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Calls For Shinseki To Resign; "Bizarre" White House Meeting; Electricity An Invisible Danger For Pools; Vietnam Vet Finally Gets Citizenship

Aired May 23, 2014 - 07:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: More concerns this morning that over food that could make you sick. The CDC is investigating an outbreak of E. Coli, this one linked to raw clover sprouts from Idaho producer, Evergreen fresh sprouts. There are also listeria contamination worries connected with walnuts sold by Sherman produce and some hummus and dip sold nationwide at Trader Joe's and Target stores. All of this just days after a massive beef recall in nearly 40 states.

Got to show you this, a woman narrowly misses death and it's all caught on video. You can see Kristen Taylor's car stalled on the tracks as a commuter train barrels towards her. The train engineer does everything he can to stop in time. Too late, though. Luckily Taylor jumps out of her car just seconds before the train slams into it. The car obviously totalled. But fortunately she was able to walk away unharmed. That puts ice in my belly.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: That's crazy video.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: You see the door open just in the nick of time. Thank goodness.

All right, let's go to Washington now. Another train wreck, just kidding, "Inside Politics." I was searching for a transition and fell back on being insulting.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": If she didn't jump up super Berman was going to come to the rescue.

BOLDUAN: You know, my fallback position is to fight. I got aggressive. Love you.

KING: I got it. All right, see you in a few minutes. Let's go inside politics this morning. With me to share their reporting and their insights, "Politico's" Maggie Haberman and Nia-Malika Henderson of "The Washington Post."

Let's start with the big question today and that is can Eric Shinseki, the Veterans Affairs secretary survive? Let's start first on that context with the Republicans. Speaker John Boehner was asked about this yesterday and he is not calling for the resignation, but look how far forward he's leaning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: I have not called for General Shinseki to resign, although I have to admit I'm getting a little closer. The reports that continue to come are appalling. These are men and women who served our country and we've not just let them down, we've let them die.


KING: Strong words from the speaker there. Again, he said I'm getting closer. He's number three in the Republican leadership. Kevin McCarthy actually did issue a statement, the first in the Republican leadership to say Shinseki should go. You saw the speaker getting choked up there. It's a pretty powerful line in an election year. We didn't just let them down, Maggie, we let them die.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, "POLITICO": In any year and certainly an election year. It's hard to see how Shinseki lasts very long. We were talking about this before going into Memorial Day, the timing is really terrible for the administration and this does seem to have the feeling of either stay or go, but you're going to have to rip the band-aid off. Obama has straddled the line in the last week, right. He's sort of voice confidence in him, but sort of not voiced confidence in him. Now that you have Democrats calling for him to go as well.

KING: Tepid, the president support at best. To Maggie's point a couple of Democrats in high profile race, Alison Grimes is running against Mitch McConnell in the state of Kentucky. She tweets out yesterday, "Today I call on the resignation of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. We owe a solemn obligation to our veterans and must repair the breach of trust."

Charlie Chris running for governor of Florida, a big race the Democrats want to win. "I appreciate Secretary Shinseki's service. While we don't know what happened, there must be accountability. The secretary should step down."

When you have Democrats in prominent races in a public feud with the White House. So number one, they disagree with the president. Number two, if you get that debate among Democrats, one of the potential impacts is to press turnout. How long can the president let it go on and do they have the discipline to get to these campaigns and say stop?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Do they have the discipline? Do they have the sort of closeness to a lot of these campaigns? We kind of always the leverage. We always talk about how often the White House is isolated not only from folks in the Senate. I mean, folks like Grimes who want separation from this president.

And I think that's another issue. All those running in red states who want to be on the stump talking about the president and getting separation. Durbin who has been, you know, very much the president's wing man on this, he also sounded very, very tepid when it comes to Shinseki staying on.

KING: If you feel you have to run from your White House in a campaign year, you might have to do it. But it can help you.

HABERMAN: It can help you, but it is easier to run. Obamacare is a lot harder. This tends a closer call for a lot of these Democrats.

