Return to Transcripts main page


Cantor Beaten In GOP Primary Shocker; Student Killed In Oregon School Shooting; Obama Disgusted At Lack Of Action On Guns; Defense Secretary To Testify On Bergdahl

Aired June 11, 2014 - 06:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We'll take you through the very latest.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Also ahead, not again, another school shooting, a beloved freshman killed. We have new details for you on the gunman and how he was finally stopped as an angry President Obama lashes out.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: A huge legal decision in California that may up end the nation's education system. Teacher tenured ruled unconstitutional saying the system hurts students. Activists are rejoicing. The union fuming. We dive into the debate.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY starts right now. Good morning. Welcome to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, June 11th, 6:00 in the east. Brooke Baldwin here for Kate today.

BALDWIN: Good morning.

CUOMO: What a day to have you here.

BALDWIN: What a morning!

CUOMO: We were all up last night and for good reason, right? Forget about one of, probably the most stunning primary up sets in recent history. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor taken down by Tea Party challenger, David Brat in Virginia, a political newcomer. A nobody, I mean, nobody saw this coming.

Brat now to be fair, he had predicted an upset for himself, but even he was shocked watching the results come in making it more head rattling, this race was a blowout. We have complete coverage and analysis of how this happened, why it happened, why what it's going to mean for the GOP going forward beginning with chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke and Chris, this is a town numb from shock. Nobody saw this coming. Not even the conservative who beat Eric Cantor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAVE BRAT (R), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The reason we won this campaign is there is just one and that's because dollars do not vote, you do.

BASH (voice-over): An upset shaking Washington and rattling incumbent Republicans to their core. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor losing his primary to a little known conservative challenger, economics professor, David Brat.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: It's disappointing, sure, but I believe in this country. I believe there's opportunity around the next corner for all of us.

BASH: The number two Republican in the House was widely considered and preparing to be the next speaker of the House following John Boehner.

BRAT: Hi, I'm David Brat. I'm running for the United States Congress.

BASH: Even Brat himself told CNN he didn't think he would pull off a win with a war chest of only 300,000 compared to Cantor's $5 million. Cantor learned firsthand that money doesn't buy enthusiasm and the grass roots in his Virginia district were determined to take the establishment Republican down.

BRAT: Eric Cantor is trying to buy this election with corporate cash from Los Angeles to New York. He's acting as a conservative in public while working behind the scenes to deliver open borders for large corporations.

BASH: Brat's main case against Cantor was support for legal status for illegal immigrant children, the so-called "Dreamers." And his public pledge to help the president in doing so.

CANTOR: It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residents and citizenship for those who are brought to this country as children and who know no other home.

BASH: Cantor is considered one of the most conservative members of the House GOP leadership, but he had been thinking like a party leader trying to broaden the GOP's appeal. After the government shutdown that divided House Republicans, CNN learned he admonished his rank and file to unite.

(on camera): You addressed your caucus and basically said, come on, guys, we have to stop eating our own.

CANTOR: Well, I think the message that I was about was saying, look, the differences that may exist between us pale in comparison to the differences that we have with the president and his policies.


BASH: Now, Cantor can technically still try to run for a seat as a write-in candidate, but I'm told it's highly unlikely he's going to take that route. He will likely serve out his term this year and jockeying is already beginning for his number two slot in the House -- Brooke and Chris.



CUOMO: This is going to have some serious ramifications and repercussions. To help break it down, the stunning primary defeat or win, depending on how you look at it, CNN political commentators, Republican strategist, Kevin Madden and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala. So Kevin Madden, let's start with you. What does this mean for your party? How did this happen in a way that no one saw coming?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATORS: Yes, this was a shock. I mean, if you can imagine that the media shocked, imagine how many Republicans are shocked this morning. The reason this is such a big deal is no sitting majority leader has ever lost an election before. Never mind a primary election.

But I think -- I think we do have to remember that this is a congressional district down in Virginia. It doesn't say a whole lot more about a broader national electorate. What this says is that a candidate down in Virginia 7, who was part of the party leadership may have lost touch with his district.

