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President Trump Back to White House; Jeff Sessions Grilled by Senate; Roy Moore Strong Will to Fight. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired November 14, 2017 - 22:00   ET



[22:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN: ... couldn't because the staff quickly put everything on lock down. The gunman was killed initially out with police.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. Time to hand things over to Don Lemon. CNN Tonight starts now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

President Trump back in the White House tonight after his two-week trip to Asia. And he's got a lot on his plate here at home. There's defiant Alabama Judge, Roy Moore who is refusing to drop out of the Senate race despite stunning accusations from five women who say he sexually abused them when they were teenagers.


ROY MOORE, SENATE CANDIATE: I'm now facing allegations and that's all the press want to talk about. But I want to talk about the issue. I want to talk about where this country is going. And if we don't come back to God we're not going anywhere.


LEMON: That was Roy Moore just moments ago. His own party doesn't want him. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is telling pretty much everybody who will listen including the president himself in a call to Vietnam, that Moore should drop out.

Tonight the RNC says it won't give him any more money. But if Moore won't quit are President Trump's hands tied? Much more on that in just a moment.

There's also the endless dark cloud of the Russia investigation the president has to contend with. Attorney General Jeff Sessions get a grilling from the House judiciary committee today.

Remember this now infamous March 31, 2016, meeting that included Trump, candidate Trump, Jeff Sessions and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos? Well, now Sessions, well, he remembers it too although he said last month that he didn't. But his memory is apparently still foggy when it comes to that proposed meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SESSIONS, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: I do now recall that the March 2016 meeting at the Trump hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended. But I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting.

After reading his account and to the best of my recollection I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government or any other foreign government for that matter.


LEMON: That comes less than 24 hours after the revelation that Donald Trump, Jr. and WikiLeaks communicated secretly for ten months during the presidential campaign.

And then there's the GOP Hail Mary on tax cuts. The president is demanding it. The party is taking everything on it, but will they have to drive a stake through the heart of Obamacare to get it done, and will working class voters be really happy with any of this?

So, we had a lot to get to. But I want to get right to CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash and justice correspondent, Evan Perez. Good evening to all of you. We have a lot of ground to cover.

Dana, let's talk Roy Moore, shall we? I just watched his speech just moments ago. Let's listen to what he said.


MOORE: Play a little part in this scenario going on in the country. Obviously I've made a few people mad. I'm the only one that can unite democrats and republicans because I seem to be opposed by both. They've spent over $30 million trying to take me out. They've done everything they could, and now they're together to try to keep me from going to Washington.


LEMON: What I wanted to say there before it was almost like a sermon. It was like he was preaching in churches, and you notice he was sort of standing at a pulpit of what looked like a pulpit. He...


DANA BASH, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: It was -- I think it was like a faith meeting, it was a revival, so that's exactly right.

LEMON: Yes. He's not planning to go anywhere. But we are learning about conversations between the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and the president about Moore.

BASH: Well, we know Mitch McConnell's side of that conversation, Don. And that's because he sort of shouted it from the rooftops that he spoke to the president, to the vice president about the problem that he believes, the very big problem that he believes the Republican Party. And by extension the president and his agenda has because of this Moore candidacy.

The open question is what the president believes, what he feels and more importantly what if anything he's going say publicly now that he is back at the White House, back in Washington and back engaged in politics.

It's unclear if he's going to say anything. And to be honest even if he does, it's doubtful that that would even have much of an impact on whether or not Moore decides to step aside, especially given what he said tonight.

And remember, the president never endorsed Moore. He endorsed Luther Strange.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: Moore's opponent in the republican primaries. So it's not like there's a lot of goodwill and a reservoir of a relationship there.

[22:04:58] LEMON: Yes. There's no love lost, let's put it that way. So, listen. Let's look at this. I want to put this up. Two -- nearly two-thirds of voters think he should drop out of the Senate race, Dana. That's including 42 percent of republicans, 62 percent of independents.

This is according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Could we end up -- could we just -- might we end up seeing President Trump put some pressure on the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to run in as a right end candidate for his old seat?

BASH: Look, it is possible. I was hearing yesterday from senior republicans in the Senate that that was a move that was kind about to snowball and get to become a bigger one to try to convince Jeff Sessions.

And remember, this is the whole reason this is a special election in the first place is because Jeff Sessions vacated his seat to become attorney general.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: And so, yes, the question is whether Sessions would go for it, that's first and foremost. He has sent signals to aides that the answer is, no, thanks. I'm in a good job right now.

