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Trump Nominating Unqualified Judges to Lifetime Appointments?; Interview With California Congresswoman Jackie Speier; GOP Senator Opposes Republican Tax Plan; Roy Moore Reportedly Staying in Senate Race; Roy Moore's Campaign Pushes Back Against Allegations; GOP's Johnson Opposes Tax Plan with Obamacare Mandate Repeal. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 15, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news tonight: Roy Moore's campaign is pushing back against allegations of sexual abuse leveled against the U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama.
Campaign officials making a new demand just a little while ago accuser Beverly Young Nelson turn over the yearbook she says Moore signed before he allegedly assaulted her when she was just 16 years old.
They're seeking a handwriting analysis. Moore and his supporters are increasingly defiant, possibly desperate, as more top Republicans abandon his candidacy, urging him to drop out of the race.
Also breaking, President Trump is refusing to break his silence about Moore, avoiding reporters' questions after remarks about his trip to Asia. A source close to the White House tells CNN that Mr. Trump would prefer that Moore drop out of the race. We're told that the president is worried if he weighs in on Moore, the conversation will turn to the women who have accused Mr. Trump of sexual misconduct.
Also breaking, the first Republican senator declares his opposition to his party's newly revised tax bill. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin saying he believes the bill unfairly favors big corporations. This as Democrats argue the legislation would hurt middle-class taxpayers.
Senate Republican leaders changed the plan overnight, so it now includes a repeal of the Obamacare individual health insurance mandate. The bill also now sets a 2025 expiration date for individual tax cuts to expire, but cuts for corporations would be permanent.
This hour, I will talk to Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
First, let's go to our senior national correspondent, Kyung Lah. She's in Alabama for us, where we just heard from the Roy Moore campaign a little while ago.
Kyung, update our viewers. KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have heard forceful
denials from the campaign before, these accusations that have been plaguing this campaign since last week. But now it's taking another step.
There's going to be a battle over this yearbook, this yearbook from the 70s, and the campaign saying, disputing that handwriting in that yearbook. Here is a bit of what the attorney for Roy Moore said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP JAUREGUI, ATTORNEY FOR ROY MOORE: We have also had a handwriting expert looking at the evidence that was submitted. You may remember on Monday Ms. Nelson and Ms. Allred, in support -- really the only piece of evidence they had in addition to the allegations was a yearbook where they claimed that it had been signed.
And they said very specifically -- look back at what they said. Everything on that page they said was written by Judge Moore. Now, Judge Moore not only has denied everything she said before, but now flatly denies that. And he says it's not true. We have a handwriting expert, pardon me, that's looking at those.
But here is the problem. A handwriting expert can't look at a copy on the Internet, right? They have got to look at an original. So right now, Trent Garmon, our attorney, has sent a letter or is sending a letter to Gloria Allred demanding that the yearbook be released.
We will send it to a neutral custodian who will keep chain of custody and our professional will expert it. And we will find out, is it genuine or is it a fraud?
There are a couple things also that you need to know. I'm not going to go into everything that's on that paper, because, again, we need to have our handwriting expert draw some conclusions. I'm not going to draw them today and I'm not going to make any allegations that we can't support with an expert.
There are a couple things that you need to look at. Look at the 1977 after merry Christmas. Look at those sevens. And then look below at the 77. And I want to ask you, do you think it was written by the same person?
I want you to look at Old Hickory House, which they say Judge Moore wrote. Judge Moore said there's no way in the world that's his handwriting. And I want you to look at it. Look at some other writing of his and make your own determination. That's what our expert will be doing.
But for now, I'm asking you all to take a look at. Use your judgment. And then, finally, after Judge Moore's signature, it has the initials D.A.
Remember, I told you about that '99 divorce action. Judge Moore looked at that D.A. after his signature, which they allege was because he was the district attorney. Well, he wasn't. He was the assistant district attorney.
But Judge Moore says he can't ever remember ever signing his name with D.A. after it, but he had seen it before. You know where he had seen it? When he was on the bench, his assistant, whose initials are D.A. period, Delbert Adams, would stamp his signature on documents and then put captain D.A.
That's exactly how the signature appears on the divorce decree that Judge Moore signed dismissing the divorce action with Ms. Nelson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: OK, but all of this now raises a lot of questions in this very unconventional news conference.
The judge had shortly after the news conference from that accuser, Beverly Nelson, he said he didn't know her, but he was actually the presiding judge over her attorney. It's unclear at this point if they ever met face-to-face in that divorce case.
They also did not take any questions, specifically not answering any questions about the 14-year-old who spoke to "The Washington Post," the woman who was then 14 years old and came up with the allegations. So all of this, Wolf, we're wondering how this will play out with the voters.
I can tell you in my travels around the state a lot of the people who support Roy Moore have said that they want more evidence. They just want more. They want reason to go out and vote for Roy Moore. This may play into that hunger on December 12 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up. Kyung Lah in Alabama for us, thanks very much.
