Return to Transcripts main page


Democratic Conor Lamb Declares Victory In PA. House Race; Nationwide School Walkout For Gun Control Today; British Prime Minister To Address Russian Nerve Agent Attack; Interview With Rep. Charlie Dent; Interview With Rep. Seth Moulton. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We ask a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, next.



CONOR LAMB (D), PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE CANDIDATE: I made a promise to the people of this district, the 18th district, that I would campaign for them, that I would listen to them, and if I was given the opportunity that I would serve them and them alone. And so, I plan to spend the rest of this year fully representing the people in this district and fulfilling the promise that I made and we'll let the rest of it shake out.


CAMEROTA: All right. The Democrat, Conor Lamb, is claiming victory in the special congressional election the heart of Trump country in Pennsylvania.

CNN is not yet calling the race but the tight margin marks a major swing in a district that President Trump won by nearly 20 points.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania who is retiring at the end of the year. Good morning, Congressman.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, Alisyn. Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

So what do you make of what appears to be Conor Lamb's victory at this hour?

DENT: Well, if Conor Lamb clings to this 600-vote lead, and he may, well then that would be quite a political earthquake.

[07:35:00] What we've seen is that there have been about four special House elections this year -- Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, and now Pennsylvania, as well as Georgia. In each of those races, the Republican candidates have seriously underperformed the president with the exception of Georgia. They all underperformed the members who preceded them and so it's pretty clear to me that we are running into a very major headwind.

This district -- while it's a plus 20 Trump district a lot of that vote -- you could also call it a minus 20 Hillary district. People didn't like Hillary Clinton very much there. And so, I think as Republicans we have to very careful looking at these margins because it's not simply about the president's performance.

The president won, in part, because of his popularity in some districts but also because of how unpopular Hillary Clinton was. And so, Hillary's not on the ballot this November but members of Congress will be. So you just can't take comfort in whatever the president's margin of victory was, particularly if it was a large margin.

CAMEROTA: So how nervous are Republicans this morning?

DENT: Well, I think this is a -- I think most Republicans realize they're running into a very serious headwind -- hurricane-force wind. It's coming and we have to be ready for it.

Some of our members in the marginal districts -- the swing districts -- are better prepared for these fights frankly than some members in safer seats.

And I'll tell you what, if you're a Republican member in a pretty safe seat like this one was, that's where I'd be nervous because those members are not used to running these types of competitive -- in these competitive situations. That is really what's going to, I think, really be the big issue.

The marginal swing districts, they know they're in for a fight. It's these guys in these safer seats. I think this is a wake-up call for them.

CAMEROTA: What do you think this, what appears to be a narrow victory by Conor Lamb, says about Donald Trump?

DENT: Well, this election, I believe, is really more about the national political environment, certainly in Pennsylvania as well as across the country.

This election is going to be a referendum on our party and particularly on the President of the United States and his conduct in office. That's really going to be the driving theme of this election just as it was in 2010 when it was all about the Democrats and Barack Obama. This is going to be the same type of dynamic.

So sure, there are some differences in the candidates. I suspect they'll be a narrative out there that our candidate wasn't the preferred candidate. Conor Lamb was their preferred candidate. You're going to hear that.

But at the end of the day, it was a little less about the candidates and a lot more about the national environment.

CAMEROTA: And does this mean, to your mind, that Independents are souring on President Trump? I mean, just connect the dots for me. DENT: Well, yes. I think -- I've seen polling data in this district as well as others where Independents are moving against us a bit more as Republicans. That's certainly the case. I've seen that in polling data all over the country, in this district and nationally, so that is true.

And so I think that we have to -- if you're a Republican running in this election cycle you better be able to develop your own brand and sell yourself because if you're just simply going to try to run on the -- you know, say the president's coattails or the -- or the -- or the national environment, you're going to -- you could get swept up and swept out.

CAMEROTA: Look, as you know, President Trump actually went to this district to campaign for Rick Saccone, the Republican. Should he continue to do that? That -- do Republican want President Trump to campaign for them?

