Return to Transcripts main page


Ohio Republican Leads, Race Too Close To Call; Trumps Pick Kobach In Tight Primary Race For Kansas Governor; Rick Gates To Take The Stand For Third Day. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 8, 2018 - 07:00   ET


[07:00:04] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Here to talk about the last night result and its implications is the Democratic candidate, in Ohio 12 Danny O'Connor. Danny, thank you very much for being with us. First, if we can, let get a status update. How much did you sleep last night and where do you think things stand this morning?

DANNY O'CONNOR (D), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Yes, we got a few hours sleep last night, but we're back up and at it working hard because we know the working people need a voice in Washington. And this race is too close to call. It was ruled out by a lot of folks a long ago.

But we just so hard with our grassroots army to have conversation about the country we want to have.

BERMAN: I want to look at glass half full, glass half empty here. Glass half full, this is a district where President Trump won by 11 points in 2016. Yet, right now was (INAUDIBLE) one point. It's a race that Republican incumbent before had won by I think more than 30 points.

So, how did you swing so many votes to the Democratic side? How did this happen and what does it tell us perhaps about trends across the country?

O'CONNER: Well, we talked to voters where they were. We talked to votes in their coffee shops. We talk to voters in their homes or their doorsteps. Having a conversation with regular working people about how they pay their mortgage, how they have a safe and secure retirement, how they afford health care access, that is something that works. That's a conversation that working people want to have and we had it all over every part of this district, all seven counties.

BERMAN: Class half empty do you hear is, you're 1700 votes short so far. There are still more votes to be counted. But right you now you are trailing, and if the trend continues it will be Troy Balderson, who wins over the next several days. Is there anything you can look back on and say man, I wish I had done that differently?

O'CONNER: No, because we're proud of what we're doing right now. And we always knew that the fight would continue on August 8th because we have an election in November and we feel great about the conservations we're having right now. We'll be out campaigning today and having serious conversations with voters about their future, about why their families need someone who's going to fight for them in Washington, about why they need someone who's going to stand up for health care access. That's what we want to do and we feel great about where we are though.

BERMAN: There are some people who look back and say, well, you should have said you will not support Nancy Pelosi, should you become elected there as the next speaker or Democratic Leader in the House when you're speaking to Chris Matt, you said he was the only Democratic candidate.

You would be supportive with them without getting into the exact analysis of that statement or forensic analysis of that statement, what does it tell you that support for Nancy Pelosi is so toxic among some, not all, but some voters?

O'CONNER: It tells me the folks are ready for a new generation of leadership. That families want to see Washington deliver some type of actual solution for the things that they're dealing with. And I'm running to be an independent voice in Washington.

I think it differs between me and my opponent is. He's going to do whatever Washington D.C. tells him to do. I'm someone who's going to be independent voice. We need new leadership desperately in Washington D.C. because if we're going to take on the problem of not just the next few years but the next few decades. We need folks who're going to be looking to put forward serious solution on that stuff.

BERMAN: If you can, take a step back for us here. And look at this race as a political analyst right now. There's a huge urban and rural split. And it is the type of thing we've seen all over the country, when I say urban I mean more urban Franklin, Delaware Counties where you did very, very well.

And those other counties, the more rural counties where your opponent did very well, the split seems to be widening and not just in Ohio-12, but across the country. Why?

O'CONNER: Well, that something that we need to solve, because too many people are being divided, too many people are being pitted against each other. When they sit down and talk about how they're going to pay their mortgage, how they're going to afford their rising health care costs, how they're going to finally get a raise at their job.

Those are problems that families in Muskingum County in Zanesville, in Manville, in Morrow County, Marion County, Licking County, Warren (ph). I know that because I grew up in Rural Ohio. And I know that Democratic families, Republican families, rural families, suburban families and urban families. When they sit down around the kitchen table at night, they're usually worried about the same thing.

They're worried about rising cost of health care. They're worried about folks like Troy Balderson who want to raise the retirement age and cut social security and Medicare. And that something that's important to me.

BERMAN: Do Democrats need to do a better job delivering that message to some of these rural counties where they haven't necessarily picked up steam over the last several months?

