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Any Moment: Trump Pitches Tax Plan On Capitol Hill; Woman Accuses Al Franken Of Groping, Kissing Without Consent; Two More Women Accuse Roy Moore Of Misconduct. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired November 16, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- House approaches a huge moment, now hours away from voting and likely passing their overhaul to the nation's tax code. Good news for Republicans there, but on the Senate side, signs of trouble. Their version of a tax plan is still in the works, but one Republican, Senator Ron Johnson, says he is a no at the moment, and other Republicans are also speaking out about their concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I believe that if we start getting into health care issues with the individual mandate, that we send a very mixed message.
SENATOR RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I'm not for the current version. What I want to see is the information to prove the kind of economic growth we're going to get with all of our tax revisions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So maybe not such good news there for Republicans at the moment and definitely not good news for Republicans on this other major story, Roy Moore, now telling Republicans in Washington, to quote/unquote, "bring it on."
As two more women come forward accusing the embattled Alabama Senate candidate of making unwanted advances on them when they were just teenagers. The reporter who broke that story will be joining us.
But first, let's talk about this day of drama once again on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. We have our folks covering it all for you on what is a very important day on this step forward. From the White House, to the Hill, and beyond.
Let's start at the White House where senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny is, of course. So, Jeff, what is the president's message to House Republicans when he heads there in just a few minutes?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. The message really is let's get this done. Let's vote on this, the first, you know, stage and level if you will of tax reform, knowing full well that this bill will change.
Of course, the Senate as you mentioned, you know, is a more complicated matter here. First thing is first, the president is going to thank House Republicans, he's going to essentially as you said take a victory lap before the actual victory.
But they know this is going to passes in the House. That is a significant deal. We can count on one hand, Kate, the number of big legislative achievements that have passed through either chamber.
Of course, the House has been much easier. Take health care, for example. We all remember when that vote eventually passed the House, lower chamber, all the House members came to the White House for a victory lap, that ended up not going anywhere in the Senate, of course.
But today, when the president goes up to Capitol Hill, he is going to urge them to also, you know, get the entire thing completed. That means take this to Conference Committee, reconcile the differences, ultimately with the Senate.
But I think there is a sense here, Kate, by the Republicans I talk to on Capitol Hill as well as here they're not doing this for President Trump, they're doing this for themselves and their constituents. There is virtually -- you know, very few accomplishments they can take back to their voters. This they hope will be one of them.
BOLDUAN: Why then isn't he stopping over in the Senate? Any word on that? I mean, that's where the real problem is right now.
ZELENY: Sure. it's where the real discussions are but that bill is not quite there yet. That bill is still being formed as we know. The president going over to Senate Republicans now may not be as helpful. The reality here is that this is working through a process, but he is working the telephones.
He talked to Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin moments after he said he would not vote for the bill. The president picked up the phone and called him. So, for the Senate right now, the president is talking to a lot of them individually by telephone, but a meeting at this point is not particularly helpful necessarily.
But it's definitely more of a show of force with the House. He'll be coming back here. My question, Kate, if he will have the House Republicans back here for a victory rally, lap again here, in the Rose Garden. There have not been many of them so this is an achievement.
But again, if the House passes this, important to point out it's only halfway there. It needs the Senate vote and then need to reconcile their differences before anything takes effect -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: It's almost like -- maybe only a third of the way there because it has to pass the Senate and then go to conference and remember, and I know you don't forget this, Jeff, when after House Republicans came for that pep rally in the Rose Garden after that is when President Trump then called that very same bill mean in terms of the health care negotiations in the Senate. So, let's see what the president's reaction is after that.
ZELENY: You sound like a former Capitol Hill reporter there, Kate. Very good. You're absolutely right.
BOLDUAN: What? As we like to say, recovering Capitol Hill reporter. Let's head over there to the capitol, great to see you, Jeff. CNN's Phil Mattingly, you're not close to recovering. You're in the thick of it, buddy.
It sure seems that Paul Ryan seems confident right now on how this House vote is going to land. Does anyone have the same confidence in the Senate? Lay it all out, please.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, that's the big question. I texted one Republican lawmaker this morning in the House and said what are your expectations, he responded no drama at all. That's where they are right now on the House vote.
As Jeff laid out, this is a really important moment. It's been 31 years since a tax overhaul has actually been completed. Before one even went through committee, let alone a House floor. This is a major achievement.
