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McConnell Says He Believes Roy Moore's Accuser; Report: Green Beret Killed after Uncovering Alleged Theft; McConnell, Ryan Walk Back Tax Cut Promises as Trump Tweets; Top U.S. Commander Pulling Out of Puerto Rico. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 13, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- when it comes to dating teenagers, that's generally not in my normal behavior and not customary --
STEVE ROGERS, FORMER NEW JERSEY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE & DONALD TRUMP SUPPORTER: Two perspectives, the burden of proof is always on the accusers, but a man once said to me --
BOLDUON: This is not a court of law. I'm not asking you guilty or innocent in a criminal case.
BOLDUAN: I'm asking should he be a United States Senator.
ROGERS: Live your life in such a way so when speak evil of you no one will believe it. You heard the interviews of the people who know him, live with him. Even a Democrat said it's hard to believe he did this. That to me right now proof enough going down the road there may be an issue here.
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The fact that he said -- he had -- he didn't deny he had relationships even though he may not have said they were sexual relationships with teenage girls, when asked in the interview they weren't customary that's flat denial. Where he was the only member of the Alabama Supreme Court who voted against the conviction of a pedophile who raped a 4-year-old that doesn't bode well for his reputation.
BOLDUAN: Let me just say this. When it comes to what voters think and thought in the past he's been removed from the bench twice and he still won -- he still won in his primary against Luther Strange and now -- in the end, the voters will decide. But if he does win, I leave this with all of you after Mitch McConnell says this, what kind of a relationship is he going to have when it comes to his colleagues and who he will be working with in the United States Senate. This is a remarkable moment we're in as they head into the December election.
Let's all ponder that. Kate gets the final thought.
OK. Moving on.
Thanks all. I appreciate it.
Go time for Republicans on Capitol Hill as they prepare to vote on their new tax plan. But, did Donald Trump from overseas just throw a wrench in those plans? We'll discuss. That's coming up.
Plus, the sudden death of a Green Beret under investigation as a homicide. Coming up next, a shocking new report on what the possible motive could have been.
[11:36:10] BOLDUAN: A mysterious death of a Green Beret possibly taking a terrifying new turn. The military has been investigating the death of Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar as a homicide, but a new report from "The Daily Beast" on what may have been behind it all, money.
Joining me now, Spencer Ackerman, national security correspondent for "The Daily Beast," part of the team who broke this story.
Spencer, thank you so much for coming on.
SPENCER ACKERMAN, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE DAILY BEAST: Thanks very much for having me.
BOLDUAN: It's really amazing report what you've put together. I mean, to this point, we have known -- we, the rest of us, have known the following the cause of the death was asphyxiation. We've known that they're, of course, investigating this as a homicide. But now you have uncovered a possible motive here. Tell us.
ACKERMAN: That's right. It's a really disturbing story. It's something that I didn't expect to ever be reporting. What it turns out our reporting has revealed is that two Navy SEALs. Involved in an intelligence activity in Mali in West Africa, a place where not a lot of Americans know we even have a substantial military or intelligence presence, were involved with a fund that paid out informants for information of a counterterrorism nature, Staff Sergeant Melgar found out that they were, in fact, taking money from the fund and an altercation ensued and now we are at where we're at. These two Navy SEALs. Under investigation for the death of Sergeant Melgar.
BOLDUAN: But these guys are on the same team and that it could have possibly been that, that would have led to his death? One of the things that strikes me in your reporting is that Staff Sergeant Melgar, according to your report, told his wife that he was having trouble or concerns about some of the guys on his team. Did she know who he was talking about at the time?
ACKERMAN: It's not my understanding that she knew specifically. It's my understanding that Sergeant Melgar said he would explain more when he got home and now he will never have an opportunity to do that.
BOLDUAN: That's pretty amazing. Your reporting also is that the SEALs. Told their superiors that Melgar was drunk when all of this happened. Is there anything to back that up at this point?