DENT: Well, if you're -- if you're a member of Congress -- a Republican member of Congress representing a swing or marginal district where the president didn't do particularly well, you certainly don't want the president to come in and campaign for you. That will not help.

So where the president might be of help are for some members in some very ruby red districts. But then again, those seats aren't -- shouldn't really be in play anyway. So again, in the marginal seats -- I'll say in the counties of Philadelphia, in my district, over into New Jersey and New York, I don't know that having the president come in in those districts -- in suburban districts will be particularly helpful.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly while I have you, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as you know, was fired yesterday. It came as a surprise to him, he says.

Does that shake-up cause you concern?

DENT: Yes, it does. Rex Tillerson is a good man and he was dealt a very bad hand. And he didn't play particularly well. He was really never set up for success.

I mean, he walks into the office and he gets a 30 percent cut -- proposed cut to his budget. He can't hire anybody. He gets undercut by the president on diplomat issues like North Korea. So he was always in a tough spot.

So I'll tell you what, this is a -- in the State Department right now we don't have enough qualified people here because many of the top Republican foreign policy officials and national security establishment types were disqualified from serving because of comments they made about candidate Trump.

So I'm concerned. I didn't like the way Rex Tillerson was fired. I thought that was very deplorable and unfortunate the way it happened. So there's a lot of chaos and anarchy and this is just more it. This

type of instability and uncertainty is really not helpful for American or for the administration.

[07:40:04] CAMEROTA: Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you very much for being on NEW DAY.

DENT: Thank you, Alisyn. Great to be with you.

CAMEROTA: You, too -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Chaos, anarchy, and instability in the White House. That's what a Republican congressman just said about what's going on with the Trump administration.

All right.

So, a big development today. Students across the country are going to walk out of class for 17 minutes in a show of solidarity for the victims of the Parkland school massacre. What's life like for students a month after the massacre? That's next.


CUOMO: Students and teachers across the country are staging a national walkout today. It's going to last minutes to honor the 17 people gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School one month ago today.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher talked to some of the survivors. She's in Parkland, Florida with more.

Diane, important piece at an important time. Thanks for doing it.


You know, there are almost 3,000 schools that are going to be participating in this walkout today but the eyes are going to be right here, for many, on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. These students are going to be reflecting on those that they lost but also everything that they've accomplished in the past month and what they plan to do in the future.


JACK MACLEOD, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: It makes me feel like we're making an impact and doing something.

[07:45:00] MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: We will not be silenced.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say they want to go down in history as more than just survivors. They want to be the force behind gun reform -- TANZIL PHILIP, SOPHOMORE, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: It's crazy that it took something like a school shooting for all of this to happen but it's now or never.

GALLAGHER: -- with relentless, unapologetic activism.

EMMA GONZALEZ, SENIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works, we call B.S.

GALLAGHER: In the wake of unbearable personal pain --

DANIEL TABARES, FRESHMAN, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: It's been really hard sometimes. I'm in grief, sometimes I'm in anger.

GALLAGHER: -- the impact of their advocacy, so far, is best perhaps summed up with the stroke of a pen. Florida Gov. Rick Scott signing several gun control measures that they demanded into law just three weeks after the shooting.

REBECCA SCHNEID, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: Not to be, I don't know, cocky or anything like that but honestly, I'm proud and it's all because of us. It's because we went up there and we've been fighting, and if we didn't do that then I have no doubt in my mind that that bill wouldn't have been passed.

SUZANNA BARNA, SENIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: I think that's part of the process. Start in the state and then move it up to a national level.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to get universal background checks.

GALLAGHER: But their efforts to sway Washington haven't moved at the same rapid pace, if at all.

SCHNEID: And even if we want it to happen overnight we know that our legislator -- that's not going to happen. We know. We understand that and that's because we're educated and because we're -- you know, we understand the way that the -- that the law works.

JULIA SALOMONE, SENIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: It's hard to not feel a little upset by the reaction in Washington but we're going to be there.

STUDENTS: Enough is enough. Enough is enough.

GALLAGHER: Most MSD students haven't had face time with lawmakers on the federal level.

