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Democrats Target California House Seats; White House: "Political Stunt by the Eagles"; Iconic Designer Kate Spade Dead at 55. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 6, 2018 - 04:00   ET


[04:00:06] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Election results are pulling in, everybody. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Wednesday, June 6th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East. It is now 1:00 a.m. in California.

And overnight, the biggest tests so far in Democrats' efforts to retake the House, that California primary. Democrats have been worried about the state's top two jungle primary system, concerned too many Democratic candidates could split the vote, shutting them out of districts they hope to flip this fall.

Now, there's already some evidence that that may be the case.

BRIGGS: One big contest has been settled. That's the race for California governor. A Republican has made it on to the ballot which could help with races in November.

Kyung Lah is all over that. She's in Newport Beach this morning or this evening.

Kyung, what was it? Was it the Trump endorsement that's thought to have put Cox over the top and gotten him into the top two?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to say. It's hard to know whether Democrats decided to vote strategically here to try to get a Republican on the ballot. We just don't know. But what we do know is the results speak for themselves.

What GOP feared that they might not have a candidate at the top of the ballot, the gubernatorial ticket, that fear is put to rest. John Cox makes it through, as you pointed out, Dave, the president tweeted his support, urging Republicans to get out and vote for Cox. He makes it through.

Gavin Newsom, who's the lieutenant governor of California, the Democrat, he also makes this through. A decisive victory. The big GOP fears that dissipates tonight.

But let's to the U.S. House races, because this is where there is a lot of indigestion with state Democrats and national Democrats. What is happening here -- Democrats need 23 House seats in order to take control of the U.S. House. Seven seats here in the state of California, Hillary Clinton won, the Republicans maintain control.

And if you want to know a little bit about California's jungle, so- called jungle primary, here's where it could potentially backfire. Look at the numbers for California 48. This is a district I'm in tonight. We've been watching throughout the night.

The incumbent moves forward, Dana Rohrabacher. He is seen as vulnerable. He's been seen long by Democrats over the last year or so as somebody whose district could be flipped. But then look at the two Democrats right underneath him. Rouda, Keirstead, those numbers are razor thin.

It has been an ugly primary between those two, duking it out, spending quite a bit of money. But had there only been one Democrat, those numbers combined would have been very, very strong.

Look at the fourth name there, Scott Baugh, he is a Republican. It is too close to call whether those Democrats have divided the vote and Scott Baugh moves to the number-two position. They don't know. The vote is still being combed over. It is too early to call in California 48.

Now, look at California 49. Here's another example of the open primary in California, the so-called jungle primary. The Republican advances. The next three Democrats below her, if you add up those numbers, if there's only one, there would have been certainly a more decisive victory there.

So, this is just a quick look at the numbers. This is where the top two vote-getters regardless of party, Dave and Christine, all of this potentially could backfire on Democrats here.

ROMANS: Fascinating. All right. Kyung Lah, long night. Still more to go. Thank you.

In other results, CNN projects Deb Haaland has won the primary for new Mexico's first congressional district, putting her on track to become the first Native American woman in Congress.

In South Dakota, Congresswoman Kristi Noem well ahead making her the first female governor.

BRIGGS: And in New Jersey, Mikie Sherrill, the Navy vet and former federal prosecutor, leading the Democratic primary in the 11th district. She has more than twice the total of the leading Republican, J. Weber.

ROMANS: She raised a lot of money, almost $3 million.

BRIGGS: She can raise a ton of money. Great candidate there.

ROMANS: All right. Joining us here in New York, CNN politics senior writer and analyst Harry Enten.

Good morning. Let's stay in California because this jungle primary, I want to hear like Guns N' Roses, welcome to the jungle. We should be (INAUDIBLE) out of the break.

BRIGGS: I like it, GNR.

ROMANS: So, what do you see there? Do you see any lockouts potentially maybe in the 10?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER & ANALYST: I think it's the 10th district where there's the highest probability of a lockout. That was not one covered by many people.

But right now, you have Scott Denham, who's the Republican congressman in that district well ahead. But there's a Democrat and Republican only a point separated. We have it up right here on the screen, Josh Harder who's barely ahead in that race. And base on the election results so far, the difference between that and, say, the 48th district as they've voted does not favor the Democrats as it did in the 48.

[04:05:00] So, I think this is the best chance of a lockout for the Democrats.

BRIGGS: All right. Big picture, this was ground zero of the resistance, California. Democrats need 23 seats to flip control of the House. Ten were competitive. Seven were districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. What are you seeing overall? Are you seeing evidence of the blue wave Democrats hope to see, or is it pump the brakes?

ENTEN: I think it's early to say because California counts its votes very, very slowly. You vote by mail. A lot of people vote by mail. The people who tend to vote late tend to be Democrats.

So, the early returns are probably at least statewide, leaning more Republican than the Election Day results. Over the next few days, we'll get a better understanding of how many Democrats showed up to vote.

BRIGGS: But it doesn't seem that the overwhelming energy we've seen, at least it seems to have slowed a little if the wave was a tidal wave, it seems to have shrunk a little bit.

