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Moore and Republican Party; Earthquake on Iran-Iraq Border; Investigators Return to Niger; Texas Church Memorial. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 13, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:34:06] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, more national Republicans are calling on Roy Moore to drop out of the Alabama Senate race. The president and White House insiders not among them. The controversial judge says he plans to stay in. The question is, what happens now?

Joining me, Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

You have been firm on this. You wrote, the party of Abraham Lincoln will not be able to remove the stain of Roy Moore if he remains in the Republican Party's standard-bearer in the Alabama Senate race. You called him a stain. What damage does Moore do to the party if he stays in?

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, first, John, let me say this. I did not support Roy Moore after he won that nomination. I certainly didn't support him at all because I felt that he disqualified himself by his blatant disregard for constitutional -- for the Constitution. He was removed from the supreme court twice. He had made many incendiary comments about religious minorities, the LGBT community and others. I just think the man is unfit. And that was before these recent allegations of very serious misconduct.

[09:35:11] So I think right now it's important that this man step aside. I doubt that he will, but he should step aside and find some alternative path because at this point there -- there's no way he can be elected. I don't think he can be elected. I suspect the people of Alabama are not going to take a risk like this.

BERMAN: The White House has not gone as far as you have. Do they need to?

DENT: Well, I -- look, we've been through this before as Republicans where we've had, you know, in 2010 there was a candidate who said, you know, that -- said she was a witch. In 2012, there was a legitimate rape comment by a candidate. Now we have this situation with Roy Moore, again, who defies the Constitution. He's been removed from the supreme court. And now these very serious allegations of sexual misconduct. You know, we just cannot be branded by individuals like this. It's

times like this that the leaders of the party have to step up and do what's right.

Hey, I'm not running for office again. I'm just saying this for the good of the party. You know, we are the party of Abraham Lincoln. We have a tradition. And we should be much -- we should be much more concerned about the brand of this party when it's going to be stained by somebody of this caliber in Mr. Moore.

BERMAN: Again, what we heard from Kellyanne Conway, what we heard from the official White House statement was that if the allegations are true, then Moore should step aside. But they do not believe at this point they have heard enough to make that judgment.

DENT: Well, again, John, we're not talking about a legal proceeding here. Of course a person is entitled to the presumption of innocence in a court of law. We are talking about here the court of public opinion. This is an election. It is a very different standard.

We have asked candidates -- I served as chairman of the Ethics Committee. I have seen members of Congress resign for far less than what Mr. Moore is being accused of. So the point I'm making is, is a very different standard here when we're talking in a very political context and we're talking about control of the Senate here. Mr. Moore needs to do what's right and step aside.

BERMAN: And there's also a context, which is beyond political, too, which is in this day and age, when there are sexual harassment allegations, no matter how old, who do you choose to believe? Do you choose to believe four women who go on the record and say something happened, or do you choose to believe the denials of someone who didn't? It's just a matter of, you know, you have to judge it on its face.

I do want to move on a little bit here. After the election last Tuesday, wasn't even a week ago, you said voters are taking their anger out at the president and the only way they could do that is by going after Republicans on the ballot. Is that what you think the message was from the elections last Tuesday?

DENT: Well, certainly in Virginia -- and I'll say specifically in urban and suburban areas, it was pretty clear to me that a lot of people were unhappy with the administration and were taking it out on Republican voters. I certainly saw that. And it wasn't just in Virginia, but I'll say in suburban and urban areas, other parts of the county, certainly in Pennsylvania, where we had the suburban collar counties of Philadelphia who had, you know, a devastating night.


DENT: And I think a lot of that was driven by anger towards the president. We have to be very honest about that. And, also, I would be -- to be fair, you know, and any time we're moving into a midterm, the party of the president usually does take a pretty serious bath in the midterms. BERMAN: Sure.

DENT: And given the nature of this administration, I suspect the headwinds will be even greater than they would n under ordinary circumstances.

BERMAN: You mention you are retiring from Congress -- not retiring I'm sure from any number of other useful endeavors, but what are the considers right now of other members? Particularly members who might come from states that are purple, like you, or states or districts that may be, you know, suburban like yours?

DENT: Well, look, every member of Congress -- look, my Republican colleagues are very smart people. They understand the dynamics of this election cycle. And I suspect many of them will be, you know, entering some -- you know, doing some very serious soul searching and reflecting right now. They know they're going to be running in some very difficult circumstances. That even if they run the best possible campaign they can, that might not be enough to overcome a headwind.

This election cycle, in my view, is going to look like 1994, 2006 or 2010 where each -- where at those times one party had total control of all levels of government. So this 2018 cycle will be the same way. And, let's face it, the results haven't been good for the party in power. We know that. I suspect more of my colleagues will be making decisions over the next few weeks and months.

BERMAN: Congressman Charlie Dent, we look forward to seeing what you do next. Thanks so much for being with us.

DENT: Hey, thank you, John. Always great to be with you.

BERMAN: All right, hours after a powerful earthquake, rescuers digging through the rubble in a desperate search for any signs of life.


