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Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) Live On New Day; El Paso Widower Invites Entire City To Wife's Funeral; CNN Special Report Focuses On "THE AGE OF AMAZON." Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 16, 2019 - 07:30   ET


[07:30:00] MARK SANFORD (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: -- within the Republican Party. But it didn't mean I'm not a Republican -- I am. I simply believe we need to improve what the party stands for and its messaging outside of the party.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mark Sanford, when you make a decision please come back on NEW DAY and announce it here.

We do appreciate your time. Thanks for being with us this morning.

SANFORD: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: Alisyn.


John, the number of Democrats running for president is now 23. Governor John Hickenlooper dropped out on Thursday after having a heart-to-heart with another presidential candidate, Sen. Michael Bennet. Bennet is on NEW DAY, next, to share his next moves.


[07:35:01] CAMEROTA: OK, there are now 23 Democrats running for president after former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper bowed out. He made that decision after consulting a number people, including our next guest, Michael Bennet -- Sen. Michael Bennet.

He, of course, is a Democratic presidential candidate himself, and he is also the author of a new book called "Dividing America: How Russia Hacked Social Media and Democracy." And we will get to your book in a moment, Senator.

But first, great to have you.

I just want to ask you about what sounds like a pivotal car ride that you had with John Hickenlooper on Friday night as he was mulling his decision whether to get out of the race. What did you tell him?

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, AUTHOR, "DIVIDING AMERICA: HOW RUSSIA HACKED SOCIAL MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY": Well, thanks for having me, Alisyn. Mostly, we talked about what it was like to serve in the Senate -- the frustrating parts of the job and the good parts of the job. Governor Hickenlooper wondered whether he would be good at the job and I believe because he's been an excellent mayor and an excellent governor, I don't have any doubt that if he decided to run he'd be an excellent senator.

So, we've got some good people in the race already in Colorado so we don't know what's going to happen, but that was mostly what the conversation was about.

You know, my sense of it is that this is a moment when our democracy is really at risk and it's up to all of us no matter what job we have. Whether we're on the news or in the Senate or teaching school or retired, each one of us has a responsibility to make sure our democracy gets through this and we come out on the other side somehow stronger and more united.

CAMEROTA: And, Senator, was there a part of you that was thinking, yes, John Hickenlooper, run for Senate -- yes, that's a good idea? And were you -- just a small part of you thinking one less moderate for me to have to fight?

BENNET: It won't -- it won't surprise you to know that John Hickenlooper is smart enough to know of my self-interest and point it out to me.

CAMEROTA: Oh, that's good -- that's good.

All right. So, you have not yet -- correct me if I'm wrong. You've not yet qualified for next month's debate in terms of fundraising or polling. And so, what are you thinking about your next moves?

BENNET: Well, I'm just -- I'm used to running behind. I represent a state that's a third Democratic, a third Republican, and a third Independent. I'm the only candidate in the race who has actually won two tough national races in a purple state.

And, it's hard to win in Colorado and I think it's going to be hard to beat Donald Trump. We're going to have to pull together and make sure we're winning interior parts of our country as well.

And if people are interested in that they can go to and help me stay on the debate stage because I am short right now for the third debate.

People in Iowa and New Hampshire -- I'm going to New Hampshire this afternoon -- have not made up their minds yet about who they want to be the nominee. And I -- in both places, the priority I think they're placing is who can beat Donald Trump and how do we build a policy agenda that can actually unite the country after a period of so much division?

So, I'm going to continue to work on that and I look forward to spending the weekend in New Hampshire.

CAMEROTA: You sent out a tweet last week that got -- that went viral and got a lot of attention.

You said, "If you elect me president, I promise you won't have to think about me for two weeks at a time. I'll do my job watching out for North Korea and ending this trade war. So you can go raise your kids and live your lives."

Is your slogan "The President You'll Forget About"?

