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Ben Carson Makes Controversial Statements about Oregon School Shooting; Interview with Bernie Sanders' Campaign Manager; Two U.S. Jets Diverted from Path of Russian Warplane; Russia Hits Syria by Land, Air & Sea. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 8, 2015 - 08:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The retired neurosurgeon keeps gaining momentum with FOX News owner Rupert Murdoch tweeting that Carson would be, quote, "A real black president."

[08:00:06] So there is a lot happening today on the campaign trail ahead of the big CNN debate next week.

We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Athena Jones live from Des Moines, Iowa. What is the latest, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. That Murdoch tweet is getting a lot of attention this morning. And when it comes to Ben Carson, part of his appeal, voters say, is that he's not a politician. He says what he thinks and he doesn't worry about political correctness. The question now is whether these latest comments will begin to damage that appeal.


BEN CARSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to plant in people's minds what to do in a situation like this.

JONES: Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson just can't seem to shake the firestorm he ignited. On Wednesday, Carson doubling down on controversial comments he made about last week's Oregon campus massacre.

CARSON: From the indications that I got they did not rush the shooter. The shooter can only shoot one person at a time. He cannot shoot a whole group of people.

JONES: Now, a survivor of the shooting has responded, telling CNN, quote, "I'm fairly upset he said that. Nobody could truly understand what actions they would take like that in a situation unless they lived it." Carson first commented on the massacre on Tuesday, telling ABC News what he would have done.

CARSON: I would ask everybody to attack the gunman because he can only shoot one of us at a time. That way we don't all wind up dead.

I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, hey guy, everybody attack him. He may shoot me but he can't get us all. JONES: But just a day later the former brain surgeon recounting a

much different reaction when he was once held at gunpoint in Baltimore to Sirius XM radio.

CARSON: A guy comes in and puts the gun at my ribs, and I just said "I believe you want the guy behind the counter."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what you said, in that clam way. In that calm way.

CARSON: He said, oh, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, so you redirected him to --

CARSON: I redistricted him to --


JONES: On Wednesday an unlikely ally coming to Carson's defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, real quick on Ben Carson, you are tweeting differently about him. Are you defending him?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought he was treated unfairly.


JONES: Now Trump and Carson have been holding their fire against one another in recent weeks. Trump even says he'd tap Carson for a cabinet position if he wins. Chris?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you very much, Athena.

Let's now look at Hillary Clinton turning on President Obama and one of his signature achievements. That sounds personal, but listen to what happened, the Transpacific Partnership trade deal. She once supported it very strongly. Now she says she doesn't. Is this just about a political play? Let's turn to CNN senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar live in our Washington bureau. Yes, you distance yourself when you run, but?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But certainly I guess you could say it raises a lot of eyebrows when she does do so, Chris. She is breaking big with President Obama. She is contradicting herself because of the secretary of state she heralded this deal dozens of times. But her campaign will say she said that she was waiting on the details. Now she has been briefed and she doesn't agree with the trade deal.

But you see her in this context of where she is politically. She's getting challenged from the left by Bernie Sanders. And so this is the position that she came to as she's had a bit of a lukewarm reception from unions, of big labor I should say, as she runs for president. And here is what she ended up telling PBS news hour.


HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm worried about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement. We've lost American jobs to the manipulations that countries particularly in Asia have engaged in. As of today I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.


KEILAR: So really add this to the list of Hillary Clinton breaking with President Obama on certain areas. For instance, she proposes scrapping a tax on Cadillac plans that pays for quite a chunk of Obamacare. She's proposed a no-fly zone over Syria as well. She came out against the Keystone XL pipeline, not necessarily breaking with the president but certainly undercutting him because he has not come to a position on that.

So this is also something I think you look at in the context of Vice President Joe Biden as he is weighing a run at this point, Michaela. These are positions that will be hard for him to take. For instance, we know his office is saying he still very much supports this trade deal. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And likely that trade deal a big topic of discussion at the debates in Las Vegan on the 13th. We'll be watching that, I know. Brianna, thanks.

Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, preparing to make the case that he has been right from day one on issues like TPP. He's closing the fundraising gap with Clinton now, competing and even beating her in some earlier polls. Going into Tuesday's CNN Democratic debate is he ready? Sunlen Serfaty live in Washington with more for us on that.

[08:05:07] SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Michaela, it is really interesting. Bernie Sanders is not preparing for this debate in a typical way. He's not going through full blown mock debates. No one is standing in as Hillary Clinton. But he is studying up. His top strategists tell us he's requested briefing books and he's talking to experts this week going through specific policy issues.

