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Trump Faces Major Test in G.A. Special Election Today; Senate Democrats Protests GOP Health Care Secrecy; Trump Condemns "Brutal" North Korea After American Dies; Why Won't the Trump White House Answer Questions. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2017 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The special election on "New Day" continues right now.

All eyes on Georgia today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The intensity is high. It's a neck in neck race.


DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's obviously a test of the Trump brand now that he is president.

KAREN HANDEL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE OF GEORGIA: Let's send someone to Washington who can really handle it.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: You're asking me to pick up the phone on an investigation that right now we don't know exist.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: The stone walling that we're getting over here at the White House. I don't know what world we're living in right now.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: You don't pay to forget a $100 billion deal even with her national security threshold.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you under investigation by the special counsel?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of bad things happen but at least we got him home to be with his parents.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: The North Koreans cannot be allowed to seize Americans, brutalize them and send them home in a coma to die.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: The administration has to respond forcefully.

UNIDINTIFIED MALE: This is New Day with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome to your New Day. The polls are now open in Georgia for the most expensive House race ever. Many say it is a referendum on the Trump presidency. Democrats are hoping for a big win in Georgia's sixth district. The implications could have big consequences for the president's agenda. Mr. Trump sees the urgency tweeting early this morning about the high stakes in this race.

CAMEROTA: One of the biggest issues for voters there, health care. This election comes as we fight over ObamaCare future place out in the Senate. Democrats tying up the Senate floor in protest of the secrecy they say is going on with Republicans in drafting this bill.

So, we have it cover for you. Let's begin with CNN's Jason Carroll. He is live in Marietta, Georgia. What's the mood Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the mood is one of so many folks here in this district are just wanting this race Alisyn to be over. But it's just too close to call at this point. Just let me sort of just give you an idea of what's been happening here in the sixth congressional district. I mean, for years, it's been reliably Republican but Donald Trump narrowly carried it in 2016.

Democrats saw an opening, enter Jon Ossoff. He's the political novice in this race but he got a lot of attention early on in the campaign by very much making the race about Donald Trump. You've got Karen Handel on the other side of things who says Jon Ossoff is just another typical liberal. She's been doing all that she can to try to really tie him to a Nancy Pelosi.

So, here's what you've got here. You got a race that's really seen through the prism of how Donald Trump is doing. If Ossoff wins in this particular race, that's going to be a huge symbolic boost for Democrats going forward, giving them the momentum they need going into the midterm elections. If Handel pulls out a win on this site, that's going to give the GOP lawmakers a sign that, hey, perhaps what the president is doing is working. That will give them some momentum trying to push through his agenda.

But once again, this race is too close to call at this point. Polls close at 7:00 o'clock. It's going to be a nail biter for both sides. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Jason, good to have you there. We'll check back in a little bit. It is a race against the clock not just in Georgia but also in the health care debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supposedly pushing for a vote on a bill before the July 4th recess. Democrats are taking control of the Senate floor in protest of the GOP's secret plan.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live Capital Hill with more. The irony of McConnell who is so vocal and rightly so about the ACA process even though there were all these hearings and now almost none.

SUZZANE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely right Chris. Because if you look at this -- I mean, while many people were sleeping late last night, you had the Democrats over taking to the Senate floor. They were certainly wide awake, staging this protest, the talkathon, a very frustrated with the super secret process now that the Republicans are engaged in here trying to come up with their own version of repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

They have asked the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, look, can we have some hearings, perhaps debate. An all senators' meeting or even a copy of the text when there is a text of this bill. McConnell has said no to all three of those requests. And so, there's very little that they can do. A couple of options of course to try to slow down the government process, routine process and also simply just to make some noise.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: The Republicans are writing their health care bill under the cover of darkness because they're ashamed of it.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: If this bill were as wonderful as its proponents would like us to believe, it would be out in the open.

SEN. ELIZABTH WARRN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There's only one word for what the Senate Republicans are doing with this bill, shameful.


MALVEAUX: And CNN has learned that one of the things to negotiating is cuts in Medicaid, deeper cuts for the Senate version than the House bill that of course satisfying a non-conservatives but really alienating some of the moderates. Alisyn?

[07:05:00] CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne, thank you very much for that.

Now to another important story. President Trump condemning North Korea after the death of American student Otto Warmbier after he spent 17 months in captivity. CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. What are they saying Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, this Warmbier case is a mystery. It's a human tragedy and it only adds to the crisis that is North Korea and the administration's options may be very much limited because of concerns about other Americans that are being imprisoned in North Korea right now. Meanwhile, the Russia investigation continues to cause distractions for the White House.


