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Roy Moore Defeats Trump-Backed Candidate in Alabama Runoff; Trump Defends Response to Puerto Rican Crisis. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired September 27, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. LUTHER STRANGE (R), ALABAMA: The president took a chance. I'm sure he'll be criticized for coming to campaign for me.
[05:59:17] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right wing firebrand Roy Moore defeating the Trump-backed candidate in Alabama.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're going to say, "Donald Trump was unable to pull his candidate."
I crossed the line.
JUDGE ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE PRIMARY WINNER: Don't think that because he supported my opponent that I do not support him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an establishment versus grassroots battle.
TRUMP: We got A-pluses on Texas and on Florida. We will also on Puerto Rico.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Let's stop the self- congratulations, which we haven't earned yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten thousand federal responders on the ground right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't take this crisis seriously, this is going to be your Katrina.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, September 27, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here is our starting line.
President Trump suffers his first election defeat. Alabama's controversial former chief justice, Roy Moore, decisively winning the Republican Senate primary run-off, eating his rival, Luther Strange, who was backed by the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The upset could spell trouble for the GOP establishment in the 2018 midterm elections. Also, President Trump defending his response to the hurricane in
Puerto Rico and brushing off claims that he was distracted by his feud with the NFL. The president now says that he will travel to the hard- hit island next week.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: After another stinging defeat on repealing Obamacare, President Trump is hoping to deliver on a different campaign promise: tax reform. The president traveling to Indiana today to lay out his tax plan. We're going to ask lawmakers who met with him if the plan is truly reform of the tax system or just a tax cut.
We also have a CNN exclusive, the IRS now sharing information with Special Counsel Bob Mueller about key Trump campaign officials as he investigates possible tax and financial crimes.
This as we learn Mueller's team could start interviewing White House staff this week.
We have all the news covered. Let's begin with Alex Marquardt. He is live in Montgomery, Alabama. And what a big hit down there.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really was, Chris. All the votes are now in. Moore has won with a resounding 9.2 percent of the vote. This is a resounding defeat for the Republican establishment, a significant blow for the president, who took a real gamble backing Luther Strange.
The president might have seen this coming at a campaign rally just a few days ago for Luther Strange. He almost forecasted this, saying that -- that it might have been a mistake to back Strange. It would be a total embarrassment if Strange loss.
Now that reality has come to pass. The White House, the Republican establishment dealing with a very new world this morning.
MOORE: Let's go again and make America great. Thank you. May God bless you.
MARQUARDT (voice-over): Former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore claiming victory in the state's GOP primary, using President Trump's slogan to rally supporters, despite the fact that he didn't get the president's endorsement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think the president supported your opponent and does that make you harbor any sort of resentment towards him?
MOORE: I have no resentment for the president. I think he's doing a great job. I think I can support him. And as long as it's constitutional, I'll be on his team.
MARQUARDT: President Trump quickly throwing his support behind Moore and congratulating him on the phone before apparently deleting three of his past tweets encouraging Alabamians to vote for Moore's opponent, the establishment favorite Luther Strange. Vice President Mike Pence following suit, telling Moore "We are for you" after standing on stage, campaigning for Strange less than 24 hours earlier.
President Trump had openly wondered whether he had chosen the wrong candidate while campaigning for Strange last week.
TRUMP: I might have made a mistake. If Luther doesn't win, then I can say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They're going to say, "Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line. It is a terrible, terrible moment for Trump. This is total embarrassment."
MARQUARDT: Moore's victory a blow to both the president and establishment Republicans. A super PAC affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had funneled millions of dollars into TV ads targeting Moore, fearing that he'll be a headache on the Hill and taint fellow Republicans with his extremely conservative views.
As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore was twice removed, including being suspended for going against the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.
And just last week, he was accused of racially insensitive remarks, saying, "Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting." Now President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, touting Moore's win as the start of a revolution.
MOORE: You're going to see, in state after state after state, people that follow the model of Judge Moore.
MARQUARDT: But Bannon also wanted to make clear that he did not come to Alabama to oppose his former boss at a rally for Judge Roy Moore the other night. He said that we did not come to defy honor Trump. We came here to praise and to honor him.
Trump is expected to come back to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore against the Democrat, Doug Jones. Democrats are feeling a lot more optimistic this morning, but it will be very tough for a Democrat -- a Democrat to win in this election, which is scheduled for December 12.
Alex, thank you very much for all that background. Let's bring in this panel to discuss this. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory and Margaret Talev and CNN Politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza.
Great to see all of you this morning. David Gregory, what does Roy Moore's win mean for Donald Trump, for Mitch McConnell and beyond?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, sometimes when you lead a big anti-establishment wave the way that Donald Trump did, a kind of new populism in politics and when you ride that into the White House, it doesn't mean you can control the current after that. And I think that's what Donald Trump is experiencing now. Trump himself has campaigned against the establishment as president,
campaigning against fellow Republicans, cutting a deal on the -- on the budget, a short-term deal, criticizing Republicans for their failure to be able to get health care done.
