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Mehmet Oz, David McCormick Deadlocked in Pennsylvania GOP Senate Race; John Fetterman Wins Pennsylvania Democratic Senate Primary; Election Denier Wins GOP Nomination for Pennsylvania Governor; Suspect in Buffalo Mass Shooting Invited Public to View His Plot 30 Minutes Before Attack. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired May 18, 2022 - 05:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, May 18, I'm John Berman, Breanna is off. Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins with me for a dramatic morning. A cliffhanger in the biggest race of the day down to the wire in Pennsylvania's high stakes Republican Senate primary. A razor thin margin separating Trump backed TV doctor, Mehmet Oz, and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick. Their positions on the leader board changing by the minute with thousands of votes still left to be counted. As of this moment, it does look like this race will trigger an automatic recount.

In the governor's race in Pennsylvania, Trump backed candidate Doug Mastriano we are projecting has won the Republican nomination. He is Pennsylvania's leading far-right figure and has championed efforts still to overturn the 2020 election. He will face Democrat Josh Shapiro, the state's attorney general. Shapiro is the first nonincumbent to run unopposed in a Democratic gubernatorial primary since 1930.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And John Fetterman easily won the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania, though he might be the first candidate to do so from a hospital bed. He is out of surgery this morning after suffering a stroke and receiving a pacemaker just hours before the polls closed. We'll hear from his wife in just a bit.

But meanwhile in North Carolina, the first-term Congressman Madison Cawthorn has now conceded after losing his primary to State Senator Chuck Edwards. It's a major rebuke of someone who was once seen as a rising star in the GOP but whose political career saw scandal after scandal from salacious photos to claims about orgies that put him on the outs with his own party. Donald Trump had pleaded with voters to give Cawthorn a second chance, but they chose a different path.

Meanwhile, in Idaho, Republican Governor Brad Little beat back a challenge from his own lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin. McGeachin's tirades against COVID restrictions had won her the endorsement of former President Trump.

BERMAN: A marquee race, though, in Pennsylvania, where the Senate race is so close on the Republican side.

Kristen Holmes in Pittsburgh with the very latest -- Kristen.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, this is a real nail biter here. Both McCormick and Oz addressing their supporters last night, predicting victory but saying it might take a day or two to get there. McCormick saying that there were thousands of mail-in ballots that had yet to be counted. Now I talked to one of his advisers who said that this was critical, that they believe that these votes would break McCormick's way.

But right now it is anyone's game. And as you noted, it is likely more than possible that this race is going to trigger that automatic recount which happens if the margin is 0.5 or less which clearly right now it is. And as you said, that number just keeps going back and forth, who is in the lead. But one thing is clear, every single vote in that race will count.

Now also as you noted, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman winning his election as well. There have been some question, some uncertainty because of that stroke that kept him off the campaign trail.

The big question now is how establishment Democrats embrace him. They many of them had been hoping Congressman Conor Lamb would win, would be the candidate in the fall, so when they felt they could get behind him could win a general. And Fetterman is a bit more progressive. But if it's any indication as to how the party will get behind him, we did see a statement from Joe Biden last night congratulating him.

Now in the governor's race, let's start on the Republican side, election denier, Trump-endorsed Doug Mastriano winning there. This is much to the chagrin of Republican establishment who thinks that he is too conservative, too extreme to win in a general election. And remember he was present in Washington on January 6th.

Now last night he denied extremism but if it's any indication as to where the party stands, the Republican Governors' Association issued a lukewarm at best statement with his win and did not pledge any monetary support. Now, he will go up against Josh Shapiro, the attorney general, in the fall who as you noted ran unopposed -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Kristen Holmes, for us in Pittsburgh. Kristen, keep a close eye on things because things keep changing here in Pennsylvania.

I want to show you some of the vote counts right now. Just 2,591 votes separating the two leading candidates right now. And that margin keeps changing really by the minute. We had new votes just reported from Chester County here, and in Chester County, you can see this is a county where David McCormick leads by a little bit.

Let me give you a sense of the new numbers that just came in there, the new votes just reported, Kathy Barnette got 218, David McCormick got 258, and Mehmet Oz got 163. So you can see that McCormick picked up almost 100 votes in just this one county that reported literally 13 minutes ago, closing the margin with Mehmet Oz by that amount. You can pull out here again looking at the map, you can see the state is really split among the three candidates especially the two candidates Oz and McCormick, 94 percent reporting.


