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House Passes Tax Bill; Paul Ryan Speaks on Tax Bill Passage; Franken Apologizes for Groping. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 16, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Sure that -- that especially boys and the people who are in power know that this is totally unacceptable. It's been going on for way too long. So I look forward to that kind of change occurring. I'm hopeful.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Hirono, thanks so much for joining us.

HIRONO: Yes, thank you.

BLITZER: There's a lot of breaking news we're following today on CNN. And our special breaking news coverage right -- continues right now with Brooke Baldwin.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Got the breaking news at the top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thanks for being with me.

Today -- where to begin? We are following breaking news on several major stories.

First up here, you have embattled Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore. He is expected to speak here, live pictures out of Birmingham, at this faith leaders press conference. So we'll take that. As now you have more and more women, more and more accusers, coming forward with additional allegations -- sex allegations against him.

Also today the Democratic senator, Al Franken, is now apologizing in a lengthier statement after this news anchor in Los Angeles accused him of groping her a decade ago. And now the reverberations are being felt on Capitol Hill.

Here's the photo that's now being circulated. And, yes indeed, this was then private citizen Al Franken's hands in places that just, quite frankly, shouldn't have been there. She revealed this picture showing his hands over her chest as she was asleep.

On top of all of that, the White House today is holding its first on camera briefing at the White House in two weeks now that the president is back from his big trip in Asia.

So we have all of that happening. But let's go straight to Capitol Hill because we have breaking news there. Moments ago, the House of Representatives just passed its plan to

overhaul the nation's tax system. This is the first step in what could be not just the first major legislative victory for President Trump, but an historic act from Congress. Keep in mind, the last significant tax reform was passed 31 years ago.

So let's go straight to our guy on The Hill. Phil Mattingly is standing by.

Phil Mattingly, you know, obviously this is huge, huge news for House Republicans. Not a massive surprise, though. But talk me through what just happened.


Look, they were comfortable going into this vote. You heard things like, we've got this locked up. There will be no drama. And I think if you've been watching the Republican conference over the course of the last few years or even the last 10 months, no drama is a bit of a surprise statement when it comes to one of their House floor votes.

But they were right, they had a big vote, 227 to 205. That was a lot of room. They needed 218 votes in the game where one or two votes is usually the margin of error here. Having nine or 10, that's a big, big step.

But I think, Brooke, you made a really key point here, this is but one step of a multi-step process. And while House Republicans are certainly celebrating and are acknowledging that this is the first time it's happened in 31 years, Senate Republicans are now where all eyes have turned as everybody tries to kind of sus (ph) out what's going to happens next. And already we're seeing a lot of complications bubble up over there, Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Phil, we hear the hustle and the bustle behind you. It's a big day for House Republicans. All eyes now onto the Senate where -- I'm sure we're going to come back to you in just a little bit.

But I've got a business analyst, Alexis Glick, joining me now here as well.

So, you know, everyone's turning their focus to the Senate. There are a number of names obviously to watch who have myriad concerns based upon different issues, right? And so can you just talk me through some of the biggest sticking points here on the Senate version?

ALEXIS GLICK, FINANCIAL EXPERT: Yes. Absolutely. So here is the biggest thing, right. You recognize that when you look at the bill that just passed, if you were actually -- whether it's the CBO estimate or any one of the estimates you've seen out there, the lion's share of the tax breaks are really advantageous for corporate America, whether it's a combination of a reduction in the corporate tax rate or the repatriation of funds that have been sitting across overseas coming back here into America. BALDWIN: Alexis, forgive me. I'm going to cut you off mid-sentence

because this is a big day for the man we're looking at right now here. This is the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: This country has not rewritten its tax code since 1986. The powers of the status quo in this town are so strong, yet 227 men and women of this Congress broke through that today. That is powerful.

Of course, I want to thank not just the members who made this possible today, I want to thank the president, I want to thank his administration, and I want to thank our partners in the Senate who are doing their work as well.

From the very start we've said that failure is not an option. And the president and his team have worked so constructively every step of the way with us. He's been a tremendous partner on this issue. And, you know, I've just go to say how proud I am of this conference. Tax reform is so very hard. But we know that there are people who are really struggling in this country. We know that we are just coming through a decade of real economic anxiety. And we know that this is a nation that has so much more potential that is not yet been tapped.

[14:05:07] That's what this day is about. That's what getting this done is about. This is about giving hard working taxpayers bigger paychecks, more take home pay. This is about giving those families who are struggling peace of mind. It's about getting this economy to grow faster so we get bigger wages, more jobs, and we put America in the driver's seat in the global economy once again.

This is about giving people hope and a new opportunity. And it's about making sure that America continues to be the best place in the world, the best place in the world to live, to thrive, to start a business, to create a job, to grow, to construct.

We've got a long road ahead of us. This is a very, very big milestone in that long road. We've got a long road ahead of us and we have a timeline to get this done by the end of the year. We have the Senate right now working on doing this. We're excited about going through the legislative process, going to conference, getting this done, making this bill even better. But, most importantly, I am excited on behalf of the American people who are waiting to see us get this done.

