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President Trump Claims People On Both Sides In Central Park Five Case; Ninth American Dies While Vacationing In The Dominican Republic; America Crumbles: A Look At America's Roads And Bridges. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 19, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] CHRIS CILLIZZA, REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE, CNN POLITICS: -- to be in those debates. They are not in those debates.

I think Messam is somebody who we kind of were confused at why he was running in the first place.

Bullock, I think, has a path -- we've talked about this before -- because he's going to focus only on Iowa and he's already qualified for the second debate.

Moulton, I think, continues -- the Massachusetts congressman continues to show up.

But you've got to be in the room where it happens. Again, I should probably write that down. That could work as a lyric for something I'm working on.


CILLIZZA: But they're not, and I think that's a problem.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, Seth Moulton is going to go the debates next week to at least try to get in the press while it's happening.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I'm going to go -- not to that one.

CILLIZZA: Right. I mean, there's a difference between not going --

BERMAN: Not to that one. Not to that one.

CILLIZZA: -- and being on stage.


All right. So, Chris Cillizza, Washington Wizards fan --


BERMAN: -- who are you to ever say anything about the Boston Celtics?

CAMEROTA: Ouch. CILLIZZA: I'm the guy who they let give grades to -- F for the Boston Celtics. Tough break there, Berman. Maybe you should have played more games in the Hartford Civic Center when I was growing up.


CILLIZZA: OK. Regardless, here's why I have, of course, perfect justification.

Number one, it doesn't look like Anthony Davis is going to wind up on the Celtics -- Danny Ainge. Number two, Kyrie Irving -- have a good life. And, number three, the real dagger for Berman -- the real dagger -- Al Horford opts out of his player option and is going to look elsewhere.

The Washington Wizards may have a better record than the Boston Celtics.

CAMEROTA: Oh, he went there.


CAMEROTA: That was so much shade. I don't even know what he meant.

CILLIZZA: If I had a microphone, I would drop it.

BERMAN: All right. I'm going to -- I'm going to beat you with the 17 banners that hang from the Boston Garden, Chris Cillizza. How dare you?

CILLIZZA: Not hanging from Hartford Civic Center, you jerk.

BERMAN: How dare you? All right, Chris Cillizza, thank you -- thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Isn't this normally when like fruit that's pelting something.

BERMAN: I have no idea -- I have no idea why he's dragging Hartford through this but thank you very much.

CILLIZZA: I'm from Connecticut.

BERMAN: All right.

CILLIZZA: You spurned me.

BERMAN: Yes, nutmeg this.

All right, a new controversy over an old scandal involving President Trump. How he is answering questions about how he handled the issue of The Central Park Five. He's answering them again now in a very interesting way. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:36:14] BERMAN: All right, new controversy this morning about an episode from the president's past. The so-called Central Park Five were five teenagers pressured into giving false confessions for the rape of a New York City jogger. They were all later exonerated.

At the time of the case, the president took out an ad calling on New York to adopt the death penalty and now, he's refusing to apologize or admit any error.

Our friend, journalist April Ryan, pressed him on this before his campaign rally.


APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Mr. President, will you apologize to The Central Park Five? They've been exonerated. There have been videos and movies shown about the case.

And you came out with a full-page ad saying that they should die -- that they should have the death penalty. Do you --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why do you bring that question up now? It's an interesting time to bring it up?

RYAN: There's --

TRUMP: You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein and if you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should never have settled that case.

So, we'll leave it at that.


BERMAN: Joining me now, CNN political commentator, Angela Rye. She is the former executive director for the Congressional Black Caucus and a CNN political commentator. Angela, thank you so much for being with us.

There are three aspects of this I'd like to go down that I all find very interesting.

One, the failure to apologize. Number two, the question of why are you asking this now. And number three, his phrase "both sides." I find those all fascinating in their own ways.

