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WAPO: Woman says GOP Senate Nominee Roy Moore Initiated Sexual Encounter when she was 14, he was 32; WSJ: Flynns Offered Up to $15M to Deliver Cleric to Turkey. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired November 10, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:15] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everyone, John Berman here. I want you to listen to these words this morning. I wanted it over with. I wanted out. Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over. That is from Leigh Corfman who says when she 14 years old, she was sexually molested by Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. That he touched her over her bra underpants and then he guided her hand to his underpants. I think saying these words out loud is so important because she is saying them out loud on the record.
Three other women are telling stories about Moore from when they were teenagers. Roy Moore denies this. This morning, some Republican lawmakers are saying that Moore should drop out of the Alabama Senate race. Others are using conditions in their language. This was White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders overnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person's life. However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, CNN's Martin Savidge in Moore's hometown of Gadsden. Martin, some breaking news here, you just talked to Roy Moore's brother.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, his younger brother Jerry Moore. Spoke to him on the telephone. And he is quite defiant. He is, obviously, in defense of his brother here. And there are a number of things. Let me go through the notes because I literally got off the phone with him.
First of all, he says of course he knows, the brother knows, that the allegations against Roy Moore are not true, not true at all. He knows that deeply in his heart. He knows that deeply in his faith. He's very concerned about what the impact is going to be on their 91-year-old mother because hearing all of this. They worry about her and her age and her health.
When I asked, what does he believe that the motivation is with these women coming forward and making the accusations they have? Again, Jerry Moore says that it's money and the Democratic Party implying that you know they are doing this because they're being paid in some way and it is for the purpose of derailing or interrupting this campaign. He says it's because his brother has been leading so far in double digits.
And he also says he knows that they are not telling the truth and that these women are going to as he put it have to answer to God for these false allegations. And he also portrays that his brother is being persecuted in his own words like Jesus Christ was. And he expects that the voters here and those that know Roy Moore are going to be outraged, outraged by the allegations, he said, no, outraged that anyone would even think that Roy Moore would be capable of doing what he's been accused of by these women, so, very defiant, very outspoken, relying heavily on his faith and defending his brother to the hit. John?
BERMAN: The brother of Roy Moore, the defense there, claiming they are not true, saying that his brother is the victim, which is interesting because you have now these four women on the record including Leigh Corfman who says when she was 14 years old she was sexually molested by Roy Moore. Lay out the charges that are in this stunning "Washington Post" story, Martin.
SAVIDGE: Well, the allegations, of course, are that there are a number of teenage girls back when Roy Moore was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney here, who say, that he was trying to initiate relationships with them and in some cases did. But the most crucial one is Leigh Corfman who says at the age of 14, that Roy Moore not only started a relationship with her, but at least on one evening, undressed her and fondled her and she is under age, of course. So that would be a crime if that were true.
The statute of limitations would have passed, but none the less when you are talking about a candidate for the U.S. Senate, you talk about any official or any person that is deeply, deeply distressing. But on top of it, it is because of the fact that you have had a number of women that now say that he seemed to have a habit of dating women who were extremely young, high school girls.
And he was doing it from a position of authority in the neighborhood. He's the assistant D.A. He's dressed up in a suit. He looks good. He's coming on to young girls. All of this does not sound very good when you're a candidate currently and many people are struggling to either understand if it's true, or understand what comes next.
BERMAN: Yes. Sexual molestation doesn't sound good for any human being, let alone a candidate. Martin Savidge, thank you so much for being with us, again, just getting off the phone with the brother of Roy Moore.
Back in Washington, this is a serious issue for Republicans in the Senate. They are all being asked about it.
[10:05:01] Our Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill with the very latest from there. Sunlen? SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they certainly are all being asked about it and senators up here on Capitol Hill calling it deeply disturbing and horrifying. And nearly every Republican senator that we spoke to yesterday including from a statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, they say that Roy Moore should drop out of the race if the allegations hold up. But, of course, that is the caveat. That is what we're hearing from many Republican senators, that if these allegations are true, he should drop out. Here's more of that message coming from Senate Republicans yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: It's a devastating, nasty story. If the revelations -- if that's true, I don't believe there would be any place for him in the U.S. Senate.
