Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on March 1, 2020 – CBS News

Posted By on March 1, 2020

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

Clickhereto browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm Margaret Brennan in Washington and this week on FACE THE NATION, the coronavirus has now claimed the life of an American within the U.S. and the number of infected has increased and now includes cases of unknown origin. Meanwhile, the Trump administration scrambles to calm fears of Americans concerned with the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the economy as the stock market has its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. Plus, it's a big win for former Vice President Joe Biden in South Carolina. As the candidates head to Super Tuesday, can he stop Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders?

JOE BIDEN: We are very much alive.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Former Vice President Joe Biden won South Carolina and won it big.

JOE BIDEN: You launched Bill Clinton, Barack Obama to the presidency. Now you launched our campaign on the path to defeating Donald Trump. This campaign has taken off.

MARGARET BRENNAN: With fourteen states up for grabs in just two days, Biden's victory gives a boost to establishment Democrats hoping to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: There are a lot of states in this country. Nobody wins them all.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll talk with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders about the race.

Plus, as the coronavirus crisis prompts questions of whether or not the U.S. is ready to handle a pandemic, the politics of preparedness becomes a big issue.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't think it's inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now the Trump administration faces a crisis of its own: Calming and reassuring the American public.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We are preparing for the worst. We are ready. We are ready.

This is no reason to panic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it's been a rough week of mixed messages and attacks on familiar targets.

MICK MULVANEY: The press was-- was-- was-- was-- was-- was covering their-- their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the President.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. This is their new hoax.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb will both be here.

Then the Trump administration signs a peace deal with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is just back from that signing ceremony with the Taliban, and we will talk to him.

All that and more is just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. It was a knockout win for former Vice President Joe Biden last night in the South Carolina primary. He got nearly half the vote coming in close to thirty points ahead over his closest competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders. CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto is here to tell us more. So, Anthony, how did Joe Biden do this?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Good morning, Margaret. Big keys for him. First of all, overwhelming support from black voters. That was key and they make up most of the electorate in South Carolina. That was really helped by an endorsement from Representative Jim Clyburn, the most influential African-American politician in the state, more saying that was important than not. And then, finally, big support among those looking for electability that somebody they feel can go on to beat Donald Trump in November. The question now, Margaret, is can Joe Biden parlay that argument into Super Tuesday?

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll get details and forecasts from you on Super Tuesday ahead, Anthony.

We turn now to Senator Bernie Sanders. He is on the campaign trail in Norfolk, Virginia. Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vermont/@BernieSanders/Democratic Presidential Candidate): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is this now a two-man race?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, all I can say is we have won the popular vote in Iowa. We won the New Hampshire primary. We won the Nevada caucus. We lost last night. We're looking forward to Super Tuesday. I think we got a great chance to win in California, in Texas, in Massachusetts, and a number of states around the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: South Carolina is the first southern state. Does that indicate anything to you about your prospects in places like Virginia and-- and North Carolina? Will Joe Biden really challenge you there?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, we're going to see. I mean I think based on the polling, we're doing pretty well in Virginia. I think we got a shot in North Carolina. All I can say is the issues that we are talking about and that is health care as a human right, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, dealing forcefully with the existential threat of climate change. Those are ideas, Margaret, that I think are resonating all across this country. I think we have an excellent chance to do well on Tuesday and to win the Democratic nomination.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Joe Biden is blanketing the airwaves this morning. We know from your campaign that you raised forty-six million dollars in February. That's a significant number. What do you think that does for you going into Super Tuesday? What edge?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, Margaret, it is not only-- it is not only the amount of money that we raised, and that is a phenomenal amount, it's how we raised it. We don't have a Super PAC like Joe Biden. I don't go to rich people's homes like Joe Biden. I think Joe has contributions from more than forty billionaires. What we have done is receive more campaign contributions from more Americans than any candidate in the history of the United States, averaging eighteen dollars and fifty cents. This is a campaign of working people and by working people. And I'm extraordinarily proud of that. But we have enough money now not only to take us through Super Tuesday, but take us through the entire process fueled by the contributions of working-class people all across this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Your campaign said that if you are the nominee, you won't accept the financial help that Michael Bloomberg has offered. He said he'd extend it to any party nominee. Do you really want to turn down his bankroll?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, look, Mister Bloomberg is free to do anything he can with his sixty billion dollars and that's legal. All I can say is at this point we are confident that we can receive the kind of campaign funding that we need from working-class and middle-class people, that we don't have to be beholden to any powerful special interests. Look, one of the things that upsets people--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you would accept it?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --whether conservative or progressive, is-- I didn't say that. What I would say--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --is that he has the right to do anything he wants. Right now, we are confident, Margaret, based on the fundraising that we are doing, is that we can beat Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you are a Democratic socialist. You have never officially entered the Democratic Party. In fact, you constantly criticize Democratic establishment. So, how can you convince the country that you are the best candidate to unify Democrats and challenge President Trump?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, two points. I am a member of the Democratic leadership. I have been in the Democratic caucus from my, you know, virtually my first day back in Congress thirty years ago and from-- in the state of Vermont, where I live, I am supported by Democrats that have won the Democratic primary. But we will win because we have an agenda that speaks to independents, to Democrats, and to more than a few Republicans. Look, we are living at a time when the American people are sick and tired of the kind of income and wealth inequality that exists in America. All over this country, Margaret, and I have been all over this country, you got millions of people who work eleven, twelve bucks an hour. They can't afford childcare.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: They can't afford health care. They are scared to death about their retirement. They want a government that represents them, not just billionaire campaign contributors. That's how you win. You put together that coalition, multi-generational, multi-racial. That is what we're doing. No campaign out there has a stronger grassroots movement than we do. That's how you beat Trump. And, by the way, almost all of the national polls out there, you know, I've had last seventy polls, sixty-five of them, I think, have us beating Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: We're beating them in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. We can beat Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have rallies planned out in California. There is very much a concern about the spread of the coronavirus on the West Coast. Is it safe for you? Have you spoken to any government officials about whether people can really appear at your rally and not worry about their own health?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, actually, we have. I mean that's a very fair question. And my campaign has spoken to public health officials on that issue. And right now, we are planning to do rallies not only in California, but in Utah, Minnesota, and other states around the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've been sparring with the pro-Israel lobby known as AIPAC. You said it gives a platform for bigotry, which was seen as a swipe at Prime Minister Netanyahu. Today, Israel's ambassador to the U.N. says of you that you're not welcome in that country and anyone who calls our prime minister a racist is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both. Do you see a political cost in taking on the pro-Israel lobby in this way?

