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Can Roy Moore Survive?; Sessions Weighs Clinton Inquiry; Don Jr. Confirms WikiLeaks Communication. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 14, 2017 - 04:00   ET



[04:00:13] SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There are a number of options that are being considered, but he should not be a United States senator.

REPORTER: Whatever means --

MCCAIN: Whatever it requires.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Dozens of Republican lawmakers now say Roy Moore needs to bow out of the Alabama Senate race. But with support in Alabama largely holding, will Moore quit?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: And the attorney general now asking for federal prosecutors to look into a special counsel on the Clinton Foundation. Is it only to appease the president's frustration of the lack against the Clintons?

ROMANS: The president's son admits he communicated privately with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. It came just days before the site released e-mails stolen from the Clinton campaign chairman.

A lot going on this morning, folks. Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

MARQUARDT: And I'm Alex Marquardt. It is Tuesday, November 14th. It's 4:00 in the East.

The number of Republican lawmakers abandoning Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is growing almost by the hour, in the wake of new allegations that he sexually assaulted a minor decades ago. Questions are now being raced about whether Moore would be allowed to serve, assuming he wins that seat. That's still a distinct possibility given Moore's support from many Alabama voters and officials.

ROMANS: More than a dozen GOP senators are calling for Moore to pull out of the race. Cory Gardner, chairman of the Senate Republican campaign Committee, one of the first to say the Senate should expel Moore should he win the special election four weeks from today. That would require a two thirds majority and has not been done in 155 years.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also among those calling for Moore to drop out.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think he should step aside.

REPORTER: Do you believe these allegations to be true?

MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.


MARQUARDT: GOP Senator Jeff Flake, who's retiring at the end of his term, went so far to say that, quote, if the choices between Roy Moore and a Democrat, a Democrat no doubt.

An even greater number of Republican senators are saying Roy Moore should exit the race if the allegations are proven true. That, of course, would be difficult. But senators are less clear on what to do if Moore stays in and wins.

ROMANS: One idea is to -- is a write-in campaign for Luther Strange who currently holds the seat but lost the primary. But Strange calls the idea highly unlikely.

Roy Moore himself adamantly denies these latest allegations.


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.


MARQUARDT: That woman is Beverly Nelson. She says that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was just 16 years old. Nelson said Moore offered her a ride home one night but instead parked behind the restaurant where she worked and began to grope her. Then she said Moore locked the car door.


BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: He began squeezing my next, 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.


ROMANS: Nelson says she would be willing to testify under oath. For claim Moore used force, if true, would amount to felony sexual abuse, but the statute of limitations has long passed.

Today, a House committee is holding a hearing on preventing sexual harassment in the congressional workplace. Among those who set to testify is Alabama GOP Congressman Bradley Byrne, who is backing Roy Moore in the race.

MARQUARDT: Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is directing federal prosecutors to evaluate any alleged ties between the Clinton Foundation and the sale of Canadian uranium company to Russia. House Republicans are already investigating the 2010 deal which took place while Clinton was secretary of state. Some Republicans including the president alleged that Russia sought to donate to the Clinton Foundation to persuade Mrs. Clinton to support the transaction.

ROMANS: Senior prosecutors will make recommendations to the attorney general about the potential need for a special prosecutor. Sessions' decision comes despite saying this at his conformation hearing in January.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Do you intend to recuse yourself from both the Clinton e-mail investigation and any matters involving the Clinton Foundation if there are any?



ROMANS: Critics have expressed concern about the Justice Department's independence after President Trump bemoaned his inability to direct the department to investigate his opponents, including Clinton.

MARQUARDT: And Donald Trump Jr. now confirming that he had exchanges with the WikiLeaks Twitter account via private direct messages during the 2016.

[04:05:02] Trump Jr. tweeted out the exchanges shortly after "The Atlantic" first reported them. He wrote, quote: Here is the entire chain of messages with @WikiLeaks with my whopping three responses.

ROMANS: The timing of WikiLeaks messages is notable. Trump Jr. responded to two of them. In one, WikiLeaks urges Trump Jr. to push a right wing website's story about Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. replied, he already has and inquired about an upcoming leak. Days later, WikiLeaks starts releasing Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e- mails stolen by Russian hackers.

MARQUARDT: And just days after that, President Trump tweets urging his followers to read about Clinton's disgraceful behavior as exposed by WikiLeaks. A source familiar with the matter tells CNN that Trump Jr. was briefly asked about the exchanges during a closed door interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.

More now from CNN's Jessica Schneider in Washington.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Alex, messages turned over to Congress, they show that WikiLeaks actively solicited Donald Jr. beginning in September 2016. That was two months before the election, and that correspondence, it continued through this past July. That's all according to a report in "The Atlantic".

