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Mike Pompeo Meets Informally with North Korea's Foreign Minister; Republican and Democratic Candidates in Close Race in Ohio House Special Election; Document Shows TSA Looking to Cut Security at Small and Medium Sized Airports; Ohio State Football Coach Suspending in Relation to Allegations against Assistant Coach for Domestic Abuse; LeBron James Opens School. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 4, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:00] MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. And you are in the CNN Newsroom. Welcome.
New this morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met North Korea's foreign minister at the East Asia Summit today, and they discussed their plan to cooperate on denuclearization, at least for North Korea. Pompeo also tweeted that the U.S. delegation had the opportunity to deliver President Trump's reply to Kim Jong-un's letter.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Despite friendly handshakes and the meetings, a confidential U.N. report says North Korea is still continuing to develop nuclear and missile programs in violation of international sanctions. CNN senior international correspondent Ivan Watson has the details for us. Ivan?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You had Pompeo coming and the North Korean foreign minister, they didn't have a bilateral meeting scheduled, but Secretary Pompeo went out of his way to kind of walk across a crowded room, to shake hands, exchange a couple of nice words with the North Korean foreign minister, and also make sure that a letter from President Trump was handed off to him to then deliver to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
It is a little less than two months ago when Trump and Kim met here historically for the first time, face to face in Singapore, but now Pompeo had tough words for the North Koreans. He was criticizing them, saying they weren't fulfilling Kim's commitment to disarming his nuclear arsenal. He was urging other countries that gathered for the meeting to continue to diplomatically and economically isolate North Korea. And he singled out Russia, accusing Russia of breaking the United Nations sanctions regime around North Korea. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have seen reports that Russia is allowing for joint ventures with North Korean firms and granting new work permits to North Korean guest workers. If these reports prove accurate, and we have every reason to believe that they are, that would be in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2375. I want to remind every nation that has supported these resolutions that this is a serious issue and something that we will discuss with Moscow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: So it is very clear even after the summit two months ago between Trump and Kim, this is still a very complicated relationship between the U.S. and North Korea. Martin and Christi?
SAVIDGE: Ivan Watson there, also dealing with a bit of fireworks display.
North Korea meanwhile released a statement emphasizing that the country has put forward good will measures stopping nuclear and rocket launch testing as well as alleging dismantling their test grounds, but said, u., "The U.S. instead of responding to the measures is raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against the DPRK," end quote.
Joining me, Samantha Vinograd, CNN national security analyst and former senior adviser to -- Obama's national security adviser, excuse me. So Sam, let me ask you this. It seems pretty much a formula we have watched over the years, that North Korea occasionally puts forward what appears to be a kinder, gentler face, and then backtracks dramatically. And I am wondering are we seeing that two-step again playing out now?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think we're seeing even more than a two-step in this case. As you mentioned, we've seen North Korea has entered into protracted negotiations before, the six party talks that China and Russia were a part of dragged on for seven years. There were even talks recently about revitalizing them, and at this point North Korea's best game is to keep President Trump involved in talking. I think the calculus is if we're engaged in negotiations with North Korea, we're less likely to bomb them, so to keep that negotiation lukewarm at best, and to continue chipping away at the international sanctions regime.
This sanctions regime, as we learned from the U.N. report that leaked a few days ago, is like swiss cheese. There are so many holes in it. North Korea is violating the import ban, they're violating the export ban, they're selling conventional arms to bad actors in Libya and Yemen. And we know that China and Russia are very supportive of lifting sanctions on North Korea while all of that is happening, so North Korea's best bet is let's keep talking to the United States, let's keep producing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, and keep trying to get China and Russia to pressure the United States to lift sanctions in the interim.
SAVIDGE: And speaking of Russia, Pompeo's warning to Russia to enforce North Korean sanctions, given that Russia uses a lot of workers from North Korea, will Russia listen to that? And what's really going on with that relationship?
VINOGRAD: I think it is unlikely Russia is going to listen. As I mentioned, Russia has been quite vocal about their desire for what is called a step by step approach to denuclearization, whereby every time North Korea does something, they get something in return. [10:05:01] So Russia pointed to things that North Korea has done, like
its willingness to talk, the return of POW remains, and more, to say OK, it is time for the United States to do something reciprocal for North Korea. And I think that Vladimir Putin's overarching goal on the Korean peninsula is to prevent a military strike by the United States that could lead to a leadership change in North Korea. There's a fear that whomever replaces Kim Jong-un would be more friendly to the United States and less friendly to Russia. We know that Vladimir Putin likes to see things through a black and white, zero-sum lens.
