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GOP Establishment Dominates Primaries; V.A. Scandal: White House Under Fire; Former Players Sue NFL Over Painkillers; Recalled Meat Sent Nationwide

Aired May 21, 2014 - 08:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, and welcome once again to NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, May 21st, 8:00 in the East.

Voters in six states have spoken, at least for the night. It appears Republicans are tiring of the Tea Party. The more conservative candidates came up empty in a variety of races, most notably in Kentucky where Mitch McConnell easily defeated businessman Matt Bevin who supporters McConnell asked to join together.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The preparation is behind us. It's time to unite. To my opponent's supporters, I hope you'll join me in the months ahead and know that your fight is my fight.


BOLDUAN: So, who will McConnell face? CNN projects it's Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Early polls show a close race with McConnell in the fall.

Listen here.


ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D-KY), SENATE NOMINEE: Together, we will take this fight to Mitch McConnell and hold him accountable for his 30 years of failed leadership.


CUOMO: Meantime, CNN projects businessman David Perdue and Congressman Jack Kingston are heading for a run off in Georgia's Republican, primary leaving the more conservative candidates behind. The winner is going to face Michelle Nunn who CNN predicts will win the Democratic primary. She is the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn.

BOLDUAN: Also in Georgia, former President Jimmy Carter's grandson, State Senator Jason Carter, he will challenge Governor Nathan Deal in the fall. He is the projected winner in the Democratic primary.

CUOMO: Over in Oregon, CNN rejects neurosurgeon Monica Wehby will be the GOP Senate nominee. She beat a more conservative opponent despite recent allegations against her that she harassed her ex-husband. Wehby will face off against Senator Jeff Merkley, one of several Democrats targeted by Republicans trying to wrestle power away.

BOLDUAN: Another seat is in Arkansas, where incumbent Mark Pryor, he will defend his seat against Congressman Tom Cotton. Both ran unopposed in their primaries.

And in Pennsylvania, Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law and former Congresswoman Margie Margolies lost her bid to reclaim her seat, falling to State Legislator Brendan Boyle.

CUOMO: And in the state's race for governor, Tom Wolf defeated Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz in a Democratic primary. Now, he will take on incumbent Tom Corbett who is in danger of becoming the first Pennsylvania governor not to win a second term in more than 40 years. Remember, that whole Second Mile scandal that went on and the follow- up that many Pennsylvanians feel never happened.

BOLDUAN: A whole lot to discuss this morning. Let's dig deeper with CNN's political commentator and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala as well as CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Ana Navarro.

Good morning to both of you.

So, Ana, first off, let me start with you -- the thing we keep hearing all morning, the establishment strikes back. What do you think?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I am over the moon elated today, Kate. It's not just because the Miami Heat won last night as well.

BOLDUAN: Oh, stop it.

NAVARRO: It's because I really think this is a very significant moment for the Republican Party, and it's been interesting how quickly some of the conservatives that have gone against Mitch McConnell have come out in support of him.

I hope that what happens after this is that they see, you know, if you can't beat them, join them and we stop this intra-fighting that has happened in the Republican Party for the last two years and instead fight against the Democrats, instead of fighting each other. When you're not cannibalizing each other, you're much more likely to win seat.

BOLDUAN: Now, I want to get Paul. But real quickly, Ana, do you think they're going to join together. Do you think there will be party unity now?

NAVARRO: I think so, because I think we want to win seats. I think the one thing all Republicans have in common is the desire to flip the Senate, the desire to win seats and affect policy.

BOLDUAN: Paul, Democrats want nothing more than to take on Tea Party challengers in the general election. We saw that happen in the last several cycles.

So, what now?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They are taking on Tea Party challengers. If you can't beat them, join them. That's what the establishment did. They couldn't beat the Tea Party so they've joined them now, become tea-stained if not Tea Party.

Mitch McConnell who was a paragon of the establishment, who used to be so pro-port, I thought he would get trichinosis, as a senator from Kentucky, now, he super-glued himself to Rand Paul.

In Georgia, we talked about Jack Kingston, he has a 93 percent voting record with the Tea Party. And that got him into the runoff and we all pretend like he's an establishment figure.

What's happened is Tea Party has won, the war is over. All these Republicans now are running as Tea Party extremists wanting to make Medicaid voucher program, opposing the minimum wage and the equal pay law the president has proposed, or equal for women, none of them are running like Ana's old friends, John McCain, who actually believes in immigration reform and Jon Huntsman who believes global warming is a problem to address. Nobody is running like a moderate anymore, Ana.


NAVARRO: I don't agree with that. I love Paul and I love the way he can spin things and try to turn Mitch McConnell who said he was going to crush the Tea Party, try to spin Mike Simpson who said he would crush the Tea Party, try to spin John Cornyn who said he was going to take on the Tea Party and crush them as well.

