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Cochran Win Touches Racial Nerve; Lerner Pushed to Audit Senator; Boehner Wants To Sue Obama; Jailed Marine Fighting For His Freedom; Interview with Ariel Moutsatsos-Morales from the Mexican Embassy

Aired June 26, 2014 - 07:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Those are your headlines. Over to you, guys.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Very important, a lot of people suffer from that or don't even know it and they are afraid to find out what it is.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Exactly, better know.

CUOMO: Thank you very much.

A lot going on politically so we will take you "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY with Mr. John King. Is it true, you asked not to be on this morning so you could prepare for the World Cup?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": I was going to stretch my knees like those guys, we have to do that while on the set and move the knees up and get loose.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

KING: We can do "Inside Politics" and prepare for the World Cup.

BOLDUAN: Multi-tasker.

CUOMO: He's a both guy. I like a both guy.

KING: You are both right that it's so busy. Usually a sleepy Washington summer but not so. So let's get right to "Inside Politics." So with me this morning to share their reporting and their insights, Julie Pace of the "Associated Press" and Manu Raju of "Politico."

So the Mississippi votes were counted. Thad Cochran was the winner in the runoff against his Tea Party challenger, Chris McDaniel, who says no, I'm not ready to concede yet. He says he wants to have legal team to take a look. He thinks there were irregularities.

What he was trying to say is he believes African-American voters illegally voted in the runoff. Listen to him last night, not only saying I'm not ready to concede, but taking a shot at the Republican establishment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRIS MCDANIEL (R), SENATE CANDIDATE: We have people there that are willing to sacrifice every principle in the world for a movement of power or the almighty dollar. It has to stop.


KING: There are others, including Rand Paul, Manu, who say it's good if more people vote, good for Republican race to draw African-American voters, but Chris McDaniel is not ready to give up.

MANU RAJU, "POLITICO": No, he's not and it remains to be seen whether he does mount this legal challenge. Still a lot of skepticism whether he could actually pull this off successfully, and if he doesn't do that, what does he do, does he do a write-in campaign, which could upset the balance here? But it really speaks to the larger debate within the party about how do you broaden your brand and reach out to new voters?

Roger Wicker, the Mississippi senator told me yesterday very clearly, he said, we should be reaching out to Democrats, that's what we should do as the Republican Party, broaden our brand. There is nothing wrong what Thad Cochran did according to his supporters.

KING: It's the state with the highest percentage of African-American voters in the country so you would think here's an opportunity for Republicans to learn the lesson. Thad Cochran had to go to these voters in a moment of need, but maybe he could start to build a relationship and maybe other Republicans could copy it, Julie, but then Rush Limbaugh weighs in. This won't help.


RUSH LIMBAUGH: I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past couple of days. Uncle Toms for Thad?


KING: Anything I say will make it worse, but --

JULIE PACE, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": You're going to throw it to me now.

KING: If you find irregularities, fine, investigate them. You have that right after an election to look at things, but to say things like that and disparage people and forgive me, if that's not a racist statement, it's dancing right up to the line of it, how does that help anybody?

PACE: It doesn't and a lot of national Republicans just cringe when they see statements like that, when they see things like what McDaniel is saying. This is a party after the 2012 election that said we have to broaden the pace and now you have a ration where they have managed to broaden the base for whatever reason they managed to do that and they have this push and pull and maybe we don't want to broaden the base. It just sends a really mixed message.

KING: If you look at the national demographics, maybe they can win in House races and Senate races. The Republicans will not be competitive at the presidential level until they improve their standing among non- white voters and Mr. Limbaugh is not helping the cause there.

Let's move on to an embarrassment on the Democratic side, Lois Lerner, you remember here. We've talked about her a lot, lately, maybe if you find her e-mails, please give us a call. She's at the center of this investigation in Congress. Did the IRS unfairly target conservative and Tea Party groups when they wanted their tax-exempt status with the IRS essentially going after conservative organizations?

We've been talking about her e-mails from the key period have simply disappeared and the administration says the computer crashed. Now this one is curious. E-mails that were provided to Congress show that Lois Lerner received an invitation for Senator Chuck Grassly to a political event and the organization apparently said, Senator, bring your wife and we'll pay for that.

Lois Lerner decided to send an e-mail to a colleague saying looked like they were inappropriately offering to pay for his wife. Perhaps we should refer to exam, meaning perhaps we should audit, investigate a sitting Republican United States senator. One of her colleagues said can't do this, the rules don't allow.

We need some evidence or some suspicion of illegal activity first, but this does not help her case, which is already pretty bad to begin with.

RAJU: It fuels the suspicion that there's a political witch-hunt was motivated by politics going after conservative groups, conservative senator right now, a very high ranking member of the finance committee, which oversees the IRS, but we should note that in that -- the IRS never actually went through with the audit.