SAVIDGE: Could it be that there is a disconnect or a misunderstanding on the whole issue of denuclearization, in other words, what it means to North Koreans versus what it means to us? And North Korea expects something in return, and by that I mean if there were nuclear weapons in the south, that they would be removed, and also that U.S. forces would be removed, true?
VINOGRAD: I think it is pretty clear what denuclearization means to international experts who typically are the ones who would design a denuclearization regime. We have a lot of historical precedence. North Korea will continue trying to play around with that definition to denuclearize on their own timeline, to denuclearize when South Korea starts to take reciprocal steps. I think the problem is that the president and his administration, Secretary Pompeo said this a few days ago in Singapore, is letting North Korea define denuclearization on their timeline rather than letting international experts from the IAEA, the international body that works on this issue, come in and, frankly, do their jobs. It shouldn't be up to North Korea, it should be up to the experts.
SAVIDGE: Samantha Vinograd, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
PAUL: The relationship between the U.S. and turkey may be going south here. This morning Turkey's president froze the assets of the U.S. justice and interior ministers in Turkey, if they have any. The move comes after the U.S. did the same to Turkeys ministers over the detention of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, of course. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he is hopeful that in the coming days Turkey would free Pastor Brunson.
President Trump wakes up in his New Jersey resort this morning preparing to do what he does best and what he really enjoys, which is speaking and rallying with his base. The president heads to Ohio this afternoon for a campaign rally just days before the state votes in what many consider an extremely crucial special election. Tuesday's race is key to Republican efforts to maintain control of the House.
PAUL: And a new poll shows why Republicans are increasingly concerned about this race in Ohio. The latest Monmouth University poll shows the candidates neck and neck. Look at that. They are 44 percent to 43 percent. This is a big swing from just a little more than a month ago when the Republican led by 10 points. CNN's Sarah Westwood is in New Jersey where the president is tweeting ahead of his rally this afternoon about this. What do we expect from him in Ohio?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christi, President Trump is taking a break from his working vacation here in New Jersey to head to that Ohio rally later today for Troy Balderson, a Republican who is locked in a very tight race in that Ohio special election. Trump has been active on Twitter this morning, tweeting twice his support of Balderson, touting the candidate's record on border security and the Second Amendment.
And Trump took a swipe at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who Republicans have sought to use as a foil, particularly in this race but also in dozens of other Republican contests around the country. Sources tell CNN that Trump's aides hope to use political rallies and events like the one tonight to distract the president from the Russia investigation, as Trump is said to be increasingly frustrated about that Russia probe, the fact that it is still going on, the fact that it continues to pull focus away from his agenda.
President Trump will head to this rally as his lawyers are continuing to negotiate the final details of a sit-down interview with Robert Mueller, and as his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, stands trial for tax fraud and money-laundering. Sources tell CNN that Trump is angry about the steady stream of details flowing out of the Manafort trial which began this week. So the Ohio rally could be an important distraction for Trump as Republicans are working hard to prevent Democrats from notching another victory in a district Trump won easily in 2016.
SAVIDGE: All eyes are going to be on that visit, that's for sure. Sarah Westwood, thanks very much.
PAUL: Matt Gorman, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee with us now. Matt, good to see you, thanks for being here.
MATT GORMAN, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me.
PAUL: Absolutely. So we just saw those numbers, the 44 percent for Balderson, 43 percent for O'Connor. We know that 11 percent are undecided. What is the president going to say tonight to try to get those undecideds on his team?
GORMAN: First and foremost, he is going to energize and galvanize Republicans. That is extremely crucial. Again, every vote matters in a tight special election like this.
[10:10:00] We also expect him to talk about Troy's record. He's fought opioid abuse and human trafficking while in the state Senate. And also the contrast between Troy and Danny O'Connor. Troy supports the tax cuts that have helped grow this economy, that have provided record low unemployment, record economic growth, and have helped wages rise. That's going to be the key contrast tonight and also in the special election.
