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Former V.A. Secretary Says He Did Not Resign; Jury Selection Begins Today In Bill Cosby Retrial; AT&T-Time Warner Merger Trial Set To Resume Today. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired April 2, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We will talk about that coming up because we have the ousted V.A. secretary David Shulkin. He says he was fired for his views. So, what does David Shulkin think the future of the V.A. is? He's next.


CAMEROTA: Ousted Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin left the administration last Thursday. He says he was fired because of his position on privatization. So what does this mean for veterans going forward?

Joining us now is former Veterans Affairs secretary Dr. David Shulkin. Dr. Shulkin, thanks for being here.


CAMEROTA: So you say that you were fired, the administration says that you resigned. And the reason this is important is because there's a law -- there's protocol that if you were fired, you're deputy needs to be put in place in an interim position, but that's not what happened.

So, is protocol being broken right now?

SHULKIN: Well, the Vacancy Act is a very complex piece of legislation where I think that there's not complete clarity on what happens next. I think that that's something that the administration will just need to figure out and I'm sure that they'll do the right thing.

[07:35:04] CAMEROTA: But were you fired or did you resign?

SHULKIN: Well, I came to Washington with the commitment to make our system work better for veterans. That's the commitment that I went to work every day. I continue to feel strongly about that. There was no reason why I would resign.

CAMEROTA: So why don't you just say you were fired?

SHULKIN: Well, I think that's the alternative to resignation. I received a phone call saying that the president wanted to make a change and that's certainly his prerogative to do that and that's what happened.

CAMEROTA: You received a phone call from chief of staff John Kelly who fired you?

SHULKIN: General Kelly gave me a heads-up that the president would most likely be tweeting out a message in the very near future, and I appreciated having that heads-up from Gen. Kelly.

CAMEROTA: So the tweet fired you?


CAMEROTA: So, do you think that you were fired because of your views on privatization?

SHULKIN: Well, every cabinet member serves at the pleasure of the president. I think the president needs to have a team around him that he feels comfortable with. This is his decision. I don't know exactly all the reasons that went into that and that's not something that's really that important to me.

I think that there's no doubt that there people around the president advising him that the V.A. needed to go in a different direction and that he needed to have different leadership in place in order to achieve his policy goals.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I know that you're not parsing what happened but it's certainly important for veterans. I mean, do you think that because of your views on privatization you had to go?

SHULKIN: This is all about the veterans, Alisyn -- there's no question. Look, I feel strongly that we were making very significant progress.

We had bipartisan support fixing the V.A., transforming it. We had improved wait times. We got 11 bills through Congress. I don't know any other area that had so much progress, and we were fixing the V.A.

I think to many people, our successes in the V.A. took away their ability to say that we needed to privatize the V.A.

CAMEROTA: Senator Bernie Sanders was on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday and he thinks that this means that the V.A. will move in the direction of privatization. Here he is.


SEN. BERNIE SANDER (I), VERMONT: I would strongly suspect that if you get rid of Shulkin, who opposed privatization, and you put Dr. Jackson in, that is what his mission will be. And I will do everything I can as a member of the Veterans Committee not to approve any nominee who is not going to strengthen the V.A. and who will oppose privatization.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Shulkin, do you think that's the direction the V.A. will be moving in -- towards privatization?

SHULKIN: Well, I certainly hope not. I certainly also understand Sen. Sanders' concerns.

But look, we have bipartisan support. We have great leadership in the House and Senate to make sure that the V.A. is there for our men and women who go off and protect our country and that's something I know that they'll continue to fight for.

We have the veterans themselves -- the veteran community who knows that it's essential to have a strong V.A.

Now, you can work with the private sector. That was the direction I was moving in.

I think it's essential that we work together and make this the very best that our veterans deserve and I think the country recognizes that in the past we just haven't done it. And we are well on our way to doing it so I hope that we keep this in the same direction that we have been moving in the past year.

CAMEROTA: Does it concern you that your replacement, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, does not have any managerial experience for the second- largest agency in the country?

SHULKIN: Well, I have comfort because I know Dr. Jackson. Dr. Jackson is a very honorable man who wants to do the right thing and he's going to need to build a team to help him do this.