And now to President Trump and his silence on the Roy Moore problem that's dogging the Republican Party.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, we heard from the president at length about his Asia trip, but nothing on Moore.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf.
We did not. And, as you know, the president is the leader of the Republican Party, but on this matter that's consuming the GOP, he's doing something he rarely does, he's being silent about it.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump weighed in on most everything today, except the elephant in the room, Roy Moore, Alabama's politically radioactive Senate candidate. As Republican Party leaders stew over Moore and implications for
control of the Senate, the president is taking a wait and see approach. In the diplomatic reception room at the White House, the president did not talk about Moore, preferring to talk at length about his 13-day trip to Asia.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America's renewed confidence and standing in the world has never been stronger than it is right now.
ZELENY: He stopped twice during his remarks, thirsty for a sip of water.
TRUMP: Can I have water? That's OK? What? It's OK.
ZELENY: Instantly drawing comparisons to Senator Marco Rubio's infamous water gulp from 2013, a moment that then candidate Trump delighted in resurrecting on the campaign trail.
TRUMP: When they put Marco on to refute President Obama's speech, do you remember that catastrophe? And he's like this and we will -- I need water. Help me. I need water. Help. And he's -- this is on live television. This total choke artist, it's Rubio.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ZELENY: In Asia, the president said he would make a major trade announcement when he returned to the White House. He recounted his trip day by day, but made no such announcement and he did not answer a question about Moore.
QUESTION: Should Roy Moore resign, Mr. President?
ZELENY: Republicans implored the president to weigh in and address the crisis facing the party.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He's the head of the party. Yes, it would be probably be good if he would say something.
ZELENY: After returning to the White House late Tuesday from Asia, the president instead returned to Twitter, taking aim at some of his favorite old targets in the news media.
"It is actually hard to believe how naive or dumb the failing 'New York Times' when it comes to foreign policy. Weak and ineffective," the president wrote on Twitter.
Never mind that presidents, not newspapers, set foreign policy. But the flurry of tweets was a deflection from the central question in Washington. Will Republicans be able to push Moore aside? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke to Trump again today about removing Moore in hopes of keeping the seat in Republican hands.
One option is putting forward Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a write-in candidate. The former Alabama senator gave up his seat to join the Trump administration. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: He's totally well-known
and extremely popular in Alabama. That obviously is -- would be a big move for him and for the president.
ZELENY: The president did not address the Sessions scenario, but aides say he is watching as leading conservatives add their voices to the controversy.
Sean Hannity, who talks to the president frequently, did just that on FOX News.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: For me, the judge has 24 hours. You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed. You must remove any doubt.
If he can't do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.
ZELENY: Also on the president's mind today, seeking credit for the release of three UCLA basketball players who returned to the U.S. after being arrested in China for allegedly stealing sunglasses. Mr. Trump intervened with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say, thank you, President Trump?" he wrote. "They were headed for 10 years in jail."
But at a news conference in Los Angeles today, all three players did just that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would also like to thank President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And thank you to the United States government and President Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf.
ZELENY: Now, back to the Alabama Senate race, I am told by one person close to this White House that a reason that the president is not weighing in on this, because he is reluctant to have this conversation become about from his own allegations from his past about his own conduct with women.
Of course, that was a hallmark of his presidential campaign. He's faced lawsuits as well. Wolf, he simply does not want that to become the focus of this, but other Republicans we have talked to said he hopes the president stands up and tells Judge Moore to step aside.
So far today, no indications that will happen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's talk about all of this and more with Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She's a Democrat on the Intelligence and Armed Services Committee.
Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, as you know, many Republicans, they are waiting for President Trump to address the allegations against Roy Moore. How much influence should the president have in deciding the future of the Alabama Senate race?
SPEIER: Well, he's the chairman of the Republican Party, for all intents and purposes, so he certainly can weigh in.
And I would suggest that the reason why he's not is what you have just discussed, that it's -- his hands are too close to the fire himself. So it's -- Roy Moore should not be a U.S. senator. There's no question about it.
BLITZER: If Roy Moore refuses to drop out of the race, actually goes on to win on December 12, what response would you hope to see from Senate Republicans?
SPEIER: I think Senate Republicans would probably expel him from the Senate, and that's what they should do.
BLITZER: Right away?
BLITZER: All right. Let's get to another sensitive issue.
Yesterday, we heard a sickening story of a U.S. congressman who had a female staffer come to his house, where he exposed himself. He's one of two members of Congress, one Republican, one Democrat, who are still serving despite harassment allegations.
You have made some of these charges. Why didn't you name these two alleged harassers in your hearing yesterday?
SPEIER: The reason, Wolf, is because we are trying to change the system so it's there to protect the victims.
