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Paul Blocks 9/11 First Responders Fund; U.S. Sends Troops to Saudi Arabia; Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Kevin Spacey; Amanda Edwards (D-TX) is Interviewed about Her Senate Run. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 18, 2019 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This, you know, hardcore libertarian. He always talks about women in government, small government, limited spending. And so this is right in line with his ideology if you look at it that way.

But there's a -- sort of an irony here, and that is that Rand Paul, just a couple of years ago, backed the Republican tax bill, which the Congressional Budget Office said was going to add more than $2 trillion to the national debt. And so I think critics of Rand Paul get frustrated because sometimes he talks about not wanting to spend money, not wanting to add to the national debt, but he does it sort of sparingly and choosing.

And, you know, a lot of people are concerned about the national debt. I mean we're at $20 trillion and rising quickly. But Republicans generally are not talking about that right now in this age of Trump. That's sort of an issue that's really gone out the window. So the fact that he's objecting to this bill that is so popular with both Republicans and Democrats and really would help people who responded on 9/11, it's perplexing. But, you know, it's Rand Paul.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There's another word for it, which Jon Stewart used, which is hypocrisy. Listen to what Jon Stewart had to say about this last night.


JON STEWART, 9/11 FIRST RESPONDER FUND ADVOCATE AND COMEDIAN: Absolutely outrageous. And you'll pardon me if I'm not impressed in any way by Rand Paul's fiscal responsibility virtue signaling.

There's some things that they have no trouble putting on the credit card. But somehow when it comes to the 9/11 first responder community, the cops, the firefighters, the construction workers, the volunteers, the survivors, all of a sudden, man, we've got to go through this.


BERMAN: So we'll leave you with that. That's Jon Stewart. We're going to talk to John Feal, who cares deeply about this also.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, thank you all very much for that conversation. BERMAN: Hundreds of U.S. troops this morning headed to the Middle East. But where they're being sent could have Congress up in arms. We'll tell you what we've learned, next.


[06:35:57] BERMAN: We have breaking news out of Japan this morning. At least 23 people are feared dead in a suspected case of arson at a Japanese animation studio. Fire officials have confirmed 13 deaths already. Dozens more have been injured. Police have -- do have a suspect in custody. They say he poured what appeared to be gasoline around the Kyoto animation studio and set it on fire.

CAMEROTA: We're learning more this morning about the White House and how they're preparing to send hundreds of additional troops to Saudi Arabia in response to rising tensions with Iran. So, what does this mean for the Trump administration's controversial military relationship with the Saudi kingdom?

CNN's Barbara Starr broke this story and she joins us live from the Pentagon with more.

What did you learn, Barbara?


Five hundred U.S. troops headed to a location called the Prince Sultan Air Base. This is in the remote desert areas east of the capital of Riyadh. And as you say, this is part of the ongoing U.S. military deterrence effort against Iranian aggression in the region.

But putting U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia, always sensitive, always controversial. What they are doing at this air base is they are trying to make some runaway improvements so they can fly U.S. advanced fighter jets out of there, patrol the area for any Iranian aggression, put a patriot missile battery in there to protect the air base against possible Iranian attack.

It puts the U.S. troops, however, in the position of appearing to also defend the kingdom. And that is what is so sensitive.

The Saudi government not acknowledging any of this. They don't like to talk about their needs to have U.S. troops in their kingdom. Sensitive with their own people. And coming, of course, at an extremely sensitive time. The murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi facility in Turkey still very sensitive and Congress very concerned about the rising arms sales to Saudi Arabia, many of which it fears are being used to prosecute its war in Yemen that is killing civilians.

So all of this something nobody wants to talk about but 500 troops on their way there.

BERMAN: A lot of activity in the region.

Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you very much. The World Health Organization says the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is now considered a global health emergency. Officials say the risk that it will spread the region remains very high. In its declaration, the WHO did not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade, but it did release recommendations for affected countries, including strengthening community awareness and enhanced screenings.

