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Office Of Special Counsel Says Kellyanne Conway Violated Hatch Act; Ted Cruz And Beto O'Rourke To Face Off In Texas Senate Race; Cruz Ad Mocks Challenger For Going By "Beto." Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 7, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean --

JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER LAWYER, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE: And so this isn't what I feel. I'm discussing what the president thinks. It's strikingly different from what --

CAMEROTA: All right, so where can we get it, Laura?

SCHULTZ: -- happened in prior cases.

CAMEROTA: Do you agree with that assessment?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANAYLST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SIRIUS XM HOST, "THE LAURA COATES SHOW": Well Jim, I don't think she was careful enough because she's hanging all of her hat on the words "according to the president." And although that's a way to sanitize the prior statement that came before the "according to the president" attempt at saving the statement.

The Hatch Act very clearly states that look, just because you're a federal employee doesn't mean you can't have private views on politics. It just means that in your official capacity when you stood on the White House lawn as opposed to in front of your own home talking about yourself as just Kellyanne Conway, then you go into territory that violates the Hatch Act.

And remember, the benefit of the doubt you want to extend cannot really extend to Kellyanne Conway who just a few months before had already been schooled on the Hatch Act with respect to the Ivanka Trump clothing line. You've got Scovino, you've got everyone else who's on the same platform as her talking about this and have been trained --


COATES: -- on the issue. It's a problem and violation is there.

CAMEROTA: OK. Jim Schultz, Laura Coates, thank you --

COATES: It's what you're punished for, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It should because it's up to the president to punish her, so that's why you're saying she should --

SCHULTZ: Right, and it did --

COATES: That's what --

SCHULTZ: It didn't -- there was no one punished in the Obama administration --

COATES: I mean, exactly -- it's up to the president.

CAMEROTA: All right.

SCHULTZ: -- for much more grave violations.

CAMEROTA: Jim Schultz, Laura Coates, thank you very much -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So the midterm election season is officially underway with Texas kicking things off. There was big turnout there. There are big implications.

Senator Ted Cruz coasted in the state's primary but he's already mocking his challenger in a new ad. Senator Cruz joins us to take on the news of day, next.


[07:35:34] CUOMO: Senator Ted Cruz easily winning the Republican primary in Texas. He got well over 80 percent of the vote. Cruz will now be challenged by Democrat Beto O'Rourke.

The Cruz campaign already getting into the swing of things. They have a new ad mocking O'Rourke for his name. Take a listen.


CRUZ AD (SUNG TO TUNE OF "IF YOU'RE GONNA RUN IN TEXAS"): I remember reading stories liberal Robert wanted to fit in, so he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin. Beto wants those open borders and he wants to take our guns. Not a chance on earth he'll get a vote from millions of Texans.


CUOMO: The senator could sing that way.

Joining us now is Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Senator, thank you for taking the invitation. Congratulations on the win.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, thank you Chris. Good to be with you this morning.

CUOMO: So what do you make of the turnout numbers? There was a boost for Republicans as well that should be added, but you've been talking about Democrats coming out. You see it as a signal.

CRUZ: Well listen, there's no doubt the extreme left right now is energized. They are angry, they hate the president and we're seeing that -- we're seeing that in the fundraising numbers for Democrats all across the country. We're seeing that in turnout.

That being said, in Texas last night, we had a strong turnout for conservatives. It was really encouraging. The early vote numbers were quite good for Democrats.

But at the end of the night I was very gratified to win over 85 percent of the vote -- to win 1.3 million votes which is more than double what my Democratic opponent got. That doesn't quite fit the narrative that a lot of folks in the media want to tell because every two years, every four years Texas is always fixing to turn blue but the nice value of it is in Texas, as least, there are a lot more conservatives than there are liberals.

CUOMO: So you're subscribing to the idea of a blue wave that is hitting a red wall.

So, O'Rourke will be your challenger but you're already going after him. Why, if don't take it seriously and you had twice the votes? Why go after him so early?