TRUMP: It's a brutal regime and we'll be able to handle it.

JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump under pressure to take a harder line toward North Korea amid outrage over the death of American student Otto Warmbier. The 22-year-old was released last week from North Korean custody after spending 17 months in prison for trying to steal a propaganda poster. Warmbier arrived in the U.S with severe brain damage and in a coma.

TRUMP: He spent a year and a half in North Korea, a lot of bad things happened. But at least we got him home to be with his parents.

JOHNS (voice-over): The president offering his deepest condolences in a statement and condemning the brutality of the North Korean regime. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stating that the U.S holds North Korea accountable for Warmbier's unjust imprisonment. Republican Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio taking a tougher stone with McCain stating plainly that Warmbier was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime.

The international challenge coming as the president continues to confront the Russia investigation back at home. Two top Democrats in the House now demanding documents related to General Michael Flynn's foreign work in a letter to Flynn's lawyers. Alleging that President Trump's fired national security adviser failed to disclose a 2015 Middle East trip on a security clearance forms, a trip reportedly related to a major nuclear energy deal involving Russia. Democrats also alleging he left key information about a 2015 Saudi Arabia trip off those forms. This after a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee made this stunning statement about Flynn on Monday.

SEN. SHELDOM WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: All of the signals are suggesting that he's already cooperating with the FBI and may have been for some time.

JOHNS (voice-over): The committee now agreeing to widen the scope of its Russia probe to include possible obstruction of justice.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), RANKING MEMBER, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Political interference with an ongoing investigation, regardless of what the president's lawyer may say could make the president a target, a subject, a person of interest.

JOHNS (voice-over): With the Russia investigation expanding, the White House continues to stonewall reporters as Sean Spicer's future as press secretary remains unclear.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is refusing to answer those questions on camera. My guess is because they want their evasive answers not saved for posterity.


JOHNS: And new this morning, CNN's Manu Raju reporting that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the top members are expected to meet on Wednesday with Special Counsel Robert Muller. The committee apparently has reached an agreement now on the scope of his own investigation into Russian interference in the last election likely to probe among other things the president's interactions with former FBI Director Jim Comey as well as questions of obstruction of justice. Back to you.

CAMEROTA: OK. That'll be interesting, Joe. Thank you very much for that.

So, we have a lot to discuss with our panel. We want to bring in CNN political analysts, Jackie Kucinich, David Gregory and Michael Shear.

So, let's begin guys with the Georgia race. David Gregory, what is this a bellwether for? Is this a bellwether for the mood today, a snapshot or the midterms or President Trump's agenda or what? GREGORY: Well, I think it's all of those things. I think you want to try to measure voter intensity on both sides of the aisle but particularly Democrats who are trying to retake Congress and who would eventually like to get the White House back. You want to get some sense of what the -- how Trump is performing overall with the electorate. How his agenda is measuring up?

So you get some measure of this at some point. We'll most likely over read one way or the other into this special election. But there's so much national money that's been poured into this but that's what people are looking for as this kind of early look.

And on the policy front, what's going to create the intensity. It's not just going to be the Russia investigation, it's going to be health care. Democrats I think want to use that and use that argument in this race to say, we've got something to argue very strongly when it comes to the midterms next year.

[07:10:01] CUOMO: Michael Shear, there's no question that both parties recognize the urgency right here. It's so different in feel from Montana and Kansas and certainly in terms of money. But for the Democrats, you know, they need a win, right? They need to show that they have some prospect for change. How big is it there for?

MICHAEL SHEAR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think that's exactly right. I think that as important as the actual result is the psychology of the two parties, right? We know that President Trump loves to portray himself as a winner. So to the extent that the Republicans can pull one out of the hat here and he wins again, he gets to go and describe him and the party as winners.

For the Democrats, they're so desperate to go against tight. This is a Republican district, if they can win psychologically for them, even more important than one single congressional district which after all is probably not a harbinger of anything really. I mean, you can't extrapolate out and say because they win this one this one district, that means they're going the take back Congress. But psychologically it's really important for them.

CAMEROTA: Jackie, let's look at this interesting district, OK. And in terms of the numbers and how much it has swung. In 2012, Romney won by 23 points over President Obama. Then in 2016, Trump won by 1.5 percent --


CAMEROTA: -- over Hillary Clinton. So this, it's very, very tough to predict. I mean, even if you look at, you know, all of the soothsayers, net silver. It's all -- like the projections are all over the math.

