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Georgia Dem Candidate To GOP: Bring It On; No One Wins, But Everyone Taking Victory Lap In Georgia Race; Lindsey Graham: GOP In South Getting "Wake-Up Call"; Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz Won't Seek Reelection; Ex-NFL Star Aaron Hernandez Commits Suicide in Prison; Trump Said "Armada" Sailing Toward North Korea, It Wasn't; Trump: "Always Have To Be Concerned" About Nuclear War; FBI Used Trump Dossier To Justify Monitoring Carter Page. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired April 19, 2017 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Georgia was on everyone's minds yesterday and it still is today and likely will be for the next two months now. This, of course, after a very close call, was it a wake-up call for Republicans and a near miss for Democrats in the Georgia special election?

The 30-year-old newcomer, Jon Ossoff, just missing the 50 percent mark. We'll show you up here the 50 percent mark to take -- to win outright and take over the Congressional seat Republicans have held there for decades.

Now also faces a runoff against Republican candidate, Karen Handel. So get ready for a rumble and one vote national political parties, and the White House are putting muscle into.

Some big questions right now, did Democrats blow their best chance to flip a red seat blue? Are Republicans showing they are vulnerable in places where they had been rock solid and how does Handel handle President Trump?

In case you're wondering, yes, the president did tweet about this and did weigh in saying that he was glad to help in a tweet in the race.

CNN's Jason Carroll is just outside Atlanta now with much more on this. So Jason, the dust is still settling after a long night. What are you hearing?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think you hit the nail right on the head, Kate, when you said whether or not it was a close call or wake-up call. It's really both.

When you look at the reality of what's happened on the ground, there are really plusses and minuses for both Republicans and Democrats. You look at what happened with Jon Ossoff here. I mean, look, he really did want to avoid a runoff here.

He wasn't able to make 50 percent of the vote, but he still made a staggering 48 percent of the vote and in much part by making this election a referendum on Donald Trump.

And when you look at what's happening here at the end of the day, both sides, you've got Republicans and you've got Democrats and both of them claiming a victory of sorts here. Listen to what Ossoff had to say last night.


JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: And there is no amount of dark money, super PAC, negative advertising that can overcome real grassroots energy like this. So bring it on.


CARROLL: Well, he says bring it on, but again, the reality is he did want to avoid a runoff. He knows that's going to be a steep hill for him to climb. Karen Handel, for her part, she is the establishment Republican well known here in the district. She's the former Georgia secretary of state.

She was reluctant when I asked her in an interview and she was also interviewed this morning, Kate, to say whether or not this election was a referendum on President Trump, but having said that he called to congratulate her and she said that she would welcome to have him come here and campaign with her -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Any question of distancing before, now that there's only one Republican in the field and definitely not distancing from the president now. Great to see you, Jason. Thank you.

Let's talk more about this with the editor-in-chief of "The Hill," Bob Cusack, and CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" reporter, Abby Phillips. Great to see you both.

So Abby, no one won, but as Jason is laying out, everyone is taking a victory lap this morning. So which is it?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it is definitely a warning sign for Republicans. I mean, this is a district that has a net advantage for a Republican candidate and has been safely held by their party for quite some time now.

There is really no reason to get a Democrat to win a 50 plus one runoff and the fact that Jon Ossoff got so close is not a good thing if you're a Republican. It definitely signals that there's a lot of sort of off-cycle energy here on the Democratic side in a place where there really shouldn't be.

But also, there were a lot of candidates on the ballot. Of the 11 Republicans who were out there who ran explicitly as sort of like heirs to Donald Trump who ran on Donald Trump essentially and those people did not fare well at all.

So we have someone in Karen Handel who will go into the runoff, who is an establishment-minded candidate, who is maybe not going to bear hug Donald Trump, but isn't going to keep too much of a distance. And I'm sure she'll be watching to see what happens with the president's approval ratings as we move forward because it's very clear that running on Trump is not going to give you a leg up in the district like this.

BOLDUAN: Yes, but look no further than the past election, it's hard to thread a needle, to not bear a hug, and not be tied with and still walk that line. It's a difficult challenge for Republicans.

So, Bob, a Democrat in a solidly red district came two points away from winning the seat outright. Do you know who is calling this a wake-up call this morning for Republicans? A Republican from the south and his name is Lindsey Graham. Here's what he said this morning. Listen to this.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The south is changing. Atlanta is changing and I like our chances in a runoff, but we need to wake up as a party. There are districts like this all over the country that are getting much more moderate.