CRUZ: Let's be clear. We absolutely take the race seriously. We take nothing for granted. I'm going to do everything I can to continue to earn the support of every one of 28 million Texans across the state.

And I will say for the voters that there's a clear contrast. A clear contrast on substance, and policy, and ideas.

Congressman O'Rourke is running hard to the left. He is embracing positions like open borders, like amnesty. He's embracing positions like aggressive advocacy of gun control and undermining our Second Amendment.

Now those are wonderfully popular positions if you're running for the Senate in New York or Massachusetts or California, but this is Texas and those are not the views of the vast majority of Texans and I think that's why you saw the overwhelming election results last night.

CUOMO: Are you concerned about your poll numbers? I'm looking at one here from YouGov from February first to 12th. It has you about 40-40 approve/disapprove -- 10 points higher with strong disapprove than strong approve.

Are you worried about those numbers?

CRUZ: You know, there are always these online polls that end up oversampling a bunch of Democrats. And listen, we live in a polarized world right now so it's not surprising if you ask a bunch of Democrats their approval of Republicans, but the numbers are pretty low.

You know, I will say though that for anyone that follows Texas politics we all remember back four years ago when Wendy Davis was the next big thing in the national media. She had filibustered in support of late-term abortion.

CUOMO: Yes. CRUZ: The national media loved her.

In primary day she lost in the Democratic primary -- it was either 22 or 23 counties all in south Texas -- against an unknown Democrat with no money at all and that really presaged the fact that her views were out of step even for Democratic primary voters in Texas.

The reason I draw that analogy is last night we saw something very similar. Congressman O'Rourke won barely 60 percent of the Democratic primary against two opponents with no-name idea and no money. And just like Wendy Davis, he lost south Texas. He lost the valley badly and I think that underscores that most Texans look at a candidate who brags about his F-rating from the NRA.

And just a couple of weeks ago Congressman O'Rourke tweeted out to the world how proud he was that he has an F rating from the NRA. Not a D, not a D-minus, not a C, an F.

And I happily retweeted. I said look, we've got a choice and if you're running to succeed Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco that's a great thing to be tweeted out. Those are the values of that district's voters.

[07:40:09] But in Texas those are not the values of Texas and that's why at the end of day I think we're going to see a very strong election day in November.

CUOMO: So we'll get into a couple of these policy issues and where you are because you've got a little bit of a challenge, too. If you still have your eyes on the prize of a national race you're going to have to be careful about your positions. That may suit Texas but, as you say, you'd have to win points at some point in California and New York as well.

But the ad -- you go after Beto for his name. Beto is obviously a nickname. Why?

One, you didn't like that dirty pool when you were running for president and the president called you "Lyin' Ted." You didn't like that kind of tactic.

And you know, look, your name is Rafael, you know. You go by Ted -- your middle name is Edward. That's an anglicized version of it. He went the other way and has a more ethnic version of his name.

Why go after it? You're both doing the same thing.

CRUZ: But listen, you're absolutely right. My name is Rafael Edward Cruz.

I am the son of my father, Rafael Cruz, an immigrant from Cuba who came to Texas with nothing. He had $100 in his underwear, couldn't speak English. Washed dishes making 50 cents an hour.

And my dad's journey of an immigrant coming to Texas seeking freedom, that's the American story. That's who we are. You know, in terms of the jingle some of it is just have a sense of humor. You actually missed the central -- the title of the song which is "If You're Going to Run in Texas You Can't Run As A Liberal Man.: And the whole point of the song is --

CUOMO: That's a catchy title by the way, Senator.

CRUZ: Yes, we had -- we had some fun with it because listen, Texans -- there is a common-sense conservative practicality about Texans.

Texans -- we understand low taxes, low regulations produce jobs. There's a reason 1,000 people a day move to Texas because we have jobs everywhere.

Texans don't want to see a return to the high tax, high regulation, high spending days of Barack Obama and the economic stagnation that came with it. Texans value jobs and low taxes and freedom.