The Sanders campaign is really treating this moment, the debate, as a very important one for him as the candidate. He has been doing well in the polls. In New Hampshire he in fact is in the lead, up 42 to Clinton's 28. And he's also inching closer to Clinton in Iowa. So certainly how he'll handle some of these policy distinctions with Clinton while up there on that debate stage will be key for him. And I talked to him about this, how he's approaching this as he preps for the debate.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You are looking at a candidate who does not go about attacking people personally. What I think democracy is about and what I think debates are about is in fact differentiating the differences of opinions that we have. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SERFATY: And that said, Bernie Sanders makes it perfectly clear that he is ready with a laundry list of ideas and policy distinctions he wants to highlight between him and Clinton over TPP, over Wall Street, over the Keystone pipeline. Now, going into this weekend he hopes to have a real boost of energy and momentum. He is rolling out tomorrow his first congressional endorsement for Representative Grijalva of Arizona. Into the weekend he will hold three big campaign rallies, Alisyn. Certainly this is important for the campaign to send him in with a boost of momentum.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sunlen. Let's find out more about what Bernie Sanders is doing. Joining us now is Bernie Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver. Hi, Jeff. Thanks for being on NEW DAY.


CAMEROTA: I'm well. What Senator Sanders doing today and the next couple of days to prepare for the big debate?

WEAVER: Bernie is really not a sort a showman. He's an authentic person. He's getting some briefings. He's been in the Senate a long time. He's a serious candidate who likes to talk about issues in a serious way. And so, you know, I know a lot of other candidates typically have these stand-ups where somebody plays the other candidates and what have you.

CAMEROTA: And why isn't Bernie Sanders engaging in these mock debates?

WEAVER: Well, because Bernie Sanders is not into the showmanship of the debate. He's into the substance of the debate. And so what he wants to do in preparation of the debate is to dig deeper into some of the issues that we believe will be asked about at the debate so that we can have a substantive discussion about the issues facing America.

I mean, if you compare what happened at the Republican debate, we are not interested in a political food fight on the stage and I don't think the American people are either. They want to hear about how are you going to address income inequality, how are you going to address the high cost of college education, how we're going to deal with climate change. That is what people want to hear from the candidates on the stage and not petty personal attacks like we saw in the Republican debate.

CAMEROTA: Let's look at the latest polls. This is the NBC Marist poll, and this shows where the candidates stand in New Hampshire. Bernie Sanders is 42 percent now, Hillary Clinton just 28 percent, again, in New Hampshire. And Joe Biden, if he were to run, is at 18 percent. Some people have suggested this is because Bernie Sanders is from the neighboring state. How much impact do you think that is?

WEAVER: Well, I think this is what this poll tells you, and if you look at polls in Iowa and elsewhere, what these tell you is the more people know about Bernie Sanders, the more they want to vote for him. So as he's exposed to people across the country and his ideas for transforming America are introduced to people around the country, what you are going to do see is people in New Hampshire have obviously come to Bernie Sanders. People in Iowa are moving in his direction. And you are going to see this in state by state by state. I mean, that is how we elect a nominee in this country is state by state. And as Bernie Sanders is introduced to people in the states, the more they know about him, the more they like him, and the higher his vote totals go.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask about his fundraising, because something interesting has happened. If you compare the second quarter fundraising between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to the third quarter fundraising between them, and I believe we have the numbers that we can put up on the screen for everyone, in the second quarter she had $47.5 million roll in to his $15 million. Then the third quarter he's closed the gap. She had $28 million, he had $25 million. Is this really just from grassroots small donations that he's amassing this?

WEAVER: Absolutely. We have over 650,000 individual contributors who have given over a million contributions to the campaign, average contribution, a little over $30. This is a campaign funded at the grassroots by working class and middle class Americans. We don't have a super PAC. We don't have a lot of rich donors.

[08:10:00] So this is how the modern grassroots campaign is funded, by everyday people who contribute what they can.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the issue that some pundits believe that Hillary Clinton will be able to go after Bernie Sanders on at the debate, and that of course is gun violence and what the senator plans to do about it. What has the senator said since the Oregon massacre about what he believes should change?