But talk about the Senate and that's where all eyes are turning. Not to give short shift to the House or president actually coming over and rallying the troops here, but it's the Senate where things are already growing more complicated and that's not exactly a new thing.
[11:05:12] We saw that in health care, very almost viscerally on some level, but if you look at what's going on here beyond Ron Johnson, who obviously came out yesterday and said he had problems with this bill, there are numerous lawmakers who right now aren't fully ready to commit to the process that's ongoing right now.
The committee moving through the bill, marking up the bill right now, should finalize that in the next day or two, but if you want to tick through them, Susan Collins, you played the sound about her talking about her concerns about the individual mandate, very concerned about the state and local tax deduction that the Senate repeals in full, unlike the House which leaves $10,000 cap locality deduction on that.
Then you have deficit issues. Senator Jeff Flake, you've got Bob Corker who said they don't want to see anything that adds to the deficit. This is a major tax cut bill so that's up in the air right now.
Senator Ted Cruz wants to make sure everybody gets a tax cut. Senator Rand Paul tends to have lots of issues with lots of different bills. If you go down the roster right now, Kate and recognize how complex this process actually is, while it has been smooth up to this point and no question about it, even House leadership aides tell me they're very surprised by how well this has gone on their side of things.
It's going to get more complicated. There is more difficult work to be done and a lot of lawmakers right now over on the Senate side that they need to shore up if they actually want to get this across the finish line.
BOLDUAN: Rarely does there seem a pleasant surprise when it comes to legislating these days. Just to take everyone inside a little bit where Phil is right now, this is in the basement, but looking at your shot, this is where the meeting of House Republicans will happen, this is where the president is going to be coming to speak to House Republicans, Phil is in the middle of it all.
When they come out that's when we get the news because there's no cameras inside, of course, and that's when Phil will be able to bring it to us when the president heads over to the capitol in a few minutes. We'll be right back to you, Phil. Great to see you.
All right. So, what actually is in the bill? Phil lays out a little bit of where the sticking points are, but what does it all mean for you. That is where CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans comes in. Christine, please break it down.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: He has the politics. I've got the numbers for you. There are two versions of the tax bill, the House and Senate, but it's judgment day for the House bill. The House plan cuts taxes significantly next year, but favors the wealthy over time.
Here's how. On average American incomes will rise 1.6 percent next year or about $1,200 each. But by 2027, the average is going to shrink to 0.9 percent, or about $860. These tax cuts, they differ depending on how much you make. For the bottom half of earners, right here, cuts are less than 1 percent of their income. For the top it's nearly 2 percent.
Look at 2027, as time goes on, the cuts for the lower income levels shrink here and let me do that again, and for the wealthier people, they still benefit. Why? Republicans need a way to pay for tax cuts. They're front load something middle class goodies like child tax credits, but they'll expire in 2023, cutting into tax savings, but also reducing costs.
And that is really important here, paying for tax cuts is one of the reasons the Senate version repeals the Obamacare mandate, 13 million fewer Americans insured means not paying for those people saves the government $338 billion, but it also means premium hikes of 10 percent.
That's because the mandate forced younger healthier people to buy insurance and critics likes Senator Susan Collins worry that higher premiums will wipe out the middle-class tax relief.
Now eliminating that mandate one difference in the Senate tax plan. The Senate tax plan has seven brackets, it lowers the rate for pass through companies that, you know, pay their taxes through their own personal tax returns, but that sunsets. It lowers the corporate tax rate in 2019 but that's permanent.
Kate, this is a sticking point here. If small businesses just have a temporary tax break, but big corporations have a permanent one, that's where people like Senator Ron Johnson are concerned.
BOLDUAN: And folks on the individual side. That's where folks have an issue with individual tax cuts, sunsetting and corporate tax cuts not. It sounds so easy. No wonder they're getting to it now just after 31 years. Great to see you, Christine. Thank you so much.
ROMANS: You're welcome.
BOLDUAN: This is just the beginning. It's just getting fun. Let's discuss now, back to the capitol, Republican Congressman Dan Donovan of New York is joining me right now. Congressman, thanks so much for coming in.
REP. DAN DONOVAN (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: So let me get your kind of gut check of the day. Are you -- you have major concerns and issues with the House version. Are you still a no on this vote today?