KAI KOERBER, JUNIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: They haven't physically seen us. They haven't seen the passion that we have to offer --

GALLAGHER: -- yet. KEVIN TREJOS, SENIOR, MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FLORIDA: We're hoping some things get passed before the march on March 24th. If not, hopefully, our march puts as much pressure as possible so that they get something passed.

TABARES: They have to feel it. They have to know what we're feeling inside.

GALLAGHER: So, while they admit the next step is daunting, these accidental activists are quick to remind you --

MACLEOD: From the day after this happened at the rally you could tell that we weren't going to take no for answer. We were going to take this all the way to the top. And so, I'm hoping that Parkland is a representation of what America should be and what America could be.

GALLAGHER: -- they don't plan on stopping until gun reform spreads across the country.


GALLAGHER: And, of course, across the country the eye is going to be on Washington as well. There are going to be Senate hearings today about what may have been missed in this particular shooting. Both the Florida senators are expected to testify, as well as a teacher from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a parent of one of the children who were killed in that shooting.

The alleged gunman, he's going to be back in court today and Florida prosecutors have said they do intend to seek the death penalty -- Chris, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Dianne, it is so good to still have you on the ground there in Parkland bringing that reporting to us. Thank you.

So, United Airlines is apologizing for the death of a dog after a flight attendant ordered a passenger to put her pet in an overhead bin. Then there was a 3 1/2 hour flight from Houston to New York and the animal was found dead. United calls this quote, "a tragic accident" and admits the flight attendant made a mistake.

That's horrible.

CUOMO: Well legally, right, you're going to have what was the flight attendant's duty in this situation. An accident and a mistake --


CUOMO: -- are not the same thing.

CAMEROTA: You're right. That was a mistake.

CUOMO: An accident is if you step on the dog --


CUOMO: -- by mistake, and that's an accident that's a mistake.

But if you say I'm sorry -- ma'am, sir or whosever (ph) dog it was -- it has to go in the overhead -- which I've never heard and I fly certainly more than anybody who's watching this show right now and -- although unless you're in an airport and then maybe --


CUOMO: -- maybe you win.

But I've never seen this, I've never heard of it, and I can't find in the policies that are available online where this came from.

CAMEROTA: It's horrible. All right, we'll follow that.

CUOMO: Yes, right? All right.

So, a Democrat in Pennsylvania Trump country declaring victory in a pivotal House race. What can the party learn from this, and that means both parties, right?

We have a Democratic congressman, next.


[07:53:27] CUOMO: Democrat Conor Lamb claiming victory over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. CNN is not calling the House race. Why? Too close.

Democrats have a chance to take back the House in the fall, sure. Is this proof that they're heading in the right direction?

Let's discuss with Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. He's an Iraq War veteran.

Campaigned with Conor Lamb last weekend. I guess it's because of you if he wins, Congressman. You picked the right horse in this one.

What do you think about this race and its overall meaning?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, first of all, we have an extraordinary candidate in Conor Lamb. I mean, he is a true, humble public servant.

When I was walking around knocking on doors with him in his district this past weekend you could see just how genuine he is and how much people trusted him. People said you're the kind of person I would trust to take care of my kids and to represent my interests in Washington.

So having a great candidate matters -- having someone who is truly there to be a public servant, and the people in the district can see that.

CUOMO: Extraordinary, you say. So, extraordinary in this context could also be defined as not your typical Democrat, not lockstep. Doesn't check a lot of the boxes that you do as a traditional Democrat. Was outspoken in saying he would not back Pelosi if the House was overtaken by the Democrats.

Is this an indication that your party has to start picking candidates that match the people in the districts where you want to run?

[07:55:00] MOULTON: I mean, Chris, first of all, by your criteria that I'm not a traditional Democrat either, I think the point is that Conor and I are both trying to represent our districts. We're trying to represent the people that we are charged to serve and that's what I heard on the ground.

When we were -- when we were talking to one woman she said we just need change in Washington. We need change in both parties, and I think that is what Conor represents. That's what we need to bring a new generation of leadership to Washington.

The status quo isn't working and it's not just the Republicans. It's the status quo on both sides of the aisle.

