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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
McCain Blames Obama for Orlando Massacre; Trump Suggests Obama Supporting or Sympathetic to Terrorists; Will Marco Rubio Run for Re- Election; Survivor Meets Police Officer Who Saved His Life; Bartender Talks Coping after Orlando Shooting; George W. Bush Helping Republicans, Not Trump; Sanders Still in Race, Hasn't Endorsed Clinton. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired June 17, 2016 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, the shooter is to blame, but there are politics at play right now. And a lot was made over the last 24 hours about statements made by Senator John McCain, who initially pointed the finger at the Oval Office. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of ISIS out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today, thanks to Barack Obama's failures -- utter failures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Now, Senator McCain quickly clarified those remarks, saying in a statement, "I misspoke. I did not mean to imply that the president was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama's national security decisions, not the president himself."
Joining me now is Alex Conant, former communications director for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign and a former RNC and White House spokesperson and a partner at new firm, Firehouse Strategies.
Alex Conant, thanks so much for being with.
I want to talk about Senator McCain's comments. Are those the comments of someone who is in a tough primary battle in a state where someone like Donald Trump actually polled quite well in the primaries or is it in line with his message? Look, Senator McCain has been very, very critical of President Obama's policies towards ISIS over the years. Is it one or the other or is it very much both?
ALEX CONANT, PARTNER, FIREHOUSE STRATEGIES & FORMER RNC AND WHITE HOUSE SPOKESPERSON & FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, MARCO RUBIO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: No, It's very much the latter. This has nothing to do with primary politics. It has everything to do with the national security debate going on in our country right now, which is a very legitimate debate to be having. For years now, President Obama's critics, including John McCain, including Marco Rubio, have said if you don't do something about ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the problem will come to the homeland. We've seen it emerge in Europe as a huge threat. So his criticism of President Obama's failed policies in the Middle East is exactly on point.
BERMAN: But, Alex, it's not like it's happening in a vacuum. Initially, he did not criticize the policies. He said President Obama is directly responsible. This is not happening in a vacuum. Your nominee, the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has suggested in interviews since the attack he doesn't know why the president is responding the way he has. He's sort of hinted somehow the president was supporting the terrorists or was sympathetic. So that is out there. That sentiment is out there from the very top of your party.
CONANT: Look, I can't speak for Donald Trump. I won't speak for Donald Trump. But I will say that John McCain is exactly right that President Obama's failed policies in Syria and Iraq are -- have directly contributed to the rise of ISIS and there's no question that is inspired the killer in Orlando. By the killer's own admissions that night, he was being inspired by ISIS in Syria. So this is a legitimate debate to have about what our national security should look like in the 21st century.
It's something, frankly, that Hillary Clinton should have to answer for as well. She was the architect of President Obama's failed foreign policy in the Middle East. It's regrettable that we have a nominee who is not doing a good job prosecuting the case against Hillary Clinton on foreign policy because I think that's a spot where she's very, very vulnerable.
John McCain is in the right --
BERMAN: Let me ask you, you said regrettable we have a nominee, dot, dot, dot. There are a lot of people in your party who finish the sentence in different ways. The governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, he thinks it's regrettable you have a nominee named Donald Trump. Fred Upton, he has no plans to vote for Donald Trump. These types of things are happening. Because this campaign has been so strange, I think sometimes they get swept under the rug. But this is not normal. It is not normal for these important figures in the party to say they are not going to vote for the nominee. What impact do you see this having going forward?
CONANT: Well, you're right. In the intro of the segment, you said Donald Trump is like an island. I would go a step further and say he's a sinking island. His poll numbers are under water. His poll numbers continue to go down compared to Hillary Clinton, and it's about to get a lot worse as we move forward when you look at the disadvantages he has going into the general in terms of his fund- raising, in terms of his organization. I think that the Republican Party needs to do some soul searching. I don't know that there's anything that can be done between now and Cleveland. But I do think that there are options on the table. I saw CNN.com just has a story up right now about options ahead of the party. I think everything should be on the table because Donald Trump is on a trajectory to not just lose but lose badly this fall. He has to realize his campaign is not in a good place. The time to fix it is now, not two months from now when it is way too late.
