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Handel Wins Georgia Special Election, Keeps Seat for GOP; Ex- DHS Chief to Testify Russia Meddled in Election. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired June 21, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] PAIGE LEON, TEENAGER WITH SCOLIOSIS: I'm hoping to get this procedure and live a long and happy life.
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BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Love it!
CUOMO: You find out somebody is in need. Maybe you can't help all by yourself, but together, what a power.
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BALDWIN: Alisyn Camerota, not that you're tuning in and watching your own show, but happy birthday! Happy birthday!
John Berman, over to you. Good morning.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happy birthday, Alisyn. I'll be going to her party later on. Maybe I'll see you guys there, or maybe not.
All right. Thanks so much. We have a lot of news. Let's get right to it.
All right. New this morning, the President is claiming victory in a race he did not run, and the Democrats are claiming progress in a race they did not win. This is the actual winner in Georgia, Republican Karen Handel, who edged out Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House race ever.
Now, Democrats might take solace in the fact they did better than they have in the past in this historically Republican district. As much solace as I take in my 1982 Little League trophy, the participation trophy which I still have but earned me no votes in Congress.
The President is taking a victory lap in a race he was barely mentioned in, "Well, the special elections are over and those that want to make America great again are five-oh. All the fake news, all the money spent equals zero."
So you can see how it's being received this morning, CNN's Jason Carroll in the district where it all happened outside Atlanta. Jason, what do you see? JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, perhaps the
President was barely mentioned by the candidates, but that certainly was not the case with the voters here on the ground.
He was mentioned. He was mentioned over and over again. And so, in some ways, this race was very much about the President and how the President has been doing. And so his supporters say, look, he can very much, and has, and deserves to take somewhat of a victory lap here.
I mean, the real losers here, let's just be honest, Jon Ossoff and the Democrats at large. They poured so much money into this race, so much effort into this race, more than $20 million, to try to get Jon Ossoff over the line. But at the end of the day, Ossoff was not able to tap into enough moderates, not able to tap into enough independents here in the district to take him where he needed to go.
So the Democrats are going to have to do some real soul-searching going forward. They're going to have to do something rather than just attack this President.
The real winners here, again, the President's supporters say, President Trump. And of course, Karen Handel.
Karen Handel, for her part, did what she could to try to minimalize the national implications of this race throughout the campaign and in some respects, tried to distance herself from the President throughout the campaign as well, John. But at the end of the day, and last night, it was all about the President and Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KAREN HANDEL (R), GEORGIA: And a special thanks to the President of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: And then looking at some of the broader implications of this, John, when you think about the special elections, the Democrats are zero and four.
When you look at what happened there in South Carolina, you have Ralph Norman who was able to capture the seat there. Democrats were hoping to overtake his seat there. They were unable to do that.
Norman was able to do that, in part, by linking himself to Donald Trump. Again, that race was much closer than some thought it would be, but close just doesn't cut it when it comes to politics -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Jason Carroll for us outside Atlanta. Thanks so much, Jason.
A flurry of activity on Capitol Hill this morning in the Russia investigations. Very shortly, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee about Russian hacking efforts.
Now, he is one of the highest-ranking Obama-era officials to testify in public, so you can expect he will be pressed on a number of issues by both Republicans and Democrats.
Also today, the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, whose silent presence has been felt in the halls of Congress the last few days, he will sit down with the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee who say obstruction of justice is an investigation very much on the table.
CNN's Manu Raju who's been hunting down all of these people joins us on Capitol Hill with the very latest. Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Hey, John. Yes, in just about an hour, Jeh Johnson, the former Homeland Security Secretary to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, really going to detail the steps that he took and that the administration took once they learned about the extent of the Russian cyber attacks during the last year's elections.
And also, according to his prepared testimony, going to talk about disagreements between the federal government and state governments about how to secure election infrastructure to prevent these attacks from going forward.
Now, one thing that he is going to say is that he will say that he has no knowledge that any ballots themselves were affected in November's elections because, he says, he has no way of judging whether or not public opinion was influenced in any way.
[09:05:03] And he's also going to say what the White House would not say yesterday, that Vladimir Putin, in his view, that there is no doubt, according to Jeh Johnson, that Vladimir Putin was behind these cyber attacks as well.
