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V.A. Investigation Widens; GOP Establishment Wins Primaries; Carter's Grandson Runs for Governor; Stairway to Heaven Lawsuit

Aired May 21, 2014 - 07:30   ET


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, you're right, a lot to talk about. And let's start with that big White House meeting. The president, his Veterans Affairs secretary, this new troubleshooter.

With me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg News," Dan Balz of "The Washington Post."

Margaret, you cover the White House every day. A lot of even Democrats are saying they seem flatfooted on this one, slow to respond, slow to get ahead. They added this meeting. We just learned about it this morning. The president is going to sit down with his Veterans Affairs secretary, with his deputy chief of staff, who he's now asked to troubleshoot here. What started as one or two hospitals that might have been cooking the books, now could be as many as two dozen. A, can the secretary keep his job? The president says he stands by him. How long will that last? And, b, we're not scheduled to hear from the president today, but are we likely to?

MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": Right. I hope that we do hear from the president today. And I think if it's not today, he can't wait much longer. But I think there is a good chance.

What you're seeing now is a real finally acknowledgement by the White House. This has the potential to be a runaway political crisis through the midterm elections. Something that Democrats and individual key states are going to have to defend their party against. And this is Obama moving to take control of this. This is the day after the primaries. It is the day before Rob Nabors goes out to Phoenix to begin.

On the question of how long Secretary Shinseki can remain on the job, I do think a lot of it depends on what happens in the next few days. I mean I don't think that today is the end because that's not Obama's style. This is a meeting to express some confidence and set the parameters for going forward. But as this continues, it becomes increasingly difficult, you know, for him to remain at the helm.

KING: And the timing, Dan, complicates it, in the sense that you're going to have every Democratic candidate out there in this election year asked, should is secretary stay or go? Do you have confidence in the president? Can they, at the White House, wall the political pressure off and make this decision on the merits or can you -- is this inevitable that the political year factors in?

DAN BALZ, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Oh, it's inevitable, John. I -- that doesn't mean that the president will fire the secretary. I mean everything we know about president is he remains loyal to people even when they're in deep trouble. We saw that the at HHS and I think we're likely to see some of that now. But this is one of these problems that touches so many people and people feel so strongly about veterans issues that it's harder for him to resist some of that pressure.

KING: And we'll see if we hear from the president. I think it's likely. You're at a meeting overnight with your Veterans Affairs secretary. I think we're going to hear from the president probably during or after that meeting. We'll see how that plays out.

Let's move on to the elections last night. We'll call this the establishment strikes back morning on "Inside Politics." And let's start with what could become a $100 million question, the Kentucky senate race. Mitch McConnell defeats his Tea Party challenger and defeats him quite handily, beating Matt Bevin. He now faces off against a Democrat in that state with a famous political lineage, Alison Grimes. Listen to Mitch McConnell last night and then Alison Grimes. Mitch McConnell comes out and says, you know, Alison Grimes equals Barack Obama.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Kentuckians are not going to be deceived. Alison Lundergan Grimes is Barack Obama's candidate.


KING: She comes out though at her acceptance speech and says, no, I'm sorry. She calls Mitch McConnell senator gridlock and she says, don't try that.


ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D), KENTUCKY PRIMARY WINNER: I'm here to tell you tonight, my fellow Kentuckians, I am not an empty dress, I am not a rubber-stamp, and I am not a cheerleader. I am a strong Kentucky woman who is an independent thinker.


KING: Dan, McConnell crushed. He said famously to Carl Hulse of "The New York Times," he was going to crush the Tea Party everywhere and he did it back home. What was striking to me last night was how quickly all these conservative groups that yesterday morning were saying McConnell must be beat. He's part of the problem. He's a problem in the Republican Party. The establishment is wrong. They all very quickly said, he won, he's our guy. Is the Republican Party going to unify quickly here or is he in trouble back home?

