible. But his own public health officials, including the head of the CDC who I interviewed last week said this is going to get a foothold. It's going to start spreading in communities.

It may have a seasonal variation, but this could also be a new pathogen that is here to stay that we're going have to deal with around the world for a long time.

COOPER: All right. Sanjay Gupta, I appreciate it. Thanks.

We're going to have more news. "The Wall Street Journal" saying that Michael Bloomberg's spoke with former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and not only discussed a possible endorsement but floated the idea of Yang as Bloomberg's running mate. Up next, you'll hear from Andrew Yang himself for his take on all of this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:32:25]

COOPER: Well, we have more breaking news. "The Wall Street Journal" is reporting tonight that Michael Bloomberg's campaign has reached out to former democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, courting his endorsement and floating the possibility of Yang being his running mate. If only we had Andrew Yang here -- oh, hi, Andrew Yang.

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hi, Anderson. How are you?

COOPER: Andrew is now a CNN Political Commentator. Obviously, I know the kind of person you are and you're probably not going to talk about a private conversation. What can you say about this or what would you want to say?

YANG: What I can say is that multiple campaigns have reached out. And it's flattering to be considered for a V.P. role or any role in someone's campaign. I made clear to every other candidate that I ran on a set of issues, automation of jobs involving economy that we need to humanize and a dividend of a thousand dollars a month for every American. And I said that if a candidate were to make a significant commitment in those directions, then I'd be much more enthusiastic about considering an endorsement.

COOPER: So you didn't really indicate yes or no to anybody on anything other than these are the issues I'd care about? I'd like to see those issues?

YANG: I publicly said a couple of things. Number one, I will support whoever the nominee is. And number two, I am very enthusiastic about having the democracy -- the democratic process play out and to decide who the nominee is. But also, if someone decides to support the ideas that were central to my campaign, that would go a long way towards making me consider an endorsement.

COOPER: All right. Andrew is going to stay here. Van Jones is here as well. Gloria Borger as well. New reporting in "The Times," Van, that I want to ask you about, that the Democratic Party officials appear ready, essentially, to risk intraparty damage --

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Hiroshima.

COOPER: I don't know what you would call it --

JONES: Yes.

COOPER: -- to stop Bernie Sanders getting the nomination.

JONES: Yes.

COOPER: Superdelegates coming. How serious is this?

JONES: Well, look, I mean, it's hard to know. Most of these people are not being quoted on the record but --

COOPER: They're also saying that, look, these are the rules, and its rules that Sanders wanted and --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Wrote. JONES: Yes, sure. Well, listen, here is the deal. There's the rules and there's the norms. The rules are that on the first ballot, if you don't get the majority, there is something called the second ballot. And the second ballot, you will get a chance to vote.

But what is usually happened is if you're close -- you know, Hillary was close in 2016, and then Bernie gave her the delegates to get across the finish line. They didn't end up -- it didn't go into a brokered convention. I think Obama was in a similar situation and Hillary helped him.

So the norms are if you're close then, you know, everybody gets across the finish line. What's going to be interesting is, yes, Bernie did agree to these new rules, but there is a new set of norms that may show up that may make this convention very, very interesting.

[20:35:07]

COOPER: Gloria, I mean, if Senator Sanders has a leading plurality of delegates going to the convention, the nomination goes to someone else, I mean, I guess it depends how close they were and how close is close.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: But, I mean, doesn't the Democratic Party risk alienating all his supporters who could every well, you know --

BORGER: Absolutely.

COOPER: -- just say I'm staying home?

BORGER: Absolutely. And of course, a lot of this then would depend on how the candidate behaves. If the candidate says for the good of the country -- and Bernie Sanders, by the way, if -- I don't know if it would be Bernie Sanders doing this, or would it be Joe Biden doing this, or would it be Bloomberg doing this, but Bernie Sanders has publicly said he is going to support the Democratic nominee, period, because beating Donald Trump is more important. But it does depend on what the candidate does.

So Bernie Sanders, say it is Sanders, and he were to say to his folks, you know, you've got to do this. This is for good of the country. He can't make them go out and vote, and I think that would be a real worry. But he could make a convention a little calmer.

But if it does go to a contested convention, I'm with Van. There is no -- you know, there is no way to avoid what could be a very, very ugly situation that could be ultimately damaging in the fall.

COOPER: Andrew, if Vice President Biden wins in South Carolina, comes in first, how big a help is that for him for Super Tuesday? And conversely, if he doesn't win, I mean, how bad does that hurt him?

YANG: If Joe did not win South Carolina, it would be devastating to his campaign. COOPER: He would still stay in for Super Tuesday, I would assume.