We see Obamacare doing devastation. Congressman O'Rourke supports high taxes, high regulation, Obamacare.

And fundamentally, Texans value our freedoms. Our constitutional liberty, our religious liberty, our Second Amendment.

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: Those are values that --

CUOMO: I am never going to talk law with you. I remember Professor Dershowitz telling me that you were the best mind he ever taught.

But even you know that some of the things that you won't give a position on right now, like bump stocks, like the NICS fix which is, of course in part, advanced by your fellow senator there in Texas.

Why not give positions on those? Do you think you can argue in favor of bump stocks? Do you think you can argue in favor of not having background checks cover all sales?

CRUZ: Chris, what I think is that we need to be serious about stopping mass murders and stopping crime. I've spent a lot of my professional career working in law enforcement, working to keep behind bars murderers and rapists and violent criminals.

And we need to talk about what works and what doesn't because every time you have a mass murder you see a lot of Democratic politicians posturing and advocating all sort of gun control and inevitably, their gun control focuses on law- abiding citizens. And there are many problems with that but the most important one is it doesn't work. It's singularly ineffective.

CUOMO: How do you know it doesn't work?

CRUZ: Because if you look at the jurisdictions with the toughest gun control laws -- cities like Chicago, cities like Washington, D.C. -- they almost invariably have the highest crime rates, the highest murder rates.

CUOMO: No, that's not true.

CRUZ: Yes it --

CUOMO: The Giffords Center analysis --

CRUZ: Chris, yes it is. The facts are --

CUOMO: -- said that we a few exceptions states that have the strictest gun control measures have the lowest rates of guns death.

And just a recent example, look at Connecticut. Look how they brought their numbers down.

CRUZ: Well, except your advocating from a -- you're citing sources from a partisan source that is not reliable.

Gun control -- when you --

CUOMO: Where are you citing them from, the NRA? Where are you getting them from?

CRUZ: Sir, when you disarm law-abiding citizens the consequence is the criminals have the gun.

Now listen, let me finish. I said we need to be effective so there is a lot we can do to be effective in stopping crime.

Just yesterday I reintroduced legislation that I introduced in 2013. It was called Grassley-Cruz. It was in the wake of Newtown. And what it does is instead of the Democratic talking points of going after law-abiding citizens, it focuses on criminals -- on violent criminals.

So one of the things Grassley-Cruz did was increase funding for school safety by $300 million. The Obama administration had cut $300 million from school safety. You know, if that had been in place that might well have meant that another armed police officer could have been in Parkland and could have stopped that killer before he murdered those teenagers.

CUOMO: Well, we did -- you did have an armed guard there. But there's -- I think there's a legitimate argument that school safety is part of it.

But why ignore the other part? I mean, just like covering all sales. You know, it's always -- it's always bothered me because I know how your mind works on some of these issues and if you're going to cover some sales why wouldn't you cover all sales?

CRUZ: Because Chris --

You know that in Texas if you talk to responsible gun owners they're not against having people check whether they buy person-to-person or at a gun show or on the Internet. They're for safety. Why not be for that? [07:45:06] CRUZ: Not only am I for safety, the background check system needs to be a lot more effective. If you look at Grassley-Cruz and what it did to the background check system, it strengthened it. Number one, it directed the -- it incentivized the states to report convictions to the -- to the background check system.

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: Many states don't do that.

Number two, it directed the attorney general to audit federal agencies --

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: -- to make sure they're reporting convictions -- the ones that --

CUOMO: But why not cover all sales?

CRUZ: Sir, why does that matter because in Texas in Sutherland Spring we had just a few months ago the worst --

CUOMO: Church.

CRUZ: -- church shooting in the history of the country. I was in that sanctuary the day after that shooting.

CUOMO: True.

CRUZ: I was with the victims of that crime.