First, he did not apologize. Your take on that?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS: Well, it's -- there's no surprise here. Donald Trump has an inability to say anything when he's wrong -- to apologize -- to acknowledge any wrongdoing. And I think was is so maddening about this to me, John, is this man acted as a rogue vigilante at this time. These are young teenage boys. Of course, people have said that he

didn't directly call for the death penalty of The Central Park Five but he used The Central Park Five case as an example for why the death penalty should be reinstated.

And I think that Donald Trump is no different than the vigilantes that started lynch mobs back in the day.

I just spent a lot of time with Bryan Stevenson as he prepares for an upcoming documentary, and the -- all that I learned from the museum about lynch mobs and lynchings for innocent black lives.

And in this instance, we're talking about black and brown boys at this time. This is just terrible.

And he has continued, in many ways, some of the same toxic talk and some of the same toxic rhetoric and belief systems that have plagued this country since its inception.

BERMAN: Let me play -- because you just brought up the attitude that he purveyed back then -- an interview --

RYE: Yes.

BERMAN: -- from 1989 -- some of the language he used then.


TRUMP (1989): Of course, I hate these people. And let's all hate these people because maybe hate is what we need if we're going to get something done.


BERMAN: I think that illustrates a little bit about what you're talking about, about the way he was discussing this back then.

Angela, the second aspect of what he said yesterday, in his answer to April, that I find so interesting is "Why are you asking this now?"

And the fact that he said that indicated to me that he somehow thinks that episodes from his past, whether it be The Central Park Five, whether it be birtherism, whether it be the "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" tape -- it's like, you know, I don't have to answer that anymore -- it's asked and answered -- when, in fact, in many ways, he's never addressed any of them.

Do they just go away?

RYE: Well, and, of course, again, I think when you're someone who has clearly grown up without accountability -- you know, you're in your administration with no accountability, whether we're talking about the Mueller report, to what he said during Charlottesville, to what he said when he started his campaign about Mexican people, and the otherism that he constantly he dwells on when talking about people who are different than him -- the fearmongering that he engages in. [07:40:06] He doesn't think there should be any accountability for it because he thinks he's right. And therein, again, lies the problem. The fact that he's talking about maybe we need more hate, that is exactly the campaign that he ran. It's not about make America great again, it's make America hate again.

It never stopped and he never stopped. So he's doing exactly what he's always done. He's the same person he's always been.

And it's time for Donald Trump to reckon not just with that past, but that present. He's a hateful human being and that is how he implements policy in this country.

BERMAN: Well, that is -- that is your take on that. I merely will say that there's no acknowledgment, even, that these gentlemen were exonerated and that it was --

RYE: No. He said that they admitted their guilt, not acknowledging that there are so many false confessions --

BERMAN: Right.

RYE: -- in this country.

DNA evidence exonerated them. The man who did commit the crime confessed to it.

So, he has -- he has a wanton disregard for facts. We've seen that again, no matter what we're talking about.

And I think, unfortunately here, these men have suffered enough. They have suffered enough. And the least he could do is apologize for what he's done.

BERMAN: Let me read you -- since you said they've suffered enough -- what one of the members of The Central Park Five said in 2016 when the issue came up during the campaign with then-candidate Donald Trump.

"When I heard Trump's latest proclamation, it was the worst feeling in the world. I couldn't breathe."

RYE: Yes.

BERMAN: "Starting when I was 15, my life was not my own. For years, I had no control over what happened to me.

Being in the spotlight makes me wary and self-conscious again. I am overwhelmed with fear that an overzealous Trump supporter might take matters into his or her hands."

And then, which leads me again to the language he used yesterday --

RYE: Yes.

BERMAN: -- with April -- "both sides" -- "both sides." Again, we have heard that before from the president. RYE: Yes, we have heard it before.

And I think, again, a term that so many people probably learned for the first time during the 2016 campaign was false equivalence, right -- or false equivalency. He talked about it consistently throughout the campaign and once again, we've seen that.

Of course, there were people on both sides. That does not mean that both sides should have their equal say, especially when you have forced a false confession from minors, right? We're talking about kids.

We are talking about -- I have a godson who just turned 15 years old, all right? I'm trying to get Jovan (sp) to confess when he's done his homework on time.