And as we all know and I think all -- Paul can also attest to this, elections are like job interviews for candidates. If you show up late to a job interview, you're not going to get the job. That was one of the problems here with this campaign, I think, is that Eric Cantor saw this coming too late and wasn't able to go out and get ahead of it the way other leaders in the party who face primaries this year like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner did and ended up winning their primaries.

BALDWIN: Let me just jump in because, you know, as we're all waking up and shock faced seeing all of this, my question really this could go to either of you, first of all, reading multiple articles, "New York Times" talks about the dollar figures, $5.4 million spent by the Cantor campaign, $200,000 from the Brat. But also they compare like the stake house visits from Eric Cantor's camp. That's almost as much as what Brat spent. Who is Dave Drat? He is a professor at Randolph- Macon. What more do we know?

MADDEN: Go ahead, Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, he's a professor of economics at Randolph. That's not important. What he is, is a messenger. He has been sent by Tea Party Republicans, sent a message. Eric Cantor was the most Tea Party friendly of the major leaders in the House of Representatives. And yet now he has been consumed by the revolution that he helped.

This is not actually an earthquake. Let me change our seismic metaphor here. It's a sinkhole. It opened up and swallowed one of the most conservative members of the Republican Party because he's not conservative enough. It means the Tea Party has become the Republican Party and the Republican Party has become the Tea Party.

BALDWIN: What does this mean though looking ahead not just as far as the legislative agenda on the Republican side for the next couple of months, because when you look at Eric Cantor, this is a very conservative district, 7th District of Virginia, he is a conservative's conservative. Where does this shift, the Republican Party here on out?

MADDEN: Well, look, I mean, you got to remember that he is a part of leadership. He is not the only member of leadership. There are a number of folks now like John Boehner and others in the party are still playing a role with leading the Republican agenda. So you know, I think that a lot of folks are trying to look at this through the lens of just immigration.

They are saying immigration is dead now because of this. Immigration was going to face a very uphill challenge regardless of who was the majority leader in the House of Representatives. There are big differences between the House and Senate approach on going forward on immigration just the way there are big differences on how Democrats and Republicans face this.

So I don't think it will have a tremendous impact on the agenda, but it will have a tremendous impact on the leadership structure on the Republican conference.

CUOMO: You've got big inside/outside game ramifications here. The insiders, 63,000 votes basically casted here and you couldn't control it, you had your own polling you paid a gazillion dollars for, 34 points. Even the economics professor didn't see this coming, really, though, Mr. Brat. That's the insider speculation. We didn't get this right.

You've got Lindsay Graham right, you didn't get this right. This is bigger level of significance, which is the taking the smile off your boy Begala's face, Madden, because if this is the message that you took a half step leading with your heart, Eric Cantor, on immigration, and we wound up slapping your wrist and kicking you out, what does this mean for your administration's ability to do any kind of business with Republicans between now and the midterms?

BEGALA: Almost none. You're right. You're right. In terms -- Kevin's right, the Republicans weren't exactly helping President Obama as it is. But I think this is a really dangerous thing for Republicans and frankly for America. I fear the lesson that Republicans will take from this is never ever compromise. The -- Eric Cantor was a little fuzzy on immigration frankly, but he was hammered on that issue by Professor Brat.

I think Republicans in Congress are going to take the lesson that they must never ever, ever compromise, and I think that's a terrible thing for their party. It's a terrible thing for our country. This was an upset landslide, which almost never happens in campaigns. Sometimes you have an upset, sometimes you have a landslide. Rarely by 12 points by a guy how thought who had no chance. So that's going to have huge ramifications and I think the worst ramification for the country is that Republicans are going to never ever, ever compromise with this president, which means he's going to have to go use his executive authority to do something to try to solve the immigration problem.

BALDWIN: Sinkhole, earthquake, seismic shift.

CUOMO: Three evers with never ever, ever, ever, ever.

