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Kentucky Clerk Jailed for Not Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses Makes Announcement; New Polls Shows Donald Trump and Ben Carson in Lead in GOP Presidential Field; Interview with Fred Thompson; California Wildfire Blamed for One Death; Interview with Rick Santorum. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2015 - 08:00   ET

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


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[08:02:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We do have breaking news. Controversial Kentucky clerk Kim Davis just came out and told everybody what she's going to do. She said, yes, I was jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses because she says they defy her religious beliefs. So she made a bid announcement that said she will not have her name on the marriages.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get to CNN's Martin Savidge live in Morehead, Kentucky with us outside of Davis' offices with all of the details. Tell us the scene, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, you know, this was a lengthy statement that same from Kim Davis, and you could also tell that this was a statement that had been carefully crafted with the help of her attorneys. I'm not saying there were not emotional parts, which definitely came straight from the heart. But she said essentially that her faith is in conflict with what she's been ordered to do, and that is that she has been ordered to issue same-same marriage licenses which she does not belief in because of her Christian faith.

So what she says will happen forthwith is that her name and her authority will not be behind any marriage licenses that are issued from now on.

However, this is where she walked that fine line. She said it will be up to the deputy clerks to make their own determination if they will go forward and issue the licenses. So that is within keeping of the framework of what the judge had ordered last week, and that's what has been happening in her absence. So those deputy clerks could move forward.

But the one thing that's interesting is she says these licenses will have new language on it, and it will be saying that this issue is pursuant to a federal court ruling. She doesn't seem to have the authority to put new language on a marriage license, so that truly could come up here as making all of this a problem for the judge and whether or not she was in compliance with what he's ordered. It's going to be a very interesting day, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: All of this already has been a problem for the judge. It looks like it will continue, Martin. Thanks so much for that background. We will talk about this breaking news with Rick Santorum, a presidential candidate, of course. He's coming up shortly. Also, Fred Thompson, former presidential candidate.

Now, two Republican outsiders are gaining the inside track to the party's nomination. With two days before the CNN Republican debate, Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson are pulling away from the rest of the pack. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton appears to be losing some ground. CNN's team coverage begins with Athena Jones. She's live from the Reagan library Simi Valley, California. Good morning, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. The countdown has begun to the big night two days away here in Simi Valley. As you mentioned, that new national poll out from the "Washington Post" and ABC News is showing that Trump is still in the lead and he's posting his biggest numbers yet. Take a look at the poll. We can put it on the screen.

[08:05:00] You can see that Trump is leading with 33 percent support. Second place is Ben Carson, 13 points behind Trump. The rest of the field, though, is in the single digits. Jeb Bush is in third place, but he's 25 points behind the leader.

One more thing I should note about this poll from ABC and "Washington Post" is that Scott Walker has lost the most ground since July. He's not even up on the screen. He was in second place at 13 percent. Now, he's all the way down to two percent.

Meanwhile, a new poll from CNN/ORC shows that several issues have risen in importance since the last presidential election. Those issues are abortion, gun control, and illegal immigration. And that shift could certainly play a role in voters' eventual choice for their party's nominee in both parties.

And one more interesting set of set of interesting numbers I want to bring up from that ABC poll, you can see there that the number of voters who are more interested in an outsider candidate is quite high among Republicans. You see the number at 60 percent. That, of course, helps explain why folks like Donald Trump and Ben Carson are doing so well. But guys, the stage is set. The podiums are up, and we're all getting excited for the big night. Chris?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: I'll take it here, Athena. Only a couple nights to go. Thank you so much for that.

Meanwhile let's take a look at Hillary Clinton's campaign that keeps taking hits. If we look at numbers here, support no below 50 percent. According to the new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, she still leads the Democratic field at 42 percent, but Bernie Sanders and Vice President Biden, look at their numbers surging.