Now, this comes as the Russia investigations and several committees are taking shape. Bob Mueller, the Special Counsel, did meet with the House Intelligence Committee leaders last night and is going to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee leaders today.
The reason why, that these committees are trying to move forward with their own investigations and make sure they do not conflict, in any way, with what Bob Mueller is doing.
And one thing the Senate Judiciary Committee wants to probe, is any FBI interference that occurred both in the Obama administration and as well with President Trump, as President Trump had those interactions with James Comey in which he allegedly urged Comey to step back from that Michael Flynn investigation.
So we'll see whether or not the Judiciary Committee decides to step back in any way in interviewing key witnesses that may be important for Bob Mueller and his own investigation that may touch on obstruction of justice, John.
BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. We'll check back in with you in a bit to watch the comings and goings on this day where there is a very important hearing with Jeh Johnson, so thank you, Manu.
Joining me now, Phil Mudd, CNN counter terror analyst, former CIA and FBI official; Jen Psaki, former White House communications director under President Obama and a CNN political commentator; Ben Ferguson, a CNN political commentator, a conservative radio host; and Lynn sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."
Phil Mudd, sit tight for a moment. We're talking politics.
BERMAN: Jen Psaki, I want to start with you. You wrote an op-ed -- you must have been up all night or you wrote two versions of it, one or the other here -- where you told Democrats, "Democrats, don't lose your mind and your motivation over Jon Ossoff's defeat in Georgia 6."
OK. Maybe don't lose your mind but maybe lose a little bit of heart? I mean, look, you spent a whole ton of money, the most expensive race ever. The President's popularity rating, you know, historically low. It's set up pretty well for the Democrats.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Maybe, but there are more than 90 districts that are more Democrat friendly or leaning than this district. There are definitely decisions that the Democratic Party needs to make, and we should take a close look at what happened here.
But I was thinking this morning about, back in 2009 and 2010, we were five and oh. We had the White House, we had the House, we had the Senate. We won all five special elections, and we were walloped in 2010 in the election.
So there can be some indications here that could be lessons for Democrats on how to run races in the future, but we shouldn't be hiding under the table. We need to keep fighting, keep raising money, keep organizing, and health care is the perfect place to do that.
BERMAN: So, Ben Ferguson, the President took a bit of a victory lap this morning on a race he did not physically himself campaign in. Yes, he raised money. And Karen Handel, really, barely mentioned him, seemed to go out of her way, in a sense, to avoid him. So is it fair for the President this morning to be declaring victory?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course, it is. And she didn't go out of her way not to mention him. She had no problem asking for the help of the White House in this race.
BERMAN: Well, money.
FERGUSON: And let's be clear, the media made this into a referendum on the President and the Democrats did the same thing. They overplayed it again with this President, not understanding the average American, what they care about.
They tried to turn this into a referendum on Russia. They tried to turn it into a referendum on transparency. They tried to turn it into a referendum on honesty. And they got beat.
And the reason why they got beat is because the average American is not obsessed with all of the news that Democrats are screaming that you must be caring about, that is affecting your life when, in reality, it's not.
You had a strong candidate who won a race. I mean, you have to put this in perspective. Every Democrat's been saying the President's a liar, he is weak, he doesn't understand the American people. Yet they are oh and four in elections, major elections, and every one of them that they have said is a referendum on the President.
I mean, let me say this. Jen, you should get paid a lot of money from the Democratic Party as their shrink right now because what you said this morning is absolutely correct -- keep your head up, try to re- invent yourself.
But I don't even think the Democratic Party is listening right now.
BERMAN: Well, hang on.
FERGUSON: And that's why they keep losing these elections.
BERMAN: Let me bring in Lynn Sweet as you guys are doing a mutual admiration society -- rare! I like it, but we're going to move to Lynn Sweet here.
Lynn, so Karen Handel won by about three-plus points last night when it finally is said and done here. The numbers are still coming in.
What's more important -- that she did better than Donald Trump did in this district? Hopefully we have these graphics. We can put them up to show you. Better than Donald Trump did or worse than Tom Price did?
I mean, she did perform better than the President did. Tom Price, though, way outpaced her. What's more important?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, if you mean more important locally, then it would be that Democrats made inroads. But making inroads, it's like having a good inning when you lose the game overall.