WEAVER: Look, what happened in Oregon is an appalling situation and everybody is clearly shocked by it and we need to do something about it. And that is where the senator stands. The truth is that Bernie Sanders has a strong record on gun safety legislation. He has supported an assault weapons ban since before he was elected to Congress in 1990. He has voted for and supported background checks. He supports closing the gun show loophole and making those background checks stronger. He has supported limits on the size of magazines so you don't have people with magazines that hold 20 or 30 or 40 rounds of ammunition. So this is an important issue we need to address, and he has a record of doing that, and he is going to continue speaking out on this very, very important issue.

We also have to deal with the issue of mental health intervention. There are a lot of individuals out there who need mental health intervention who can't get those services currently.

CAMEROTA: And what would he suggest about that?

WEAVER: Well, we need to make a huge investment in making mental health services available to Americans. One of the problems is that even when you have somebody in crisis who's identified as being in crisis, often they have difficulty accessing services in a timely way or getting inpatient care in a timely way. And so these people are left out on the street.

CAMEROTA: One of the places where he differentiates his plan from Hillary Clinton's is on whether or not gun manufacturers could be sued. Why doesn't Senator Sanders believe that the gun manufacturers could be sued? I mean, isn't this up to the criminal justice system to determine?

WEAVER: Suing is not done in criminal justice, it is done in the civil part of our judicial system. But this is the point. In Vermont, we're a small state, a rural state with a strong culture of gun ownership. A lot of people hunt. It's a very common activity. A lot of those businesses are owned by mom and pops who have a hunting supply store where they sell some firearms. And so he is concerned about those types of people being caught up potentially in lawsuits.

In terms of the big manufacturers, you know, when you're in Congress you get a bill and you have to vote up or down. So it is not always that the bill that you would craft if you were writing it yourself. So could someone make the case that this law needs to be sort of massaged or some changes need to be made, maybe to put back in some bad behavior by large gun manufacturers? Of course, of course. And he's open to those kinds of changes. But when you're in the Senate or the House, you get a bill, you have to vote on it up or down even if you don't like all the parts of the bill.

CAMEROTA: Back to the debate for a second. Will Senator Sanders be talking about Benghazi or Hillary Clinton's e-mail issues?

WEAVER: No, no, and no. People don't want to hear about all of this distraction. This is the Republican playbook. They don't like to talk about issues because they don't have anything to say to the American people. They want more tax breaks for the rich. They don't want to raise the minimum wage. They have nothing to say about college education. They have nothing to say about racial justice. They have nothing that is not offensive to say about immigration reform. The Democratic side, we do have something to say. And Bernie Sanders certainly has something to say. And those are the issues we want to talk about, the issues that affect people in their homes and lives. Not these Benghazi e-mail distractions that you hear so much about.

CAMEROTA: We will look forward to watching it all play out Tuesday night. Jeff Weaver, thanks so much for being on NEW DAY. We'll see you in Las Vegas. Coming up on NEW DAY, we will talk with first congressman to endorse Bernie Sanders. What does he like so much about Bernie? We'll ask about that.

Also, we're just five days away from the first Democratic debate of course hosted by CNN and Facebook. It's October 14, 8:30 p.m. right here on CNN. We also want to note, Ben Carson will be live with Wolf Blitzer today at 1:00 p.m. eastern on CNN, so tune in to that. Michaela? PEREIRA: All right, some new details this morning about the troubled past of the 26-year-old gunman who killed nine people at Oregon's Umpqua Community College. It turns out he was discharged from the army in 2008 for trying to commit suicide after one month of basic training. We take you live now to Roseburg, Oregon, where we find Dan Simon. Dan, give us an update Dan on what we know.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Michaela. This was 2008. We don't know all of the details. We do know that the shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, joined the military, joined the army. He never got through basic training because according to one law enforcement source he tried to commit suicide, and he was discharged. Now, because it was not a dishonorable discharge, he was then allowed to legally purchase guns.

Meantime, we're getting some more information about what happened in those final tense moments here at the university. We know that two plain clothed officers heard what was going on on their police radios and then rushed to the scene.

[08:15:00] They then hear the sound of gunfire, go towards that classroom. And then they themselves come under fire. They returned fire, hitting the suspect once. The suspect then goes back into the classroom and then takes his own life.

We should tell you that because of those officers, undoubtedly, they wound up saving several lives. And once again it is those first responders that come to the scene. They weren't even wearing bullet proof vests. So, pretty amazing stuff.

Chris, we'll send it back to you.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And also look, this furthers the understanding of what do you do to prevent these? Suicide is a huge component of gun violence. It almost dominates the statistics and that is why that information about this shooter matters.

Dan, thank you very much.