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Allegations, if true, to me, means he needs to step aside.
UNIDENTIFIED SENATOR: If they're true he should step aside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And Senator Ted Cruz, who is one of the very few senators who actually endorsed Judge Moore in his race, he came out with a statement late last night saying, quote, "These are serious and troubling allegations. If they are true, Judge Moore should immediately withdraw. However, we need to know the truth, and Judge Moore has the right to respond to these accusations."
But some stronger words from Senator John McCain, he's one of the very few Republicans up here who said, look, I don't need any more proof from these allegations and "The Washington Post" story. He says that these allegations are disqualifying to Judge Moore and that he should immediately step aside.
And certainly John, as this story continues on, that's going to be the questions for a lot of Republicans up here who weren't necessarily completely embracing Roy Moore even before these allegations, the question is, what more proof do you need for these sorts of allegations? What more proof do you need?
BERMAN: Four women speaking on the record, using their names, Sunlen Serfaty on Capitol Hill, stay on this for us. Sunlen we'll come back to you.
Joining me now, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein, from the "Washington Examiner," CNN political analyst David Drucker and Amber Phillips of "The Washington Post" blog, "The Fix."
Amber we kept on hearing. We played that sound montage of all those Republican senators, if true, if true, if true. Well just now we heard from former Republican nominee Mitt Romney who may by the way run for Senate in Utah, that's a totally different story, but Mitt Romney uses completely different language here. He says, "Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside."
Again, that is from a former Republican nominee for president who says he's seen enough, four women on the record in your newspaper this morning, enough for him to say Roy Moore should not be a good candidate. The implications of that statement?
AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes. I think the implications are that Republican Party is clearly very split right now about what to do about this massive story as you point out with serious allegations, four women on the record, decades later, giving names, dates, consistent stories that are all consistent with each other. Sunlen said what more proof do you need.
On the other hand, Republicans who are in the Senate right now recognize that the balance of power of the Senate could be at stake in this election if Democrats are able to tilt this election and a couple other in Nevada and Arizona next year and hold on to some other races. Certainly the balance of tax reform which they want to vote on in a couple months could be hanging in the balance with all this.
So I think Republicans are split about whether they decide morally that this is not OK and fine, we're just going to let a Democrat have the seat or try to get someone else in, or they say you know what, we really need Republicans right now. We're struggling to get a legislative win, bring Roy Moore in.
BERMAN: It will be interesting if the answer to questions or charges of sexually molesting a 14-year-old, interesting if he answers that question is tax cuts.
Ron Brownstein I want to bring you in to this discussion because there is an interesting dilemma here now. You have the president. You gave the vice president. You have all those Republican senators, saying if true, Roy Moore should drop out. You have Roy Moore saying it's not true. You have these on the record allegations. But I don't know that we will get past these on the record allegations or accusations and there may be more but Roy Moore will continue to say they're not true. So how does this position change between now and the December election day?
ROY BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean I think the real question for all of these Republicans saying if true, is really twofold. We've been talking about, what is the standard of proof beyond four on the record accusations? I mean certainly there was less specific detailed on the record accusations before Harvey Weinstein was pushed out of the academy, pushed out of his company, at a time when Republicans certainly like to portray Hollywood as, you know, essentially kind of undermining the morals of America. They acted on less specific information than was given here.
[10:10:00] And I think the other question for -- that really has to be asked today to Mitch McConnell and all of the other Republican senators is OK, if you do believe -- and look Ted Cruz is right, everybody should get a chance to respond to allegations against him, but what is the process by which you intend to determine whether this is true? And if you are essentially saying that, you know, nothing, than in effect, if true, becomes OK, fine, let's go ahead with it. So I think there is an obligation I think on those who are saying we should wait to say what exactly are they waiting for and how will they clear up any doubts they have in their own minds.