But, you know, today was a tough day for Jeff Sessions. And as a Trump advisor said to me earlier, every day is a tough day for Jeff Sessions. Because if he's not hearing it in public from his former colleagues on Capitol Hill, he's hearing it in private and sometimes in public from his boss the president of the United States. He is totally in the squeeze position. And you know, he's kind of in a I can't please everybody and I'm actually pleasing nobody kind of position right now. LEMON: Yes. So let's talk more, Evan, about Jeff Sessions. Let's talk

about Russia. As Dana said it was a tough day. And the attorney general spoke today at a hearing. He said he never misled Congress about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials. He's is defiant he insist he did not lie.

EVAN PEREZ, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, he does insist he did not lie. And look, I think over many, many hours of questioning from democrats. I'm not sure that they ever really shook him from that defiance, from that answer which was that I was answering, I thought I was answering a different question.

I think the most curious part of today's, you know, marathon hearing, Don, was the fact that curiously enough the attorney general, you know, doesn't remember much about that meeting where George Papadopoulos apparently brought up the idea of using his contacts to arrange a meeting between candidate Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Jeff Sessions was sort of the leader of that meeting. He said he didn't remember any details of it. But he has clear memory that he shot down the idea.

So I think that's one of the more curious parts of today, because I think even he was kind of smiling, riley, as he sort of gave that answer to members of Congress. I think he realizes that they're really not going to be able to shake him from this idea, that you know, to sort of get over the idea that he lied.

They have to -- they have to sort of somehow shake him from this thought that, you know, he knowingly told the falsehood. And I don't think they can do that because, you know, the way he answered these questions was always a little bit you could drive a truck through those answers. So I think that's what he's got on his side.

LEMON: Yes. So, Dana, listen, there's also questions on whether the White House is using the Department of Justice to go after Hillary Clinton. What do we know about that?

BASH: Well, listen, it's an open question whether they will. It has been a very public request, frankly. Almost to the point of a demand from the president himself, which anybody and Evan certainly can attest to this, who has come close to covering the Justice Department never mind who has worked in the Justice Department will tell you that it's completely a breach of protocol.

Nevertheless, the notion of being political certainly was a big question from democrats at today's hearing. Let's listen to part of it.


JOHN CONYERS, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: In a functioning democracy, is it common for the leader of the country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate against its political opponents?

SESSIONS: Mr. Conyers, I would say the Department of Justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents, and that would be wrong.


BASH: Don, this is exhibit A of the very difficult position that Jeff Sessions is in. Because his boss has made it clear that he wants him to investigate and appoint a second special counsel to look into Hillary Clinton, to look into things that happened in the Obama administration.

And on that point, he actually pushed back on a fellow republican who was pressing him on whether or not the Justice Department is going to appoint that second special counsel. And the answer to Congressman Jordan, he said, you have your idea, but sometimes we have to study what these facts are to evaluate whether it meets the standard.


[22:10:01] BASH: Meaning we're going to do this by the book and we're going to let the professionals do it. And we're not going to make this decision based on the political tenor of the times, which is not going to be popular with his boss.

LEMON: Yes. And facts are few things. They don't always, well, they usually don't deal with ideology. They just deal with facts and reality.

Evan, all of this coming as the president son, Donald Trump, Jr. as he is being scrutinized for messaging with WikiLeaks at the end of the presidential campaign. That came up today, right?

PEREZ: Right. Exactly. I think a couple of democrats tried to bring that up, Don. Obviously it is a big story that broke in the last 24 hours. Sessions obviously is not going to be able to talk. And he says because he's recused from the Russia investigation he cannot talk about any parts of that.

But he was asked, you know, about what the president's own thoughts about WikiLeaks. If you remember during the campaign the president famously said I love WikiLeaks. And he asked -- I'm sorry -- Jeff Sessions was asked whether or not he loves WikiLeaks, and he says I'm not a big fan of WikiLeaks.

You know, one last thing to add onto what Dana was just talking about, the extraordinary thing having covered the Justice Department over the last decade, to see the president openly on Twitter, you know, saying that he wants his political opponents investigated by the Justice Department.

And today the attorney general began his remarks by talking about the return to the rule of law. It would have been -- it would have been an extraordinary thing for us to hear more, that they were going to go forward with a special counsel. That's a rare thing. There's only been two of them. And so, you know, to try to do that now...