The last thing I'll say is this. We collectively asked the country in 2016 to give us a chance to go work for them. We asked the people of this country who are struggling, give us a chance to make good by you. Give us a chance to make life better for you. Give us a chance to improve your life. This conference today did one of the greatest things we could possibly do to make good on that promise, and I'm so proud.

Right now I just want to thank one of the women of our leaders of our Congress. She has been at the forefront of making sure that we get our message out, of making sure that we communicate, and making sure that we have two ears and one mouth and that we use them in that proportion. Ladies and gentlemen, our chairwomen of the Republican conference,

Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

BALDWIN: OK, so we'll stay on this picture, but let's go back to Alexis Glick.

And again, listen, just to be clear, and Speaker Ryan alluded to this, they've got a bit of a road ahead. Not a huge surprise this did pass the House. You know, we know that the Senate is working on its own version and that needs to pass and then they need to sort of build a bridge between the two.

We know that the House Republicans wanted to be able to lock in a number of their members so that, you know, those may not have -- want to wiggle out of the yes vote the second go around once they take a look at what the Senate passes. Just to make sure everyone who's watching, we're all on the same page.

But we were talking Senate version, Alexis Glick, and you were talking sticking points before I had to interrupt you. Please continue.

GLICK: No worries.

Yes, so, look, if you look at this pass bill, about 75 percent of the benefits of the House bill go to corporate America, go to businesses, go to the wealthy individuals in this country. About a quarter of those benefits go to individuals who are the majority of this country. Of course 92 percent of them would get a tax cut, but the issue is whether there's a phase out or not.

As we head to the Senate bill, we're going to be talking about whether or not the repeal of the Affordable Care Act should be part and parcel of it. It's something that Senator Susan Collins has come out and said, if that's a part of it, I can't vote yes. So one is this whole issue of the health care mandate and that credit and how that influences the outcome.

The other thing is, there are little differences. For example, on the House bill, you could only deduct mortgage interest up to $500,000. In the Senate bill, that remains at $1 million. When you look at medical expenses, there are differences on what those deductions are allowed on the House bill versus the Republican bill -- versus the Senate bill.

Here's the thing I'll say to you, Brooke, it is a big day for Congressman Ryan. It's a big day because they are making a move in a direction that frankly, whether you look across both members of Congress or whether you look at Wall Street, the stock market, business leaders, there is an enormous sense of urgency that they get tax reform done.

The question is, will they get tax reform done by the end of the year and can that stimulate job growth. And, ultimately, how big is the cost going to be to the deficit? You know, when you look at the CBO estimates of $1.7 trillion, that is an issue, right? That's issue number one. But also issue number two is, we looked at a stock market that has climbed north of 20 percent in anticipation of tax reform. If they now cannot deliver tax reform and give what -- what -- not only Americans are looking for but what businesses and small businesses in particular, 95 percent of our businesses in the United States are small businesses. They create 70 percent of the jobs in the United States. They need this tax reform bill because we need to stimulate job growth. We need to get GDP well above 2 percent. And we need to ensure that everyone is sharing in a piece of this tax reform strategy, much like we saw back three decades ago in the Reagan administration.

[14:10:06] BALDWIN: Sure. And, you know, would it be a boom for larger corporations, yes. But talk to someone like Senator Ron Johnston and he's no so thrilled how this would be affection, you know, small businesses.

You mentioned Susan Collins. As you said, there are a couple other Republicans who are hesitant as of yet, although Senator Johnston has said he wants to come around to yes.

Alexis Glick, thank you so much.

We'll come back to taxes here in just a second.

But this other huge story has been breaking in Washington as well. This recent ground swell of sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood and across the country to Washington, D.C. This radio news anchor is now accusing Senator Al Franken of forcibly kissing and groping her while she was asleep. KABC's Leeann Tweeden posted this photo from this incident when she was on this USO tour back in 2006. She also spoke out publicly just a short time ago.


LEEANN TWEEDEN, HOST KABC RADIO: He's like, well, we need to practice the kissing scene. And I'm like, OK, whatever, and I just sort of blew him off because I didn't -- like, we don't need to practice the kissing scene. It's just a quick little thing, you know.

And then he persisted and he's like, no, we really need to practice the kissing scene. And -- OK, Al, you just turn your head right, I'll turn my head right, we got this, you know, whatever. And he kept persisting. And I'm like, Al, this isn't "SNL." We -- we're not really going to kiss, so we don't really have to practice.

And he just kept persisting. And it just reminded me of like the Harvey Weinstein tape that you heard the girl when she was wired up for the -- the NYPD and he's just persistent and badgering and just relentless, you know.