CNN Maeve Reston is watching all of it for us live from L.A., bright and early. And we know the controversy over her e-mail keeps taking its toll. Let's look at a poll -- 34 percent only believe that she honestly disclosed those facts. The numbers certainly aren't in her favor. They're going in the wrong direction. How does she reverse the trend?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, we're seeing her on the campaign trail a lot more. We know she's going to be out in New Hampshire later on this week for three days. She's also doing a lot of smaller, sort of women-centered event in places like Iowa.

But this has been a really bad cycle for her. She just can't seem to get the better of the story. And I think that it's obviously causing a surge for folks like Biden, who certainly is very undecided about whether he's going to jump into the race. And you're seeing what we've heard anecdotally out there on the campaign trail for months, which is that there is a real hunger for someone other than Hillary Clinton.

She still remains the strongest candidate by leaps and bounds certainly from a fundraising perspective, but you have a lot of people out there looking at Biden, looking at Bernie Sanders, saying would someone potentially other than Hillary Clinton be a better person to take on Donald Trump potentially? So we'll see where that goes.

CUOMO: All right, Maeve, thank you very much. Appreciate it. We'll talk more about that in a second.

I want to bring in former Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. senator from Tennessee, Senator Fred Thompson. Senator, it's good to have you with us. Looking well.

FRED THOMPSON, FORMER SENATOR AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Good to be with you. Thank you, sir.

CUOMO: Let's talk about the news, senator. You have Kim Davis walk out on to the steps and say, I cannot have my name on these licenses, even though that is the job she was elected to do. What's your take?

THOMPSON: Well, I just heard it walking in here. It sounds to me like she's doing what the court required her to do. She really ought to decide whether or not she wants the job if that's what the job entails. But it looks to me like if the deputies do it, they could probably solve that problem.

CUOMO: How big an issue do you think religious freedom will be in this election, and if so, how should it be argued? What is the right way to have that conversation?

THOMPSON: Well, I think religious freedom is a very big issue because people don't know kind of where we stand now as a nation, where we stand as far as what the law requires and does not require. There are a lot of people of faith who are very concerned about the direction that we're going in and what the people are going to be required to do, whether it be officials like this one, which is an easy call, I think, or whether it be somebody who owns a small bakery shop, as we've seen in other cases. So, yes, I think it's going to be an issue with a large amount of people.

CUOMO: How do you feel about Dr. Carson and Donald Trump being at the top of the polls, taking over 50 percent of the vote? And are you ready to announce you're getting into the race?

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Well, I don't feel badly enough about it to get into the race. I'll assure you of that. But I'm fascinated by it, like a lot of other people. I think, actually, that they are a reaction to what's going on in this country.

[08:10:03] People see that, large numbers, that we're not going in the right direction, that we're slipping as a nation, whether you're talking about or national debt, our whether you're talking about our standing in the world or otherwise. We seem to have been going in this direction for some time now. And some folks want to get the attention of the powers that be.

And it seems like, whether it's Republican or Democrat, they haven't had any effect on the politicians. So I think that there are some people out there flirting with the notion that we might ought to change our criteria for what we want in a president. Maybe a detailed policy, positions on every issue imaginable is not what's required anymore. Maybe it's more to do with guts and leadership, however a person defines that, charisma.

And I'm not sure that we've gone as far as these two gentlemen would have us go in that regard. They're going to have to put more meat on the bones in order really to be serious, in my opinion, to be contenders by the end of the year. But if they do that, then it'll be a very interesting situation as to what the American people want. The question is whether or not it's a flirtation or a real marriage proposal here that we're seeing among a good segment of Republican voters.

CUOMO: Where do you think your party really is in terms of -- with Trump, we have new poll numbers that among Latinos, he said his campaign last week, hey, I'm leading with Latinos. And 70 percent of them in the new NBC-Marist poll says 70 percent negative. Is he helping or hurting the party? And 65 percent, hurting. Dr. Carson had similar controversy attached to him, not as much wattage, but similar controversy with his feelings about gays. Is that the future of the GOP to just depend on the white vote, or do you have to create a bigger tent?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that they would dispute that they're focusing just on the white vote. I don't think that they are. I think their statements get skewed a little bit in the filter machine that we have here.