YANG: Yes, it's only three days away, but it would be devastating. But I know Joe is very, very confident and every indication is that he is going to win South Carolina. The two factors are what's his margin of victory if he does win. And number two, how much press coverage and momentum does that give him heading into Super Tuesday three days later. I would expect that he does win. I think he wins significantly. And I think it does give him a burst of momentum heading into the 14 states on Tuesday.

COOPER: Van, I mean, it certainly gives him something to argue, which is, you know, the most diverse race so far. I'm, you know --

JONES: I mean, look, he's done this rope a dope strategy. I'm just going to get beat up in all these other states. But in South Carolina, I'm going to show you what I'm made of. And so if it comes true, and he does great and he wins by 10 points, it can't help but give him a little bit of a boost.

COOPER: It really rope a dope strategy?

JONES: I mean, this is the way they're getting beat up, man.

COOPER: But why not to let the other guy get tired out?

JONES: Let's find out. Listen, I'm doing the best I can. Nobody can figure out this guy's strategy until now, so hopefully he wins South Carolina.

YANG: The close a thing to the rope a dope was when he said in the New Hampshire race, yes, I'm probably going to lose here too.

BORGER: Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, go ahead.

BORGER: You know, I was talking to somebody who is very close to the campaign and involved in the campaign who said to me here is their strategy, which is they have to win big in South Carolina, and that means double-digits. So it depends on how everybody ends up defining big.

But then going into Super Tuesday, they have to come in second overall. Because what they want to do is do better than Bloomberg, and they want to be the alternative to Bernie Sanders and they figure out that is a way to do it. They believe they can win a couple of states, maybe Alabama, maybe North Carolina, who knows.

But they have no money, Anderson. I mean, no money, and they're hoping that the momentum they would get out of a win in South Carolina would also come with a lot of money attached to it. But don't forget, Bloomberg has unlimited money and Bernie Sanders does too.

COOPER: Yes. Gloria Borger, thank you. Van Jones, Andrew Yang, thanks very much. Coming up, more on South Carolina next. And joining us, one of the state's and the country's most influential lawmakers, House Majority Whip James Clyburn.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:42:31]

COOPER: Former Vice President Joe Biden says he is counting on a victory the day after tomorrow when South Carolina holds its primary. And Biden's received obviously a big boost. Long-time South Carolina and Democratic Congressman James Clyburn is supporting his campaign. I spoke with the Congressman shortly before air time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, obviously your endorsement has been very significant for Vice President Biden going into the weekend. What your expectations for how he'll do? Do you think he'll win South Carolina?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D-SC): I think so. I certainly hope so. My endorsement is not about me. It's not about even my constituents. It's about the future of this country. I've been saying to people several weeks now that way back in the '60s and '70s when we were doing all the stuff that was challenging the system, I wondered sometimes whether or not we were doing the right thing. But I never feared for the future of the country. Today, I fear for the future of the country. I hope South Carolina will do what it does so often, set this presidential campaign on the right course.

COOPER: When you talk about fear for the country, obviously you're referring to President Trump. Are you also referring to what may happen with the Democratic Party if it's not Joe Biden, if it's Bernie Sanders? Or would a Sanders campaign be acceptable to you, Sanders as the candidate?

CLYBURN: Well, Sanders as a candidate is all right by me. I'm looking at the surveys that are being done, the polling. And all the polling that I've seen indicates that the best Democratic candidate for us is Joe Biden. I feel that he has the integrity, he has the record, he has the compassion that is necessary to set the country back on the right course and restore us to our rightful place on the world scene.

COOPER: As a party leader, you're the House Whip. Are you concerned that this could well end up going all the way to a brokered convention?

CLYBURN: Well, you know, one of the things I've been thinking about, Anderson, it's why we keep using that word. That is an inflammatory word. We have some rules that have been adopted, and I might say the moving force for these rules were the people who were supporting Bernie Sanders.

[20:45:12]

The entire delegates -- the congressional black caucus were against this rule, but we lost. Now all of the sudden these rules, the unpledged delegates, it's official getters, whatever they call us, will not be allowed to vote on the first ballot. So it means that if you don't get a victory on the first ballot, then I get a chance to vote.

So if we go to a second ballot, it would be the first vote for those of us serving in Congress and others around the country who are unpledged delegates. We then have a chance to make a pledge and vote for whomever we please.

There are people in Congress who are supporting Bernie Sanders. There are people who are supporting Joe Biden. So that is not brokering anything. That's following the rules as they were established, rules which I did not like.

COOPER: Right.

CLYBURN: To which I agreed to play by and I want to see everybody else play by those rules.

COOPER: As a superdelegate, you're saying it's not some nefarious thing, it's your chance to vote for the first time?