DONOVAN: I am. In its current form, this bill doesn't give tax relief to the people that I represent. In fact, what it does is puts the burden, to pay for tax cuts for the rest of the country on New Yorkers, people in New York City, people I represent.
Eliminating the state and local tax deduction, their income, it's the number one deduction that people use, is going to end up being a tax increase for many, many New Yorkers. So, I am a believer in tax reform, Kate, our citizens are overburdened, the tax code is complicated, it kills jobs. We have to stimulate our economy. We have to create jobs, but not on the backs of the people that I represent.
[11:10:11] So, I'm a no vote now and my hope is that when the bills go to conference, that there is some people over in the Senate, as one of your reporters just mentioned, Senator Cruz, saying he wants tax cuts for every American, so do I, particularly the people of New York.
BOLDUAN: So Congressman, the president's coming to talk to you all in a couple minutes. Is there anything that he can say to change your mind right now?
DONOVAN: If he says that they're going to put the -- retain the state and local tax deduction in its current form in the bill, yes, that could persuade me.
BOLDUAN: Right. But that is not going to happen, right? It's going to a vote in a couple hours, right?
DONOVAN: Yes. We're supposed to vote this afternoon in its current form all state and local income tax deductions are eliminated and property tax that we're able to deduct now is limited to $10,000. The mortgage interest deduction is cut in half and it's -- in fact, that's even below the average price of a House in my district.
So, this is very burdensome on the people of New York. This is a deduction that's been in our tax code since 1913 and when President Reagan, 31 years ago did tax reform, it was retained, even Reagan didn't eliminate this. So, my hope is that -- BOLDUAN: Well, and Congressman, I think you've probably pointed out,
this -- this impacts the president's hometown. Have you heard anything from the White House? Have you heard anything from the president, would a call from the president, a conversation with the president, change your mind?
DONOVAN: Yes. I haven't spoken to the president, but I've spoken numerous times to secretary of treasury, Steve Mnuchin and the president's national economic adviser, Gary Cohn. I've met with them, and spoke to them on the phone. They continue to say they understand our concerns.
In reality I guess, Kate, they have to look through the eyes of is this good for 330 million people in our country? I have to look through the eyes is it good for the 725,000 people that sent me down here to be their voice?
And as the lone Republican in New York City, I feel responsible for all the residents of New York City. This is going to be a tax increase to many of my school teachers, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, nurses, bus drivers.
BOLDUAN: Here's the thing, the Senate bill when the Senate bill comes back over, you know, the Senate bill from your perspective, is worse than what the House bill has --
DONOVAN: Yes, it is.
BOLDUAN: It completely eliminates SALT. So, is it possible that the deal that the House is offering up right now is the best deal that you're going to get?
DONOVAN: It may not be because there are many people today are voting yes in the hopes that something gets corrected. We have a large constituency delegation for California members who are hurt by this. If they're voting yes, it's with the hope that this gets corrected somewhere down the line.
Myself, Representative Pete King, Lee Zeldin from Long Island, we presented a proposal to leadership. We want to retain SALT for the next four years. You realize that this is going to take effect January 2018, states that are high tax states will have to prepare for this in two weeks.
BOLDUAN: Do you think the leadership, when they've got the votes they have their eye on the prize of getting a win on the board, do you think they've just given up on you guys?
DONOVAN: I'm not sure they've given up. I'll tell you what, they've been open.
DONOVAN: Even this week, we've still met with Chairman Brady, Whip Scalise, Deputy Whip McHenry, we're still conducting meetings with them. They are still talking to us. I'm still holding out for hope that we can correct this thing in the final bill. I'm a believer that we need tax reform in our country, but we have to give the people of New York the same relief the people in the rest of the country are receiving.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, finally, I want to take your temperature on what's happening in the Alabama Senate race. If Roy Moore wins this Senate race, do you think he should be expelled from the Senate?
DONOVAN: I don't think the man is fit to serve so it's my hope that the people -- first of all, my hope is he would step aside. Apparently last night he made a statement that he wouldn't do that. My hope is the people of Alabama are smart enough to write in someone else's name and select somebody that they would be proud representing them in the United States Senate.
BOLDUAN: Congressman, what's worse for Republicans right now? Roy Moore in the Senate or the Democrat winning that seat?