There was a question about whether or not they could do that, but it does -- that's exactly what the administration does not want, which is more evidence showing that there was some political mess going around going after the Democrat -- going after Republican groups.

KING: It makes it hard for the White House to say this is Republicans trying to make a big partisan issue out of a mistake?

PACE: Sure. And it raises the question of if this is something that's in the e-mails that we have, what's in the e-mails that have disappeared, that don't exist anymore and it provides some actual tangible fodder for these hearings that are going to be happening on the Hill.

KING: One of the president's priorities this year and for the rest of his term is to get some action out of Washington on climate change. He knows he's going to have to do most of that through executive action because he can't get cooperation with the congressman. Listen to the president's tone here speaking to an environmental group, league of conservation voters here. Listen to his tone going after Republicans who he says simply flat refuse to acknowledge that man is contributing to climate change.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not a scientist, which really translates into I accept that manmade climate change is real, but if I say so out loud I'll be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements that think climate science is a liberal plot. So I'm going to just pretend like I don't know. I can't read. I'm not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer, then I'll say OK.


KING: A tad scornful there of his critics.

PACE: When he takes that mocking tone, as he sometimes does with Republicans, it drives the GOP absolutely crazy, but on this issue, he feels like not only does he have public opinion on his side, but he feels like he has an executive action plan that can actually make a depth in climate change and sees this as a real part of his legacy. So I think you'll hear him saying things like that on climate change for the next two and a half votes.

KING: He doesn't have the votes on his side.

RAJU: No, he doesn't and it's interesting the fight on climate change that he does choose to wage, which is about the science, which is something he can portray the Republicans out of step and out of mainstream, but he's not talking about cap and trade, regulation, things that Republicans portray as job-killing regulations, job killing cap and trade. He wants to fight it on different terms about the science and that they think is a winning argument politically.

KING: Climate change is one of the many issues where the president is using executive actions. The House Speaker John Boehner yesterday saying that he's had enough and that House Republicans, he wants to take the president to court and to sue him. Listen to the speaker.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: You know, the constitution makes it clear that a president's job is to faithfully execute the laws, and in my view the president has not faithfully executed the laws.


KING: Is this a serious constitutional challenge, the powers between the legislative and the executive, or is this I'm John Boehner, I'm heading into a mid-term election. I'm going sue the president. My base already doesn't like so the conservatives think, OK, he's on our side.

PACE: Well, if you look at what Boehner said yesterday and some of the documentation that they tried to back it up with, there's not a lot of specifics in there so it's a little unclear about what specifically they say the president is in violation of. There is a theory though that you do have some Republicans in the House who are actually calling for impeachment of the president and this could be a way for John Boehner to say I'm trying to take some action against the president.

RAJU: When I go to the conservative rallies around the country, this is one of the things that really riles up conservative voters. They believe this president has been lawless, has not followed the law and what are you going to do about it? What are you going to do about it, John Boehner? And now they can say we're going to sue the president and this is clearly an effort to placate that base.

KING: Keep an eye on that. Manu and Julie, thanks for coming in. Mr. Cuomo, you do that when Kate oversteps her power, do you use executive action or you take order?

BOLDUAN: Overstepping my power. There is no overstepping when you have ultimate power.

CUOMO: Limitless. In this context, it would be limitless.

BOLDUAN: John, you know this, you're so silly.

CUOMO: John, thank you for trying to throw me under the bus.

There's a new term to introduce into this discussion by the lawsuit, by the way, frivolous lawsuit. You can sue, but if the basis for the lawsuit has no real standing in law, it's frivolous, and I wonder if that might be something. Funny to see the lawmakers sanctioned for bringing a lawsuit in the first place.

BOLDUAN: Right, exactly. Coming up next on NEW DAY, a U.S. Marine jailed in Mexico for months is pleading for his release and has been as a veterans organization calls for a boycott over his arrest. A Mexican official is joining us to talk about the case.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A Marine who says he made a wrong turn into Mexico with guns in his truck is still fighting for his freedom. Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi, he has a new attorney, and they are asking for patience saying the case is a long way from being resolved. Tahmooressi has been jailed in Mexico on weapons charges since March.

And now the Mexican government is pushing hard against the idea that Tahmooressi ended up across the border by accident. We'll talk with a Mexican diplomat about the case in a moment, the first time we've had an opportunity to do that, but first John Berman is going to catch you up on the details of the story.


JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START" (voice-over): According to Mexican officials Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi broke the law on the night of March 31st at this border crossing. He entered Mexico with a pistol, rifle and shotgun. Personal firearms legal in the United States but in Mexico, illegal. The Marine reservist was questioned and detained.

Mexican officials say Tahmooressi was trafficking weapons and according to them never once did he say he was a U.S. Marine or that he might be lost, and they claim since the Marine has been locked up, he's tried to escape twice.