Now, the messaging began on September 21st, 2016. That's when WikiLeaks contacted Donald Trump Jr. via direct message on Twitter, alerting him to an anti-Trump Website.

Now, Donald Trump Jr. did respond, saying he'd ask around about the source of that Website and then he e-mailed top campaign officials, including Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.

Now, "The Atlantic" does note that despite that initial correspondence, the correspondence in general between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump Jr., it was mostly one-sided. In fact, Trump Jr. frequently ignored these messages. However, he did show particular interest on October 3rd, 2016, when he wrote to WikiLeaks asking about what was behind word of an impending WikiLeaks release that other people were tweeting about, including Roger Stone.

Well, then, of course, it was just days later that WikiLeaks did begin publishing Hillary Clinton campaign John Podesta's hacked e-mails. And it was right on that same day that the American intelligence community issued a statement saying the publishing of hacked was consistent with Russia efforts.

Now, Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer, he is downplaying these reports, and he's really questioning how these messages that were even given over to Congress between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump, how they were even given to the press in the first place -- Alex and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that.

Now, the president cheerleading America's trade success as he returns from his tour of Asia, tweeting that all countries dealing with us on trade know that the rules have changed. The United States has to be treated fairly and in a reciprocal fashion. Well, the rules have changed. That's because other countries are still making trade deals, only now it is without U.S. leadership.

President Trump yanked the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership back in January, sinking the world's biggest free trade deal. Then, over the weekend, the 11 remaining nations forged ahead on the framework for a new deal that does not include the United States, including major allies like Japan, Canada and Mexico, providing -- approving U.S. allies will negotiate their own minus the U.S. and might not want the one-on-one deals President Trump favors. If U.S. companies start losing business in TPP countries, President Trump could face pressure to join this new deal, leaving America to play catch-up. In fact, some analysts view the U.S. sitting out global trade deals as an abdication of power, opening the door to China to fill that vacuum.

MARQUARDT: Now, there's a lot waiting on the president's plate when he returns to Washington. He's en route home right now following more than a week in Asia. He promising a major announcement later this week, but for the moment, he says he wants to give White House reporters a bit of a break.

CNN's Sara Murray is live in Manila with more on the president's final days overseas.

Good morning, Sara.


That's right. As the president left, he cracked a joke about how the press must be exhausted and to be sure, it was a grueling trip, nearly two weeks as the president visited five countries in Asia. Now, as he departed, he teased a big announcement would be coming up as he returned home. He's previously said he would make an announcement on trade. But sources tell us that he also wants to make a primetime address. He's trying to get this to come together, in which he sort of stitches together what happened as he moved across this various Asian capitals, as he spoke to other leaders about national security as well as about trade.

And that is certainly no surprise that President would want to carry this message back with him on U.S. soil. Aides feel like this trip has gone very well for him and they're a little bit concerned that maybe that message has not made it all the way across to see on to U.S. territory. And it's certainly a very different vibe for the president here in Asia than it is back in the U.S., whereas back in the U.S., he is dogged by continued headlines about the Russia investigation as well as continued turmoil in the Republican Party about what to do with that Alabama Senate seat.

[04:10:07] That could not have been further from his mind as he was here on this foreign trip. Leaders literally rolled out the ret carpet. There was pomp, there was circumstance. Everyone wanted to try to impress the American president. No doubt, he wants to bring some of that feeling back with him on U.S. soil when he returns -- Alex.

MARQUARDT: And he seemed to be impressed, tweeting out a series of thanks to the various countries that showed him the red carpet.

Our thanks to Sara Murray right there in Manila.

ROMANS: All right. President Trump's authority to launch nuclear weapons up for debate at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today. That authority suddenly coming into question as U.S. allies and lawmakers grow increasingly anxious about the president's temperament. Sources tell one NATO partner recently raised concerns about Mr. Trump's command of the U.S. launch system. A diplomatic source from that country say officials there are now more comfortable following a briefing on the matter.

MARQUARDT: Clear your heads, that's what the judge told the jury in the corruption case of New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. They can't reach a verdict but the judge isn't releasing the jury just yet. A report from New Jersey, next.


MARQUARDT: Welcome back.

Jurors are considering criminal corruption charges against New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, telling the judge they are deadlocked, but deliberations will continue. The judge Monday ordered the seven-woman five-man jury to return. This morning, they struggle to reach unanimous decision on any of the charges, could signal potential mistrial ahead which would not be a complete surprise.

We get more from CNN's Laura Jarrett.


LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, good morning, Christine and Alex.

The message from the judge to the jury was a simple one: keep on going. Now, after several hours of deliberations, the jury said that it was stuck. It asked the judge what it should do, and the judge said, clear your head, try again.