DONOVAN: Yes, I don't know actually. I serve in the House. So, I'm not too sure how the members over in the Senate feel.
BOLDUAN: How do you feel?
DONOVAN: Well, I feel Roy Moore is not fit to serve in the United States Senate.
BOLDUAN: Would you be -- you would be happy to serve with Doug Jones, the Democrat?
DONOVAN: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you?
BOLDUAN: You would be happier to serve with Doug Jones, the Democrat?
DONOVAN: I would be happy to serve with another Republican and my hope the people of Alabama write-in another Republican.
BOLDUAN: We will see what happens. It's very unclear how that will go right now. Congressman, always great to have you. Let's see how the conversation goes today. Would love to hear your thoughts after the president speaks to you. Thank you.
DONOVAN: Great, Kate. Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
And all eyes today on Capitol Hill right now, President Trump about to head over there. He'll be heading right up Pennsylvania Avenue to the capitol to make his big tax pitch to lawmakers.
[11:15:08] But is he making the pitch to the wrong chamber this morning? Our cameras and reporters all over the capitol ahead of the big House vote and snags potentially in the Senate.
Plus, this, two more women standing up and speaking out now against Senate Candidate Roy Moore accusing him of making unwanted advances on them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. And a new report and a new effort now from Moore and his team to discredit one woman's story. We're going to go live to Alabama with all the breaking details.
BOLDUAN: All right. We are following breaking news coming in. Democratic Senator Al Franken being accused of groping a radio news anchor in 2006. That's not all.
[11:20:09] This is all just coming in and the senator is also now responding. Let's get over to CNN's M.J. Lee on the Hill with much more. M.J., what do you know?
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Hey, Kate. I'm actually having a hard time hearing you, but I will try to report out what we know. What we know right now is that Al Franken, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, has been accused of sexual harassment on the record.
This is from a woman who was a local radio host in California and first let me walk through what the allegations are that she is making and then I'll let you know what Franken has had to say just this morning in response to these allegations.
Again, Leann Tweeden, that is the name of the woman who is making these fresh allegations. She talks about an incident that happened back in December of 2006. She says that she took a trip to the Middle East to visit U.S. troops and along with some musical artists was Al Franken, who at the time, of course, was a comedian.
She was on the trip along with Senator Franken, at the time was not a senator. As a part of this trip to visit the troops, they were performing a number of plays and some of the scripts were written by Senator Franken. This is according to this woman.
As she says that, the scripts, many of them, were heavy on sexual innuendo and one of the scripts actually involved the character that Franken was supposed to play, kissing this woman, Miss Tweeden.
Now when they were back stage she saysS that he wanted to rehearse the part where the two were supposed to kiss. She was insistent and told him she did not want to do this, but he continued to pursue wanting to kiss her and practice kissing her and at some point, she just relented and said OK.
And I just want to read part of what she wrote to describe what came next. She says, quote, "He came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth."
And she says that she felt disgusted and violated afterwards, and she also notes that nobody saw this happen. Now, this is not all of the story that she describes in this written account that was posted this morning. She says on the way back to Los Angeles as they were flying back to the U.S., there was another incident in which Tweeden actually fell asleep. She only discovered after she got back to the U.S. that there was a photo taken of Senator Franken, again who was not a senator at the time, groping her and this photo is actually posted online as well.
Now, I do want to read a statement that we got from Senator Franken just a few minutes ago. Here's what he said. Quote, "I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."
Now, what is really interesting about this, and really important about this, Kate, is that this is a member of Congress, a sitting member of Congress, who is now being named. We know that there have been a lot of conversations this week, in the last couple days, about current members of Congress who have been accused of sexual harassment, but so far, they were unnamed.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier has been outspoken about the issue. She revealed just this week that there was a Democrat and a Republican who have been accused of sexual harassment, but she has not named them.
What's interesting is that Tweeden, who wrote about this account, actually said that she met with Congresswoman Speier a couple weeks ago and when she heard Congresswoman Speier actually tell her own story about, you know, being on the receiving end of sexual harassment herself on Capitol Hill, that was an important moment in which Tweeden decided this is exactly what I myself experienced back in 2006 -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. M.J. Lee on the Hill for us, covering this, all starting to come in, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Let's lead to Alabama right now for another story. Roy Moore, and his message as of last night, was this to Washington, "bring it on." He wakes up today facing new allegations, though, from two more women going on the record.