BERMAN: Another few seconds with you, Alex. One person you know a lot about is Senator Marco Rubio, from Florida. He had said all along that he was leaving the Senate. His term expires this January. He said he's done. Now he says he's reconsidering. Do you know what his decision is? Is Marco Rubio going to run for re-election here in Florida?
CONANT: I know he hasn't made a final decision, and I know he had planned to retire at the end of his term. It would be a big sacrifice for him and his family to run for re-election. I hope he does run for re-election because I think he's doing a very good job serving his constituents in Florida. He's leading the fight in the Senate on Zika, which is a big problem in Florida, leading the issues on veterans reforms. His office has world-class constituent services. I think he's doing a great job representing Florida. I hope he runs for re-election. I don't know what his decision will be. I know he's going to talk to his family about it this weekend.
[11:35:35] BERMAN: He's got to decide pretty much this weekend.
Alex Conant, thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.
CONANT: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: For the first time, a shooting survivor meets the police officer who saved him from the nightclub, saved him from that attack. We'll have their emotional reunion coming up.
Plus, George W. Bush has apparently had enough of Donald Trump. And now he's running to the rescue of some Republicans. That's coming up.
[11:40:22] BERMAN: Welcome back to Orlando. There are so many stories here of bravery and heroism. One of the survivors of the massacre here was reunited with the police officer who helped save his life.
Anderson Cooper spoke to the officer and tells their story.
OFC. OMAR DELGADO, EATONVILLE, FLORIDA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: I need a big hug from you, man.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, A.C. 360 (voice-over): It was an emotional reunion for survivor, Angel Colon, and Officer Omar Delgado.
DELGADO: So glad you're alive, man.
COOPER: The first time the two have seen each other since their encounter at Pulse nightclub.
DELGADO: When I arrived, just all the chaos, the people running, screaming, crying, yelling. COOPER: Officer Delgado entered the club along with other officers
shortly after he arrived on scene. Inside the club, the gunman was holed up elsewhere in the club.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Gunshots were ringing out and Officer Delgado's instinct to protect kicked in.
DELGADO: Seconds later, that we hear more gunshots.
COOPER (on camera): You could hear them from outside?
DELGADO: From outside, yes. And I followed them. It was three of us. We just jetted right inside.
COOPER (voice-over): Officer Delgado was able to help remove some of the wounded amidst the darkness and disco lights.
DELGADO: There were a lot of bodies all over on the floor. Somebody yelled out this person is moving. Another person I saw was moving, so I went and another officer grabbed him. And I just don't recall if that was Angel or not because we pulled like three or four people out.
ANGEL COLON, ORLANDO SHOOTING SURVIVOR: When he was dragging me out, I can look up and tell him, hurry, please hurry.
COOPER: The gunman had shot a woman next to Angel and he shot Angel in the hand and hip. Angel pretended to be dead as the gunman kept firing.
COLON: When I first saw him, I was face down, laying down on the floor. I could only move my arms and my head up, so I just saw him, his glasses. I'm like, help me, please.
COOPER: A nine-year veteran of the Eatonville Police Department, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw that night, 49 innocent people dead, dozens of others injured. But knowing he saved some lives brings some comfort in the midst of tragedy.
(on camera): What was it like to actually doing that?
DELGADO: It was a feeling that you can't describe, can't put in words, knowing you helped save someone.
COOPER (voice-over): Anderson Cooper, CNN, Orlando.
BERMAN: Wonderful to see pictures like that after the week we have all had. Plenty of raw emotions heading into the first weekend after the shooting.
Here with me is Joel Gran, a bartender at Parliament House, one of the biggest gay nightclubs in Orlando.
Joel, thanks so much for being with us.