The victims in this case do not want the individuals named. One of them is actually under a do-not-disclose and as a result she would not be in a position to talk about it in any case. So I am not about to talk about it.
If there are victims in these offices, then they should come to me and I will take them by the hand and walk them to the Office of Compliance and make sure they get the services and the protection they need.
BLITZER: But, basically, all we know right now is the allegation you delivered and the allegation Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, a Republican from Virginia, delivered, is that right?
SPEIER: Well, we do know that there are many other cases historically. These are two that are current.
And that is, you know, something that will be addressed in this legislation, so, moving forward, the member would be identified and the member would be required to pay back the U.S. Treasury for any settlement.
BLITZER: If taxpayer money was spent to settle with the victims in these two particular cases, shouldn't taxpayers know the names of these two men?
SPEIER: Well, the taxpayers should be reimbursed. And moving forward with this legislation, that will be the case.
Right now, there are -- as a result of 20 years of cases, there are some 260 cases, not all sexual harassment. Some of them are racial discrimination and disability discrimination, but of those some 260 cases, there's been $15 million of taxpayer funds that have gone into settlements.
BLITZER: But shouldn't women applying to work in the offices of these two sitting congressmen be aware of these settlements?
SPEIER: Well, they should be aware, but under the contractual relationship that exists with a particular agreement, where you are not allowed to be able to speak about it, those victims would be victimized again, because whatever the settlement was could be taken away from them.
BLITZER: But are you concerned there could be more victims down the road?
SPEIER: Well, that's why I'm saying, if there is any concern, those staff members should come to me, and I will make sure that they are protected.
BLITZER: You just clarified the $15 million paid out by the Office of Compliance up on Capitol Hill from 1997 to 2016 it didn't all go for sexual harassment victims. Some of the money covered all types of other discrimination claims.
Are you committed, though, to figuring out exactly how much of that $15 million, taxpayer money, was paid out as a result of sexual harassment?
SPEIER: Well, I certainly want to know that.
Right now, the Office of Compliance has said that they cannot give me that number. So we are pursuing that to find out, because they certainly should have that number. And if they don't have it, we're going to find other sources to get it.
BLITZER: When Roy Moore down in Alabama served as a judge, he influenced decisions on cases involving sexual assault. We don't know what type of legislation the two men referenced in your
hearing yesterday have worked on, but should they be in that position at all?
SPEIER: I think what we have to do is change the culture of this office, of the Capitol.
And the only way we can change it is by education and training of both members and staff and make mandatory training and education a component. That's something that will happen now as part of legislation I had introduced and also the speaker of the House has now required that.
So, we will move forward with the intent of making it more transparent, making the process more victim-centered, and create an environment where people can work without being -- fear of having to operate in a hostile work environment.
BLITZER: Considering the waves of allegations we have seen in other industries, do you think these two sitting members of Congress who are accused of sexual harassment are just the tip of the iceberg?
SPEIER: Well, I will tell you that I have been stopped in the hallways of the Capitol over the last few days from women who have just thanked me and have told me other stories.
Some of these members have since left Congress, but some of those stories are really harrowing. And it's an environment, unfortunately, that has allowed it to fester. And the system has been one that has been complicit in it, frankly, because there was no way that the harasser would be identified. The money wouldn't be picked up by the harasser, and the victim was -- really had to jump through many hoops in order to get some justice.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Speier, thanks so much for joining us.
SPEIER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just ahead: Can anyone persuade Roy Moore to quit the U.S. Senate race in Alabama? We will talk about the possible impact if President Trump were to break his silence and actually speak out.
And are Republicans rubber-stamping Mr. Trump's judicial nominees whether or not they're actually qualified?
BLITZER: We're back with breaking news, Roy Moore's campaign pushing back against allegations of sexual abuse and assault as President Trump pointedly avoids questions about whether Moore should quit the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. We will have much more on that coming up.
But right now, Democrats are also raising red flags about the president's judicial nominees. They say Republicans are rushing to rubber-stamp Mr. Trump's choices, including some who are controversial and have not been rated -- and have been rated, I should say, not qualified by the American Bar Association.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider. She's following this story for us.
Jessica, the president is clearly leaving his mark on the federal judiciary.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is, Wolf. President Trump is advancing his picks for the federal judiciary at a rapid rate. Consider this.
The president has already seen eight of his appellate judges approved and six new nominations for federal and appellate judges are being heard just this week. Now, you compare that with President Obama. At this point in his presidency, only two appellate judges were confirmed.
Now Democrats are questioning the speed of these nominations and they're pointing to the controversies swirling around several of the picks.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Damien Schiff is a right-wing blogger who referred to Justice Anthony Kennedy as a judicial prostitute in 2007 and wrote that Medicare and Social Security were unconstitutional.