All right. So, here is the latest on the Syria situation vis-a-vis Russia and the U.S. There will be no working with them. That is what we're hearing from Defense Secretary Ash Carter, ruling out cooperation with Moscow, as long as it is propping up Assad.

This as we learned two U.S. aircraft had to be diverted out of the way of a Russian fighter jet because they were coming too close to others over Syria.

CNN's Barbara Starr following developments live at the Pentagon.

Barbara, you know, we had someone on from Russian television who said they are in there to back up Assad and fight ISIS. There is no misdirection here, plain as that.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is clearly the Russian view. The U.S. view somewhat different, and right now, what the Pentagon is all about is keeping American pilots safe in the skies over Syria. They do not believe at this point that they can trust the Russians, that they will have to take their own security into their own hands. That is why you are going to see U.S. planes continue to divert if Russian planes come within 20 nautical miles of them.

This is not about the retreat we are told. This is about the Pentagon taking responsibility for the safety of American pilots and air crews in the skies. So, we've had this one diversion.

We also know that Russian fighter jets are now shadowing. In at least two cases U.S. military drones flying over the Turkish border, trying to maintain border security. So, the Russians are very much on the move.

Ash Carter saying no cooperation on strategy. But he wants to get that technical agreement that will help keep everyone safe in the skies, even as the Russians continue their offensive. More naval fire, more ground action, pounding targets in western Syria that the U.S. believes very clearly are targets that are anti-Assad targets that the Russians are there to prop up Assad -- Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Barbara, thanks for that update on Syria.

Back here at home, flooding in South Carolina is expected to get worse over the next few days, in areas near rivers and streams as all of the water flows downstream. The total death toll climbing to 19 in the Carolinas after the bodies of two missing men were found. At least 13 dams in South Carolina have failed or been breached. Several more are being monitored.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Harry Reid is suing a company that makes exercise bands. Reid says he was using a TheraBand, a resistance band, on New Year's Day when it broke and slipped out of his hand, causing him to fall. He lost vision in one eye, injured his face and ribs. The lawsuit accuses the company of making a defective and dangerous product. Reid is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

CUOMO: Bill Cosby will testify tomorrow in a civil suit after a judge rejected a motion to throw out molestation accusations against him. Cosby's deposition in the case will be sealed until December, at least.

The accuser is Judy Huth. And she says that Cosby forced her to perform a sex act when she was just 15. More than 40 women have now accused Cosby of sexual misconduct. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

CAMEROTA: So with Russia flexing military muscle in Syria claiming to target ISIS and coming close to American pilots over the skies, can the U.S. overcome confrontation? Is there a way to work with Russia? A military expert has theories, next.


[08:22:36] CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to NEW DAY. Here is what we know: Russia is now moving on Syria by land, sea and air. And we know why they are there. It's gotten so bad U.S. jets have gotten to swerve to avoid Russian jets because they are so close.

So, if they are there and we know why we're there, why they are there, what are we going to do about it?

Admiral James Stavridis is the author of "The Accidental Admiral." He is the former supreme allied commander at NATO and currently dean of the Fletcher School at Tuft's University.

Admiral, thank you for being here.


CUOMO: So we have a man on from Russia TV. He says Russia is there to back up Assad. He is the only legit person. He should be there. They have said it all along. Putin has said it. That's why they are there.

I don't think he'll put a lot of boots on the ground. The Russians are shy about that. And yes, they will also help you fight ISIS because they are worried, they got big Muslim, exclusively Muslim countries within their sphere, they are as vulnerable as you are and more so. That's it.

If it's so plain, why is the U.S. pretending it is confused.

STAVRIDIS: There are two huge problems with that argument. The first one is Assad is a vicious war criminal. He's gassed his people.

CUOMO: Barrel bombing.

STAVRIDIS: Barrel bombed them. He has brutalized and pushed seven million outside of the country and displaced another 7 million inside the country. So, to sign up with the guy like that -- huge, huge mistake.

Secondly --

CUOMO: OK, fair point. But, hold on, before you get to the second point, let's take a step on the first one. They are saying that is why they are there. We keep hearing from U.S. officials if they are there to back up Assad and we think that that's -- they are saying that is why we're there.

Why is the U.S. not dealing with that on its face and saying, OK, they are there?

It sounds like there is this vacillation because we don't know what to do. Fair point?

STAVRIDIS: Somewhat. What I think we will continue to do, Chris, is keep pressure on Russia in other venues, including the sanctions which were levied over Ukraine but I think will segue very nicely into his support for a war criminal.

CUOMO: What's the second point of the argument?