CLYBURN: I'm an unpledged delegate. I'm an official delegate. I'm not a superdelegate. There's nothing super about me. You all keep calling us that. We have never called ourselves that. That's not in our rules. Our rules say unpledged delegates.

COOPER: Senator Sanders is using that term, I can tell you.

CLYBURN: I know he is and that's the problem that I have. I have a real problem with people who keep using words that they know are inflammatory. I don't like that. I just don't do it.

COOPER: So you're optimistic, though, going into Saturday for Joe Biden?

CLYBURN: Yes, I am optimistic. I made my endorsement based upon conversations I had with my constituents, conversations I was having with my late wife when this process first started, and conversations I've had with my children and grandchildren. And let me make it clear. My grandson, I have two of them, but one of them, my 25-year-old grandson is working in another campaign.

COOPER: He is on the Buttigieg campaign.

CLYBURN: I want him to do what he wants to do. I've told him, call me whenever you think I can be helpful. But I've also told him, I'm not expecting that I will be voting for the candidate you're working for. But in the end, I still love you. You're going to be my grandson. I'm going to help you be as successful as you want to be. This too will pass.

COOPER: Congressman Clyburn, appreciate it. Always a pleasure, thank you.

CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Still to come in this hour, we remember a hero, and sadly a new 9/11 casualty.

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[20:52:49]

COOPER: Let's check in with Chris to see what he's working on for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I'll tell you, this kind of story about a virus is the worst time for non-transparency in politics. Do we know it's really scary? It's the coronavirus. You know, we've seen swine flu and other ones come. It's the unknown. And now we're hearing that the CDC is changing criteria and playing games with being tested and their tests don't work. States aren't allowed to test.

So you get a headline like the one out of California with Gavin Newsom, 8,400 being monitored. Why are they monitored? Why don't we know the realities? Tonight, we're going to spend our time digging into the questions of what we don't know.

COOPER: All right, Chris. We look forward to that seven minutes from now. A lot of questions. A lot of questions. Thanks, Chris.

Coming up next, a humbled hero remembered, the second loss for one 9/11 family.

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[20:57:12]

COOPER: We want to end tonight remembering a hero and a friend to someone on this program, 46-year-old New York City Firefighter Daniel Foley. Those who new him and loved him, and there were many, called him Danny. Danny died of 9/11 related pancreatic cancer. Today, he was laid to rest.

Danny is the second member of the Foley family whose death was connected to 9/11. His older brother, Tommy, also a firefighter, was killed in the terror attacks 19 years ago. When Tommy didn't come home that day on 9/11, Danny vowed he wouldn't either until he found his brother.

Day after day, hour after hour in light and in darkness, he searched the rubble. Ten days searching for his fallen brother, and all his fallen brothers. Ten days of the smoke, 10 days in the fumes. On the 11th day he found Tommy and he brought him home.

We now know that air he and so many other heroes were breathing while they searched was toxic. When Danny Foley was diagnosed last year with cancer, he spoke about embracing a life while confronting his own mortality. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL FOLEY, FDNY FIREFIGHTER: I'm not going to move backwards, I'm going to move forwards because I'm scared. And that's what I usually do, moving forward.

I want you all to know how thankful I am for all your prayers, your love and support. I did not going to know what God's plans for me, but I will tell you that my amazing wife, Carrie, and I have five beautiful children to raise and my work here is not done

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Today, hundreds of firefighters lined the blocks leading to the church in New Rochelle, New York where Danny's funeral was held. The church was filled with those who knew him and loved him. And, yes, it was standing room only.

The World Trade Center Health Program estimates more 2,600 people have died from 9/11 related illnesses, and New York official say that 220 firefighters, including Daniel Foley, have died from illnesses connected to their in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we continue to fight. Many firefighters throughout the city today are still dealing with the illnesses caused from 9/11. And we're all here to support all of our brothers throughout the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The word hero gets used a lot these days, maybe too much. But ask anyone who knew him, Danny was the real deal. He was humble. He didn't like to talk about his work in Rescue Company 3 in the South Bronx. He didn't like to talk about the numerous citations he received for bravery in the line of duty. He didn't need to talk about that stuff.

What he did talk about with love and a light in his eyes was Carrie, his wife of 20 years and his kids, Erin, Kiera, Brianne, Kendall and TJ. And whenever he could, which was a lot, he'd take them and their friends to get ice cream and go fishing. He laughed a lot, too.

Danny's name will be added to a memorial wall at their fire house. He'll be buried next to his brother, Tommy. Two brothers who devoted their lives to protecting the city that they loved, two brothers reunited once again, two brothers together forever.

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time." Chris?

END