BERMAN: David Drucker I want to read you the response from one Republican in Alabama. I don't want to suggest this is the response from all Republican office holders down there or all Republican leaders but it is not a unique occurrence either. This is from John Ziegler who is the state auditor who says, "There is nothing to see here. The allegations are that a man in his early 30s dated teenage girls. Even "The Washington Post" report says he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse." So he's saying you know what, I read "The Washington Post" story. I don't care. You know, how will that play in Alabama?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think the -- one of the things we have to understand is that Roy Moore has a very loyal and committed base down in Alabama. And I think one of the reasons Republicans on the Hill are in a quandary is number one, there's nothing they can really do to impact what happened in Alabama with the party and part of the reason is that the influence of the establishment of the party doesn't carry weight like it might have 10 or 20 or 30 years ago when a top party official in Washington could have made a call to the state party and said, this guy's got to go and it also would have impacted voters' opinions.
They would have seen leaders coming out against the candidate and said to themselves something is wrong here. That in a sense almost works against Republicans in Washington who were concerned about Roy Moore for all of the controversial and incendiary things he said before the revelations. I was on the phone with a voter, John, before we went on the air, somebody I spoke to in September when I was down there covering the Senate race. He voted for Roy Moore over Luther Strange and I said, does this story impact your vote coming up December 12th? He said first of all, I don't believe the story. I don't think it's true. I know the judge. They've been attacking him for years. And this is more of the same. He said, sure, if I actually believed it, it would impact my decision, but I don't. I'm going to one of his campaign rallies on Saturday and I'm going to donate $1,000. And so I think this is what Republicans are trying to deal with in a state that is conservative, but not just conservative, particularly anti- establishment.
BERMAN: You know and then there's this separate argument, Amber, we're hearing from the likes of Steve Bannon, I will not play it right now, because it takes too much time, but Bannon doesn't weigh into whether it's true or not he just says because it comes from your paper "The Washington Post" it should be completely disregarded as liberal propaganda and notes the "Access Hollywood" tapes were first published by "The Washington Post" as well. That too is an interesting argument because there's nothing true or not true about the "Access Hollywood" tapes. Donald Trump said that stuff right there. He's just saying because it comes from "The Washington Post" you shouldn't consider it as an Alabama voter. PHILLIPS: Well, I think that almost bolsters and proves the opposite point that Steve Bannon was saying and bolsters the accusations that these brave women made because listen, "The Washington Post," my colleague David Fahrenthold, published the "Access Hollywood" tape a month before the election. No one else was able to get ahold of it. Here we have publishing accurately the president never denied what was said on that tape, extraordinary proof of what he said.
And now here we are again, having a story that is, when it comes to litigating sexual allegations in the press, is as close to proof as you can get. So I think listen, Steve Bannon has had a really bad week when you look at it, he supported Roy Moore. He's now having to defend him with weak arguments from allegations he molested a 14-year-old, couple days earlier he predicted Democrats would be -- I'm sorry Democrats would be very worried and Republicans would be celebrating in Tuesday's elections. Pretty much the exact opposite happened. So Steve Bannon's credibility has been struggling this week.
BERMAN: Look, it doesn't have to be a Republican or Democratic thing. And Ron Brownstein, I don't think anyone wants tax cuts more than Mitt Romney, for instance. I think he would do pretty well if there were tax cuts and he says he doesn't care, he wants Roy Moore to drop out.
BROWNSTEIN: Right. I mean, look, this is a test of how tribal our politics has become both from the leadership level and from the voters whether the idea of advancing things that you care about that Roy Moore will be a warrior in the cultural wars is sufficient to look past what, as Amber said, as detailed and specific an allegation as you can get. Look, I think from the point of view of the Senate Republicans there is a self-interest question here beyond the moral question, which is if he wins in December, which I don't think is guaranteed after this.
[10:15:04] I think that, you know, it's not as though he is 20 points ahead, so it's not inconceivable that he could lose. But if he did win, they will have to deal with the question of how do they deal with him as a sitting senator and how -- do they simply try to walk past these allegations, have no ethics process, no investigation. Are they seen as, in effect, coddling someone whose behavior went beyond the unpleasant to the criminal in one -- in the main case here. So there's a lot of self-interest I think on the line for Republicans as well as the moral standard.