All these people have been confronting the Tea Party in surges and they beat them. They weren't coddling with them, they weren't spooning with them. They were confronting them. They were leading aggressive campaigns. What we've seen is a diversity of thought in the Republican Party.

We've also seen the giants, the sleeping giant of mainstream Republican incumbents who frankly had not fought hard, learn how to fight and win fights. They've developed into fighting machines which is why I think Mitch McConnell is going to be a very strong candidate now in the fall. He has honed the competitive skills and he's shown it in the last primary.

BOLDUAN: And, Paul, you -- speaking of fighting, you think Alison Grimes is going to win. Why, in Kentucky? Just so everybody knows what I'm talking about.

BEGALA: She's really, really impressive. She will run, as she is, as an independent Kentucky woman. She can't be tied to the problems of the national Democrats in Washington. McConnell -- BOLDUAN: It's worked in the past though, Paul.

BEGALA: Not against somebody like Alison. She's from Kentucky. She is of Kentucky. And Mitch is of Washington and from Washington. This is going to be a race.

Look, I looked at the poll, the Bluegrass Poll, which is a respected Kentucky poll. It will tell you why Senator McConnell spent his time last night attacking Barack Obama. In the Bluegrass Poll, the president's approval rating in Kentucky is only 29, only carried four counties out of 120 in the great commonwealth of Kentucky.

Guess what? The only politician who is as unpopular as Barack Obama in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, also with a 29 percent approval rating in Kentucky.

So, they're ready to get rid of Mitch. They're going to fire him.

And you watch, Alison is strong and independent, the little clip we showed. She was so feisty, and fiery, and Mitch was a little flat, I have to say, last night.

BOLDUAN: Paul, let me ask you a quick question --

NAVARRO: I have to tell you, I don't think we've seen the general election begin at all. This is going to start anew today. Until now, Mitch McConnell was focusing his guns on the primary and he won handily. You know, he knows Kentucky very well. He's been representing it for 30 years.

Listen, if I'm a Kentucky voter, I'm going to think to myself, do I want to give up the possibility of being represented by either the minority leader or the majority leader of the Senate? That is not chopped liver.

BOLDUAN: If you both can agree the establishment fought back or maybe tamed the Tea Party opponents in this primary, here is my question going forward. Does this change the dynamic in Washington no matter how the returns end up?

BEGALA: Yes. It does make the stakes in this midterm really, really important. You -- I don't see a lot of Republicans running saying, if I win I'll take Mitt Romney's advice, supporting raising the minimum wage, right? You don't hear them talking a moderate pro-business agenda like immigration reform, which Ana supports and the Tea Party hates. You don't see that.

So, if the Tea Party wins, particularly if they get the majority in the Senate, you'll see bills to try to turn Medicare into the voucher program, you will never see an increase in minimum wage, you'll never (AUDIO GAP) women. So, you have a much more stark debate than if more moderate Republicans were winning.

BOLDUAN: Ana, is this the difference of running to win a primary and running to win a general election for Republicans? NAVARRO: They are absolutely two different animals, primaries and generals. That being said, I think Republicans have to offer proactive solutions, have a positive agenda, because if Republicans have the House and the Senate, and that's what we're talking about possibly, they'll be able to get things passed and get things done.

So, they're going to have to offer positive things. It's not just about obstruction and being the party of no, we've got to go back to being a united party about positive ideas and a vision for this country.

BOLDUAN: An excellent point for both sides, having a positive agenda, rather than just saying you don't want the other guy, so just vote in. Ana and Paul, always great to have you guys. Great to see you two.


CUOMO: All right. The scandal at Veterans Affairs has White House scrambling this morning. President Obama called a meeting later today with V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki, this after 26 V.A. hospitals now under investigation for allegedly covering up potentially deadly wait times.

The president is also sending one of his top aides to the Phoenix V.A. hospital, that's where CNN first reported dozens of veterans may have died after waiting months for treatment.

Let's bring in White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski.

Why this move now? Do they believe it is too little, too late?


Yes, the White House has repeatedly been insisting that the president is personally involved in this issue, had to do defending with all the questions circulating out there. So, this morning he calls for this meeting directly with the V.A. secretary in the Oval Office as the investigation expands.


KOSINSKI (voice-over): The V.A.'s inspector general this morning is investigating practices at 26 V.A. facilities around the country. Last week, it was 10. A top White House adviser is heading today to Phoenix where the scandal really broke, reported by CNN's Drew Griffin.

Under the microscope now, why there were waiting lists at some V.A. hospitals kept on paper, not entered into computer systems, how widespread and long-standing this alleged cooking of the books might have been, how it started, and how it affected the American soldiers under the V.A.'s care?