BENNET: My slogan is the opposite of Donald Trump. And I think we need competence in the White House again and we need to have somebody there who is spending their time focused on the American people, not speculating whether or not he can buy Greenland or driving the national --

You guys were just talking about it. I mean, the guy said he was going to pay off our debt in seven years -- that's what he said he was going to do -- and he's put more debt on the balance sheet of this country, with Mitch McConnell's help, than any living politician.

Anybody who voted for these people because they thought they would show fiscal restraint needs to understand the incredible damage that he's done because of his irresponsible policies. I mean, there is a huge opportunity cost to this person being President of the United States.

And it's not a reality T.V. show. This is about the lives of the kids that I used to work for when I was superintendent of the Denver Public Schools --


BENNET: -- and their parents who were expecting us to do our jobs and make the country -- make -- create more opportunity for them, not less. And I think they're invisible to Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: And speaking of Mitch McConnell, it sounds like you have a very generous book gifting program that you have come up with for him. I don't know if this is a private book club --

BENNET: I have.

CAMEROTA: -- that you two have.

But on your Web site you are offering to send him, for free, a copy -- in fact, I think you're up to 2,344 copies that you've sent to him of your book called "Dividing America: How Russia Hacked Social Media and Democracy".

[07:40:15] Has he thanked you for that very generous book?

BENNET: He has not thanked me yet. He has not thanked me yet.

But the opportunity is still there for anybody who wants to go to and order a book to send to the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has refused to put bipartisan Election Protection commission on the floor of the Senate. I can't think of a less demanding task to be asked of, of Mitch McConnell, because it's so bipartisan and because it's protecting the country, but he has refused to put it on the floor.

Russia hacked our democracy in 2016 and they are still attacking our democracy. They're attacking democracies all over Western Europe, as well.

I'm a member of the bipartisan Intelligence Committee.


BENNET: We put a report out two weeks ago that showed how serious this is.

And so, please send him a book and maybe in September he'll actually put this stuff on the floor.

CAMEROTA: And people can actually buy your book and read it themselves, also, not just send it to --

BENNET: Yes, they can -- they actually can --


BENNET: They can read it for free --


BENNET: -- but they can send it to McConnell for a buck.

CAMEROTA: OK, thank you very much, Sen. Michael Bennet. Great to talk to you. Thanks for being here.

BENNET: Thanks, Alisyn. Thank you.


BERMAN: All right.

He lost his wife in the massacre in El Paso. On her funeral today, her grieving widower is asking for help from the public to make sure her memory is not forgotten. His emotional story is next.


[07:45:44] BERMAN: Today, one of the 22 victims of the El Paso shooting will be laid to rest. Sixty-three-year-old Margie Reckard was her husband's only family, so he invited the public to attend her funeral. The response -- it has been overwhelming. It turns out El Paso is his family.

Gary Tuchman joins us live for more. Gary, this fills your heart and breaks your heart all at the same time.

GARY TUCHMAN CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Tony Basco had lived a very hard life and his wife, Margie, made it so much easier. She was his everything. He cannot imagine life without her.

And tonight is her funeral prayer service, but something will be happening there tonight that has made him extremely grateful.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony Basco loved only one person in the world and now, she's gone.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And she loved you a lot.

TONY BASCO, WIFE KILLED IN EL PASO MASS SHOOTING: The reason -- I'll tell you what. I don't even know why -- what she seen in me sometimes. But we had wonderful years. The best years of my whole life.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony has no other family. His wife, Margie Reckard, had just a few family members but none in the El Paso area.

Attendance at her funeral was expected to be minimal until the Internet took over. Tweets from journalists and media outlets sent out messages of support for Tony.

Then there was this Facebook post from the funeral home, reading, "Mr. Antonio Basco was married 22 years to his wife, Margie Reckard. He had no other family. He welcomes anyone to attend his wife's services."

People from all over the United States have contacted the funeral home, as well as Tony, to say they plan to attend Margie's funeral.

TUCHMAN (on camera): There are going to be hundreds of people here, probably --

BASCO: I'm glad of that.

TUCHMAN (on camera): -- from all around the country. How does that make you feel?

BASCO: I love it. I mean, it's nice to see people really caring about people.