President Trump has nominated him to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
John Bush has penned hundreds of political blogs under a pseudonym deriding President Obama and disparaging gay rights. He has already been confirmed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Brett Talley failed to disclose that his wife is a White House lawyer and recently took down a prolific social media platform where he called on Hillary "Rotten" Clinton to be locked up. He has also never tried a case. Talley is nominated for the federal bench in Alabama.
Now Democrats are expressing frustration and exasperation about the picks and the process.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: There's a point at which this whole process becomes just a joke of ramming people through.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I think this kind of rush to rubber- stamp President Trump's nominees, many of whom have been extreme, even whom objectively unqualified, diminishes the Senate's constitutional duty.
SCHNEIDER: Most of the president's 62 nominees aren't as controversial. Of those, 46 have been rated well-qualified or qualified by the American Bar Association, the legal group tasked with evaluating nominees since 1953. Four of President Trump's picks are rated not qualified, including
Brett Talley. None of President Obama's picks received a not qualified rating, but experts warn that's largely because Obama waited for the ratings to come out before he nominated, while President Trump has not.
Leonard Leo is advising the president on the nominees.
LEONARD LEO, TRUMP ADVISER: I think in the case of President Trump's nominees, and several have been mentioned, Brett Talley, John Bush, a few others, these are people who certainly had very strong views and certainly expressed them as citizens, as many citizens do, but they have also shown in their careers tremendous integrity, honesty and humility.
SCHNEIDER: The president has seized on his chance to shape a lasting legacy, many with lifetime appointments, young conservative judges across the country who hear important federal cases, the majority of which never get to the Supreme Court.
TRUMP: So I looked at some of these numbers. Between the judges and I want to say that we will set records in terms of the number of judges.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: When the history books are written about the Trump administration, I believe perhaps the most long-lasting and significant legacy will be the men and women appointed and confirmed to the federal bench.
SCHNEIDER: Critics, though, are also appointing to the lack of diversity in the president's picks.
In fact, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond told Attorney General Jeff Sessions at a hearing yesterday that his research shows 91 percent of the administration's judicial nominees are white men -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting.
And joining us now, the former U.S. attorney CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara.
Thanks so much, Preet, for joining us.
You heard the details about some of these nominees. Sounds like some of them should be disqualifying, those details. What do you think?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, in fact, there's a process by which the American Bar Association going back more than half-a-century, as the report indicated, rates the nominees. And they look at them in a nonpartisan way and judge them with respect
to their temperament and their qualifications and their experience. And with respect to I think at least two of the Trump nominees in just the first few months of this administration, there have been reports of two unanimously not qualified reports.
I'm not aware of that ever happening in the course of any other administration, and it certainly didn't happen during the Obama administration. And I'm not aware of anyone who was unanimously rated unqualified by the American Bar Association who has ever been confirmed.
So there's a lot of concern about what some of these people's views are. And there are some of them who, as the report indicated, have said kind of outrageous things, and that may or may not be disqualifying. You have to look at the whole record.
But when you have an independent, bipartisan group of people like the American Bar Association who takes a hard look -- and I used to go through this process because I helped to vet nominees when I worked in the United States Judiciary Committee. They really look hard and they're professionals who pay a lot of attention to the records of these people.
And for a unanimous recommendation of not qualified, that's something we don't see a lot of.
BLITZER: So how do you explain the Senate confirming some of these nominees?
BHARARA: Well, Senate confirmation, like anything else that happens is a political body, is a political exercise.
And we would have said three years ago that it would be unheard of for a nominee of a president to languish for an hour -- for a year -- not an hour -- for a year before being considered for the Supreme Court, and that happened with Merrick Garland, who was Barack Obama's nominee to the court.
And then Neil Gorsuch came in and he became confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. I think it's a function of the general tendency of people within a party to support the nominees of their president. There have been some aberrations from that.
Just like week, not in the context of a Supreme Court nomination, but you had John McCain oppose the nomination of Steven Bradbury to a very important position to the Department of Transportation. It happens from time to time, but it usually takes a maverick to decide to oppose a nominee of the president.
But generally speaking, these things end up being a party-line vote. And the responsibility to nominate well-qualified, honorable people with good records and the right credentials comes from the president.
BLITZER: But, as you know, these are also lifetime appointments. So what's the long-term impact as a result of this? BHARARA: Well, for each nominee who gets confirmed, it's a lifetime
impact for that person.
You know, some of the other -- I think there's an argument to be made that the Trump White House does not put qualification and expertise at the top of its list of reasons why to nominate somebody. Now, when that happens with respect to somebody at the Energy Department or another Cabinet position, those people will be gone, certainly by the end of the Trump administration, and, as we've seen, often before that.
These people that we're talking a , federal judges, who, under the Constitution, get life tenure, are going to be there for the rest of their lives. And because people are being nominated at a very young age, which is a strategy that both parties have used over time, the impact of someone who is not qualified or has well-out-of-the- mainstream views on the right or the left means that for decades to come, they're going to be deciding issues that most often don't get reviewed by any court higher than the district court and certainly not higher than the appellate court.