[11:05:09]And I think Karen will do a good job, she's probably the best Republican we could have chosen. I like the chances of winning this seat, but this should be a wake-up call for the Republican Party in the south.


BOLDUAN: Bob, is he right? Do you think the Republicans are getting the message?

BOB CUSACK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE HILL": I think they're very nervous, there is no doubt about it. I mean, if Ossoff had just gotten a couple of more points and gotten to 50 percent, this would be a political earthquake this morning.

This is a district that for almost 40 years been in Republican hands. So Republicans dodging bullets here and they are favored to win. Special elections are hard to really predict.

Also one thing to think about, special elections in 2006 and 2010 sometimes are not a harbinger of what's to come because the midterm election is the big ball of wax here and that's what everyone is looking at.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. But again, if he had been two points closer this would have been a political earthquake. Here is the question, you know, the question will remain for the next few months, of course, is this as far as it's going to go?

It's kind of an emotional victory for Democrats because when the Republican side consolidates and it equals more than 50 percent and we'll see if he can pull it out.

I want to move, though, Abby, over to some breaking news that we got in and that Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee announcing that he is not going to be seeking reelection in 2018.

A statement from Chaffetz says that he made a personal decision to return to the private sector. Pull back the veil here. What's going on here?

PHILLIP: Well, you know, Jason Chaffetz is in a tougher than expected district especially in this kind of environment. Over the last couple of weeks, he's been subjected to some really tough town halls and again, it's looking at going into 2018, what are some of these members experiencing out there.

And they're experiencing a lot of blowback from an energized left, but I think Chaffetz also mentioned that he's not totally out of the running here. There is a possibility that he might, going forward, run for a governor's seat. He's just not going to run in 2018, which might be a tough midterm for him and for some other Republicans out there.

BOLDUAN: But still, Bob, I mean, he is a big-name Republican and he is young and he's not running for reelection. That's a really big deal. Is this all about the governors -- the governor's seat is up in 2020? I can't remember.

CUSACK: You have the one thing that he's been rumored for, for years is running for Senator Hatch's seat, but there have been discussions that Hatch may run or maybe Mitt Romney would run. Now he's saying he's not going to run for any office at least in 2018, but I think he'll be back, but it is a surprising announcement this morning. There is no doubt about it.

BOLDUAN: Yes, fascinating. Fascinating turn of events. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.

All right, now to a shocking story that we learned overnight, former NFL star turned convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez, was found dead inside his prison cell in Massachusetts this morning. He was serving a life sentence for the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.

Jean Casarez is here and has been following this case from the very, very beginning. I mean, Jean, what more are we learning right now about the circumstances about his death?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are getting a statement in from Jose Baez, who was one of the defense attorneys on the case that he was just acquitted of double murder of last Friday and the statement is saying that the family has hired Jose Baez, to look at the circumstances surrounding his death.

And the statement goes on to say that the family and legal team is shocked by the death of Aaron Hernandez. There was no conversation or correspondence from Aaron or his family and they spoke to him in the last few days that would have indicated anything like this was possible. Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a second chance for his innocence and that, of course, is in the conviction and the murder of Odin Lloyd. We request that a thorough investigation can be done.

But it was at 3:05 this morning when prison officials found Aaron Hernandez unresponsive in his cell according to what we are hearing. From inside the prison, there was a bed sheet that was around his neck that was tied to a window in his cell.

But what was very different was according to prison officials, there were items that were stacked against the prison cell door so as to impede someone to get in, but they got in, performed emergency procedures and 911 was called.

He was transported to the University of Massachusetts Emergency Room declared dead at 4:07 this morning. And so the investigation is continuing by the Massachusetts State Police.

But we have also just learned an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause and manner of death. Important for any state investigation, but also to rule out any type of foul play.

BOLDUAN: There is a question now. We are just showing video last week when he was actually just acquitted of another charge --

CASAREZ: Double murder.

BOLDUAN: Double murder --

CASAREZ: Double murder from 2012. It was circumstance --

[11:10:02]BOLDUAN: He still would be serving this lifetime -- this life sentence?

CASAREZ: Yes, but he was ecstatic in the courtroom. There was emotion. He had tears in his eyes, hugging his attorneys, quite a victory to get off on a double murder, but then the realization that you are back in your prison cell because you are serving a life term for Odin Lloyd.

But Jose Baez had also told CNN last week that he was going to possibly join the appellate team. He thought he could get the conviction overturned for Odin Lloyd although there was very strong evidence against him.