DRUCKER: And John if you look at what happened on Tuesday and if you talk to Republican strategists about what they're worried about in 2018 it is suburban women and Roy Moore could be something Democrats could use against them next year and they are concerned.
BROWNSTEIN: Todd Akin plus.
BERMAN: David Drucker, Ron Brownstein, Amber Phillips, thanks so much for being with us guys. Really appreciate it.
There's a new controversy this morning involving General Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to the president and special counsel reportedly looking into Flynn's role in a meeting about forcibly removing a Muslim cleric from the United States, getting him out of the United States. And at the center of this meeting apparently a $15 million offer. President Trump, Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, they shook hands right there, but will it be more at this Asian Summit? Will there be a private meeting? If not, why not? We're live in Vietnam.
[10:20:35] BERMAN: All right, a new pretty surprising report of the "Wall Street Journal" this morning. It says the special counsel is looking into meetings held by the incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and his son that involve the possible forcible removal of a Muslim cleric from the United States and a possible $15 million payday.
Our Jessica Schneider has the details on this. Jessica, what are you learning?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, a lot of questions about this, about the plot and the fact that it was allegedly proposed at a meeting in New York City last December at the height of the transition, just after Michael Flynn had accepted the offer to become national security adviser.
"The Wall Street Journal" reporting this, that Michael Flynn and his son were offered up to $15 million to forcibly take the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania and deliver him to the Turkish government. President Erdogan has accused Gulen of masterminding a failed coup against his government in the summer of 2016. So "The Wall Street Journal" now also reporting that the FBI is investigating. They've interviewed four people about this meeting and this does appear to be the second such meeting that Flynn had with Turkish officials.
In fact, we at CNN reported a September 2016 meeting where Muslim cleric Gulen was also discussed and at the time back in March, we talked to former CIA director James Woolsey, he attended part of the meeting as a Trump campaign adviser and he said that finding ways to send Gulen back to Turkey to face charges was one of the topics. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It looks as if there was at least some strong suggestion by the -- one or more of the Americans present at the meeting to the Turks that we would be able -- the United States, would be able through them, to get hold of Gulen, the rival for Turkey's political situation. It was suspicious, it was concerning and I felt I needed to say something about it to someone, but was it a clear plot that they were going to seize him? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: So it's interesting to note Woolsey there referring to the September 2016 meeting and now, of course, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting on a follow-up meeting to that in December where Flynn was reportedly offered $15 million. Now Flynn's attorneys have previously denied that he had ever had any discussions about the Muslim cleric but the "Journal" is reporting the FBI now investigating. And, of course, we've reported that Michael Flynn and his son are under scrutiny from special counsel Mueller's team for these meetings and also, John, concealing any of those ties to Turkey and Russia he may have had during the campaign and previous to that as well. John?
BERMAN: All right, Jessica Schneider for us in Washington. Jessica thanks so much. There is more to tell you about this morning concerning the special counsel's investigation and also the entire Russian matter. It has to do with the president's former bodyguard who also worked for him in the White House, Keith Schiller. He testified to a congressional committee about apparently an offer from some Russians to send women to the room of then citizen Donald Trump back in 2013.
CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill with this reporting. Manu, what have you learned?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This had to do with 2013 trip that Schiller took with Trump to Moscow, part of Trump's effort to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. There had been a lot of questions about Trump's activities at the time because of salacious allegations that were concluded in that dossier compiled by the former British agent Christopher Steele. Now those salacious activities have not been verified by the Intelligence Committee even though other allegations within that dossier about Trump campaign/Russia connections have been verified.
Now, there were questions that were posed to him by the House Intelligence Committee according to several sources in the room, a question about what happened there and what Schiller confirmed was that there was a Russian individual who he could not remember the identity of, who actually proposed sending five women to Trump's hotel room on that 2013 night. Now Schiller testified that he took it as a joke. He said that they walked up to the hotel room and he told Trump on the way to the hotel room and Trump laughed it off. It went into the room. Let Trump into his room. Schiller, Trump's former bodyguard, was waiting outside the hotel room, waited for several minutes and then left. He told the committee he could not account for what happened afterwards.