BALZ: I was struck by that, too, John. I was not necessarily surprised but it was very striking to see them instantly coalesce around Mitch McConnell. And I think it does tell you something about the Republicans, that they do want the Senate. No matter what part of the party they're from. There may be some lingering problems, but the fact that he won so decisively I think makes it easier for him in this particular race to unify.

KING: And the establishment also wins in Oregon. Monica Wehby wins the race there against some more conservative opponents. That's where the money went in down the Georgia. You have the two candidates that the establishments said they're now in a runoff. We'll take either one of these guys. David Perdue, the businessman, Jack Kingston, a congressman. In Idaho, the establishment beat back a Tea Party challenger.

You see discipline on the Republican side, Margaret, in a year that already is tilted in their favor. Does the White House political operation think, what happened here? We thought we were going to get these, you know, far right Tea Party guys, like they did in 2010 and 2012, and pick up some races that otherwise they might not be competitive in?

TALEV: I think that they have always known how difficult it would be. The problem for the Democrats is it's really hard to play offense and defense at the same time and they mostly, just on the merits, on the numbers, are playing a defensive game. So, you know, their best hope is to be able to pick up a couple of these states, like a Georgia, like a Kentucky. It's incredibly difficult in a year like this. And if the discipline is, you know, on on the Republican side and in disarray on the Democratic side, it's going to make it even more difficult.

KING: And when you -- when you look at the map, Dan, there are 14 Democratic held Senate seats that Republicans think maybe. Some of them they think have a very good chance. Other ones like Oregon, like Iowa, like Michigan where they think maybe. If our candidates do all right, we'll see how we do. When you're looking at opportunity when the Republicans need six and they're looking at 14 potential Democratic seats and the only two the Democrats are looking at now held by Republicans are Kentucky and Georgia, I have a hard time --

BALZ: Neither are exactly a slam dunk for the Democrats.

KING: I have a hard time connecting those dots.

BALZ: Well, it is hard. Although I would say that even though we talk about the potential of 14, some of those races haven't developed. And we're going to have to see whether they do, in fact, develop. I mean I think that there are some of those who may not turn out to be significantly competitive races. But none the less, I mean the point is --

TALEV: And they don't have to. I mean --

BALZ: The point is well made, there are plenty of opportunities for the Republicans and, as you say, the best shots for the Democrats are in tough states for the Democrats.

KING: All right, let's move on to a Democratic primary. In the state of Pennsylvania, we talked about this yesterday, Marjorie Margolies. She used to be Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky. Cast the deciding vote for the Clinton budget back in 1994. That's the Bill Clinton presidency. Lost the House seat. She wanted it back, but she lost her primary to a state senator by the name of Brendan Boyle. Is the Clinton brand tarnished here? Bill Clinton made a robo call. He was standing at her side last night. Hillary Clinton had a fund-raiser or it's just simply that she was out worked and out hustled by a younger Democrat?

BALZ: I think it's the latter. I don't think this has much impact at all on the Clinton brand. I think it was -- they're family at this point, obviously. They have gone in where they've had friends before in races. Some they're going to win, some they're going to lose. But I don't think this has anything that's going to have any lasting impact on Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential interests.

KING: What does it do -- Marjorie Margolies is now Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law.

TALEV: That's right.

KING: What's it do to Thanksgiving dinner?

TALEV: Yes. Bring some extra wine to the table this year.

KING: Excellent advice. Bring some extra wine to the table.

TALEV: Sure.

BALZ: Might have been more difficult if they hadn't gone in for Thanksgiving.

TALEV: Oh, no doubt (ph).

KING: There you go.

BALZ: At least they -- at they made the effort.

KING: Which they did. They did --

TALEV: Yes, this was family over strategy.

KING: Dan Balz, Margaret Talev, thanks. We could talk for hours and hours, but we've got to get back to our friends in New York.

