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Ossoff Headed for Run-Off in Georgia; Aaron Hernandez Commits Suicide in Prison. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2017 - 07:00   ET



JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We have defied the odds. We have shattered expectations.

[07:00:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an energized Democratic Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, ruby-red Republican district.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president injecting himself into the race, claiming victory.

KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: On June 20, we keep the 6th District red and kick a little Ossoff.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America first. You better believe it. It's time. It's time. Right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of his big three priorities, we don't really see definitive moment on any of them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unfortunately, "buy American and hire American" has been nothing more than a campaign slogan.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The American people are going to conclude President Donald Trump is off to a great start.

TRUMP: We're going to have some great legislative victories in the very near future.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We will have much more on the breaking news that former New England Patriots player and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez has killed himself in jail this morning.

We do begin this hour with a major story in politics. A wake-up call for Republicans in a deep red state. Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff coming within just a couple percentage points of an outright victory in last night's special election to fill that House seat vacated by Health Secretary Tom Price. Ossoff needed 50 percent of the vote to head to Washington. He did not get that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Right. It's not over, though. He's going to compete in a run-off election in June against the distant second- place finisher, Republican Karen Handel. She did beat out 16 others to earn this opportunity.

The race is seen by many as a referendum on President Trump. The president was very involved, going after the Democrat, and he claimed victory, even patting himself on the back, even though the Democrat got almost 50 percent of the vote.

There's a lot at stake on day 90 of Donald Trump's presidency. We have it all covered. Joe Johns, live at the White House -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Chris, call it a window on the midterms, a wake-up call, certainly, for Republicans, even though they sidestepped what could have been a humiliating moment in a ruby-red district in Georgia. Democrats, meanwhile, simply not able to come up with the votes to get their candidate all the way over the finish line.


OSSOFF: You all ready to flip the 6th?

JOHNS (voice-over): The closely-watched special election for Georgia's 6th District headed for a run-off with both sides, claiming victory, after 30-year-old political newcomer Jon Ossoff fell just short of an outright win in a district held by Republicans since 1979.

OSSOFF: There is no doubt that this is already a victory for the ages.

HANDEL: On June 20, we keep the 6th District red and kick a little Ossoff.

JOHNS: Ossoff will face off against Republican Karen Handel in June for the seat formerly held by Trump's health secretary, Tom Price, in a contest seen as a referendum on Trump's presidency and a preview of next year's mid-term elections.

President Trump taking credit for the results, hailing the run-off as a win despite Ossoff's strong showing, tweeting, "Despite major outside money, fake media support and 11 Republican candidates, big 'R' win with run-off in Georgia. Glad to be of help."

The president was personally invested in the election, bashing the Democratic contender in a barrage of tweets and even recording a robocall to urge Republicans to get out and vote.

TRUMP (via phone): Ossoff will raise your taxes, destroy your health care, and flood our country with illegal immigrants.

JOHNS: President Trump beat Hillary Clinton in this Republican stronghold by just 1 percent last November, compared to Mitt Romney's decisive victory in 2012, prompting Democrats to target the seat, pumping $8.3 million into Ossoff's campaign. This election comes as the president signs an executive order targeting highly-skilled foreign workers that he says are taking jobs from Americans.

TRUMP (on camera): We're going to defend our workers, protect our jobs, and finally put America first.

JOHNS: Mr. Donald Trump also touting the successes of his presidency.

TRUMP: No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.


JOHNS: The president is expected to appear today with the New England Patriots football team to congratulate them on their Super Bowl victory. That meeting coming on the same day that the Patriots' former tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez committed suicide behind bars.

Back to you.

CUOMO: True. Very mixed situation there. Joe Johns, thank you very much.

Let's bring in our political panel: CNN political analyst David Gregory; associate editor and columnist for Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard; and White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal," Eli Stokols.

[07:05:00] So it's great to have you, Eli. Thanks for joining the show, by the way. Appreciate it. First time on.

David Gregory, we look at this election. Trump raises his hand, says, "We got it done. I'm glad I was so involved." How do you grab victory here from the jaws of defeat with ta nobody Democrat on one's ever heard of before, getting almost 50 percent of the vote?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's Trump spin, right? This is a very strong showing for a upstart Democrat in a Republican, a really ruby-red Republican district in Georgia. So it shows Democrats are fired up; they're excited to get out and vote. I think that's true today. I think that will be true next year, as well. You'd expect that, given the Trump presidency and all of the enthusiasm that he's engendered among his opponents.

This is also a soft underbelly of the Republican Party of the Trump coalition. Right? This is a district that's not very strong for him. He relies more on working-class whites. This is more college- educated, more upscale. So it's going to be soft. It's district like this where Democrats are going to try to make hay.