ENTEN: I mean, we have seen it in the national polling for sure that the Democratic lead has sort of shrunk. But I'm a little hesitant to draw too much from these early numbers.

ROMANS: Let's talk about Dianne Feinstein, 84 years old, the oldest senator to be running for office, those votes -- look at that -- what do you make of this race?

ENTEN: I make of it that Dianne Feinstein is a well-liked incumbent, a woman in the year of the woman. And that it is going to be very difficult for Kevin de Leon who's probably get the second slot to beat her in the fall. But here's an instance where there was actually -- it looks like it's going to be a lookout with two Democrats advancing and no Republicans.


BRIGGS: A lot of outside money spent in California, the $45.9 million of outside money. And a lot of Democrats have attacked one another. What are the implications down the road?

ENTEN: I think that the Democratic Party heading into 2020 is going to have a nice conversation with itself on the future and direction of the party. You know, there was a lot of ink spilled over Republican infighting. But right now, given that there's no real leader of the Democratic Party, there are a lot of voices trying to climb up and be the one most loudly.

ROMANS: In the gubernatorial race it seems as though a few Trump tweets on behalf of John Cox were helpful for him.

ENTEN: If I've learned nothing else is that Trump's Twitter account seems to reach a lot of Republican voters. We saw that in 2016, we've seen it in 2017, now we've seen it in 2018.

And that's right. I mean, if you look at the polls prior to that Trump endorsement of Cox versus polls taken afterwards, you saw that Cox saw a big rise in the voters -- like the Republican voters needed a signal who they should go for, and Cox was their man.

BRIGGS: All right. Outside of California, what's the biggest takeaway you're seeing, whether it's a broad trend or particular race that intrigues you right now?

ENTEN: Well, I would say that the broad trend is women candidates continuing to do well, especially in Democratic circles. We have seen so far, heading into this evening, we saw that 70 percent of the time that a woman and a Democratic congressional primary, face off against a man, there was incumbent, 70 percent of that time, the women won.

And then, if you look at tonight, you look at Iowa one, Iowa three, New Mexico one, New Jersey, I think 11 it is.

ROMANS: Yes. We're hearing from Iowa election officials that it was record turnout in Iowa. They think it was a record primary turnout in Iowa which is interesting. Mikie Sherrill raised something like, and in New Jersey 11, she raised something like $3 million. At this point, we're not calling it, but 77 percent, she's got 77 percent. That's a wide margin.

ENTEN: Yes. Women candidates are just winning by large margins. In Iowa three, for example, there was a woman candidate down by one in the last poll that was taken at that race --

ROMANS: Abby --

ENTEN: No, that's the first one. I think it's Sidney Axle -- I can't pronounce it. She was down in "The Des Moines Register" poll and ended up winning near 30 percent points. That's the power of being a woman in this year of the Democrats.

ROMANS: Interesting. BRIGGS: All right. Get to the computer. Check the results. We'll be back in 30 minutes.

ENTEN: Sounds good.

ROMANS: All right. Mexico making good on its trade threat announcing tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. goods. Retaliation for the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs imposed last week. The list includes an equal tariff on steel, 25 percent. And look at this, speaking of Iowa, this will not be popular -- 25 percent on farm products like pork, apples, cranberries, and 25 percent on cheese and bourbon.

The last one, strategic, too. It hurts Kentucky, home of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In fact, Mexico tailored its list to hit states governed by senior Republicans.

The Trump administration is using tariffs to force trade concessions from other countries like China. The "Wall Street Journal" reports China will buy $70 billion more in U.S. goods if the U.S. abandons its tariff threats. Mexico and Canada especially as NAFTA renegotiations drag on. the economic adviser, White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, says the president does not want to withdraw from NAFTA. Instead, he wants a different approach.


LARRY KUDLOW, NECONOMIC ADVISER: His preference now, and he asked me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately.


ROMANS: Big fan of the bilateral trade deals. Not the overall trade deals. America's CEOs concerned about all this, about the president's trade philosophy. They are scaling back their plans for hiring and spending in response to what they're seeing on the trade front.

[04:10:05] The powerful Business Roundtable found that 89 percent of CEOs worry not the overall trade policy will slow the economy, 90 percent think it's going to raise costs for their business. Remarkable.

BRIGGS: Have to imagine it will be an issue ahead of the midterms.

OK. The White House claims canceling the Eagles' visit to the White House was the team's fault. Did the Eagles try a political stunt on President Trump? The latest, next on EARLY START.


BRIGGS: The White House claims the Philadelphia Eagles are to blame for the cancelation of Tuesday's Super Bowl celebration, accusing players of trying to pull a political stunt. Administration officials insisting the decision was only about the national anthem and not crowd size or racial issues.

The president holding an alternative celebration on the South Lawn that lasted about seven minutes.

[04:15:04] Mr. Trump singing along to some of the words in the "Star Spangled Banner" and "Good Bless America". Listen.


BRIGGS: Singing to some. Bobbing to others.

