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Dems Avert Disaster in California, GOP Avoids Shutout in Governor's Race; White House Accuses Eagles of Pulling a 'Political Stunt'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 6, 2018 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're engaged in an epic battle. It looks like voters will have a real choice.

[05:59:24] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there really was going to be an enormous blue wave, a lot of people did expect it to happen in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a good night for Democrats. The likelihood is they will not get locked out of any targeted seats.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We always proudly stand for the national anthem.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president plans on making the NFL and patriotism an issue throughout the 2018 midterm campaign.

LEBRON JAMES, PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: It's typical of him. No one wants an invite anyways.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It looked like I was saying I didn't apologize. And I was mad at me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have wanted him to say, "I'm never going to stop apologizing," and then be that great example.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are not going to see him campaigning at the level we have seen him do in previous election cycles.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We will be getting to the developments on all of those stories, none of which are going away.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of bloodshot eyes in California. And this time it's because of the election. Right?

CAMEROTA: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, June 6, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we do begin with breaking primary news.

Democrats appear to have averted sudden death in the most consequential primaries of the season thus far. The votes are still being counted. It is very early in California. But Democrats appear confident that they will have candidates in every competitive congressional district as they try to recapture the House in November.

California has this so-called "jungle primary," where the top two vote getters, regardless of their party, advance to a run-off in November.

BERMAN: It could take days to know exactly which Democrats will face off against the Republican nominees in the House district. But still, the Democrats are singing "California Dreaming," "Going to California, "Hotel California." You pick the song, they're singing it.

Republicans are kind of humming a little bit, too, this morning. They avoided a shutout in the state's governor's race. Businessman John Cox, who was backed by President Trump, he came in second, so he will challenge the Democratic lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom this fall.

All kinds of races to cover for you this morning on this huge election morn. Let's begin with CNN's Miguel Marquez, live in Los Angeles with the latest results -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The real song, John, here is "Who is No. 2? It's all about the No. 2 in this sort of weird "jungle primary" that California has.

As you said, Republicans were very concerned they were going to have nobody at the top of the ticket across the state. Now they have the possibility for two. The -- John Cox, the business man, will face Gavin Newsom, former San Francisco mayor, for the governorship.

And in the Senate race, Dianne Feinstein, it's not clear who she will face, whether it will be somebody from her left, Kevin de Leon, or Jim Bradley, a businessman from Orange County.

The other concern that Democrats here had, they were targeting ten different districts of Republican, trying to flip those seats. Seven of them are seats where -- where -- Republicans where Hillary Clinton won those districts. They were concerned they were going to get locked out of one, two, possibly three. It looks like, in all of those districts, that Democrats will be No. 2 in all of them.

There are two that are still somewhat of a question. Number -- District 10, Jeff Denham, the Republican, will face either Josh Harder or Ted Howze. And in the 48th, there are two Democrats and a Republican vying for that No. 2 spot. All of this could take some time to figure out, because in one case, 188,000 were left off the voter rolls in Los Angeles County, so they had to fill out paper ballots. Those had to be counted.

And mail-in ballots. People could walk up on election day and even mail them in on election day. Those will take time to count. So we may see this -- a couple of these races that may be days, if not weeks, before we know the final answer. Back to you guys.

BERMAN: All right. Miguel Marquez, in Los Angeles. We were discussing if "Who is No. 2" was actually a song. We'll wait for Miguel to come back to us and sing a few bars of that.

CAMEROTA: And sing some of that, yes.

BERMAN: Let's bring in CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and CNN political analyst John Avlon.

And Ron, I want to start with you. You live in California. Democrats are going to hate what I'm about to say. But deep down inside, they know it's true. The headline this morning is "Democrats didn't blow it," though they came awfully close.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it was a good night overall for Democrats across the country. I mean, you go from east to west. I mean, they got the candidates they wanted in New Jersey, every race, which has the potential to flip as many as four seats.

