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Democrat Andrew Gillum Scores Surprise Victory In Florida Governor Primary; CNN "Reality Check": North Carolina Congressional Map Is Unconstitutional; Former PA Governor Tom Ridge On The Life And Legacy Of John McCain. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 29, 2018 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[07:30:49] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW GILLUM (D), NOMINEE FOR FLORIDA GOVERNOR, MAYOR, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA: Tonight, we have shown the rest of the country that we can be the David in the situation where there's a Goliath. That you can be the non-millionaire, you can come from a working-class family, and you can make your way to the top.

As the mayor for this capital city, I humbly accept the Democratic nomination.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So there was a disturbance in the force overnight -- a genuine political upset. The mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum, a Bernie Sanders-backed progressive outspent by millions, won the Democratic nomination for governor in Florida.

He is the first African-American candidate to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in the Sunshine State and now he faces off one of the president's most vocal supporters in a race that everyone will be watching for the next two months.

Andrew Gillum joins us now. Mayor, first of all, congratulations on your victory.

I know you'd been saying that you could pull this off. Not necessarily a lot of people believed you.

So take me to that moment last night when you finally got confirmation that it happened. What did that feel like?

GILLUM: Well, John, it was -- it was incredible.

We had been working for 18 months, tirelessly -- really moving around this state in retail fashion. We didn't have the financial resources to be on television.

And we talked to everyday voters about the issues that confront them. We talked about paying teachers, health care for all. Ensuring that people who work one job can earn enough on that one job to take care of themselves without having to work two and three jobs.

And ultimately, that message really resonated and broke through for our voters, and I believe that that's what allowed us to pull out a victory last night.

BERMAN: A lot of people are looking at this as a key moment for the Democratic Party. You will look maybe at a shift toward the left in some places.

What do you see as the message that's being sent by your win?

GILLUM: Well, I'll tell you. I think what we are clear about is that we can run wholly on our values. That we can talk to people in a commonsensical way about the issues that confront them.

And quite frankly, it doesn't matter whether you're in the rural Panhandle of Florida or in the I-4 corridor, in the very populous and very diverse South Florida, that if you're working multiple jobs to make ends meet you're not happy.

If you're worried about your next illness driving you into bankruptcy, you're uncertain about that and uneasy.

If you're seeing the toxic algae blooms that are flowing out of the east and the west side of this state, killing off sea life and also impacting our quality of life, you're also pretty upset about that.

And so, what my candidacy offered was, quite frankly, a foil for all those issues to say you know what, we can talk about those things, excite our voters, and give them something to vote for and not just against.

BERMAN: In a Democratic primary. The question is will it work in a general election? And they're coming for you. They're already coming for you based on your message.

Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee, had a statement last night about you, Andrew Gillum.

He says you want "to abolish ICE." You do, correct?

GILLUM: We want to replace ICE with the Department of Justice.

BERMAN: OK.

GILLUM: An entity that has not been tarnished in the same way as ICE has.

BERMAN: So again -- so that -- he says you want to abolish ICE, you say you want to replace it. That's basically the same thing.

He says you a billion-dollar tax increase.

He says you want single-payer health care system in Florida. You do want Medicare for all, correct?

GILLUM: I am a champion for treating health care as a right and not a privilege. That's absolutely right.

And expanding Medicaid in the state of Florida for over 700,000 people who right now don't have access to health care, which costs this state about $6 billion in federal money that should be coming to Florida that right now is being distributed to other states.

But I have to believe that that's not left or right or center -- that that's basic and common for the everyday people of this state. They need it.

BERMAN: Yes.

GILLUM: And as governor, it's my job to deliver that.

BERMAN: And, Congressman DeSantis says, "I'm trying to make Florida even better. He (you) are trying to make Florida Venezuela."

It's interesting what your campaigning on, he is using as a cudgel against you. You're campaigning on wanting to abolish ICE. You're campaigning on single-payer health care.

[07:35:09] And he's using those very things and you're saying yes, this is what he says and because he says that, I'm going to win in Florida.

It is interesting. It sets up an interesting race.

GILLUM: Well, I'll tell you. I think when given the choice on November sixth, everyday Floridians, 44 percent of which say that they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month --

Those who rank health care as the number one concern because they're terrified that if they get sick they can't go to work. If they can't go to work, they can't earn a wage. If they can't earn a wage, they can't pay their bills and they're put out.

That's the everyday-lived experience for far too many people. We've got to create an economy again in this state that works for more people. Low wage is not going to work for the future --

BERMAN: Sure.

GILLUM: -- of Florida.

Florida's future -- its greatness depends on us tackling some of these problems that make us an attractive state to call home.