This is a big job. The second-largest agency in the federal government, $200 billion a year -- a very complex organization. No one person can do this alone so building the right team, having the support of the president, Congress, and the veteran community is really what Dr. Jackson is going to need to be successful.

CAMEROTA: But do you think that an agency of roughly 370,000 people can be run by somebody with no managerial experience?

SHULKIN: There's no doubt that it's a challenge. This is a leadership position. This is very complex management.

The president has made the decision. I think it's our job to support the nominee the very best that we can. And I've said I'm going to do everything that I can to help support Dr. Jackson because it's essential that the V.A. continue to make progress. It's essential that we transform this organization. We owe it to the men and women in this country who have defended us.

CAMEROTA: Look, last, very quickly, what is the answer for the V.A.? It has been so riddled and rife with problems, as you know, for decades. What is the answer for veterans?

SHULKIN: Well, I think the answer for veterans is to modernize the system. I think it is to restructure it so it's not as complex and bureaucratic. [07:40:00] I think it's to make the proper investments in the right

places. I don't think that there has always been the investments in the right places for V.A.

And I think it's continuity of leadership. This constant turning over of top leaders, of secretaries and other leaders doesn't help when you're trying to make these types of systemic changes and the transformation on the scale that we're trying to make.

CAMEROTA: Dr. David Shulkin, thank you.

SHULKIN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We appreciate you coming on --

SHULKIN: Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: -- and giving us your thoughts on all of this.

SHULKIN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: John, what did you hear?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Fascinating. Well, that's the second instance of fired by tweet in a row for a cabinet official.

And I think what's striking about that is the president has a reputation from his days in reality T.V. of you're fired -- direct conflict. But this president apparently doesn't like direct conflict and firing somebody by text -- by tweet at a cabinet level is like breaking somebody -- breaking up with somebody via text.


AVLON: I mean, it's so --

CAMEROTA: It's apparently not done in polite company.

AVLON: Well, it's impolite.

SCIUTTO: The other point here is that the White House is clearly not telling the truth about these departures, right?

Here's the guy -- he was a presidential appointee. He's now gone. He's saying I was -- I did not resign, I was fired.


SCIUTTO: That directly contradicts what is a --

CAMEROTA: And he wanted to stay, he said.

SCIUTTO: And he wanted to stay -- and he wanted to stay. It directly contradicts what is a new fact, shall we call it that, from the White House. Yes, not factual fact, alternative fact.

CAMEROTA: All right.

SCIUTTO: Well, Bill Cosby is again facing sexual assault charges but the world has changed since his first trial. How? The #MeToo movement might affect his retrial. That is next.


[07:45:15] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

Jury selection will begin today in Bill Cosby's sexual assault retrial, but less than a year after his first trial ended in a hung jury the world has changed a lot because of the #MeToo movement.

CNN's Jean Casarez -- she is live in Norristown, Pennsylvania with more on this story -- Jean.


You know, many experts say the most important part of the trial is jury selection -- who you get on the jury -- and we don't know how long it's going to take.

I mean, on the one hand, we're right here in Montgomery County and this is where Bill Cosby has been loved and adored for decades now. But on the other hand, the pulse of the country has changed dramatically since last June.


PROTESTERS: Survivors, united.

CASAREZ (voice-over): With the momentum of #MeToo --

PROTESTERS: Survivors, united.

CASAREZ: -- and public accusations against Hollywood --


CASAREZ: -- only one major celebrity has been charged with a felony sexual offense. America's dad, Bill Cosby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck, Mr. Cosby.

CASAREZ: The comedian and T.V. legend's retrial beginning now with jury selection.

EMILIE LOUNSBERRY, COVERED COSBY TRIAL FOR "VARIETY": The atmosphere has shifted. It's not a very favorable time to be defending yourself against accusations of sexual assault.

CASAREZ: Charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault, the 80-year-old Cosby could face a decade in prison if convicted. Prosecutors say in 2004 he assaulted this woman, Andrea Constand. At the time, the director of women's basketball operations at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Diana Parsons is her sister and says it took a year before Constand said anything about what happened and went to police.

DIANA PARSONS, SISTER OF COSBY ACCUSER ANDREA CONSTAND: She said that she just knew she had to lie down and she said that Bill Cosby helped her to the couch. She said she really couldn't walk on her own.