PAUL: So the president does have good news to talk about, the GDP growth at 4.1 percent, the unemployment rate falling to 3.9 percent. As I understand it, O'Connor, though, has been hammering Balderson for backing the tax plan. They say that tax cuts are going to threaten Social Security, they're going to threaten Medicare. Do you think that's part of the reason, I suppose, there's been this shrinking gap in the numbers, and how might the president try to change that tonight with this particular audience, because this audience also is full of farmers and people who may be concerned with tariffs as well?
GORMAN: I think it is going to be tight, absolutely no doubt about that. Special elections are in fact special for a reason. I think a really key point is that a lot of liberal donors and money have been flooding this greater Columbus district from outside Ohio, and that has really changed a lot. And I don't think Danny O'Connor has been very honest about his position. Just for last week, for instance, after running ads disavowing Nancy Pelosi, he admitted he would vote for her for speaker. So really Danny O'Connor is simply dishonest. Not only is he lying about his vote for speaker, he's lying about Troy Balderson's record.
PAUL: We know that mistakes are made as well that could be detrimental. The president earlier tweeted Congressman Steve Stivers of Ohio, great congressman, tough on crime and borders, an inspiration to our military and vets. I know. What do you say to this? I know Steve Stivers is not on the ballot. It's a mistake the president made. The tweet was taken down 10 minutes afterward. But the base certainly is going to forget this. What about the other people? Are they willing to forgive this kind of mistake, or is there a real credibility issue with the president in that regard?
GORMAN: Chairman Stivers is my boss, and I can tell you he is flattered by the praise, but we're all focused on Troy Balderson on Tuesday. That's what it's coming down to. I think that's why --
PAUL: You don't think this mistake from the president is going to be consequential in any way?
GORMAN: I think it's only consequential to folks on cable news and folks who live on Twitter. I think if folks in Columbus, Ohio, are watching this morning, they're talking about how they can make ends meet, they're talking about whether they have enough money to save for that end of summer vacation they're looking to talk about.
PAUL: What is the president going to say to the farmers, because Ohio is a big agricultural state especially in the outskirts of the 12th district.
GORMAN: Again, I can't speak for the president. We'll have to see what happens tonight. And again, we tell our members the same thing, you need to fit your district and you need to do what's right for your district. I know when it comes down to it, our children Stivers has spoken out about some of the effects those policies would have in his district as well as folks in Minnesota and Iowa. But again, you need to do what's right for your district. We don't have a top down approach when it comes to how we handle our members or our candidates. I think that's why we've been so successful, because they fit their districts. People in heavily Democratic districts held by Republicans.
PAUL: Matt, I want to ask you one more thing about this remarkable moment this week where President Trump came out and talked about how the Russia interference is a hoax. He did so just after all his national security leaders came out and said we know that they have been interfering. We just talked a couple hours ago to Representative Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania. He had something to say about that separation between the president and his national leaders. Let's take a look here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RYAN COSTELLO, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: The president has missed the mark here in terms of coming down forcefully and clearly against Russia and its election interference. But the director of homeland security, the national director of intelligence, the national security adviser, those are the folks that we should be listening to as it relates to Russian interference in the election. We just have to set aside what the president may have said at a rally or at a summit overseas and place our faith in those administration officials who have been tasked with this obligation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: I think what's striking about that, Matt, is that this is a Republican in Congress who is telling people to set aside what the president says. How did you tell Republicans who are going to vote that their vote will count and that it matters if they may be needing more clarity, they may be needing more confidence?
GORMAN: I think what you saw there is proof positive why Congressman Costello has won year after year in a tight, even district, because he's willing to stand up for what he believes in. And obviously that might be agreement with the president, it might be disagreement with the president sometimes. And that's common, again, among our members and incumbents and candidates like Troy Balderson all across the country.
[10:15:06] And again, I think people, whether it's Ohio on Tuesday, but also this fall are going to focus a lot more on economic issues. And they understand what we have seen with the economy come roaring back, and they are not following day to day of the Russian investigation and other things that consume cable news chatter on the outrage du jour on Twitter.
PAUL: You're right. People don't pay close attention all the time to the Russia investigation, but they do pay attention to the fact they want their vote to matter, they want their vote to count. And when you've got national leaders in the intelligence community coming out and saying this is happening, there is an interference, there has to be some concern of people there in the 12th district about that very thing. And with that said, do you have concerns about President Trump alienating other people outside of his base which would hinder growth of his base?
