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Sessions Grilled on Russia; Roy Moore New Accuser; Trump Teases Major Statement; Hearing on Authority for Nuclear Attack; Sessions Before Congress. Aired 9:30-10a ET
Aired November 14, 2017 - 09:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:30:00] REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: Be the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But there's no such invocation of, I just don't feel like it. And so if the attorney general does that again, as he's done in the Senate, we're going to ask our chairman to direct the witness to answer the question. He's obligated to do that.
And if the attorney general then doesn't, then the chairman has certain prerogatives. But we hope we won't get to that. We hope the attorney general will answer the question, will understand that you can't just decline to. It doesn't work that way. And he's the chief law enforcement officer in this country and for the American people to watch him refuse to follow the rules and follow the law for any other witness is required to follow, I think it would be very bad and hopefully we can prevent that from happening.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman, one development overnight is we learned that the attorney general has asked prosecutors and the DOJ to make recommendations about perhaps whether to appoint a special counsel to investigate matters surrounding Hillary Clinton. Do you have any questions there?
CICILLINE: Look, I think every time the Republicans feel the pressure from the real investigations, which are underway, the investigation with respect to Russian collusion or interference in this Justice Department, they pull out Hillary Clinton. It's their favorite response to it. Hillary Clinton is not the president of the United States. She was his -- President Trump's opponent in a campaign. We have got to focus on what's happening right now in our country and the attorney general's responsibilities with respect to a whole number of investigations.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: So do you really have no questions? I mean do you think there are no legitimate questions here about the Clinton Foundation, Uranium One? No questions that you want answers on that front?
CICILLINE: I don't. I think this is a make believe investigation about Uranium One. I don't think there is anything to be concerned about. And, once again, this is an effort to distract from the very real questions that I know many members of the committee on both sides of the aisle have with the attorney general.
BERMAN: All right, Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, we've got to let you get into that hearing room right now. Thank you so much for being with us.
CICILLINE: Thank you for having me.
BERMAN: All right, the number of Republicans calling for Roy Moore to drop out over new allegations that he sexually assaulted teenage women. That number is growing. One person we haven't heard from yet on the newest revelations is the president. Stick around.
[09:36:37] HARLOW: Calls are growing louder from Republican lawmakers for Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to quit the Senate race after a fifth women has come forward accusing Moore of sexual assault and abuse. If he is elected, he could be expelled from the Senate.
BERMAN: This all comes after this new women, Beverly Nelson, came forward and said she was sexually assaulted by Moore when she was 16 years old. Moore was 30 at the time. Nelson says Moore offered her a ride home, but instead parked in a dark, deserted area and groped her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEVERLY NELSON, ACCUSES MOORE OF ASSAULTING HER: He began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch. I continued to struggle.
He said, you're just a child. And he said, I am the district attorney of Etowah County. And if you tell anyone about this, no one will ever believe you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, CNN's Jason Carroll joins us now live from Gaston, Alabama, where, Jason, Roy Moore is still in this race.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still in the race. And, John, just a few moments ago, as a truck drove by, the driver shouted out, "go Roy Moore." So clearly Roy Moore still has support here in the state. He's relying on that support. And he's been telling anyone who will listen that all of these allegations, he says, are not true. He says it's all part of a political conspiracy. Last night he stood by his wife and denied the allegations saying this latest accuser are just like all the others, he says, none of them are telling the truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: And I can tell you without hesitation, this is absolutely false. I never did what she said I did. I don't even know the woman. I don't know anything about her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: And just lately, Alabama's largest newspaper, "The Birmingham News," came out with an editorial calling Roy Moore, quote, grossly unfit, saying he should withdraw. Moore giving no indication that he's going to do that. And, in fact, what Moore -- what the Moore camp has been saying is that they feel as though these accuser are being paid to come forward.
And, Poppy and John, I asked Leigh Corfman's family about that. Corfman, you'll remember, alleges that when she was 14-year-old, that Roy Moore sexually assaulted her. When I asked the Corfman family about that, they told me the following. They said, quote, no money or other inducement has been paid, offered or promised and none is expected.