Like, let alone being implicated in a rape case that you had nothing to do with. You were at the wrong place at the wrong time. And we've seen, again, that narrative exists far too often in this country.

It is a shame that this person is the leader of the free world and this is the type of rhetoric, the type of record he wants to stand on. I think it's a huge problem.

And he's just one individual -- and that both sides demonstrate that the powerful still have far too much control. And, Donald Trump, again, has to reckon with that.

BERMAN: Angela Rye, thanks for coming on this morning and talking with us about this.

RYE: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, now to what's going on in the Dominican Republic. New this morning, a ninth American tourist has died under mysterious circumstances while vacationing in the D.R.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Santo Domingo with the latest details. What have you learned about this new case, Rosa?


We are learning more about the death of Joseph Allen from his family and also from documents that we've obtained here in the Dominican Republic.

From his family, they say that the 55-year-old was a regular at the Terra Linda Resort, so much so that staff members welcomed him by name. And on that ill-fated day on June 13th, it was staff who found him dead inside his room.

The hotel is not commenting but we've obtained a copy of the preliminary autopsy report from a state agency called Cestur and that report shows that Allen had cardiac arrest and that his body did not show any signs of internal or external violence.

Now, like you mentioned, we know of at least nine Americans who have died in resorts here in the Dominican Republic and both local authorities and American authorities say that these cases are not connected. That there is no link.

Back in April, the State Department issued a travel warning, but that travel warning focused on crime. And that state agency that I was telling you about, called Cestur, it also tracks the deaths of all tourists here in this country and they say that the lead cause of death for tourists is natural causes -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Rosa, it's just interesting. I mean, I think that there are so many more answers that we need about what happened to some of these young, healthy -- previously -- people.

Thank you very much for explaining the latest death there.

Now, to this horrible story. Police in Michigan say a mother drove her car into a river with her twin daughters inside. The bodies of the 44-year-old woman and her 9-year-old daughters were found Monday night when their car was found submerged in the river.

[07:45:00] Authorities were called to the scene after passersby saw two girls crying on the side of the road. They told police they had also been inside the car but were let out before the woman drove into the river.

Police say the incident appears to be intentional but the motive is unclear.

BERMAN: All right, we're following the latest on the development news this morning.

The reaction to the president's campaign kick-off. Also, Hope Hicks due to arrive on Capitol Hill for closed-door testimony. Much more ahead.


CAMEROTA: Well, it was a fact-free festival in Florida. Why don't you just write Lilith Fair in there for another day? I mean --

BERMAN: Are there a lot of facts at Lilith Fair? I don't know.

CAMEROTA: I don't know. I know there's more there than last night because President Trump played all of his greatest hits.

But it was his powers of projection that were most notable to our John Avlon. Here he is with our musical reality check. Hi, John.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It was really more Lynyrd Skynyrd than the Indigo Girls, but I digress.

[07:50:02] President Trump's reelection kick-off was the political equivalent of an arena rock revival tour. The freshness has faded but the audience is feeding off familiarity. They came to hear the hits, not the new material.

So there was Trump, claiming he'd accomplished more in his first 2 1/2 years than any president ever. Never mind that FDR and Harry Truman have him beaten in their first 100 days alone.

He played his equivalent of "Free Bird," calling the Russia investigation an illegal witch hunt, again, even though it was Mueller's fidelity to the letter of the law that probably saved him from an obstruction rap.

And the man who refuses to criticize Vladimir Putin repeated his claim that no one's been tougher on Russia than him.

But what really stood out last night was Trump's powers of projection. He loves to accuse his political opponents of the sins he has credibly been accused of. So he flipped the script to falsely say the only collusion with Russia was committed by Democrats.

He painted a picture of Democrats, quote, "driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage." He called them radical and dangerous and unhinged. More extreme, more depraved, lacking in character and virtue.

But the projection extended to policy as well. Trump declared that Democrats want to take away your judges when that's literally what Mitch McConnell did to Obama by blocking Merrick Garland.'