O'CONNER: Well, I'm hopeful that everyone is running for office. Will have a conversation with working families about how they're going to fight for them and how they're going to let them secure their version of the American dream.

[07:15:03] This is a country that can be greater than we are right now. We can do better than we're doing right now. We need to have the backs of working folks. Folks ask me why I'm running for office and it's because there are families who get up every day, they get their kids on the school bus.

They clock into work, they come home. They help their kids with home work, and they do everything right but they don't have anyone fighting for them in Washington and that's what I want to do.

BERMAN: Let's talk about President Trump. He came to your district really at the last minute to try to prop up your opponent Troy Balderson. The President thinks that may have helped me even have been decisive, what role do you think it played?

O'CONNER: Yes, I don't think he knows what he's talking about. You can fly in, hang out here for a couple hours, fly out. You don't walk on our roads. You don't have kids to go our schools. You don't deal with the Public health crisis with diction that we have here in our state every single day.

I think it's more important to have grassroots conversations. And Troy Balderson can have all the people he wants fly in from D.C. I don't think it make too much of a difference. I think that the reason we're having so much success and the reason this race is a tie ball game right now is because we've been crisscrossing this district talking to voters about important issues, about stuff that matter to them when they sit around the kitchen table.

BERMAN: You said the President I don't think he knows what his talking about. You don't believe that his message has some residence, and again, some of those rural counties in your district?

O'CONNER: Not base on what I saw. I mean we were out talking to voters that day, the days after. And when I stand on someone doors step or I meet them in a coffee shop or just walking down the street.

One thing I like to ask folks is what they worried about. What keeps them up at night? And it's rising health care cost. It's the thought of having their social security or Medicare cut. I think that our voters in the American people much smarter than we give them credit for.

These are folks who recognize that we have problems in our country but these are problems they can only be solve if we said new leadership to Washington. And that's why I'm running. BERMAN: Last, you won mechanical question before I let you go. If the margin shrink to less than half of percent, there's a mandatory recount. If it's greater than that and who knows where we land when these previsions will last when the ballots are counted.

Will you ask for a recount?

O'CONNER: The only think I know for sure is that I'm going to be campaigning every single day until November. The mechanics of the recount and all of that stuff with this race being too close call, we need to make sure that every vote is counted because when people exercise their right to vote that needs to be respected.

BERMAN: Any final message you want to deliver to perhaps President Trump, who I think was calling you Danny Boy from the stamp (ph) on Saturday night.

O'CONNER: Well, Danny Boy. I think that was first song I ever knew. It's a traditional Irish song. And I think Danny Boy is actually a complement. So I'll take and strive.

BERMAN: All right, Danny O'Conner the Democratic nominee for the Ohio 12th Congressional District. As it stand this morning and perhaps going forward to November.

Thanks so much for being for us this morning.

O'CONNER: Thank you. Have a great day.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's bring in CNN Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny and CNN Political Analyst April Ryan. Great to have both of you giving us your analysis.


CAMEROTA: Hi, Jeff. So, last night --


CAMEROTA: -- a nail biter still this morning, too close to call. And as you point out, look, President Trump's policies and popularity were definitely on the ballot in lots of these places, so how do you sit?

ZELENY: Without question. And one thing is clear. President Trump is firing up Democrats and independent voters right around Franklin County, Ohio. There are few places in the country that are more important than those suburbs and that is clear.

After all the special elections are over this year. He is definitely firing up the other side more than his side. This should not have been a race as we've been talking about here. So the reality is, the White House is declaring victory this morning. But they know that this is a huge warning sign. And this is why, millions and millions were spent on the ground here. They cannot do that coming up, come in three months. There just isn't enough money and isn't enough time to go in every single district. So the White House realizes that President Trump is firing people up his basis (ph). But Democrats even more.

BERMAN: There are 68 seats, 68 races around the country April, that the district is less Republican than Ohio 12. In other words, the Ohio 12 District should be way safer than at least 68 other districts there which showing you some of the vulnerability with this race, correct?

RYAN: Yes, there's a lot of vulnerability. This President could be seen as either a savior for some or an albatross for other around the neck of the party and around the neck of this nation. And these races are so tight and when you talk about last night, in Ohio, it shouldn't be that close.