BALDWIN: It has happened. We will stay on this for the rest of the morning for sure. Gentlemen, Kevin Madden and Paul Begala, thank you so much for weighing in at this early hour. Big, big doings in Virginia and Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

Let's move along because anger and rage starting to boil over after yet another deadly school shooting in this country. This time it was at Reynolds High School near Portland, Oregon. A 14-year-old student is dead, a teacher was injured, but is expected to survive. The shooter believed to be another student took his own life and now advocates for gun control are asking when enough will actually be enough.

Let's begin our coverage the morning with Sara Sidner in Troutdale, Oregon. Sara, good morning.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Brooke. Yes, the school has now opened up to let us see what it looks like the morning after. We do have to say this gunman went on the rampage in the gymnasium killing a well-liked freshman.


UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Reynolds high school, heard shots fired in the locker room, at least one person down.

SIDNER (voice-over): Tragedy struck this Oregon school just days before the start of summer vacation. Shots ringing out at Reynolds High School just before first period classes began.

CARA KERS, STUDENT: We heard Mr. Dickson come over the intercom and say this is not a drill. We need to go into lock down right now.

SIDNER: Nearly 3,000 students attend this school. Those who were here hunkered down in their classrooms with the doors lock and the light shut off. Outside police say a lone gunman armed with a rifle entered the school's gymnasium building and shot and killed freshman, Emilio Hoffman. A teacher and coach, Todd Rispler was graced by a bullet, but he is expected to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was carrying a gun running after one of our teachers, our PE teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bloodshot on his back.

SIDNER: SWAT teams swarmed the campus locating the shooter's body in a bathroom. Moments of the chaos inside captured on police radio.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE: We need the robot inside. We've got suspect down on the toilet but we cannot see him.

SIDNER: Sources tell CNN the unidentified gunman likely died from a self-inflicted wound. Parents anxiously waited for hours to be reunited with their children.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sure he's OK but, you know, until you hear that -- until you hear the final word, you know, it's a thought.

SIDNER: Last night students and parents came together to mourn the young life lost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you got to know him he was just sweet and always there for you if you needed someone to talk to.

SIDNER: A community struggling to cope with the aftermath of another school shooting.


SIDNER: Now, that vigil was a heart wrenching scene. The parents of Emilio Hoffman showed up. They were sobbing throughout as the community surrounded them trying to give them as much support as they could -- Chris.

CUOMO: Everybody is in shock trying to figure out what happens next, what do they do to heal and we'll be watching it all as it continues here. This is the latest shooting, but it drew pointed comments from President Obama, who vented about the lack of action following earlier episodes of violence. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're the only developed country on earth where this happens and it happens now once a week. Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There's no advance developed country on earth that would put up with this. I've been in Washington for a while now and most things don't surprise me. The fact that 26-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn't do anything about it was stunning to me.


CUOMO: Equally stunning is that we can't figure out what to do about it. There's huge division between people who think it's all about guns and then everything else, mental health, culture, what messages our kids get sent. So remedies seem to elude us.

Let's bring in CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House with more of the president's response. Specifically, Jim, we've had the conversation so much that you don't need to hear the words coming out of my mouth right now to know the question, what comes next? What do you do if you're so sick of it? We all say we're sick of it and then nothing really changes that makes a difference. So where do we do? What's the word from there?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you heard what the president said in that town hall with Tumblr, Chris, that the president sees this as one of the biggest frustrations of his presidency so far. After the Newtown tragedy where 92 percent of the American people were in favor of universal background checks the Congress could not get that passed.

The president could not persuade the Congress to pass that and so we're back at square one. This White House, I've talked to aides privately about this, they don't know what to do. Unless some sort of big galvanizing event like another Newtown, they don't see the prospects on Capitol Hill to pass something like this.

You heard the president weigh in on this debate about whether it's gun control, whether it's guns, whether it's mental health, the president saying at one point during this town hall with Tumblr, the United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. So you know, where the president stands on this.

He wants to see universal background checks. Some sort of gun control on Capitol Hill. The president has been talking about his pen and his phone using his executive actions. They've initiated some 20 executive actions over here at the White House to sort of chip away at this problem of mentally ill people getting access to guns.

But the president says very honestly and candidly during that town hall, Chris, that it's just not possible to really put a dent in this issue according to the president, according to this White House, without some sort of legislation passed. And keep in mind as you know, Chris, as you just mentioned, we've had mass shooting after mass shooting.