STAVRIDIS: The second point is the danger of these forces, U.S. and Russia.

You mentioned the intercepts. We've also seen them intercepting our drones. These are big aircraft. They are firing cruise missiles.

They've got land troops. They have ten warships in those seas. It's kind of the example of Putin taking his shirt off again to show military Russian might.

That's bad because we have U.S. forces there.

[08:25:00] An inadvertent collision between those forces would be devastating.

CUOMO: You guys call it non-confliction.

STAVRIDIS: Yes. Deconfliction.

CUOMO: Deconfliction, which is like a fancy term of art for saying how do we not shoot at each other. Because we're not really here to fight with each other.


CUOMO: But that doesn't do that become a distinction without a difference at a certain point. If you are going after certain targets and they are going after different ones, eventually something terrible is going to happen, right?

STAVRIDIS: Potentially it will. There is a difference between operating together and crafting a strategy alongside which we're not going to do and doing the deconfliction that you mentioned, Chris, which is vital.

We can separate the targets. We can separate the air space. We need an adult conversation between the militaries to make sure we don't have an inadvertent collision of some kind.

CUOMO: So, why isn't this happening here? It seems like Russia does whatever it wants and America kind of just shakes it head. We just saw this in Ukraine. And they are going to do whatever they want and the U.S. huff and puffs and then doesn't blow a house down.

STAVRIDIS: Well, I think what we see is the advantage someone like Putin had is because he's a totalitarian leader. Some are criticizing the U.S. for not having seen these tomahawk launches over the last couple of days. The intel failed.


CUOMO: The U.S. intel failed. You didn't see it coming. You got caught. STAVRIDIS: Exactly, yes. So, here would be my response. Until we can drill into the Vladimir Putin's head, we're not going to see that intel coming because he is driving these events very personally and very tactically. That's an advantage he has that allows him to turn inside our circle in many ways.

CUOMO: So, what do we do? The U.S. keeps saying Assad must go. He can't be there. Russia says we don't think so. We think he's the right guy to stay there, and maybe you get a coalition government down the road. So, what do you do?

STAVRIDIS: Well, I think, first and foremost, we need to prioritize and really focus on the Islamic State. That's arming the Kurds. It's launching the air campaign against --

CUOMO: You let Russia put guys on the ground and kill the rebels that we're arming?

STAVRIDIS: Let me get to that point. We're going to take on the Islamic State first over in Syria. We keep the pressure on Russia through external means --

CUOMO: Are those working by the way? Is that pressure working? Because he seems to get more popular and not less.

STAVRIDIS: I think it is working. Actually, his ratings have gone down incrementally. And sanctions take a long time to work. Look how long it took to crack the Iranians on the sanctions deal.

So, they are working. It will take time. Low oil prices will help. We've got to pressure on other venues, but the bottom line is we should not sign up to supporting Assad.

CUOMO: Well, that seems unlikely at this point, right? I mean, not that long ago, during the crossing the red line phase of Syria policy, the president went from, well, let's see who gassed all of these people to saying, "I want to bomb in Syria" and Congress held him back. So, the U.S. has been somewhat all over the map on this.

STAVRIDIS: We have. I think we could take a stronger leadership role creating a the real strategy that prioritizes going after Islamic state, puts external pressure on Russia, aligns us with our Sunni allies in the region, not just Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states but also Jordan and Egypt and also leverages Turkey's position and hopefully get NATO engaged in this. That is a coherent strategy. We need it.

CUOMO: Politicians look at the situation, especially if they are inimical to the cause of the president and say, this is proof that the U.S. is weak. Is that a fair analogy? Or do you see it as sane versus insane?

STAVRIDIS: I think the United States is strong and has a leadership role to play. We could play a heavier role at the moment in the Middle East. We famously decided we are going to do a Pacific pivot some time ago. That hasn't worked out so well. We may not be interested in the Middle East, but the Middle East is interested in us.

CUOMO: Admiral Stavridis, it's not the first time a Greek had to tutor an Italian -- thank you for being with us on NEW DAY and help us understanding.

STAVRIDIS: Good to be with you, paisano.

CUOMO: We'll see you soon, as we see what happens next.

STAVRIDIS: Sounds great.

CUOMO: Mick?

PEREIRA: Bringing the world together you two. I love it.

All right. Bernie Sanders providing a formidable challenger to Hillary Clinton. Now, he's getting something that's alluded him. An endorsement from a member of Congress. We'll tell you who the new Bernie backer is. He actually joins us next.