It's interesting. It's noteworthy for the local political figures. That number actually may give heart to people who want to run in lower profile races, state offices, your county office that may come up or municipal office.
[09:10:02] When you analyze, locally, those kinds of election results, you may see opportunities for Democrats that you didn't discern before. So that's the value of crunching those numbers when you have them.
But on a big national level, the loss is the loss. And the Democrats could take heart in seeing some gains, but this is a tough defeat because the Democrats brought everything they could. They brought the game -- so did the Republicans -- and they lost. And
that's going to be tough to deal with today. But it isn't necessarily determinative in 2018 when, in these mid-term elections, there's a lot of other factors going on.
BERMAN: All right. Phil Mudd, I want to bring you in this --
FERGUSON: John, I want to say --
BERMAN: Hang on, hang on.
BERMAN: But I got to bring Phil Mudd in so he doesn't just get a participation trophy for being here. He needs to earn it.
BERMAN: You know, Phil, there's a story in the "New York Times" this morning, that there were CIA officials, intelligence officials, who were concerned about Michael Flynn, the information about Michael Flynn being vulnerable perhaps to Russian blackmail, while he was present for security briefings delivered by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
So my questions to you. Number one -- there are two questions here -- if there were intelligence officials concerned about Michael Flynn, should they have told the CIA Director? And if they did tell the CIA Director, should he be have been delivering classified, sensitive information to the President in the presence of Michael Flynn?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes and yes. Do you have any other questions, John? I can deliver this one pretty quickly.
BERMAN: Go ahead.
MUDD: Let me step through this for a moment. I don't know this for a fact but I've got to believe, having served at the agency for so long, that when the Director walked in the room -- that is the CIA Director into the Oval Office -- to deliver a briefing to the President of the United States, he knew some of the allegations about General Flynn. It would be shocking if CIA officials hadn't told him.
So to get to the second question of whether those briefings were appropriate, I got a simple answer for you. The question is not whether he gives briefings. General Flynn, at that point, presuming he has a top-secret security clearance, what's the CIA Director supposed to say -- he's got a security clearance, Mr. President, but I've chosen not to brief him?
The question is more broadly, was it appropriate for General Flynn to maintain his clearance at that point? I think, as long as he's got the clearance, you got to talk to him because, otherwise, the onus is on the CIA Director to say, I don't care if he has a clearance or not, I have decided personally not to give him information. That doesn't make sense.
BERMAN: The President made a political decision to put him in the room.
BERMAN: If the President has made the decision, it's not for the CIA Director to weigh in, one way or another.
We have these Russia briefings today on Capitol Hill. The Special Counsel, Bob Mueller, up there meeting with the Senate. And we're about to hear from Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of Homeland Security, on what he saw about Russian hacking.
It's going to be interesting to hear from him because he hasn't spoken much in public about this recently. And the question of what the White House has done, this current White House has done, about Russian hacking or how much it cares is, all of a sudden, back in the spotlight again.
I want to play a little bit of sound from the briefing yesterday when current, still, Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about it. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just very plainly, a yes or no answer. Does President Trump believe that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 elections?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right. Jen Psaki, as a former communications specialist yourself who's been in many briefings, would yes have been a hard answer there?
PSAKI: I think what he really meant was, I don't want to talk to you about it, people in the press briefing room. It's hard to believe he's never spoken with the President of the United States about it.
He also said in the same briefing that he hadn't asked him if he'd seen the health care bill. So I'm not sure what they're talking about. Perhaps that's a separate issue. But what should be concerning here is, this is consistent with the Attorney General saying that he had not spoken with the President about it either.
So are there meetings happening? That's a question, if I were a member of the Senate right now, I'd be asking. Are you doing briefings? Are you preparing? What are you doing to address the cyber threat?
This isn't a partisan issue. I mean, Russians are not trying to keep Republicans in power. They're trying to keep confusion in the United States.
BERMAN: And, Lynn Sweet, we're hearing from some Republicans who, note this, are saying, look, you know, even if the investigation into people associated with the President yields nothing -- and these Republicans are saying, we don't think it will -- we think that serious attention needs to be paid to the Russian hacking. And we're not seeing that serious attention from this White House as evidenced by this briefing yesterday.