Very, very rarely the Supreme Court chimes in, but usually not. These are people who are going to be presiding over cases and controversies as the final arbiters of what happens. And it goes long, long, long beyond the legacy of a particular president's term.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions', testimony yesterday up on Capitol Hill.
Did his answers reflect what you would expect to hear from the nation's top law enforcement official?
[18:30:15] BHARARA: Well, you know, I saw some of the testimony. I've read about the testimony, and I think you would hope and expect a little bit of a better job of remembering things that happened; and you would hope for a little bit more consistency in the testimony being given about contacts with people from Russia from one hearing to another. I think there have been three or four now with Jeff Sessions.
So I think that falls below the mark.
But to the extent people are asking the question, which they like to, has the attorney general of the United States perjured himself or lied, I think it's not clear from the record, because some of the questions haven't been clear. The testimony has not been pinned down, and as any lawyer knows to the extent people say, "I don't recall, I don't remember," it's a very, very difficult thing to prove that that's false.
BLITZER: Preet Bharara, thanks as usual for joining us.
BLITZER: We've got more on the breaking news we're following right now. Campaign officials for the Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, the Republican, making a new demand just a little while ago. They want Moore's accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, to turn over the high school yearbook she says Moore signed before he allegedly assaulted her when she was just 16 years old. They're seeking a handwriting analysis.
Joining us on the phone right now is Gloria Allred. She's the attorney representing Beverly Young Nelson.
Gloria, thanks for joining us. So what's your response to Roy Moore's lawyers? Did you hear a denial of Beverly Nelson's claims or just serious questions as far as he is concerned about Roy Moore's handwriting?
GLORIA ALLRED, LAWYER FOR BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON (via phone): Well, I don't know what all of his concerns are, but I will say this, Wolf. Yesterday I e-mailed a letter to the chairs of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee and the United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics in which I formally requested that those committees conduct a hearing within the next two weeks regarding the accusations made by the five women who alleged that they were victims of Roy Moore when they were teenagers.
And my client, Beverly Young Nelson, volunteered and she volunteered on Monday at our press conference to testify under oath at a hearing before these committees regarding what she alleges Roy Moore did to her. And we also urged the committee to subpoena Roy Moore to testify under oath about his denials of the accusations that have been made against him.
So in the event that either or both committees agree to conduct our requested hearing, then we would agree to have the original yearbook examined by an independent expert or experts who would obtain exemplars of Mr. Moore's handwriting during the period in question and compare that handwriting to that which is contained in the yearbook.
And so the time has come for Roy Moore to announce whether he's willing to be examined under oath concerning his conduct with regard to the five accusers before the Senate committees. And we're looking forward to the Senate's response and to his response to that question.
BLITZER: Well, if the Senate doesn't do it, are you still prepared to let outside observers, experts look at the handwriting in that yearbook?
ALLRED: You know, we think that this should be done in a -- you know, in a professional setting. And this is what we have proposed. And we're not going to be distracted.
Is he or is he not going to stand up, take the oath and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help him God before the United States Senate and before the public? Not only in Alabama but before the nation. When he is ready to do it, if he's ready to do it, if the Senate will conduct that needed hearing prior to the election, then we have made our offer to allow an independent examiner to examine this. We think that's reasonable. But until then, if he wants to evade, avoid, deny, distract, threaten
to sue, try to smear, try to discredit, we're not going to allow ourselves to be distracted by all of that noise. Let him step up. Let him testify, and then everyone can draw their conclusion about who's telling the truth.
Why will he not answer that question? Our client's willing to testify under oath. Why doesn't he indicate that he's willing to do that and do that now, not after the election?
BLITZER: Moore's lawyer, Phillip Jauregui, says your client, Beverly Young Nelson, did not disclose that Judge Moore was the judge in her divorce case back in 1999. Did she appear before him or did he just sign some documents, because it appears they reconciled and actually didn't get a divorce?
ALLRED: Well, again, another attempt to distract from the question. Is he going to testify under oath or not? We're not going to be distracted. We know how it should be done. Obviously, it can't be done in a court of law because, you know, a lawsuit would have to be filed, and then it could take many years.
[18:35:15] ALLRED: And meanwhile, his credibility is at issue, and people can decide whether she's credible or not.
BLITZER: But Gloria, did she...
ALLRED: Why does she have to testify? Why won't he? Why does he keep raising these -- these other issues? She's never stated publicly whether -- you know, anything about the divorce. She's willing to answer all questions under oath. I think that's more than reasonable on her part. It's more than, apparently, Judge Moore is ready to do.
BLITZER: But did she know he was the divorce judge in that 1999 case? Because at the news conference the other day when you were there with her, she never mentioned that Judge Moore was, in fact, the judge in that divorce proceeding?