GORMAN: The way we look at it, is really President Trump's approval ratings are like barbells. Obviously there's a very strong contingent who are energetic, enthusiastic who oppose the president, and there's also a very strong base of support who approve of the president. And those people who disapprove of the president are going to come out and vote. And so we need to be sure that President Trump galvanizes his base of supporters in that district and make sure they got out and vote, too, because it's really important that Troy go to the House and is elected so that he can be a voice for Ohio and the agenda he supports.
PAUL: What if he doesn't, what if he loses?
GORMAN: Excuse me?
PAUL: What if he doesn't, what if he loses, what is the consequence of that?
GORMAN: Again, I am not going to get into hypothetical scenarios. I think we wake up every single morning as if we're 10 points down. We understand we're in a fight. And we also understand that history is against us. Only once after 9/11 in 2002 has the president's party gained seats in the House in their first midterm election. However, there are reasons for optimism for us. And again, I've talked about it at length. Soaring economy, number, two, great candidates like Troy, but also members across the country like Barbara Comstock in Virginia and others.
And lastly, we haven't mentioned it much, but Nancy Pelosi, she is the most unpopular politician in every competitive district in the country. That is a fact. So there's a very clear choice between the GOP majority and our agenda to help get this economy going again, and going back to the days of Speaker Pelosi with higher taxes, economic stagnation, single payer health care.
PAUL: Matt, a lot of people are going to be watching Ohio on Tuesday. Thank you so much, Matt Gorman, appreciate you being here.
GORMAN: Thanks for having me.
PAUL: Absolutely. And do stay with us this hour. We're going to also speak with the chairman for the Ohio Democratic Party David Pepper. That's coming up at the half hour.
SAVIDGE: Robert Mueller's team spoke with the Manhattan madam this week. Next, what her connection could be in the Russian investigation.
Also, Ohio head coach Urban Meyer sounded confident days after being placed on administrative leave. The latest in the domestic abuse scandal that's swirling a former assistant coach now.
SAVIDGE: We are following the president's visit to Ohio to campaign this afternoon. Joining me to talk more about that is CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. Good morning, Ron.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey, Martin, good morning.
SAVIDGE: So let's talk about this trip. I guess I'm not surprised the president is going. What I am surprised is that I believe he won in 2016, the president won this area by 11 points. Now the candidate, the Republican candidate, not Trump, but the candidate who is running is neck and neck with his Democratic opponent. What happened?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, yes, good point. The fact we're talking about this district at all is pretty striking. It was drawn specifically in 2010 after the redistricting then to make it more Republican. The Republican incumbent who stepped down to create this open seat, he's won 67 percent, 68 percent, 64 percent in the last three elections. Comfortably Republican in the 2016, 2012, 2008, 86 percent white.
But it is the most educated district in Ohio, the highest income district in Ohio, and that is exactly where Donald Trump, the price of the Trump presidency, the trade that he is imposing on the party is that he is strengthening in small town rural areas, but he is losing traditionally Republican voters in those white collar suburbs. If you look at the poll, the Monmouth poll earlier in the hour, he is looking at a 60 percent disapproval rating among college educated white women in the district and nearly half of college educated white men.
The Democrat, Danny O'Connor, has not succeeded in the poll in harvesting all of those disaffected white collar Republican leaning voters for himself, and that is a critical challenge for Democrats, but it is the president's erosion in those white collar suburbs, particularly around Columbus, that has created the opening for Democrats to compete in the district where historically they have not been competitive before.
SAVIDGE: So Democrats are hoping those in the suburbs are going to stay home? In other words, they're not going to cast a vote, right?
BROWNSTEIN: No, no, I think they're hoping they're going to switch. This is very similar to the district that Conor Lamb won that we paid so much attention to in Pennsylvania a few months ago outside of Pittsburgh. It's a district that starts in suburban areas and radiates into more rural areas. These happen to be suburban areas that have been relatively more Republican than others in the state. A little further out from Columbus is a county called Delaware county which historically has been a rock rib Republican county.
But these are exactly the kind of places, Martin, and if you look around the country, if you look in New Jersey, if you look in the suburbs of Philadelphia, if you look at northern Virginia, the suburbs of Chicago, in Denver, Minneapolis, Orange County, California, near where I am, this is the epicenter of Republican vulnerability in 2018. It's not the only vulnerability, but it is where I think the risk is most highly concentrated because Donald Trump is underperforming among those voters who are doing very well economically, but who view him as an affront to values in many cases.