But when you have candidates, the President's endorsed candidates saying in us versus him, you've got a lot of that going on around the nation, like in Kansas in the governor's race.

[07:10:04] I mean, it just so much going and even in Georgia, we see us versus him. And I'm going to give you something John. The NAACP came out with this, and this is taking about the divide that I'm talking.

And let's break it down into racial suburb versus urban. The NAACP came up the thing, 79 percent of African-Americans agree that Trump and the Republicans are increasing hate and racism against black. And this is something that NAACP had appalled on.

And they put this out. This is one the Instagram this morning. And I've been retweeting some of the things that they been saying. But there seems to be, once again, a lot of the candidates of the President is indorsing are divide and people are not happy about that.

And that is some of the reason why there is this increase, this energized activity to challenge many of these candidates that should -- that used to have an easy go of it in years prior.

CAMEROTA: April, I wants to give for one more second because I know that you think not only is there is a Trump factor in Ohio 12, but a LeBron James factor. How do you think that played out in voters minds?

RYAN: You can bring me the LeBron James. Well, let me say this, LeBron James calls himself King James on social media. And for many he is King. And I'm not going to get into that Michael versus LeBron thing. I grew up in the Michael Jordan era.

I'm not going to get into that. Both are great. But the issue is LeBron James who came from nothing, and made something of himself, and giving back to the community. And he even came back to Cleveland. And Cleveland is OK for him to go to L.A.

And for this President to pick on again, black sports figures or black people. And this perceived as that. And to talk about his intelligence what he indeed is giving back to the community and putting low income kids into school --

CAMEROTA: But you think that was in voters mind?

RYAN: Yes, those in Ohio. He is there. You don't talk, I mean I'm from the Baltimore area and I didn't realize if you talk about someone from the community who gives back they will come after you and that's respect that common sense in fact.

And LeBron James gave back and is giving back. And that is something that the Department of Education should be touting, give -- they didn't do that. They should be touting that instead of going against that. So this Pres --and if you notice when he went Ohio, he left it alone. That is a third rail for this President and we'll see what he says as he watches us this morning on Twitter.

BERMAN: So Jeff, two things after talking to Danny O'Connor right there that were just very interesting. I mean number one, and addressing the urban rural split, which is very real and ever more apparent going forward. He made clear he thinks that Democrats need to work harder. Tom Perez (ph) said to me at the top of six, they need to work harder to reach those rural voters.

ZELENY: Without a question. I mean, can see it every election cycle it gets more pronounces. And that's about recruiting candidates. That's about talking to votes. And also about Nancy Pelosi, that is one of the reasons that Danny O'Connor probably isn't the victor this morning. Certainly one of via possibilities because he is tied to this leadership.

He's tried to distance himself. But that is an issue. Part (ph) is really. That's why in 2020 it is important for the Democratic Party to nominate someone or find someone who can speak to the rural areas but that is something else that happened last evening.

I think we should that in Michigan and Missouri. The left wing of the Democratic Party and we've been talking about so much over the summer lost big. Bernie Sanders' endorse candidate, lost big in the Michigan governor's race, in a Missouri House race.

So that is something going on as well. As much as we talk about the President, the identity crisis inside the Democratic Party is something we're also watching in this key midterm election cycle, so that was interesting.

CAMEROTA: Jeff, one more beep for you. Kansas, so Kris Kobach is obviously a controversial candidate, he got a big boost, it seems like. And this is also too close to call at this hour. He got a big boost from the President.

I mean Kris Kobach people will remember he headed up the President's voter fraud mission. It turned out to dud (ph) in fact it was revealed this week, it sort of a sham. And so, is that where you see the Trump factor play out?

ZELENY: No question. And Republicans in Washington and to pick (ph) wanted President Trump to stay out of that race because they're worried in fact about Democrats potentially winning in the fall. So we'll see what happens there. But the President of course he can rally his supporters in the room, in these arenas.

The question is can he do it outside and increasingly it looks like he's having a hard time doing that. The White House wants to do one thing, remind all the 2016 Trump voters to go out and vote in 2018. That's one cautionary note I would say.