And as we do, remember, Joe Biden had a famous invitation by a young lady to come to the prom with him and Conan O'Brien found it funny.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": A high school girl has invited Joe Biden to be her prom date. Isn't that nice? Yes. However, her father is refusing to let her go with a guy who can't really describe what he does for a living.


KING: Oh, a little bit of -- you know, a little bit of laugh the morning after. Give props to Joe Biden. He sent the young lady a corsage and said he wishes he could be there. KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly right. Very kind of him. That is very thoughtful.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He doesn't mean it.

BOLDUAN: I've never understood the corsage thing though. I really haven't.

CUOMO: He doesn't wish he could be there, but he is a standup guy.

BOLDUAN: It's always in the way.

CUOMO: You didn't like a corsage?

BOLDUAN: It's just always --

KING: Cuomo, you have to give Kate tomorrow, she better have a wrist corsage when she comes on the set tomorrow, and Michaela.


BOLDUAN: That's a wonderful idea.

KING: Don't take sides.

CUOMO: Thanks, John, appreciate that suggestion.

PEREIRA: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, John.

CUOMO: Are you going to get me a boutonniere?

BOLDUAN: My arm does look a little bare today.

PEREIRA: No baby's-breath in mine, please.

KING: I'll expense it (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: No baby's-breath?

PEREIRA: I'm making demands now.

BOLDUAN: (INAUDIBLE) expense (ph) account (ph).

CUOMO: Mickey says no baby's-breath. You see how complicated it gets? You see that.

PEREIRA: I know what I like.

BOLDUAN: There you go.

CUOMO: She's going to say no baby's-breath. Indra's going to want it hydroponically grown. It's going to like just flower into this horrible situation. Good use of flowing as a (INAUDIBLE).

KING: I've created a nightmare. Sorry.

CUOMO: You've created a nightmare for me, my brother.

BOLDUAN: Back to politics. Thanks, John.

CUOMO: All right, John.

BOLDUAN: More difficult politic on the set than out there.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, former President Jimmy Carter's grandson just scored a primary win in the race to be Georgia's governor. Now he faces the general election and the real challenge because he ran unopposed. We're going to speak with Jason Carter coming up.

CUOMO: And say it ain't so. Led Zeppelin could be climbing a stairway to court. A little known band is claiming that one of the most famous intros in all of rock history was actually theirs. We're going to talk to their lawyer.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Overnight, candidates declaring victory in primaries in six states. Now, new challenge ahead as they face tough general elections battles. In the Georgia governor's race, incumbent Governor Nathan Deal sailed to victory with some 72 percent of the vote. But Deal now faces Georgia State Senator Jason Carter. And it is a race that could go down to the wire. State Senator Jason Carter is joining us. Right now he's a Democratic candidate for governor, of course, and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

Senator, great to see you.


BOLDUAN: Of course. Maybe a short night, I guess, for you because it wasn't really a question if you were going to make it through the Democratic primary. But I got to ask you, Georgia has not had a Democratic governor in a decade. This is also a state, as we just noted, that the incumbent just won with more than 70 percent of the vote. And, really, Republicans hold all state wide offices. What makes you different? How are you going to change that in the course of one election?

CARTER: Well, first of all, one of the important things about yesterday is that one in four Republicans came out to vote against the governor. And that's a real indictment of his record on education. In our state, we have 9,000 fewer teachers, 45,000 fewer technical college students. So he's got a horrible record on education. And, frankly, the middle class and the average working person in Georgia has been left out. And people around the state are ready for a change. It's time to rotate the crops.

BOLDUAN: So what is the change? Because what I just heard from you is you just don't want him, so vote for me.

CARTER: No, we have a real vision for our state that begins with an education first budget and know that if you invest in our people, that's how you get a prosperous and strong middle class and the economy that we want. We've also talked in detail about our plans to reform ethics in our state and insure that we have an honest government that works for everyone. And we're going to be talking about that positive vision over the next several months.