BOLDUAN: Pretty shocking. Great to see you, Jean. Thanks so much.

CASAREZ: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Really, really appreciate it. I want to talk more about this with Doug Kyed, Patriots beat reporter for the New England Sports Network. He's actually in D.C. following the team which is heading to the White House for a championship visit with President Trump. We'll talk about that in just a second, Doug. Appreciate you coming on. You follow this team's every move. You know these guys. Have you heard any reaction to this news? DOUG KYED, PATRIOTS BEAT REPORTER, NESN: No. The Patriots are pretty tight lipped and they are on a plane and they possibly just got off a plane headed to D.C. for the White House, for that White House ceremony. So it's certainly possible that we will speak to some of his former teammates at that White House ceremony.

It looks like Rob Gronkowski is on the flight. Rob Ninkovic on the flight, those are two players who did play with Hernandez for a years there in New England. So we'll find out their reaction.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft is there, and there's been some anonymous quotes out there fed through some reporters that people are shocked about this and Aaron Hernandez's agent has said that he doesn't believe that Aaron would have done this.

So it's certainly a lot of interesting quotes from those who knew Aaron well following this incident.

BOLDUAN: I mean, everyone remembers so well, Bob Kraft the team's owner being called to testify in the Hernandez case. I mean, this was a huge deal when this happened. I mean, how has that whole case impacted the team?

KYED: You know, I think it certainly did impact them quite a bit in that 2013 season. Everyone took it obviously very hard, very seriously, but the Patriots have a way of eliminating these distractions better than any other organization in sports.

So even after the trial, even after he was found guilty, the questions are just kind of tossed aside by the players. They give the stock answers and Bill Belichick gives the stock answers and everything gets kind of moved past it.

So this is another time that the players will have to speak about it. I would be interested to hear what the more respected players in the locker room and the Matthew Slaters and what they have to say but I assume it will be status quo for them.

BOLDUAN: In that strange twist the team will be at the White House meeting with the president. I'm seeing that Tom Brady, though, is not attending the White House event. What are you hearing about this?

KYED: Yes. He released a statement saying that he has to deal with a personal family matter. His mother is sick. The only game that she attended during the 2016 season was the Super Bowl. She's reportedly in Boston right now.

So it sounds like he wants to spend time with his mother rather than take this day off to go to Washington, D.C. and you know, that's certainly his right to do that since his mother is sick. Robert Kraft revealed at the Super Bowl that she's dealing with cancer so obviously hoping for all the best on that.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Our thoughts with them and that's totally understandable needing to be with his family. Great to see you, Doug. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. KYED: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Programming note for all of you tonight, a CNN special report, "Downward Spiral: Inside The Case Against Aaron Hernandez" airs tonight at 11:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Also ahead for us, why are Republican senators starting to call out the president in town halls back home? Hear about two -- hear what two said about Trump's Florida trips and his tax returns, and President Trump said the U.S. had a, quote, "armada" heading toward North Korea. Problem is it wasn't. The ships were heading in the opposition direction. What's behind that mistake?

And his father reportedly said his son believed there was a race war between white and black men and then the son is accused of going on a killing spree targeting white people. Details ahead in this tragic story.



BOLDUAN: What the armada on the way or not after the president said an armada was on the way to this Korean Peninsula as a show of force against the North Korea, the reality is that armada actually went the opposite direction for military exercises.

The administration is calling it a miscommunication. Here's what the vice president had to say about it when asked by Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Were these misleading comments deliberate?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think not. Look, we have an extraordinary commitment of U.S. forces in this region and the Carl Vinson and that battle group are being deployed to the Sea of Japan.

BASH: The president also said in an interview that there are submarines, very powerful submarines. He actually said there was an armada heading this way. Are there submarines heading towards the Korean Peninsula, as well?

PENCE: We have a very strong military presence on land and sea and air. I think the point the president was making is that we're ready.


BOLDUAN: Let me bring in right now, Nina Hachigian, she's former U.S. ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations under President Obama. Ambassador, thanks so much for coming in.

NINA HACHIGIAN, EX-U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS: My pleasure. BOLDUAN: So as you're hearing, I mean, obviously the president said he was sending an armada and it actually went the opposite direction, 3500 miles to the south. The administration says it was a miscommunication. Your reaction to that?

HACHIGIAN: I find this all very embarrassing. As an American and what it tells me, the bigger point here is that they don't have enough of a solid process for making national security decisions.