CAMEROTA: All right, an assault charge against Kevin Spacey has been dropped. The missing piece of evidence that may have put an end to prosecution's case.


[06:42:44] CAMEROTA: Prosecutors have dropped a criminal case against actor Kevin Spacey after his accuser invoked the Fifth Amendment. And there's still the mystery of what happened to the accuser's cell phone.

CNN's Jean Casarez joins us now with more.

What an ending to this, Jean.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Unbelievable. You know, but there was a hearing a week and a half ago and you could tell where this case was headed.

Now, it all began in July of 2016 on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, the height of the tourist season. There was a young man, 18 years old, who worked at a restaurant there and everybody heard that Kevin Spacey was going to come that night. He wanted to meet him so bad, he brought a change of clothes and he met him, he sat with him, he actually spent several hours with him late in the evening at that restaurant.

A year went by and after that is when he went to police and said Kevin Spacey sexually assaulted me at that restaurant as we were talking for those hours. And that is when the criminal charges came.

Pivotal point, a cell phone that he had because he texted his girlfriend, he said while the groping was going on. And those texts were important for prosecutors because they corroborated his statement.

Well, guess what, the defense believed that that phone had been tampered with, that texts had been deleted, that conversations were not as they actually were at the time he was with Spacey. The judge agreed. And the judge believed the defense should have that phone. The family couldn't find it. The father said he didn't get it from the Massachusetts State Police. The son said he didn't know where it was and neither did the mother.

There was a big hearing a week and a half ago where the mother testified that she deleted some pictures and videos that made her son look in a poor light. Father said he didn't touch the phone. And the son testified, who is the accuser, that he didn't delete anything, but he knew his mother may have had theoretical decisions about doing something like that.

At the end, though, there was an attorney representing other people in the courtroom. During the break, she spoke to him, came back and said, your honor, he would like to assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because the fact is, if he deleted anything, he could be charged with perjury or tampering with evidence. And so right then and there.

[06:45:01] But here's what's interesting, he still could have taken the stand and testified what Spacey did to him allegedly that night, although he pleaded not guilty. And -- but they're saying unavailability of the witness, which would be the complaining witness, the accuser. It's over. Spacey was facing five years in prison.

And there's not many big celebrities that have criminal charges facing prison. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein coming up in September, and Kevin Spacey. And now that's over.

CAMEROTA: I wonder if we'll hear from Kevin Spacey about all of this, because he did put out that other video in the middle of it.

CASAREZ: Good point.

CAMEROTA: Jean, thank you very much for following that entire story start to finish for us.

BERMAN: All right, there was this indelible moment in campaign history. The president led a chant of "send her back" overnight. The Trump campaign claims this is all part of a strategy. They say it's working. What's the inside scoop here? Maggie Huberman joins us to discuss that coming up.


CAMEROTA: Well, it cannot be easy to defend the president's racist attacks. And, yes, there's a joke coming up about this. But many Republicans are trying.

[06:50:05] So, here are your "Late Night Laughs."


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Kelly said of Democrats, they talk about people of color. I'm a person of color. I'm white. Yes. Yes. I'm also a minority because there are very few people dumb enough to say what I just said.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The president said that these minority congresswomen should go back to their countries. Do you have a response?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hadn't read that, but I'll go check it out.

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "THE LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": Man, what would Republicans in Congress do if the Capitol didn't have elevators? They'd have to carry around house plants just so they could hide behind them. What do you think of the president's tweets? I'm sorry, I haven't seen them. Now, if you'll excuse me, I --


CAMEROTA: That's pretty funny.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) haven't read them. I mean at a certain point, it's out there. Do you not have any electronic devices, newspapers, things like that, aides?

CAMEROTA: Right. And also sometimes when they say I haven't read them, it turns out they had read them a day earlier, as we find out sometimes on this program.

BERMAN: All right, we are about to break some news here. One of the most powerful senators in the country is about to get a new challenger. We will speak to the country's newest Senate candidate, next.


BERMAN: This morning, the powerful Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn has a new challenger. Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards just announced she is running for his job. Watch this.