BOLDUAN: And a busy several months it's going to be. You know a lot of people are wondering, what advice has your grandfather given you as you head into this race?

CARTER: Well, you know, what my grandfather told me first and foremost is that it's much more important to be a good person than it is to be a good politician. So if I'm honest and I tell the truth and I work as hard as I can, he thinks I'll be fine. And I think people in Georgia are ready for that kind of leadership again.

BOLDUAN: Is the Carter name, have you found, helpful or more of a problem in the state of Georgia these days?

CARTER: I think that, you know, my family legacy is one that I'm very proud of. My grandfather, I think, is known as a person of honesty and integrity and folks want a little more of that integrity back in the governor's office, frankly. But that's not what this election will be about. Ultimately it's going to be about our education system, about helping the middle class and about our vision for the future of Georgia, and not who my family is.

BOLDUAN: Name ID doesn't hurt though, right?

CARTER: No. I mean it gives people a reference point for the kind of family that I come from, from the kind of faith background that I have and those issues are important for some people. But again, the real focus of this campaign is going to be the future of Georgia and my children and everyone else's children rather than my grandparents.

BOLDUAN: Governor Deal -- you focus a lot on education. Governor Deal's focus is on the economy and the unemployment rate has worked in his favor since coming into office and where the unemployment rate is in the state of Georgia right now is somewhere around 7 percent. When he came into office, it was somewhere around 10 percent. How are you going to fight him on that?

CARTER: Well, there's been a national recovery that's beginning, but folks in Georgia are not feeling it like other states. I mean the middle class has been left behind in Georgia. Our median family income has dropped $6,500 in the last decade. We continue to languish at the bottom among other states in terms of unemployment, in terms of high school graduation, in terms of poverty. All of those issues that affect people in their daily lives are real for us. And Governor Deal's touting of this economy as a good one just demonstrates how out of touch he is with the average Georgian.

BOLDUAN: One thing that confuses Democrats probably in your state and I know outside of your state is that your support of a bill that got a lot of national attention on Georgia, this expansive concealed carry bill that went through recently in your state legislature. It's brought you under the microscope. You supported it. Why did you? Because Democrats can't understand -- can't understand that vote and you being Jason Carter.

CARTER: Well, I think that I come from a state that is still a conservative one. And my family has grown up in rural Georgia for many years. And people believe in gun rights. At the same time, what I have done throughout my time in the state senate is work across the aisle to try to solve problems, to try to improve pieces of legislation, and we were able to do that with this bill. We -- it would have been -- there would have been some of the things that were most objectionable to my constituents we got out. And at the end of the day, I support those gun rights. And we have a regime in Georgia that's important to many, many people.

BOLDUAN: Jason Carter, Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. We will follow your race very closely. Thanks so much for taking the time this morning. Good luck.

CARTER: Thank you very much. It's great to be here.

BOLDUAN: All right.


CUOMO: All right, Kate, coming up on NEW DAY, was the stairway stolen? A blockbuster lawsuit says Led Zeppelin ripped off one of the most famous songs in all of rock history. And, you know, it's not the first time they've been accuse of chord swiping. We're going to talk to the attorney who's bringing the suit and then you decide.


PEREIRA: Just like (ph) -- I love listening to that. It's considered one of rock's most iconic songs. Now a new lawsuit claims those opening notes from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" were ripped off. All right, take a listen to the 1968 track "Taurus" from the band Spirit. Take a listen.


PEREIRA: Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" was released three years later in 1971. Four decades later, now the estate of Spirit guitarist Randy California is suing Led Zeppelin over the similarities. Joining us this morning is Francis Malofiy. He is the attorney who represents that estate.

Good morning. Thanks for getting up early to talk to us about this. We all have been comparing notes and we'll get to that in a second. What exactly is the estate claiming?

