Return to Transcripts main page


Sessions Says I Didn't Lie Under Oath, Trump Hasn't Influenced Me; McConnell, I've Spoken to Trump About Fate of Roy Moore; GOP Aides Say Individual Mandate Repeal Now in Senate Tax Bill; Lawmakers Say 2 Sexual Harassers Serving in Congress. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 14, 2017 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: And I'll state that General Sessions, Mr. Conyers and I both look forward to working with you and others in the administration on criminal justice reform. I think you'll find the approach here will be very bipartisan, perhaps in contrast to some of the other issues that have come up here today. But I also want to say to you thank you for your time. Thank you for the careful manner in which you have listened to questions and concerns here on this committee, for the better part of five and a half hours.

And I truly believe that this has been a very, very good hearing. Some of the members asked you questions for which answers have already been provided. Apparently, they've forgotten that those questions were asked and answered previously. But you answered all of our questions here today in what I think is a manner that be fits you as the attorney general of the United States. I thank you very much for that. And with that, I want to thank you and I want to thank all the members for participating. Without objection all members will have five legislative days to do additional written questions for the witness or additional materials for the record.

And the hearing is adjourned.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. So, it's a wrap. At least this chapter. The attorney general there in the hot seat. Jeff Sessions. By the way that's his wife standing up who's been over his right shoulder this entire time, all five hours. House judiciary. A lot of questions. Many of them of a partisan nature. Really wanting to get at why does he say X, when now he's saying Y. This is all about everything Russia. And this is also important because this is the first time that he was on the record talking specifically about this March 2016 meeting with regard to when they were all part of the campaign.

And maybe should the then candidate Trump meet with Vladimir Putin as per the suggestion of campaign aid or depending who you are talking about, the coffee boy, George Papadopoulos who's admitted to lying about his contacts with Russia. And so, this is the first time the AG was on record talking about that and what he recalled. So,

I've got two voices, Samantha Vinograd, has been gracious enough to stick around with me. And also with this is Michael's Zeldin, CNN legal analyst and former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the DOJ. And so, Michael Zeldin, let me start with you. For people just tuning in, who caught maybe bits and pieces of this. One of the big themes has been three little words "I don't recall." I don't recall from Jeff Sessions. And from a legal perspective, why are those three little words so significant?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so they are significant if it is believed that they are being delivered, if you will, in order to avoid answering a question that the person knows the true answer to. So, they can be essentially obstruction of justice-styled responses if there is a belief by a prosecutor, if you will, that the person is just not being truthful in that answer. And if you believe Jeff Sessions, he's doing his best. And if you don't believe Jeff Sessions, he's obscuring the truth. And sort of like Paul Simon saying, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. You going to not change anybody's mind in this hearing. But that's where it is.

BALDWIN: How do you think Jeff Sessions, lawmaker, you know, Jeff Sessions would have responded to in the hot seat saying over and over I don't recall.

ZELDIN: If he was on his side of the issue, he would have said honest failure of recollection. If he was against him on the issue he would have said he's being deceitful. That's why I say to you, the Democrats are going to hear it one way and the Republicans are going to hear it another way. And it's not going to change the outcome. Because I don't think there is any prosecutable case if that's what we're asking about ultimately. There is no prosecutable case for obstructive behavior for his failure to it be able to recall the types of answers to questions that he was asked.

BALDWIN: OK. Just a final thought from you. We were talking earlier about honey pots and counterintelligence and Russia. What was the point we are making as you were listening?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The point is it very surprising to me having worked with the Russians for a long time, but campaign officials didn't realize that they were intelligence targets. Sessions, Donald Trump Junior, and President Trump were all part of President Putin's intelligence game. And they fell right into his trap.

BALDWIN: How so, quickly?

VINOGRAD: It is no coincidence that the Russians reached out to campaign officials or that an organization that published information that the Russian government stole contacted Donald Trump junior. That's no coincidence. And furthermore, it's no coincidence that our democracy looks like it's going up in flames. That's exactly what Vladimir Putin wanted to accomplish.

BALDWIN: Let's hope not. Sam, thank you so much. Sam and Michael, thank you. Let's move along here. Breaking news now, the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moments

ago says he has now spoken to President Trump about the Alabama senate candidate, Roy Moore.