And now he's got Roy Moore, who has also campaigned against the establishment. I also think it's one of the reasons why, with this result coming, that Donald Trump -- you know, I changed my views on this a little bit, rather cynically waded into the culture wars again. Because that is his bread and butter, to try to align himself shoulder to shoulder with the Roy Moores of the country. And I think there will be more of it with Steve Bannon out there stoking it up. More of this model to come.
CUOMO: Margaret, Roy Moore makes Donald Trump look like a puppy when it comes to extreme views. This man is the real deal in terms of his buy-in of far-reaching, extreme ideologies. I know Roy Moore. I've interviewed him a couple of times. I've read into his past. I mean, there are things there that would make Donald Trump blush. He didn't back Luther Strange because of the reasons that I'm outlining right now. He did it because other political calculations.
But does Roy Moore mean as an element in our elected base of senators now if he makes it all the way through?
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, Chris, it's going to create most likely headaches for the establishment Republican Party both heading into these midterms and just looking beyond to the extent that there -- many of those leaders like, you know, Paul Ryan who are interested in more of a big-time approach of bringing women, Hispanics, and racial minorities in and taking sort of less extreme positions on issues like gay rights or patriotism or any of these things.
So but for President Trump, I think it's a slightly different calculation, which is how does he play now in Republican primary races going forward, and does he draw closer back to Steve Bannon? Do these overtures to Democrats on things like health care, does he have a rethinking of his more recent instincts on that? Does this snap him back? Tennessee is another state to watch. We see with Bob Corker's announcement that he's not going to run again.
Some initial reactions from Steve Bannon, suggesting that he feels really emboldened by this. So there's a lot to come on this run.
CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza, why did Donald Trump support Luther Strange? I mean, Roy Moore is the outsider. Roy Moore is the heir to Donald Trump's wave? Why did he support Luther Strange, the establishment guy?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: It's very strange.
CILLIZZA: That's terrible. I'll show myself out. Yes, Alisyn, you're absolutely right. Look, if you go through the
profile of these two candidates, the candidate that is much more in line with Donald Trump's views, Donald Trump's approach, Donald Trump's tone is Roy Moore. And it's not even close.
Because I think he was -- remember, mercurial. Day-to-day presidency. And I think, at the time that he did it, he was trying to make nice, do Mitch McConnell a favor, do Republican senators a favor and say, "Look, I'm going to fight with you guys. I'm not going to fight against you." But the truth is, you saw it with the clip of his speech in Alabama last Friday night.
He clearly had second thoughts about this. The deleting of the tweets. The Internet remembers, of course. But the deleting of the tweets, you know, the hedging. If Roy Moore -- if Roy Moore wins, I'm going to be down here campaigning for him. I think he didn't necessarily know what he was getting into this.
And I think, once he did, he did, to his credit, go down there and try to help Luther Strange. But, you know, this is another vote for Donald Trump's agenda. It's sort of -- yes, it's a short-term loss. Because he was with the guy who didn't win. At the same time, I guarantee you he will blame this, whether internally or externally, on Mitch McConnell: "Well, Mitch told me to endorse him." And Roy Moore is a supporter of his agenda 100 percent of the time. So it's a long- term gain for him anyway.
CUOMO: But he hasn't shown any ability to control the population in Congress that Roy Moore is going to be.
CAMEROTA: McConnell hasn't.
CUOMO: Neither has Donald Trump. I'm saying, you know, those people who are far out there, you know, even the Steve Kings of the world on the House side, he has shown no ability to control them, even though he's supposed to be a populist kind of outsider.
CAMEROTA: The voice of the White House.
[06:10:08] CUOMO: But he isn't. He hasn't been. But Roy Moore is a very different animal. Do we have any sound from -- do we have it?
CUOMO: All right. So just -- just to remind you of Roy Moore. This is a man who twice got removed as the head of their Supreme Court down there. Once because he refused to follow the constitutional law when it comes to presentation of the Ten Commandments in place. This is a secular society.
And then he did it again, because he refused to accept the notion of the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution. The man was the head jurist for Alabama. He refused to recognize the Supremacy Clause.
Here's a little bit of an interview with him.
CUOMO: You are clinging to a definition that you believe is divine. You said it in your letter to the governor. But you know that divine basis...
MOORE: You're incorrect.
CUOMO: I'm reading it. I'm reading it.
MOORE: You're incorrect.
CUOMO: I'm reading it right here.
MOORE: You're incorrect.
CUOMO: How so?
MOORE: You only look. Do you want to hear my answer or do you want to keep talking?