The event did feature some controversy, at least one person taking a knee during the anthem with some of the crowd heckling the president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop hiding behind he armed services and the National Anthem.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody --



ROMANS: The president's decision to cancel the Eagles' celebration having a ripple effect on the NBA finals. Players from the Cavaliers and the Warriors, they're not expecting to visit the White House any time soon.


LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: It's typical of him. I'm not surprised. No matter who wins this series, no one wants the invite anyways. So, it won't be Golden State or Cleveland going.

STEPH CURRY, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: I agree with LeBron. Pretty sure the way we handled things last year, kind of stayed consistent with that.


ROMANS: Last year, the world-champion warriors were disinvited after some players criticized the administration.

BRIGGS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell canceling most of the Senate's August recess. McConnell says it will allow lawmakers to pass spending bills and improve more of President Trump's nominees. Republican leaders and the president have been frustrated by Democratic filibusters slowing business in the Senate. McConnell's decision heads off a potential spat with the White House that could hurt the GOP in midterm elections. The decision not sitting well with Democrats, many of whom would rather be home campaigning.

ROMANS: Republican senators say President Trump has promised to give Congress a vote on any nuclear deal he strikes with Kim Jong-un. That is significant because an agreement would need broad bipartisan support. GOP senators say any deal would be in the form of a treaty which requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate.

Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet for the first time next Tuesday morning, Monday night eastern time, at the Capella Hotel on Singapore's Sentosa Island. In the Oval Office Tuesday, the president suggested the summit could last a couple of days.

BRIGGS: Kelly Sadler, the White House press aide who made the badly inappropriate remark about John McCain's health, is out of a job. Sadler was quietly let go Tuesday, not clear if she's relocating within the administration or leaving entirely. Sadler was widely criticized for her comment when she said McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director did not matter because he was dying anyway. The White House refused to condemn the remark, and Sadler did not apologize publicly.

ROMANS: A White House contractor arrested on an attempted murder charge as he arrived at work Tuesday morning. The Secret Service says it was notified Monday that 29-year-old Martese Edwards was the subject of an arrest warrant in Prince George's County, Maryland.

The source tells CNN, Edwards is working for the National Security Council. The nature of his role there is not clear. We're told Edwards' badge only allowed him access to the executive office building near the White House, not the West Wing.

BRIGGS: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says guns will not be a focus of the federal government school safety commission. During a Senate hearing, DeVos told lawmakers the focus will be on keeping students safe but she claimed guns are not part of the commission's charge even though the White House head said age restrictions for certain firearm purchases would be on the agenda.

The commission on school safety was formed after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 people.

ROMANS: And a lot of people saying it seems like almost anti-numbers, anti-science again in this administration. Why wouldn't you look at everything if you're trying to find a comprehensive approach to solving a problem?

BRIGGS: Even if the argument is we need more guns in schools which have on the right have argued, that more teachers should be armed, we'd like to have sunlight, daylight brought upon the issue.

ROMANS: A commission borne out of a school shooting will not.

Iconic designer Kate Spade dead of apparent suicide. An outpouring support from her friends and fans, next.


[04:23:45] ROMANS: Just a terrifying situation in Guatemala. At least 192 people are missing there since the Fuego volcano erupted on Sunday. The death toll rising to 75 overnight. Another explosion on Tuesday sending rescue workers scrambling for cover. Hot gas and molten rock still streaming from the volcano with everyone in the area ordered to evacuate. The eruption on Sunday was the biggest in four decades and covered whole villages in ash and lava.

In Hawaii, hundreds of homes destroyed overnight as searing lava oozed through an area filled with vacation homes. Officials say the losses in Kapoho and vacationland development would more than double the 117 homes confirmed destroyed, making it the most destructive day since the Kilauea volcano began erupting may 3rd. New aerial photos show lava has completely filled Kapoho Bay. There have been at least 12,000 earthquakes around the summit since the eruption started.

BRIGGS: The suspect who allegedly stole an armored personnel carrier and led Virginia state police on a two-hour chase is in custody this morning. Officials say the man surrendered last night after taking the vehicle from Ft. Pickett, the National Guard base about 80 miles from Norfolk.

[04:25:00] They say the armored carrier was not equipped with weapons. Charges against the driver, who has not been identified, are pending.

ROMANS: Shock and sadness this morning following the apparent suicide of iconic designer Kate Spade. She was 55. A New York police source says Spade was found hanged by a scarf tied to a doorknob in her apartment. Officials say a suicide note was found at the scene.

In it, Spade addressed her daughter and her husband, though the context is not totally clear. The designer launched the Kate Spade New York brand in 1993 and opened her first shop in the city three years later. Many fans and friends including celebrities like Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump posted fond remembrances online.

BRIGGS: Just a shocking story when you saw it come across your phone. A 13-year-old daughter left behind.


BRIGGS: Seemed to have had it all.

Ahead, Democratic efforts to retake the House face a big test in the California primaries. They scored some wins, but a big one on the Republican side could help the GOP come November. We're live with results next.