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DCCC Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) Joins New Day After Primary Win; Uvalde School Board Votes Unanimously To Fire Police Chief; Jury Awards $31 Million In Lawsuit Over Kobe Bryant Crash Photos. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired August 25, 2022 - 07:30   ET





REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Tonight, mainstream won. Common sense won. Democrats want candidates who get results and bring home the win and tonight we've done both.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Sean Patrick Maloney is the chair of the House Democratic campaign arm. He just won a primary fight from a progressive challenger Tuesday night in New York's newly-redrawn 17th District, and he joins us this morning.

Congressman, you said that your win was a win for the mainstream. What did you mean by that?

MALONEY: What I meant by that was that we've seen challenges to candidates like me but we won with two-thirds of the vote. So our vision of getting good results, even if it means working with people not engaged in some purity test on Twitter but bringing home climate change legislation, reducing emissions 40 percent in just the next eight years.

If you're a senior on Medicare you're going to have a cap of now $2,000 in your out-of-pocket prescription drug costs. And lower prescription drug costs, finally, because we're taking on the big drug companies.

It means better health care for veterans. It means new roads, new bridges. It means we have moved an agenda to build a better future not just engaged in some ideological purity test.

And you see voters electing Democrats who are occupying the center of American politics while the Republican candidates -- the Republican candidates have never been more extreme.

COLLINS: Well, we certainly saw some other mainstream Democrats and also establishment Democrats winning on Tuesday night. I do want to ask about redistricting in your home state, which really

had thrown this race into chaos. It pitted a lot of Democrats against one another. And I wonder, given your role in the party, if you feel accountable for what happened on Tuesday night where we saw some Democrats losing their jobs?


MALONEY: Well, look, every 10 years, we redraw all the congressional lines. In New York, unfortunately, the court handed us a badly flawed broken process that ended up being done by an upstate Republican judge and you had some chaotic results.

But ultimately, the voters get to decide these things. That's what you saw on Tuesday night. And all of us have to go out and make our case. That's as it should be.

COLLINS: Voters do ultimately get to decide -- that is right. But when it comes to the redistricting map that initially Democrats had drawn, some said it was basically going too far. Do you wish it had been handled differently from the beginning?

MALONEY: Look, what I can tell you is that if you look at redistricting all over the country, we have a map that we can win on. And right now, the issues that matter to Americans are not process issues like that, but I understand the concerns.

Right now, what we're focused on is whether we're going to build a future where we all count, we all matter, or whether we get dragged back into a world the MAGA Republican movement wants to build that is going to rip away 50 years of reproductive freedom, screw around with veterans' health care when we should be getting it done, stand in the doorway when we can lower prescription drug costs. We're talking about the future.

But look, redistricting is in the rearview mirror. There are a lot of things I wish were different about it but we don't control all those things. And then, in general, I will tell you we have at least as good a map as the one we've been running on.

Remember, Democrats got 4.7 million more votes in the 2020 congressional elections and we lost 13 seats. So you tell me whether the maps have been fair.

COLLINS: Well, I think when you say redistricting is in the rearview mirror one person who might disagree with that is Mondaire Jones. You decided to contest the district -- the seat that he held -- that he still holds at this moment. He is a Black Democrat who is more aligned with the progressive wing of your party.

Have you spoken to him since your win on Tuesday night?

MALONEY: No, we have not spoken, but we've spoken a bunch throughout this process. I have enormous respect for Mondaire Jones. We're colleagues and we've worked very closely together. And he's going to have a huge contribution to make. He's not done with his public service.

Let's remember when the -- when the dust settled in New York, I was the only member of Congress who lived in the reconfigured district, so we all face some difficult choices because a lot of my population was in a separate district. They split mine right into.

And Mondaire was drawn into the same congressional district as Jamaal Bowman because White Plains and Yonkers are now in the same congressional district. So we were able to avoid a member-on-member primary, which I know we were all happy about.