SWEET: Right. Some 39 states had voter information hacked, in one way or the other. It doesn't mean, by the way, that the vote count was influenced. You know, states have, within them, multiple voting authorities. In one state, Illinois, for example, there are 109 separate systems.
But it does mean that this problem impacts red and blue areas of the country. So, yes, one would think that there would be a national cry to identify the problems, fix them, prevent them from happening again.
[09:14:59] One of the things Director Johnson said, in previewing his testimony, is that, when he raised these concerns with state election directors to try and make it a priority for his agency, he got a lukewarm reception, so he didn't pursue it.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Ben Ferguson, what evidence have you seen -- evidence -- that this administration is taking the Russian hacking seriously?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, first off, they know that, one, Russia tried to influence the election, but I also think they know how political this has become. The idea that somehow they're not taking it seriously or our government in general is not taking it seriously I think is just too soon to say that.
It is a political talking point. But Capitol Hill, you could make the same argument, is Capitol Hill taking it seriously? Is the rest of our government taking it seriously? It's easy to attack the White House and the president.
It's also very easy for the White House to say, look, we need to make sure that our elections are not influenced and that we're not hacked. I think the White House has made that abundantly clear, that they are not in favor of any country being able to hack the United States of America.
They've said that in multiple briefings and that you don't want to have outside influence in any election in this country. But this has become more of a talking point and again, it goes back to what I said earlier.
This idea somehow that this White House is cozy with Russia. Look at how close you just had Russian planes fly to one of our spy planes. Look at exactly what we have now with the fighting going on in Syria.
If we're so close with Russia right now and we're trying to not take them seriously or their hacking, then why are we literally at a point now where Democrats are saying, we're getting too close to some sort of conflict with Russia?
BERMAN: You went from criticizing Democratic talking points to veering into what may very well be White House talking points, but we understand your point. We're going to leave you with this. All I will say is there are people who criticized the Obama administration for not responding quickly or loudly enough to Russian hacking as well.
And many of these same people are criticizing the Trump administration. There are parts of this and there are areas of this which are completely apolitical.
Ben Ferguson, Phil Mudd, Jen Psaki, Lynn Sweet, a participation trophy to you all for coming on today. Thank you so much.
All right, it may be one of the best kept secrets in Washington, the incredible, invisible health care bill, it might reveal itself in the next 24 hours. So how will it be received?
Plus, shot and killed by a police officer, millions watched as Philando Castile's girlfriend livestreamed the aftermath. Plus this new dashcam video shows what happened in the moments before the officer pulled the trigger. It is stunning to see.
And out at Uber, the CEO steps down from the start-up, sort of forced out after investors revolt.
BERMAN: All right, this morning, patience running out on Capitol Hill as Senate Republican leaders claim they will finally unveil what's in their secret health care bill some time tomorrow. But today frustration is growing on both sides of the aisle.
CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with the very latest. A lot of anticipation, I would imagine, Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, there really is a lot of anticipation, a lot of questions still. I had a chance to talk to Senator Marco Rubio just moments ago off camera. He is one of these people who has been quite critical of the process, how super secret it is.
But he is striking a different tone this morning saying, look, there are five different ways that Americans get their health care. Through the VA, through the employer, the individual markets, Medicare and Medicaid.
He's saying here that the Republican legislation is going to impact primarily two of those areas, that being Medicaid and the individual market. But having said that, people in his state, a lot of older people who also need this kind of government entitlement programs and this aid for their health care, it is going to be difficult to explain that to his constituents. There are a lot of people who feel that way. A lot of Democrats very angry and frustrated they've been shut out of this process. And also we are hearing that from Republicans like Senator Rubio, and of course, Senator McCain with a bit of sarcasm here, John, as he explains how he's feeling about how all of this is unfolding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Haven't seen it. Oh, no, never a problem. No. Of course not. I always like to move forward with legislation that I haven't seen. That's one of the practices I've enjoyed around here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you get any more clarification today, sir?
MCCAIN: We had lots of conversations. Every lunch we have conversations. We have more and more conversations. It's wonderful the conversations we have. How can I put my support behind it or not behind it if I haven't seen it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So, John, no hearings, no debate. A bit of frustration on both sides, really. So here are the things that we do know that the legislation on the Senate side is going to be addressing here in the basic elements. Medicaid reform, regulatory waivers, state stability fund, as well as tax credits.