They had record turnout in Iowa. And then in California, as you say, they averted disaster in this top two primary system, which isn't really accurately called a primary at all. It's this kind of very chaotic hybrid between a primary and a general election. And there was a real risk in as many as three seats that Hillary Clinton carried in Orange County, which had been reliably Republicans for decades, where Ronald Reagan got his start but which voted for Clinton in 2016, the first Democrat to carry it in 80 years. It was a real risk in three districts there that Democrats would have been shut out. Instead, it certainly appears they're going to be on the ballot in all of those is and all of the others.

And you know, the Democratic congressional campaign committee gets a lot of grief from party activists for when it does intervene and when it doesn't intervene. But in this cases, they threw the kitchen sink at trying to avoid disaster, and it appears they did it. By the way, they got the candidates they wanted in those seats.


BROWNSTEIN: So you're set up for some very competitive races in the fall.

AVLON: Ron, I think there's a lot -- been a lot of angst on the part of party activists about the top two primary.


AVLON: The reality is, you do have representative turnouts. You've got a Republican in the second seat -- second place running against Newsom. John Cox, significant in that sense. You'll have competitive general election races.

And what's most significant, the reason the top two is actually a representative result, even though it makes party operatives anxious, is that independent voters now are the second largest registered party in California.


AVLON: Ahead of Republicans. They got to participate this time around. So that's a good thing. You've got high enthusiasm, a turnout --

BROWNSTEIN: That's right.

[06:05:09] AVLON: A lot of competitive general races across the country. And I agree with Ron, though, that fundamentally, it looks like Democrats have gotten a lot of the candidates they want in these open and swing seats.


CAMEROTA: Is the jungle primary unique, Ron, just to California?


CAMEROTA: Because it's this, like, you know, sort of death match, and people were thinking that it could have gone really differently. It's just an election. It could have gone really differently. Does California only do this?

BROWNSTEIN: Washington does it, too, as I understand it. It's not exactly -- by the way, it's not correct to call it a jungle primary, because a jungle primary technically is if anybody gets to 50 percent in the primary, that election is over. California really is a top two.

And I don't even like calling it a primary, because it has -- it can have the consequence of a general election. And there's a big debate. First of all, turnout was not high. It has been dropping in California.

And then -- and then second point, independent voters did not participate, at least in the mail-in, in big numbers. I mean, the question of the top two primary is, you can end up in a situation, as I think in the end you probably will, for example, in the Senate race two times in a row where millions of people in the state who are Republicans will not have anyone to vote for, you know, who reflects their views in a general election.

I mean, the question is whether there are ways to bring -- open, allow independents to participate. Because as John notes, they are now the second biggest category in California. Are there ways to allow them to participate without having the potential of a quarter of the voters, potentially, deciding the general election for which party will hold House seats or the Senate seat. That just seems to -- there's a lot of anxiety in California.

BERMAN: Let the record show Ron Brownstein just said the jungle primary in California, neither a jungle nor a primary. So --

BROWNSTEIN: Neither one. Neither one. BERMAN: So misnomer.

Guys, if we can cycle through, I just want to see the boards right now for the three most closely watched races. It was 39, 49 and 48. That was Ed Royce's seat. He's retired. Dana Rohrabacher's seat, he's running for reelection, facing you know, all kinds of questions about his feelings toward Russia. And then California 49 is generalized. And this is 39. This is the Ed Royce seat.

You can see -- you know, look, you do the math there. It's about evenly split. But clearly, a Democrat, at this point, it looks like will go through.

And then we also have 48 and 49. I'm not going to talk about those, but we can show people how close it is in what's going on there. And again, the reason this matters as much as it does -- and Miguel Marquez mentioned it, seven districts in California that Hillary Clinton, she won that congressional district but currently a Republican serves as the member of the House.

Democrats need 23 nationally to take over the House. If they could get those seven districts in California, that gets them a lot of the way there. And this morning, as we all wake up, they're no worse off than they were yesterday in that quest.

AVLON: But I think, actually, significantly better. I mean, Hillary Clinton doing as well as she did in conservative Orange County was extraordinary, historically. But now, all these seats are incredibly in play. The states have become more polarized, particularly California. And so these safe Republican seats that were drawn to be safe, and have historically been Republican, no longer a sure thing for Republicans. If they can pick off these seven seats, they are almost a third of the way to the number they need to hit.