BASCO (AT WALMART MEMORIAL SITE): There's going to be a lot of people, now. I told you you was important.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): They had been married for 22 years. Tony says his life had been very difficult prior to meeting her.

TUCHMAN (on camera): What would you like people to know about Margie?

BASCO: She was a caring, loving -- you know, the beautifulist (sic) person. (Crying) TUCHMAN (voice-over): Every day now he goes to the memorial site next to the Walmart, taking exquisite care of Margie's memorial, making sure the flowers and the wind chimes, which she always loved so much, look the best they can.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Where did you meet her?

BASCO: Omaha, Nebraska in a bar.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And you were single, she was single?

BASCO: Yes, never been --

TUCHMAN (on camera): And was it love at first sight?

BASCO: Oh, man, you couldn't imagine.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony is still waking up each morning in disbelief that she is gone.

BASCO: I sit at my table looking at the front door, just waiting for her to walk in. I've even tried calling her on this phone.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You have?

BASCO: I've tried to.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): At the memorial site, Tony tells Margie that someday he will meet her in heaven.

BASCO (AT WALMART MEMORIAL SITE): So what you been up to? What do you got to do up there? I wished you'd tell me something.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tony is now beginning a new life alone. But for at least one day, at Margie's funeral, he won't be.

BASCO: She made me the happiest man in the world and the luckiest. There's nobody luckier than me in this whole world.


TUCHMAN: Tony spends a lot of his time at this memorial next to the Walmart and he gets immense support. It's very therapeutic. People come up to him, they hug him, they talk to him, they shake his hand.

Tony told me, John, that last week, he actually slept here one night. He wants to be as close as he can to Margie -- John.

BERMAN: As I said, it breaks your heart and fills your heart at the same time, Gary. I saw so many people hugging and crying at that memorial behind you.

And I also have to say I'm just not surprised that El Paso is going to show up. El Paso is a city that is really so interconnected and they're there for each other.

CAMEROTA: That is beautiful that they are so close-knit. I mean, that says a lot about El Paso.

Gary, thank you very much for that story.

So, voters in several states are fed up with gerrymandering or the redrawing of their congressional districts. But the politicians who benefit from gerrymandering are not going down without a fight.

[07:50:06] BERMAN: John Avlon has a reality check -- John.


Look, if you're frustrated by the dysfunction and division of our democracy you are not alone, and hyperpartisanship and polarization are to blame.

Now, arguably, the prime driver of this in Congress is the rigged system of redistricting, which is a big part of the reason we don't have competitive general elections for roughly 80 percent of our House seats.

So we've got an update here. The good news, the bad news, and the ugly news with a truly strange new twist.

Now, first, the good news. Citizens frustrated with the broken status quo have been fighting the power through ballot initiatives. And back in 2018, reformers won in states like Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, and Utah.

The bad news is that earlier this summer, the Supreme Court voted five to four to allow absurdly partisan gerrymanders in North Carolina and Maryland to stand.

Now, Chief Justice John Roberts was careful to concede that -- get this -- excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that seem -- reasonably seem unjust. But, Roberts says despite the courts not being able to do anything there was a silver lining, namely that states are actively addressing the issue on a number of fronts and specifically cited the ballot initiatives in Michigan and Missouri.

Now, here's where the ugly part comes in because despite the clear express of all the people, Republicans in those states are trying to roll back redistricting reforms to preserve their hold on power.

In Michigan, redistricting reform passed by an overwhelming margin, 61 to 39. Maybe folks there remembered ugly e-mails showing the Republicans once plotted to, quote, "cram all of the Dem garbage" into just a few districts.

But a lawsuit brought by Republicans is trying to stop an Independent redistricting commission before it starts. They're arguing that the initiatives attempt to ensure impartiality by borrowing partisan officeholders' employees, family members, and lobbyists. It amounts to discrimination.

That would be as opposed to the actual evidence of discrimination that helped fuel the fury in the first place. Now, if that doesn't get your blood up, check your pulse.

But down in Missouri, we see a similar story of voters overwhelming approved the "Clean Missouri" ballot issue in 2018.