CUOMO: Except that the Republicans should win because they outnumber the Democrats so greatly in that district and they've always hold it since '79.

CAMEROTA: If math works, Republicans should win. KUCINICH: Well, that is true. But the other number in there is -- (inaudible) in there is 35 percent and that's the president's approval rating in that district. Patricia Murphy has been on the ground for the Daily Beast and one of the things that she's written about and she's been hearing is that Karen Handel can't get out from under the Trump approval ratings. And her fortunes have sort of risen and fallen with his which is why she's been trying to localize this race.

They both have but particularly Handel, needs this race to be a local race which is why she was with Sonny Perdue and Tom Price in these final rallies, these final moments going up to this race. So the fact -- this will also be a test for Trump, and while Michael is absolutely right, you can't really extrapolate 2018 based on one district.

This is the type of district that Democrats do need to win, wealthy, well-educated. They need to flip these districts in order to take back the House in 2018. So there is a lot at stake here and they're looking to see if Democrats do win, they're going to be looking to take this playbook and see if they can bring it to other parts of the country.

CUOMO: And David Gregory, Ossoff, certainly, you know, he's a newbie here, Handel less so, but they do both feel like proxies for something bigger within their own parties. And it does seem to be centered, if not a referendum on Trump, certainly what's going on with health care is going to matter in that district. And what do you make of that process right now and how it plays?

GREGORY: Well, the process is playing certainly toward both bases, right, because as we've talked before this morning, this is such a major promise to conservatives around the country that they would repeal and replace ObamaCare. So, they've got to be able to deliver on that. And Democrats are trying to preserve ObamaCare, warts and all to say that at least coverage is important. And that you don't want to take people off of coverage even if you want to improve the system.

So, that's going to become a big intense issue for the future of the Democratic Party which is preserving a big entitlement like this that helps people stay healthy, helps them get access to insurance. That's something that whatever form the Democrat Party takes, they're going to use as a central issue.

CAMEROTA: So Michael, if there is a vote on this, whatever the Senate is doing behind close doors. If there is a vote on this next week, how is it going to go?

SHEAR: How's the actual vote going to go?

CAMEROTA: What is going to be outcome of this since some in the Senate say, they don't even know -- you know, honestly Democrats. They don't even know what's in it.

SHEAR: Right. Look, I think the outcome of the health care vote is as uncertain today as the outcome of this race 6th district race because they're -- the Senate doesn't have -- the Senate Republican don't have a lot of margin. They've only got -- they can only lose a couple of votes.

And remember this that even if Mitch McConnell were able to get this passed, whatever this is, we don't know what this is yet, but if he gets it passed, there's a long road ahead for reconciling whatever the Senate might pass with what the House passed. And so, we're not at the end of the process. We're still very much in the middle of the process and I think if there is a vote, whatever the outcome is very much uncertain at this moment.

[07:15:01] CUOMO: So, Jackie, there is one thing to call out here though. While it is true, we all remember from covering the ACA that Nancy Pelosi saying we've got to pass it and then they can read it. And, you know, how all are the Republicans were rightly upset by that. They're doing the same thing right now and then some because with the ACA --

CAMEROTA: Hypocrisy in Washington? What?

CUOMO: But still --


CUOMO: Even with that baseline, right, we don't expect much better sadly. But, they had so many hearings. There was so much out there, an inter playing debate with the ACA. There is none with this. They are intentionally keeping it quiet by all expectations, even within their own party. I'm sure the same thing for you as it is for me.

How many Republicans have said to you, yes, you know, I don't really know, I can't really figure it out. You know, House Republicans were like, yes, they're not really talking to us. They're not letting us know what's going on. I mean, you know, it's so obvious that they're really trying to hide the ball here.

KUCINICH: It's true but it's not without reason and I'm not excusing it. But look what happened in the House process. When the White House got involved and all of these other people got involved, it became a huge mess. But I'm not saying this won't end up being a mess, it might end up being a disaster. But that said, at least in the nuts and bolts when they're putting it together, you remember the president would come out and say, hey, we have a deal and we'd be talking about various things are in this bill and it would explode, and then the whole thing would fall apart.

So, they've sort of watched this House process. And Mitch McConnell doesn't want to see that happen which is why one of the reasons this is really kept under wraps. And, you know, and to their credit, not a lot has leaked out yet. That said, you know -- but as you mentioned, the hypocrisy here is definitely rich.

