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McCain Diagnosed with Cancer; Trump's Break with Sessions; Layoffs at Carrier Plant; Simpson before Parole Board. Aired 8:30- 9:00a ET

Aired July 20, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:32:11] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, in this interview we see the president of the United States doing something that is unusual, to say the least. He takes his attorney general and he throws him under the bus. Says he probably shouldn't have picked him and he wouldn't have if he had known that he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. That comes in this new "New York Times" interview. He talks about the special counsel and he makes a lot of bold pronouncements.

So let's get the take on the president's apparent distancing himself from his own party, from a member of that party, Steve King. Steve King tweeted, "no one in America can match the excellence of Jeff Sessions as attorney general. The Trump agenda would be crippled without him."

And the congressman joins us now.

It's good to see you, as always.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Good to see you. Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Now, let's talk about what matters most first. Senator John McCain, a man you know and a man many admire, this diagnosis is a tough one, but so is he. What do you want people to know?

KING: Well, first, I want the American people all to know that John McCain is an authentic American hero. And the suffering that he did in the P.O.W. camps, often returned to as the Hanway Hiltons (ph), was awful. And he shrunk down to 75 pounds and rattled around inside a body cast when they threw him on Medal of Honor recipient Bud Day's (ph), his bunk to nurse him back to health.

John's lived through all of that and he's a person who has stood by his beliefs. And disagree with him or not, John McCain's an authentic American hero. He is a fighter. And we all ought to be praying for him and looking forward to his recovery and looking forward to him coming back into the United States Senate and casting a vote, hopefully to repeal Obamacare.

CUOMO: He is a fighter. He will fight and his family needs him here and he's got a lot of work left to do, as you suggested. So we wish him well.

All right, let's get to the matters at hand.

You tweeted something that is pretty obvious on its face. You support Jeff Sessions. We have not heard a president do what President Trump just did to his attorney general. We have not heard that before. Not in our lifetimes anyway.

What do you make of his none-too-subtle claim that Sessions did the wrong thing and that he shouldn't have picked him if that's what he was going to do?

KING: Well, it's hard to understand what was going on in the president's head at the moment that he made those remarks. It was a 50-minute interview, as I understand. The full context of that, I don't have the feel and the flow of it.

But I just want to send a message to the president of the United States here. There is no person in this country better qualified to serve as attorney general. No one can match the excellence of Jeff Sessions. He is the best cabinet appointment that President Trump has made.

And he also is a noble individual. He believes in the Constitution. He understands the structure of the rule of law within that. And he lives by those principles.

I've had disagreements with Jeff Sessions, too, but I would opt for his judgment in almost every case. And I - and whether he made a mistake or not in recusing himself from the Russia investigation component, he made that decision out of a sense that - I will say it's a sense of nobility and honor. And so I would let that go and I would say, let's build on what we have. I want Jeff Sessions to keep serving this country, and I'm - I'm concerned he might come up with some different decision. And that would be giving - that would be handing a victory over to the left.

[08:35:30] CUOMO: Well, the left has nothing to do with it. I mean John - you know, when Jeff Sessions took the job, he had to know that if there was an investigation that dealt with the campaign, he'd have to recuse himself. What other option did we have?

KING: Well, I think that - again, I think it was a decision made out of a - he was deeply involved in the campaign.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: The investigation didn't show at that time that it was going to go as long or as deeply as it did. But very early in that process, he decided, how could he be an attorney general with an investigation that was looking in on actions of the campaign that he was involved in.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: And it was a simple decision, I think, for Jeff Sessions. And I - and I think we accept that decision. The president should accept that decision. And we should get all we can out of the good people we have that are in place today.

CUOMO: Well, the president seemed to be placing a different priority on the situation, which was, what was good for him. And what was good for the president was to have his man in there tamping down this investigation. When that didn't happen, he apparently went bad on the attorney general. So we'll see what happens because he also suggested -

KING: Well, and, Chris -

CUOMO: He could do the same thing to the special counsel, congressman, and how would you feel about that?