One other thing I can show you right now is the counties that have reported about 90 percent or less of the vote, you can see there are a lot of counties remaining where they have more than 10 percent of the vote still to count. And in those counties, you can see in the deep red, McCormick is leading in some of them. Mehmet Oz is leading in some of them.

So over the next couple of hours as more votes come in, the leads can really keep on shifting back and forth. Take a look here for instance at Delaware County, 91 percent in, Oz leading by a little bit. But there could be a few thousand votes left to count there. So the overall margin we're looking at, we expect this to change throughout the morning. We will keep you posted as these votes come in -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And joining us now to talk about all this is CNN senior reporter, Isaac Dovere, and CNN reporter Gaby Orr.

Thank you both for being up with us so early this morning as we are still in deadlock, and this is of course too close to call, but the big question is, are we potentially headed for a recount here in this race?

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It seems like we are. There is an automatic recount triggered under 0.5 percent and we're also going to have mail-in ballots counted. David McCormick in his speech last night said we've got to wait for mail-in ballots. This is an interesting change of direction for Republican candidates who have questioned the election in 2020 over mail-in ballots, over late arriving votes, and now they're counting on it to get to victory.

GABBY ORR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And this is, I mean, a huge surprise I think for a lot of supporters of President Donald Trump, but also for many top Republicans on Capitol Hill who are breathing a collective sigh of relief this morning seeing that Kathy Barnette is in a distant third. She was very much seen as an unelectable candidate in a general contest and it doesn't seem as though she has any sort of pathway to victory in this primary at this point.

BERMAN: However, doesn't mean she didn't play a role or maybe a major role in this primary because while she is in third right now, taking a lot of votes, and Oz and McCormick are separated by this razor thin margin. Any sense of which candidate she might have taken more from? She is Trumpy, Isaac, but she didn't have the official Trump endorsement.

DOVERE: Right. And Dr. Oz did. And you can think about a situation where if it had just been a McCormick-Oz faceoff without Barnette there pulling a lot of the Trump centric vote, that that might have been much better news for Oz and put him in a position, look, it's only a couple of thousand votes. It looks like it's going to decide who the Senate nominee is. Without her there pulling votes probably is good news for him.

ORR: I was talking to an Oz adviser last night who definitely said that this Barnette rise at the very late stage in this race hurt him, that she was pulling votes away from him and in a way creating an opening for David McCormick.

COLLINS: Yes, it was interesting to see how we've been talking about her surging, there was all this concern about her, some of these groups were pouring money into her campaign at the last minute. But she faded as the night went on.

I do want to talk about the governor's race, though, because this is of course where all eyes are turning as to seeing what's going to happen in November. Mastriano, the former president's candidate that he had backed at the end, which we should note, he said was a stamp of approval. He doesn't actually think it played a role in his securing this victory last night, but it is setting him up for a clash with the state's attorney general this fall, Josh Shapiro.

And I know there's a lot of concerns inside Republican circles about whether or not he is too extreme to defeat a Democrat. They're going to wind up with a Democratic governor.

ORR: Well, this is part of a big trend of Donald Trump deliberately endorsing candidates some at the last minute like Mastriano who have perpetuated his conspiracy theories and lies about the 2020 election. And, you know, he's done it with other candidates as well. And there are a number of Republican gubernatorial hopefuls who are going to be competing in primaries later this summer who have also done this.

And keep this mind, this is important, these are Republican governors who if they do prove successful in November would be overseeing the counting of election results in 2024. So I think, you know, Donald Trump is very happy with the outcome of last night. Republicans on Capitol Hill not so much. As you said, Mastriano is considered to be an extremist candidate on the right, he has a lot of views that might not be palatable to the average voter, the independent voter, the more, you know, suburban voter in Pennsylvania.

And that can put him in trouble in a general election contest and I think that's why we saw such a tepid statement from the Republican Governors' Association yesterday refusing to commit any money to this race and really helping him out in any way.

BERMAN: Isaac, I want to spend a little bit of time on the Democratic race where John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, we are projecting, that he is the winner there from a hospital bed where he just had a pacemaker put in. I want to leave that aside for a second. There'll be time to talk about that coming up. But he's an interesting candidate and his relationship with the Biden White House and the national party interesting as well.

Biden didn't endorse in this race, but we know from past years that Biden loved Fetterman's opponent Conor Lamb.

DOVERE: Yes. Biden would see people as people like in the mold of his son, Beau, his late son Beau.