He specials, these August races are not necessarily what Novembers going to be. Lot of people didn't, won't necessarily plugged in yesterday. But President campaigning six days a week, the White House officials says. He's going to keep doing that. He thinks that helps. Democrats say, "Bring it on, get on press, OK, fine, thanks come. Well see you".

BERMAN: All right, Jeff Zeleny, April Ryan, thank so much for being with us. And we'll note by the way that Jeff is talking about those 2016 Trump voters. The White House wants to note you spoke --

[07:15:04] CAMEROTA: Yes, I do. Well played, John.

BERMAN: And we're going to hear from some of them later. And there are some cracks and at least in some of the people you spoken to.

CAMEROTA: I would say there are more cracks to what you all going to see in hour or so. There are actually possibility fisticuffs. About how strongly Trump voters now feel about each other and our fight infighting. So we will reveal some of that.

BERMAN: It's important to see that. In the meantime, Paul Manafort's lawyer goes on the attack. How he tried to really shred the credibility of the government star witness. Did he succeed? That's next.


BERMAN: Rick Gates will be back on witness stand for a third day as the Manafort defense team finishes cross examination of the government's star witness. On Tuesday they hammers away on Gates credibility suggesting he told many lies, indeed so many in fact he couldn't keep all straight. The defense lawyer Kevin Downing offering that Mr. Manafort had a great day in court.

Let discuss with CNN Legal Analyst Laura Coates and CNN Political Commentator Catherine Rampell

[07:20:00] Now Laura, I want to start with you. Let's review some of the thing that came out in this trial yesterday. Gates had to admit that he embezzled from Paul Manafort. He admitted, he an extramarital affair. Gates appeal to the jury I'm here to tell the truth Mr. Manafort had the same path. I'm still here and of course, the prosecutor used Gates to try to lay out some of the documentation about how they say Paul Manafort managed and move money.

But the bombshells in terms of emotion where Rick Gates admitted he embezzled from Paul Manafort. He admitted he had this affair and kept in apartment in London to have that affair, goes right to the issue of his credibility. And the prosecutor knew he had this credibility issues when they put them on the stand.

The question is, why did they think it was worth it?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because this is one person who is uniquely positioned to understand what Paul Manafort knew, what his intention were, whether he himself was somebody who is a bird of a feather that was going to flock together with somebody like Rick Gates and his credibility issues.

The thing about prosecution, no prosecutor has ever had Mother Teresa as their witness. Every single person you put on the stand going to have some form of credibility issue. Who testifies against Pimps? Prostitutes, testifies against drug dealers, drug users. Everyone going to have a yin and a yang, put the jury to say, "OK, should we believe this particular person, the alleged accuser or the admitted one.

But ultimately, John, every single think that Rick Gates is going to present through testimony, they can attack his credibility and his character and somebody who is, an adultery and embezzler and all those things. But there are corroborating testimony aspects from the accountant. The documents are also speaking for themselves.

And it really does undermine this notion that Paul Manafort is trying to say, well, you can never believe this particular person, his always going to be a discredit individual. Well, there are e-mails even from Manafort that suggest that he was part of orchestrating these criminal endeavors, so all these kind of balances out, his credibility with the fact that Manafort is a ring leader.

BERMAN: You think the prosecutor is trying to push the defense to put Manafort on the stand with this?

COATES: I think that this really what they're leaning to, because ultimately it's Manafort's call whether he wants to take the stand. But he is testifying and fighting for this life, which over head is sentence that could be life long if he is -- if in fact convicted.

So, he has choice, if you're going to put the credibility of Rick Gates, his report minion on the line to the jurors. He's going to have to show that he truly wasn't only betrayed by the embezzlement but truly duped by this person into committing bank fraud, into trying to file fraudulent tax forms into hiding income and money laundering.

He has going to have to go toe to toe on that credibility. And I can't imagine the jury would say to themselves, well, if he hasn't testified all I have is the accountants and Gates testimony, that maybe enough to convict him without his testimony.

BERMAN: All right, Catherine, take a big step back, huge step back. Which you really did is really interesting piece in the Washington Post looking at this trial. And a lot of people have accused Robert Mueller have overstepping his balance here. This isn't Russia. Manafort prosecution today is less aside a Mueller's over reaching more a sign of the rest of our federal government decades of underperformance. What do you mean?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What I mean is that Trump keeps complaining that Mueller has clearly gone rogue because his pursuing 12 year old crimes. The real question is, why didn't anybody go after those crimes 12 years ago?