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Yeah, I do. I mean they have a lot of money. They have a lot of power. Look, I'm Jewish and I'm very proud of my Jewish heritage. As a kid I spent time in Israel. I am not in-- anti-Israel. I will do everything I can to protect the independence and the security and the freedom of the Israeli people. But what we need in this country is a foreign policy that not only protects Israel but deals with the suffering of the Palestinian people as well. You got seventy percent youth unemployment in Gaza. People can't even leave that district, that area, major, major crises. It is not sustainable that we-- continued conflict in the Middle East until the United States develops an even-handed policy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: So, I am pro-Israel; I am pro-Palestinian. I want to bring people together to finally achieve peace in that region.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you on foreign policy. The President just authorized a deal with the Taliban. What do you think of that? Because if you're commander in chief, you'd either follow through with it or halt the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I don't have enough details and the-- and that peace agreement, needless to say, is going to have to go through the Afghan government. We don't know what's going to happen. One of the difficulties, to be very honest, Margaret, in dealing with Trump, it is very hard to believe anything that he says, whether it's the coronavirus, whether what's going on in Afghanistan. But it is my view that the United States and I-- I speak of somebody help lead the opposition to getting us into the war in Iraq. It is my view that we got to end endless wars, that when we have five hundred thousand people in America sleeping out on the street and people can't afford health care--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS: --we got to invest in this country, not in endless wars.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Sanders, thank you for joining us.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not yet appeared on a ballot, but that will change Tuesday. He sat down with our Scott Pelley yesterday in an interview for tonight's 60 MINUTES. Here's a preview.

(Begin VT)

SCOTT PELLEY (60 MINUTES): How do you view this emergency?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (60 MINUTES): I find it incomprehensible that the President would do something as inane as calling it a hoax, which he did last night in South Carolina.

SCOTT PELLEY: He-- he said the-- the Democrats making so much of it is a Democratic hoax, not that the virus was a hoax.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: This is up to the scientists and the doctors as to whether there is a problem. They all around the world say that it is in some places and has enormous potential to become one elsewhere. And it is just ignorant and irresponsible to not stand up and be the leader and say, we don't know, but we have to prepare for the fact that if it is, we have the medicines and the structure, and the knowledge to deal with it.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Scott's interview with Mayor Bloomberg will air tonight on 60 MINUTES.

FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to take a closer look at the growing fears over COVID-19, commonly referred to as the coronavirus. Last week the World Health Organization said the global risk of the virus spreading is now very high. Here in the U.S., there are now seventy-one cases of coronavirus and worldwide the death toll is almost three thousand. There are also concerns about the global economy. Here in the U.S., the stock market took its biggest hit last week since the 2008 financial crisis. We begin today with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Good to have you here.

ALEX AZAR (Secretary of Health and Human Services/@SecAzar): Glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So we just had the first American death on U.S. soil out in Washington State. What do we know about how the virus was contracted and how much it has spread?

ALEX AZAR: So this individual and we just want to express our sympathy, certainly for his family and for all who are suffering from the coronavirus, this individual was in the hospital out in Calif-- out-- out in Washington. We do not know how he contracted the virus, yet. And so that's why we and the State of Washington are deployed out there to try to trace who he had contact with and how he might have gotten the virus. That's why we call it right now a potential community case, meaning we don't have a discernible connection to any travel to Korea or China or any other impacted area.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, at this point, you don't know if this person came into contact with anyone. He just showed up sick at the hospital?