BASH: And Mueller is one.

PEREZ: ... is remarkable.

LEMON: Yes, yes, interesting.

OK. Dana and Evan, thank you very much. I appreciate it. Attorney General Jeff Sessions got a grilling today at his hearing today before the House judiciary committee. One of the top questioners, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. I want you to listen to this exchange.


HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: And while serving as U.S. attorney you once prosecuted a young police officer who lied in a deposition. And in that speech you decided to prosecute that young police officer even though he corrected his testimony.

Let me be clear. The attorney general of the United States of America should not be held to a different standard than the young police officer whose life you ruined by prosecuting him for perjury.

SESSIONS: Mr. Jeffries, nobody -- nobody, not you or anyone else, should be prosecuted. Not me or to views of perjury, for answering the question the way I did in this hearing. I've always tried to answer the questions fairly and accurately.


LEMON: There he is, and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries joins me now. Good evening, sir. Thank you for joining us.

JEFFRIES: Good to be with you, Don.

LEMON: You pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions over all things Russia today. Do you believe the attorney general lied about the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian officials?

JEFFRIES: Well, the attorney general has been less than truthful on multiple occasions when testifying before Congress about contacts between himself, the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

He first came before the United States Senate in January and said that he had no communication with any Russian officials. It then turned out that he met with the Russian ambassador in July of 2016 during the republican national convention. He also met with the republican Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who's widely viewed as the top Russian spy in the United States of America at the time.

Also, in his Senate office in September. He then came back to Congress to testify over the summer in response to a question, said he had no idea that any individuals, had not even heard even a whisper, Don, that there were any individuals from the Trump campaign who had any thoughts of interacting with Russian operatives.

And then it turns out that he hosted a meeting in Trump Tower of this foreign advisory committee in March of last year where George Papadopoulos raised the issue directly of arranging a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and said he had a whole bunch of contacts in Russia that could be helpful to the Trump campaign.

LEMON: You think it's possible that news reports jog his memory?

JEFFRIES: I don't think so. Because we've seen this pattern of selective amnesia over and over and over again. And there's also a broader question. Why is it the fact that all of the president's men continue to have problems recalling the contacts that they were having with Russian operatives at the same time when Russia was attacking our democracy that the explicit direction of Vladimir Putin?

We're talking about Jeff Sessions has had these memory problems.


JEFFRIES: Michael Flynn has had these memory problems. Donald Trump, Jr., his son, has had these memory problems. Jared Kushner, the son- in-law has had these memory problems.

[22:15:03] Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman. Carter Page. All of them have had these memory problems. This is either the greatest set of coincidences in the 21st century or something really is rotten with the Trump campaign. And we're going to get to the bottom of what happened.

LEMON: To your memory point, the New York Times, this is a -- he repeated this phrase I don't recall more than 20 times, OK. Here's what the New York Times summed it up, holiday (Ph) summed up Sessions on Russia.

It said, "Mr. Sessions said he could not remember much about Russian influence on the Trump campaign except when he could block such influence."

Do you think that you're going to hear more from Sessions on all of this in the future?

JEFFRIES: Well, the American people deserve to learn the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about this whole sordid affair. Our democracy was attacked. Its integrity is at issue. And we're determined no matter how much obstruction we see from my friends on the other side of the aisle, to get to the bottom of what had occurred.

Now we've got the Bob Mueller investigation, everyone in Washington with the possible exception of President Donald Trump has great confidence in his capacity and his professionalism.

But we also need to figure out for the American people through the context of continued aggressive investigations in the House and the Senate, what exactly happened, Don, so we can make sure that we can prevent these types of attacks on our democracy from happening again. Because Russia is determined to continue to strike-out at us.

LEMON: While I have you here, congressman, I want to ask you about the Justice Department looking into whether a second special prosecutor is needed to investigate the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One deal.

And some are wondering whether the president has been calling for it openly, you saw it on Twitter and asking for it. Some are wondering whether Fox News host Jeannine Pirro who has denounced Sessions for not investigating had any influence.

This is according to the New York Times, "In an Oval Office meeting on November 1st Ms. Pirro said that a special counsel needed to be appointed according to two people briefed on the discussion. Through a Fox News spokeswoman, Ms. Pirro said everything I said to President Trump is exactly what I've vocalized on my show."

So, congressman, is the Justice Department being influenced by politics by the president do you think, and by a cable news?