You knew, or you know Angel Colon who is recovering here behind us. That's a wonderful story. It's great to see him doing so well after everything he's been through. That's the positive side. You also knew at least five people who were killed --
JOEL GRAN, BARTENDER, PARLIAMENT HOUSE BAR: Yes.
BERMAN: -- at the Pulse nightclub. This has got to be just an incredibly difficult week.
GRAN: It is. You can't put words to it. It's horrible. Just pray for the ones that are still recovering and help they make it through and their families.
BERMAN: You know, we're all thinking about going into this weekend. This is first weekend since the attack. You know, people will go out. They'll come to Parliament House for a drink. In fact, in some ways the weekend for you guys already started. Last night was your first Latin night since the attack. Tell me what that was like.
GRAN: We weren't sure what to expect. We had a really good crowd. A lot of the employees that were there that night came out. Some performed, they spoke, and their message was to tell people to come out. Don't stay home. Don't be afraid because if you stay home and you're afraid, then he wins. We need to be out, support each other, just -- you have to move on with your life. You can't be afraid because he wins and we don't want him to win.
BERMAN: You had people who were there for the attack at Pulse, five nights later at Parliament House.
GRAN: Yes. And they were raising money for the rest of their family at Pulse.
BERMAN: Is it a celebration last night?
GRAN: It was a little bit of both. They just want to hug everybody and that's all you can do. You just give everybody a hug. It's people you don't even know.
BERMAN: You told me you're going to two memorials, two funerals a day.
GRAN: I have been to four already.
BERMAN: And you have more to go?
BERMAN: What's it like? GRAN: It's hard. You go and you see the same people over and over
again. It's such a tight community, that I told people I work with, I said I'm seeing you way too much this week. This is the same people everywhere you go.
BERMAN: And it is a tight community. And in some ways -- in some ways, I imagine, that makes it easier because you can all band together right now. And in some ways, it makes it harder, because everyone we talk to knows somebody who was killed or injured there.
[11:45:09] GRAN: You go and you try to be with each other and show your love.
BERMAN: One of the things when you talk about gay nightclubs, gay bars is they are safe havens in their own way. It's supposed to be a place where you can go and feel surrounded and not judged and feel surrounded by people who are going through the same things like you. When you're at Parliament House right now, and it can get really crowded there on a busy night, do you feel safe?
GRAN: I do. I know, since Saturday, we've doubled our police presence, our security staff. We're actually wanding people and checking every bag. We have a lot of exits. We have a lot of ways out. We've talked about it, what to do. I feel safe.
BERMAN: Smart, a lot of access and a lot of ways out, but in some ways, it's sad that you have to think about something like that and plan for it.
Joel Gran, I can't thank you enough for coming in and talking about what you're going through right now.
GRAN: Thank you.
BERMAN: We wish you the best. And we know you've been strong and will continue to be strong going forward.
Thanks, Joel. Appreciate it.
All right, we'll be back in a moment.
[11:50:18] BERMAN: For vulnerable Senate Republicans, struggling with how to deal with the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, there might be some help on the way. Help in the form of George W. Bush. The former president is stepping in to help some Senators facing tough re-election battles, several of who have expressed some discord or a little bit of a split with their party's presumptive nominee. Bush announced last month that he would not support Trump's candidacy, nor would he attend next month's Republican convention in Cleveland.
Joining me to discuss, CNN political commentator, Doug Heye, former RNC communications director; CNN political commentator, Kayleigh McEnany, a Donald Trump supporter; and Philip Levine, Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida, and a Hillary Clinton surrogate. Kayleigh, let me start with you, here.
George W. Bush is running to the rescue because a lot of Senators feel like they need help because they're not getting it from the presumptive nominee. Good move?
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I am happy to see George W. Bush come in. He's an immensely popular former president. But I'm not surprised to see him not embrace Donald Trump. We know Donald Trump ran a pretty heated campaign against Jeb Bush but not just that. Donald Trump's foreign policy is diametrically different. And he disagreed with the Iraq war. While I love him in the race, I'm not surprised he's not coming to Donald Trump's defense because they are very opposite, certainly on foreign policy.