And then, accused Democrats of wanting to radicalize our judiciary. And he's made right-wing views the litmus test for judges, further politicizing the courts.

He warned that Democrats wants to use the power of the law to punish their opponents, right while he's making the DOJ investigate the investigators.

And, of course, there were chants of "lock her up" as if to prove a point.

Hillary Clinton also came under fire for refusing to respect a subpoena when the Trump White House has made refusing to respect subpoenas their signature move.

And get this. He framed the election as a, quote, "verdict on whether we want to live in a country where people who lose an election refuse to concede." Sound familiar? Well, in the closing weeks of the 2016 election, Trump repeatedly refused to say if he'd concede if he lost.

But the winner of that election still wants to campaign against a rigged system. He says that, quote, "My only special interest is you," while he's continued to profit from his private businesses.

He's railed against illegal immigration, which has spiked on his watch, while falsely claiming Democrats favor open borders, which no one does.

Hitting Democrats on health care without a plan of his own yet, though he did repeatedly hail V.A. Choice, which was passed under Obama.

Trump, again, said he'd protect people with preexisting conditions while his DOJ is in court trying to throw out all of Obamacare, including preexisting condition coverage.

But after all of this, he said he also longed for bipartisanship when it comes to infrastructure and immigration reform when he's refused to deal with Democrats on these issues as long as they engage in congressional oversight.

Let's face it, facts aren't the point of a Trump rally. The audience came for the show and the president is, first and foremost, a performer who loves to play deflect, distract, and divide.

But amid all the pyrotechnics, one prediction he made last night could come true in 2020. The only thing these corrupt politicians will understand, he said, is an earthquake at the ballot box. We'll find out on Election Day whether that applies to Democrats or Republicans.

And that's your reality check.

CAMEROTA: Well played, John. We always love the musical references. Thank you.

AVLON: That's really why we come here.


BERMAN: I want to -- people like "Free Bird," though. Let's just stipulate "Free Bird" is a song that people do like to hear.

CAMEROTA: Hand me my lighter.

BERMAN: All right.

This morning, a CNN special series. America's infrastructure is literally crumbling before our eyes. Today, we took a look at roads and bridges in desperate need of help.

CNN's Jason Carroll with today's installment of "America Crumbles."

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as both of you guys know, this is an issue where you've got lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who say this is something that needs to be fixed. You even have the president, himself, who says he would be good at fixing infrastructure. Well, the time is now and the country is still waiting.


CARROLL (voice-over): Four million miles of roads and more than 600,000 bridges across the United States, in many cases, crumbling faster than they can be repaired.

SYLVIA CAMPOS, MICHIGAN DRIVER: It's terrible, it's terrible. I don't know how to tell you. It's horrible. Too many potholes. CARROLL (voice-over): The nation's roads received a D in the last report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Texas, Louisiana, and California were among those nearly flunking, all getting Ds. The worst, New York and Michigan, both D-minuses.

CAMPOS: I have a flat and I'm pissed off. Get out here and fix the potholes.

CARROLL (voice-over): Last February, Sylvia Campos says a gaping pothole almost caused her to have an accident on I-75 in Detroit.

CAMPOS: They need to something about it ASAP -- now.

CARROLL (voice-over): Three weeks ago it happened again, this time on I-94.

CAMPOS: They need a pothole patrol or something. Something's got to give. This is two times -- two times to me.

CARROLL (voice-over): County officials say given the poor condition of the state's roads, it's likely there will be a third time.

CRAIG BRYSON, SENIOR MANAGER OF COMMUNICATIONS, ROAD COMMISSION FOR OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN: You get what you pay for and right now, we have been investing less than just about every other state in the nation, and we have the roads to prove it.

[07:55:05] CARROLL (voice-over): Craig Bryson, with Oakland County's Road Commission, says Michigan needs $2.5 billion more a year in road funding, and there is little appetite to raise taxes or increase vehicle registration fees.

BRYSON: We need the federal government to step up.