But the sergeant who says he had been tortured by guards since his arrest tells NEW DAY, it is all lies, claiming it was an accident and that he even called 911 during the arrest.

ANDREW TAHMOORESSI: I crossed the border by accident and I have three guns in my truck and they're trying to possess, they're trying to take my guns from me.

BERMAN: Tahmooressi says the only reason he wound up in Mexico is because of a couple of wrong left turns. He said he immediately notified authorities that he was carrying weapons.

TAHMOORESSI (via telephone): They are going to say a whole bunch of lies, and they are already saying a whole bunch of lies, and I just know that the truth will -- will set me free.

BERMAN: On NEW DAY, Andrew's mother pleaded for help from the U.S. as two U.S. lawmakers visited the sergeant over the weekend lobbying for his release.

JILL TAHMOORESHI, MOTHER OF JAILED MARINE: Please, President Obama, if you could reach out to your counterpart President Nieto and help him to understand that he is a decorated Marine.

BERMAN: John Berman, CNN, New York.


CUOMO: Joining us now Ariel Moutsatsos-Morales, the Minister for Press and Public Affairs for the Embassy of Mexico in the U.S.

Thank you very much for joining us this morning, Mr. Morales. The first question is what do you know about the sergeant's health at this time?


Well, first of all, I heard in the piece that you just aired that they said that presently -- that Mr. Tahmooressi was in prison for being charged of trafficking weapons, that's incorrect. Mr. Tahmooressi is in prison for carrying weapons that are of the exclusive use of the armed forces in Mexico and for possessing ammunition and a shotgun without a license. So it's not the same. So to clear the record, that's what I wanted to add.

CUOMO: Important to know. He's not being held there for any suspicion of trafficking. That has been speculated by Mexican media. You're saying that's not true. Thank you for clarifying.

What do you know about the sergeant's health?

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: Well, he's in very good spirits, like the Congressman already stated over the weekend. He's there in a prison under permanent medical observation. He suffers from PTSD. So he has declined to take medication like he stated in your program a few days or weeks ago.

Mr. Tahmooressi crossed into Mexico on the night of March the 31st for the fifth time in recent days, as he also said here in your program. From the very first moments of his detention, because he was carrying three weapons, two of which are of exclusive use of armed forces, which is a serious felony in Mexico. They were at his reach and they were loaded, so he was arrested and taken under custody by the Mexican attorney general's office.

From that moment, he has received permanent assistance from the consulate of the United States in Tijuana, and he was transferred from one jail to another because he tried to escape twice and he tried to harm himself once. So the Mexican authorities in the jail tried -- just took the measures necessary for him not to harm himself again, and not to try to escape again.

CUOMO: You have said yourself that you believe he has PTSD, that he's under medical observation. Do you know that he -- if it's true that he told your officers at the time, when he was stopped, that he had the guns, when you combine his medical situation with his admitting that he had the guns when he was stopped, how do you justify holding him this long for something that appears to be an accident?

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: I don't have -- first of all, I don't have the details of that and I cannot comment on those details because there is an ongoing legal process. That will be decided by the judge, not by anyone else but by the federal judge in a federal court. That is the one right now who is seeing the case of Mr. Tahmooressi.

CUOMO: Are you aware of any proof that it was not an accident?

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: I am not aware of any proof regarding this being an accident or not being an accident, and I cannot certainly talk about that. I can just tell you that the signs are very clear to return to the U.S., and if you didn't see those signs, then if someone doesn't see those signs, then there are also signs saying that there are no weapons allowed into Mexico. And if you don't see those signs, then there are also signs that you need to see and to make a decision before crossing, between choosing the line of nothing to declare or something to declare.

And Mr. Tahmooressi decided to cross into Mexico through the lane of nothing to declare, so he certainly made some decisions on the way to crossing into Mexico. And even the fact that this is the fifth time that he crossed into Mexico for private reasons, because he didn't cross as a marine, he was not on active duty, he was not on official duty, he was not in an official vehicle -- he crossed for private reasons, as he already has acknowledged in your program and in ours.

CUOMO: But that doesn't mean that he's lying about this being an accident. And of the pictures of signs that you sent us, one of these signs is new, right? One of these signs, at least one of them, wasn't up at the time of Mr. Tahmooressi's arrest. Is that true?

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: I don't have any information on that.

CUOMO: Well, you sent me those signs.

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: Yes, of course I sent you the signs.

CUOMO: And our information is that one of them new, so that it wasn't up at the time?

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: Well, those signs are not there put by the Mexican government, they were put by the United States government or the local authorities.

CUOMO: But what does that mean to you, that after this -- ?

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: So I don't have any information on that.

CUOMO: What does that mean to you that, after this incident, a new sign was put up? That, on the U.S. side --

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: Well, maybe they are trying to improve -- if that happened, maybe they are trying to improve the visibility of the signs. But that does not mean that rest of the signs were not clear and the rest of the signs were not there and the rest of the signs are not stating clearly that no weapons are allowed into Mexico.