CAMEROTA: David, we have to talk about Otto Warmbier. What a heartbreaking, sickening story and outcome. What can President Trump do, if John McCain is -- his classification is right and this was the murder of a U.S. citizen, what can President Trump do?

GREGORY: It's a very hard story to follow and to have to watch. I mean, the murder of an American citizen by this -- what the president accurately and awfully calls a brutal regime. So the question is where is the leverage? You know, the problem with some kind of military step, even if it were more limited to send a message or to be punitive is the potential for an unhinged regime in North Korea to so quickly escalate when we have tens of thousands of troops in South Korea.

The other play, of course, is the influence of China. And whether the United States in talks with China can get them to apply more pressure, we haven't seen a lot of that done successfully thus far which makes this a very tricky situation. And very tricky to come out and say, well, what the United States has to do something. The administration I think appropriately so is playing this very closely and carefully at the moment.

CUOMO: Right. And, you know, just so that we're all clear though, usually in these situations it's about detention, refusal to release. If this is judged as homicide, which means this was human action that caused this young man's death, you have a different scenario on its hands. And we'll have to see if the government talks about it in those terms.

CUOMO: All right. Panel, thank you very much. We should let everyone know that coming up on New Day in our next hour, we will be speaking with the Democratic candidate in the Georgia special election, Jon Ossoff. And of course we did invite his Republican challenger Karen Handel, she declined for today.

CUOMO: No cameras, no audio and very few answers. Does the Trump White House have a transparency issue? The answer is, yes. We're going to discuss with an informal adviser to the president. Why is this working, next.


[07:22:37] CUOMO: All right. So we know that the Senate is negotiating its health care proposal and that it's largely being done behind closed doors. In fact, some Republicans say they don't even know what's in the bill.

In the meantime, we're entering day nine today. It would be day nine without a White House press briefing. Why? Why isn't there more a transparency. Let's discuss with an informal adviser to President Trump, Anthony Scaramucci. Good to have you on as always.


CUOMO: Day nine, this odd thing where Spicer will talk but it's got to be off camera. Why? Why these kinds of games with transparency?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, you're putting me (inaudible) as I'm not in the meetings and so I don't necessarily know the exact reasons. But it appears from the outside at least for right now is that they're going to redesign the communications strategy and they'll probably -- maybe Sean will go to another role inside the White House, or put somebody else behind the podium.

CUOMO: Do you think that's likely that they'll move him?

SCARAMUCCI: I don't know. I mean, I've read some of the press speculation. Some of the people I've talked to inside the White House were saying that they're exploring a couple of different ideas.

I mean, this is one of the things that I do like about the president. You know, he's an entrepreneur, and he'll experiment and do other different things.

I think he's very loyal to Sean. I think Sean is a very hardworking guy. He's got great communications experience and he may be the communications director or maybe even an assistant to, you know, Reince Priebus or something like that.

Hard to really know from the outside to be candid. But what I do like is that they're going to try to experiment. And I think maybe that's why they're off camera for a short period of time.

CUOMO: All right. So we'll see which way it goes. And with the president in terms of the transparency here, that's the gift of Twitter, right. You know what's in the president's mind, often what's in his heart. The White House finally owned that, of course, these are official statements from the president of the United States. It doesn't matter what account they're coming from.

He has not said to the U.K. open. You know, I don't know what's happened privately but publicly, condolences for this most recent attack. The speculation is, well, maybe it's because it involves Muslims. Maybe it's because he's got a problem with the mayor there. Why do you think he hasn't said anything, even just offering condolences?

[07:20:01] SCARAMUCCI: Well, listen, he's an emotional guy. You saw the condolences that he offered yesterday as relate to the North Korea situation. Again, I would know exactly why he's doing that. I think some of the speculation in that press is that he swore at the London mayor. That's not the president style, that's not his mojo.

And so, my guess is that he probably will very shortly offer condolences if he hasn't done it publicly right now. And, again, maybe he has done it privately, Chris.

CUOMO: In the past he's done it very quickly.

SCARAMUCCI: But here's the point I think you're trying to make, is that could it be because of the way that attack was versus other attacks.

CUOMO: No. When something's outside the norm of how he usually behaves after an attack, you have to ask why is it different.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. But, you know, I mean here's the biggest problem with the whole system in my opinion. I mean, not only are you inside a bubble, but then you have all of us examining you inside the bubble. You're in that little fishbowl, and so, it could be just that for whatever reason he didn't do it. Now, it could have been --

CUOMO: But he's in no bubble. He just probably watching right now and he's going to comment on your tie and your hairstyle. He's watching.