We had one at the Navy Yard, the Washington Navy Yard here in Washington a couple miles from the White House. So these things continue to happen and it's going to be a continuing problem for this president because they're really powerless at this point to do anything about it legislatively.

And what you saw last night with Eric Cantor's district, that stunned defeat, there's a price for compromise in Washington and this White House knows it -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: Jim Acosta, thanks for that. They're also going to be hearing from family members, community members and parents who say something more has got to be done.

Let's give a look at more of your headlines right now. We know the identifies now of four that were killed in the tragic case of friendly fire in Afghanistan when a coalition jet accidentally bombed five service members fighting a Taliban ambush. We'll show you their faces. These men were from Washington State, Illinois, Ohio, and California. They were young men between ages of 19 and 25.

Officials in Iraq are calling for more help as militants seemingly move closer to Baghdad. They have control of Mosul and have been engaged in fierce clashes and oil refinery north of the capital. Government forces have started to move into that region to secure Baghdad's border.

A major ruling in California that really could completely change the face of education. A judge struck down the state's teacher tenure laws. The court found that the laws violate the state's promise of equaled indication for all since they drive the most ineffective teachers to the state's poorest school districts.

Similar suits against tenure are expected to appear nationwide after the ruling. You know we'll dive right into this debate. It's a fierce one and it's an important one on NEW DAY coming up on the next few hours.

CUOMO: A lot of big questions facing us right now.

PEREIRA: So many.

BALDWIN: A lot about good teachers. Michaela, thank you so much.

CUOMO: Let's take a break on NEW DAY. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is going to be on the hot seat. This will be the first public hearing on the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap. What's he is going to say?

Also what is actually in the report about why Bergdahl disappeared from the military? There is new information. We're going to talk to a Bergdahl family friend and give you some details.

BALDWIN: Also ahead, much more on this political earthquake jolting the Washington establishment. What does House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's loss mean for the midterms and immigration reform? We'll talk to more experts here coming up on NEW DAY."


CUOMO: Welcome back the NEW DAY. This morning a grilling is expected for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as he's going to try to explain the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap in the first public hearing since Bergdahl was freed.

Meanwhile, we're getting details of a classified Army report into Bergdahl's capture which includes details about how many times Sergeant Bergdahl walked off the base and why. I want to bring in Matthew Hoh. He is a friend of the Bergdahl family. He is also a former State Department official and U.S. Marine captain.

Captain, it's always good to have you here with us on NEW DAY. I want to talk to you about the family, but I want to talk to you about this report because you've been working your own sources within the military. This has become a key question. Did Bowe Bergdahl deserted? People can say it doesn't matter, but it does to especially people outside the military. What's the best information you have?

MATTHEW HOH, FRIEND OF BERGDAHL FAMILY: Good morning, Chris. Thank you for having me back on. There is nothing conclusive in the Army investigation. That's been released seen by people who have read the report. That concludes that Bowe deserted. In fact, the evidence seems to point that his intention was not to desert but rather to come back on the base.

The report details that Bowe and his platoon mates who have spoken out public have confirmed this have left the base previously. How many times, I'm not certain. The reports says at least once. Other sources this may have occurred a few times. Was he going out there because he was crazy, because he was reckless?

Maybe he was going out there to conduct his own counter insurgency campaign. You know, counter insurgency tendency is to drop your body armor and meet locals and talk with them. We were unsure why he was doing it, but we do know he was going outside and he had done it before and he had returned.

We also know the platoon and quite possibly the leadership was not just aware of it, but it seems they may have given him his blessing to do so that this is what Bowe does but he comes back.

CUOMO: Well, but that would stand in stark contrast to what we've been hearing from the men who served with help.

HOH: Yes.

CUOMO: They said they were shocked when he disappeared. Didn't know where he was. Frantic search properties. Resulting casualties and death because of it. They don't come off like they knew that was happening.

HOH: Two days ago I was on with an interview with one of these soldiers. He said that Bowe had left the base previously. When we went to look for Bowe he wasn't where he was supposed to be. Right? Meaning that we knew Bowe was going over here and when we went to go find him over there he wasn't there. So what was going on in this unit?