By all accounts General McMaster has a great reputation and is a great guy, but they clearly don't have a process where they are really figuring out what the individual signals they're sending to North Korea are going to be and what the broader strategy is going to be.

[11:20:04]Because something like this wouldn't have happened if you had a process which would have involved the Joint Chiefs as well as the secretary of defense and the secretary of defense, and the intelligence agencies.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, I mean, what does North Korea or -- let's be honest, South Korea or China, for that matter, think about this kind of miscommunication? How is it received?

HACHIGIAN: Right. I mean, it's hard to know what North Korea thinks they might think this is all a deliberate hoax, but I am worried about what our allies in particular think of this, Japan and South Korea, and also what signals it's sending to China.

It's an unfortunate mistake and the fact is it's not something we needed to have been misleading about. We do have a major military force there. We didn't need to say this, and so we really -- I would just think the administration needs to get its ducks in a row a little bit better on the process.

BOLDUAN: In Wisconsin yesterday, the president did an interview, and he was asked how concerned Americans should be about nuclear war. Listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How concerned and worried should Americans be about a thermonuclear war with North Korea?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Look, you always have to be concerned. You don't know exactly who you're dealing with. I had a great, great meeting with the president of China, and that meeting tells me a lot and you've seen a lot of things happen. They have a pretty good power, and not a great power, perhaps, but a pretty good power over North Korea. We're going to see what happens.


BOLDUAN: We're going to see what happens, I mean, that truly doesn't sound reassuring to the American public. Is that where we are right now? HACHIGIAN: No, I don't think so. I don't think Americans need to worry about a thermonuclear war with North Korea. They don't have the missile technology yet to launch any of their weapons toward the United States.

We do have to be very concerned about the fact that they have those weapons, however, now 20 or 25 is the estimate, and they're developing, each time they test, they get more powerful and we have to worry about our allies.

Seoul is within 35 miles of the border of North Korea so even without nuclear weapons they could really do a lot of damage to Seoul as well as Japan, another one of our allies and that is why this is such a difficult problem.

There is no military option here for us, so that leaves sanctions and diplomacy which don't sound as tough, but that's where we need to go.

BOLDUAN: And where we are right now, where the country is right now with the rising tensions with North Korea, President Trump in that very same interview, he blames it on President Obama and he blames it on others and he called it a very tricky situation that should have been done by President Obama. It should have been done by previous presidents all the way back to Clinton and everybody pushed it off. You worked for both Obama and Clinton. Do they deserve the blame?

HACHIGIAN: No, they don't. I mean, they both worked intensely hard on this problem and we're extremely focused, but it is a very difficult problem. It was actually under George W. Bush that North Korea broke out to develop nuclear weapons because that administration wanted to get rid of an agreement that we've had with North Korea.

And in retrospect that probably wasn't the right decision even though North Korea is cheating, a deal where they are cheating is better than them having nuclear weapons, but now they have them. We are where we are and now it's the president's duty to figure out how we're going to get past this and solve it.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, thanks for coming on. Appreciate your perspective.

HACHIGIAN: My pleasure.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, exclusive new details on how the FBI secured a warrant to monitor one of President Trump's former campaign advisers and it involves that now infamous dossier.

And after calling it the worst deal in history, the Trump administration is now saying Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. What this means for the president's thinking for Iran going forward? That's ahead.


[11:28:19] BOLDUAN: New reporting now on the FBI investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible connections to the Trump campaign. Let me bring in right now CNN's chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. He has all the details on this. Jim, what have you learned?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Kate, U.S. officials telling CNN that last year the FBI used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification to get approval to secretly monitor Trump associate, Carter Page.

The FBI Director James Comey has cited the dossier in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its ongoing investigation.

This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as FISA to monitor Page's communications, to obtain court permission to target Page.

The FBI and Justice Department would have had to present probable cause that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power including possibly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering for a foreign government.

Comey and other top Justice Department officials would have had to sign off. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security though they is since said he had limited interactions with the campaign as just a volunteer -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: How surprising is it that this was done, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Well, we are told it's surprising because Comey's briefings to lawmakers stand in contrast to efforts in recent months by the bureau and U.S. intelligence agencies to try to distance themselves from that dossier.

U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have said the U.S. investigators did their own work separate from the dossier to support their findings that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

As you'll remember, their assessment in favor of Trump, Comey has not mentioned the dossier in all of his briefings to lawmakers.