[15:35:04] McConnell calling more unfit for office. He says he should drop out of the race. Also, today stunning testimony and personal accounts involving stories of sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. This incredible reporting by these ladies here at CNN. Learning about this thing called a creep list for notorious behavior and revelation that involves two current members of Congress.

And breaking news, what we've learned about the Senate Republican tax bill and plans to include a repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate. But we're already hearing from one Republican Senator, Susan Collins, she's already concerned about that inclusion. What she's saying ahead here on CNN.


[15:40:00] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. The support on Capitol Hill is quickly eroding for Alabama senate candidate, Roy Moore, with two women who now accuse him of sexual abusing them as teenagers. Also, you have House Speaker, Paul Ryan, joining this course of calls demanding Roy Moore dropout of this Alabama race. Quote, he should step aside. Number one, these allegations are credible. Number two, if he cares about the values that he claims to care about then he should step aside.

And just a short while ago, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, doubled down on his belief that Moore is not fit to serve in the Senate.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R) MAJORITY LEADER: The President called me from Vietnam on Friday. We had a chance to discuss this issue. I talked to General Kelly about it on Saturday. Talked to vice president about it yesterday. And there is no question that there is a deep concern here. Roy Moore should step aside. The women who have come forward are entirely credible. He's obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate. And we've looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening. Obviously, this close to the election, it's a very complicated matter, and I think once the president and his team get back we'll have further discussions about it.


BALDWIN: In addition, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Senator from Alabama had this to say about Roy Moore.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am -- have no reason to doubt these young women.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: I want to make sure if he comes to the United States Senate --

SESSIONS: And I think I should continue to do so.

LEE: If he comes to the United States Senate that there would be the possibility of referring his case for at least a federal review by the Department of Justice.

SESSIONS: We will do our duty.


BALDWIN: Come back to that thought in just a second here. But as another accuser stepped in front of the camera so too did Roy Moore with yet another denial.


BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON, RORY MOORE ACCUSER: You are 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.

ROY MOORE, REPUBLICAN SENATE CANDIDATE, ALABAMA: 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.


BALDWIN: Beverly Young Nelson is her name. She says Moore assaulted her when she was 16 years of age. While Moore seems unmoved, even energized. Launching a fundraising appeal to quote, God-fearing conservatives, touting fake news and signaling he has no intention of ending his candidacy. But the question remains if he's voted into the Senate by his constituents can be booted out by his fellow senators. Joining me now, Joan Biskupic, CNN legal analyst, and so the question, Joan, would be what exactly when the Senate have to do to expel Roy Moore?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's a very high hurdle but constitutionally the Senate could expel Roy Moore if he is elected next month. But here's what it would take, Brooke. It probably would send it two committee, a Senate Ethics Committee. And then it would require two third of the vote of the Senate for this. And this is what a high hurdle it is. Not since the Civil War era has any senator been expelled and of the 15 total senators who have been expelled in U.S. history, 14 were during the Civil War era. So, it doesn't happen. It doesn't happen easily. And when you think of two thirds, that would require all the Republicans and handful of Democrats to also do it, 67 votes. And that's very hard. And so, there is a reason why it hasn't been done in a century and a half.

BALDWIN: Civil War era. Joan, stand by. Mark Preston, let me bring you in for this piece of the conversation. Because we've also now heard the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now said he has talked to President Trump. Right. We know the president's in route home from Asia. And said, just quoting leader McConnell, we will have, quote, further discussions when the president returns on Roy Moore. Further discussions what do you think that means?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, couple of things. Let me just add to that too. He said he spoke to vice president, Mike Pence and also spoke to White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly. What we are seeing now is the United States Senate is trying to draw the White House into this to help provide cover for them. And also support as they try to get Roy Moore out of this race. Now, when you look at this politically we understand the Republican establishment and likes of Mitch McConnell are not beloved down in Alabama. We understand that. But you know who is well-liked down there, Donald Trump. I understand that Donald Trump didn't support Roy Moore in the primary, but the bottom line is Donald Trump still has support in that state. What they are trying to do --

BALDWIN: So, he's the one who says, Mark Preston, if it's the president who says, sir, you need to bow out, you think that's what it's going to take?

[15:45:00] PRESTON: Well, no. Because I don't think Roy Moore is going to get out himself. What we could see happen is we could see pressure put on the Republican state committee down in Alabama to withdraw his name as the nominee for the party.