ACKERMAN: In fact, there's information to contradict that information, that when eventually investigators looked in on that they found that there was no trace of alcohol or drugs in Sergeant Melgar's system and that's a key piece of information that led to this investigation.
BOLDUAN: Spencer, where does this all go? You've been in the field covering this for many years. Where does this all go now?
ACKERMAN: I think it might go to a really ugly place. Eventually, this will come out in either charges or it will be dropped and if there are charges, we'll follow that case pretty acidulously, but it can't really be underestimated that this is a really harrowing situation for a very close-knit group of elites U.S. troops. The Special Operations community is not a very public community and it's not a very large one relative to the rest of the military and relative to the country, and this is a circumstance in which it appears that there is essentially a death in the family caused by family members. This is going to be a really trying time for that community, as well as for Sergeant Melgar's family.
BOLDUAN: Of course. They were already dealing with and then this coming out.
Spencer, thanks so much for bringing us your reporting. We really appreciate it.
ACKERMAN: Thanks very much for having me and covering this story.
[11:39:41] BOLDUAN: Of course.
Still ahead for us, a huge week ahead for Republicans who are trying to get a big win on the board with tax reform. Why are Republican leaders now saying they misspoke when they said everyone in the middle class would be seeing a tax cut? We'll discuss.
BOLDUAN: Hot off the president's Twitter feed, a new nomination and potential replacement for Tom Price. Tweeting from overseas this, "Happy to announce I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next Health and Human Services secretary. He will be a star for better health care and lower drug prices."
Azar was a pharmaceutical executive prior to this and worked for the HHS under President George W. Bush. Tom Price, of course, you will recall, resigned from his post in September after a scandal over his use of private planes while on the job. A very big job that will be coming ahead.
Let's get back to Capitol Hill right now because, check your calendar, like a federal holiday, mark-up Monday. Just hours from now, the Senate Finance Committee will be marking up the Senate's version of the Republican tax plan, the first step on the Senate side to see an actual vote on their tax priorities. This, as the Republicans face a bit of a messaging problem at the moment. The Senate majority leader said last week that nobody in the middle class would see a tax increase. Mitch McConnell, though, now speaking to "The New York Times" had to acknowledge he misspoke on that and this, you can't guarantee that absolutely no one sees a tax increase. So how about the House side?
Speaker Paul Ryan now says that most folks in the middle class will get a tax break although that is also a bit of a change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:45:34] REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Everyone enjoys a tax cut all across the board.
You take a look at a lot of people's districts and everyone will be better off on this thing.
The average taxpayer in all income levels gets a tax cut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So you have that. And then this, a tweet from President Trump up-ended the whole process.
Let's go to Suzanne Malveaux.
Suzanne, for a Monday, there's a lot to get through. What's going on there today?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There really is, Kate. You can appreciate having covered Congress yourself the minutia. A lot of moving pieces if you will.
We will start off first with the House side. They come back from their weekend recess and there will be a whip count later in the evening, essentially to see where they stand. They want their reform bill, the tax reform, on the full floor, a vote coming on Thursday. So they're going to take a look behind the scenes, the yeses, noes, how do they get there and what do they need to do to get to the magic number. One of the main issues here, of course, is that repealing the state and local income tax deduction, how many people do they lose? Lawmakers from those high tax states, whether it's California, New York or New Jersey, that is the main issue on the House side.
On the Senate side you have the Senate Finance Committee, they're starting the process of marking up their own version of the bill, just like we saw last week on the House side, and an introduction of hundreds of amendments from Senators to try to tweak it and figure out a way that they can make -- make it work on their side. And one of the main issues there is the cost of all of this. You've got the Byrd Rule, which says look you cannot add to the federal deficit after a 10-year period and still have this bill pass with just a simple majority. So they have to figure out a way how are we going to pay for it. Some revenue sources.