ALLRED: There's a lot that she didn't mention in her statement, including perhaps other witnesses that she may have or other evidence that she may have, which is corroborative and supportive of her. So let's get it on with the hearing.
And, you know, Judge Moore is very capable of putting forward any defense that he may have that, you know, whatever he thinks he needs to do. And she's certainly willing to put it all out there and be cross-examined. And let's see Roy Moore being cross-examined.
What's more important than, frankly, the court of public opinion is what people testify to under oath. And let's have it on. And if he's not willing to do it, as they say in certain parts of the country, he's got a lot of explaining to do.
BLITZER: But Gloria, just acknowledge whether or not she knew that he was the divorce judge in that 1999 case. Did she appear before him? Was she aware that Judge Moore was the judge in that divorce proceeding?
ALLRED: All of these questions will be answered...
BLITZER: Why can't you answer that now? It's a simple question.
ALLRED: Because this is not a Senate hearing last time I checked, and we're not going to put everything out there unless and until...
BLITZER: But it -- but Gloria, it's a simple question whether or not she knew he was the judge in that divorce proceeding. You know, we'll go back to the records, but I assume you've discussed this with her.
ALLRED: Well, of course I never would disclose what I would discuss with a client that might be attorney-client privileged confidential information.
That was not discussed at the press conference, and she did not discuss it one way or another. And there's a lot that Senator -- well, I should say Judge, former judge Roy Moore has not discussed. A lot that he hasn't disclosed. So let's do it in a hearing and not be distracted by anything else.
BLITZER: Can you say...
ALLRED: I know he's in his desperate campaign mode, you know, attack and smear and try to discredit. It's not going to work with us, because we're very focused on that hearing.
BLITZER: Can you say flatly to our viewers right now, Gloria, that the signature, what he wrote in that yearbook in 1977, according to her, can you say flatly that was not a forgery?
ALLRED: Well, all I'm saying is we will permit an independent examiner of the writing to look at exemplars of former judge, twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court judge on account of ethical violations, according to the ethics committee in that state, we will allow all of this to be asked and answered at the hearing.
BLITZER: But that's want a flat denial, Gloria.
ALLRED: Well, it's -- all I'm saying is we're not denying, we're not admitting. We're not addressing. We will not be distracted. And we will pursue a just result for our client.
BLITZER: But why do you need a Senate hearing on this? Why not just permit an independent handwriting examiner to go back, look at the yearbook and see if it was genuine, that signature, or a forgery?
ALLRED: Well, all I can say is that we want it done in a professional setting to the extent possible. That's the only setting in which people can testify under oath, and that's what we think is most important.
And any -- and I think it's very reasonable on our part to want to have this addressed and to say that we will submit it at that time, should such a hearing be held. And that is our focus. We are not going to be distracted from our mission and our goal. And it's time for the chairs of those committees to say whether they will conduct such a hearing or not.
[18:40:05] BLITZER: Would your client be ready to take a lie detector test?
ALLRED: We think that testifying under oath is the best test possible. And, you know, there are polygraph tests that can be provided, but we think that testifying under oath, and that is something that she's willing to do. It's very courageous of her. We know what has happened to others who have alleged that they are victims of rich, powerful famous men. We know what victims have been put through. She's willing to do through whatever is necessary if there is a hearing. And I commend her for that. She's very courageous.
And let's see if the Senate chairs are as courageous as our client is. Are they courageous enough to have a hearing? We'll have to see. Because right now there is no answer, but we're looking forward to their response. And I'll be very happy to e-mail you the letters we sent to them yesterday, asking them for their response.
BLITZER: I'll ask...
ALLRED: And again, I hope that you'll ask Roy Moore, through his attorney, or Roy Moore is he willing to testify under oath if the Senate agrees to have a hearing.
ALLRED: If he's subpoenaed to do so or will he volunteer to do so.
BLITZER: We'd love to have him join us here on CNN.
One final question. Have any other victims of Roy Moore approached you?
ALLRED: I would have no comment on that, because I will never say who contacts me and nor would I ever say the content of any communications, because that's attorney-client privileged confidential information. I'm there to protect the information of anyone who contacts me if they're seeking legal advice.
BLITZER: Any other witnesses?
ALLRED: We are willing to provide to the Senate committee evidence that we have, some of which we have not disclosed, in the event they hold a hearing.
BLITZER: Gloria Allred, thanks so much for joining us.
ALLRED: Thank you. Bye, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you. We're going to have much more on the breaking news. That's coming up. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
[18:46:51] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're following breaking news. Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore's campaign is pushing back against allegations of sexual abuse even as more Republicans call on him to quit the race.
Let's bring in our political and legal specialists.