The shooter in Sutherland Springs --

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: It was already illegal for him to purchase a firearm under federal law, two reasons over. Number one, he had a felony conviction.

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: Number two, he had a domestic violence conviction.

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: Why was he able to buy a firearm? Because the Air Force, under President Obama --

CUOMO: Didn't report.

CRUZ: -- never reported the conviction.


CRUZ: Grassley-Cruz would have fixed that. And here's the more important piece. Grassley-Cruz would have also directed the Department of Justice to prosecute felons and fugitives who illegally try to buy guns. The Department of Justice hasn't been doing that.

So the Sutherland Springs shooter when he went in to buy his guns, he lied on the background check.

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: He checked a box that said he wasn't a felon. That was a lie. That's another felony.

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: He checked a box that he didn't have a domestic violence conviction. That was a lie and a felony too.

CUOMO: All true, all fixable.

CRUZ: Grassley-Cruz would have prosecuted him and put him in prison which meant he would have been in the penitentiary and not murdering people in this sanctuary.

CUOMO: Understood. I'm just saying that the bill on the table is the Cornyn bill and "Fix NICS." You're going to have to figure out how to make peace with that or be against it. When you do, come back on the show --

CRUZ: Chris, can I ask one question?

CUOMO: -- because I've got to -- I've got to get cut for time.

CRUZ: Let me ask one --

CUOMO: All right, ask for it, Senator.

CRUZ: Let me ask one quick question.

CUOMO: Please.

CRUZ: Grassley-Cruz got 52 senators supporting it -- nine Democrats. The most bipartisan support of any comprehensive bill. But, Harry Reid and the Democrats filibustered Grassley-Cruz even though it targeted criminals and could have perhaps prevented these attacks.

CUOMO: Right.

CRUZ: And what I would ask is the next time you have a Democrat on --


CRUZ: Have you ever asked a Democrat why did you filibuster Grassley- Cruz which targeted violent criminals and sought to put felons who try to illegally buy firearms in jail? I think that's cynical in politics. We ought to be focusing on substance and actually getting the job done. CUOMO: We will do exactly that and please, come back on the show to make the case to the American people when you take a position on these bills.

Thank you for being with us, Senator. Congratulations on your win.

CRUZ: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn --

CAMEROTA: OK. So we just heard from Sen. Ted Cruz. Now let's hear from his opponent. We have Beto O'Rourke with us live, next.


[07:50:38] CAMEROTA: Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke winning the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz in November. Will O'Rourke become the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in Texas in 30 years?

Joining us now is Congressman Beto O'Rourke. Good morning, Congressman.


CAMEROTA: OK, so the good news for you is that last night you saw the highest Democratic turnout in Texas since 2002. The bad news, I guess, is that your future opponent Sen. Ted Cruz got twice as many votes in his primary -- in his GOP primary as you did.

So what does that tell you?

O'ROURKE: I was really encouraged by the turnout that we saw amongst everyone -- everyone in Texas, Democrats and Republicans alike. That can only be a good thing for our state which has historically been not a red state but a state that just doesn't vote, and so people are getting off the sidelines and into the game.

And our strategy of going to each one of the 254 counties, listening to people and making their concerns and their fight our concerns and our fight is going to work. And the good thing is we have eight months to continue to work with and listen to the Texans that we want to serve and represent in the United States Senate.

And we're doing it without a dime of PAC money, corporate cash, special interest contributions. It's just people -- the people of Texas we want to serve and represent.

CAMEROTA: We just heard from your future opponent Sen. Ted Cruz who basically says that -- he pointed out that you lost south Texas and said that he thinks it's impossible for you to win in Texas because of your NRA rating. He said you have an F rating with the NRA and let's face it, I mean, Texas is a gun culture.

How can you win in Texas with that rating? O'ROURKE: You know, I think a lot of Texans are wondering who it is that Ted Cruz represents in the Senate. He's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the NRA. So as people are begging us to take action and dispense with the prayers and thoughts and make sure that we have comprehensive universal background checks and save the lives of our fellow Americans and fellow Texans.