BALDWIN: Got you.

PRESTON: Now as Joan was talking though, if this gets to the United States Senate, can you imagine the United States Senate for everything that everybody has said, that they think one of their members has actually engaged in sexual harassment of young women and sexual abuse that they would allow them to sit next to them in the Senate chamber, that would be amazing and awful site for our nation?

BALDWIN: I have said this on the show before, but can you imagine train left the station months ago. We are going to leave it Mark and Joan, thank you so much.

We've got some more breaking news. What we just learned about the Senate Republican tax bill and plans to include a repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate. Right now, upon learning this Democrats are livid and now a Republicans coming forth saying she's kind of concerned. We'll have more on that next.


BALDWIN: Got some breaking news for you from Capitol Hill. Republican aides say Republican lawmakers have just added a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate now to this whole new senate tax bill. So why did this happen? Phil Mattingly, let's go to you, congressional correspondent there on Capitol Hill, who saw how Obamacare went or didn't this year. Why do this?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, poorly would probably be the best way to describe it or the nicest way to describe it. Revenue. That's the primary issue, Brooke. No question about it, Republicans are opposed to the individual mandate. Opposed to Obamacare altogether. But Republican leaders despite President Trump calling for this, despite several rank and file members of the U.S. Senate calling for this, have been very wary of including this in the tax proposal for one primary reason, what happened to health care reform. They don't want a repeat of that. They don't want to co- mingle two things.

Particularly because in their view right now the tax reform process, it's already moving through the house. It's moving through the senate committees right now. Has actually been going very well. There was only one way this was going to be added to the bill, that's if they needed money. We've gone through this a couple of times, Brooke, but I'll do it quickly again. Why this actually adds money. According to the CBO this will be about $338 billion in deficit savings over a decade. Why is that? Well, fewer people will enroll in Obamacare exchanges and therefore the government will save money on subsidies. Also, fewer people will enroll in Medicaid. So, the government would save money there, $338 billion total.

Why is that important? Two primary reasons, one they believe in order to kind of shore up the support from their own Republican members. Doing things related to middle class tax cuts, making sure taxes don't rise toward the end of a 10-year cycle or they could make corporate cuts more permanent, things like that. They need money for it. Even more importantly, the budget rules that will allow them to pass this on a simple majority vote requires them to have more money. This was not something they wanted to do. I can't stress that enough. This is something that Republican leaders have been very wary of. But it's something that they have decided and made the calculation they have to do to move this bill forward, Brooke.

Obviously, the president supports it. Rank and files up until this point supports it. The big question now is, can they keep from happening to tax what happened to health care now that they're including health care into this? Because the bottom line number you're going to hear about repeatedly in the days and weeks potentially months ahead, CBO also calculates that because of the repeal of the individual mandate, 13 million fewer people will have health insurance. That's what they're worried about. That's the headline they don't want. But that's what they're going to have to deal with now they've decided to make this play -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I get it. Revenue. We are already hearing those Senator Susan Collins . She's already concerned. Might Moore, you know chime in? That's the concern for these rank and file so far. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for the update on all things tax reform.

Let's get to some encouraging news, though, from Capitol Hill here from speaker, Paul Ryan, moments ago announcing That the House will now require training to prevent sexual harassment and discrimination. This just happened as two female lawmakers have accused two sitting members of Congress, both men, of harassment.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now who serve. Who have been subject to review or not have been subject to review, but have engaged in sexual harassment.

These harasser propositions such as, are you going to be a good girl? To perpetrators exposing their genitals. To victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor. All they ask in return as staff members is to be able to work in a hostile-free work environment. They want the system fixed and the perpetrators held accountable.

REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R), VIRGINIA: Somebody who I trust told me the situation. This member asked a staffer to bring them over some materials to their residence and the young staffer is a young woman went there and was greeted with a member in a towel. It was a male. Who then invited her in. At that point, he decided to expose himself. She left and then she quit her job. She left. She found another job. But that kind of situation, what do you -- you know, what are we doing here for women right now who are dealing with somebody like that?


BALDWIN: Let me bring in several incredible fellow CNN ladies who have been working hard on reporting on this important issue from Capitol Hill. CNN national politics reporter MJ Lee. You were in that hearing. Juana Summers is a senior writer for CNN politics. CNN correspondent. Sarah Ganim.