But ultimately, again, we put our names on the ballot and the voters make these decisions.

COLLINS: Is there anything you would say to Mondaire Jones now?

MALONEY: Again, I think he has an enormous contribution to make going forward and he's not done serving in the Congress. He's an extremely talented young leader and I think you're going to see -- you're going to see him make a big contribution. And I'll wish him every good wish.

COLLINS: Well, we'll wait to see what his next steps are.

I do want to ask you about another tactic that Democrats have taken lately, which is, in some cases, boosting Republican candidates in primaries that happened in recent weeks and months. The more extreme MAGA candidates in the cases against more moderate Republicans with the tactic ultimately being that it is easier for a Democrat to beat a more extreme Republican.

But do you have concern now that come November there is a chance that those more MAGA Republicans could be lawmakers, could be governors, could be secretaries of state?

MALONEY: Everything we do at the DCCC is geared toward one goal and it is the moral imperative, I believe, keeping MAGA Republicans from holding the gavels and controlling the House of Representatives. There are always moral and philosophical questions about tactics in politics. I mean, you're not going to take the politics out of politics.

But in the case of Michigan 3, we got a weak opponent who is divisive and extremist. And the ad we ran was a general election ad that called him an extremist and said he's too conservative for western Michigan because he is. Whereas, we have a strong pro-choice candidate named Hillary Scholten who is going to win that seat.

And, of course, the Cook Political Report, after the primary, changed the rating on that race and said it's much more likely that a Democrat is going to win. That's doing our job.

COLLINS: But if it comes November and one of those Republicans wins, what do you say to voters who donated to Democrats with the intent of boosting Democrats, not boosting MAGA Republicans?

MALONEY: Look, we're not boosting MAGA Republicans -- let's be really clear. We are -- we are engaged in an effort to win the House of Representatives and keep MAGA Republicans from power. The tactics can be debated. You're talking about a single race, a few hundred thousand dollars in a budget of $300 million or so. And so, it's not a tactic we widely use.

But wanting a weaker opponent is, of course, a time-honored strategy -- and in this case, we've got one and we're going to beat him.


And if I may, I think it's a little naive to believe that John Gibbs is the danger facing our country. One hundred thirty-nine Republicans voted on January 20 -- January 6, 2021 to overturn the election. I mean, my goodness, this danger didn't start with a Michigan primary. And our -- and our -- and our concern is not that there be one more extremist in the Congress. We've got a bunch of them already, you might have noticed.

The danger is that -- is that MAGA Republicans who will rip away reproductive freedom, who will -- who will eviscerate things like marriage equality, who vote against birth control, by the way -- that they will be in control of the House of Representatives. And having weaker opponents and stronger candidates is a good thing for Democrats. That's what we got in that primary and we're going to win that seat.

COLLINS: We'll see how the tactic plays out.

Congressman, I do want to ask you one last question before you go, which is on this decision from President Biden yesterday -- this announcement when it comes to student loan debt relief. Is it a decision that you agree with and that you think will be beneficial for voters?

MALONEY: Well, I know the president is keeping a promise and I know there are millions of families out there who have been struggling with student loan debt. So I think it's important that the president income-qualified -- I think it's important that there be some fairness in the -- in the process that we pay for it.

But I'll tell you what. It's a big deal if you're struggling with a lot of student loan debt. My own brother had to get through medical school working in the public health service. So I think service and loan forgiveness through that type of avenue is also a terrific -- a terrific option for folks.

But I think the president promised some forgiveness and he's doing it. I think that's important.

COLLINS: Are you OK with it being done via executive action instead of legislatively?

MALONEY: Yes. Look, I'll leave that to the lawyers. I'm for whatever gets relief to people.

And can I just say before we're finished -- you know, we had the most momentous election this week. We haven't had a chance to speak about it in this interview. But the fact is that the race in New York 19 shows that Democrats are on a comeback and that voters are not going to put up with having Roe v. Wade ripped up by the MAGA Republicans.