KING: We will see some changes in the Obama cabinet this afternoon. Housing Secretary Sean Donovan is going to move to the Office of Management and Budget, one of the country's most prominent Latino politicians. San Antonio mayor, Mr. Castro moves into HUD. Do we expect Shinseki news or we think the president has to let this go?

HENDERSON: It would not surprise me by 5:00 p.m.

HABERMAN: A Friday news day.

HENDERSON: Monday everyone is off.

KING: The administration has been in a lot of focus lately. There is another story now. First reported by Julie Pace of the "Associated Press," our friend, Bob Corker, he is the ranking Republican, on Senate Foreign Relations said senators are having meetings to try to convince the senators, lack, the president understands what's happening with foreign policy. Don't be so critical. Try to explain their position.

Number one, one of the most bizarre meetings I've ever attended. Number two, the senators were called down with the expectation the president was going to come in and personally explain his position. He never shows up. He uses the word bizarre. The expectation the president is coming, I would say amateur.

HABERMAN: Bizarre is an odd word to use. This goes to the feeling that a lot of Democrats have and Republicans have that the president is not engaging with them and is not engaged. To have a meeting saying he will be there to talk you through things and you want to have access and he's not there, it's hard to see how that's going to go well.

KING: They have to know better though. This stops me in my tracks whether you agree or disagree. They have a lot of smart people around the president. Most of them have worked in Washington a long time. The chief of staff, Susan Rice, the national security adviser, these are not a bunch of newbies who forgot.

HENDERSON: This is a White House that from time to time goes on what we call a charm offensive. It began, you know, in 2009. He'd have people over to the Super Bowl, had Republicans out for dinner. It's sort of a one-off. This wasn't even a charmer. There's no charm.

KING: A number of senators actually leaving during the meal. Now they have to do hyper charm.

That bizarre story to an even more bizarre story, the Mississippi Senate primary, this is the Tea Party's last and best shot to knock out an incumbent. Thad Cochrane is the incumbent senator for Mississippi. He is running against a state lawmaker, who is a Tea Party backed candidate, Chris McDaniel. What has turned this so bizarre is it was about you've been in Washington too long. You're not really a conservative. You're a moderate. Now this blogger went into a nursing home who took a picture of his wife who has been in a nursing home receiving care. Three are more arrests including a local Tea Party leader who is very close to the McDaniel campaign.

Now he says I had nothing to do with this and anyone involved should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Again, our friend, Robert Costa reports the D.A. down there is not ruling out that this could get even closer to the McDaniel campaign. The election is June 3rd.

HENDERSON: Good luck, McDaniel, trying to separate yourself from this thing that is so upsetting to people. Hospices are a sacred place. I think it will be tough for McDaniel to try to separate himself. I think he wants this to be a fight about Cochrane and his tenure so far. Now it's about McDaniel and he has surrounded himself with people who are up to dirty tricks. This is how politics is often played.

KING: There's dirty tricks and shenanigans. Going into a nursing home to take a picture of an elderly woman?

HABERMAN: This is different. A real ugly factor. McDaniel is not a known commodity. Much more easily defined by something like this. He continues to say he had nothing to do with this, didn't know about it. The closer it gets to the campaign and all the drag of the story over several days, more mug shots, it can't be a help.

KING: Talking about this not Senator Cochrane's 30-plus years in Washington. Maggie, Nia, thanks for getting up on a Friday morning. I promise I'll speak as close to English as I can go this morning. Another way you know sometimes the stories are getting traction is when they start getting a lot of mention on the late night funnies. Listen to Stephen Colbert here talking about the president, Veterans Affairs and who I call the bearded one.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The Obama people now say the president first learned of these new allegations from CNN. He had no clue what's going on in his own administration. Here is an idea. Get the NSA to start spying on Wolf Blitzer.


KING: Wow. That's like a month's worth of data. The things we can learn.

BOLDUAN: The things we can learn from a Wolf Blitzer spy session.

KING: I think he has 73 Blackberrys.

BOLDUAN: He still has a Blackberry, everyone. He has an iPhone. I'm not sure what he uses it for, but we're still working on it. Morning, Wolf. Checking ESPN is exactly right. Thanks, John. Have a great weekend.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, three children shocked while swimming in a condo community pool, incredibly they survived. A father who has an important message and warning this morning.