CUOMO: Yes. Sir, please.
MOORE: This is not about racial discrimination.
CUOMO: It's about discrimination.
MOORE: It's about sexual -- it's about sexual preference.
CUOMO: So you think that gay marriage is wrong, right? Just say it.
MOORE: I think that gay marriage is an alteration of the definition of marriage. And the United States Supreme Court does not have the authority, or the federal courts do not have the authority to interpret a word that disputes the Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, his political position is fine. He can believe whatever he wants. This is America. For now, at least.
But as a jurist, he had to recognize, David Gregory, the Supremacy Clause. And he refused to do it. It created a huge battle. If you go down the line, where he is on birtherism, where he is on Obama being a Muslim today, you know, I don't think we have anybody else like him in Congress, do we?
GREGORY: You now, it's -- he's certainly going to be out there if there's anybody close. I haven't gone down all of his views. But this could be difficult to control.
And I think it's a -- look, it's another sign of how difficult it will be for Mitch McConnell, for establishment Republicans, for the caucus generally.
And if you're -- if you're President Trump, it goes back to something we've been talking about the past few days. Where Trump is a bystander president. He may be able to take the reins on culture wars and stir something up about the NFL. It's not giving him any accomplishments as president of the United States.
Republicans can't agree on health care. We've seen that. Right? Maybe there's a compromise to be had with Democrats down the road. And now there is an ultimate test on tax reform. If Republicans can't agree on taxes, they've got real problems. Because health care is tough. Taxes should be right within, you know, their zone. And -- but that's the real problem. You have more of these challenges coming and a Republican caucus that can't agree.
CAMEROTA: Going to be very interesting. Thank you all for the analysis on this. We appreciate it.
CUOMO: Big test for the president. And that point about starting a wave of of populism and now not being able to control it. This Roy Moore will be like releasing the Kraken of that movement.
So after tweeting more than two dozen times about NFL players and the national anthem. Make no mistake: the president made this an issue relevant right now, even though there is the reality on your screen. Puerto Rico is something that we would have thought would have demanded full attention.
The president is denying he was distracted. He says he's all in to help Puerto Rico. He said he's going to go there. We're going to discuss the change and what we hope it means next.
[06:17:11] CUOMO: After several days of relentlessly tweeting about the NFL, President Trump is defending his administration's response to the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I wasn't preoccupied with the NFL. I was ashamed of what was taking place, because to me, that was a very important moment. I don't think you can disrespect our country, our flag, our national anthem. To me the NFL situation is a very important situation.
I've heard that before about was I preoccupied. Not at all. Not at all. I have plenty of time on my hands. All I do is work. And to be honest with you, that's an important function of working. It's called respect for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Well, look, there's no question he was spending more time tweeting about the NFL than he was about Puerto Rico. He hadn't said anything about Puerto Rico since the storm touched down. It had been almost a week.
But we've seen a change. We've seen a change. After these latest round of criticism about it, the tone in the tweets has changed. And his intentionality on Puerto Rico has changed. CAMEROTA: Yes. And his plans (ph).
CUOMO: Let's bring back David Gregory and Chris Cillizza, and let's also bring in CNN political commentator Errol Louis.
Errol, how do you process this? There is no -- he can say he wasn't preoccupied. The facts suggest differently. But he got hit hard for not being out there more about Puerto Rico. Now he says there's a change. He's going to go there. How do you see it?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. Look, there is a time-stamped record of what he did. So for him to say that, "Well, you know, I was paying attention to both at the same time." Well, we know the times at which the tweets went out, and we know all of the subsequent fervor that -- that followed.
This is about focusing the resources of the government. It's not about what he did at any given time of the day and whether or not he was thinking about it. Yes, we know that he got the briefings. We know that he would get, just in the normal course of business, full updates on what's going on there.
The question is, did he mobilize the resources of the federal government, to try to make this clear to people.
I mean, for example, when you look at polls and see that something like half of all Americans don't understand that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Well, that's something where the president can really be quite helpful. Did he sort of set up a war room. We have people who are -- who are really sort of on top of this on a daily basis.
I think one thing that has changed, Chris, frankly, is that there are a lot of celebrities who are tweeting. And by celebrities, I mean just prominent people. You have somebody like Geraldo Rivero on the other channel, who has been front and center. It's sort of core to who we is. We know that the president watches FOX News.
We know that there's a Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who couldn't reach members of her own family. That really kicks this all up to a much higher level. And I think that's probably part of his agenda.
CAMEROTA: Also, celebrities, J. Lo, A-Rod, Marc Anthony, everybody was talking about it.
So -- so David Gregory, the president, albeit belatedly, is now focusing on Puerto Rico. He's going to go there. He's talking about foreign resources. Does that show that he is responsive to criticism?