HARLOW: And, remember, these -- you know, those four accusers in "The Washington Post" piece did not seek out reporters in this. They reluctantly shared their stories with "The Post" after some dogged reporting on their part.
Jason Carroll in Alabama, thank you.
So the president says he wants to deliver a primetime address when he gets back from his trip in Asia. What is he planning to announce? A live report ahead.
[09:43:56] BERMAN: All right, live pictures of us, but also the House Judiciary Committee. They will be meeting very shortly. The attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions, arrives any second. He will face tough questions about inconsistent answers that he has given on Russian contacts with Trump campaign officials. He says he knew nothing of any context, yet now two campaign advisers have said in testimony --
HARLOW: They told him.
BERMAN: That they told him about Russian contacts.
HARLOW: So will his answers be different this time?
BERMAN: We will see.
HARLOW: You will see right here.
Meantime, the president is on Air Force One right now heading back from his 12-day trip through Asia. He tweeted he will make a major statement when he gets back.
Before he took off, he said the trip has changed the way the United States is treated by other countries.
Let's go to our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns, who joins us from the White House.
So, Joe, we're hearing from our sources what the president would like this to be is a primetime address. Do we know what about? JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's not clear, Poppy,
what the president wants to talk about. They have sent signals, the administration has, that the president might want to talk a bit about North Korea. He's also suggested on this trip that he's made some headway on the issue of trade. It's not clear exactly what, but that's important, especially because one of the most notable things about this trip was given the fact that the United States has already pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that big trade deal, allowed the Asian nations the president was dealing with simply have kind of apparently gone around the United States and moved on, if you will.
[09:45:29] So some of the things clear that haven't happened include the president standing up for human rights. And that, of course, was important with Rodrigo Duterte. The president sitting down with him, not really talking about the extra judicial killings in the Philippines, among other things. But the president did take the opportunity to criticize past presidents. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Philippines, we just could not have been treated nicer. And, as you know, we were having a lot of problems with the Philippines. The relationship with the past administration was horrible, to use a nice word. I would say horrible is putting it mildly. You know what happened. Many of you were there. You never got to land. The plane came close, but it didn't land. And now we have a very, very strong relationship with the Philippines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: The president will have a lot of domestic issues on the plate when he gets back here. And you guys have been promoting all morning the fact that the president's attorney general is headed back to Capitol Hill. More questions on the Russia probe, among other things.
Back to you.
BERMAN: Our Joe Johns at the White House.
HARLOW: Yes, just a fact check on that. The president still went to the summit and still had, you know, the plane did land. He just didn't meet with Duterte after Duterte called him an S.O.B.
BERMAN: There's no episode where Air Force One did not land in the Philippines --
HARLOW: This is true.
BERMAN: When everyone thought it was going to there. Simply didn't happen.
All right, after warning that the president may be sending the nation on a path to World War III, Republican Senator Bob Corker now set to hold a hearing that will examine the president's powers to order a nuclear attack. We'll take you there, next.
BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) they told --
HARLOW: Carter Page. George Papadopoulos.
BERMAN: Told Jeff Sessions about contacts they had with Russia. So this will be very interesting when he testifies in just a few minutes.
HARLOW: You know, will the exchanges be markedly different than they have in the past hearings. That's a big question this morning.
It starts in moments. So stay with us for that.
We are just minutes away from another significant hearing on Capitol Hill. Bob Corker, the senator -- the first Republican senator who has multiple times questioned the president's fitness for office, is now questioning his fitness to order the use of nuclear weapons and he has the authority to call a hearing on it.
BERMAN: That's right, Senator Corker is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sources tell CNN he wants assurances that President Trump, or really any president, could not order a nuclear strike rashly. This is a reminder of some of the things that Senator Corker has said about the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), CHAIRMAN, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The president has not yet -- has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.
[09:50:13] He also recently has not demonstrated that he understand the character of this nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That's the background. Today will be very interesting.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon watching this for us.