And the thing to me is you look at the evidence, besides the fact he left the base previously, he didn't go out there with anything that would make you think, if you were going to desert, if you were going to walk through Pakistan to India as someone claims he was trying to do, wouldn't you have taken some food with you, maybe some extra clothes, some sleeping gear?

He didn't take his weapons. In fact, we know he was concerned about leaving the base with his weapons and his night vision goggles so he left them behind. If you're deserting, you don't care about that, right? He was going to come back. We also know that he was abducted forcibly by --

CUOMO: How do we know that?

HOH: We know that from Afghan witnesses, from reporters who have been there, spoken Afghan witnesses as well as what was in the report that he was taken forcibly. He put up quite a fight and he was beaten. In captivity the Red Cross letters he sent home he signed it PFC Bowe Bergdahl with his unit. He nerve gave up that affiliation. He never made a propaganda statement for the Taliban.

I went through the military's prisoner of war program and camp and you get smacked around, nearly all of us screwed up at least once and did something that the enemy could use as propaganda. It just happens and for Bowe to do that five years of captivity by himself shows us where his heart was.

CUOMO: If you had reason to believe that Bowe Bergdahl had turned, you felt that the American mission was wrong and he was sympathetic to the Taliban or that his dad was that way and that's why he grew the beard and learned the language and what goes on these chat sites seems to be put himself to the Taliban. If you believe that those were their true motives, would you come forward and let people know that, I discovered these guys are pro-Taliban, I don't support them.

HOH: If you have evidence, come forward. Unfortunately, so much of the rhetoric and why this is so shameful, so much of this rhetoric seemed to be purely politically based. Because Bob and Jani had the gull to stand with the president, the commander-in-chief in the Rose Garden, it seems that many people, somebody did a great Twitter write- up of what members of Congress are saying about Bowe's release before he was release and Bob stood next to President Obama and what they said afterwards.

So if you are calling Bowe a deserter, a traitor, when again, the evidence shows that's not the case, and he may have been out there actually trying to fix issues, go out and meet with the Afghans and do things on his own to improve the mission, if you're saying he's a deserter and traitor without the evidence and you're doing this because of some type of political ideology you hold, I can't think of a more shameful and despicable and frankly un-American thing to do.

CUOMO: Meanwhile, this family is dealing with the fact that their kid has been gone for five years and they haven't heard from him. What are they being told about why they can't talk to him yet?

HOH: My understanding is that the program, it's very interesting. The military has people who are dedicated to helping prisoners of war. Even when we don't have men and women who are prisoners of war we have teams that rehearse, that practice, that train for these types of situations. So the military is well trained in bringing people back.

The Bergdahls have been talking to people who are former prisoners to understand what it's like to come home. As far as Bowe goes I think he's doing well. He is -- he's a bit confused. I think why he's a sergeant. He says, you know, I didn't earn -- I didn't go before the promotion boards and get this.

My understanding is he's wearing this uniform and doing well and everything is at his pace. So they want to take it very slowly. Again, five years as a prisoner of war alone in captivity is incredibly stressful to come back into one of their family members said to me, look, Bowe was caged like an animal by the Taliban.

And now he's coming home and we've dropped him in a piranha tank. So expose him to that after being treated like that as a prisoner and expose him to this type of demonization with no evidence is shameful.

CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you what. If it's not true, the speculation for this kid to be aware of it is going to be the second biggest shock of his life after what he experienced the last five years. Captain, thank you for keeping us in the loop and letting us know what you learn as we go forward. Appreciate it as always.

HOH: Thank you.

CUOMO: Brooke, over to you.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, thank you so much.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, stunning political upset. The Republican, House majority leader, loses his seat in a primary. Much more analysis of Eric Cantor's shocking defeat is ahead.

A major ruling in California, a judge now says that teacher tenure is costing students in equal education. We're going to dive deeper. Is it true? What does it mean for teachers nationwide, not just California? The former Washington, D.C. school's chancellor will join us to discuss coming up.