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High Democrat Turnout in Texas; Cruz versus Beto in Senate Race; Trump Denies White House Chaos; Porn Star Sues Trump; Trump on Russia Election Meddling; Justice Department Sues California. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:14] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats in Texas turning out in big numbers in the nation's first primary contest. Could the blue enthusiasm in deep red Texas be a sign of things to come in the midterms?

Ed Lavandera is live with Dallas with more.

So what happened, Ed?


Well, you know, rather interesting and kind of depending on which side of the aisle, of course, you sit on might color exactly just how you see this. One political writer here in Texas saying that there might be a blue wave of Democratic turnout in Texas, as we've seen so far in the primary voting yesterday, but it is hitting a red wall.

One of the races that was getting the most attention is the race for U.S. Senate, where incumbent Ted Cruz, who is finishing up his first term in Congress as a senator, is facing this upstart candidate and congressman from El Paso named Beto O'Rourke. And he's been -- he's kind of known here for -- over the course of the last year basically traveling all over the state, hitting almost all of the 254 counties in Texas. Beto won the primary last night with about 60 percent of the vote. Ted Cruz easily won. He went on with 85 percent of the vote in the Republican side.

But what is interesting here is that even though Democratic turnout is perhaps the highest we've seen in an off-year election since 2002, about a -- just over a million people voted in that Texas Senate race primary yesterday. Ted Cruz' side, in that election, 1.5 million. So that kind of goes back to the blue wave. But it is still an uphill climb.

But Ted Cruz says he's taking this very seriously and he didn't waste any time, just seconds after the polls closed yesterday, he released this radio ad about his opponent, O'Rourke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): I remember reading stories liberal Robert wanted to fit in, so he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin. Beto wants those open borders and he wants to take our guns. Not a chance on earth he'll get a vote from millions of Texans.


[06:35:16] LAVANDERA: So that -- you'll probably be hearing a lot of that.

So exactly how all of these numbers will translate to the general election come November, kind of hard to say at this point. But, you know, everyone will be opining on that today, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right, well, thank you very much, Ed. We should let everybody know that coming up on NEW DAY, we will speak with both candidates in the Texas Senate race, Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O'Rourke. So stick around for that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a big theme that we keep hearing about in the headlines is this nonstop revolving door in the West Wing. It matters because of consistency and competency when it comes to making policy for this country. And now we have a new wrinkle in the chaos. A lawsuit filed by a porn star and a president who claims all of this is OK. A closer look, next.


[06:39:59] CUOMO: So the president is saying that any report of chaos in the White House is untrue. There's just great energy. And then his economic adviser resigned. Gary Cohn, the latest in a string of departures. Just look at your screen of the talent that have bled out of that White House since he took office.

Let's discuss the implications of this rapid turnover. Does it mean that there's enough stability there? We have former Trump campaign senior adviser Michael Caputo.

It's good to have you.


CUOMO: All right, so I don't think that time is well spent arguing about whether or not there's too much turnover and chaos and whether -- it's going on. The question is, what does it mean for stewardship and following through for the American people? What is your concern about this?

CAPUTO: Well, I'm not truly -- I'm truly not that concerned. I mean we have the first businessman elected president of the United States. He didn't come with a deep bench of political hangers on who were looking for jobs. In fact, up until the very end of the campaign, and even the day after, people didn't think he was ever going to win.

So he comes in, first of all, without a deep bench. In addition to that, he put in charge this chief of staff and others within the White House of people who weren't supporting him all that much and were looking -- and, you know, were putting in people who didn't support him all that much. So I don't -- first of all, I don't expect that he would have that many people lined up for jobs because they didn't expect him to win. Second of all, a lot of people he put in there weren't really Trump people.

CUOMO: Forty-three percent turnover in 14 months. When you compare it to 12 months, because we don't have a metric for 14 months, but the rate, it's not even close.

And it's not just the number, OK? It winds up being the quality, Michael. That becomes the concern. Where's your consistency on policy? Why it's so hard for them to put out policies? How it is that they are able to liaise with different members of Congress. They've had efficiency issues. You know this. You know people in there.


CUOMO: This is a big reason why.

CAPUTO: It is. But at the same time, you know, there are a lot of us who were original Trump supporters, you know, OT as they say, and we're kind of baffled as to why people that we know, who want to get in, can't get in. There's a lot of problems with -- with Trump actors who were kind of, you know, palms up. They don't recognize anybody on the phone list.

So I think perhaps what the White House could do -- one of the things they could do -- is start bringing in more people who were supportive from him from the very beginning. But in addition to that, be a little bit more careful about the people that they bring in. Make sure that -- for example, Gary Cohn, someone who was close to the president, who's advice the president really valued, did not buy into the president's agenda on tariffs. We all knew that he was -- he was on it. He was going to leave. He had been talking about it for weeks. And when the tariffs come up, something he agreed with the president on vehemently, he was bound to go.