And so, what you're seeing through the actions of the president on things like student loan debt, on things like accomplishing lower prescription drug costs, on things like getting health care to veterans, on getting the infrastructure bill done, on combating climate change in a historic way -- what you're seeing is the substance that is fueling our comeback. And his action on student loan debt, I believe, will be part of that comeback.

COLLINS: Congressman, I will say we have talked about Pat Ryan's victory Tuesday night and what it means and the messaging that is going to play out now ahead of November many times, including on this show. I will thank you for joining us this morning to take our questions and to answer them. And thank you very much, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.

MALONEY: My pleasure.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We should note Don Lemon spoke to Pat Ryan last night. We're going to have Don on the show in a little bit to talk about that interview, so you'll see that discussion.

COLLINS: Yes, and it certainly has been a really interesting race because of what it means for messaging when it comes to the predictions that decision by the Supreme Court would have. Of course, a lot of questions for Sean Patrick Maloney and what that's going to look like, and how Democrats are handling November.

BERMAN: That was a very interesting discussion. I was -- from the very beginning, how hard he leaned into the idea of centrist Democrats maybe being the way to go. This isn't about appealing to Twitter, he said. It was interesting that that's how he answered that.

COLLINS: Because you do often see this fight play out between centrist Democrats and more progressive members of their party on Twitter, talking about saying it's not a purity test, it's who can get elected and who can get things done.

BERMAN: And this is the coffee that I got you, by the way.

COLLINS: Oh my God, thank you.

BERMAN: Yes, thank you -- all right.

COLLINS: What a good colleague you are.


COLLINS: All right, we do have more news ahead coming out of Texas. The Uvalde school board voting to fire chief Pete Arredondo. A look at the community's emotional pleas before that decision was made.

BERMAN: And the Twitter whistleblower is set to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee. New reaction this morning to the bombshell report.




UVALDE STUDENT: I am here today to make a statement. If a law enforcement's job is to protect and serve, why didn't they protect and serve my friends and teachers on May 24? I have messages for Pete Arredondo and all the law enforcement that were there that day. Turn in your badge and step down. You don't deserve to wear one.


BERMAN: Emotional pleas at the school board termination hearing for Uvalde school police chief Pete Arredondo. The board voted unanimously Wednesday to fire Arredondo after outrage over the response to the Robb Elementary School shooting. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed in late May.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live in San Antonio. Shimon, I know you were at that hearing. Some incredible statements there.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was emotional at times. Look, John, this community and the parents have been so frustrated by the school board, by city officials -- just, in many ways, because of the lack of compassion and empathy, and how the process has played out. And really, they feel as though the school board has not taken their feelings under consideration.

And so, at these board meetings -- and there were two just this week -- we saw a lot of emotion there from family members wanting Pete Arredondo to be fired. They got their wish.

But the other thing is that they just feel that everything here has lacked transparency. They have not been able to see, have not been able to hear some of the discussions that the school board is having over these decisions that they're making.

In fact, even yesterday, there was this idea -- this thought by some of the school officials that Pete Arredondo was actually going to show up at this school board hearing to try and defend himself. But instead, his attorney releasing a 17-page statement that, in essence, lacked any kind of empathy, lacked any kind of consideration for the family members where Pete Arredondo defended every piece of move that he made inside that hall room, defending himself, defending his actions.


His attorney saying at one point that Arredondo would not be participating in this hearing because he was afraid for his safety and that Arredondo couldn't bring his gun to the hearing. He also wrote that this -- basically, this hearing was a lynching and that "Chief Arredondo will not participate in his own illegal and unconstitutional public lynching and respectfully requests that the board immediately reinstate him, with all back pay and benefits."

And then we also heard more emotion from family members. I want you to take a listen to one of the other family members talking about the school board.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our babies are dead, our teachers are dead, our parents are dead. The least you all can do is show us the respect to do this in the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't give squat about these families. If it was one of your children, heads would be rolling right now. But because it's not you don't care.