PEREIRA: Yesterday on NEW DAY, we showed you some terrifying surveillance video. Three children shocked while swimming in a condominium's community pool in Florida. Thankfully those children all survived. This, however, was not a random or freak accident. Last month an electrical shock killed this little fellow, 7-year-old, Calder Sloan, in a backyard pool just a few miles from where that other incident occurred.

Joining us now is Calder's father, Chris Sloan. Good morning, Mr. Sloan.


PEREIRA: I'm doing well. I have to tell you. A lot of us can barely believe that we are talking to you today, a month after losing your son, but I know you have a very, very important message. How are you doing today?

SLOAN: You know, as we keep saying it's hour by hour, day by day. You don't ever get over this type of thing.

PEREIRA: You really don't. I don't want to open a wound that has barely had time to heal. I know your message is so important. Can you talk to us about what happened to your son?

SLOAN: Well, you know, my son was an amazing swimmer. We always joked that he would teach fish how to swim. In Florida, we live on the water and we have the backyard pool, which we swim in over and over again throughout the year and we stop swimming around December, the first swim of the year in April, April 13 and we weren't home. Our nanny was home with her son who was 18.

Calder said to him it's like, I can race you across the pool and hold my breath and the nanny's son was in there. You know, 18 years old and they're together and Calder swims across to the other side. As soon as he makes contact with the pool light the nanny's son who is over there feels an electric jolt.

He is in mid-way to the pool, start shaking becomes paralyzed, try to scape yelling at Calder. Calder screams, flies out of the pool so it's very violent and the nanny's son cannot get to him. While his arm is getting shocked has to extricate him from the pool by his hair and commences CPR. The paramedics show up. Neighbors show up who are experienced. They work on him and Calder fought for an hour and did not survive.

PEREIRA: It's a terrifying incident for any parent to go through. You are looking at your pool, the maintenance, looking at how the pool was taken care of. To what you knew the pool was properly being maintained.

SLOAN: Well, you know, in Florida, we put chemicals in. We believe they would tell us. You need your fountain fixed or we hired contractors that are professionals and licensed to do electrical work on our house and what we found here was a number of cases of really bad workmanship and negligence that you know all conspired together to take our son.

That's difficult to deal with because it's the smallest pool light design, an aspect of it. That we found out that our house wasn't physically grounded. That our ground routes were cut, another major danger. The third is the pool light.

We had service, the transformer, the switch, when police opened up the transformer, a simple ground connector wasn't connected. So there is still investigation with a number of factors looked at literally 3 minutes to screw in a grounding cable that would have hopefully contributed to our son living another 70 years.

PEREIRA: You're pushing for regulations on this, aren't you regulations for pool safety?

SLOAN: Well, absolutely. I mean, a number of really alarming things that we've learned is "a," this is not so random and not only what happened ten days after our son that we've heard of people at golf courses sticking their hand to retrieve a ball out of a put-put golf course being electrocuted. We had low voltage lights in our pool but high voltage lights are legal in single family, but not in big, commercial pools. And then a big issue is that home pools don't have to be inspected and yet large ones do. A number of regulations and laws that we have to push for to try to make this horror stand for something.

PEREIRA: Chris, before I leave you, it's early for you to be talking and particularly difficult topic. I want you to tell you us about your son, you knew him and you called him Mr. Awesome. Why is that? Why was your son so awesome?

SLOAN: Calder was awesome and is awesome. No one in our family has his athletics. He had amazing athletic ability. He was insanely creative and artistic. What made him so special we were told twice that he would change the world and that he had an unbelievable empathy and compassion and he was a champion of kids getting picked on. He would stand up for his little brother. He had an absolute zest and gusto to live.

But also just absolutely not to canonize him, but he was so beautiful to other people and to me he was -- this is not just a tragedy for us, but for the world to lose such a very special boy. So this is not the way any of us would have chosen it, but I suppose he's changing the world. Mr. Awesome is the best.