CUOMO: The deeper read -- you're right, but there's a deeper read also, which is that Cohn had been gathering energy in that White House. He'd been becoming more important, as is Kellyanne Conway, on the policy side. And that the problem for a lot of these bigshots up at the top is, this man won't listen to me. That this adage that it's really about the last person in the room is true, and that's not the way to manage at that level. And it's frustrating for people who regard their advice as being valuable. Is that something that can ever change?

CAPUTO: Well, I believe, first of all, that gathering momentum so that you can change the president's mind on something he has fundamentally believed since the 1980s is not a good way to go about things. I mean the president, on tariffs and trade, has been, you know, an America first believer for a long, long time but it becomes --

CUOMO: On trade. He didn't always say, I'll put on tariffs. It's the means that they're upset with, with him right now. You want to change the trade balance? Fine. You want to change the trade deals? Go ahead. That's not where he's getting resistance.

CAPUTO: Well, I've heard him talk about tariffs since I've known him. But at the same time, if you look at -- like, for example, another issue, like gun violence, he's open-minded about this, even though people see his -- the support from the NRA as being something (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Well, he's got some last voice in the room problem there also, right? He comes out, he says one thing in his little -- the televised extravaganza. Then he meets with the NRA and all of a sudden he pulls back on something else. And now we haven't heard anything.

CAPUTO: It's the battle of ideas, Chris. It's -- this was -- you know, I --

CUOMO: But what about his own principles? What about stuff that he believes? That gun -- gun issues are not new. You know, I mean he's lived with these his own life. Doesn't he have his own idea? Isn't there anything that's really deeply seeded in him?

CAPUTO: True. There is. And I remember when we were trying to recruit the president to run for governor of New York state, one of the issues that was really on the forefront of everything was the SAFE Act here in New York and the president would sit down and listen. That big round -- that big square table at Trump Tower and he would -- he would listen to one side and then the other. It was an issue that was really important to him. His sons were there, who are very pro-Second Amendment.

I saw the battle of ideas in Trump Tower. I haven't seen it in the White House. But I know it's got to be intense there as well. And the president likes that battle of idea. Some people call it chaos, but we call it the battle of ideas.

CUOMO: No, battle of ideas is not unusual in politics. And you're having people fight --

CAPUTO: And it was -- under Jack Kempf (ph) we did it every day.

CUOMO: Right. Right. And it's not unusual, right? And Kempf was a big proposal of that. And so were a lot of Democrats. That's not unusual. People running out of the house because of the process, that's different. And I don't think certainly happened with Kempf, but it didn't happen with any of the other people.

[06:45:09] All right, one other issue I want to get your head on.

Stormy Daniels could be dismissed as tabloid fodder. Whether it happened or it didn't happen now, in her pleadings she's saying once again that they had an illicit affair -- she doesn't call it illicit but they had an affair. Factual or not, it's a little bit of the opinion baked in. When we look at the poll numbers, did he have an affair? Probably. Has he had other ones? Probably. Do I care? Not so much. However, do you have concerns, as a Trump supporter, about what

happens if he sits across from somebody like me, except they work for the federal government, and they start asking him questions about this?

CAPUTO: I would think that -- I wouldn't want the president sitting across from Mueller under any circumstances. But, you know, of course, that's something that's very hard to avoid.

CUOMO: He says he has nothing to hide. He looks forward to it. He wants to tell the truth.

CAPUTO: I get that. It makes me nervous. It makes me nervous because it doesn't matter who you are -- I mean I think State Senator Jesus H. Christ could be caught in a lie in front of a Director Mueller. Absolutely.

CUOMO: I don't. I don't. I mean forget about -- forget about your Christian faith, but the --

CAPUTO: But look -- but look, this is a -- this is a --

CUOMO: If he's got nothing to hide, why wouldn't he sit down?

CAPUTO: I think he's going to sit down. He says he had nothing to hide. It makes me nervous because I -- I don't want the president of the United States, whether it's Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, stepping into these kinds of traps, right?

But at the same time, here on this we have a woman who has sex for money wanting more money. And I think there's a lot more to this than meets the eye.

CUOMO: I know. The question is, did it happen? Would you be truthful about it happening? Did you know about the deal? Her morality, the morality of the whole situation aside, if it comes down to truth and falsity, could be an issue.

CAPUTO: I get that.

CUOMO: Michael Caputo, thank you very much.

CAPUTO: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: Always a pleasure. Thanks for being on the show.



The president now vows to stop Russian meddling in the midterms. So what's the plan? We discuss that, next.


[06:50:44] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, the Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever. But certainly there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals. And I think you have to be really watching very closely. You don't want your system of votes to be compromised in any way. And we won't allow that to happen.


CAMEROTA: All right, that was President Trump saying it might not be only Russia trying to influence U.S. elections. And he said the U.S. is ready to fight any meddling attempts. CNN has learned the Trump administration could impose new sanctions on Russian entities as soon as next week.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN political analysts David Gregory and John Avlon.

OK, so that was a little bit of different language, David Gregory, that the president has used. He said there was certainly meddling. You know, this is the person who's called the investigation into Russian meddling a hoax, a witch hunt. So something seems to have shifted inside the White House. And new sanctions against Russia?


CAMEROTA: What's happening?