There were so many red flags about Paul Manafort throughout the years, and not just because he was using international wire transferring to buy ostrich coats and things like that, but a lot of his very open in the pubic business feelings, which clearly seems fishy at the very least.

You have people like Paul Manafort, people like Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Donald Trump himself, Eric Trump doing lots of things that look quite dodgy when it comes to financial transactions. Using charitable donations or potential self (ph) feeling, lots of things that are wide out in the open, and the question is, why were there so many people within Trump orbit who felt free to do these kinds of dodgy dealings in broad daylight?

And the answer is, they didn't expectation to get caught. And they have good reason not get caught. This is not a Trump specific phenomenon. If you look at white collar prosecution, and public corruption prosecution overtime, they are about to reach an all-time low.

They have been declining overtime, not just under Trump. Although Trump's own policies have of course stepped back from aggressively pursing white collar crimes, but under Obama to some extent, under George W. Bush, we have seen the DOJ step back and say these are not crime we care about.

And if there not crimes that they care about, if there are not crimes that they aggressively pursue and put resources towards, of course, they're going to have the Paul Manaforts of the world says yes, I can get away with whatever I want. And you're only going to caught when you have a President in the White House who attracts additional scrutiny to those activities.

[07:25:06] BERMANS: Is there is a why these prosecutions have been reduced over the years?

RAMPELL: There's a large debate about why that is. It may have to do with fewer resources going to white collar crime investigation within the DOJ because of terrorism. After 9/11 there was kind of drop off in these types of investigations and prosecution because you have the suburb district of New York, having to develop more time towards counterterrorism investigation and prosecutions

Some of it has few resources some of it had to do with the DOJ and maybe becoming more risk averse, getting nervous about being accused of overreach when you saw for example Arthur Anderson go out of business. This is over 15 years ago I think at this point. This is over 15 years ago I think at this point. There was huge public blow back. They've overstepped their bounds et cetera. So some of it may have to do with being afraid of public blow back, being afraid of losing cases, so there's a lot of debate over this. But a lot of it I think has to do with resources particularly at the IRS.

BERMAN: Laura, let's go back into this courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia because the judge T.S. Ellis. He has played a very, very active role and in some cases adversarial role with prosecution and yesterday witness Rick Gates where he seemed to directly question, in front of the jury, the credibility of Rick Gates.

Rick Gates was talking about some of these financial transactions saying that Paul Manafort was directly involved, knew everything. And the judge basically said, well, clearly not everything since he didn't know you stole all that money from him.

COATES: I would serious as the prosecutor in this case to have the judge be so proactive and trying to help me develop my case. Remember it is the government who is in control of this particular trial, that being the prosecution.

But often times judges do find themselves in this insatiable, irresistible urge to engage and participate when their role is suppose to mediate a lot of the evidentiary rulings, so to hear the judge make that statement, it signaling to him that he is far more proactive and perhaps you should be.

Having said that, it is the prerogative of the judge to be able to expedite in a very judicious way, the hearing and to get information out that maybe useful in the administration in pursue of justice.

And so he's trying to have that balancing act. Still John, there is no reason why the judge behind solicit testimony from a witness when you have capable prosecutors and capable defense attorneys, who are more than able to get that statement out that they want.

And if they fail to do so, it is not the judge's job to actually then come in and infused the discussion in that way. This is a pattern and behavior that Judge Ellis is engaged and over the years that his known for, but his also known for being quite fair in the administration of justice.

So, I think we just trying to guard against is an appellant review, which evenly (ph) go conviction is looming. Under appellant review that he has done everything he can as trial judge, when -- the defense has a fair shot in this case. Even if it means having the prosecution with egg on its face occasionally.

BERMAN: Laura Coates, Catherine Rampell, great to have you with us this morning. Fascinating discussion.

COATES: Thank you.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All right. John, now to this important story, an Iowa woman, Mollie Tibbetts has been missing for three weeks. Her father has theory on what happened to her and needs the public's help to find her. He joins us, next.