PEREIRA: I know because of that you're being as brave as you can be to sit here and talk to us about something so very, very raw and very, very painful. Chris Sloan, we salute you, embrace you, hope you and your family continue to heal now that we send our support and love and prayers to your family.

We also want to point out for anybody at home they have a great website that tells you all the information you need to know about pool safety and things that you can do at your home to prevent another tragic accident like this. Go to Chris Sloan, thank you so very much.

BERMAN: Sounds like an amazing guy. Wish I got to know him.

Next up on NEW DAY, an inspiring story decades in the making. A Cuban refugee who fought for America finally gets what he thought he had already, U.S. Citizenship. He joins us live, new American citizen again, next.


BERMAN: Welcome back everyone. We have a great story for you right now. An amazing update on a story we brought you earlier this week, appropriate for Memorial Day. Mario Hernandez came to the United States as a refugee from Cuba when he was 9 years old. Later, he joined the Army, served during Vietnam, raised a family here in the United States, worked at a federal prison, and the entire time Hernandez believed he was a U.S. citizen, but it turned out he was not.

Finally, that has all changed on Wednesday when he was finally granted U.S. citizenship. Mario Hernandez joins us along with his attorney, Elizabeth Ricci. Mario, how does it feel to be an American again?

MARIO HERNANDEZ, ARMY VET JUST GRANTED CITIZENSHIP: It feels great. It's indescribable. My wife and I are both elated. We're so happy. I have so much to be thankful for. It's fallen into place. I really appreciate the people that supported us, the media, friends, prayers from friends. We feel great. I feel great. I was reborn.

BERMAN: I can say we're happy to have you back. Just give us the 15- second recap of what happened and how it felt to have something you thought you had had for 50 years all of a sudden taken away from you.

HERNANDEZ: It was like I was punched in the stomach. I've said that before. It's like the worst feeling there is. It's like you lived your whole life and it's like -- it's almost a lie. We have always held ourselves to be -- tried to be upstanding citizens. I felt like I was just lying to my friends and lying throughout my life. When we discovered that we didn't, we tried to correct it. Thank God everything is over for now.

BOLDUAN: Thank God for sure. Of course, there had to have been moments when you thought there was a real possibility that this was not going to turn out the way you wanted it to, after all of this time thinking you were a U.S. citizen. There's nothing else you should have believed, and then the moment, if you could describe it, the moment you became a citizen once again, if you will. What was that like? You get the certificate. Can you describe it?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, ma'am. My heart, my wife and I -- my heart was about to pound -- I wanted to jump, I wanted to shout. In fact, it is such a happiness and such -- not so much a relief, but it's a proud -- I've always held myself to be a proud American citizen. Now officially has been recognized.

BERMAN: You're such a reminder -- you make us all proud, I think, to be Americans heading into this Memorial Day weekend. We should say there are procedures I now know people want to change to make sure this doesn't happen again for other people. Mario, I know that voting -- you voted for years and years because you thought you were an American citizen and everyone else did, too, you turned over -- handed over, gave up your right to vote. Are you going to get that back again? Are you going to register and when?

HERNANDEZ: Yes, sir, this morning as soon as this interview is over, I am going, my wife and I, we're going to register again. And then after that I will go across the courtyard and apply for my passport, which is something that I've always wanted to do again. My voters registration is very important because we have a -- I think a civic duty to tell our elected officials how we feel. We take those freedoms for granted. They're very important.

PEREIRA: You've had a chance to realize how important they are. That's really incredible. You and your wife have set up a scholarship fund as well. You have a lot of to-do items on your list. We'll let you get to all of that, Mario. Congratulations from all of us.

HERNANDEZ: Thank you very much. It's also Memorial Day, and we must remember that men and women have served in the armed services that have died for me to be able to sit here and be given this honor. I want to thank them.

BOLDUAN: And you have served as well. We tip our hats and thank you as well. What a great example of what all of us should be like. It is our civic duty to get out there. Mario, so great to see you again. Thank you so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, it has happened once again. Two huge passenger jets barely miss, this time over Houston. What's being done to prevent what seems like a looming disaster we hear too often?