But, still, your point is well-taken. It's -- there's going to be an issue there. But what I'm wondering is whether or not, you know, they take the traditional positions, one side or the other, of some of these hot button issues, whether or not people are saying let's just put all that aside for a minute. I want somebody who is not afraid, and someone who is brash and will take on the establishment, whether it be the Republican establishment in Washington or the news media. And that's more important to me than any of these other details. If their heart is in the right place and they want to go in the right general direction, and they're going to have smart people around them if they get elected. This is the question, I'm not saying that this is all manifestation of wisdom, but I think that's what's going on right now.

CUOMO: Do you think, having been a senator and knowing how it works there, you can come in with a fresh attitude of, I'm not going to have any of the credentials, I'm not going to do it the way you do it, I'm strong, I'm a hammer, and I'm getting it done, what happens to that man or woman when they get down to D.C. and take the job?

THOMPSON: There's the rub. Our system is not designed to do anything dramatic by one branch of government. That's what I've said to some of these people I've been referring to. Barack Obama has been unilaterally doing things that no president ever thought they had the right to do. In fact, the president himself said he didn't have the right to do it in prior occasions.

But there's only so much in terms of substantive legislation and things of that nature that a president can do by himself. Obviously, checks and balances, separation of power, we're all familiar with that. But that's what our founding fathers set up, is a very conservative, with a small "c," system we have here. Nothing radical or great change is supposed to be made without going through this grist mill that we have in Washington. People get frustrated with that, but if they want to change it, they ought to elect better politicians.

CUOMO: Senator Fred Thompson, appreciate the perspective.

Someone said to me, "I don't like President Obama, and that's why I'm not voting for Donald Trump." I said, "What are you talking about?" And he said, "Because Obama does too much stuff himself. Trump is going to be the same way. I want the whole system to work for me, not just one part."

[08:15:01] Same point you just made.

Appreciate the perspective, as always, Senator.

THOMPSON: Thanks.

CUOMO: And you're looking well. It's great to have you.

THOMPSON: Also, wise person you were talking to.

CUOMO: Not as good looking as you, but wise. Wise is just the same. Take care, Senator.

All right. So, we're teeing up all the new poll numbers because you have a day on reckoning coming on just Wednesday. That's when the big CNN Republican debate is. The first round is at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. And you have the prime time event at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Final preparations are under way right now at the Reagan Presidential

Library in Simi Valley for this high stakes debate. The questions will be put to the people who want to be your leaders.

Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Chris.

Major wildfires are causing a state of emergency in two northern California counties. The Valley Fire, as it's called, has killed one person and has burned 50,000 acres. It has destroyed 400 homes and forced thousands of people to evacuate.

So, let's get the latest from CNN's Dan Simon. He's live in Middletown, California.

What's the scene, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, just a heartbreaking situation. You can see this one neighborhood. We are this Middletown, and I'll tell you what, everything is just incinerated.

This is one of the worst wildfires in northern California in recent memory. This gives you just a sense of the heat and how it just took out everything. You got 400 homes in this community that have burned to the ground. And officials are calling this a fuel-driven fire.

This is what a four-year drought looks like in the state of California. They have warned us about this. They said it could happen, and here it was. This fire just exploded so quickly, going from just a few hundred acres to more than 50,000 in a single day.

Fire crews say, at this point, there's still zero percent containment. The fire is slowing down, so hopefully they'll make progress. But still, so much work still to be done -- Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right. Thanks for giving us an update on that situation. Very dire indeed. Dan, thank you.

New this morning, Joyce Mitchell, the former prison seamstress who acted as an accomplice to killers Richard Matt and David Sweat during their escape from an upstate New York prison in June, sat down for her first ever TV interview this morning.

