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Veterans on VA Pick; Cool Temperatures Grip Northeast; MLB Opening Day; Trump Fires Shulkin; Hope Hicks' Last Day; Trump Calls Roseanne Barr. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired March 29, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Operation resulted in the death of an ISIS-Khorasan commander and other terrorist fighter. Many of the U.S. operations in Afghanistan are now focusing on eliminating the terror group's ability to recruit foreign fighters.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A funeral will be held today for Stephon Clark. He's the unarmed 22-year-old who was gunned down by police in his grandmother's California backyard this month. Authorities say they are preparing for more protests after a week of demonstrations. The Sacramento Kings releasing a statement saying they have a security plan in place after protesters blocked the entrance to their arena twice in the past week.

All right, so ahead on NEW DAY, we will speak with the lawyer for Stephon Clark's family, Benjamin Crump.

CUOMO: All right, President Trump's pick to overtake the Veterans Affairs Department raising some concerns for veterans groups. The head of one of those groups tells us why they have concerns, next.


[06:35:01] CUOMO: All right, so it looks like we're going to have a new V.A. Secretary. Of course there's going to have to be confirmation. So let's talk about some of the questions that are being raised about the qualifications and positions of President Trump's pick to lead the VA.

Trump's nominee is White House Physician Dr. Ronny Jackson. He's an admiral. But, as far as we know, he has no management experience.

So, we wanted to bring in the veteran perspective here. Paul Rieckhoff is the founder and CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the IAVA. Now they released a statement in part saying, firing a VA secretary is easy compared to finding someone who can effectively do the job.

We have P.J. joining us now.

As always, good to see you, brother. Thank you for your service. Happy Easter.


CUOMO: The VA has had some improvements. Shulkin pointed out in his good-bye letter that they went from 45 satisfaction to 70 satisfaction. But that belies that there are huge issues. There's been huge turnover at the top. What is your concern now?

RIECKHOFF: Well, here we go again. I mean since I got home from Iraq in 2004, this is the third VA secretary to resign or be fired in scandal, right? We had Jim Nicholson under Bush. Then we had Shinseki under Obama. Now we've got Shulkin under Trump. So here we go again. It's a lot of tumult, it's a lot of upheaval, it's a lot of changes in leadership.

And as you discussed in your earlier segment, I mean the VA's a monster for any leader to try to manage effectively. And when the changeover happens, it's very disruptive to the front line personnel at the VA, it's very disruptive to the veterans that depend on it for care. So that trend for the last decade and a half is something that can't be overlooked. I mean that's what veterans are dealing with on the ground in communities nationwide while all this drama happens in Washington.

CUOMO: He is an admiral, Ronny Jackson. He has worked for different president administrations. So they're listing those as qualifications for him. He's an admiral, so don't worry about the management experience.


CUOMO: And he's worked for Democrats and Republicans, so he's non- partisan. You guys should like that.

Is that enough?

RIECKHOFF: No. I mean he's going to have a very hard row to hoe to try to convince people that he's qualified.

I mean let's take a step back again. General Shinseki was a four star Army general, was the chief of staff of the Army, and it took him a couple years to get the handle on how to run VA on a basic level. So, you know, just because you were a soldier doesn't mean you're qualified to be the secretary of defense. I mean this guy has really got a tough job.

Nobody really knows who he is. Is he an empty vessel? Does he have strong views on privatization, on reforming the VA, we don't know. So the confirmation hearings are going to be really, really important.

The Senate, the House, time for you guys to step up and really grill this guy and find out if he's qualified to not only run the agency, but care for our veterans in a time of war. You know people tend to forget, we're a country at war. Folks are coming back -- men and women are coming back every single day. They need to know if this guy's up for the task.

CUOMO: Even though he's a member of the military, if you guys, when you're hearing the vetting, you're not impressed, will you come out against it?

RIECKHOFF: Yes. I mean we'll let our members speak. I mean they were very vocal about Shulkin. They weren't happy about how things were going over the last couple of weeks. But the veterans groups are also holding the line on privatization. That's the bigger fight here. You and I have --

CUOMO: All right, so let's talk about that, because Shulkin says in his good-bye letter, he doesn't really talk about -- you know, he says these are false allegations. Whatever. He's gone. It doesn't matter anymore.


CUOMO: But he says this is about privatization. That there are those in this administration who believe that that's the key, reduce or even replace the VA by putting -- letting veterans get out in the private. The plus side is, oh, the private sector does everything better than government, so it will be better for our veterans.

