Return to Transcripts main page


Dem Barely Misses a Win in Georgia House Race; Dem Faces GA Runoff Despite Big Money Support; Aaron Hernandez Commits Suicide in Prison; Wells Fargo CEO Speaks Out Amid Ethics Scandal. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. This morning, Democrats in suburban Atlanta are lamenting the victory that has slipped away, a congressional seat that has been held by Republicans since Jimmy Carter was in the White House and seen as a key measure of President Trump's popularity. Democrat Jon Ossoff won 48.1 percent of the vote against the crowded and divided Republican field that all that matters is that, well, he didn't win. He didn't get a simple majority and therefore, no victory.

BERMAN: And that means he faces a June runoff against the leading Republican Karen Handel and she's going to have the full weight and might of the Republican Party behind her. Let's go to the heart of Georgia, 6th, CNN's Jason Carroll is there. Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you know, basically, you have to look at the reality of what happened on the ground. Both sides are claiming a victory of sorts here. If you look at what happened with Jon Ossoff here, I mean, basically, he wanted to avoid this Runoff Election with Karen Handel, but he was up able to get 50 percent of the vote.

However, he was still able to get 48 percent of the vote and that's a huge margin for a Democrat running in a Republican district. He was able to do that in part, by making this a referendum on the president, again, having said that, both sides claiming a victory, both sides looking forward to that Runoff Election on June 20th.


JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: And there is no amount of dark money, super PAC, negative advertising that can overcome real grassroots energy like this.


So bring it on. KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: They spent upwards of close to $10 million, just on TV alone. $5.5 million compared to roughly $75,000 that I spent on television. So, money buys a lot when it's a very compressed race. That won't be the same in the runoff. Republicans are united. We know that this is an important race and it's going to stay in the hands of a Republican and I'm excited about the next 60 days.


CARROLL: Karen Handel is the establishment Republican here. She's well known in the district. She's a former Georgia Secretary of State. What's interesting about that interview that she did on "New Day." She was asked repeatedly if she thought that this was a referendum on the president. She really sort of dodged that question.

She dodged that question when I asked her, as well. Having said that, the president did call her, congratulated her for her win. Also, she said that she welcomes President Trump to come here and campaign with her. We should also note that going forward, tomorrow DNC Chair Tom Peres is going to be here, speaking at a Democratic event which clearly shows that going forward this event -- this special election is going to be getting national attention on both sides. John? Poppy?

HARLOW: Jason Carroll in Georgia 6th. Thank you so much. Let's talk about all of this. We are joined by Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator, former national -- press secretary for Bernie Sanders 2016 and CNN political commentator Kayleigh McEnany, nice to have you both here.

So, Kayleigh let me begin with you because our Chris Cillizza, in his column, on all of this, right? This - That one Republican consultant told him, "This race is absolutely and entirely a referendum on President Trump. Every single vote Jon Ossoff receives is a rebuke of Trump from within Georgia 6th." This is from a Republican consultant. What part of this makes you most nervous?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think that's the case at all. In fact, you know, "National Review" interviewed several voters down there and there were certainly some who were voting against President Trump. But there were others who said I just knew Ossoff's name because you know, they poured millions and millions of dollars into this race, nearly $10 million spent on this race alone. 90 percent of the funding, by the way, came from outside the district.

So, Democrats essentially handpicked this candidate, poured in millions and millions and millions of dollars to try to flip a district and they failed. They failed at the task at hand. This was not a grassroots uprising. This was a Republican victory last night by forcing this runoff and it is not a referendum on President Trump. And if it is, it's a great referendum on the president because he engaged in robocalls. He was tweeting about this race. He poured his political capital into this race and it clearly paid off.

BERMAN: Well, the flip side of that, Symone, let me put it to you this way. Would this race have ever been so close had not President Trump been in the White House? Remember, Mitt Romney won this district four years ago by well over 10 percent.

HARLOW: 23 percent.

BERMAN: 23 percent four years ago. You know, President Trump won it by barely a point and now you have this Democrat who albeit, he didn't get across the finish line but he was running more than you know, 25 points ahead of the nearest Republican, Symone.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, this just goes to show the map is now different. Look, I think it is really important to note that usually Democrats only garner 36 percent of the vote in Georgia 6th. And last night, Ossoff got a little over 48 percent.

[10:05:02] So, Democrats are in a very good position. There are 94 districts that are more favorable, that look better than Georgia 6th for Democrats across the map. And that means we have the chance to actually take back the House in 2018. Now, it's not going to be easy and it's going to be a hard-fought battle. But I think this just goes to show that there is momentum. There is potential out there in some places where there had not been potential for Democrats before.