Here's some of what she said on NBC's "Today" show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOYCE MITCHELL, HELPED INMATES ESCAPE PRISON: I did wrong. I deserve to be punished. But, you know, people need to know that I was only trying to save my family.

MATT LAUER, NBC "TODAY": Did anybody ever stop you and say, you know, Joyce, back off a little bit. Get back behind the desk. Treat them like inmates. Stop being such a nice person. Stop being friends with them? MITCHELL: They never actually told me to stop, but they did say, you

know, you're too friendly, you know? You're too nice. At the time that everything happened, I was going through a time where I didn't feel like my husband loved me anymore. And I guess it was just me. I was going through depression. And I guess they saw my weakness, and that's how it all started.

LAUER: Richard Matt comes to you and says, Joyce, I need a star- shaped drill bit. That's a lot different than cookies and brownies.

MITCHELL: Yes.

LAUER: What did you think?

MITCHELL: At first, I'm like, I can't get you that, but then he's like I need it.

LAUER: For what?

MITCHELL: At first, they didn't tell me, and then after they did, it was because they were going to try to escape.

LAUER: Had you already given it to them at that stage?

MITCHELL: Yes. But I give them the stuff because they had threatened. It was Mr. Matt. He looked at me one day and said, you know, Joyce, I do love you. I said, I love my husband. And a little while after that, he wanted to get rid of Lyle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREIRA: She said she was doing what she thought she had to do to save her family. She feels threatened. She got in over her head.

CAMEROTA: That's an interesting interview because she also said she felt she was depressed at the time and she felt her husband no longer loved her. That helps a little bit to understand why she would get involved with a convict.

PEREIRA: We'll have more later on what Joyce Mitchell has to say. Stay tuned for that.

CUOMO: All right. So, he'll be part of the GOP undercard Wednesday night. Rick Santorum, you know him. He needs an opportunity to land some body blows on the leading Republicans, find a way to capture the energy of the race. What is the strategy, and what does he think about the breaking news we have coming out of Kentucky?

Rick Santorum, there he is, on NEW DAY next.

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[08:23:23] KIM DAVIS, CONTROVERSIAL KENTUCKY CLERK: When an accommodation is provided by those with the authority to provide it, any marriage license issued by my office will not be issued or authorized by me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Well, that was Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis, back at work and declaring moment ago that she will not authorize same-sex marriage licenses. That brings back the controversy all over again.

So, let's bring in Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

Hi, Senator. Thanks for being here.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Alisyn. Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: What would you advise Kim Davis to do this morning?

SANTORUM: I would advise Kim Davis to follow her conscience. You know, the Supreme Court decision made no provision of what county clerks should do. In fact, they had wrote extensively about how, after this decision, there had to be accommodations. There had to be things worked out by the legislatures and others, as to how to implement the court decision.

And Kim Davis has every right to say that, you know, this should be a religious accommodation. I believe the state of Kentucky, as well as the federal government, should be passing things like the First Amendment Defense Act, which provides for accommodations for people inside and outside of government who has religious convictions that differ with the court ruling.

CAMEROTA: I mean, what the Supreme Court decided is not allowing gay marriage is discrimination. So, that is the law of the land. It is discrimination not to provide -- listen, Senator. I mean, my point is this -- I'm sure there are lots of laws that you yourself don't agree with, but you follow the law. That's what we do as Americans.

SANTORUM: Number one, because the Supreme Court says something doesn't necessarily mean it's a law of the land.

[08:25:02] It's -- my belief is when the Supreme Court acts beyond their constitutional authority, then we have every obligation to fight that. I think, if you look at Justice Roberts' opinion, he said there's no constitutional basis for this decision, that the court acted beyond its authority. I think it's the responsibility principally of the Congress and the president to push back when the court -- that's called checks and balances. When the court exceeds its authority, the Congress and the Senate -- the Congress, excuse me, and the president should push back.

CAMEROTA: Sure, and there's a process for that. I mean, yes --

SANTORUM: I agree with that.