BERMAN: But, Doug Heye, isn't this the shadow campaign that a lot of people thought might happen here. You have some fundraising going on for just Senate candidates, down-ticket candidates, by people who weren't happy with Donald Trump. Now you have former presidents not campaigning for the ticket but campaigning for Republicans who feel, for one reason for another, they might be hurt by the ticket.
DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: More and more distance themselves from Donald Trump. We see actions and comments from Trump, every day and week antithetical to a united party. Just this week with him threatening Republicans, again, telling him to shut up. What we see is Donald Trump continually bites the hand that he says he wants to feed it and then complain people don't like being bitten.
I tell you from Senate races I worked on, in 2006, when George W. Bush wasn't popular, it's hard to distance yourself from the president or from the top of the ticket. But the reality is George W. Bush, in 2006, wasn't at 70 percent disapproval. Even after Katrina, his popularity was lower than Donald Trump's is now. As Alex Conant put it, certainly, he's a sinking island, and a lot of Republicans want to be off the island before they get voted out in November.
BERMAN: But a lot of Republicans -- and, Mayor, I want to come in one second on the Democrats.
But, Kayleigh, if you'll quickly answer this question, there's a lot of Republicans who voted for Donald Trump in the primaries, including states where Senators are up for reelection. Do you want to see George W. Bush in the campaign trail?
MCENANY: I think those voters rejected George W. Bush's Iraq policy and foreign policy and appreciate the kind of candid lack of political correctness from Donald Trump and I think you make a smart point more Republican voters turned out for Donald Trump than any other nominee in Republican history and there's a reason for that. There's a disconnect between leadership and Republican voters. And we see that clearly in this election. I'm not too concerned that Republican leaders are distancing themselves when Republican voters are not.
BERMAN: Mayor, let's talk about the Democrats right now because, last night, Bernie Sanders gave a speech on the Internet to supporters where he said he was going to work with Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump but certainly did not endorse Hillary Clinton. He certainly did not officially drop out of the race here. I want you to give Bernie Sanders a grade right now, 10 being the highest, one being the lowest. And how would you grade him in terms of Democratic unity? Be honest.
PHILIP LEVINE, (D), MIAMI BEACH MAYOR & HILLARY CLINTON SURROGATE: I'll be very honest, John. I think Senator Sanders is a 10-plus. Having Senator Sanders in the race has been outstanding for the country, for the Democratic Party. Listen, he's the ultimate billionaire basher. He's going to help Secretary Clinton take down Donald Trump. Even though Donald Trump is not a billionaire, he's going to take him down. It's moving towards that direction during this convention.
BERMAN: All I got to say is I only wish I had to grade on the grade you're grading on in high school and college.
I would be a lot of better off than I am right now.
BERMAN: I'll have you weigh in on that.
But, Doug, do you think Bernie Sanders could be doing more than he is?
HEYE: He absolutely could be doing more than he is. It's obvious he won't be the nominee and he could and should support Hillary Clinton. But on a scale of one to 10, the Democrats are 10 times more coalesced around their presumptive nominee than Republicans are. Republicans are peeling away every day. And operationally, on the ground in states and countries where Donald Trump needs organization, he doesn't have it, and that's why Republicans are not just nervous but as scared as they are.
[11:55:18] BERMAN: All right, Doug Heye, Mayor Philip Levine, Kayleigh McEnany, thank you so much --
HEYE: thank you.
BERMAN: -- professors, one and all. Appreciate your time.
MCENANY: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: Next up, back in Orlando, new details about the gunman's communications during the massacre, including text messages back and forth with his wife. Remember, we already know she was with him at times when she went to locations before, and we know she had suspicions he wanted to carry out a jihadist attack, and now we're learning they were texting during the shooting itself. More coming up.
[12:00:06] ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. And welcome to "Legal View."
It's set to be another gut-wrenching day for the city of Orlando after a tragic --