JEFFRIES: I certainly hope not. We do know that this president does tend to be influenced a lot by what he sees on other networks, often even by conspiracy theories that are peddled by others. But we have a bedrock principle in the United States of America that the rule of law cannot be bent by political individuals and certainly not by the president of the United States of America.

To the attorney general's credit he seemed to understand that in his testimony today. Hopefully he won't cave into the pressure from a president who continues to call his attorney general beleaguered. That would be unfortunate.

We have a president who clearly does seem to have authoritarian tendencies that are aggressive in nature. And one example of that would be to try to strike-out at political opponents by using the Department of Justice. I think that would really trigger, however, a constitutional crisis that hopefully would lead democrats and republicans to resist and to serve as a meaningful check and balance on his overreach.

LEMON: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thank you, sir.

JEFFRIES: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: When we come back Jeff Sessions insists he never lied under oath, but there's a lot he says he just doesn't recall. Could that come back to haunt him? And will he end up in the hot water?


LEMON: Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the hot seat today testifying before the House judiciary committee and changing his story on Russia.

Let's discuss now with CNN contributor John Dean, the former Nixon White House council, CNN legal analyst. Michael Zeldin, Robert Mueller's former special assistant at the DOJ, and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, a former Department of Homeland Security official. Good evening to all of you. I'm so glad to have you on. John, you

first. There were many heated exchanges during the Sessions testimony today. He insists he did not lie. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did have communications with the Russians last year, isn't that right? Just yes or no.

SESSIONS: I had a meeting with the Russian ambassador, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's exactly the opposite answer you gave under oath as the U.S. Senate. So again either you're lying to the U.S. Senate or you're lying to the U.S. House of Representatives.

SESSIONS: Well, I hope the congressman knows and I hope all of you know that my answer to that question I did not meet with the Russians was explicitly responding to the shocking suggestion that I, as a surrogate was meeting on a continuing basis with Russian officials and the implication was to impact the campaign in some sort of nefarious way. And all I did was meet in my office with the ambassador, which we didn't discuss anything like that.


LEMON: So John, he says he hasn't changed his answers. And at the same time we heard I don't recall a lot today when it came to Russia. Did Sessions perjure himself today?

JOHN DEAN, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: Well as, my former boss famously said, perjury is a tough rap to prove. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen. It certainly happened with Watergate and it certainly happened with the 'I don't recall defense."

Bob Haldeman, the former chief of staff, he went to jail over I don't recall because the tape showed that was contrary. Today the comparable to the tapes are the pervasive nature of e-mails.

And Mr. Sessions may be pulled up short with something like that. We don't know all the evidence available at this point. But, Don, he's playing a dangerous game because his statements are not only incomplete, they're now frequently inconsistent.

LEMON: Yes. But democrats were quick, John, to cut him off today. Especially when they didn't think he was being consistent.

DEAN: True. They did. And the congressman was one of the better ones you had just now, the prior segment. He did an excellent job of pinning him down and getting him to answer questions.


DEAN: Or not answer.

[22:24:57] LEMON: Yes. Michael, Sessions also said that the DOJ will consider investigations into Hillary Clinton, but he would not say whether he would recuse himself from that. Why won't he make that pledge now when he said that he would do just that during the confirmation hearing?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Right, he said that to Senator Grassley, that he would consider himself recused from that. And I believe that the Justice Department recusal requirements will so inform his behavior and that he will actually recuse himself.

The merits of an investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One are quite sketchy. And I would hope that he would also withstand White House pressure to have a special counsel when none is really required.

The point here is that special counselors are appointed when there's conflicts of interest, and there isn't necessarily conflict of interests here. But secondly, they're only required when there is an inability of the Justice Department to prosecute the matter themselves.

And there's no evidence that there's anything that's worth prosecuting here. So, this is politics in a very sad sense. And hopefully Jeff Sessions will be true to his word that he will not institute an investigation of these matters unless the evidence warrants it. I think that his shining moment today.


CASAREZ: But he -- but he said there could be close to ten investigations he's already recused himself from. Is that difficult?

ZELDIN: Well, these are I think subsets of broader investigations. There's one broader investigation, which is Mueller. And then Mueller has sort of off shoots from it. And so anything that under the justice regulations that relates to a person he knows or campaign that he's worked for or people connected with that campaign, he has to be recused from.

So since there are lots of different investigations ongoing related to all of those subjects, it's really sort of like one big bundle in my estimation. Then I think this one will fall right into that bundle.