BERMAN: So, part-time resident Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is a big supporter of Ron DeSantis. You know the president will play in this election.

Are you scared of the possible influence he'll have?

GILLUM: No. I mean, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are both scraping from the bottom of the barrel. I actually believe that Florida and its rich diversity are going to be

looking for a governor who's going to bring us together, not divide us -- not misogynists, not racists, not bigots.

They're going to be looking for a governor who is going to appeal to our higher aspirations as a state, who is going to talk about what it means to build a Florida that makes room for all of us and not just some of us.

DeSantis can do the bidding of big business, and big lobbyists, and Donald Trump in his divisive rhetoric. I'm going to be here to do the business of the people of the state of Florida. That's the job of the governor of this state.

BERMAN: It won't be your job if you are elected governor, but do you think the president should be impeached?

GILLUM: I absolutely do. I think he's already incriminated himself by interfering with the Department of Justice -- firing Jim Comey of whom I'm no fan of. But basically, obstructing justice.

And ever since that time he has only driven deeper down a pretty dark hole --

BERMAN: And --

GILLUM: -- not only for himself but for this country.

BERMAN: Do you think Democrats should run on a platform of impeachment?

GILLUM: No. I mean, I think Democrats ought to run on a platform of what we're going to do for the people of our state and for the people of this country.

I'm not running on a platform of impeachment. I'm running on a platform that says we're going to create opportunity for everyday Floridians. And I think that's what's most important in what we're going to do in order to prevail on November sixth.

BERMAN: One of the issues that is a national issue, and we see it across the states, is the idea of draining the swamp. Getting rid of corruption in politics.

And there is, we understand, an FBI corruption probe into city hall in Tallahassee. You have said you are not a target of this investigation but your campaign has been upfront for the last several months and this has been something that created problems for your campaign.

Do you fear that there could be some indictments that come out to people who are close to you over the next couple of months?

GILLUM: Yes. Well, my -- as we've said all throughout the course of this race, I've wanted people to measure me on my merit, on my actions, on my qualifications for the position. What I've never done in my 15 years of public service is ever compromised on my values. Never, ever, will I ever compromise on who I am as a person and on my oath.

And should there be individuals that have done anything inappropriately, what we said is they ought to be held fully accountable.

But we pushed that issue past us in this primary and I believe in the general, the Republicans will do everything that they can to distract. We're going to remain focused on the issues that confront everyday Floridians.

BERMAN: If these people end up being friends of yours -- if these people who end -- or end up that they work in city hall, do you have accountability as the mayor of Tallahassee for possible or alleged corruption that might have happened while you were in office?

GILLUM: Well, I'll tell you. If any city hall employee did anything inappropriate or illegal, it is my hope that they will be held fully accountable.

I don't believe that is the case as it relates to city hall employees. This investigation seems to have centered around an individual. And if that is the case, obviously, everybody ought to have their day in court and justice ought to prevail.

It's my highest intention to ensure that the values that we hold as a community are the ones that stay foremost in front here, and that is the hardworking people in our government that have made us a world- class community.

And I believe that we'll see ourselves through this and my community will be better for having arised (sic) out of that challenge.

BERMAN: When we talked to you last night -- when Don Lemon talked to you, I know Bernie Sanders had been trying to reach you overnight to give you a congratulations. He endorsed you late in this race.

Did he finally reach you? Did you have a chance to talk to the senator?

GILLUM: You know what? We ended up trying to get a call scheduled for today. I'm looking forward to speaking to the senator.

I was so honored to have his support in this race. He came in right on time for us, I have to tell you, and helped to catapult us forward and quite frankly, he didn't have to do it.

[07:40:08] I endorsed Hillary. I was a speaker at her convention. I was on a list of 40 names for potential V.P. consideration.

And in spite of that, he decided to come in and help us out on this race. And I think what that shows is that we have the ability to bring together the Bernie Sanders wing, the Hillary Clinton wing, the Barack Obama wing of the Democratic Party and quite frankly, move forward a collective universal vision in this state that is going to allow us to win on November sixth.

BERMAN: Andrew Gillum, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

I hope we get a chance to talk to you over the next two months because this is a campaign -- all campaigns matter but this is a race that will tell us a lot about where this nation is headed. Thank you.

GILLUM: Indeed. Thank you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right.

Well, North Carolina's congressional map declared unconstitutional, and that's not the only state facing this issue. Next, we get a CNN "Reality Check."

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CAMEROTA: I feel like we could use some reality --

BERMAN: Always.

CAMEROTA: -- so it's time for a "Reality Check."

BERMAN: And coffee or espresso.

CAMEROTA: Yes.