CASAREZ: Constand told police Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her at his home in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Cosby denied the allegations. The district attorney at the time said the case was weak.

BRUCE CASTOR, FORMER PENNSYLVANIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Did I think that I could prove beyond a reasonable doubt based on available, credible, and admissible evidence? No, I didn't.

CASAREZ: No criminal charges against Cosby.

Constand then filed a civil suit. Cosby testified in a sworn deposition before they reached a confidential settlement.

Fast-forward to 2015. That deposition was unsealed, revealing Cosby had admitted giving drugs to women he wanted to have sex with.

Prosecutors reopened the criminal investigation and days before the statute of limitations ran out, Cosby was charged in criminal court.

Pennsylvania defense attorney Brian McMonagle represented Cosby from the beginning. He pleaded not guilty. A first trial last year ended in a hung jury.

KEVIN STEELE, PENNSYLVANIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: She's entitled to a verdict in this case.

CASAREZ: Now, a new trial with some big differences. A new defense team for Cosby led by Tom Mesereau, who got an acquittal in 2005 for Michael Jackson in his child molestation trial.

Before representing Cosby in 2015, Mesereau told CNN how he would question Constand.

TOM MESEREAU, BILL COSBY'S ATTORNEY: The first thing I would ask her would be what's more important to you, money or principle? Did you take money and walk away confidentially or did you take this to a jury and do it publicly?

CASAREZ: In the last trial, one other woman who said Cosby drugged and assaulted her was allowed to testify for the prosecution, Kelly Johnson.

KELLY JOHNSON, BILL COSBY ACCUSER: I remember waking up in a bed with Mr. Cosby naked beneath his open robe. CASAREZ: In this trial, the judge says five prior accusers can take the stand. One who has been subpoenaed, former supermodel Janice Dickinson.


CASAREZ: Now, 3,500 potential jurors actually received summons. They won't all come to the courthouse today.

But the pivotal question that they will be asked, most likely in individual questioning, do you know about this case, do you have an opinion on this case, and if so, can you set that opinion aside and be fair and listen only to the evidence -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Jean, thank you very much for that update for us.

So, the world has changed.

SCIUTTO: Well, dramatically, and look at the timing. June 2017 was the hung jury in this trial.


SCIUTTO: It was October that year that the big piece came out on Harvey Weinstein. Really, the spark to the #MeToo movement. And here we are less than a year later, it's different circumstances.

CAMEROTA: Listen, I remember when I first -- three years ago I interviewed roughly a dozen of the Cosby accusers, OK, and back then people still were saying things like well, it's he said she said.

[07:50:07] SCIUTTO: Right.

CAMEROTA: Well, why didn't they tell anybody when it happened? That conversation is so outdated now because number one, they did tell people when it happened and nobody believed them.

And it's not he said she said, as we've learned from the #MeToo movement. It's he said, she said, she said, she said, she said.

AVLON: She said, she said, she said, right.

And what's fascinating is is the lawyers are saying this new cultural evolution makes it more difficult for him to get a fair trial. But if the cultural evolution is towards justice and conversations about what's been occurring behind closed doors and transparency, that's actually a different challenge they need to confront --


AVLON: -- so it's a fascinating moment.

CAMEROTA: It will be fascinating to see how this one plays out. Thank you, both.

So, the judge sending a clear message in the government's court battle to block the megamerger between AT&T and Time Warner. They want -- the judge wants them to pick up the pace, OK. So what can we expect in court today? All of that's next.


[07:55:00] CAMEROTA: The high-stakes media merger trial set to resume in just hours. The Justice Department is suing to block AT&T's proposed merger with Time Warner. That's CNN's parent company.

So what do we expect in the trial today?

Let's bring in CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter. And, "CNN POLITICS" media and business reporter Hadas Gold.

Hadas, there's no cameras allowed in the courtroom. You are our eyes and ears. So, what's going to happen today?

HADAS GOLD, MEDIA AND BUSINESS REPORTER, "CNN POLITICS": Well, today, we might see the rest of the closed session with that Comcast executive from last week. And he was the one -- the witness from the government's side that kind of surprisingly hurt their case when he said that he didn't think there would be any problems in negotiations if Time Warner and AT&T were to come together. He thinks that he'd still be able to get Time Warner content just fine.