Here's still the one warning sign. Democrats, I still think, are vulnerable to the attack that came from President Trump, that came from others in the district, which is they're liberal, down the line. They're going to raise your taxes. They're going to increase regulation. It's going to be total liberal government. There are still a lot of Republicans out there who may be kind of soft on Trump, but they don't like that. They don't want to put a Democrat in there who's going to be like that.

CAMEROTA: A.B., just explain how this is a referendum on President Trump when this is a district that President Trump only won by one point during the presidential election. So clearly, it's not Trump town.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR/COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. Mitt Romney and Tom Price did much better, both by 23 points, Tom Price in his recent election in '16, and Romney back in 2012 in this district. And that is -- that means that these are, as David mentioned, more educated, non-Trump Republicans.

But really, this is a concern for Republicans and for Trump, because the 2018 elections next year matter. If there is a record of division and a lack of cohesion; they can't get through a repeal and replacement of Obamacare. They can't move on to tax reform. They have trouble keeping the government open, trouble increasing the debt ceiling. They have a lot of tests to come around the corner.

And as you look at the June 20th run-off date, how apathetic will Republicans be? Do they believe, when they look at Trump leading a unified Republican government, that the -- the Republicans can't get their act together in the Congress and the majority that they waited so many years to have with a Republican at the helm in the White House?

If they can't produce, the Republican voters will have something else to do on June 20. And that's the opening for the Democrats. And that's, even though Karen Handel, the Republican, is definitely favored to win that run-off, and I believe that today. We don't know what it's going to look like on June 20. And that is making Republicans very nervous.

Will Trump report -- Republicans come out, even if they still love him in 2018, for Republicans next November? That is the heightened concern among Republicans right now.

CUOMO: Eli, let's bounce to a little bit of a different topic in terms of political state of play. The Democrats can't stop talking about this dossier report that CNN has out there that Evan Perez and his team reported out, that it was used as something to help get a FISA warrant on Carter Page.

The dossier, the Democrats love it, no question about it. But a lot of it's been debunked. A lot of it CNN wouldn't even touch. You had Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, was identified as having traveled somewhere in that dossier. It wound up being just demonstrably false. Are the Democrats right to put hope on this type of reporting?

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I don't know if they should pin their hopes for 2018 or even in this run-of on June 20 in Georgia 6th on Russian news, on the dossier, anything like that. But it is one of those stories that continues to swirl around this administration and create a distraction, create questions for all Republicans on Capitol Hill and Republicans like Karen Handel now, who are going to have to be asked about this constantly.

And I think what you're going to see in Georgia is going to continue to be a nationalized race. And so if turnout remains the same, you know, Jon Ossoff only needs about two more points to get over that 50 percent mark and win in June.

And I think it will continue to be a nationalized race that is all about Trump. It was all because of Trump. You know, he says, "Glad to be of help." Well, he's the reason they had to pump $5 million, Republicans did, in the end to put on TV, just to get Republican turnout up to the point where they could prevent him the outright win last night.

And so I think whether it's the Russia story, whether it's the fact that the administration really hasn't checked off too many of its top accomplishments here in its first 90, soon to be 100 days. That is something that Republicans are going to have to contend with over the next year and change until we go into next November and the campaign season.

CAMEROTA: Eli, you did so well with that answer, we now have a test for you that we want to put you on the spot. Here is what President Trump has said about his first 90 days and his accomplishments. Listen to this.


[07:10:00] TRUMP: No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days. That includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement. We love our law enforcement.


CAMEROTA: Eli, true or false statement?

STOKOLS: False. Full stop. I mean, Donald Trump has not accomplished more than anybody else.

I mean, by February of 2009, Obama had already gotten Congress to sign a $787 billion stimulus package to stop an economic freefall. Now, Donald Trump likes to say he inherited a mess, but he also, like President Obama, inherited a Congress in his own party's control. Hasn't really moved the ball on any big legislative agenda item. Has mostly governed through executive orders.

And, you know, the president is obsessed with the sort of media construct of the first 100 days benchmark, because of course, he watches a ton of television. He is planning, I understand, an event around that to tout all the things that he's accomplished. I think at the top of that list, I hear, what is going to be at the top, No. 1, is the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. That was basically done by Mitch McConnell, probably the most establishment Republican in town.

And this is Donald Trump, the anti-establishment firebrand who said he was going to come to Washington, drain the swamp, change the way things worked. Not so much. Not yet. CUOMO: David Gregory.

GREGORY: I think Neil Gorsuch was a very important accomplishment. It was -- yes, it fights against the grain a bit. It was an establishment choice, but it was a very conservative choice, as well as being well-regarded within the legal community. I think that was a strong move. No doubt Mitch McConnell paved the way for it. But the president's legacy will be benefitted, and his impact on the court will be benefitted.

