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Bikers Talk Politics; Trump's Commission on Illegal Voting; OSU Meyer Investigation; Republicans Face Test in Ohio; Trump Tweets about Wildfires. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired August 6, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventy some percent are homeowners in the United States.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lots of people own multiple motorcycles.

NYLA GRIFFITH, STURGIS BUFFALO CHIP: We have a tattoo parlor up here. We've got food, pizza, anything you want at the Free Access Crossroads.

WEIR: Very good. You have your own jail?

GRIFFITH: No, we don't need one.

WEIR: You don't need one, huh?

WEIR (voice over): Violence and arrest are incredibly rare for a crowd of this size. One of the reasons is that most folks share the same values and those that don't keep it to themselves.

MICHAEL LICHTER, MOTORCYCLE PHOTOGRAPHER AND CURATOR: What I see here in motorcycling is a microcosm for the whole country. And I get the feeling sometimes that people that don't believe in what's going on that's right have become very quiet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there's a lot of hypocrisy going on in the country now because I just feel like everybody wants freedom and they want rights, but God forbid somebody disagree with you because then you'll get your head bitten off.

WEIR: A couple months back, the president aimed his Twitter and trade war guns at Harley-Davidson. Even though they got a huge tax break, the company shut down a factory in Kansas City, laid off 100 workers and said because of the tariffs they'd have to start production in a new country overseas. Which begs the question, is this the ultimate loyalty test for his base? Do these folks pledge allegiance to the president or Harley-Davidson.

MARK HALVORSON, GREAT BEND, KANSAS: Well, I'm going to have to, you know, go with what's going to make America better, you know. And if Harley wants to choose to go somewhere else, then I'll choose to buy different bikes. JAMES BAKALICH, LIGHTHOUSE POINT, FLORIDA: I personally love the man.

I think he's doing a wonderful job.

WEIR (voice over): Despite the president's distain for my profession, they could not be nicer.

WEIR (on camera): Do I strike you as an enemy of the people?

BAKALICH: Not -- not whatsoever. Not at all. And we're sure glad to have you here.

WEIR (voice over): But it's obvious that no amount of earnest reporting will change their minds.

WEIR (on camera): Because if you look at Russia and the Mueller investigation and there's a lot of red flags and dark clouds.

HALVORSON: Well, that's usually pre (ph) a lot of politicians. But one they're picking on because he's out of the outside. I mean if you look at the Clintons, how come they can do things and no one else can?

WEIR: I mean I'm old enough to remember when the base loved Harley- Davidson and hated Russia. And it seems like it's flipped a little bit.

BAKALICH: I don't think there's any reason for him to call them out or make them, you know -- you should try to be friendly with everyone. If they don't want to be friends, then it's a whole nother story.

WEIR: Even Vladimir Putin? Even a dictator, a murder?

BAKALICH: Well, he met with Kim Jong-un as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other fake news. We all know it. The real our lord --

WEIR: Touch me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask our lord and savior Donald J. Trump.

WEIR: Touch me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll tell you.

WEIR (voice over): Back downtown, our presence sparks a debate between some Fox News fans from Texas and Bonnie from Nebraska.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't know what they're talking about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we do. You're un-American too. Get on the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure. I watch both.

WEIR (on camera): See.


WEIR (voice over): Which proves we now live in a media age where people can choose their own facts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a friend who's very much Fox and I go, uh- huh, yes, I agree with you, no problems. Everybody has their own opinions. It's just like --

WEIR (on camera): That's true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like (EXPLETIVE DELETED), everybody has one.

WEIR: Just as long as they don't start shooting at each other, right?


WEIR (voice over): But then the heckling is interrupted by a hero falling from the sky.

Sergeant Dana Bowman (ph), an Army Golden Knight who lost both legs in a mid-air collision. He lands with old glory. And, just for a moment, it feels like we are all in this together.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's awesome, Bill. Just such an awesome slice of Americana that you -- that you gave us. And that's also one of the coolest stand-ups I think we've ever seen of you just riding around on the motorcycle.

WEIR: Thank you.


BERMAN: You can't see the training wheels in the shot. The way they have it framed, you don't see the training wheels.

WEIR: Talking to myself.