HARLOW: All right. So, the Republican Party, the NRCC just released an ad in the wake of this. Let's play it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, how many here actually live in the 6th district. Please raise your hand. Wow. That's good. That's good.

OSSOFF: We need to attract more high-tech and research jobs to the area.


HARLOW: I know you talk, Kayleigh, about all the money that poured in and you're right. 95 percent of it came from out of the state. Is this time for Republicans to do the same, to match Democrats on this one?

MCENANY: They definitely should. You know, you can't lose the runoff. That would be a huge defeat for Republicans. I don't think they will win the runoff because now, you no longer have 11 Republicans in the race. You just have 1 Republican versus 1 Democrat.

But I do think that they should bone up their funding, pour money into this because the one thing I do think that this shows besides kind of the artificial money pumped into this from the Democrats is I do think that there is energy among Democrats just like the Tea Party in the wake of President Obama's early presidency that came together. There was energy. They wanted to topple the president and the Democratic Party. There is that energy there so Republicans should not take that for granted.

SANDERS: But John and Poppy --

BERMAN: Go ahead, Symone. SANDERS: In this race, the Republicans spent $4.2 million against Ossoff in negative attack ads. And Karen Handel, she barely garnered 20 percent of the vote. So, with that being said, this is definitely a winnable race for Democrats and I think this speaks to the broader notion that, Democrats in places like Nebraska, places maybe in some Texas, other places in Georgia. People need to bone up and be ready because there are winnable races coming up in 2018 and places where we haven't won before.

BERMAN: So, Symone, I ask you, Democrats or independents. And I ask this to you specifically cheekily because of something your former boss, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said last night. You know, he was asked outright. This is a guy that is extremely popular among Democrats. Some people see his movement as the future of the Democratic Party. He was asked outright if he is a Democrat. Listen to what he said.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: Do you consider yourself a Democrat?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: No. I'm an independent. And I think if the Democratic Party is going to succeed and I want to see it succeed, it's going to have to open its doors to independents.


BERMAN: Now, Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic Party was sitting next to him and I'm not sure the thought bubble there was boy, am I happy he's saying this right now, might have been something else. But Symone, is that the message you want the Democratic Party right now?

SANDERS: Look, I think the message is this. We should be more focused on people doing the work, what people care about, what the issues are as opposed to people having a D, R, I behind their name. I think Bernie is what I'd like to call a new blue crew Democrat. Somebody that no, does not identify the Democrat put a D behind his name, but someone who is willing to work with the party and within the party towards the ideals that not just the party, but people all across America, independents and even some Republicans actually care about.

So, I think that is the future of the Democratic Party. Yes, opening it up. We still want people to be Democrats. Well, we shouldn't shut the door because they're willing to put a D behind their name. We want people that are willing to do the work and work for all of the issues. And be that big tent party that we say we are.

BERMAN: That you - the time for us with Bernie Sanders, you know "Odd Couple Act." They need to work on some of their personal chemistry maybe as they tour the country. Symone Sanders, Kayleigh McEnany, great to have you with us, thank you so much.

MCENANY: Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you. HARLOW: Also, the breaking news this morning, convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez found dead in prison, in his prison cell this morning. Massachusetts official say he hanged himself.

BERMAN: So, Hernandez used to play football for the New England Patriots. He was serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing, murder of Odin Lloyd. He was most recently though, found not guilty on two other murder cases. CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now with more. What are we learning from officials? They found him at 3:05 a.m. in his prison cell.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. What we've just learned from the Worcester District Attorney's Office, there is going to be an autopsy performed. The chief medical examiner will be performing that autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.

But it all started at 3:05 a.m. this morning when Aaron Hernandez was found unresponsive in his prison cell by officials. He had taken a bed sheet and hanged himself, attaching it to the window of his cell. Now, very unusual, he had apparently, according to prison officials, stacked things up against the door so conceivably would create difficulty for someone to get in. But they did get in and they began to perform emergency procedures to try to revive him, 911 were called and at that point, he was transported to the University of Massachusetts. He was pronounced deceased at 4:07 a.m. this morning.

[10:10:00] And so, it comes after a great victory for him on Friday, victory in that he was acquitted of a double murder. He was emotional in court. I think one of the first times he was ever seen to be emotional. He was hugging his attorneys. He seemed elated. He turned around and looked at his family, his daughter. His young daughter had been in court for some of this trial.