RIECKHOFF: Better, right.

CUOMO: There are a lot of concerns as well. Where is your organization on this?

RIECKHOFF: Well, this is the bigger political fight that goes back years. I mean Shulkin's legacy may not be his time as VA secretary, but what he chooses to do now. Is he going to come out and be an advocate and really right this fight, or is he going to go quietly? You know, the veterans groups have held the line on privatization saying they don't want it, right? Privatization has gotten more popular with most of American and they're open to it. But, at the end of the day, we see that the economics don't work and the effectiveness doesn't work.

There was a recent Rand (ph) study that said here in New York state, most private hospitals, private care providers aren't ready for veterans coming in. So it's got to not only be an idea, it's got to -- it's got to work.

CUOMO: Not ready in terms of capacity? Shulkin also mentioned the complexity --

RIECKHOFF: Capacity, training, finances. Yes, this has been -- this has been a political pipe dream for some. But there's another side of it. It's not all ideological. Some of it is profit driven. We're talking about $250 billion at the VA. That is a massive amount of money that a lot of companies, organizations, interests want a piece of. They want to get a piece of that and see if they can do it better. If they can -- some of them want to line their pockets. But veterans have to be the key here. They have to be the center of any kind of reform and they should be the voice that drives the conversation. Not even the politicians. Not even the president. They should be talking to veterans groups especially who understand this stuff inside and out.

CUOMO: Now, maybe as a plus , if you have someone that the president likes, right, and by all accounts he does --


CUOMO: It may be easier to get his ear. Because we saw what just happened in this omnibus bill. The thing's 2,200 pages long, so everybody was going for their pork in there, right? Something to bring home.


CUOMO: This was their last big deal before the midterms. We get it.

But you guys had a deal on the table that they were banging out about really needing reforms for the VA and it didn't make the cut in the omnibus bill. Maybe if you have a guy running it that the president likes more, thinks is his guy, maybe you don't get cut out the next time.

RIECKHOFF: I mean that shouldn't be the driver here. And access to the president's a problem. That's a problem for the president, not for the secretary. And the president watches CNN. So the secretary's got to get on CNN and appeal to the president. That's what they should do here.

But they've really got to get down and understand, this is not easy. This is going to be a very complicated thing. You can't just wave a magic wand and fix the VA. A lot of people come in and say I'm going to clean up the VA, in the same way they said they're going to clean up Washington. But it's where politicians with big ideas generally go to die.

[06:40:15] This is the biggest challenge facing a president. You know, can you really make this one work. This is the one below the radar that means life and death for men and women who serve. That's a real challenge. And often it's a breaking point.

CUOMO: Do veterans believe, as you can tell from your surveys and yours and others experience anecdotally that you hear about, that the VA is still the best model of how to care for injured veterans?

RIECKHOFF: For some. Right. I mean it's not a one size fits all. There's an old saying, if you've seen one VA, you've seen one VA. It is inconsistent.

The quality of care is generally rated very high. Consistently rated high. So the folks who do get into care generally say it's good and they're happy with it. But getting into care is definitely too much of a problem. Rural areas or the remote areas have had a hard time evolving. Women don't get the care they need. This is a very old bureaucracy that's got to be dragged forward into modern times. And they haven't done a good job. And changing VA secretaries every couple years doesn't make it any easier.

CUOMO: Last word to you. What do you want the American people to know right now about here the point of the struggle is for veterans? RIECKHOFF: Don't forget about this. Right. Something crazy is going to

happen in Washington any minute and the VA's going to kind of fall by the wayside. Give it a couple weeks. We're going to have confirmation hearings in Washington for Jackson. That's going to be a really critical point. It's bigger than VA. It's even bigger than veterans. This is about our politics. This is about whether special interests will cut out veterans' voices, grassroots voices, veterans services organizations, or if we can we rise up and keep them accountable.

CUOMO: We will stay on it. You will help us do that.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you, my friend. Appreciate it.

CUOMO: Thank you very much, P.J. Happy Easter to you.

RIECKHOFF: You too, bud.

CUOMO: Alisyn.


Hope springs eternal on opening day. Whatever that means. So are you ready for or some baseball? The "Bleacher Report" is next.


[06:45:52] CAMEROTA: Warmer temperatures expected in the northeast, but winter's grip is not over and there are big storms in the south.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has our forecast.