GREGORY: I don't know. I mean, you know, it's too difficult to pin him down on this because we've gone from it could be some overweight guy in his basement doing this, to the Chinese as well, instead of zeroing in on what our intelligence agencies actually know, what the threat is and working specifically to deal with the threat, and not always doing so in a public way. I mean we keep clamoring for it because he seems to not take any of it seriously. And even speaking off the cuff like that, I think he diminishes its seriousness by saying, well, we'll have backups, we'll have paper ballots. I want to say, please tell me your system here and your strategy is more than, we're going to have paper backups here.

But, you know, any sign of taking it more seriously I think is a hopeful one. I just don't see the evidence that they're doing something (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: Right. That's the problem. So you can give him a gentle pat on the back that he's just not outright, you know, lying about what happened during the election anymore.


CUOMO: And that he's seeming to get away from conflating it making him illegitimate and their efforts in the election. That's been his problem.

However, the new problem is, they're not doing anything about it.


CUOMO: We've had all of these top intel guys, his guys, saying he hasn't ordered us to do it. No, we don't really have a plan in place. We're not really looking at doing it. Even his suggestion was, well, if that happens during the election, well come at them. That's too late if that's when you start doing something.


AVLON: It's definitionally (ph) late. And you can give him a pat on the back for baby steps towards admitting you've got a problem, but, I mean, you're talking tough, but the administration not doing anything is totally insufficient.

To your point, we know from the intel community's testimony on Capitol Hill, no orders have been given by the White House. Nothing has been done. We know that "The New York Times" reported that Tillerson, the secretary of state, that the State Department has $120 million allocated to get tough. They've spent zero. When has government ever had a problem spending money? It's because there's been a lack of focus from the executive. So he can talk tough, that's great, but unless there's follow through, it's totally meaningless.

CAMEROTA: But also -- I mean, just to make clear, the intel chiefs are not saying, so, because we haven't gotten a directive, we're sitting on our hands.


CAMEROTA: They're saying that they're doing things.


CAMEROTA: Just so that everybody knows. But they haven't gotten a directive to do so from the White House.

CUOMO: But -- and that's a meaningful distinction. There is always cyber wars going on, OK? The U.S. is very active in that. Some say that they are an aggressor as well as a defender on the issue, and that's fine, right? That's the state of play.

But on this specifically and how you are hardening your systems for this next election, they don't have a plan. They don't have a strategy. They don't have direction from the White House. That matters.

GREGORY: Can I bring up something that I think is a big problem as we move forward. You know, the notion of what we consider to be truth as being suspect that we can no longer trust something as being truthful.

Obviously journalists have a big role to play in covering elections moving forward, calling out things that are on social media and other places that are not accurate. That is an important function of the press.

The government has a role to play in this as well. And this is where it gets complicated when you have a White House of one party that will be advocating for a particular candidate. They cannot play that role of saying, by the way, this was wrong.

A lot of what Russia did, based on what we know, is push on an open door of cynicism and skepticism and the public about what is accurate and they have a role to play in counteracting that. And it is something that has to be public. I mean there's a lot that can be done and should be done privately that the public doesn't know about that can be effective. But I think the government has an opportunity to say, hey, this was wrong. Russia is doing it. We're going to call it out. That's part of what makes it effective if you call it out as it happens.

[06:55:05] CAMEROTA: OK, other news that we have to get to, and that is, the Department of Justice, the Trump administration, is now suing California over its sanctuary laws, saying that it's unconstitutional. So what do we think's going to happen, John?

AVLON: Well, look, I mean, you know, first it's -- (INAUDIBLE) free trade, now federalism. This is not a traditional Republican administration. This is about bad blood on immigration. They're trying to basically -- brush back pitch (ph) to California, which they see as the opposite of everything that Donald Trump believes in, going after sanctuary cities. This is another -- a more -- you know, sticking a finger in the wound on immigration debates in this country. And the administration is not backing down. It sets up a real fight between the AG of California, the governor and the president.

CUOMO: And a final nod to David Gregory on this. It plays into exactly the point that he just made, how can the White House make an adjustment on what's real and what's fake and get away from identity politics when they're playing it actively into their favor.

AVLON: Every day.

CAMEROTA: David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you very much.

And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN "NEWSROOM" is next. For our U.S. viewers, global markets and U.S. stock futures are down sharply, responding to Gary Cohn's resignation, or the chaos. So Wall Street's bracing for an ugly selloff. We'll get to all of that, next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a president who manages and governs by chaos.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I read, well, oh, gee, maybe people don't want to work for Trump. And, believe me, everybody wants to work in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gary Cohn's been a very constructive force. I think that's a very big loss. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His leaving was perhaps a moment when he said,

look, I'm not going to win this tariff fight.

TRUMP: We're going to straighten it out. It will be a loving, loving way.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress, is now suing the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the American people really care about that. They care about jobs and the economy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't pay hush money if there's nothing to hush.

[07:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: March either comes in like a lamb or a lion. And it's certainly coming in like a pride of lions apparently.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winter isn't over just yet.

CAMEROTA: Fifty million people bracing for another nor'easter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drive safe or stay home.