SCARAMUCCI: Well, he likes my tie and my hairstyle but he doesn't like your tie.

CUOMO: He doesn't like anything about me. I understand, I understand.

SCARAMUCCI: Maybe your hairline. That's about it.

CUOMO: I don't like my hairline.

SCARAMUCCI: Probably a very (inaudible).

CUOMO: Don't distract me, Scaramucci.

SCARAMUCCI: A probably very little bag and he likes actually. But that's --

CUOMO: Why is it different though this time? Why do you think?

SCARAMUCCI: I don't know. I don't know the answer. But here's what I do know about him. OK, number one, what he said about the North Koreans, I think they should take that seriously. You know, we're going to --

CUOMO: What did he say though?

SCARAMUCCI: He said that we're tough enough to hear. This is a --

CUOMO: He said we'll handle it.

SCARAMUCCI: We'll handle it. Yes.

CUOMO: What does that mean?

SCARAMUCCI: Well if you remember --

CUOMO: It might be a potential homicide of an American.

SCARAMUCCI: There's 100-day period after he met with President Xi, he's asked for the help from the Chinese government, he has moved things around militarily to send a signal that he's going to handle this North Korean situation with or without the help of China. My guess is that China is going to take this seriously in a work in consort with the president to help reduce the tension there.

CUOMO: We haven't seen anything out of China. Now, fair point. (Inaudible) and the Trump White House got Otto Warmbier home. That deserves credit. And --

SCARAMUCCI: Also the Egyptian prisoner, came remember her name. CUOMO: No, absolutely. But I'm saying in this case, Otto Warmbier.

They got him home, the Obama administration could not do it. That warrants kudos.

However, if this is judged a homicide which means this young man's death came about because of human action, that's on North Korea. And the question will be, well, if that doesn't demand a muscular response, what does? And I'm only putting it in those terms, not because that's the right thing to do but it's because what the president said he would do.

SCARAMUCCI: And he said it yesterday. Look, -- again, you can like the president or dislike him. I have no lovely guy. And let me tell you, when he says something like that he certainly means it and the world should wake up and pay attention to what he's saying. Because at some point the American government and the president have to respond to people like the North Koreans.

You know, if you've got concentration camps in North Korea, which you and I both know about. And this has been allowed to persist for 60 or 70 years, at some point moral people have to look at that in concert with the global community and eradicate it.

And so, what I love about the president, he means what he says. He's not really a politician. Yes, he's two years into his political career. But he's really an American businessman who will respond effectively to this situation and catch people off guard with his response as well.

CUOMO: Another situation that I need help with understanding. The president says what he means. I agree with you most of the time. And when he was tweeting about this Russia investigation, he clearly doesn't like it because he believes that whatever is going on is bad for him.

And so he puts Jay Sekulow out there, his attorney, to argue that he is not under investigation. Why? Why take on such a small point that defies the obvious?

SCARAMUCCI: Well, I think there's -- I mean, there's a number of different reasons. I mean, I can give you my reasons. I can (inaudible) give you the president's reasons. But I think what the president sometimes does, you know, he's a media -- you know, this is good for you, probably good for ratings. But the president is watching, he's reading a lot of stuff. He probably doesn't like a lot of the stuff that he's reading that he thinks is very unfair.

We can disagree about this. But the mainstream media in my opinion has not been fair to the president. They weren't fair to him when he was a candidate, their not fair to him today. I don't think he's under investigation but I don't know the facts because I'm not the FBI, I'm not Robert Mueller.

CUOMO: There's no reason to believe that Mueller wouldn't be looking at the situation surrounding the firing of the director of the FBI. Just common sense. SARAMUCCI: I understand that. But when James Comey tells the president several times he's not under investigation --

CUOMO: Right. But that has nothing to do with whether Mueller would look at the firing. James Comey couldn't have told them I'm -- you're under investigation for firing. I mean, he wasn't fired.

SARANUCCI: I understand that.

CUOMO: I know. But you guys keep bringing it up at home and telling him he's not under investigation --

SARRAMUCCI: You're making great points.

CUOMO: All right. Go ahead. Make one. Make it great point counter.

SARAMUCCI: You were so loving you put great points. But let me make a great point.

CUOMO: Go ahead make your point.

SARAMUCCI: Jay Sekulow is a phenomenal attorney. The president has done nothing wrong. I said that to you last week from Washington, I'll say it to you today.

I can stand by that very confidently. I've known the guy for many, many years. And I think his integrity is a --