The redrawn congressional map in North Carolina is back in the news after judges ruled it unconstitutional again. It may even have to be redrawn before the midterms. North Carolina is hardly the only state to have this problem.

So, CNN senior political analyst John Avlon joins us now with the facts.

What have you seen, John?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, Ali. It's pretty stunning.

Look, you all remember during the 2016 election, Donald Trump railed against a rigged system. Yesterday, Donald -- President Trump tweeted that Google search engine results were rigged against him. And we all know how he feels about the Russia investigation -- a rigged witch hunt.

[07:45: 13] There is a rigged system in American politics, critics say, but it's not what the president might imagine.

Instead, it's redistricting. The process after every 10-year census where politicians from the state's dominant party redraw their district maps to reflect an updated population.

Now, it's supposed to be fair but the problem is it often allows politicians to pick their voters rather than voters picking their politicians, all with the aim of maximizing safe seats and minimizing competitive general elections.

America's electoral dysfunction was highlighted again this week when a panel of three federal judges declared North Carolina's congressional district map unconstitutional for the second time in a year.

Now, they were redrawn in 2016 after judges determined they concentrated African-American votes in what's known as a racial gerrymandering. Now, judges on the Fourth Circuit say that the new map unconstitutionally benefits Republicans.

But don't just takes the judges' word for it. Here's North Carolina Rep. David Lewis explaining his redistricting plan to colleagues in 2016.

Quote, "I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats, so I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the county," Lewis said. "I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats."

And lo and behold, that's exactly what happened. Republicans won 53 percent of the popular vote in 2016 but captured 10 House seats to the Democrats' three.

And the problem is much bigger than North Carolina. This year alone, 13 states have been the subject of litigation related to the fairness of their congressional maps.

According to the Center for Michigan, e-mails revealed in a case there showed Republicans plotting to create a safe nine to five majority.

As one GOP aide wrote, quote, "In a glorious way, that makes it easier to cram all of the Dem garbage into only four districts."

Now, while the Supreme Court has found racial gerrymandering can violate the Constitution, it has yet to weigh in definitively on partisan gerrymandering.

And yesterday, North Carolina Republicans said they would ask the Supreme Court for a stay to avoid having to redraw their districts before the midterms, arguing it would cause chaos.

Look, this is a mess all around and it matters because the rigged system of redistricting makes our Congress more divided and dysfunctional by moving power to the partisan extremes. But ironically, this should not be a partisan issue.

In fact, Ronald Reagan railed against redistricting to ABC's David Brinkley in his final interview as president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that this is a great conflict of interest to ask men holding office, elected from districts, to change the lines of that district to fit the new population.

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AVLON: And so did Barack Obama during his final State of the Union address.

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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around.

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AVLON: And that's your "Reality Check."

CAMEROTA: John, that is fascinating, and fascinating to hear the candor of the people who are invested in redistricting.

AVLON: It is breathtaking. They're just saying look, we are doing this for personal advantage and the public be damned.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right.

He will be one of John McCain's pallbearers this week and this morning, former Homeland Security Sec. and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge is remembering his friend. We'll speak with him live, next.

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[07:52:42] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you want to help the country be more like John McCain. I believe there's a little John McCain in all of us and a little John McCain practiced by a lot of people could make this a really great nation.

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BERMAN: Senator Lindsey Graham honoring John McCain on the Senate floor -- his dear friend.

This morning, five days of memorials for the fallen senator begin as he will lie in state in Arizona's state capitol.

Joining us now is Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Governor Ridge will serve as a pallbearer at Sen. McCain's funeral service in Washington on Saturday.

And, Governor, thanks so much for being with us.

I wonder if you can tell us what that honor means to you. TOM RIDGE (R), FORMER SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA: Well, you know, it's several days of celebration of a life well-lived and much to be celebrated.

And frankly, John and I met back in 1982.

We were both elected to Congress together. At the time, there were very few Vietnam combat veterans in the Congress of the United States. I don't pretend to suggest that my time in service in Southeast Asia was equivalent to his but we formed a bond over the years.

I'm sure at the outset he said something to me because he had an incredible sense of humor. "I thought you Harvard guys went to Canada rather than Southeast Asia" or something like that.

And over the past 30 years, we became great friends. It's something I cherish. It's still a mystery as to understand why I quite gained that respect and admiration and friendship for John, but I will always, always be grateful.

BERMAN: First of all, I would note I believe you were honored with a bronze star for your service as a Marine in Vietnam, so you served this country nobly and with honor. John McCain's service has also been well-noted.

And one of the things you have talked about is what it was like to be with John McCain when he was meeting not just with veterans but with former POWs. These were incredibly poignant moments.