KING: You know, I thought that there was a chain reaction of events that flowed from Jeff Sessions recusing himself. And it set up the situations for the special counsel.

I'll tell you, I'm in this place where I've been speaking to some of my colleagues around here who tend to agree to me, that the deeper and the longer this investigation, this really finding no substance on this Russian piece, no real substance on this Russian piece, the more I think we need to look at the great big picture of all that was going on, on the other side of the aisle and what was James Comey's motivations and what did that really entail with his discussions with Loretta Lynch, with him reporting something that he knew wasn't true at (ph) her directions and then how far does this go back into the 650,000 e-mails of Anthony Weiner. But there's a lot to look at here (INAUDIBLE) on the side of the president.

CUOMO: But I don't get it. I don't get it, congressman. I've heard you say that before and I don't understand the logic. If - if you see the Russia investigation to this point as a political exercise, why would your solution be to have a political exercise that goes after the other side? Why would that be a just response?

KING: Well, let me just say - this Russia investigation has got the - at least the ruse that it's about the rule of law, otherwise why would you have a special counsel. And if it's about the rule of law, then how is it that James Comey summarized the prosecution for Hillary and then announced that he wouldn't - he wouldn't ask for any charges. And what did - what was he doing with the authority to do that anyway, handed over by Loretta Lynch, who sat on the plane with Bill Clinton.

I mean if you look at these two cases it's stark. The difference is stark.

CUOMO: But where - where is the - where is the issue of criminality in that? What would be a potential crime? It's in his discretion whether or not he thought there was a prosecutable case that could be won, and he said no. Where's the crime?

KING: This - this - I'm not going to assert obstruction of justice, but I've heard it asserted on the Russian side of this. And if you look at these two cases in a parallel way, there's a lot stronger case for obstruction of justice on the Comey investigation of Hillary than there is in this Russian investigation that comes up with nothing.

CUOMO: How so? He - he - what did he obstruct?

KING: Hillary Clinton was interviewed without a tape - no audiotape, no videotape, no transcript, and no deposition. And she had her chief of staff, who was under investigation, as her counsel in that interview. And they agreed with the plea bargain to destroy some of the hard drives and Hillary Clinton admitted that they took a hammer and crushed a couple of Blackberries and they bought BleachBit.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: I mean if anything smacked of destroying information and obstructing justice, her actions did. And I'm saying this, that's all out there. So to try to make a case that something like that happened under the Trump campaign with the Russians looks really weak in the shadow of all that happened on the Clinton connection (ph).

CUOMO: But I don't understand why - what is it about that, that seems like a parallel to you? You take each case on its own face. You investigate what's going on right now for what it is or isn't. And I don't know how you can know what Mueller has or doesn't have. He just started investigating. He just put his team together. But let's leave that to the side, the impatience factor.

Why would you want to look at the other side? It just seems like all you're doing is playing politics. That's why I don't get it. I know it plays to your base. But I don't get how that is a respectful way to deal with this process.

KING: Chris, I'm a respecter of the rule of law. And the case that I've just made here is if we're going to apply the law, we apply the law whether you're the elected president or whether you're the defeated candidate for president.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: When I look at these two cases side by side, one of them is stark, the other one is weak. That's a comparison I'm drawing -

[08:40:00] CUOMO: But you guys lead every committee. You could have investigated all that stuff. You certainly were making a lot of noise about it, like you did with Benghazi, and you chose not to.

KING: We still can. We still can investigate all of that. And I made sure that we still had access to the 650,000 Weiner e-mails that, by the way, James Comey said, there's nothing here. We ran it through a fast search engine and there's nothing new here in this laptop.

Well, what we don't know yet is, what was the - what was the handle of Barack Obama, who was e-mailing Hillary Clinton on that private server that surely had classified information on it. I think this trail leads all the way to Barack Obama.

Now, I've said to also some of the committee chairs, I don't really want to make my career about investigating all of this. But if it's going to be about not very much, we're trying to find some kind of Russian connection, we're going to have to bring out the real substance here, as - just as a way of restoring the respect for the rule of law down this path.