CUOMO: Understood.

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: And that does not mean that you cannot make a decision of declaring something before crossing the border.

CUOMO: Understood. But there are more facts here, right? And assuming that he did tell officers right away, there was obviously no violence, thank god, that happened with these weapons. You've had him for three months. Isn't there some discretion on your side about what you decide to prosecute or not in a situation like this? It's not like you're not familiar with crime.

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: What you're saying is probably the most important thing of this case, regarding the process.

There is a big difference between the Mexican law and the U.S. law. Here in the U.S., you have prosecutorial discretion. A prosecutor can decide whether to prosecute something or not. In Mexico, that doesn't exist. If there is evidence of a possible crime committed, like in this case, the prosecutor has to prosecute. He doesn't make any decisions regarding that, but to prosecute, to investigate, and then to present this to the judge.

The case is certainly in that stage and Mr. Tahmooressi is awaiting his next hearing, which will take place on the 9th of July.

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: So you're saying every time there is an arrest, there was a trial in Mexico? That was not my understanding.

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: Yes, every time that there is suspicion of a crime, there is an arrest. There is an investigation that the prosecutor initiates, and if he gathers sufficient evidence to think there is a crime here, then he has to prosecute.

In this case, the evidence of someone, regardless of if he was American or he's a Mexican, someone carrying weapons that are loaded and that are of the exclusive use of the armed forces is more than enough to prosecute.

CUOMO: All right, I understand the legal principle and I want to keep this dialogue going, Mr. Morales, because it's obviously of significant concern here.

I do have one request. You are aware of the procedure but you have said you are not aware of the proof for or against the guilt in this case. Don't you think it's important that you get informed on that level because of the significance of this case, that you should know what the case is against this man, because there are a lot of questions about it?

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: The case is clear. He was carrying weapons that are of the exclusive of the armed forces.

CUOMO: But he said it's an accident. And you say you don't know what the proof is that they believe it wasn't an accident.

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: No, what I'm saying is the judge is the one who will decide if it was an accident or not. And if he is released because he's considered or sentenced not guilty, or sentenced guilty and he has to serve some time in jail, that's only up to the judge.

I also heard in the piece that was presented before me talking here that President Pena Nieto was -- that piece suggested President Nieto could just order his release or anything, and he can't at this moment. He's in the hands of a Mexican judge in a Mexican federal court and not in the hands of the government. That is very important for the American people to know.

CUOMO: That is. Thank you very much for clarifying the process and what's going on.

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: Thank you very much, Chris. Thank you for having me on here.

CUOMO: I look forward -- thank you for sending us the letter that showed your attention to this, and the information that came along with it. Please, make yourself available to us as we go forward so we can stay on this story and be fair.

MOUTSATSOS-MORALES: I am, and thank you very much for this opportunity, Chris.

CUOMO: Appreciate it -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, an incredible moment on live television. Watch as CNN's Nancy Grace tells a father his missing son was found alive and well in his own basement. He had been missing for two weeks. We'll talk with Nancy live about this incredible moment.


NANCY GRACE, CNN: We are getting reports that your son has been found alive in your basement.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the biggest game of a lot of our lives.


CUOMO: Game on, just hours away from the Americans taking on Germany in the World Cup. Both are battling to make it out of the group of death. Five German-Americans facing off against their countrymen. We hear from them this morning.

BOLDUAN: Breaking overnight, search officials believe they're zeroing in on Flight 370, moving the search area once again and a new evidence that the plane was on autopilot when it crashed. We have the latest.

PEREIRA: Live twists, a father searching for his missing son finds out live on air that he has been found in his basement. The bizarre scene playing out with our Nancy Grace. We have his reaction.

CUOMO: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Thursday, June 26th, 8:00 in the east. The chant growing louder in the U.S., we believe that we will win. We are just four hours and counting now until the big World Cup match between Team USA and Germany. Today will either be a big step forward for U.S. soccer or a tremendous disappointment. Will the U.S. advance? That's the question.

They've done it before several times, but there's never been so much attention. Take a look.


CUOMO (voice-over): It's a fight to the death or really to escape the group of death. Team USA and Germany facing off in hopes of advancing to the next 16-team knockout stage. Both teams needing only a draw to grab a coveted sweet 16 spot. The highly anticipated showdown between red, white and blue and the powerhouse German team ranks second best in the world. The match is almost sure to exceed the record 25 million viewers who tuned in to the U.S. versus Portugal game on Sunday. Thousands gathering across the country to watch the heated match.

And add to that excitement the clash of cultures. Team USA's roster stacked with five German-Americans including star players, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones, now going head-to-head against the very same players they grew up with.

That said, Johnson isn't sweating it.