But the reality is he went back to his prison cell. He was in general population, a single cell, general population and that's where he is for the life sentence of the murder of Odin Lloyd while his team is now going - which he would be a part of that team today. They're going to Washington to meet with President Trump on the Super Bowl victory and that reality is he's still there.

I do want to mention, you know, the autopsy is important because the Massachusetts State Police are investigating. So it's important to get the stamp, the cause and manner of death. They also have to -- wanting to rule out any foul play here.

BERMAN: All right. Remember, 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd is to talk about Aaron Hernandez, Odin Lloyd he would have been 31 right now. So, we should remember the victim today as well. Jean Casarez, thank you so much for being with us.

A reminder here, you'll want to watch the CNN's Special Report "Downward Spiral: Inside the Case of Aaron Hernandez" That airs tonight at 11:00 p.m. Right Here on CNN.

A new warning from the vice president to North Korea, he tells CNN in an exclusive interview, "no direct negotiations with Kim Jong-un." Plus the Super Bowl winners, the New England Patriots headed to the White House with some breaking news, reports just coming out within the last half hour, Tom Brady will not be there with them. Find out why.

HARLOW: Also, the man at the helm of the embattled banking giant, Wells Fargo speaking out in an exclusive interview about the fake account scandal that has rocked that bank.


HARLOW: Was it at the core, a system, a culture problem?

TIM SLOAN, CEO WELLS FARGO: Well, those two things that you describe which actually are very important created a culture in the retail banking business that was inappropriate.



[10:15:48] BERMAN: All right. Overnight a CNN exclusive, the Vice President of the United States traveling around the world in Asia, sat down with Dana Bash for an exclusive interview and he discussed the rising tensions in North Korea.

HARLOW: He issued a stern warning to Pyongyang and says the U.S. will crush any launch of conventional or nuclear weapons and he says diplomacy has its limits.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Will the U.S. actually sit down in any way, shape or form for diplomatic negotiations with the North Koreans?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, whether you go back to the agreed framework of the 1990s or the -

BASH: Not that, just looking forward, whatever version it would be. Will there be any negotiating whether it's direct -- I mean, you can answer that. Could you see a direct negotiation with North Korea and the U.S.?

PENCE: I think not at this time. The policy that President Trump has articulated was to marshal the support of our allies in the region here in Japan, in South Korea, nations around the world and China who have taken the position now for decades of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

BASH: You've got your rhetorical strategy down and so does the president, but is it a rhetorical strategy in search of an actually practical, diplomatic approach?

PENCE: I think it's -- I think it's imminently practical. I think the president's direct engagement with President Xi of China and the fact that now you've seen China turning back coal shipments from North Korea, making changes in the ability of people to travel by air from Pyongyang into China and other measures that they may well take in the future is -- demonstrates the kinds of hands-on diplomacy that President Trump has brought to this. And that's what it will take. And the only thing we need to hear from North Korea is that they are ending and ultimately dismantling their nuclear ballistic missile programs. They fail to do that, we've made it clear. All options are on the table.


BERMAN: All right. I want to talk about this with CNN military analyst retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, ending and dismantling their nuclear program -- that is the goal if the United States vis-a-vis North Korea. They are not ending their nuclear program and I think they're even further away from dismantling it. So, what are the achievable, immediate goals?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: John, I've got to tell you, I listened to Dana's wonderful interview just now. And I think it was brought up when she says is this more rhetoric or is there an action plan? I don't think I've seen an action plan. Yes, there are may be some elements of diplomacy going on. There may be some rattling of sabers with messaging of movements, of formations and hopefully getting the Chinese onboard.

But as we've said so many times before, this is going to take all elements of national power, diplomacy, information, economy and perhaps even military to persuade Kim Jong-un to stop the dangerous motions that he's been doing for the last several decades. Now, whether that means he's going to get rid of nuclear weapons, I personally don't see that happening. That is his entire strategy of getting power on the continent. He's not going to back away from that. Anyone who understands the North Korean mindset knows he needs those kinds of weapons to give himself some credentials on the world stage.

HARLOW: What is the best case scenario do you think that the United States can realistically hope for? I mean, is it a continued armistice and just a non-proliferation at this point? What should the U.S. be hoping for?