RIDGE: Well, I can just tell you during the course of the 2008 campaign I spent quite a bit of time with John and many of those who accompanied John had been with him in the Hanoi Hilton.

And by the way, I dare anybody to stay in a 5-star hotel for five straight years with all the amenities and come out the same person, but John was the same person as he went in and came out -- tough, fearless, with great character and courage.

[07:55:05] But to listen to the stories of these men who served with him in those unbearable, unspeakable conditions -- about how they kept each other's spirits alive.

I remember one telling me -- I remember one morning, he said, they dragged John out of his solitary confinement and he was on his way to get tortured again. He was screaming and yelling and saying -- shouting all kinds of profanities. And on the way back the decibel level was reduced but he was still the same person.

They understood his displeasure and how he did not fear them. And we all took a great deal of satisfaction and courage.

And, of course, they had their little codes that they tapped to one another during those horrible years together.

So there was a unique bond and it was really rather remarkable and was one of those treasured moments I have in my relationship with John to be part of that conversation and overhearing the mutual regard and respect they had for one another.

By the way, the Vietnamese hold John McCain in very high regard, too. His torturers, his captors hold him in the highest -- they respect him there. It's a warrior country and they respect him enormously.

BERMAN: We were at the statue which commemorates where John McCain was shot down -- where he landed in the lake. CNN was there yesterday and there are all kinds of wreaths, and flowers, and notes, and outpourings of emotion for John McCain there.

Governor, it was I guess more than a year ago that John McCain got the diagnosis that he had this brain tumor which is -- obviously, at the time, he knew ultimately what would likely happen.

Did you have a chance to communicate with him over the last year?

RIDGE: Oh, yes. I talked with Cindy a couple of months ago and made a -- made a visit and saw my friend out in Phoenix -- the space that he loved and had a little place in the valley. A little oasis of contentment and solitude where his family and friends often gathered.

And I was reminded at that time when I visited John -- and I think of this often as a quote from "The Old Man and the Sea" when the fisherman Santiago was fighting that fish. And, Hemingway wrote, "But man is not made for defeat. Man can be destroyed but not defeated."

The Vietnamese couldn't defeat him. He lost elections, he couldn't be defeated. Cancer couldn't defeat him because even at that time he had the same sense of humor, the same willfulness, the same kind of approach toward life and living even at the time when he knew his death was a certainty.

A very special man.

BERMAN: John McCain was practically a character written by Ernest Hemingway.

RIDGE: Oh, absolutely.

BERMAN: And if you've never heard McCain reading "From Whom the Bell Tolls," I recommend everyone do it --

RIDGE: Absolutely.

BERMAN: -- because it gives a new sense to the depth of emotion there.

I don't want you to tell us what your private conversations were about necessarily the last time you saw him, but can you tell us what that visit was like?

RIDGE: Well, it was a -- not -- it was just a -- how do you sum up a 30-year friendship when you know this may be the last time you see him? So we visited some past memories from the time we met.

And we had our differences throughout but I guess the thing that I'll remember most was his -- even at that time, he talked about this country -- its exceptional nature and how important it was for him in his entire career to advance what he considered to be the values and the idea of freedom and democracy around the world.

I mean, he was just until the very end, a great champion of human rights, a great champion of what this country meant to him.

And we think -- and I can't tell you anything you haven't heard from anybody else before, but the notion of courage and character and civility, it's embedded in his call to service. And so I'll never forget that time with John.

And ironically, doesn't he have the last word? On his last day in Washington, John asked a Republican and Democrat president whose personal character he admired, whose civility he admired -- and by the way, a bipartisan tribute to a man who felt that compromising bipartisan was as much a fundamental desire and aim of the Constitution as anything else we do.

So, John McCain, as he leaves Washington, leaves a powerful, powerful reminder of who we are and what we can be.

BERMAN: Governor Tom Ridge, thanks for sharing your memories with us. I really appreciate it.

RIDGE: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get to it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GILLUM: I humbly accept the Democratic nomination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He spoke to every single person and that's why he's getting momentum.

REP. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I did have support from someone in Washington. He lives in the White House.

REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ), REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR ARIZONA SENATE: We have 70 days to win this seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Arizona, the two fringe candidates seem to be soundly defeated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he's saying that the Democrats are going to put Antifa to use violence against Trump supporters.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: It's designed to suppress turnout, to create fear. It is totally reprehensible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was willing to fight in order to make sure that America would be a better country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody questions his loyalty. When the going got rough, he would always be able to rise to the occasion.

GRAHAM: The void to be filled by John's passing is more than I can take.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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