CUOMO: Listen, it's a fair point for you to make. We have Tom Perez coming on.

But just to kind of size you guys coming -- size you guys up against one another, you are not pro-life, right?

MOULTON: Correct, correct.

CUOMO: He is.

MOULTON: Correct.

CUOMO: You --

MOULTON: He's pro-choice.

CUOMO: -- favor changes to gun control that might include restrictions of certain weapons. He does not. You know, these are big signature issues for Democrats.

If you guys did overtake the House you have not said that you wouldn't back Pelosi, right?

MOULTON: I was actually one of the leaders who stood up and said that we need to have an opportunity for other people to run. So I've actually been strongly identified with someone who's saying that it is time for change in our House leadership.

So I think that you've got two issues --

CUOMO: All right, so I'll give that one. And I'm not criticizing you, Seth. I'm just saying --

MOULTON: No, I understand.

CUOMO: I'm just trying to make the point that when Tom Perez comes on he's going to say we've always been a big-tent party.


CUOMO: We've always had all these different kinds of voices. That's not really true, OK, and if you look at what happened over time and why Democrats lost Houses you had two dynamics.

One, you lost a ton at the state level. That's out of your control but it led to redistricting efforts and that wound up playing into different House seats that you lost.

But also, it's because there has been one kind of candidate coming out of the party and you have to make a decision about whether that party is going to be centrist, meaning you have candidates that suit their jurisdiction, their district. Or, does the left win out in your party and everybody starts to have somewhat of the same views?

MOULTON: Well, you're referring to what a lot of people are asking right now which is, is the centrist part of the party going to win or the left? The reality is that if we're going to retake the House, if we're going to be a majority party then we need to include both. And fundamentally, we need to include people who represent their districts.

Now, you brought up two issues where Conor and I have some differences. That's healthy, that's good.

CUOMO: Sure.

MOULTON: That's a party that means that we have representatives who are in touch with their districts, not just in touch with what the party tells us to do. So I think that this is a healthy sign for the party that we are diverse, that we can represent districts all across America.

And one of the things that this shows -- this race shows is that when we're willing to put forward candidates everywhere -- I mean, so many people said that this is an impossible district. That Conor didn't have a chance of winning. That Trump had beaten Hillary by 20 points in this district so we shouldn't even try.

But, Conor got out there as an honest public servant, as someone who's down to earth and can represent the people that he knows, that he grew up, and he did well. So if we're willing to do that in races across the country I think we are going to take back the House and we're going to have a lot more success because we show that we're a party that can represent a wide variety of Americans.

CUOMO: It will be interesting to see if the party does take that direction.

Let me get your take on one other issue while I have you -- what's going on in the U.K. right now. We hear word that Theresa May may make a move to expel Russian diplomats in that country. It's not out yet, it's not official yet. We got a very mixed message from our own White House. We back our allies was the word from the White House but they never mentioned Russia -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders -- as to whom had been called responsible for this poisoning.

Theresa May had already come out and said they thought it was Russia. Now she's taking this step.

Do you expect this president -- or do you call on this president to name Russia and to take action?

MOULTON: I absolutely do. I call him -- I call on the president to simply listen to his own officials, his own administration which have said -- which have said from the very beginning that Russia is an enemy to the United States who has meddled in our democracy and is trying to counter us all across the globe.

So when the president refuses to acknowledge this he's refusing to acknowledge his own intelligence professionals, his own military, his own Department of Defense, and that's frightening for the United States. That's frightening for our national security.

I don't know what Putin has over Trump's head that makes Trump seemingly subservient to everything Putin wants him to do but we ought to find out because it's endangering our country's security.

CUOMO: Seth Moulton, thank you for coming on and testing these theories of what this race means and speaking on this matter of national security as well. Good to have you on the show, as always.

MOULTON: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, be well.

We're following a lot of news. What do you say? Let's get after it.

CAMEROTA: OK, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, March 14th, 8:00 in the east.

We do have some special election results. Democrat Conor Lamb declaring victory in the razor-tight House race in Pennsylvania. Lamb performing strongly in the state's 18th Congressional District, which Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points.