And, Jeffrey Toobin, you just heard our interview with Gloria Allred, the lawyer representing Beverly Young Nelson who made those accusations against Roy Moore when she was, what, 16 years old back in 1977. What's your reaction?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think we need to just sort of step back from, you know, the very deep focus on this yearbook. The yearbook is one piece of evidence regarding one woman out of five who have made claims of improper conduct by Judge Moore. The most important witness who claims improper conduct is the woman who said she was 14 years old when Moore assaulted her.
Moore's lawyers haven't responded to that at all. I mean, all they have done is ask for a forensic examination of the handwriting.
Now, handwriting analysis is one of the weakest forensic sciences. It is not DNA evidence. It is not dispositive. It is not certain.
So, even if there were an analysis of handwriting, it wouldn't settle this issue one way or another. And it seems to me what Moore's lawyers are really doing is they are answering Sean Hannity's request to come up with a response in 24 hours.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
TOOBIN: This is the best they can do. It's not very good, but it is something to get us to talk about handwriting analysis instead of sexual involvement with teenage girls by a man in his 30s.
BLITZER: Yes, Gloria?
BORGER: But, Wolf, they didn't come out and say, OK, Nelson's claims are completely false. Instead they were focusing on the handwriting analysis, say he didn't sign this yearbook, which to me is neither here nor there. But what they were trying to do was muddy the waters, period. And maybe they were trying to do that because you have this deadline set up by Sean Hannity and Hannity's a very important figure in conservative circles and he gave them -- he gave them a deadline.
I don't know whether this would be any kind of evidence. I mean, it just seems to me that they went out there to try and say anything that they possibly could without proving something or without providing witnesses, countering what these women are saying and charging. So, to me, it was kind of odd that they went out there with just this.
BLITZER: Yes, David Swerdlick, what do you think? DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think it's fair
to raise the issue -- on the part of Roy Moore's issues to raise the yearbook, but I agree with Jeffrey and Gloria, that the main issue is Americans saw Mrs. Nelson come out there the other day in front of cameras, tell her story which to me was fairly compelling.
And it's for voters in Alabama to decide. They're not a jury. They're deciding as voters whether they believe her or whether -- and the other four women in "The Washington Post" story, who have accused Roy Moore of dating teenagers and whether or not they think this is someone they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate.
[18:50:04] And I agree with Jeffrey. Nothing that Roy Moore's attorney offered today does anything to refute anything that my "Washington Post" colleagues reported last week.
TOOBIN: And, Wolf, can I add one factual matter here? The legal document that the lawyers put forward was what's called a motion for dismissal, which was in a divorce case, the plaintiff, in this case, the woman, said we'd reconciled, so I'm withdrawing the divorce petition and Judge Moore signed it when he was a trial judge.
In the ordinary course of business in every courtroom I'm familiar with, that is not a proceeding where the parties appear. It is also not a controversial proceeding. It is simply a ministerial judgment by the judge getting rid of the case.
So, the idea that he somehow presided over her divorce is certainly not established by the document that was produced at the press conference today.
BLITZER: You know, very quickly, Gloria, what do you think of Gloria Allred suggestion that both of them, Roy Moore and Beverly Young Nelson, appear under oath before a Senate committee? She says her client is ready to do so.
BORGER: I'm sure her client is ready to do so. I guarantee you that Judge Moore is not ready to do so. He's a person who has done nothing but rail against the Congress. Why would he want members of Congress to be the judge and jury for him?
Even though he's, you know, competing for a seat in the Senate, he would go to the Senate to disrupt the Senate and I can't imagine that any leader in the Senate, any Republican leader like Mitch McConnell would want to put on this show and put Roy Moore there as a Republican candidate, as somebody who in a way represents Republican values because he is their candidate running in Alabama.
They're trying to run away from him. They're not trying to give him a platform. So, as much as Gloria Allred may want this so her client can tell her story, I doubt very much that it will be before a committee in Congress. She'll have to find another way. I don't see that happening.
BLITZER: I see you smiling over there, Jeffrey. Why?
TOOBIN: Well, because to use technical legal term, if this -- if this hearing took place, it would be a freak show.
TOOBIN: And the Senate, the last thing they want is to let -- and you can sure Roy Moore would take advantage of this hearing to talk about anything other than the accusations against him and much as we would all enjoy this proceeding, I don't think there's a chance in a million years that the Senate would agree to it and it ain't going to happen.
BLITZER: While we're speaking, you know, the president was silent today, Gloria, on the whole Roy Moore issue. But another Trump is now speaking out. Ivanka Trump, his daughter, she just tweeted this.
There's a -- it's actually a statement. It's not a tweet. It's a statement to "The Associated Press".
There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I've yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victim's accounts.
Pretty strong words from her.
BORGER: It is strong words. She didn't add one sentence, which is I urge my father to call on Roy Moore to step aside. That is something she could have done. She did not do it.