I'm grateful for the northeast, but what are you seeing elsewhere?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, very much spring. I mean a lot of rainfall, some severe weather, and then the warm and then the cold and it goes back and forth. A lot of rain today across the Midwest. Flash flood watches and warnings all the way through the area, from Texas all the way up even into West Virginia.

But it's the mild air that gets to New York for a while, and then cool air gets in here later in the weekend. Sunday into Monday, things really do cool down for the northeast. Now they're already cool in Chicago by Easter Sunday. We're talking 39 for a high. Temperatures in the 20s for morning low temperatures.

Now, New York City, you're going to be slightly better than that because you're going to be on the east side of the cold air. The cold air will be parked right over the Midwest. So here we are in the 50s. It's down into the 40s. And all my producers up there in New York want 70s, but you're going to have to wait for a little bit, or come down here, Chris, and watch the Masters, because that's what we'll have down here in Georgia, 70s. Some rain overnight tonight, but we're good.

CUOMO: Very nice. No, no, no, Easter. Easter, big family time. Big family time. Got to be home. But otherwise I appreciate the invitation. Thank you very much. And rebirth and renewal to you, my friend. Have a good Easter.

MYERS: You too.

CUOMO: All right, opening day for Major League Baseball is here. Will the Yankees win their 28th World Series title this season?

Andy Scholes with the "Bleacher Report."

They are always a contender. Always a contender.


Yes, we'll see. The Houston Astros might have something to say about that, though.

CUOMO: Pish, pish.

SCHOLES: No, opening day, though, always one of the best days on the sports calendar. Every fan base can feel like they have a good chance to have a great season.

This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by Ford, going further so you can.

But after acquiring reigning national league MVP Giancarlos Stanton to pair with rookie of the year Aaron Judge, most publications, including "Bleacher Report," are predicting the Yankees to win the World Series this year. But that is probably more bulletin, more material for the Houston Astros. After winning more than 100 games last season and the World Series, they're poised to be even better this year.

And, hey, if you want to skip out on work or school early today to watch some baseball, MLB's got you covered. They've posted this excuse note to Instagram. Just write your name in there and print it out, Alisyn, and we'll see if it works.


SCHOLES: But, Alisyn, you don't even need an excuse note, because you'll be off in time to watch the games all afternoon.

CAMEROTA: Oh, goody. That's great news, Andy. Thank you so much for that.

All right, so the ratings for the "Roseanne" reboot were huge. And President Trump apparently took notice. He called Roseanne Barr a real life Trump supporter to congratulate her. And Maggie Haberman will be here with her reporting on that phone call, next.


[06:52:48] CAMEROTA: President Trump nominating the White House doctor, his personal doctor now, Ronny Jackson, to be the new Veterans Affairs secretary. David Shulkin, the latest to be shown the doctor as President Trump has now shed half of his senior staff since taking office. Joining us now on the phone is CNN political analyst and "New York

Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.

Good morning, Maggie.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): Good morning.

CAMEROTA: So tell us your reporting about how it came to pass that Dr. Ronny Jackson is now the president's pick to head the VA.


So Trump likes Dr. Jackson personally quite a bit. And what you're seeing once again is that he really prefers his personal chemistry with someone over their actual curriculum vitae (ph) for a job. Dr. Jackson has no managerial experience. A lot of people are readily concerned about that in the White House and how he will do in his confirmation hearings.

But the president really likes his company, likes talking to him. He's well liked in the White House. By Monday afternoon the president was speaking very effusively about the idea of Dr. Jackson doing this to a very small number of people within the White House. The president also has been advised by his friend, Ike Perlmutter on what the selection should be. Perlmutter supposedly thinks well of his choice.

Again, it should not be a surprise, I guess, since we know this president, for his second year, is comprising a cabinet based with people he personally feels comfortable with. This is another example.

CUOMO: Do we know anything about whether or not Dr. Jackson has ever managed anything?

HABERMAN: My understanding is no. I suppose I could be corrected and it will turn out that there will be some -- some sort of relatively small instance in him running something.

But, no, Chris, this is a sprawling bureaucracy and a very troubled one that he'll be taking over and a major question is whether he can do that.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about Hope Hicks's departure. Today is her last day. Obviously she's been by the president's side even before he was president. She's a trusted friend and confidante and aide. And so why the holdup in naming who would be the next director of communications?