[10:25:11] SAVIDGE: Before we run out of time, let me bring this up, because you're raising a great point and this goes along with that, because while Trump is prepared for Ohio, new details coming out this morning in the Russian investigation and the woman known as the Manhattan madam, that's Kristin Davis who once went to jail for running a high priced prostitution ring and voluntarily sat down for an interview with the special counsel's team last week we' told.
So on the surface does it appear that she is somehow connected to the Russia investigation, Ron, or why is Robert Mueller interested in this former madam, and how does it play into his total investigation?
BROWNSTEIN: Sara Murray, who reported this story for CNN pointed out yesterday, we don't know exactly. But certainly we have seen the pattern with Paul Manafort, that the special counsel is looking broadly at these targets in the investigation to try to find, to understand their dealings more broadly and where it may be relevant. So she may either know something from her period working directly for Roger Stone, or she may be of interest as a way of creating pressure on Roger Stone. But either way I think what we have learned is that the special counsel is developing a 360 view of the targets in this investigation. I don't mean targets in the legal sense, I mean targets of the investigation. And he is basically learning everything that there is to be learned about them, either as a way of finding vulnerabilities that might be relevant to the Russian investigation or creating pressure on them.
SAVIDGE: Right. All of this is going to play out in the minds of voters come Tuesday in central Ohio.
BROWNSTEIN: Amazing we're talking about this district. That's the main point to keep in mind.
SAVIDGE: Really is. Ron Brownstein, thanks very much. Appreciate the insight.
BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Martin.
PAUL: The TSA is looking to save money, and they're going to do so by cutting out crucial security measures. Which measures? We'll tell you.
[10:31:34] SAVIDGE: Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is defending his actions after allegations surfaced he ignored domestic violence accusations against his now former assistant. Meyer is on paid administrative leave from the powerhouse football program of OSU. At issue, when did he know about the abuse allegations?
PAUL: CNN's Kaylee Hartung is with us now. So Kaylee, we know Meyer sounded very optimistic that he's going to return to the sidelines, yes?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, what Urban Meyer is trying to do is make it clear he believes he followed proper protocol and procedure. This is a man who is a husband, a father to two daughters, a leader of many young men. He recognizes how he has been portrayed in the media since the story broke as a man who's indifferent to domestic violence and who didn't take action when needed.
He issued a very strongly worded statement on Twitter yesterday, saying, quote, "Here's the truth. While at the University of Florida and now at the Ohio State University, I have always followed proper reporting protocols and procedures when I have learned of an incident involving a student athlete, coach, or member of our staff by elevating the issues to the proper channels. And I did so regarding the Zach Smith incident in 2015. I take that responsibility very seriously and any suggestion to the contrary is simply false."
So now the question broadens to not just what did Urban Meyer know, but what did the university know, what did the athletic director know? When Murphy's original reporting first broke this story open and really upended the college football world, there was very little room for debate whether or not Courtney Smith was a victim of domestic violence. There were text messages and photos to support her claims. Now Zach Smith is speaking out for the first time with a very different version of events.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZACH SMITH, FORMER OSU ASSISTANT FOOTBALL COACH: Anything that happened to her body was all just defensive movements to remove myself from the situation, and that's it. I'm not going to get charged because I didn't do anything wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: His denial goes against the mountain of evidence against him, but it also brings to light the fact that the police made the university, made the Ohio State University aware of the allegations against him. What you can imagine, Christi and Martin, is that there is a paper trail that builds a timeline to help us all understand who knew what and when.
SAVIDGE: Yes. There's still a lot more we need to know in this story. But no doubt, an incredible, incredible fall from grace for this coach, at least for the time being. We'll see how it plays out. Kaylee Hartung, thank you.
PAUL: Kaylee, thank you.
So the TSA is considering eliminating security screenings among other things at more than 150 small and medium sized airports across the country. This new internal document obtained by CNN shows the TSA could save more than $300 million under these new measures. CNN aviation and government regulation correspondent Rene Marsh has more for us.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: A new internal TSA document CNN exclusively obtained shows the proposal to eliminate screening at more than 150 small to medium sized airports is just one of several cost saving measures the agency is discussing. A senior TSA employee tells CNN the agency is looking at cuts that could save more than $300 million in 2020.