LEMON: Juliette, President Trump has made it very clear that he thinks the Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton. Do you think this is Sessions punting? Why do you think that?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Well, because in some ways if he was going to do it he would have done it by now. I mean, his position is so precarious. And I think what you're seeing Sessions is such a complicated person at this stage. He clearly has some sense of how he should behave as attorney general but keeps getting criticized by the man who he basically gave up the Senate career for.

And so, him pushing back does or at least the letter that was being discussed yesterday, does talk about career prosecutors, we'll make the decision, we're not going to throw this into the political arena. He'll, you know, this career, he kept saying career people will decide.

And I just have to agree, you know, that even if -- even if you read this deal, this Hillary Clinton deal in the worst light possible, right, it's very hard to see why a special prosecutor would be needed. At best maybe a crime was committed. I'm not even going to admit that. It's just, you know, reading it in the best right possible to those who are critical of Hillary Clinton. There is this, the special prosecutor does not match that.

This is something that prosecutors within the Department of Justice would investigate. And it seems that's what Sessions is at least trying to get some of the political fever off of him.

LEMON: John, I mean, if Sessions goes ahead with DOJ investigation of Trump's defeated opponents, I mean, Peter Baker at that times said this is what shattered norms established after Watergate. What do you think?

DEAN: Absolutely would. Richard Nixon laid the predicate of showing how you can try to influence the prosecution in the Department of Justice. And that's a watermark that no one wants to repeat. Hopefully Trump won't go there and Sessions will honor his testimony today.

LEMON: All right. Thank you all.

When we come back, the list now stands at five women accusing Roy Moore of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers. The Senate majority leader saying he should not be allowed to serve, but Roy Moore refuses to leave the Alabama's Senate race. What do Alabama voters think?


[22:30:00] DON LEMON, HOST, CNN: Alabama Judge Roy Moore refusing tonight to quit the Senate race despite heavy pressure from republicans on Capitol Hill.

Let's bring in now Beth Clayton, a columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter and contributor to the Voice of Alabama Politics. And John Sharp, a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Good evening to both of you.

So John, a defiant Roy Moore he took to the stage tonight at the God save America conference in Jackson, Alabama, blaming attacks on him on the media and vowing to keep fighting. Here's a portion of what he had to say.


ROY MOORE, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: I'm now placing allegations, and that's all the press want to talk about. But I want to talk about the issues. I want to talk where this country is going. And if we don't come back to God we're not going anywhere.


LEMON: So, John, you were in the room when Moore made these comments. How did it go over with the crowd?

JOHN SHARP, REPORTER, ALABAMA MEDIA GROUP: Well, the crowd loved it, Don. I mean, it fell right to the base. You know, it was spot on for the audience he was before.

It was a speech where he really didn't dive into the issues too much, you know, the typical issues we think of. He discussed more or less about, you know, the spiritual battle that he feels that Christians are in. And it was a 32-minute speech and the crowd loved it. They gave him an standing ovation, and he really spoke to the base in which, you know, he's counting on for support on December 12th in the election down here.

LEMON: Yes, I watched it from my office here. And he mostly talked about the bible. And sort of, you know, bible issues versus the secular and people who are after him, and so on.

[22:34:54] But Beth, in addition to the allegations of sexual abuse from Roy Moore, CNN's Gary Tuchman has tracked down a former mall employee who he says he was told to alert police if Moore showed up at a local mall. Take a listen to this.


GREG LEGAT, MALL EMPLOYEE: We talk about other people and then somebody said don't forget about Roy Moore. And I asked what about Roy Moore? And they said, well, he's banned from the mall. I said why is he banned, and a police officer wouldn't tell me. He said if you see him, let me know. I'll take care of.

GARY TUCHMAN, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: So what did you eventually learn as to the reason why he was banned to the mall?

LEGAT: I was told that he was bothering girls in the mall.

TUCHMAN: In what way?

LEGAT: I don't -- I don't know exactly. That he was approaching them and talking to them.

TUCHMAN: Now girls, when you're saying girls are you...


LEGAT: Teenage girls.


LEMON: So, what do you know, what have you heard about Moore and this supposed ban from this Gadsden mall?

BETH CLAYTON, CONTRIBUTOR, THE VOICE OF ALABAMA POLITICS: You know, we've heard these rumors for weeks before now. And it's been a thing around Gadsden for the longest time. And you know, it's just shameful that so many women have to come forward to get justice in this situation. And I hope the court of public opinion holds Roy Moore accountable in this.