Today, we are also expected to possibly see from Turner executive Coleman Breland. He is currently head of content partnerships but he previously was head of distribution for Turner. And so, he was in charge of negotiating all of these -- all of these other distributors.

So we should expect to hear from the government lawyers asking him how did you leverage having channels like CNN, having channels like TNT when you were negotiating with other distributors to air that content because the government lawyers are arguing that Time Warner and AT&T would use this content sort of in an unfair way when negotiating with distributors after the merger.

SCIUTTO: So, Brian Stelter, here's a business-friendly Republican president who is standing in the way of a kind of merger that has gotten approval fairly easily, the implication being there's something personal going on here. You see the president's attacks on Amazon, "Washington Post" coverage of him.


SCIUTTO: A possible factor in there. What are we seeing here --


SCIUTTO: -- from this president?

STELTER: We have to picture a trial on two tracks. You know, the actual trial that's taking place every day in D.C. is about marketplace competition. Some really interesting issues here about how much power individual companies should have and whether content distribution should be allowed to merge.

I mean, NBC and Comcast did that almost a decade ago. There's a debate over how well that's gone.

So here we have this actual trial going on.

Then, the other track is this Trump question about whether this is politically motivated at all. Whether Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department is at all trying to please the president knowing the president doesn't like this channel by trying to punish the AT&T-Time Warner deal.

And I think it's interesting that the dual tracks -- that's true about Amazon and "The Washington Post" as well. If there's government action against Amazon, as the president seems to want to see happen, then you're going to have the same question. Is he -- is he somehow encouraging this because he's mad at "The Washington Post" because Jeff Bezos both runs Amazon and owns "The Washington Post?"


STELTER: You know, this is one of these cases where words matter. The president's words, his rhetoric, his attacks, it casts a cloud -- it casts a cloud of doubt over what could be a really important business process. A really important antitrust action.


CAMEROTA: All right, John?

AVLON: Just following up on that, I mean, we know the president's attacks on Amazon, they seem obsessive on Twitter lately but they're on a fundamentally faulty factual basis. He's saying they are actually costing the --


AVLON: -- post office money.


AVLON: I'd like you to speak to that but also the political difference between the actions the DOJ is taking against the Time Warner merger and the Sinclair acquisition because that's very much in the news.

STELTER: Yes. Sinclair is trying to buy out more stations -- trying to buy a company called Tribune. It's being reviewed by the FCC which, again, has a Trump appointee running the FCC. And so far, that seems to be on a pretty easy track for approval.

So, two very different cases but it raises that question of whether this is politically motivated.

And what I think is so curious, in the courthouse where Hadas is going to be again today, this is not being talked about. GOLD: Yes.

STELTER: The Trump factor is off the table. What is on the table is, you know, how much muscle these companies have. So it really is a two-track situation.

GOLD: But it is casting a pall over it. I mean, even though we're not mentioning Donald Trump in the courtroom, everyone's talking about it --


GOLD: -- and there's a lot of analysts there, a lot of media and they are saying that -- they're wondering what the government track is here because there is a path for the government to win this case --


GOLD: -- but it's pretty narrow.

And another thing that people keep noting is that just as Brian was saying, the difference between how this is being treated by the administration versus other mergers that we're hearing about.

Have we heard the president say anything about 21st Century Fox and the Disney merger, which is a horizontal merger?


GOLD: I don't think we have quite yet.


CAMEROTA: All right, Hadas, we will count on you tomorrow to bring us up to speed about what's going on in the courtroom. Thank you very much.

Thank you, Brian.

STELTER: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: We're following a lot of news so let's get right to it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is the largest deficit of any country in the history of our world.

CAMEROTA: The Chinese government is slapping tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. exports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should have gotten the world together and taken on the Chinese through diplomacy.

TRUMP: A lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of DACA. It can't happen that way and it won't. JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: This is the kind of tweet that will stir up opponents of this program.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The Democrats are going to feast on this and say that this is an example of a White House that does not know how to lead.

AVLON: The White House insisting that outgoing V.A. secretary resigned.

DAVID SHULKIN, FORMER SECRETARY, VETERANS AFFAIRS: There would be no reason for me to resign. I made a commitment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all blue smoke and mirrors. It's all a distraction to keep you away from the very real issues that he's having to deal with.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.