It was very clear from watching the president today that he doesn't want to go anywhere near this. Because he's afraid he would be "Access Hollywooded" again and it would bring up all of his campaign and the problems he had during that campaign with women.
But if Ivanka's going to talk about this, there is a question, a real one, about whether she could use her influence or say this as a way to get to her father and say maybe, you ought to go out there and ask Roy Moore to step aside for the Republican Party.
BLITZER: It's interesting, you know, David, because there are suggestion from sources over at the White House, the president doesn't want to bring this up because of the women who accused him of sexual harassment in earlier years and how he responded.
Let me play some clips of f how the president, then candidate, private citizen, responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false. And interestingly, it happens to appear 26 days a very important election. Isn't that amazing?
REPORTER: Your campaign is being subpoenaed for any documents relating to sexual harassment allegations made against you. Do you have a response to that?
[18:55:01] TRUMP: All I can say the is it's totally fake news. It's just fake. It's fake. It's made up stuff.
REPORTER: Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, we've been clear on that from the beginning and the president has spoken on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, what's your reaction, that these were points that the president is silent on this because once again, all of those earlier accusations against him would be revived?
SWERDLICK: Right, Wolf. He's the president of the United States, but because he's been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment or worse, he is not sort of the best neutral arbiter of a situation like Roy Moore. I think that's one of the reasons he has stayed quiet at least up to this point, I think maybe why we're seeing Ivanka Trump come out because she's someone who can speak on this with less baggage than her father.
I -- you know, and I also think in the case of Ivanka Trump, you see people not wanting, they want to make clear just like a lot of Republican senators have made clear, that they want to say, look, I believe these women. It's a he said/she said/she said/she said/she said/she said in this situation and people find these women's stories credible.
BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stand by. There's more breaking news we're following tonight.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson now saying he won't vote for the Republican tax plan as the bill is currently written.
Let's go to our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's up on Capitol Hill.
Phil, other Republican senators have expressed concern, but Johnson is the first to publicly announce his opposition to the proposal.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf, and his rationale for doing so just underscores kind of policy thicket Republicans are still dealing with. Even though this processes look smooth up to this point, it's not the individual mandate. It's not concern about tax cuts on the individual side of things. It's about small businesses and their individual tax rate.
However, Republican leaders still feel OK, about where they are. If you just want to know why, well, the House of Republicans is about to pass their tax bill tomorrow.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight, House Republicans are just 24 hours away from a major legislative victory. Passage of GOP tax plan. REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY WHIP: We have more, even today,
we have more meetings with members who are working to get to yes, and ultimately, we'll vote for the bill. So, we're going to pass the bill.
MATTINGLY: But it's in the Senate where a pitch battle has broken out between Democrats and Republicans over late night changes to the Republican proposal.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: It addresses problems noted by members of both sides. And it will give Americans bigger paycheck, more opportunities and a more prosperous economy.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Is there a summary anywhere? I mean, we got a 100-page document on the table, but surely, somebody on the majority side has a list, an abbreviated list of every change you made at 10:30 last night? What is making you do this to us?
MATTINGLY: At the heart of the fight, whether middle class taxpayers will actually see relief in the bill. Republicans now relying on the repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate to finance just that -- $338 billion to target things like an increase in child tax credit and reduction in the plan's rates for middle income taxpayers.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: In short, the goal is to repeal an unpopular tax from an unworkable law in order to provide more tax relief to middle class families.
MATTINGLY: But with it, comes clear policy and political dangers for Republicans. The CBO says the repeal would lead to 13 million fewer people with health insurance over 10 years. Premiums on average would go up by 10 percent each year.
SEN. BOB CASEY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: When I say this bill is a thief in the night, I mean it. That's exactly what it is -- ripping health care from people at the same time you're jacking up their taxes.
MATTINGLY: And Democrats now seizing on another potentially damaging element. The plan sets every tax cut for individuals to expire at the end of 2025. Meaning without congressional action, every single taxpayer including those in the middle class, would see a tax increase. All as the corporate tax cuts slashed from 35 to 20 percent remains permanent.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Taking money away from middle class and working people's health care so they can do tax cuts for the rich.
MATTINGLY: GOP lawmakers who say they are still on track to pass the bill by Christmas have brushed off those attacks, saying a future Congress would never allow those increases to actually occur, and focusing instead of what sources in both chambers say has been the driving force behind the whole process thus far.
SCALISE: I have high confidence the Senate is going to pass this bill. I know the House was going to pass this bill and I'm one of those people who believes failure is not an option.
MATTINGLY (on camera): Before the end of the year.
SCALISE: Yes, before the end of the year.
MATTINGLY: Wolf, as you can hear, no shortage of conference in the House. Now, all eyes on the Senate, a long road ahead, but again, confidence exists, just a matter of can they get it across the finish line? Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, lot of news today.
Phil Mattingly, up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.
That's it for me. Thanks to all of our viewers for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.