[10:35:02] One cut, reducing the number of air marshals, eliminating screening at small airports, staffing cuts at TSA headquarters, and changes to benefits being discussed. TSA did not comment. Juliette Kayyem, a former official with the Department of Homeland Security under Obama, is concerned.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Ending security at certain airports, and ending or flatlining the air marshal service are actually inconsistent, because if you're going to decrease security at certain airports, what you would want to do is increase the presence of air marshals and other security features just in case.
MARSH: CNN revealed the most controversial cut, eliminating screening at small airports like this one in Redding, California, where Bryant Garrett is the manager.
BRYANT GARRETT, MANAGER, REDDING MUNICIPAL AIRPORT: Since I as the airport don't want to take on that either the liability nor the cost, and I'm quite certain the airlines don't want to take that on. So if TSA backs out, there's a void, and I don't know who would fill it.
MARSH: Air marshals are the last line of defense, armed agents aboard planes to prevent hijackings. Critics have quested its effectiveness, but the TSA has defended the program as a deterrent.
MARSH: Agencies discuss where they can trim all the time, but the big question Congress and likely the American public is asking and would like explained is whether these cuts are being considered because the threat and risk to aviation has changed, or is this just an indication that the agency is under extreme pressure to cut costs?
Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.
SAVIDGE: Still ahead of his for the House GOP candidate that will be in Ohio later this afternoon, President Trump says the Democratic candidate is a puppet for Nancy Pelosi. Next we speak with the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.
[10:41:01] SAVIDGE: I don't know if you heard, probably have, there is a crucial special election in Ohio this week right in the middle of the state. Tuesday's race is key to Republican efforts to maintain control of the House. The president tweeted an endorsement for the Republican in the race, saying that his opponent is a puppet of Nancy Pelosi and high taxes. Here to respond to that charge is David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. Good morning, thanks for joining us.
DAVID PEPPER, CHAIRMAN, OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Good morning, thanks for having me.
SAVIDGE: So first of all, let's take a look at the polls, because the polls, at least the latest one we have, which is this new Monmouth University poll shows Republicans, it shows why they are concerned because 44 percent to 43 percent in a district that President Trump won handily I believe by 10, 11 points in 2016. So we've seen a big swing in these polls just recently. What do you think is going on?
PEPPER: It is a bunch of things. As you said, this is a district that was designed, it was gerrymandered to not even have close competition. So it is amazing it is within single digits, let alone in the margin of error.
You have a lot of things. You have very energized Democrats on the ground. This district has a lot of moderate suburban voters that let's say voted for Mitt Romney quite comfortably who are not excited about the way the president is behaving, so there's a lot of Republicans who I think are open to a good candidate.
And the third piece is our candidate is a very strong candidate, unlike that Donald Trump tweet, he is actually very independent minded. And the candidate on the Republican side, like a lot of the ones you have seen lately, is a very weak candidate. He is not talking to the press, he hasn't had much grass roots effort. So you have a real mismatch right now in terms of talent and quality of the candidates.
So you add up our energy, moderate voters, former Republican voters being open minded about looking for new candidates, and then you have a candidate on the Republican side, he literally said the other he couldn't name one thing he disagreed with Trump with. Now, people across this country --
SAVIDGE: That may not serve him badly in that district, because that district, you talk about the suburban parts of Columbus, but there is very rural part of that district as well. And I want to show you something else, and I'm sure it's something you're very familiar with, and that is the number of times when the president has come in to support a candidate, he has been highly successful, 19 wins to four losses there. He is coming in today into Ohio and he is obviously going to back the Republican. And I'm wondering, do you think it could make all the difference in favor of the Republican candidate?
PEPPER: Again, if you look at this district, I think the president is slightly underwater in this district. The moderates of this district are not impressed by him, particularly suburban women. Democrats are motivated because of him. So he may energize some of his voters. My guess is a lot of people at the rally today won't even be from the district.
But he will repeat the very reasons people are energized against him. People want checks and balances in this country right now, even Republicans, independents certainly do. And when you have a candidate on one side, the Republican here, who can't name one thing he disagrees with Trump on, that is not a check and balance. Our candidate has said he thinks we need new leadership in Washington, he is willing to work with Republicans on issues where we can make progress, but he is also willing to stand up. That's the kinds of leadership people are looking for right now. SAVIDGE: Real quick. Hold on, hold on, real quick. This is going to
hinge on turnout. Who shows up at the polls. And that's got to be as much a concern for you as it is for Republicans. Republicans are worried because it is a special election. It's the middle of summer, a time when many people aren't even thinking politics.