[06:55:09] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AMANDA EDWARDS (D-TX), SENATE CANDIDATE: This is not about politics. This is about people and what matters most to us.

CHOIR (singing): Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

EDWARDS: It's about people like my parents, whose battles with cancer illustrate that for so many Americans and their families, access to health care is really a matter of life or death and isn't just a chip in some political game.


BERMAN: Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards joins us now.

Councilwoman, thank you very much for being with us.

Texas has not elected a Democratic senator since Lloyd Benson. We're talking 1988 at this point. You're the first African-American woman to enter the race. How do you win?

AMANDA EDWARDS (D-TX), SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, good morning. Thanks for having me on the show.

I think what's most important in winning this election and, of course, serving the people of Texas is to address the issues that matter most to them, focusing on issues that make a transformative difference in their lives, such as health care, access to health care that is, and making sure there's economic opportunity are just a couple of examples of the ways in which Texans can be better served if I'm elected to office. BERMAN: Health care. You bring up health care. I know that you do not

support doing away with private insurance to get to Medicare for all, is that correct?

EDWARDS: That's correct. I believe that we need to expand health care options for as many people as possible. And I think building upon the Affordable Care Act is a way in which we can do that and achieve that goal.

BERMAN: So you think the presidential candidates, and there are several who are calling for an end to private insurance, you believe they're wrong?

EDWARDS: I -- I think there are different approaches that we can take to this, but I think advocating for the expansion of the Affordable Care Act I think provides people the options that they're looking for. And then also provides them with -- or provides us an opportunity to have more buy in and more access.

BERMAN: I was looking at the president's approval ratings in Texas and they're not great. Here's at 41 percent approval, 52 percent disapproval. How much of an issue do you intend to make President Trump in your campaign?

EDWARDS: I think President Trump is making himself an issue during this election cycle. Certainly he has been very divisive in our nation and he hasn't delivered on a number of the promises that he made, namely thinking about how we scale (ph) solutions for all sectors of the economy, both rural and urban, as well as suburban. And we've got to have solutions brought forward to the table. It's got to be less about politics and political rhetoric and more about action and deliverables for people.

BERMAN: Interesting, you say it's got to be less about politics and rhetoric and more on actions and solutions. Do you think there is too much focus now among some in the Democratic Party on the president's words, for instance, of the last week, his -- what some people what are racist attacks on these four Democratic members of Congress?

EDWARDS: I think this is consistent with the way the president has been behaving since he was elected to office and even before. Unfortunately it's inconsistent with the values of our nation and it certainly is distracting from the issues at hand that matter most to people. Instead of dividing us, we should be focused on solutions for people that make a difference in their lives. And I'm running so that we can regain our focus on people and make sure that after the election they feel the impacts positively in their lives of someone new coming into office and serving them.

BERMAN: How do you reach someone who may have voted for Donald Trump in 2016 or John Cornyn in 2014?

EDWARDS: I think the way to reach anybody in Texas is to simply appeal to their interests, which are transformative differences in their lives. At the end of the day, what matters most is that your life opportunities are different because of the fact that you've elected someone into office who can roll up their sleeves, get to work, and, most importantly, deliver on that.

I think rhetoric and speeches are one thing. I think delivering results are another. And, quite frankly, that's what matters most. I intend to run a campaign that is inclusive of all Texans, making sure that we're solutions oriented. And I want to be held accountable to make sure that this isn't just a campaign trail, this is a change that is happening in Texas that really does result in differences and changes for people.

BERMAN: Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards, thank you very much for joining us. Good luck as you enter this long race.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

BERMAN: In the meantime, we now know what the president's strategy is for his 2020 campaign, division. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police fired the tear gas. Thousands of people on these streets of Old San Juan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally this country is standing up against the strong man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The governor really needs to resign. He needs to understand everyone wants it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists constantly trying to tear our country down. If they don't like it, let them leave.

[07:00:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Advisers around the president see a political winning strategy in all.