I mean, it's just sad he's looking at this saying that he doesn't know anything about this, he doesn't know, you know, where the mall is or he's never heard of these women. Gadsden is a small town. Everybody knows everybody. It's sad that he's resorted lines that he's so big on the Ten Commandments.

LEMON: Yes. What is it like on the ground in Alabama now? Do you think people are turning against Roy Moore, is he still looking a strong support? You first, Beth.

CLAYTON: You know, I think there's going to be a hardened base that's just not going to back down and they are going to use the bible to justify these abhorrent acts that Roy Moore has done. But I think there are a lot of good, you know, God-fearing Alabamians who are listening to this, and they know that these stories ring so true for women across the state and across America.

They can't look the other way and they can't vote to let somebody like Roy Moore go represent us in the Senate. So, I think a lot of people are going to stay home and hopefully a lot of people cross over and vote for Doug Jones, the man who prosecuted the murder of a 14-year- old little girl instead of somebody who molested one.

LEMON: John?

SHARP: Yes. Don, here at the church that we're at, you know, the folks here they're going to support Roy Moore. I mean, there's very little that can be done or said between now and election day that's going to change that.

You know, earlier in the day I was in Jackson and I was at a diner, I talked to a gentleman. He described himself as an ardent Trump supporter, someone who does not like Bill or Hillary Clinton, someone that thinks that, you know, we need to drain the swamp, you know, the typical statements that you hear.

But he says he's really having a soul search over this. The allegations are troubling to him. I mean, it's something that he feels uncomfortable with. And he describes himself as a strong Christian conservative.

So I think there's a little bit of that right now, where folks are digesting some of this news, and they're really struggling with it right now as it keeps coming out.

LEMON: What an interesting time to be in Birmingham. I worked there for a bit, and it would be fun to go back and cover this story. You guys are doing a great job. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

When we come back, the Evangelicals in Alabama facing a tough decision. Will they support Roy Moore even in the wake of allegations he sexually abused five women when they were teenagers. I'm going to talk to the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, his name is Albert Mohler.


LEMON: A defiant Roy Moore is not only refusing to drop out of the Senate race, he is calling this a spiritual battle. But what do Evangelical voters think about all this?

Here to discuss now is Albert Mohler. He is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Thank you so much for joining us here on CNN, Mr. Mohler. We appreciate it.

Let's talk about this scandal surrounding Senate candidate Roy Moore is forcing Christian voters in Alabama to make a really tough decision. How is an Evangelical Christian voter supposed to choose which is more important, their politics or their faith?

ALBERT MOHLER, PRESIDENT, THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, you know, that's a very good question. It's a crisis of conscience that Evangelicals are facing right now acutely in Alabama.

And you know, Don, the first thing we have to understand is the severity of these charges. If we're united on anything in terms of moral judgment as a people, surely it is the fact that no 30-year-old man has any business having anything to do with a 14-year-old girl. The sexual abuse which is all that it can be called of a minor is something, thanks be to God, even in this morally confused age there's still strong consensus it's just absolutely wrong. And at the same time...


LEMON: But a 14, 16 or 17-year-old, right?

MOHLER: Absolutely. And you know, here's the problem, Don. When the autopsy on this is done, sometime later, it's going to be I think a combination of the severity of the charges, we couldn't -- we couldn't imagine charges more severe. But to be honest, from an Evangelical conscience perspective, also the inadequacy of Judge Moore's response and his denials.

They just were far too elastic to fit the moral importance of these charges. I think many Evangelicals are just beginning to understand that. As the evidence piles up, as the charges are made, it's not so much just the credibility of the charges. That's there, of course. But it's also the inadequacy of Judge Moore's denials to date.

LEMON: Yes. But I've -- and we don't have much time, but I want to play this. I just -- I want to play this. This is a clip from an Alabama voter who was asked about this. Play this, please.


DOTTIE FINCH, ROY MOORE SUPPORTER: At first, you know, I really wasn't sure how I felt about the situation. But then I look at it this way. I don't have the best past. And if he had happened, you know, I believe the good Lord has forgiven him, and he has the right to continue to prove himself. He went to the lord whenever and asked him forgiveness for that and

hasn't done anything like that since then, I believe the good Lord has forgiven him and as a Christian I have to forgive him also.