So, today, we will see if they can reach a unanimous verdict, but we had a little bit of a preview that this could happen last week when one of the jurors that was excused for a previously planned vacation told us about the splits in the room, described the situation where the jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on any of the 12 counts that Senator Menendez is now facing. And the question is, what happens now?

If they come back and they say that they are still deadlocked, still unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge could instruct them to still keep going, to still try to reach unanimous verdict, or he could officially declare a full mistrial, in which the case the Justice Department would decide whether to try to pursue the charges once again and do this case all over again -- Christine, Alex.


ROMANS: All right. Laura Jarrett, thank you so much for that.

President Trump's choice for a federal district judge in Alabama coming under fire for not disclosing on a set of questionnaire. His wife's job is a senior White House lawyer. The nominee Brett Talley is married to Ann Donaldson, chief of staff to the White House counsel. Senator Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, says the full Senate should not consider the nomination until Talley explains why he failed to disclose this potential conflict of interest.

The Judiciary Committee advanced the Talley nomination on a party line vote last week. A full Senate vote is expected soon.

MARQUARDT: And nearly half of all Americans now have high blood pressure, after a group of leading health experts redefined the standards. New guideline for what they could mean for you, coming up next.


[04:21:53] ROMANS: Welcome back.

Twenty-one minutes past the hour.

Officials in Iran announcing overnight that rescue operations are almost over after that powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck on the Iran/Iraq border Sunday. Authorities say relief operations could take months. Right now, the death toll stands at 452 people. More than 7,100 others are injured. The officials are now asking for blood donors.

MARQUARDT: This earthquake is now the deadliest of years, surpassing the one that hit Mexico City in September, and it was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. In Iraq, authorities issued a warning on state TV, urging citizens to stay away from buildings and warning them against using elevators.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, an angry protest in Baton Rouge after a fatal officer involved shooting. Louisiana state police say a Baton Rouge officer was escorting a case worker from the Department of Children and Family Services when some kind of struggle broke out. The identity of the shooting victim and police officer have not been released.

We're told the officer sustained a minor injury and was wearing a body camera. A large crowd gathering near the shooting scene, claiming the victim was handcuffed when the officer shot him. Police denied that.

MARQUARDT: Demonstrators gathering outside Philadelphia's criminal justice center last night, demanding the release of rapper Meek Mill. The crowd, including celebrities and professional athletes, calling for Judge Janice Brinkley to recuse herself from the case after sentencing Mill to two to four years last week for alleged probation violations. Judge Brinkley has overseen the rapper's legal troubles throughout the years, following a 2008 drug and weapons case. Protesters claim the judge has thrown extreme bias towards Mill and the lawyers for the rapper plan to file a complaint with the courts later this morning.

ROMANS: All right. Nearly half of all Americans, 46 percent, now fall into the high blood pressure category based on new guidelines released Monday. According to the American Heart Association, the American college of cardiology, and nine other health organizations, high blood pressure should now be treated at 130 over 80 instead of 140 over 90. That means 50 percent of adult men and 38 percent of adult women in the U.S. fall into the high blood pressure category.

Doctors say medication can often be avoided with a few lifestyle changes, like exercising, reducing salt, and adding potassium rich fruits and vegetables to your diet. MARQUARDT: And new charges filed against members of the Beta Theta

Phi fraternity at Penn State following the death of a 19-year-old pledge. Prosecutors citing newly recovered videos say Timothy Piazza was served at least 18 drinks in a span of less than 90 minutes during a frat house event in February. Later that night, the young man fell down a flight of steps and sustained injuries that led to his death. According to the district attorney, members of the fraternity initially told police that basement cameras are at the scene were not working, but then officers uncovered evidence that the footage had actually been manually deleted. FBI agents were then able to retrieve it.

ROMANS: The story is so frightening.

MARQUARDT: Horrific.

ROMANS: All right. Italy will not be participating in next year's World Cup in Russia. The last time the Italian failed to qualify was 1958.

[04:25:02] Their fate sealed when they were held to a scoreless tie by Sweden in Milan.

MARQUARDT: The four-time World Cup champions not the only big name to sputter. The Netherlands, Chile and the United States are all failing to reach the finals.

Now, we are monitoring a trio of big stories this morning. The president's Justice Department will consider and special counsel to look into the Clinton Foundation, the president's son communicated with WikiLeaks just days before the Clinton campaign chair had his e- mails released, and Roy Moore losing nearly all of his support in Washington. But will it matter when Alabama voters have their say?



MCCAIN: There are a number of options that are being considered, but he should not be a United States senator.

REPORTER: Whatever means --

MCCAIN: Whatever it requires.