As they ask to ensure that we don't allow people to buy weapons of war designed for the sole purpose of killing people as effectively and efficiently. They're going to see in us a campaign that is responsive to only the people that I want to serve and represent of Texas.

And you're right, we have a great tradition and culture of gun ownership and gun safety for hunting, for sport, for self-defense, and I think that can allow Texas to take the lead on a really tough issue which the country is waiting for leadership and action on.

And so, I'm just -- I'm grateful that the people of Texas are going to give us a chance to do that and I'm following their orders and taking their lead. I want to make sure that we do the right thing by Texas and by this country.

CAMEROTA: But just out of curiosity, when you do go to all those counties and if you're saying that south Texas is more conservative, then what do people say about your desire to ban the AR-15? I mean, is that a bridge too far from them.

And realistically, would that -- I understand that everybody wants background checks and certainly polls suggest that, but not everybody is for banning the AR-15, and do you think realistically that could cost you the election?

O'ROURKE: You know, I was just in Brownwood, Texas. At a town hall a woman stood up and said born and raised on a ranch just outside of Brownwood. Born with a 22 in my hands. We use guns all the time.

But I'm also the grandmother to 46 children --


O'ROURKE: And I want to know that you're going to stand up to the NRA.

Listen, I've got to face my kids and my conscience and do the right thing when we have the opportunity to do the right thing. We can save more lives in this country and in our state and I'm going to do everything that I can to do that, and I think Texas wants to do that.

And Texas -- again, given our tradition of gun ownership and gun safety and responsibility is in a perfect place to be able to do that.

CAMEROTA: OK, so your opponent Ted Cruz has put out a catchy jingle campaign ad attacking you on a couple of different things including your name. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRUZ AD (SUNG TO TUNE OF "IF YOU'RE GONNA RUN IN TEXAS"): I remember reading stories liberal Robert wanted to fit in, so he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin. Beto wants those open borders and he wants to take our guns. Not a chance on earth he'll get a vote from millions of Texans.


CAMEROTA: Now, Congressman, I know you have a punk rock past. Do you plan to compose a punk rock song to counter that jingle?

[07:55:05] O'ROURKE: Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to continue to meet with and work with my fellow Texans on the big issues that we want Texas to lead on. We are the defining immigrant state. We should be leading the way on immigration reform, not being the sole senator as Ted Cruz was, to turn his back on Texas in this opportunity to lead on an issue that we know better than anyone else in other part of the country.

I want to make sure that Texas goes from being the least insured state in the country to leading the way to ensure that every single American can see a doctor or provider or for their medications so that they can live to their full potential, finish their education, go to work, pay taxes, create a business, hire more Americans.


O'ROURKE: I want to make sure that we get our democracy back and return it to the people and get corporations, and PACs, and lobbyists, and special interests out of the halls of Congress. And running this campaign in the most grassroots fashion that we've seen in Texas. All 254 counties relying on people --


O'ROURKE: -- instead of PACs and corporations.

CAMEROTA: But Congressman --

O'ROURKE: That's the way to do it.

CAMEROTA: -- why aren't you taking my punk rock bait?

O'ROURKE: Because I just don't think that's what folks in Texas want us to focus on. I mean, we can get into name-calling and talk about why the other person's such an awful guy or we can focus on the big things that we want to do for the future of our country, for the generations that will succeed us.

And this is the most critical moment in the most important year of our lifetimes and we've absolutely got to get it right. So --


O'ROURKE: -- we can focus on the small, mean, petty stuff or we can big, bold, courageous, and confident. I think that is Texas -- that's our distinction as a state, that's our opportunity to lead, and that's the way I'm going to stay focused going forward in this campaign.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Look, I'm just saying as a Jersey girl, you know, punk rock -- own it.


CAMEROTA: OK. Congressman Beto O'Rourke, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.

O'ROURKE: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: NEW DAY will be right back.