But I think Eli is right. You look at the first 90 days. You come out of the box, President Obama did have exigent circumstances to pass the stimulus package because of the state of the economy. Here emphasis by this administration going for health care first repeal when he didn't have his party together, not going for something like a tax cut or infrastructure. Something that was really within the wheelhouse of the conservative movement and the Republican Party, I think, was ill-advised. His moves on the travel ban, et cetera, incredibly ill-advised. So he's got to make an argument about how well he's doing.

And if we put all this together and what A.B. was saying, you look at next year, Donald Trump has to produce results. The Republicans have to produce something. You hear Paul Ryan say it all the time. They can't act like they're in the minority. They're governing now. They have to produce something.

The question I have is whether Democrats are going to be able to make an argument that is a fundamental ideological argument about the role of government and the way that Republicans did against Democrats back in 2010 against President Obama or are they just going to run on you've got to be against Donald Trump. You see the limits of that even in a district like Georgia.

CAMEROTA: A.B., let's just look at the data in terms of what Mr. Trump has accomplished so far. He signed 24 executive orders, which are more, I believe, than President Obama, whom Donald Trump, who used to criticize mightily for signing executive orders and doing that sort of end run around, you know, Congress.

But about the same, I believe -- well, no more than all his predecessors. So that's -- in terms of executive orders, that I guess, could be one of his accomplishments. He's also signed a lot of presidential memoranda.

But in terms of what he's completed, you can put that up there. Obamacare. Not yet.

Building the wall in Congress. Incomplete.

You know, that travel ban. That was considered a fail.

Stopping TPP, the trade agreement. Yes, did complete that.

Filling a Supreme Court seat as we've discussed. Yes, that was a complete. The tax plan that he wants to do, incomplete.

Labeling China a currency manipulator. That's not yet happened.

So how do you rate it?

STODDARD: Well, I think that we're all used to hearing President Trump say that what he's done is the greatest thing that's ever happened. Hillary Clinton was the most corrupt candidate to ever run. Health care is -- that he is going to come up within, in January before the inauguration. He said it was actually in the final drafting stages. He's going to be the cheapest, most simple but best care ever. And this is -- this is a salesman that talks this way. I think everyone knows that this is what he's going to say on the hundred-day mark. And I wasn't surprised to hear yesterday.

But in his comments at the Snap-On tool factory in Wisconsin, you could hear him sort of scratching at how he needs to get healthcare reform done, because he needs to get some money out of it. And that's why they put it first, even though the sequencing is not sort of politically attractive and appealing. They had to do it, because they're trying to find money from that in order to have a deeper tax cut when they go after tax reform and not make that more of a deficit spender.

So they're really in this trap. You heard him say, "If we could just get health care approved. And he kept saying, "We need approval for that." We've got to move on to tax reform.

[07:15:02] And he knows that, though he can talk about Neil Gorsuch; lots of executive orders; 64 percent decrease in crossings at the border; the Dakota pipeline; the Keystone, this kind of thing only lasts a few months. People who voted for Trump have to start feeling change. They want a tax cut, and they want to know what's going on with our health care. They want something better. And so that's what you can hear in his comments. He knows that, like the members of Congress, he's got to get points on the board in terms of legislation.

CUOMO: A.B., thank you very much. Strong point. You could hear the president really chiding people to go after Congress. He had to be careful about tone there, right? You've got to butter them up to get anything done.

Eli Stokols, thank you for joining the show.

David Gregory, as always.

So coming up in our next hour, we're going to talk to the Republican candidate, Karen Handel. She made it out of the morass. There are, like, over a dozen Republicans trying to get Georgia's sixth GOP spot. She has it. And we're going to get reaction on what that race means from the Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez.

CAMEROTA: We're also following some breaking news for you. Former NFL star and convicted murder Aaron Hernandez taking his own life behind bars. We have all the breaking details for you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[07:20:10] CUOMO: All right. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections confirming to CNN that convicted murderer and former New England Patriots star, tight end Aaron Hernandez committed suicide in prison early this morning. We have "EARLY START" anchor Dave Briggs joining us now with breaking details.

Dave, you covered this team. Aaron Hernandez is a tragic story. The worst of it, of course, for Odin Lloyd's family. This will be just another reminder of their pain. What do you make of this situation?

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is a bad guy to the core. Not to be unsympathetic this morning, but the Patriots should have known it at the time. There were executives that did admit they knew they were drafting a bad guy. Gang affiliations, drug problems.