Like 71-year-old Thomas Breen who went to the E.R. September 28th. His family says he was told he needed to see a doctor urgently, within a week. SALLY BARNES-BREEN, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: They call me December 6th. He's dead already. I said, really, you're a little too late, sweetheart. And I was yelling at her.

KOSINSKI: Turns out he had stage 4 bladder cancer, undiagnosed.

We know that the V.A. itself knew of some problems with delays and waiting lists for at least six years now. Data-keeping issues going back nearly a decade.

In 2010, a V.A. memo called for immediate action to identify and eliminate inappropriate scheduling practices, sometimes referred to as gaming strategies. This is not patient-centered care.

The memo specifically bans using paper logs for appointments. Again, this was four years ago. Now being held by some at least partly accountable, the White House, which staunchly stands by its actions to increase funding and resources for veterans in the face of problems that clearly started long before President Obama took office.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, this is not a new issue to the president. That's why he has been focused on it since he's been president.

KOSINSKI: But critics in the House this week are bringing in the bill to give the head of the V.A. more power to fire managers, calling this scandal a mess.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: It is time for our president to come forward and take responsibility for this and do the right thing by these veterans, and begin to show that he actually cares about getting it straight.


KOSINSKI: There have been calls for Shinseki's resignations. There have been questions as to why haven't we heard from the president directly on this issue yet? When will we hear from the president?

The White House says that will happen soon. Now, this meeting this morning raises the possibility that we might hear from him as early as today. And, of course, it will be interesting to hear what comes out of this meeting if anything -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Lots of questions and much concern. Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much for that.

Let's give you a look at more of your headlines right now.

U.S. intelligence officials says a threat stream from al Qaeda group has evolved, with threats targeting the U.S. and Western Europe. Officials telling CNN, so far there's no indication of a cell operating within the United States. They say al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula based in Yemen is a particular concern.

The Obama administration is about to release a secret Justice Department memo that authorized the killing of a U.S. citizen in a 2011 drone strike. The author of the controversial document has been nominated to a federal appeals court. And today, the Senate is expected to hold a vote on his nomination. It could take weeks to release a redacted version of that memo.

I want to show you amazing video from British Columbia. Here you go, mother bear picking the cup up by his neck and pulling him to safety or her. It happened in one of the highways to one of B.C.'s national parks. Apparently, the cub on the road got spooked by traffic.

The video has exploded on YouTube. You can actually see there, here's another cub who is thinking about maybe going for a little walk and then realizes not a good idea and turns around.

CUOMO: And, you know, she probably could have done it a different way, but she wanted to send a message. I told you not to play near the road.

PEREIRA: Second time.

CUOMO: Snatch you up by the scruff of your neck, drop you down.

PEREIRA: I feel like mama (INAUDIBLE) had to do that. Not necessarily on the side of the road, right?

CUOMO: Neck is still sore.

Coming up on NEW DAY: startling accusations by former NFL players. They say the league gave out pain killers to keep them on the field, but it caused long-term side effects to their health they were never warned about. We're going to talk to a former player part of a big lawsuit. You judge for yourself.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

It's no secret that professional football is dangerous, but according to a new lawsuit, what was secret was what medical treatment was doing to the players. A group of retired NFL players says the league handed out prescription pain killers like candy and lied about the severity of their injuries to keep them on the field. The lawsuit claims that drugs led to serious health problems.

One of the men dealing with those problems is former 49ers pro bowl center, Jeremy Newberry. And he's joining us now.

Jeremy, thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: Regardless of the lawsuit, first I want to say, reading about what you're dealing with health-wise, I was sorry to read it. I'm sorry you're dealing with this process in your own life.

Tell the audience what your current health condition is because you look as strong as an ox.

NEWBERRY: Well -- I mean, the majority of my problem stems from my kidneys. I got stage 3 kidney failure directly related to the Toradol and the anti-inflammatories and painkillers that I was afforded every game to, you know, stay on the field.

CUOMO: What does that mean, stage four kidney failure? What does that do to your life?

NEWBERRY: It means I have about 30 percent function of my kidneys. So, I can still live life without being on dialysis. If I get much worse, I'll need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

CUOMO: What do the doctors tell you about how your particular condition will progress?

NEWBERRY: I'm trying to do everything I can to slow it down. That means no over-the-counter meds. No -- I have headaches daily. I've had 16 orthopedic surgeries in my NFL career. So, it means just grin and bare it through all that stuff now.

So, you know, the quality of life with the headaches and the injuries is somewhat diminished because of that. I'm trying to make a way -- I've got four young children to try to look after. So, I'm trying to do the best I can.

CUOMO: Are you unique?

NEWBERRY: No, and that's the crazy part. Out of the four or 500 people that have already signed up, over 100 of them have kidney problems. The general population that's -- I mean, a crazy number percentage-wise for people to be affected with some kind of renal function failure because of -- because directly related to all the drugs given to us.