Yes, I do that a lot, just ride around talking to myself. But it is really -- the people here are so warm and gracious and welcoming. But there is some real -- obviously some real tension percolating beneath the surface here. It will be interesting with -- to see what happens with this tribe should there be a more overt attack on the country as it were. But they -- they choose not to listen to, you know, any of the nuanced details of what's happening out of Washington, every tweet that comes from Donald Trump, that makes them cheer and rev those deep throaty pipes.

BERMAN: I was going to say, Bill, I mean you did talk to them and we saw you interact with them on camera about the media there. Off camera, was it as friendly and congenial as it appeared there?

WEIR: For sure. Yes, you know, it's funny, I picked up the bike I rented here in Rapid City, a huge Harley dealership. And this grizzled guy comes out and he goes, are you from CNN? I go, yes. Here we go. I was bracing for myself. And he says, I want you to tell Don Lemon and Jim Acosta I think they're American heroes. So I got some of that but then I got a lot of pushback on the other side.

But I've been riding for about 20 years and bikers I found are some of the biggest hearted, you know, warmest welcoming people. Hugely charitable and personable. Their bark is much worse than their bite and the gruff exterior.

[08:35:08] And their politics, you know, this is not a new phenomenon. Cher famously got booed off the stage at the Buffalo Chip in 2000 when she said she got an invitation to meet with President Bill Clinton. So, you know, and Sarah Palin and Kid Rock and Leonard Skynyrd are here this week. So -- but this president has really figured out how to rally this base behind him.

CAMEROTA: Well, Bill, it is so interesting for all of us to get a window into how everything operates there. Just really cool. Great to hear from all of those folks who you talked to. Thanks so much for the reporting.

WEIR: Good to see you, friends.

CAMEROTA: All right, so remember President Trump's claim that millions of people voted illegally in 2016 election? We have a CNN "Reality Check" about what's happened since then.

BERMAN: That was a great piece.

CAMEROTA: It was great.


CAMEROTA: OK, so remember when President Trump set up a commission to investigate voter fraud? Whatever happened with that?

Senior political analyst John Avalon joins us with today's "Reality Check."

John, what is the update?

[08:40:00] JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, Ali, just wait for it.

So, over the weekend, a member of Donald Trump's commission on election integrity, no irony intended, pulled back the curtain on that effort and confirmed it found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

But here's the real scandal. According to commissioner Matthew Dunlap, the panel's real purpose was, quote, not to pursue the truth but rather to provide an official imprimatur of legitimately on President Trump's assertions that millions of illegal votes were cast during the 2016 election and to pave the way for policy changes designed to undermine the right to vote. Now, President Trump can't quit saying that millions of illegal votes

cost him the popular vote, which he lost by nearly 3 million. It's a claim he has repeated over and over and over again. Now, Trump tripled down in his baseless claims by convening this voter fraud commission and tapping the conspiracy minded Kansas secretary of state and current gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach to help run it. It was doomed from the start with many states refusing to comply with its suspiciously broad demands for voters personal information.

The final straw came when Democrat Dunlop sued to see the commission information that was being shared only among its Republican members. The panel was abruptly shut down after a judge ruled in his favor. But that hasn't stopped the president from repeating his fact-free claims and advocating for voter ID laws, like he did last week in Florida.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID.


AVLON: Now, as anyone who's been to a grocery store in the last several decades knows, you do not need an ID to buy groceries.

But make no mistake, illegal voting is unacceptable when it occurs. But the fact is that study after study has shown that it is extremely rare and statistically insignificant. For example, in North Carolina, there were some 400 cases of felons trying to vote in 2016. There are cases of people, including Trump's own family members, registered in multiple states. And, yes, there are dead people on the rolls for a time because people die and it takes some time for the system to catch up.

But President Trump's claim that millions and millions of non-citizens voted illegally, it is, to use one of the president's favorite words, a hoax. In fact, we have the opposite problem in our country. We need more people to vote. Despite the high stakes and clear contrast, more registered voters failed to show up in 2016 than voted for either the Democratic or Republican candidate. We should all be focused on way to lower barriers to citizens voting, not fact fee fear mongering or creating new obstructions.

And that is your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: John, that is so helpful because, look, as you know, we confront voters all the time who still believe the president to have a member of the commission himself explain that it was basically a hoax is really helpful.