CARROLL (voice-over): Federal infrastructure money is one way to help Michigan, a state that was crucial in paving the way for President Trump's 2016 victory.

TRUMP: The great state of Michigan.

CARROLL (voice-over): Whatever the source of the money, one report found annual investments in the nation's roads and bridges needs to increase by $32 billion.

A whopping 47,000 bridges in the country are listed as structurally deficient. That includes the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington, D.C.'s Memorial Bridge, and the Pensacola Bay Bridge. Structurally deficient bridges are defined as needing repairs but not unsafe for travel.

In West Virginia, one in five bridges are structurally deficient, including the Evitts Run Bridge in Charles Town.

CARROLL (on camera): It's hard to see the problems from up above, but once you get underneath bridges like this one in West Virginia, you can really start to see what's gone wrong. This is a piece of guardrail that's fallen off. Up there, there's an

actual hole in the guardrail. More holes there, crumbling concrete. At the very end, you can see where the concrete has simply fallen away.

CARROLL (voice-over): An estimated 11,000 people cross the Evitts Run Bridge every day.

DAN MCGINN (ph), CHARLES TOWN, WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT: This is a tragedy waiting to happen.

CARROLL (voice-over): Dan McGinn lives nearby and says the state has been promising to repair it for two years.

MCGINN: It's not so much this bridge, it's what it represents across this state. We don't invest in infrastructure and people here know it. They're angry about it but what can they do?

CARROLL (voice-over): One solution, neighboring Pennsylvania increased taxes and fees, which helped cut the number of structurally deficient bridges in half.


CARROLL (voice-over): But it's still a constant fight to keep bridges like this one, which will get a $54 million renovation in shape.

KEISER: Well, if we don't have any additional revenues -- the ability to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak -- we're going to lose that in just a few years.

CARROLL (voice-over): A rough road ahead -- one that will cost billions to fix.


CARROLL: And in terms of a solution, the reality is there are states that may have to raise their own revenues to patch up the problems that exist. But as a country, the administration and lawmakers are going to have to do their part as well and clearly, the clock is still ticking -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Yes, very concerning. Thank you very much, Jason.

BERMAN: If only they could agree there's a problem.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you're right. If only -- if every single member agreed that there was a problem for infrastructure week. Is it still infrastructure week?

BERMAN: It's always infrastructure week.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Jason.

NEW DAY continues right now.


BERMAN: Former White House communications director Hope Hicks set to testify on Capitol Hill in just hours.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We expect a confrontation behind closed doors. The White House has sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, saying Hope Hicks does not have to testify about her time in the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are denying documents and witnesses every time they're asked. This president is trying to conceal an awful lot about his past.

TRUMP: Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred. They want to destroy our country as we know it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He can't keep himself from talking about his grievances.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In his campaign, he was a disruptive force. It has worked well for him. I don't think he's going to change.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: All right, good morning and welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, June 19th. It's 8:00 here in the East.

And this morning, we're following the post-relaunch, reading the signs about whether President Trump changed anything with his campaign kick- off overnight. There were a lot of the same messages, same themes, same targets, frankly, as 2016. He did win then but it was a little bit of a different story in 2018 for Congress.

So how is this landing this morning?

CAMEROTA: Also this morning, we expect longtime Trump confidante Hope Hicks to show up this hour on Capitol Hill. She will testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee, but the White House will still assert immunity over questions about her time in the White House.

And, Democrats want to ask her about possible obstruction of justice that was outlined in the Mueller report. So how much will she actually say?

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more. Give us a preview, Lauren.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Good morning, Alisyn, and that's right.

In just a couple of minutes we expect Hope Hicks, who was the president's former communications director, a close confidante and someone who was close to the president even before he was elected to office to come before the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors and answer questions.

Now, we do expect that they have some key questions to ask her about those hush money payments that were made to cover up the president's alleged extramarital affairs.

But they expect to also get into key allegations in the Mueller report, and that's where things could get dicey behind the scenes because the White House sent a letter last night arguing that Hope Hicks was immune.