CUOMO: All right. So, let's do this. You know the case very well, right? You know what's in the lawsuit and why?


CUOMO: I'll be the lead, all right? So, we'll make it -- we'll give people a better chance to see what's going to happen.

The league will say you assumed the risk of playing the game. You know it's dangerous. The pain medication was offered to you. You didn't have to take it and you could have consulted with your own doctors. We never stopped you from that.

What's your take?

NEWBERRY: My take is I've asked the team doctors what's this going to do to me? The answer is it will cause a bigger bruise. If you're a 23 or 24-year-old kid and you have a doctor you trust, a team of trainers paid by this team to take care of you, it's their job to take care of you, why would you go out and get another doctor and assume what they told you wasn't correct? CUOMO: And the physician will say, look, this is now sour grapes. You assumed the risk of playing a dangerous sport. It took a toll on your body, that's terrible, but you knew it and you were paid for it. Now you're trying to double dip.


NEWBERRY: Not one bit. You know, you know you're going to go in and I know I'm going to have probably a sprained ankle and maybe a couple knee surgeries and probably a broken hand or a broken arm. Nobody ever in my entire life ever spoke about the issues I'm going to have with my kidneys because I played the game of tackle football.

And that's a very real problem with a lot of people. It's because, one, the amounts of drugs they feed you. And two, the type of drugs they feed over and over and over.

CUOMO: The league will suggest probably is, how are you going to tie these together? Maybe you had some bad doctors on the staff of the 49ers or San Diego Chargers, but you can't blame it on everybody. You look at the Jets, they stink every year. They must not be giving their guys anything.

You know, how do you tie all the teams together?

NEWBERRY: I'm going to leave the Jets comment alone.

You know, this is not -- this is not a team-wide thing. I'm also a sports agent and I represent young men heading into the NFL and I actually train offensive linemen. This is a culture in the NFL accepted all the way across the board. Between the eight named plaintiffs in this case and all the other people signed up, we've got every NFL team covered in the stories the same across the board. This is not a 49er problem or a Raider problem or a Charger problem, this is a larger problem with the culture problem in the NFL.

CUOMO: Now, the last point I want you to make for the audience is what happens to the Jeremy Newberry -- now, you were amazing. You were two-time all pro. You were the real deal. Most guys make it two, three seasons in the NFL.

What happens to players who say, I'm not taking your drugs, I'm not doing what it takes to keep myself on the field, I'm going to heal naturally?

NEWBERRY: They'll find somebody else that will do it. They remind you on a regular basis. Hey, we can get you back on the field, you're OK with that, right? What do you say if you're a young man?

If this is the doctor you trust and like and he's the one looking out for your medical conditions, he's saying we'll get you stuff to get back on the field, your answer is: yes, I'll get back on the field. I mean, you don't really have an opportunity. If you don't want to do that, they'll find somebody else who will.

CUOMO: And you were not only rewarded for your play being an all pro, but you were rewarded over the years, more than once, because of your toughness, because of your willingness and ability to play through pain. Now, you're saying that came with a cost that you never expected.

We'll be following this lawsuit. We love the game, we love the culture. We want it to be as safe as possible. It's a tough discussion. You know that.

But Jeremy Newberry, thank you very much forgiving us your perspective on it. Come back when we get to the next phase. OK?

NEWBERRY: My pleasure.

CUOMO: All right. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, a man arrested on his seventh DUI as he led police on a high-speed chase in his Ferrari and he gets out on work release. How did that happen? People are outraged and say it's because he's wealthy.

We're going to talk to his lawyer and see what he has to say about it, next.


PEREIRA: Welcome back to NEW DAY this morning. There are new concerns surrounding the recall of 1.8 million pounds of ground beef. The USDA says the meat was sent to distribution centers nationwide. It very well could be on store shelves right now.

Officials fear the meat is tainted by E. coli bacteria. So far, 11 people have been sickened in four states, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

Joining us this morning, Dr. Armand Dorian with the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, California.

Good to have you back on the program, Dr. Dorian. As an ER doc, are you seeing -- have you seen people come in with E. Coli-related sicknesses?

DR. ARMAND DORIAN, USC VERDUGO HILLS HOSPITAL: There's no question as an ER physician, we see food illnesses, food born illnesses, diarrhea, every day. E. coli is one of those things that causes diarrhea and vomiting.

PEREIRA: So, talk to us about how you treat that, when you get somebody in with that. What's the course of treatment?

DORIAN: This is very important. E. coli poisoning is no different than any other type of food poisoning in the fact that the treatment is always hydration, hydration, hydration. It's about either oral hydration you can do at home. If you're vomiting and can't tolerate that, then you come to the emergency department and we hydrate with I.V. fluids.