Veterans, sort of a square jaw, all-American candidates, lawyers. Conor Lamb was all of that. Biden was very much involved in Conor Lamb's first win in the special election in Pennsylvania for a House race there. And in fac his chief strategist, Biden's chief strategist Mike Donilon was one of Conor Lamb's consultants and helped build that up. That doesn't mean that he doesn't like John Fetterman.

John Fetterman is a very different kind of candidate from Joe Biden and is a very different candidate than Democrats have had in most statewide races. He is of course cuts figure, tattoo, the chin beard, all of that, the Dickie shirts, but it's more than that. It's a way of being sort of iconoclastic on a lot of positions. He is for same-sex marriage, for legalizing that for a long time, but also for legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania.

At the same time, he is against -- he is for fracking and is very skeptical of some of the environmental positions that have been staked out by the far-left on the progressive side of the Democrats. So all that coming together and this ability to channel and talk to working class voters that Democrats have been desperate for looking for a new face. There is not someone like him in the party, certainly in the rising ranks who fits into all those categories like that.

COLLINS: And Biden mentioned that in his statement last night. It was the only time he weighed in on what was happening last night. It's not clear that they've spoken yet, but he said he believes that this shows, you know, the importance of focusing on working class voters. And he was also saying, you know, as we talk about who is going to be the Republican candidate in this race, President Biden was saying it doesn't really matter because he says they have all tried to basically out-extreme one another in this primary.

Gabby and Isaac, thank you so much for joining us to see all of this, as we wait to see who's going to win.

We have more on the Pennsylvania Senate race still too close to call as we wait to see who it is that's going to be running against John Fetterman.

BERMAN: Plus we have new details this morning about what the Buffalo shooting suspect was doing moments before carrying out the massacre that left 10 people dead. We are live in Buffalo.



COLLINS: We're learning disturbing new details this morning about the racist attack in Buffalo including how about 30 minutes before the attack and before he gunned down 10 people in what investigators say was a long-planned massacre, the gunman was in online chat room informing people about the horror he was about to carry out.

Let's bring in CNN's Omar Jimenez who is live in Buffalo this morning.

And Omar, it just feels like the more we learn about this, the more disturbing these details are.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's almost unbelievable when you look at how much information was actually out there that this alleged shooter had posted himself. Now prior to this, we knew that he had been using discord essentially as a planning diary leading up to the attack showing he had been to the Tops supermarket behind me back on March 8th, essentially doing recon but what wasn't known was who was actually viewing these posts if any.

Well, a spokesperson for Discord said that it was about 30 minutes prior to that planned attack Saturday that a small amount of people were invited to and joined what was previously a private server. Now the spokesperson for Discord said they have no place for hate or extremism on their platform and they are continuing to help law enforcement with this investigation. But it's also still unclear at what point they were made aware of these posts.

And as for what they say, it showed that it was back on March 8th, that was when he first traveled the roughly 200 miles from where he lived to here in Buffalo, he went into the supermarket behind me three times at noon, at 2:00 p.m., at 4:00 p.m., taking notes on what he was seeing, even in particular the amount of black people versus white people that were in the store, making maps of the aisles, the exits, and even later on at points noting about how he had interactions with a black armed security guard calling it a close call, and that how he initially planned to carry out the attack a week later on March 15th, but kept delaying. And how he initially considered attacking an elementary school or a church but eventually settled on a grocery store.

He's expected to be back in court tomorrow after pleading not guilty to first-degree murder over this past weekend. No word yet on whether he'll face any federal charges -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Just raises so many questions, given all of these warning signs and everything that he had posted online, laying out very clearly what he planned do.

Omar Jimenez, thank you.

Meanwhile, we are closely monitoring the biggest race of primary night. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick are separated by a razor thin margin in Pennsylvania's Republican Senate primary race, a race that might have to be decided after a recount.

BERMAN: Yes. And we're getting new votes in it seems every hour in that race. Meanwhile, Democrat John Fetterman has won Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary from his hospital bed. His wife will speak to NEW DAY ahead.


[05:24:01] BERMAN: All right. Welcome back. This is CNN's special live coverage of election night in America, still very much going on. The marquee race, the Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania, which is so close right now. Just under 2600 votes separate Mehmet Oz with David McCormick, 94 percent in, still thousands of votes left to be counted.