BERMAN: Also, Kris Kobach running for governor now in Kansas.

CAMEROTA: That's also a good reminder.

BERMAN: It will be interesting to see. CAMEROTA: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer could learn his fate within the next two weeks. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Alisyn.

Meyer is on paid leave while the school is investigating his handling of an alleged incident of domestic violence involving a former assistant coach in 2015. The group heading the investigation says it should be completed within 14 days.

Last night former Ohio House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, who was named chairman of the investigation, said in part, quote, Ohio State is committed to a thorough and complete investigation. We look forward to sharing the results of this investigation and any action the university may take, end quote.

After initially denying any knowledge of it to reporters last month, Urban Meyer released a lengthy statement on Friday saying he did know about and properly reported the alleged 2015 incident of domestic abuse involving his former assistant coach Zach Smith and Smith's ex- wife Courtney.

All right, on to baseball. Alisyn, if you're wondering why Berman is so smiley this morning, it's because his Red Sox were down by three runs in the bottom of the ninth, but then staged a dramatic comeback. They tied it up and in extra innings Andrew Benintendi hit the game winning single. Boston breaking out the broomsticks. The Sox complete the series sweep with their bitter rival with a 5-4 win. They now have a nine and a half games lead over the Yankees in the AL East. Looking good, Berman.

CAMEROTA: I thought it was vacation that was making you so happy. This is really what made you so happy?

BERMAN: I was telling Alisyn it was because I'm back beside her that I'm so happy this morning.


BERMAN: But you and I both know the truth. The Yankees were swept by the Boston Red Sox.

CAMEROTA: That explains everything.

BERMAN: It's fantastic.

Thank you so much, Coy, for that.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Coy.

WIRE: You're welcome. CAMEROTA: All right, so if you're looking for clues on what will happen in the midterm elections, keep an eye on Ohio. We have "The Bottom Line" for you, next.


[08:49:09] BERMAN: So, Republicans making an all-out push in the final special election before the midterms. What will tomorrow's down to the wire vote in Ohio tell us about November?

Our Ron Brownstein joins us live from Los Angeles with "The Bottom Line."

Ohio 12, all eyes on it. Ron, what do you see there?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I mean this was not a district that anybody was expecting to be talking about when the year started. I mean it was drawn after 2010 to be safely Republican. The Republican incumbent who's stepping down had never won less than 64 percent of the vote. Donald Trump won it comfortably. But it is the best educated, most affluent congressional district in Ohio. And as such, it is subject to what has been one of the biggest currents we have seen since Donald Trump's election, which is the pullback among ordinarily Republican-leaning, white collar suburban voters from his definition of the party.

[08:50:01] And what we are likely to see in Ohio is that it will confirm the trend that we saw in the Virginia governor's race, in the Alabama Senate race, in the special election outside of Pittsburgh with Conor Lamb a few months ago of these white collar suburbs that usually lean Republican moving away from them. And that is going to produce a very close race here.

But either way, however this race tips, John, in Ohio, if it confirms that movement, it is going to signal trouble for Republicans defending other white collar seats around the country that are less Republican leaning.

CAMEROTA: OK, so that's one bellwether to watch, really well laid out, Ron.

So, but definitively, what is going to happen in the midterms?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, well, look, I think the -- you know, the other piece of Ohio 12 is going to be whether there are any signs of erosion for Republicans in the more rural and blue collar parts of the district. And I think both ends of that equation are important because I think the -- you know, it -- look, it's a -- right now you have to say the Democrats are slightly favored to take the House, but that's a close call.

I think what is a very safe prediction is that the trench, the gap, the distance between white collar suburbs and urbanized areas moving move toward the Democrats and Republicans mostly holding their advantage in small town rural and blue collar America is I think a very safe prediction. And I think what we're going to come out of this election with is an even clearer since that we are living in two very different countries, essentially almost all of the metro areas in the country moving towards the Democrats and the Democrats struggling much more to make inroads in those rural and small town places, although they have a few opportunities even there. And I think that points towards an absolute battle of the bulge kind of election in 2020 between these -- again, an urbanized, diverse, younger, more secular, more info age, Democratic coalition and a Republican coalition is the opposite on all of those fronts.