HABERMAN: I think a couple of reasons. I think that John Kelly is not exactly sure what he wants to do with that job. I think there are other people weighing in, such as Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

[06:55:07] And, again, Hope Hicks, as you both know very well, does not play a typical communications director role. She is, you know, essentially a right hand to this president. She has had to handle all manner of situations. She's often somebody who he bounces things off of. That is her role more than coming up with a strategic vision for

communicating a message, which is almost impossible for anyone to do with this president. I think everybody knows that there's no one who can fill the role that Hope Hicks actually does play for the president. So there's not a huge rush. But in the meantime, there is this, you know, aggressive campaign by a couple of people to try to get it for themselves.

CUOMO: So who do you got? Handicap it for us. Who are the -- who's in the running? Who's in the lead?

HABERMAN: In the run -- sure. Look, I mean I think the person who the president wants to have take it is Kellyanne Conway. It's not clear to me that she actually wants to do that. But he has wanted her in that role for quite some time because it -- what he believes the role should be and a lot of it is about someone who he (INAUDIBLE). There are people who think that she would actually help sort of calm down the temperature. The president is constantly railing about the number of people who work in the communications department.

The other two main contenders are Mercedes Schlapp, who's already there in the communications shop, and Tony Siag (ph), who works for Treasury, who is very well liked. Mercedes Schlapp is also very well- liked by some and has experience. Neither of these people are people who have a relationship with this president. And so I suspect that whoever actually gets it is not going to be anyone that I mentioned.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about Roseanne Barr. There was the "Roseanne" reboot last night. It's come back after so many years. And it got huge ratings. So let's watch a little clip of it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?

ROSEANNE BARR, ACTRESS, "ROSEANNE": He talked about jobs, Jackie. He said he'd shake things up. I mean this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house the way things are going.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you looked at the news? Because now things are worse.

BARR: Not on the real news.



CAMEROTA: Well, they are just touching all of the hot button issues. I mean Roseanne plays a Trump supporter in the show and she's in real life Trump supporter. And you have some reporting about how President Trump feels about this and what he did.

HABERMAN: Sure. He -- this president, as we know, is quite ratings obsessed and quite television obsessed and also obsessed with his own supporters who are portraying him in a good light and defending him, which is what happened on the revival of the "Roseanne" show.

So yesterday, at some point, he called her and congratulated her on how good the ratings were. Thanked her for doing the show. The show is, as you heard from that clip that you played, supposed to be embodying some of the real life debates that a lot of people are having about his presidency. And that was something that he took time out to thank her for.

CUOMO: I think -- I think that's an interesting trend with Roseanne too. You know, we're seeing these older shows come back right now.

You know what would be perfect for now? "All In the Family."

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

HABERMAN: Oh, yeah.

CUOMO: "All In the Family."

CAMEROTA: A great idea.

CUOMO: Because, you know, we've gotten away from these types of families in entertainment. You know, we -- we see all these shows now that are about the new families, you know, and the modern era. So what they did was they folded that into "Roseanne."


CUOMO: You know, they have all kinds of diversity of characters in it. But they're getting back to that thing.

You know, you say he's ratings obsessed. What have you heard about the 22 million number for "60 Minutes" watching Stormy Daniels, that interview? How has that resonated around the White House?

HABERMAN: I mean, look, he has tried not talking about that part or even mentioning it if he knows it. He has talked about her credibility. The stand was, this is not real. She's not his type. You know, and sort of the usual playbook.

At the White House, they are trying really hard not to talk about this as much as possible, amongst themselves and with him. He is not obsessing about it the way we have seen him obsess about many things. People can read into that as they will. But it is not going away. And the longer it keeps up, the likelier, I think, it is that he hits back.

CUOMO: Who would have ever thought that Stormy Daniels would get more people than Donald Trump did in his first big interview after he won for president of the United States. I think he had 19 million. At the time he tweeted, this was the hugest rating that "60 Minutes" had had in a long time, which was true. Stormy Daniels beat him.

CAMEROTA: News flash, people like salacious stories.

CUOMO: True. True. I just didn't know that much. CAMEROTA: Right.

Maggie, thank you very much for sharing your reporting with us.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you CNN "TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll never have to use those words on our David.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every nine days there's a major firing or resignation, and March has been particularly bloody.

[07:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the case of Secretary Shulkin, it seemed as though there is a real policy battle going on underneath the surface.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not hiring qualified people, he's hiring people who look the part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not right to be dangling pardons unless you have something you want to cover up.