[10:20:02] Now the reason why this is significant is investigators are trying to figure out whether or not Russians had any compromising material on Trump, particularly the time that Russia was trying to meddle in the elections and Schiller provided one witness who could provide some information about what happened in Russia. And, John, as you know, Schiller had been by Trump's side for years. He was -- delivered that letter to the FBI with the news of James Comey's firing. And he was asked, I'm told, about James Comey's firing, whether he knew about any deliberation, he denied knowing anything, said he was merely delivering a letter and denied knowing a lot about any connections between Trump and Russia. Left some lawmakers frustrated as they left the room there, John.
BERMAN: CNN's Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Manu, thank you very, very much.
Want to discuss all of these developments with CNN national security and legal analyst Susan Hennessey. Counselor, thank you for being with us. Help me understand the myriad legal issues that could be at stake from this reported meeting or meetings that Michael Flynn had with people with Turkish interests about somehow removing this Turkish cleric from U.S. soil possibly in return for money?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. There are -- there's a lot of concerning developments here. Jessica previously referred to the September meeting that was sort of had been reported by CNN, "The Wall Street Journal" and others. That meeting was disturbing enough to former Cia Director James Woolsey that he actually reportedly tried to contact Joe Biden through an intermediary. So we're talking - we're using sort of careful language here about removing him from the country and we're turning him over to Turkish officials.
What is a private citizen discussing doing that, the legal term we use is ordinarily kidnapping. So the more -- this is a serious sort of potential plot or alleged plot. What this morning's story says, though, is that actually, there was a second meeting that occurred in December, so that shows two things. One, it shows there was actually a ripening of this plot, maybe it wasn't that September meeting was just people sitting around spit balling, maybe say crazy ideas but that doesn't necessarily put you in legal jeopardy.
Now we're seeing in December there's actually money being placed, sort of potentially up to $15 million offer to actually exchange funds, and then there's more sort of detail in terms of what might occur. Most significantly, in September, Michael Flynn is just a campaign adviser. He's a regular guy. In -- at the time of the December meeting he is the national security adviser, designate for the United States, that means that he's someone who has real power and authority potentially even the ability to actually execute this plan. So it's no surprise that this is, you know, a profound interest to special counsel Mueller's team.
BERMAN: OK. They didn't do it. They didn't kidnap him as you say and get him out of the country. We don't know that they took the money. So given that, is there still something that perhaps puts them in legal jeopardy concerning especially the second meeting?
HENNESSEY: Right. So certainly sort of the laws of attempt here, so again these are all just allegations and Flynn has denied all of these through his attorney, you know, but if you take sort of substantial steps towards the commission of a crime, so if he actually accepted money or sort of put this plan in action, not being able to complete it is sort of not -- you know, that doesn't necessarily sort of take him out of the realm of legal jeopardy.
BERMAN: Let me ask you one other interesting angle here, you will remember that one of the things that James Comey the fired FBI director says, is that then President Trump asked him to back off the investigation into Michael Flynn. Does it paint that now in a whole new light? HENNESSEY: I think it just demonstrates sort of the seriousness of the inquiry into Flynn at that time. This wasn't just about late filings or false statement claims where are pretty serious. This wasn't about just well maybe he got ahead of himself having a conversation during the transition, but the FBI was potentially investigating him for very, very serious allegations. And so that does sort of put this, the nature of this interaction like hey, why don't we let him go, nudge from the president in a totally different light. If Trump was aware of these allegations he's asking a former FBI director Comey to overlook some very, very serious criminal conduct.
BERMAN: Of course, we don't know how much or if the president knew about the Turkish angle of this at all. There were other things he probably did not about at the time, that's another story. Susan Hennessey thanks for helping us understand this morning.
HENNESSEY: Thanks for having me.
BERMAN: All right, a quick handshake, a smile, President Trump and Vladimir Putin, they exchange greetings here at a summit in Vietnam. You just saw it right there. It happened. Will there be more than that? Stay with us.