[22:45:10] LEMON: OK, all right. I'm just trying to understand how that makes sense. Because if he did do what she said, if he did do it, that would be a criminal offense. Shouldn't he go to jail, right, and maybe she can forgive him instead of becoming a U.S. senator? What is happening here?

MOHLER: Well, the Christian world view, you know, Don, the scripture, the Christian world view is really clear on this. The bible says if we confess our sins, He, meaning Christ, is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from al unrighteousness, that's the gospel of Christ.

But there are two things here we have to note. First of all, that means confessing that sin and repenting of that sin. There's no biblical notion of being forgiving of sin that one has not confessed and of which one is repentant. That's completely alien from scripture.

But the other thing is, is that biblical Christianity understands that even though one is forgiven in terms of the grace of God and the Blood of Christ, there are still penalties to behavior in terms of the criminal law. So even though we believe the murderer or someone...


LEMON: Listen, I understand that. I understand that. I grew up a Christian and am still a Christian. But listen, what she is saying is that if he hasn't done it then he should be forgiven and then should go on to become a U.S. Senate -- senator. What most people would say if, as I Christian I can forgive him, but this precludes him from becoming a senator and perhaps he should become an inmate? Do you understand what I'm saying?

MOHLER: Well, I'm agreeing with you. I'm saying that biblical Christianity would affirm the consequences of sin in terms of criminal behavior even as we understand the forgiveness of sinning Christ.

But I think it's really important that we understand that we're not talking about cheap grace here. We're not talking about the forgiveness of sins just because a sin is being committed.

LEMON: Right.

MOHLER: The bible is very clear about confession and repentance. And at this point we're talking about allegations Judge Moore has denied. But he's denied using words that in retrospect they are really troubling like not customary behavior.

And you know, I think even those who have immediately defended Judge Moore and the aftermath, I think seriously minded Christians are really thinking very clearly about this and having, not only second but third thoughts.

The other thing that I'm very encouraged about, Don, is that even though in the 2016, there was a real division amongst Evangelicals about the election. Conservative, biblically minded Evangelicals. I think there's a lot more unanimity, a lot more consensus in this case and I'm thankful for that. There is no groundswell of Evangelical leadership, pastors, and Evangelical leaders saying this is not a big deal. It is a big deal.

LEMON: I really enjoy this conversation and I appreciate your perspective. Thank you so much for coming on, Mr. Mohler.

MOHLER: Thanks for having me, Don.

LEMON: When we come back, Roy Moore's own party doesn't want him. But if he wins would they kick him out of the Senate, and what is it all going to do -- what's going to happen with the GOP with this? I'm going to ask Frank Bruni. That's next.


LEMON: Republican leaders in Congress trying to put as much distance as possible between Roy Moore and the GOP.

Let's talk about this now. CNN contributor Frank Bruni is here, he is a New York Times op-ed columnist. Frank, good evening to you. You heard Mitch McConnell has spoken, you heard other GOP leaders speak, the president is the only one saying if guilty. Everyone else is going, they're saying he should be removed from the race. Why did they pick this moment, why did they draw on the line here.

FRANK BRUNI, CONTRIBUTOR, CNN: I think republicans for a long time now are worried what they've done to their own image and brand with all the quiescence to Donald Trump, and I think they're scared of what Roy Moore is doing to the party's reputation.

But I also think he gives them an opportunity to say there are lines we won't cross, there are things we won't indulge, you know, there's this standard of decency that we insist. And Roy Moore he's become a sort of test case for them and a symbol -- a symbol that gives them the opportunity to say like, you know, here's what we stand for.

LEMON: You know, this is I guess within the last 24 hours this has all changed. Mitch McConnell saying even if he wins he will never serve in the Senate. Watch this.


MITCH MCCONNELL, (D) UNITED STATES SENATOR: I think it's safe to say that if he were to be sworn in the ethics committee under which when there would be -- he would be sworn in he would be asked to testify under oath as well, and it be a rather unusual beginning.


LEMON: So the national republican senatorial committee pulled its funding, the RNC followed suit today, the only financial backing head is the Alabama Republican Party. If he wins or loses do you see this having a lasting effect on the party or do you think that from your first answer this is they're trying to make...


BRUNI: I think the party is in pretty good job to saying we won't stand for this. But interestingly, there's a voice that's missing and that's Donald Trump. And you have to wonder why. Is it because this is an issue on which he doesn't have much of authority having been, you know, the object of so many accusations himself from women, different accusations but accusations nonetheless.