But it took only weeks for Republican Gov. Mike Parson to declare that he wanted to overturn the will of the people, telling the Associated Press that, "When you starting talking about what they proposed in the redistricting, of how do you make districts even, I think that's so questionable."

The new Senate pro tem Dave Schatz had an even more unvarnished reaction, telling the AP, "There's a lot more to it than what the standard person can understand." In other words, he seems to think that the average citizen in Missouri is too stupid to know what they voted for.

And in April, the Missouri House of Representatives voted to overturn the ballot initiative and give themselves a redo in 2020.

This rollback effort is becoming more widespread.

Last week, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bipartisan bill to create an Independent redistricting commission in a swing state where registered Independent voters outnumbered Democrats or Republicans.

Look, you change the rules, you change the game, and that's threatening to partisan politicians who have gamed the system for decades.

But when the Supreme Court closes the door to federal remedies, the attempted rollbacks of popular votes for election reform isn't just ugly, it's cynical, if not outright sinister. And they're going to continue to do it if they think they can get away with it.

And that's your reality check.

CAMEROTA: John, thank you very much.

All right. So we all know about Prime and Whole Foods, but there's one part of Amazon that you have likely never heard of. So coming up, CNN has an exclusive interview with one of Amazon's top executives about all of this, next.


[07:57:02] BERMAN: All right.

Tonight we have a CNN special report lifting the veil on Amazon, introducing you to the king of the cloud. This is a side of Amazon really no one has seen before.

CAMEROTA: Our CNN anchor, Poppy Harlow, is here with a preview of tonight's CNN special report. What'd you get, Poppy?

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": The last six months of my life. Between our show and Seattle -- and our show in Seattle. CAMEROTA: Is that right?

HARLOW: It's been -- yes, look, I worked with an amazing producer, Jessica Small, on this and the documentary team because we all know Amazon very well, we think, but we actually don't.

This is a company that has a reach into so many parts of our life, our government, our economy. And a big part of that is because of the cloud, right?

The government has a big contract up with Amazon that they are bidding for with the Department of Defense. This is all about the cloud or Amazon Web Services.

So we spent a lot of time with Amazon executives and regulators and one of the executives we spoke with is Andy Jassy. He is known by many as the most powerful man in the cloud.

Here's a clip.


ANDY JASSY, CEO, AMAZON WEB SERVICES: In the beginning, a lot of companies would pooh-pooh the cloud and say that nobody was going to use it for anything interesting. And when the value proposition is that good for consumers, you can howl at the wind all you want but you can't fight gravity.

HARLOW (voice-over): Thirteen years later, the cloud is now a $70 billion industry. And while formidable competitors have emerged, Amazon continues to dominate with a seemingly endless list of customers from Fortune 500 companies to tech start-ups to, yes, CNN. Even secretive government agencies, including the CIA.

HARLOW (on camera): The cloud is crucial to the economy and it's now crucial to national security. Do you think there should be more federal regulation of it?

JASSY: The governments are going to make their own decisions on what they feel like they need to regulate and what they feel like they don't need to regulate. And we expect that governments will want to understand how we're operating as more and more workloads are being put on top of AWS.

HARLOW (voice-over): For now, the federal government is busy deciding how much more of the nation's most sensitive data it wants to place in Amazon's hands.

AWS is a final contender for the Jedi contract, a $10 billion Pentagon deal that would involve hosting government data for operations critical to military missions across the globe.

JASSY: We think it's integral for the Department of Defense to have access to the most sophisticated, cutting-edge technology that exists, period.

HARLOW (on camera): Does having that much power give you pause?

JASSY: We have over 3,000 government agencies using AWS in a significant way. That's a significant responsibility. We're aware of that.


HARLOW: So, Amazon's dominance of the cloud market has also caught the attention in the past few weeks of the president.

Earlier this month, his new Defense secretary made a surprise announcement that they are reviewing that lucrative Defense Department contract before it's awarded, potentially, to Amazon, which again, has made that $10 million bid for it, guys.

So, to be continued. Where this goes.