CUOMO: So - so you -

KING: I don't want to see it distorted by a special counsel.

CUOMO: So you think - well, first of all, there's no reason to suggestion that Bob Mueller would do anything that is distorting of anything. You guys loved him! He's one of your own. He's a Republican. He is a war hero. He served this country. Everybody thought he was a great choice. And now the president is worried about him and now you're going bad on him.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) love him.

CUOMO: But what I don't get is, you really think that Anthony Weiner's e-mails are of much of a threat to this country's security as what Russia did during the election? You really would rather put Russia's interference aside, figuring out how they did it and how to stop it the next time to go look at Anthony Weiner's e-mails?

KING: Let's do both. It's not an either/or situation.

But - and I've said this, is that, we're - we - the substance - here's what we don't have. You have not seen and I have not seen the actual evidence of what the Russians, I believe, now, did do to try to hack into our elections. That's still sitting back there classified. I've talked to some people that -

CUOMO: Well, but Clapper is - but Clapper put out his report. And, I mean, unless you want to believe you've got one of the grossest conspiracies in American history, you've had the people who would know all telling you guys, and you've got the ability to get briefings that we don't, as you well know, that they know it was Russia. They don't have any question about it. Only the president seems to have a question about it. And the extent of it and the ways they did, what they did, is what you guys are investigating in your different committees.

KING: But - but, Chris, I just said, we have - we - neither you nor I - have actually seen the evidence. We've heard the opinions of Obama appointees.

Now, I'm not suggesting today - I've talked to some people that have seen the evidence.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: And now I'm closer to being convinced that that evidence is confirmatory from that standpoint. But what -

CUOMO: Wait. Well, hold on. So what are you saying? Are you saying that the people who have seen the evidence have convinced you that it's real or that it isn't real? KING: I'm more inclined to believe that it's real today because I've

talked to some people that have seen the evidence.

CUOMO: Oh, good, then don't question the outcome.

KING: But I've not seen the evidence.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: And - but I've made - I'm conceding there that there is evidence there that's substantiate enough that reasonable people would come to that conclusion.

CUOMO: Good.

KING: And I'm expecting at this point that conclusion is right. So let's figure out what we can do about that. But, you know, where was all of this when Barack Obama was president and we got this information. Why didn't he take a move on this? He had first access to the information.

CUOMO: Well, first of all - first of all, he did take a move on it. He did take a move on it. There were political considerations. You can't criticize his political decision.

But now "Time" magazine is reporting that they had a 15-page plan of what they should do. Part of it involved having armed security around polling places. You know they pulled the houses. You know they kicked people out of the country. Was it handled strongly enough? Maybe, may not. But that certainly doesn't shed light on whether or not you should try to get to the bottom of what happened now.

Final word.

KING: Well, let's look at what we need to do to fix that situation. But I'm not seeing that digging into this Trump campaign and trying to make it all about Donald Trump and his campaign is good for our country at all. It looks to me like it has an objective to bog down and slow down the Trump agenda here in the House of Representatives and in the United States Senate and to immobilize the presidency.

The American people delivered a mandate and they want to see actions on that mandate. And this investigation and the obsession with it is slowing down the work because public opinion has got to go along with the work we do here in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, I take your point, congressman. Always good to have you on NEW DAY.

KING: Thanks.

CUOMO: See you again soon.


KING: Appreciate it.


President Trump continues his made in America week. You will remember how much attention President Trump got when he went to the Carrier plant in Indiana and announced that he had a plan to keep their jobs in the U.S. So, did the president keep that promise? Well, 330 workers at that plant say no.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will tell you that United Technologies and Carrier stepped it up and now they're keeping - actually the number's over 1,100 people, which is so great. Which is so great.


CAMEROTA: Let's fact check all of that. CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Indianapolis at the Carrier plant.

So what's happening there today, Martin?