Now Democrats, they're not going to be left out of the process. They're holding a press conference, the leadership, at 2:00. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. They are going to be a part, obviously, on the Senate side of introducing some of those amendments to put those Republicans on record, those with vulnerable races, the kinds of cuts they will be making and how this will impact the middle class.
You mentioned the president weighing in from overseas the tweet this morning saying, "I am proud of the representatives in the House and Senate for working so hard in cutting taxes and reform. We're getting close. How about ending the unfair and highly unpopular individual mandate on Obamacare, reducing taxes even further cut the top rate to 35 percent with all the rest going to the middle-income cuts?"
Kate, as you know already, not popular among Senators as well as those on the House side, they do not think that that's a good idea because they are still smarting from that big failure of trying to repeal Obamacare.
BOLDUAN: There's no question that Republicans want to get rid of the individual mandate, but if they think that will get them closer to 52 in the Senate, they have amnesia from the summer. That seems -- we'll see. I can always be proven wrong. I often am.
Great to see you, Suzanne. Thank you.
MALVEAUX: Good to see you, too.
BOLDUAN: Coming up, two months after Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico, the lights are still out for nearly half the people there. So why is the general overseeing the military's efforts getting ready to leave the island? Is the crisis over? CNN is back on the ground in Puerto Rico. We'll take you there.
[11:52:50] BOLDUAN: The situation in Puerto Rico no longer a crisis, according to the top military official, General Jeffrey Buchanan, overseeing relief efforts on the island's military relief efforts. More than 50 percent of the island is still without power.
CNN's Leyla Santiago was able to get exclusive access on his final tour of the island before leaving.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is not the island he saw when he arrived. General Jeffrey Buchanan arrived a week after Hurricane Maria to lead the military relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
(on camera): Are you ready to leave?
GEN. JEFFREY BUCHANAN, COMMANDER, PUERTO RICO RELIEF EFFORTS: I think we are in the right place. SANTIAGO (voice-over): On his last day here, he visits the town with
still no power and one of the largest that is struggling. Conditions are forcing employees to leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last month, we had 15 resignations.
SANTAIGO: Buchanan cannot deliver the news he would like to bring to troubled towns.
BUCHANAN: What I know is this area will be down for a little while.
SANTIAGO: As he visits the town's distribution center, practicing his spanish along the way --
BUCHANAN: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SANTIAGO: -- many watching for a distance are grateful, but concerned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SANTIAGO (on camera): He wishes he would stay a little bit longer to see all the municipalities and what they are suffering still to this day.
(voice-over): They need more help, he told me.
It's not just Buchanan leaving. It's the equipment also leaving. What was once 72 helicopters for relief is now 38. By the end of the week, 14. All part of the military moving into recovery mode.
(on camera): What are do you tell the people including family members of your own troops who don't have power or water? What do you tell them as you say goodbye in.
BUCHANAN: You know, I think that we have got to work through the system. In the meantime, one concern I have is resiliency for the next emergency.
[11:55:11] SANTIAGO (voice-over): He acknowledges the work is not over. Buchanan found the very notes taken on his last day.
BUCHANAN: So we need three water pumps and three generators.
SANTIAGO (on camera): Many people with your departure fear they will be left alone.
BUCHANAN: Absolutely not. The military is not leaving Puerto Rico. We still have about 2,500 Army Reserves on active duty here. We have about 5,000 National Guard troops from Puerto Rico and other places and FEMA who has been in charge of the effort from the federal perspective is here for the long haul.
SANTIAGO (voice-over): Now Buchanan believes Puerto Rico must shift into a new phase without him on the island.
Leyla Santiago, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
BOLDUAN: Thank you to Leyla for the excellent report.
Coming up still, more on the breaking news. Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, no longer waiting to learn more. Now taking a stand. The top Republican in the Senate said he believes the women accusing Roy Moore of sexual misconduct and said Roy Moore should step aside now. So now what? We'll be right back.
[12:00:09] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.