And as Ron noted earlier, New Jersey, also really significant in terms of the candidates Democrats got and Republican seats that have been trending left that could be very much in play.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Two points real -- two points. First, as I said, Hillary Clinton was the first Democrat to win Orange County since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. And she did it, because the county is being reshaped by the two same forces that are making other suburban areas around the major metros more Democratic. It's growing more diverse. It is no longer majority white. And white-collar whites are voting more Democratic. So those forces are real.

On the other hand, as the people who study California elections will tell you, she is the only Democrat to carry any of these congressional races in any statewide race in the last several years. So it's -- it is still a challenge. But they got -- the Democrats got the candidates, strong candidates in all three of those. And that could be a big part.

Not only New York and not only California and New Jersey; Illinois, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania. A lot of the ground Democrats have to cover can be won in blue states in November.

CAMEROTA: OK. We'll have much more dissection as the results as they come in and throughout the morning. Thank you both very much.

So President Trump celebrated without the Philadelphia Eagles and then escalated his feud with the NFL. Why this controversy is not going away any time soon.

BERMAN: Without the Eagles and without all the words to "God Bless America."

CAMEROTA: That's true, that's true, as well. So we'll sing them. We'll see.


[06:13:17] BLITZER: President Trump doubling down on his war with the Philadelphia Eagles, holding a celebration of patriotism, as he called it, instead of hosting the Super Bowl champions. The White House accuses the Eagles of pulling a political stunt by not wanting to go.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is live at the White House with more. So what happened, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, the White House is doubling down on its war with the Philadelphia Eagles. A sentence that both of us probably thought we would never have to say.

But the White House's story in all of this is that last week, 81 people from the Eagles organization had said they were going to attend the Super Bowl celebration. And then, just days before the event, less than eight people were registered to come to the celebration at the White House yesterday. You can imagine what the optics of that would be.

And in the White House's thinking, this was something that was meant to embarrass President Trump in what they say was a political stunt.


SANDERS: If this wasn't a political stunt by the Eagles franchise, then they wouldn't have planned to attend the event and then backed out at the last minute. And if it wasn't a political stunt, then they wouldn't have attempted to reschedule the visit when they knew that the president was going to be overseas. And if this wasn't a political stunt, they wouldn't have waited until Monday, well after 1,000 of their fans had traveled and taken time out of their schedules to offer only a tiny handful of representatives to attend the event.


COLLINS: Now the White House is turning this into something about the national anthem and patriotism in general. But there's actually no indication of that, because no Philadelphia Eagles went to the locker room during the national anthem last -- during the last season; nor did they kneel on the field during the national anthem, as some other NFL players did.

So the White House is turning this into a conversation about that, but there's actually no indication that that's why they didn't want to come to the celebration. It actually seems to be more something about the president.

[06:15:10] But the White House is more than happy to turn this into a conversation about the national anthem, because President Trump believes this is something that revs up his base. And if he keeps this debate in the headlines, it will help Republicans win in November.

CAMEROTA: OK, Kaitlan, thank you very much for all of that setup.

Let's bring in now CNN political commentator Joe Lockhart. He's the former executive vice president of communications for the NFL and White House press secretary under President Clinton. So he has a lot of thoughts on this this morning. And Wes Lowery, national reporter for the "Washington Post."

So Joe, you've been part of these big celebrations or planning them at the White House for winners to come and celebrate on this national stage. What is it like for you now to watch this from the sidelines?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it is -- you know, it's a little, I guess, discouraging just to watch. I mean, at this point, you kind of know when Sarah Sanders is lying, because you see her lips moving.

The idea that they didn't know that most of the players who are on record as saying they didn't want to come to the White House is just absurd. They did know that most of the players. And when it comes to stunts, this is -- this whole thing is a political stunt generated by the White House.

I mean, remember, the vice president pulled off an elaborate stunt early in the season to walk out of a game and, you know, he did it because he was emotionally upset. When in fact, we found out that the press pool had been told beforehand that he would be walking out of the game, you know, not -- whether they were kneeling or not.