[08:45:03] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going through with the plan. The plan that was negotiated by the president of the United States. But like any plan, Alisyn, the devil's in the details, in the fine print, and there is a lot of pain still in that fine print. Most especially, yes, the president did save about 730 manufacturing jobs, not quite 1,100. But the problem is the company is still allowed to lay people off. A lot of people. Six hundred are going to lose their jobs this year. The first 300 will start losing their jobs today.

These are the jobs the president was not able to save. So it's a bittersweet time. People are glad for what the president did, but Chuck Jones, the former union head who's bumped heads with the president before said, this president has not lived up to the promises he made to blue collar workers.


SAVIDGE: Overall for the working man, do you think the president has lived up to the promises he made?

CHUCK JONES, FORMER 1999 PRESIDENT (RETIRED): No, not at all. Not at all. Everything still caters to the rich people. And we're getting dealt out again. He campaigned on middle class, working class people, and I don't see where he's delivered at all.


SAVIDGE: Those first layoffs begin in just a matter of hours. The next round of layoffs, right before Christmas in December.


CUOMO: Martin, thank you very much. An important story. We'll stay on it.

All right, so the question of the day for those following the O.J. Simpson saga is, will he be paroled? But a better question might be, should he be paroled? A friend and accomplice who testified in the trial joins us next.


[08:50:12] CUOMO: All right, in just hours, O.J. Simpson is going to appear before a parole board in Nevada. He's hoping for an early release from prison. Simpson is right now serving eight and a half years of what could be a 33-year sentence for a kidnapping and armed robbery conviction back in 2008.

CNN's Jean Casarez live in Carson City with more.

The parole board went right for him the last time. Will it happen again?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this is a very important day for O.J. Simpson. He will be able to give a statement to the parole board. He can probably talk as long as he wants to. And then they will be able to ask him a lot of questions.

Now, he's at Lovelock medium correctional facility here in Nevada, so he will be video streamed right here to the Nevada parole office in Carson City. The four commissions will be here. They will listen to him.

Also, he can have a representative speak on his behalf. He can have a family member. It is believed that one, the living victim, Bruce Fromong, may actually testify on his behalf.

Now, the parole board will look at aggravating and mitigating factors. And the aggravating factors include the crimes themselves, specifically today, the conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit robbery.

I was in the courtroom for that trial. I heard all of the evidence. I'm also a licensed attorney here in Nevada. And what the evidence showed was that O.J. Simpson conspired with a group of men to forge into that hotel room where there were memorabilia dealers expecting actual buyers. And when he found that two of the men had guns, he spoke to them.

It was all recorded secretly by some of the other members in the group. All those recordings were played for the jury. When he found out those two men had guns, he said, bring your heat, don't forget your heat.

When they stormed into the room, one of the guns was pulled on the victims in their faces while others put the merchandise in pillow cases. O.J. Simpson was in charge. He said, nobody leave this room. That's one of the things that the parole board will look at today, Chris and Alisyn. But also he's got a lot of things in his favor. He has never been convicted before of a criminal offense. CAMEROTA: Jean, thank you very much for all of that background. That's

important for everyone to keep in mind today.

And now we have a CNN exclusive.

Charles Ehrlich was O.J. Simpson's best friend after Simpson's acquittal of murder charges in 1995. That friendship had a downside when Simpson asked Ehrlich to take part in a robbery. Ehrlich was charged as one of Simpson's accomplices in that memorabilia robbery in Las Vegas that Jean just told us about. Ehrlich took a plea deal and testified against Simpson.

So how does he feel today as O.J. could get out of prison? Charles Ehrlich joins us now.

Good morning, Charlie. Thank you for being here.


CAMEROTA: I'm well.

Do you think that O.J. will be paroled today?

EHRLICH: Yes, I do. Yes, I do.

CAMEROTA: And are you - how do you feel about that?