CAMEROTA: -- the Congress can go through passing its own legislation. There's a process. But at the moment, today, the Supreme Court has decreed the law of the land. And she is defying it. I mean, do we have a country, if everyone acts on their own individual personal religious beliefs and decides not to follow certain laws?

SANTORUM: Again, the Supreme Court made a decision about same-sex marriage, again, which I believe was beyond their authority to do so. But it did not provide anything that Kim Davis had to issue a marriage license. It said, very clearly, that there had to be accommodations provided for people of faith.

And what Kim Davis was not cited for violating the Supreme Court decision. She was cited in contempt of court of one judge deciding that this is what the Supreme Court required.

CAMEROTA: OK.

SANTORUM: That's why she's asking for Kentucky to step in and to do what they should do, which is clarify what the obligations are in the state of Kentucky.

CAMEROTA: OK. So, if you were the governor of Kentucky today, would you take her name off the marriage licenses as she's asking? Would you force her to resign? What would you do?

SANTORUM: I would take her -- I would accommodate her religious convictions, allow the -- you know, allow the process to go forward. You know, if I were Steve Beshear, I'm not saying what I would do, if I was the governor, that governor, I think that's something that that governor could probably do within his own conscience. I would have different issues if I were governor, but that's what I would do if I was -- I was the governor of Kentucky today.

CAMEROTA: OK. Senator, let's talk about Wednesday night. You will be part of the early, 6:00 p.m. Eastern debate. What is your plan on Wednesday night to break through?

SANTORUM: Well, one of the things I learned in doing 20 debates, over 20 debates last time around, when you go out there trying to break through, usually, you just break up. So, the best thing to do is to go out there and try to be yourself, take advantage of the opportunities that come before you. I look forward to that, talking about the issues and laying out why we're the best candidate for president, why we have the agenda to get dissatisfied working men and women who are very satisfied with Barack Obama, and with Hillary Clinton and frankly with most of the choices of the Republican Party, and say why they should be supporting someone who has a strong pro- worker agenda that's going to help win states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana.

That's where we have to go. We have to look to see what we can do to help the folks who have been falling behind in America. And I think we're the best candidate to do that.

CAMEROTA: Last time around, as you well know, you came in second. This time around, there's a new poll this morning. "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, it shows again in the lead at 33 percent, and then you, quite far down, at 1 percent.

What went wrong? What is going wrong this time around, Senator?

SANTORUM: Well, here's what I would say, if you go back and look at the polls from four years ago, I was at 1 percent four years ago. The guy who is at the top of the pack, I think at 41 percent, and a CNN poll taken in September, was Rick Perry. Rick Perry didn't get the delegate and we ended up, as you mentioned, won 11 states.

Four and a half months before an election is a lifetime. Who would have predicted two months ago that Donald Trump was going to be in the position he was?

CAMEROTA: Right.

SANTORUM: Nobody.

So, the idea that what's happening now is going to be determinative of what's going to happen in February rolls around, it's just not true. I'm going to keep my head down and work hard.

CAMEROTA: Let's say that Donald Trump does become the nominee.

George Pataki, one of your fellow competitors, just tweeted yesterday, "Let me be very plain, I'm not going to vote for Donald Trump. He is unfit to be president."

If Donald Trump is the nominee, senator, would you vote for him?

SANTORUM: Well, if he's the nominee and running against Hillary Clinton, that would be a pretty easy call. I mean, it would be a pretty easy call for anybody in the Republican field, against Hillary Clinton.

So, the answer is, he would be far superior to what the Democrats would put forward. So, of course, I'd vote for him.

CAMEROTA: OK. Senator Rick Santorum, we will look forward to seeing you out there Wednesday night. Thanks so much for being on NEW DAY.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Let's get to Michaela.

PEREIRA: All right, Alisyn.

These new poll numbers showed Trump and Carson in the lead. How does all of that impact the other GOP contenders and their preparation for Wednesday night's big debates? Our panel will weigh in, ahead.

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