ALEX AZAR: We have no evidence so far that establishes a connection to somebody who traveled to an impacted area. And so we do not know how he contracted the virus. That's really what we do. That's the basic blocking and tackling right now of public health is we're going to trace the people that he had contact with. We're going to trace the other cases. There is a nursing home that sends patients to this hospital. And there are cases in that nursing home. But who spread to whom? We do not know yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President yesterday when he was speaking referred to this fatality as a woman. It is a man.

ALEX AZAR: It-- yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How is a mistake like that made? Because people are very nervous right now and getting some of these basic facts right affects public trust.

ALEX AZAR: Well, I understand that. It's a very fast-moving situation. Our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were up late at night, very earl-- early in the morning, working with the Washington state public health office and inaccurately recorded that the individual was a female. That's what the President was briefed on. They've apologized for incorrectly briefing on that. But it's a very fast-moving situation. Obviously, we regret the error.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Given that it is so fast moving, what are your projections now? How many Americans do you expect to come down with this virus?

ALEX AZAR: So what your viewers need to know is the risk to average Americans remains low. We are working to keep it low. We will see more transmission of cases in the United States. We've got the finest public health system in the world here. This is what we do. We cannot make predictions as to how many cases we'll have but we will have more and we will have more community cases. It's simply just a matter of math.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you have to have a number you're working with in order to make sure that you have adequate supply, things like testing kits, right? So--

ALEX AZAR: We- we don't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --how are we on shortages? You may not want to tell me the number, but you have one in your head--

ALEX AZAR: No we don't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --you're using for planning.

ALEX AZAR: No we don't. We- we don't-- we do not use-- because it is an unknown, the epidemiological spread of this virus in a highly developed health care system that was on it with-- at the most aggressive containment measures in the history of the United States. It is unknown how that will spread. In terms of testing kits, we've already tested over thirty-six hundred people for the virus. We now have seventy-- the capability in-- out-- in the field to test seventy-five thousand people. And within the next week or two we'll have a radical expansion even beyond that of the testing that's available.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In Washington State, in places that have declared emergencies, even shutting down schools I mean they are projecting numbers themselves.

ALEX AZAR: They might make projections of numbers themselves, but we are not. We'll take aggressive public health measures. It's what we call community mitigation steps. So depending on the nature of the disease and depending on what we learn from these in the field investigations--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ALEX AZAR: --the state and local government will take measures appropriate to contain the spread of the disease.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So in France, they shut down the Louvre Museum. They're telling people, don't kiss, don't shake hands. In Japan, they're closing schools for a month. Canada's health minister told his people to start stockpiling food. In the U.S. there are closures, as we just said, in Washington and in Oregon. They've declared a state of emergency out there. And the CDC said this week, disruption to everyday life might be severe.

ALEX AZAR: Might. Might. That's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean? I mean Americans hear this and they are concerned. There's about a two-percent fatality rate.

ALEX AZAR: And I-- I appreciate that people are concerned of that, and that-- that is why we're being radically transparent about what we know and also what the full range of potential scenarios could be. And that's why we say might be, but also might not be with aggressive containment and mitigation steps. Right now it's important for people to understand we're not advising any types of particular measures in the United States like travel restrictions or closures. State or local public health offices, which are the frontlines of response, might make their own decisions to do that. But, at this point, we do not have sufficient spread in the United States that would indicate those measures. But we're not taking any of them off the table. The full range of options will always remain on the table.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In a crisis you need public trust.

ALEX AZAR: Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: An inspector general announced this week that they are looking into this complaint by a whistleblower that your agency did not provide adequate training or equipment to those workers who went to receive and welcome back Americans who had been evacuated from Wuhan, China. And those workers were not tested for the virus after they had that contact. Have you personally looked into these allegations?

ALEX AZAR: Yes, we are-- we are looking into these allegations. I am personally involved in doing so. First--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, can you say that this wasn't something that tipped off the spread on the West Coast?

ALEX AZAR: That is absolutely not the case. So, first, we take the protection of our employees very seriously. Second, we want to make sure isolation and quarantine procedures are followed as appropriate. Third, we appreciate the whistleblower bringing forward any concerns. We are aggressively looking into any-- if-- to see whether there's validity to the concerns. But what the American people should need to know is that we now have passed well over fourteen days since any HHS employee had contact with the individuals involved. They are not-- nobody is symptomatic. Nobody has a disease. Even if these allegations prove to be true, there was no spreading of the disease from this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm.

ALEX AZAR: And we have offered, even though it is not medically indicated, we have offered to test any HHS employees involved if they would like that extra piece of mind. We want to do that for our employees.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are cases of the coronavirus in Mexico and in Canada. Yesterday, the President said he is considering and looking at closing the southern border.

ALEX AZAR: Well--

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Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on March 1, 2020 - CBS News

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