HERTLING: Yes, what I would say, having been involved in Korea for parts of my career, I think the continued status quo right now with the continued armistice, what's been in place for the last 60 years where there is, in fact, no fighting on the Korean Peninsula is the best that we can hope for in the near-term. In the long term, there is the potential for continued agreements with the North Korean regime to say we've got to quit testing these weapons, threatening your neighbors and in order to get that message across, you have to use, as I said before, all elements of national power which the United States, in fact, has been doing for the last 60 years.

[10:20:20] BERMAN: Yes, one of the elements of power that was allegedly in play about ten days ago was that the Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier was headed toward the Korean Peninsula and it wasn't. The reason we all thought that is because we were told it was by military officials and then by the Pentagon itself. They indicated it was happening and the White House indicated it was happening and the president said an armada was headed there. It wasn't. The Carl Vinson was headed in the other direction. Now, it is headed there now. But General, my question to you is, how important is honesty and credibility? You have been in important leadership positions inside the military. Don't you have to get this right?

HERTLING: Trust is everything, John. That's the key word that's always used in leadership. You have to trust one another when you converse. There has to be an element of integrity. There's got to be truthfulness in what you say and frankly, that's what's concerned me about some of the messaging that's come out of the current administration. We see it every day.

In fact, you in the media make fun of it sometimes in the press briefings and we know some of the things that are thrown up on the screen just are not true. That is going to continue to erode trust and it concerns me. I've got to tell you, you know, I love my Navy brothers for 364 days of the year except when they play army and football.

But this whole thing with this miscommunication, I've been on an aircraft carrier before on operations. They have access to CNN and Fox News. They would have seen these same reports and knew that they were conducting operations as part of the Australian force. So, while all of us were saying, it's great. We're backing up messaging with military, it wasn't happening and unfortunately, had something happened where they needed air power off the coast of Korea that Navy ship would not have provided it.

But General Brooks would have had other assets to provide reinforcement and security, but it just wasn't there and that would have been an embarrassment. So, I don't fault the Navy for this. I fault the communication between the Pentagon and the White House and what the White House is putting out there.

HARLOW: It's pretty stunning. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

HERTLING: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Coming up next for us, are you a Wells Fargo customer? The CEO of one of the biggest banks in the world sitting down for an exclusive interview with us talking about that fake account scandal where 2 million unauthorized accounts were opened for more than a decade. Who does he blame? That's next.


[10:27:17] BERMAN: All right, a quick check in the markets now, the Dow pretty flat. You can see it down about four points. This after Tuesday's plunge it went down yesterday more than 100 points due to some disappointing earnings from Goldman Sachs. How will things look for you today? Well, everyone looking at corporate earnings and despite the miss from Goldman, profits had been solid among the nation's largest banks. HARLOW: Well, this morning, the CEO of embattled banking giant Wells Fargo is speaking out in an exclusive CNN interview as this bank tries to regain the trust of the American people following a more than decade-long fake account scandal. So, what happens to those thousands of employees who lost their job in the midst of all of this and how can Americans trust this bank again? I asked the man at the top.


HARLOW: In the wake of the fake account scandal, 2 million, at least, unauthorized accounts opened ultimately costing some 5300 employees their job. How do you think America sees Wells Fargo today?

SLOAN: Well, I think there's a question about the company which is completely understandable, but that's why we are very focused on rebuilding trust, rebuilding trust with our customers, our team members, the communities that we do business in. We've made a lot of changes in the last six months that I've been CEO. We've got more work to do. But we're very focused on rebuilding trust.

HARLOW: Why do you think this happened? I mean, you're a guy who's been at this bank since 1987.

SLOAN: Right. Yes.

HARLOW: This has been your life in terms of your work. Why did this happen, Tim?

SLOAN: Well, I think it happened because in our retail banking business, we had an incentive compensation plan that drove inappropriate behavior. It created a culture that was very focused on selling products as opposed to providing the right service and advice, so that was number one. Number two, the way that we were organized then versus where we are today is that we had many of our risk functions inside the business. Our businesses were organized in a very silo way. And so, those two combined, created an atmosphere for creating this problem.

HARLOW: When you look at the independent board report that came out on this. The words they used, improper, unethical, common to blame employees without analyzing the root cause. So, wasn't it more than just these two dysfunctional things? Was it at the core, a system and culture problem?

SLOAN: Well those -- those two things that you describe which actually are very important created a culture in our retail banking business that was inappropriate.

HARLOW: Do you believe that Wells Fargo put too much blame on low- level employees for the fake account scandal?

SLOAN: I don't believe so. I think that senior leadership has taken accountability. Having said that, I think that one of the fundamental mistakes that we made was that we had in this -