So, you know, this is all about politics. And it's all about, you know, this kind of imperial presidency that Trump is trying to surround himself with, which is if you don't agree with, you know, their president, you're not an American. You know, you're a son of a bitch. You should be fired. And, you know, again, it will be seen in the midterms. And I think it's not going to turn out as well as Trump thinks.

BERMAN: Well, he's going to push it in the midterms. There's no question about that. Our reporting from the White House is they think this is a good issue. He's going to talk about this whenever they can, they say.

You know, Wes, Sarah Sanders claims that 81 people from the Eagles organization had put in for a security clearance like two weeks ago, right, or less than a week ago at this point. And then, by this weekend it was clear that fewer than 10 were going to show up. If that's true -- and honestly, I guess we don't know for sure if it is -- frankly at this point, but if that's true, what was the White House supposed to do? Should they have still or could they have still held an event with eight people?

WES LOWERY, NATIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I don't know if they could have held a public-facing event the way we imagined. You know, that said, the president unquestionably could have huddled in the Oval Office with eight folks. I'm sure he hosts groups much smaller than that very often, even.

And so the idea here, though, I think was about the potential embarrassment to the president. And also, we have to remember, this is a particular present who enjoys being famous himself and being around and photographed with other famous people. Right? This is the type of thing that might particularly bother President Trump, to feel as if he's being stood up by these professional athletes.

But what we don't know is we haven't heard the Eagles out on this. You know, for all we know, they had said, "Hey, who -- who might be interested in going to D.C.?" And then the rough head count was 70 or 80, and by the time they= team met and people really talked about it, they got a much more accurate count, which might have been much lower.

And so what we don't know is actually all the the tick tock from the players' perspective and the team's perspective. And the suggestion that NFL football players are tracking if and when the president may or may not be in the country, you know, from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, I don't know that they were probably thinking, "Let's move this when he's gone." They were probably just trying to handle this in a way that wouldn't embarrass the president, as well.

CAMEROTA: But on the flip side, Joe, I mean, the White House is a really wonderful place. And going there is such a special experience. I've had the opportunity because of my job to go a few times to the White House Christmas party. It is spectacular. And every American who can get a tour of it should do that.

And so should the players have seized this opportunity? The White House is bigger than any one person. Did they miss an opportunity by taking this great moment to go and celebrate at the White House?

LOCKHART: Sure. I mean, it is a lost opportunity. A lot of these players will never have a chance to go. You know, they may not win again.

But I think, you know, I don't put this on the players. The president has made their character a central political issue in a time where their character should be celebrated. These players, particularly the Eagles, have a lot of leaders in their communities. They are men of very high character. You know, I think they have nothing to worry about in comparison to the president.

But the president decides that, you know, these aren't things to celebrate. These are events to celebrate him. So I understand why the Eagles wouldn't go.

[06:20:04] You know, there were some members of the Golden State Warriors last year who criticized the president. And the president said, "OK, because you don't love me and you criticize me, you're not invited." So he's changed the nature of these, and it is -- it is unfortunate. Because that's not what these events, you know, should be.

BERMAN: April Ryan, of course, CNN contributor, who American Urban Radio Networks, she had an exchange with Sarah Sanders about this at the White House yesterday that people have been talking about. Let's listen to that.


APRIL RYAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Is the president aware that taking the knee is about police-involved shootings?

SANDERS: The president has made his position crystal clear and that is about -- I let you rudely interrupt me and your colleague.

RYAN: I'm sorry but --

SANDERS: I'm going to ask that you allow me to finish my answer. I would be happy to answer it if you stop talking long enough to let me do that. The president has made his position crystal clear on this topic. He feels strongly that standing for our national anthem is something that we should do.


BERMAN: All right. The theatrics of that is something that some people have noted over the last day. But the substance of it, just to be clear, no Eagles took a knee during the regular season. No Eagles stayed in the locker room during the regular season.