FRANCIS MALOFIY, ATTORNEY FOR THE ESTATE OF RANDY CALIFORNIA: The estate is looking for giving credit where credit is due. What we have is the greatest rock and roll song of all time. And it's also the greatest falsification of rock and roll history. What we're trying to do is make sure that Randy California, a man who is no longer with us --

PEREIRA: Yes, he died in '97.

MALOFIY: Sure. He gets credited for what he had done. And what he had done is that he had basically wrote a majority of the quintessential rock song "Stairway to Heaven." And as the attorney representing the trust, we want to make sure that what he had done is recognized, not only in the court system, but also in those throughout the rock and roll and the music --

PEREIRA: For the musical history books even, really, I suppose.

MALOFIY: Exactly. Sure.

PEREIRA: OK. So it's been debated for years. Why now? Why now?

MALOFIY: You know, a lot of people ask us, why now, why now? It's a tragedy of our legal system. But in the civil system, justice is only available for those who can afford it. In other words, in the criminal system, it's called the Gideon code. A defendant always has an opportunity to have counsel. But in the civil system, justice is only available to those who can afford it. And so what we have here is that it's very hard for a musician, an artist, to assert his rights against some of the biggest music and entertainment moguls throughout the world unless he has someone that's willing to take on that battle.

BOLDUAN: But, unfortunately, Randy California, he passed away in 1997. There's still a lot of years that have happened since until we've really kind of heard about this coming back up again now. Why now now?

MALOFIY: I don't think there's a reason why now now, other than it's been a long time coming. There's been people who have looked at it. But one thing that is very important and apropos for the time is that there was a recent case that just came out on Monday, and the U.S. Supreme Court had said that it doesn't matter how long you wait. It doesn't matter that you've waited quite a bit of time before you filed your suit. What matters is that there was infringement and the infringement is continuing.

CUOMO: So let's give you the timing.


CUOMO: Let's talk about whether there is an infringement, because it's complicated. We keep playing the beginning of this, but it's not as simple as that. You can protect an arrangement. And an arrangement is a defined term that goes well beyond one set of descending cords or notes. You can't protect a descending cord line or just some notes. So do you think you can make the case that the actual arrangement of the overall song is that similar to "Taurus"?

MALOFIY: There's two aspects in copyright law, and there's two prongs, if you will, that come down to access and substantial similarity. What we have here is, when you look at where did Led Zeppelin or did Jimmy Page become familiar with the song "Taurus" by the band Spirit.

PEREIRA: Because they toured together for a while.

MALOFIY: Well, and that's where I'm coming to. And so if you look at how this happened, what you realize is that before Led Zeppelin was this mega band, Led Zeppelin, they were a band trying to make it in the music industry. They were a band trying to get their music out, trying to tour, trying to expose their music to as many people as they could. And what they did is their managers and their people that were behind them had them open for a band called Spirit. And that happened in '68 and '69.

And so in '68 and '69, Spirit's album at the time had this album -- this record called "Taurus." And they often played it in their live shows. And that's where Led Zeppelin would have heard of the song "Taurus." But, moreover, is that Jimmy Page specifically, although he's very -- rarely gives credit to bands as far as those who have influenced them. He has, even back as far as 1972, which is only a year after "Stairway to Heaven" was recorded by Led Zeppelin, he has stated that one of the bands was influenced him greatly --


MALOFIY: Was Spirit.

PEREIRA: Spirit.

MALOFIY: And that --

PEREIRA: Francis, we could talk -- this is something that our crew members are debating heavily as well. We've all been talking about this. We want to thank you for coming in today to talk about this -- this claim and about this suing. We'll keep following it here on NEW DAY. Francis Malofiy, an attorney for the trust of late guitarist Randy California. Appreciate it.

MALOFIY: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much.

MALOFIY: Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, outrage after a wealthy business owner busted on his seventh DUI in a Ferrari, not only gets to leave his cell every day to go to work, but he also got -- was able to get permission to go to the Super Bowl. We're going to hear from his lawyer coming up.