And just to give you a sense of how much things could still change I want to show you how much things have changed over the last several hours. Look at this, at 9:00 p.m., David McCormick was ahead by 6500 votes. At midnight, still ahead by 2600, but shift to 12:30 a.m., Mehmet Oz, that is when he took the lead by some 500 votes, that grew by 1:30 to 1,000, to where we are right now around 2600.

But again, still thousands of votes left to be counted and really spread out around the state. So very difficult to tell at this point who these votes might help more -- Kaitlan.


COLLINS: And joining us now with more from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the national opinion columnist for the "Philadelphia Inquirer," Will Bunch.

Will, thanks so much for joining us this morning. And let's just start with what's happening in this GOP Senate primary, with David McCormick and Mehmet Oz, of course neck and neck, basically in this deadlock this morning. And I wonder what your takeaway is from this after we have been talking about Kathy Barnette so much. There have been a lot of concern about her surging and now we're seeing the two of them so close in this race.

WILL BUNCH, NATIONAL OPINION COLUMNIST, THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Yes, I mean, you have to think, you know, there was very much a concerted campaign over the last week by a lot of Republican heavy weights including Sean Hannity on FOX News to try and take Kathy Barnette down, and stop her surge. And looking at these results, you have to think that worked. You know, she was held back.

Her two rivals, Mehmet Oz and David McCormick both spent tens of millions of dollars on this race and they also spent a lot of money trying to destroy each other and this is what they've created, a dead heat. And it's probably going to be days before we know who actually won.

COLLINS: It likely will be days. So I do think it's good to expectation set for people, and I guess one big question is, does it seem like they're headed for a recount for this?

BUNCH: I think it does. It's interesting, you know, when you just showed Oz pulling ahead in the middle of the night, I think that reflects his support from Donald Trump because we've seen that Donald Trump voters are election day voters and not -- they really despise mail-in voting. And it seems like McCormick did have an edge on the mail-in votes that have been counted. So I think when they count these mail votes today, you're going to see McCormick definitely pull back closer to Oz. I mean, it really could end as close to an exact tie as possible. So I

think we're definitely on track for a recount, that's what it looks like.

COLLINS: And it says so much about what this race is going to look like going forward even though you saw President Biden saying last night, he says it doesn't really matter which of the candidates is eventually the GOP nominee because he thinks that they've all basically tried to kind of out-extreme each other in this primary.

But I do want to ask you about what's happening in the governor's race because you saw Trump backed Mastriano last night securing the Republican nomination. That is going to pit him against Josh Shapiro, the attorney general right now in Pennsylvania. And of course there has been so much focus on not just what this race is going to mean. But I also want to talk to you about Mastriano because he has got this very interesting controversial history given of course his role in January 6th.

He was here at the Stop the Steal rally and what he has said about the role of what's going to happen if he does win and the role he would play in future elections.

BUNCH: Yes, I really think that Mastriano versus Josh Shapiro is going to be the marquee race in the nation when it comes to this whole debate about the future of American democracy because in Mastriano, you have a candidate who as you said was heavily involved in January 6th from renting buses to roaming the Capitol grounds, an early adopter of Donald Trump's election fraud big lie.

If he is elected governor, he'll be appointing the secretary of state of Pennsylvania who will oversee the 2024 election. And, you know, given his history, I think voters are fair to ask, you know, is their vote going to be counted if Doug Mastriano and the secretary of state are running the 2024 presidential election year?

So it's really going to be a high stakes election. And, you know, Mastriano I think also defines the extreme turn in the Republican Party in other ways. He supports a heartbeat abortion ban, he has been very open in his Christian nationalist philosophy, and it is really -- it's not just a regular governor's election. You know, it's really going to be a battle for the future of democracy right here in Pennsylvania, the state where the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were drafted and we're going to be playing it out in 2022 over those core issues.

COLLINS: I think it really says something that Mastriano is the candidate that both Trump and Democrats wanted to win.

Will Bunch, thank you for getting up early with us this morning to break all of it down.

BUNCH: It was my pleasure, Kaitlan. Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now is former Republican congressman Francis Rooney up bright and early with us this morning. Congressman, thank you so much for being here. Let's start on the race

they were just talking about there, Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, a guy who is a flat-out election denier. How do you think that reflects on the Republican Party?

FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think it continues to show that Trump has a bit of a hold, you know, he had an influence. This guy is one of the original election deniers and as you say, a January 6th proponent, and is probably going to be a problem for the Republicans. Shapiro will probably take him.

COLLINS: But I think that raises a question because that is the conventional wisdom, I think. We even heard from David Urban last night.