PROKUPECZ: And that's been sort of the feeling John from all the family members, from the community members. But finally, their demands for accountability -- they have seen some of that by the firing of Pete Arredondo.

But they say they're not going to stop here. They want more law enforcement officials to be fired. They want some of the school members to be fired and some of the school officials. So this is going to go on.

And keep in mind that we just -- we have still so much to learn about what happened on May 24.

BERMAN: Shimon Prokupecz, you've been there since the beginning. Thank you so much for your reporting.

COLLINS: Justice for Kobe and Gigi. That is the message from Vanessa Bryant after a jury awarded her and a second plaintiff whose wife and daughter were killed in the same crash that her husband and daughter were, $31 million in total in damages over the inappropriate sharing of photos of human remains from the helicopter crash. That's the crash that killed Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, and her teammates and their parents.

CNN's Natasha Chen is live in Los Angeles. And Natasha, this has been just a brutal two years for this family but hopefully, this award from this jury yesterday can bring them some small sort of relief.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kaitlan and John. This was an emotional ending to an intense trial where we often had to listen to gruesome descriptions of close-ups of victims' bodies, knowing that their loved ones were sitting in that room -- and that includes Vanessa Bryant, who cried when the verdict was read yesterday. She hugged her attorney, hugged her daughter Natalia.

Sixteen million for her, $15 million for Chris Chester, who also lost his wife and daughter in the same crash. Later, Vanessa Bryant posted this on Instagram, saying "All for you. I love you. Justice for Kobe and Gigi." Her attorney said to me this was always about accountability and now the jury has unanimously spoken.

But if we look at a statement from the defense counsel Mira Hashmall, she thanks the jury for their hard work but points out that this total award amount, $31 million, shows the jurors didn't believe the evidence supported the plaintiffs' request of $75 million for emotional distress. That is the high end of what plaintiffs were asking for.

Now, the jurors had an important ask to decide two things. Whether the L.A. Sheriff's Department and county fire department lacked the proper procedures, policies, and training that caused the violation of the plaintiff's right. They decided that was true.

And the other issue, whether there was a longstanding practice of taking illicit, unauthorized photos of victims' bodies. And one important piece of evidence that got played over and over in the courtroom was the sheriff himself saying that they had a custom of having death books -- of certain law enforcement officers keeping these mementos. They decided that the Sheriff's Department did have that longstanding practice but that the country fire department did not.

Kaitlan and John, back to you.

COLLINS: That seems like there shouldn't have to be a procedure in place to not share photos like that.

Natasha Chen, thank you for bringing us that latest.

CHEN: Thanks.

COLLINS: Soon, this morning, the latest GDP numbers are going to be released. We'll discuss that and the steady fall of gas prices still going on with Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg ahead.

BERMAN: And a first look at the live-action remake of "Pinocchio."


Clip from Disney's "Pinocchio."




COLLINS: Big news for moviegoers, and Prince Harry and Meghan's family also just got a little bigger.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is here this morning with some lighter fare -- some pop, as we call it.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, some pop, some popcorn -- all this stuff, it's all coming into one right here. Some fun things going on. So, we want to start with -- grab your popcorn or your Sour Patch Kids -- whatever you want. MoviePass is back. The subscription service will relaunch next month after shutting down in 2019. The company settled with the FDC last year after facing accusations that it willingly misled customers and exposed their data. That was big when it launched.

And Archie has a new sibling and this one has four legs. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle adopted a 7-year-old beagle named Momma Mia. The pup was among the 4,000 beagles rescued from a breeding facility in Virginia.


Clip from Disney+ "Pinocchio."


JIMENEZ: Disney+ releasing the trailer for the new live-action "Pinocchio" movie featuring Tom Hanks as Geppetto, alongside an animated Pinocchio. The Disney classic premieres September 8 on the company's streaming service. The original "Pinocchio" also one of the few movies that has 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.