[15:55:00] And we should also give a shout out to Sunlen Serfaty, who is not here. But the four of you who put this incredible piece together for Where you interview 50 people, you know, current, former, Hill, staffers, aides, et cetera, on their stories and what hasn't been done. But, MJ, first to you. Just hearing from Congresswoman Speier about these two current members of Congress accused of sexual harassment. What more do we know about that?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Brooke, this was a really stunning hearing. I think, first of all, the fact that this hearing even happened is pretty significant. It's sort of this recognition on Capitol Hill right now that this is a serious problem in both the House and the Senate. And members are interested in having a discussion about how these antiquated policies can be changed. And then the stories that Congresswoman Speier and Comstock told of various stories they've heard about sexual harassment on the Hill. They were pretty jaw-dropping.

And if I could -- I know you played sound of Congresswoman Speier and her telling of the story, but I think it's worth repeating that some of the stories that she's heard about have involved harassers exposing their genitals and also victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor.

BALDWIN: Unbelievable.

LEE: I want to take a moment to let that sink in. I mean, I'm just a couple of steps away from the House floor right now. We are talking about some of the most grotesque and horrible behavior reportedly taking part on the House floor, in this room where members of congress, elected officials, do their business and take their votes. So, really stunning about these stories are now starting to come out. I will note, though, these members are so far not named. A lot of folks who spoke to us for this story, they're very hesitant to go there. They don't want to face the potential repercussions of naming these members by name. And that goes for female lawmakers as well, the ones who have shared their stories say they don't feel like they can go forward and name some of these male congressmen who are their colleagues.

BALDWIN: The stories coming out. Juana, to you. I mean, the piece in the article where you all talk about some of the stories just even from these member-only elevators. Right, if you're a member of Congress you can hop in the elevator and is part of these unwritten rules you ladies write about -- about if you are a lady by yourself, don't get in one. Tell me why?

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: Absolutely, we heard from a number of women who said that when those elevator doors close and it's them alone with a male member of Congress, a male superior on the Hill. There has been indecent behavior, groping, inappropriate hand gestures, inappropriate language. We spoke to one woman who said years later, she's been off the Hills for years, she still doesn't like to get in elevators with men. Think it's important to point out that as reporters when we're gathering, talking to lawmakers, these are things that we're seeing firsthand, too. And this is something that came up to us time and time again is that a number of these women say they try to steer clear of these elevators. But then again, that leads to a really important question, how does that impact the access these women have? If they're aides who are looking to climb on Capitol Hill if they can't be alone with these men who hold position office power? How can they climb and become more successful on the Hill and rising to you these jobs like being chiefs of staff and being lawmakers themselves one day? It's something I certainly found very troubling during the course of our reporting -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Explain this to me. I wish I had so much more time. I've got two more minutes. Sara Ganim, here's this to you. You think about sexual harassment in Hollywood and you think of Harvey Weinstein, and the Kevin Spacey and the Louis C.K. and the consequences they are already facing. Why is it not the same in politics?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we really did see that. But we heard time and time again from people that they did not believe that there would be thought there would be some watershed moment that was imminent on the Hill as we've seen in the entertainment industry and in the media industry. A lot of this is about the power dynamic of Capitol Hill. You have very young staffers working directly for very powerful men. That was something that I heard repeatedly. That it's a very insular place. So, if you move on or complain and then you become labeled a complainer, you're less likely to get another job working for someone else on Capitol Hill, or even in politics in Washington.

You know, one of the things that we heard, MJ and I and many of us, that there is sort of like an informal list of people to stay away from. And this is not something we just heard from women, it's something we heard from men, too, on the Hill. They know who the so- called creeps are and not only do the women stay away from them but also the men try to keep women protected from them. I mean, think about that for a second. The fact that everybody sort of knows who these people are, that the same names kept coming up over and over and over again. Yet you really don't see people stepping forward saying that they want to do something about this publicly -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: This hallowed ground, and it makes you wonder how many years this all goes back, the unwritten rules, the creep list, and finally men and women strong enough to speak out. Ladies, I thank you so much for your reporting. Please check it out on and thank you all so much for being with me. We're going to continue this discussion tomorrow, I can promise you that. In the meantime, I'm going to send it to Washington. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" starts now.