So yes, tragic story and that he was a tremendous talent, but bad guy to the core. In news this morning, Massachusetts officials say officers found Hernandez dead in his cell early this morning, at approximately 3:05 a.m.

Hernandez was rushed to the hospital, where he was declared dead an hour later, just after 4 a.m.

Now, officers say Hernandez hung himself with a bed sheet actually attached to the window sill in his single-unit sell in the prison's general population.

Hernandez reportedly tried to block the door so corrections officers could not enter the cell. They did, of course, enter it.

Hernandez's suicide comes just five days after, though, he was acquitted on a 2012 double murder in Boston. That was a drive-by. Relatively inconsequential, since he was serving a life sentence without parole for the 2013 murder of former semi pro football player Odin Lloyd.

And some feel, Chris, that that was -- that was more of an execution. This was not a guy that got caught up with the wrong group. He had always been attached to the wrong group.

He is survived by his daughter. She is 4 years old. She was in court last week and seemed very broken up to see her dad.

I've reached out to several players this morning on the Patriots team, current and former. Needless to say, none of them has reacted. Look, I know these guys. I know Aaron Hernandez. They all knew he was a very bad guy. Had a safe house at the time, away from his normal residence when he played for the Patriots.

But again, they don't hand out five-year, $40 million contracts to anybody. They had a lot of faith in this guy's talent. Bob Kraft is rumored to have said that he was duped by Hernandez. They're at the White House today, the New England Patriots are. They

will certainly be asked about Aaron Hernandez, about what the team knew then, and did they look the other way? Could they have done more to try to reform this bad character? They're going to have to comment on it. Tom Brady certainly knows him well, as does Bob Kraft and Bill Belichick, who ultimately made the decision to draft Hernandez, despite the red flags.

CUOMO: You make the right point. I mean, you know, this is always a mixed bag when an athlete does something terrible. Because you have the sympathies about him as a player, what he did on the field. But it pales in comparison to what happened to Odin Lloyd. His family has been out there, talking about how Odin Lloyd was the center of their existence, how good he was to the family. For him to be killed the way he was.

CAMEROTA: Totally. So gruesome. Look, I don't follow it, obviously, as closely as you. But of course, that gripped the nation, because Odin Lloyd had sent texts. He knew that he was heading into some sort of very ominous situation, and he was trying to get out of it. He knew that Aaron Hernandez was maybe going to do something terrible to him. And it was just -- It's chilling.

BRIGGS: At the time, it was rumored that Aaron Hernandez had given Odin Lloyd or admitted to committing crimes to Odin Lloyd and was really worried that he would snitch. So Lloyd knew something might be coming.

CUOMO: It was his girlfriend's brother, right, Odin Lloyd.

BRIGGS: Right. And some say that it was triggered that night by Lloyd spilling a drink on him. So this is, again, a relatively unhinged young man. Twenty-seven years old.

CAMEROTA: Dave, thank you very much for all of your reporting. Bring us any developments...

BRIGGS: Will do.

CAMEROTA: ... as you get those.

CUOMO: All right. Coming up next, we do have a CNN exclusive. The vice president telling our Dana Bash what he is most proud of as the Trump administration closes in on 100 days in office.


[07:28:04] CAMEROTA: Vice President Mike Pence on his way to Indonesia this morning. But before leaving Japan, Mr. Pence addressed American troops on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, telling them the U.S. will stand against the nuclear threat from North Korea.

He also talked about President Trump in an exclusive interview with CNN's Dana Bash. And she joins us live from Tokyo now with more. Tell us about your sit-down, Dana. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Vice

President Pence, understandably, has been consumed in the public way with North Korea and the nuclear crisis, as he's been here in Asia, first in South Korea and at the DMZ and then here in Japan.

But while he's been here behind the scenes on the -- on his plane, in his hotel room and the motorcade, he's been working the phones, we're told, to try to help the president come up with a plan that would allow one of his promises to be fulfilled soon. And that, of course, is to repeal Obamacare. We talked about that and more. Take a listen.


BASH: Mr. Vice President, a lot of people supported the president and you because they liked the fact that he was explicit, that the U.S. would stop being the world's policeman.

But now, it hasn't even been 100 days, and we have seen military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan. You talking tough vis-a-vis North Korea, maybe holding out the possibility of military strikes with or without China's help. What do you say to voters back home who say, "Wait a minute. This is not what I signed up for"?

PENCE: I say to voters that President Trump is a man of his word and he's the kind of strong leader that is going to pursue the vital national interests of the United States of America and has demonstrated an ability and willingness to use force where necessary.

The president's decision to launch cruise missiles into Syria to the very air base that launched that horrific chemical attack against men, women and little children was the right decision. The American people know it. And it's been -- it's been heralded...