BERMAN: One of the interesting dynamics here as we head into the midterms, and that will, of course, be before the presidential election in 2020, is how polarizing the president himself is, right? You had President Trump go to this Ohio district over the weekend --


BERMAN: To campaign there and you have both sides saying that it helps them.

Now, Republicans -- the Republicans you speak to say they needed the president to rally the base there.


BERMAN: They can't win without the base out there. But you also know the president's controversial, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, look, I mean, you know, the risk -- the risk that the president poses -- I mean the president is imposing a trade on the Republican Party. He is strengthening them among what I have called the coalition of restoration. White, blue collar, evangelical, older, non-urban voters. There's no question that the Republican Party is stronger in those places under Trump.

The price is that he has been driving away more white collar white voters, especially women, and that he engenders tremendous opposition from minority voters and millennial voters. The real challenge for Democrats, though, John, is in the midterm, that latter group, those minority and millennial voters, tend to turn out at much lower rates than they do in the presidential race. Trump's strategy for the midterm is pretty clear, it is to try to gin up cultural, racial conflicts that energize his base and increase their turnout. The cost of that -- one cost of that is apparent. These kind of white collar, white suburbs, like we're going to see, I think, in Ohio 12.

It's not clear that the other cost is going to be there, though, for Republicans, which is, are these core Democratic constituencies and minorities and millennials who express intense opposition to the way Trump talks and he comports himself in polls, will they show up at higher rates than they've done in other midterms? If they don't, this could be a more uncomfortably close election than many Democrats hope in 2018.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Ron, you're in California obviously this morning for us. A state that has been in the grip of wildfires.


CAMEROTA: The president tweeted about that this weekend.


CAMEROTA: What are your thoughts on what -- he -- basically he was not talking about climate change, of course.


CAMEROTA: He was saying that California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which are not allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. What's (ph) that (ph)?

BROWNSTEIN: I -- yes, I -- you know, as people have talked about, I mean, there are a lot of problems than the environment. The lack of water to fight the fires are not one of them.

Look, I just think this is overwhelm -- I mean this is a very important moment. I mean these wildfires are becoming the rule, not the exception. These -- you know, we're so used to reading in the paper almost every day about unprecedented climate events, whether it's, you know, Harvey and Sandy, or these wildfires or the extreme heat that we're watching in the southwest.

Climate change does not care whether we believe in it or not, right? I mean it is -- it is out there. It -- look at the story that my former colleague, Alyssa Ruben (ph), wrote in "The New York Times" yesterday about all of the extreme weather events that they're expressing all across Europe. It's not just a U.S. phenomenon. And yet we are moving very dramatically in the other direction. I mean not only is the president trying to, you know, propose to end the fuel economy standards that President Obama did, but to revoke California's authority, which it's had since 1970 in the Clean Air Act to set its own standards.

[08:55:02] So we may -- you know, they're -- we may want to ignore this and what is happening, but what is happening doesn't really care what our posture is. And these -- this is becoming a new normal that I think people all over the country are going to be routinely experiencing events that were kind of, you know, black swan type events in the past.

BERMAN: Ron, we've got about 25 seconds left here. The economic numbers continue to be good. The president's approval rating not particularly moving alongside those economic numbers. Do you think they're definitively detached right now?

BROWNSTEIN: Extraordinary, right? I mean to be at 4 percent unemployment and only a little bit over 40 percent approval. I think the ceiling on the president is about his behavior, the way he talks, the belief among many Americans that he is behaving -- governing in a racist manner. And the paradox, John, is that many of the communities that are doing best, these white collar suburbs in the information age, is where he is struggling the most. So I think, in that sense, it is disconnected, although on the small town blue collar side, it probably reinforces his position.

CAMEROTA: Ron Brownstein, always great to talk to you. Thank you very much.

BROWNSTEIN: Great to be with you guys.

CAMEROTA: All right, CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow will pick up after this break. We will see you tomorrow.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good Monday morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with me.

[09:00:00] This morning, President Trump may now have removed all doubt about the true intent of the meeting that his eldest son, his son-in-law and his then campaign chairman held with a Russian lawyer in June of 2016. But the questions, the fallout and the potential implications just keep growing. The president