[06:20:06] GREGORY: Well, I think there's no question. He's responsive to criticism. And I think this is an area like we just discussed yesterday where he was getting good marks.
You know, any politician has to understand that your response to a natural disaster is your bread and butter as a politician. Because it's your core function. Government's core function is to protect its people.
You know, I remember back to Hurricane Katrina. And there were a lot of factors in that. But one of the reasons that President Bush was criticized so heavily is that he was a governor in Texas. He knew how to do this. He understood that this was a core function. And things got in the way. And there was -- that's a bigger story about what the circumstances were. But it led to criticism.
Here, too, I think the president allowed himself to be distracted, you know, was -- wanted to be distracted. Maybe wasn't paying attention as much for any number of reasons. But this was a dropped ball here, not to focus the power of the presidency on the plight of Puerto Ricans, which continues now, and one visit doesn't make that better. He has an ability to not just marshal federal resources but marshal the world's attention on the plight of Puerto Ricans who are facing a humanitarian disaster. And a very difficult road back because of where they're located.
CUOMO: Right. It's an interesting dynamic, Chris Cillizza. You have Puerto Ricans and other Latinos coming up and arguing about it. These are Americans on the island. You don't have to be Latino to care about them.
So the question becomes is Trump's obvious distraction and lack of focus to this point, is this just a political issue or is it a practical one? Do we see any proof that either the preliminary moves or the current moves by the administration, FEMA and all the related agencies was, in any way, hampered or not as good as it could have been because the president wasn't owning it?
CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, I think it's difficult, because we're so still relatively close to it happening, Chris. You know, I think an after-action report will show that.
But I do think what David points out is important, which is it's not just signing, OK, let's make this go here. Let's make this go here. That's clearly important. But it's also saying, "This matters. I'm going to take my giant spotlight that the presidency still affords me, and I'm going to shine it down there."
And the truth is he shined it down there, and let's say he never -- strange world. Let's say he never mentions anything about the NFL, either in the speech for Luther Strange in Alabama or over the weekend. What are we talking about? What is the attention? What is the national media focused on? It's Puerto Rico. These people don't have water. They don't have electricity.
So in shining the light over on something that's not Puerto Rico, even if he did put all the pieces in motion, as he claims, to ensure that aid was getting down there and that the work of reconstruction was beginning, you can still do more than that as president. It's a very unique job in that way, because you are able to shine a light and say, "Let's pay attention to this. Let's get those celebrities giving money down there. Let's see what we can do down there."
And he spent the last five days, candidly, up until about yesterday afternoon talking about the NFL.
CAMEROTA: But now he is talking about Puerto Rico, Errol, and he's doing it in typically Trumpian fashion. So let's hear the president talk about the challenges and why Puerto Rico is much harder than the other hurricane-ravaged places.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We've gotten A-pluses on Texas and Florida. And we will also on Puerto Rico. But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it's a big ocean; it's a very big ocean. And we're doing a really good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: It is a very big ocean.
LOUIS: It's a pretty big ocean. You know, look, there -- the optics are going to look terrible. The substance is also going to look terrible. We know that people are dying in Puerto Rico now. With half the island, over a million people, according to U.S. official sources, don't have clean water. We have hospitals that have no power, people who need dialysis, oxygen, everything else.
While this is going on, the president not just tweeting about the NFL. He's at a political rally in Alabama. He's playing politics. He's at a fundraiser for his reelection committee at Le Cirque, at a fancy French restaurant in New York City. This is not going to look well when you lay that against the disaster that's unfolding down there.
One last thing, I guess, about the ocean stuff. There's something called the Jones Act which makes all of the prices of consumer goods and fuel harder to get and higher costs in Puerto Rico. The administration has specifically said they're not going to suspend the Jones Act right now at this moment of great need. One of many things that shows that there's not a real urgency and focus of a kind that really is required for three and a half million people who are facing grave disaster.
CUOMO: That is a great issue to put your finger on. We're going to probe it with different interviews this morning on the show. Why aren't they changing the rules to make things cheaper for the people, less expensive to the people in Puerto Rico? It's an interesting point. Thank you.
[06:25:02] CAMEROTA: Thank you very much, panel. Great to talk to you.
CUOMO: OK. So people seeing the relief that President Trump is touting in Puerto Rico. That's the question. What is the reality on the ground? We have teams there. We will show it to you. We will show you the need with live reports from San Juan next.
And we're taking the pulse of the people. How do Trump's voters feel about his response to Hurricane Maria? That's coming up.
CUOMO: One week ago today, Hurricane Maria just destroyed Puerto Rico. Remember, they had taken two hits from Cat 5 hurricanes in very short order. So right now, you have 3.5 million Americans on that island. And the desperation is growing by the day.
We are not in the phase of getting better yet. Dozens have been arrested for looting. Water, food, fuel, sanitation all absent or in very short supply.