Trump has consistently said, you know, you can't just believe and accuse or any as consistently cast the media as untrustworthy and so how does he weigh in on this. It's very difficult for him to do that.

LEMON: Yes. How so?

BRUNI: Well, because, you know, he has fostered this anti- establishment creed, you know, that we're hearing from Roy Moore. Of course, Roy Moore now is cloaking himself ever more tightly in religiously righteousness. You know, you heard his remarks earlier today that he's become a Christian martyr.

It reminded me last week right after his accusations came out his brother I think compared him to Jesus.


BRUNI: That's sort of what Roy Moore was doing tonight about himself.

LEMON: Yes. It's interesting though, when you see conservative media and those who has sort of carried his water for the last week are now starting to change their tunes when everyone else is like what are you doing.

BRUNI: Yes. Well, I mean, just I think in the last hour to Sean Hannity has said your explanations have not been satisfactory, you have 24 hours to satisfy me. When you've lost Sean Hannity it's pretty close to the end of the road.

LEMON: Yes. So let's talk about the tax bill now. The GOP is trying to get rid of the individual mandate for Obamacare, throwing that into this latest tax proposal.

[22:54:59] They have tried and failed what, four times now since...


BRUNI: One loses count because when it starts to lose one.

LEMON: Well, I'm talking about just this round with President Trump.


LEMON: Why do you think that they are throwing this in? What do you think of this approach?

BRUNI: Well, they are throwing it in because they're trying to make the arithmetic and the numbers of the bill work. You know, they're got to keep it below a certain amount so that they can pass it with the kind of vote they want to pass it with.

And I think they are banking on the fact that some of the republicans who were not eager to repeal Obamacare are so eager to be on the right side of a tax cut which is so important to republican donors that maybe they'll swallow the disappearance of the individual mandate if it's wrapped into a tax cut.

LEMON: Maybe.

BRUNI: Or a tax reform whatever they're calling it.

LEMON: Quickly, I just want to ask you because about the social versus fiscal conservative. President Trump is not exactly a social conservative, but in this tax bill it would add over $100 billion to the deficit by 2016 according to at least two non-partisan think tanks. How do you define the GOP today?

BRUNI: Well, I think it's being incredibly hypocritical in terms of fiscal conservatives. I mean, one of the things that has most shocked me about the way this is all played out is that we haven't heard louder protest from the fiscal conservatives who supposedly care about this. Paul Ryan supposedly cares a lot about deficits and debt and yet he seems to be fully on board here.

LEMON: Always a pleasure, Frank Bruni.

When we come back, at least four dead in the shooting rampage in Northern California. We have new details on the seven different crime scenes and how the actions of an elementary school staff likely stopped even more violence.


LEMON: Police in rural Northern California say a gunman opened fire at random this morning in seven different locations killing at least four people before officers shot him dead.

I want to bring in now CNN's Dan Simon. Dan joins us now. Dan, what are you learning?

DAN SIMON, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Don, authorities say this began as some kind of neighborhood dispute after an initial burst of gunfire where the shooter was targeting a woman he had been feuding with he then gets into a stolen pickup truck and then starts shooting at houses randomly. And then at a certain point he crashes that pickup truck and then he car jacks a driver and he starts shooting at more people.

At one point he actually struck a woman who was driving to school with her children who were in the backseat. The mother, the young mother was shot, she's in the hospital with life-threatening injuries and she had a son in the back seat who was also hit. He apparently is expected to be OK.

But then things gets really frightening when the shooter goes to the school, he's armed with a semi-automatic weapons, couple of handguns, fires at least 30 rounds, shoots through the walls, shoots through the glass. There's glass shattering. We know that at least one boy was injured, he is suspected to survive.

But obviously, a very frightening situation. And authorities say because the school quickly went under lockdown many, many lives were saved, Don.

LEMON: Dan, is there anything else that we know about this shooter?

SIMON: We do know, Don, that he does have a criminal record. He's been arrested several times, in fact, he was arrested back in January and there was a restraining order placed on him by a woman, and this woman that he targeted this morning here in this small community she is among the dead.

But of course, a lot more news to be investigated. We know that the FBI is assisting local authorities with the investigation, Don.

LEMON: Dan, thank you.

[22:59:58] This is CNN Tonight I'm Don Lemon. It is 11 p.m. here on the East Coast. And we're live with new developments.

A defiant Roy Moore refusing tonight to drop out of the Senate race. His own party doesn't want him but do they have any good options if he wins.