EHRLICH: I think it's about time. He's been in, what, nine years now. And I don't think he should have been there to begin with.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that, because let's remind people, just as Jean just did, it was September 13, 2007. You both went to this Las Vegas hotel room. You, I believe, correct me if I'm wrong, was the one posing as this memorabilia buyer. You were going to meet with these two memorabilia sellers who claimed to have O.J.'s stuff. Some of his items. A Heisman trophy, et cetera.

EHRLICH: Correct.

CAMEROTA: O.J. wanted those items back. But he had had to surrender those items because he had lost that wrongful death suit against the Goldman family, Ron Goldman was killed. And so why shouldn't O.J. have been in prison for that - perpetrating and masterminding that robbery?

EHRLICH: Because I don't think that he knew there were guns involved. I - he had the - afterwards he kept on thinking to himself, there were no weapons involved, when, actually, there were. And I -

CAMEROTA: But - Charlie, I'm sorry to interrupt, but, I mean, the reporting, and what Jean just said happened in court, was that it was O.J. who said, quote, "we're going to need some heat, bring some heat," meaning the guns.

EHRLICH: Yes, but "heat" could mean a lot of things. He didn't specifically say "guns." CAMEROTA: What else could it mean?

EHRLICH: I - that I couldn't tell you. All I know is what he asked me to do. And I didn't know these characters that were involved. And if he would have just - if he would have just asked me to do what he - when I saw him, we wouldn't be talking about this right now. I would have came downstairs. I would have told him that there's nothing up there, O.J., and to forget it.

[08:55:07] These characters that were involved in this particular robbery, or whatever it was, I didn't know. And it was crazy, to be frank with you, making this -

CAMEROTA: Charlie, do -

EHRLICH: It happened so fastly.

CAMEROTA: Do you agree that these items that O.J. Simpson wanted back were no longer rightfully his, he had had to surrender them?

EHRLICH: In my opinion - of course I'm not a lawyer - but, yes, I think he should have surrendered them at the time, because that is what he was told to do. Apparently, they showed up, miraculously out of the blue, when they called O.J. And, you know, he wanted to see if these items belonged to him. He asked me to do him a favor. And all I knew was to go up there and see what these items were and then come down and let him know.

But as far as these individuals go, I didn't know any of them. I wouldn't know them if they walked by me right now. It was - it was crazy, to be frank with you.

CAMEROTA: It sounds like it, and we're seeing some of the surveillance video from it.

Because of the wrongful death suit that O.J. lost, he was ordered to pay the Goldman and Brown families $33.5 million. Obviously nothing brings back their loved ones, but they felt that that was a punitive punishment for him. He said that he didn't have any of that money. They thought that he had hidden it somewhere. He said he didn't have any and they wanted him to have to liquidate some of his very valuable memorabilia.

So I'm - so I'm wondering, Charlie, today, if O.J. does get out of prison, where do the Goldman and Brown families go for justice?

EHRLICH: I assume they go to O.J. I mean, he knows that he has to pay them back $33 million. And that's his obligation.

CAMEROTA: And do you ever think about how they feel today in terms of if he were to get out?

EHRLICH: I assume they feel terrible, obviously, you know, because they believe he's guilty. I don't believe he's guilty. I don't believe he did the crime. But that's my personal opinion. Everyone has their own opinion. He was always my best friend. We were always - he was always likable.

I run an adult club in Miami called Dean's Gold and he would frequently come there and, you know, say hello and hang out there because it's that type of place.


EHRLICH: Very high-end. And he was always very friendly to everyone. And I know his family. I know his kids.


EHRLICH: His - we'd have dinners together and he loves his family very much. And in my heart I don't think he ever did the crime.


EHRLICH: But that's me.

CAMEROTA: Yes. We understand you have a long friendship with him and we appreciate you sharing some of that with us as we wait for all of this breaking news.

Charlie Ehrlich, thank you very much for being here.

EHRLICH: Thank you very much, Alisyn. Nice talking to you.

CAMEROTA: You too.

CNN's live coverage of O.J. Simpson's parole hearing will begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

CUOMO: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow is going to pick up right after this quick break.

Stay with CNN.