Things that are still pretty much up in the air here. Short-term market stabilization, Medicaid growth rate as well as the Medicaid expansion funding. You've got Obamacare funding, taxes, abortion and all of those things taken together that senators -- Republican senators have no idea where it is going.
They also don't know the Congressional Budget Office score and that is going to be critical in trying to explain what is the cost of all of this to the voters -- John.
BERMAN: All right, Suzanne Malveaux on Capitol Hill where we could be within 24 hours of knowing the secret of the Senate health care bill. Thanks so much, Suzanne.
Joining me now, Republican Congressman Leonard Lance of New Jersey. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. You were a no vote on the House bill. My question to you this morning is, do you like what you see in the Senate bill?
REPRESENTATIVE LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: I haven't seen the Senate bill, John. And of course, I hope that it is unveiled as quickly as possible and that the Senate will have time to review the work product.
BERMAN: Kind of a problem that you haven't seen it. Kind of a bigger problem that senators haven't seen it given that they may be voting on it within days. LANCE: I think the Senate should have the opportunity to review it and I also believe there should be a CBO score before the Senate votes on it in its entirety.
[09:25:03]BERMAN: There will be a CBO score of some kind. I think the Senate rules require that, but what's your message? What's your message to your Senate colleagues right now as they will consider this in what rapid session?
LANCE: I believe that Republican senators are fully aware that they need to see the bill and I have great confidence in the Republican senators. I'm friends with Senator Cassidy, for example, Senator Capito, and I am sure that Senate Republicans will want to examine the bill.
BERMAN: One of the things under discussion is the proposal that will slow the growth of Medicaid. It would index it to overall inflation rather than medical inflation, which would slow the growth in spending in Medicaid even more than the House bill. Is that something that would concern you?
LANCE: Yes. I can understand examining that issue, but I do think there ought to be some sort of cost analysis based upon the overall cost of health care. So, yes, that would concern me as other provisions concern me. That is among the reasons why I think it should be fully vetted before the Senate votes.
BERMAN: So, the president in meeting with senators apparently called parts of the House version mean. He wants the Senate bill to be less mean, he says, than the House version. Do you have any sense of what he was referring to? What do you think that could have been "mean" in the House version?
LANCE: I wouldn't choose to use that term. I didn't vote for the House version, but, for example, I want to make sure that nobody is denied coverage based upon a pre-existing condition. And overall, I want to lower premiums and premiums have increased and I think we have to work together in this regard. And I would urge Democratic colleagues, John, to come to the table. I think one of the messages from last night's election in Georgia, and in South Carolina, is that we have to work together.
BERMAN: I'm glad you brought up the election in Georgia last night, because Republican Karen Handel won by three points, which is more than some people thought she would win by and the health care debate was very much part of the election down there. So does the result where the Republican won indicate that maybe opposition to this bill isn't as strong as some might think?
LANCE: I think the polling indicates that the public, by and large, does not favor the House version of the bill for reasons I have discussed. But I think the Georgia race was based upon the fact that Karen Handel knows the district. I congratulate her and I look forward to her becoming our colleague.
The Democrats tried to nationalize that race, $30 million, largely from outside the district, largely from outside the state. And I would prefer that Democrats come to the table to work with us on these issues and not simply run campaigns against President Trump.
BERMAN: But what's your advice to the Republican side? Do you think this might give license to leadership? Do you think this might give license to the House leadership and congressional leadership to say, hey, you know, what we're doing is working fine, we're winning?
LANCE: I think that Karen won because she knows the district. She has held office in Georgia before. My views on the health care legislation are that we need to do a better job that we have to lower premiums for all Americans, work with the exchanges that are not in good shape.
BERMAN: Do you think that health care might be a drag on Republican races going forward?
LANCE: I think that we have to reach a resolution to help the exchanges and I think that will require Democratic support as well. And I'm hopeful that we might come together on this important issue, and on other issues, for example, tax reform and an infrastructure bill.
BERMAN: Congressman Leonard Lance, if it was up to you, we'd have a very busy summer so thanks so much for being with us.
LANCE: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: A U.S. spy satellite detected nuclear activity at one of North Korea's underground test sites. That will no doubt come you up as members of the Trump administration huddle with Chinese counterparts today. Stay with us.