CAMEROTA: And one more thing about taking the knee. I mean, Colin Kaepernick at first was just sitting on the bleacher. And then he talked to a combat veteran who said, "It's respectful to take a knee. That's what we do." Who we interviewed yesterday.

And so, you know, they've obviously coopted it.

TAPPER: And let me just add one more thing to that, is that Jake Tapper, you know, Eagles fan, which I know too well, who's spoken to members of the Eagles about this, it wasn't about the anthem the reason the Eagles didn't go to the White House. The Eagles are telling Jake that it's a whole range of things over the last year.

Chris Long, the defensive end, you know, said, "Look, for me, it was, you know, could I tell my kids down the line, if they see a picture of me standing next to the president, how do I explain this years down the line?" That's him; that's his position. So the issue, you know, for the Eagles has really moved beyond this, Wes.

LOWERY: Of course. And I think that is important. And I think that April's line of questioning was appropriate and important. I mean, because the president has shown and signaled that he wants to use this issue. He believes it is, you know, politically advantageous to him. And he has continued to obfuscate what it is about.

He's trying to make it about the military, about the flag, about disrespect, allegedly, to the military. When the players, time and time again, have talked about, "Look, if we're taking a knee, it is about police brutality, about the police killings of unarmed black people. This is not about the military." You have players who are veterans, members of the military, in some cases supporting these protests. And so I think that line of questioning and sussing out specifically, does the president recognize what these protests are intend to be about, is important.

But as you note, this visit isn't even necessarily just about these protests. This is about something larger. The president of the United States, while he is remarkably popular with his base, is broadly not a popular figure. And this even bigger than sports and bigger than the Philadelphia Eagles, is the repercussions of that.

People -- when you do things that are divisive, when you do things that anger people and upset people and potentially harm people, those people don't want to hang out with you, and people don't want to have their photo taken with you. And that's just going to be the reality of the Trump presidency, especially as it relates, again, to celebrities, to athletes, to other prominent figure, who we know skew much further left than the president does to begin with.

CAMEROTA: Joe, another topic that you are quite familiar with, and that is Bill Clinton and how he's been out on this book tour. And particularly in his Craig Melvin interview with NBC, people felt that he was sort of tone-deaf about where we are today, the #MeToo movement, and what he should have done to make amends to Monica Lewinsky.

So last night he was on Stephen Colbert, and he had a much different tone; and he wanted to set the record straight, he says. So here he is.


CLINTON: They had to, you know, distill it, and it looked like I was saying I didn't apologize and I had no intention to. And I was mad at me.

Here's what I want to say. It wasn't my finest hour. But the important thing is, that was a very painful thing that happened 20 years ago. And I apologized to my family, to Monica Lewinsky and her family, to the American people. I meant it then; I mean it now. I've had to live with the consequences every day since.


CAMEROTA: Joe, what do you think about his evolution publicly in terms of how he talks about this? LOCKHART: I think that's -- I think that's the right answer. And I

honestly feel like -- and I know the former president very well. That's how he feels. I mean, I was there 20 years ago when he came to terms with this publicly in an amazing event, given the circumstances with a bunch of ministers, the prayer breakfast, talking about the pain that he caused, talking about the hurt with the families, you know, his family, Monica Lewinsky's family.

[06:25:02] And I think the Craig Melvin interview was this -- the result of frustration that, even 20 years later, he's still answering these questions. And he gave into that frustration. And I think you saw last night that he wants to set that right.

CAMEROTA: He does. But the difficulty in answering and the fact that it took the day that it did is why I think I think Democrats are going to be hesitant to have him out on the trail over the next few months.

Joe Lockhart, Wes Lowery, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

Dozens of people killed, nearly 200 others missing in a devastating volcano threatening to do even more damage. The scene from Guatemala next.


BERMAN: Well, the 190 people still missing three days after the Fuego volcano erupted in Guatemala. Dozens are dead. The search for survivors made even more challenging by lava-choked roads.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has the latest from Guatemala.


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A desperate search for survivors is now under way in Guatemala. Those who escaped still reeling after the Fuego volcano's sudden eruption Sunday afternoon.