PEPPER: Absolutely. Right now we have hundreds of volunteers out all over this district knocking on doors. They have been doing it for months. This is a district, people should know, that for a year and a half there are activists who have been energize in this district, long before they even know there will be an election.
[10:45:00] This is one of these many districts where the sitting congressman, the one who resigned in this case, or retired, wouldn't even do a town hall meeting. So this is a district where there have been activists literally protesting his office every week for a year. Then he steps aside. Now all these activists are doing get out the vote work.
So on our side, we love the energy we're seeing. These folks are wonderful people who want a better America, a better Washington. And they have been knocking on doors for months and they are doing it right now. So I think it is pretty fair, Republicans I think would agree, our ground game right now is far stronger than theirs. That's why they need Trump coming in. This is basically, the guy's name is Balderson. That's the opponent. I call this the weekend of Balderson's campaign. Donald Trump has come in to prop him up, Paul Ryan has come in, Mike Pence has come in.
SAVIDGE: This is going to come down to what the people decide in central Ohio. And so we'll all be watching it very carefully Tuesday. We do thank you, David Pepper, for joining us, giving us your insights. Appreciate it.
PEPPER: Thanks, Martin.
PAUL: LeBron James may have left for the bright lights of Los Angeles, but the lasting legacy for his hometown. A promise kept. We'll tell you about it.
[10:51:33] SAVIDGE: I think you probably heard me mention it that I am a huge LeBron James fan as is my wife. But it is not always just because of what he does on the court. And by that, we use this perfect example. He opened the I Promise school in Akron, Ohio.
PAUL: You are talking to two buckeyes here from Ohio, from that part of the country, from actually around that city. And this isn't something he did on a whim, right, Coy. There were years of work in his hometown put into this.
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Christi. Good morning to you. And Martin, this difference makers brought to you by Ford, going further so you can. LeBron James is not just a basketball player and he will not just
stick to sports. He is a leader, creating positive change in the world, uniting and empowering our youth. LeBron spoke to CNN's Don Lemon about what drives him to do more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: It starts with the Trayvon Martin situation, and the reason it starts with that I believe is because having kids of my own, having boys of my own, it hit home for me to see and to learn the story and to think that if my boy left home and he never returned, that kind of hit a switch. And from that point on I knew my voice and my platform had to be used for more than just sports.
Me being able to put something like this together, I want people to know these kids should still have the same opportunity as everyone else. I know exactly what they're going through, so they're the reason why this school is here today.
Being in a support system, and that's what this is all about, it allows you to kind of escape away from the drugs and the violence and the gunshots and things that go on on everyday basis. That's what we're here for now. That's why I'm opening this school to be able to get these kids' minds away from and their body away from. Even made the hours of being at school longer from 8:00 instead of 3:00 to 5:00 so we can let them know not only do we want you here, but we really do care about what happens with you.
It is still so surreal. I don't know. I never envisioned having a school. I envisioned being in a community, giving back to my community in some way, but I never thought it would turn into a school. But this is above and beyond.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WIRE: LeBron says the school will be all encompassing, nurturing students and parents with an onsite food bank, job placement events, and Christi, Martin, free college tuition to the University of Akron for all graduates starting in 2021.
PAUL: So fabulous. Coy, thank you so much.
So listen, imagine you're kayaking down swift moving rapids when an accident causes you to fall 20 feet onto a rock. Doctors aren't even sure you're ever going to walk again.
SAVIDGE: And that's what happened to one man. His story, though, changed when he met this weekend's CNN Hero, Amanda Boxtel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a robot.
My goal has always been to make a full recovery, and I think a lot of people thought that was far-fetched. It was a lot of hard work. I remember when I made the first couple of steps. That's when I knew making a full recovery was possible.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is living the miracle of what we all want, what we all aspire for, to stand up and do it. He's doing it.
I haven't witnessed that too often in my lifetime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: If you want to know more about Amanda's program, go to CNNHeroes.com.
PAUL: That's pretty spectacular. All right, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. We hope you make great memories the rest of the afternoon.
SAVIDGE: We got to end on a very high note there. There is much more ahead, though, in the next hour of CNN's Newsroom that will be right after a quick break.
PAUL: See you tomorrow.