And, Barbara, other than maybe some theater from Senator Corker, is he looking to actually change anything?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know, because, guess what, this is the first time in more than 40 years the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has looked at the issue of the authority of any president to launch nuclear weapons. And, remember, it was Senator Corker, who is definably anti-Trump, who said the president is setting the country on a course towards World War III.
So now, for the first time since 1976, they're having a hearing publicly on the authority of any president to be able to order the launch of nuclear weapons. Because, in this country, it is the president, any president, who has that sole authority. So the Republican chairman not so happy with all of this, perhaps. And
you're seeing a lot of Democrats really rally around this question. One of the key Democratic members, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, has actually introduced legislation that would stop any president from being able to order a first strike of nuclear weapons without consulting with Congress.
The issue on the table really is, should one person in this country have the authority to basically start a nuclear war. No question about it, this has really come to the forefront since Donald Trump took office. Our Jim Acosta has been reporting that a number of members of Congress, and some allies, are questioning Trump's ability to have that sole authority to launch nuclear weapons.
HARLOW: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.
If something changes, it who change it for all presidents --
HARLOW: Of course. Not just President Trump.
We are minutes away from this major hearing -- two major hearings on Capitol Hill this morning. This one with Attorney General Jeff Sessions facing what will likely be a grilling over what he knew about the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. Stay with us. That's ahead.
[09:57:00] BERMAN: All right, a big morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.
You are looking at live pictures of the hearing room where in moments Attorney General Jeff Sessions faces the House Judiciary Committee and a slew of questions about what he knew about the Trump campaign and its contacts with Russia. A lot has happened since Sessions told a Senate committee just less than a month ago that he didn't believe that there were any contacts that occurred. Well, that's changed.
BERMAN: Yes, new developments. Contradictory statements from at least two Trump campaign advisors, completely independent of the huge news overnight.
BERMAN: That Donald Trump Jr. exchanged private messages with WikiLeaks. This hearing gets underway in just minutes.
While we are waiting for it to begin, Manu Raju, Evan Perez join us.
Manu, first, give us a sense of what we're about to see here.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is going to be a very combative hearing where Democrats are already signaling they plan to push Jeff Sessions very aggressively about his disclosures or lack of disclosures about Russian contacts that occurred during the Trump campaign and what he knew and what he didn't know and what he said and what he didn't say in previous testimony before several Senate committees.
Expect some pretty pointed questions there, particularly in the aftermath of revelations that the former trump foreign policy advisors George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, mentioned at least in passing, some efforts to connect the Trump campaign with Russian officials. Something that Jeff Sessions himself did not disclose or did not recall at the time. We'll hear from him himself exactly why he did not disclose that before the committee.
And Republicans plan to ask more questions about this Clinton -- this Obama-era uranium deal with the Russia nuclear agency, something that has put the Clinton Foundation back in the spotlight, particularly after the Justice Department has signaled that it's open to assigning a special counsel to investigate this matter further.
I just asked Bob Goodlatte, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, about that. He told me that it was a step in the right direction. So expect some Republicans to push a little bit further and try to shift the focus back to the Obama administration and the Clinton administration, in addition to other questions about immigration and other major pressing issues facing the Justice Department that Jeff Sessions himself will have to answer.
And as Jeff Sessions entered here, guys, he declined -- he declined to answer any questions. The thing hovering over him, of course, is all the controversy happening back home in his home state and whether he's open to running as a write-in candidate for his seat in light of all the problems with Roy Moore. I asked Jeff Sessions on his way in if he was open for running. He heard the question, but he smiled.
He walked inside, not answering questions. Not surprisingly not answering questions. Something his advisors say he's not particularly interested in. But people -- Republicans here on Capitol Hill are pushing him to consider that. So we'll see if that question also comes up in what will likely be a pretty contentious hearing just in a couple of minutes, guys.
HARLOW: On any other day, that would be at the fore of his mind, but I think today --
HARLOW: That's a little bit at the back given the questions he's about to face as this hearing gets underway.
As it does, let's go to Evan Perez.
[10:00:00] Evan, now we know, you know, his last testimony was October 18th. Now it's November 12th?
BERMAN: Something like that. I think maybe the 14th.
HARLOW: So, thank you. But a lot has changed.