[09:44:18] BERMAN: Happening now, a frantic search for survivors after a powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the border between Iraq and Iran. More than 400 people are confirmed dead, thousands more injured. Iran has declared three days of mourning for the victims. The quake struck about 200 miles north of Baghdad, but it was felt as far away as Pakistan and Turkey.

Jomana Karadsheh following all the developments for us.

What's the latest, Jomana?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, as you mentioned, this was such a powerful earthquake, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that was felt in so many different countries across the region from Israel all the way to Pakistan. But, you know, this happened late in the evening on Sunday. So it was difficult to assess the extent of the damage and the destruction and to get casualty figures.

[09:45:07] But during daylight today, we've seen the search and rescue operations taking place. And it appears that the hardest hit area is the Kermanshah province that is in western Iran. These are remote towns and villages that are really not designed to withstand such a powerful earthquake. And according to officials in that country, they say that at least 395 people have been killed and more than 6,000 others have been injured. And we have seen that casualty toll climb throughout the day.

Across the border in Iraq, the impact was mostly seen in the Kurdistan region and in northeastern Iraq. There authorities are saying at least seven people were killed, more than 500 others were injured, and that includes some cases of severe shock.

One issue of real concern right now for Iraqi officials is the state of the Darbandikhan Dam. That is a dam to the east of the city of Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. And there they say that this dam has some cracks in its structure and that they are continuously monitoring it. There's no sign of leakage right now, but they are asking people in that area to prepare to evacuate if necessary, John.

BERMAN: All right, Jomana Karadsheh for us following the developments surrounding the earthquake. The death toll only now coming into focus. It could very well get much worse.

New and disturbing eyewitness accounts may give a clearer picture of what happened to one of four U.S. soldiers killed in the ambush in Niger. A team of FBI and military investigators has returned to the remote village where the attack happened. A defense official tells CNN, they are looking into reports that Sergeant La David Johnson was found with his hands bound.

Barbara Starr at the Pentagon with the very latest developments.



Well, as this investigation moves on, U.S. military and FBI investigators over the weekend were indeed in the village of Tongo Tongo in this remote area of Niger, where the ambush happened. They are collecting evidence. They're conducting interviews. They're going to the villages and even to the ambush site.

What we are told is they are now investigating those reports that it is possible Sergeant La David Johnson was found with his hands tied. That's what some villagers appeared to be reporting. But the U.S. is trying to confirm that.

They're also trying to confirm, again, local reports that it is possible villagers, at some point, had the body and then turned it over to Nigerien troops. All of these things are some of the reports swirling around the area. So the investigators going there, trying to figure out exactly what did happen.

But it's not just the ambush. Of course what they are also trying to do is figure out how the U.S. troops came to be in this position. When that 12-man team went to the area on a mission, they were told it was unlikely they would run into opposition force. Clearly, that was not true. They got ambushed. So, one of the key questions now is, did they have the proper intelligence and did they have all the proper authorizations and sign offs when they were told to go to an abandoned camp site where it is believed some ISIS operatives had been in the past? It's a complex problem. It is possible, we are told now, that this investigation will not be complete until the first of the year.


BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you.

A rose for each victim killed in the Texas church massacre. CNN goes inside the memorial. That's next.


[09:53:11] BERMAN: The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, held its first service since the shooting. They held it in a tent nearby on a baseball field. The church itself is now a memorial for those killed.

CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us from Sutherland Springs.

Kaylee, you had a chance to go inside the church.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the feeling inside that church, indescribable as you see 26 chairs inside, placed where each victim's body was found. You can see each victim's name painted in gold lettering on the chair. A red rose in each, one pink rose for the unborn baby Holcombe.

You hear an audio recording being played inside. It's readings of scriptures, readings by victims who, at one point or another, participated in church services at First Baptist.

And yesterday, when Pastor Frank Pomeroy spoke to his congregation for the first time, and hundreds of others, in a Sunday morning worship service in a tent on a baseball field not far from here, he explained the reasoning behind opening the church's doors.


PASTOR FRANK POMEROY, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH: So, guys, I want the world to know that that building will be open so that everyone who walks in there will know that the people who died lived for their Lord and Savior, would want them to live with the same as well.


HARTUNG: Frank Pomeroy asked for strength in the fight against evil. John, a man who lost his own daughter, who he will bury today, led by example, showing all of us his incredible strength.

BERMAN: Unbelievable strength, Kaylee, to make sure that the people in the church remembered for their live, not the way they died. Kaylee Hartung for us in Sutherland Springs. Thank you so much.

[09:55:01] Roy Moore digging in, but a growing list of Republicans want him out. Will the White House join the call? Will they make any move to push Roy Moore out of the Alabama Senate race?


BERMAN: All right, breaking news. President Trump has announced via Twitter that he will nominate Alex Azar to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services. You will remember that Tom Price, the former secretary, resigned after it was exposed in the press that he had taken some rather pricey travel on private planes, rather than flying coach, flying first class, driving, going there the way that other people might.

[09:59:57] This is the statement from the president, happy to announce I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS secretary. He will be a star for better health care and lower drug prices.