"The Washington Post" telling their stories. The women again painting a picture of the Republican Senate candidate making unwanted advances when they were just teenagers and he was in his 30s.
Joining me now is a "Washington Post" reporter, Beth Reinhard, part of the team that broke these new allegations. Beth, thanks so much for joining me.
BETH REINHARD, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Thank you.
BOLDUAN: So let's talk about Gena Richardson, this is the new woman who is now on the record with you and she said that Roy Moore called her -- part of the story is that stuck with me is that she says Roy Moore called her at her high school when she was in class. What is her story? Tell us.
REINHARD: So, she was a high school senior working at Sears at the Gadsden Mall. This was in 1977.
[11:25:04] Roy Moore was 30 years old and came into the Sears men's department and started chatting with her, asked for her phone number she declined. And a few days later, she gets a call as you said, she's in class and she gets -- she's called over the intercom from the office that she has a phone call and she assumes it's maybe her father.
She picks up the phone and it's Roy Moore asking her on a date. So, she said, you know, I can't talk right now, I'm in trig class. He came by Sears again and asked her out. She relented this time and met him at the movies.
They saw the movie and then he drove her to her car, which is on the, you know, closer to Sears and she says that he pulled her toward him and gave her a forceful man kiss is the way she is described it. At that point, she became very uncomfortable and left.
BOLDUAN: So, Roy Moore and his supporters -- in light of this new story and the others, Roy Moore and his supporters they continue to question the timing of all of these stories coming out, Beth.
And they say that he's been, you know, of course, they say that he's been in the public eye for decades, why is this now just coming out, I've heard this over and over from folks coming on my show. Can you lay out your process and how the stories have come about? How you came to learn of these women and their stories?
REINHARD: So, several weeks ago, a "Washington Post" reporter was here in Alabama, doing some reporting and just started hearing that Roy Moore had pursued teenagers during this time period. That reporter and I spent a couple weeks down here chasing leads. One person would lead us to another, would lead us to another.
And that resulted in the story we published last week featuring four women on the record, including Leigh Corfman, who was 14 years old, when Roy Moore introduced himself to her in a court hallway of the courthouse and ended up taking her back to his house and touching her.
So as a result of that story, other women were motivated to reach out to us. We followed up with a story about how Mr. Moore spent so much time at the mall, according to these women, back in this time when he was single, and was a frequent visitor to the mall and often chatting up or flirting, in their perception, flirting with teenage girls.
BOLDUAN: Beth Reinhard of "The Washington Post," thank you so much for coming on. I appreciate it. We'll continue to look for your stories.
Roy Moore for his part, he is pushing back against the allegations and telling Mitch McConnell very specifically, bring it on. While his attorneys are casting doubt on one of the women who is accusing Roy Moore of sexual assault, saying that it all comes down to a signature in a yearbook. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP JAUREGUI, ATTORNEY FOR ROY MOORE: Look at the 1977 after Merry Christmas, look at the two 7s 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 says 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. For now, I'm asking you all to take a look. Use your judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: All right. Let's bring in CNN's Jason Carroll in Moore's hometown of Gadsden, Alabama. Jason, what are you hearing there?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, a lot of things. First of all, you can just stand out here on a corner and you'll get people who will drive by and shout out support for Roy Moore, so it's very clear that Roy Moore still enjoys a lot of support here in his hometown of Gadsden.
As you know last night, a state GOP steering committee made up of 21 members, real local power players here in the state, met last night and there were many questions, what decision would they reach? Would they in some way try to disqualify Moore?
I mean, the election is December 12th. Would they try to invalidate him? It's too late to really pull his name off the ballot. Would they ask voters to write-in a candidate, that could cause a whole host of problems?
So what ended up happening is, state leaders ended up continuing to side with Roy Moore. You have heard a number of people defending him here. Part of the defense as you know coming from his attorney you heard there.
We should also point out that Nelson's attorney, Gloria Allred, has spoken to CNN and says look, she's perfectly willing to put forth that yearbook and have it examined if you will by an independent source, if Roy Moore is willing to testify in front of a Senate committee.
A lot of that has a lot of legal posturing sort of going back and forth. At the end of the day, what it's really going to come down to are the voters and that special election, which is --