And so I was just like, OK, fine, just so he would shut up, you know. And he just sort of came at me and we did the line and he came at me and before you even know it, I mean you kind of get close and he just put his hand on the back of my head and he mashed his face against -- I mean it happened so fast and he just mashed his lips against my face and he stuck his tongue in my mouth so fast. And all I could remember is that his lips were really wet and it was slimy. In my mind I called him fish lips the rest of the trip because that's just what it reminded me of. I don't know why. And he stuck his tongue down my mouth.

And I remember, I pushed him off with my hands, and I just remember, I almost punched him so -- because every time I see him now, like my hands clench into fists, and I'm sure that's probably why. And I said, if you ever do that to me again, I'm not going to be so nice about it the second time. And I just walked out away from him and I walked out and I just wanted to find a bathroom and I just wanted to rinse my mouth out because I was just disgusted, you know.

They give you CDs as you leave that have, you know, behind the scenes photos of you on the entire tour that they give you when you leave. And I get this and I open it up when I get home. I probably opened it the next day. And it was a photo of Al doing his, you know, this on my breast, like looking at the camera, just kind of smirking and smiling like, hey, look at me. And I took that as the, you know, the final like, ha ha, like, I got the last laugh, you know. I mean he knew I wouldn't see it until I got home and, you know, was away from everybody else.

I mean, yes, there's no reason why I shouldn't accept his apology. You know, I mean, if that's -- sure.


BALDWIN: So let's go to MJ Lee, our CNN national politics reporter on this story.

And so we know that Senator Franken initially put out a couple line statement, and then, you know, sometime later, several paragraphs, including the I'm sorry out of the gate.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Brooke, and, first of all, let me just tell you that we are standing outside of Al Franken's office and we have been here all morning. We have not seen him yet. So we have heard so far from the victim, obviously, very vivid and disturbing details. We've heard those words directly from her. We have not seen Senator Franken yet.

But, you're right, he did put out, just a little while ago, a very detailed and lengthy statement apologizing for what he did. I want to read a part of that statement. He said, the first thing I want to do is apologize. I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, but it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture.

He goes on to say, while I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand we need to listen to and believe women's experiences. I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken and I will gladly cooperate.

[14:15:02] Now, the statement is significant for a couple of reasons. The first one is what you alluded to, Brooke, is when he first, Senator Franken, was asked about these allegations when the allegations first came out this morning, his statement was a lot shorter. Now this new statement is much longer, much more extensive, and much more remorseful. And I think just goes to show that he clearly recognized that that initial statement was not enough.

And the second point, of course, is that Franken himself is now saying that he will cooperate with this investigation and that he thinks it is appropriate. And I can tell you, having been here all day, this is the same message that we are hearing from all of Franken's colleagues who have spoken out so far. They agree that his actions were clearly inappropriate and disturbing and that an investigation is going to be appropriate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said this. Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said this, and others, men and women, Democrats and Republicans all agreeing that this investigation will be necessary.

And, Brooke, just to point on something that I know you understand really well. This is so important because we now have a sitting member of Congress being named by a woman for past conduct, for sexual harassment allegations. Up until this point, there were a lot of allegations that were being made, but often these members were not actually being named or these members were former members who are no longer on Capitol Hill. So the fact that this morning we have name --


LEE: That we have a current sitting member being named, that is potentially really significant.

BALDWIN: And, by the way, you're the one, you know, who has been covering all this sexual harassment investigations on Capitol Hill and the cries for, you know, official training, and how it just hasn't been done right for years and years and years. And it was Congresswomen Jackie Speier who's told her own me too story, who was the one, you know, speaking the other day about how there are two members of Congress, and I don't even think Al Franken is part of the two, who are active members, who have been accused of sexual harassment.

And so in the wake of this Al Franken story, now we have reaction from Jackie Speier herself. Here's the sound from the congresswoman.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: I think there should be an investigation. And then we'll look at the conclusions of the investigation and make decisions then. But it's the Senate's decision.

QUESTION: Do you feel this about Roy Moore?

SPEIER: I feel that they should both be treated equally.


SPEIER: I think the president can't speak from a position of independence and (INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: What was your reaction when you saw that picture today? What was your -- what was --


BALDWIN: And there she goes, but just an important piece of this conversation, Congresswomen Jackie Speier.

MJ Lee, thank you so much.

I've got Gloria Borger and Emily Jane Fox sitting next to me here.

Just on reaction -- and I want to get to what, you know, the congresswoman was just saying about how the president's not even going there because of his own personal issues with regard to allegations of sexual assault. But just out of the gate, the fact that you have, Gloria, you know, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, right, from the left and the right both saying there needs to be an ethics investigation. I realize that this was years and years ago, the story, and he was a private citizen at the time, but can he survive this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It remains to be seen. I mean I -- we should say that Leeann did not call for him to step down or say that she thought he ought to step down. And when she was told that they had to have a -- they were having an ethics committee investigation, she said that's on them.

BALDWIN: And he said, yes, I will participate.

BORGER: Right. And I think, look, we have to look at the context in which all of this is occurring, which is Moore.


BORGER: Judge Moore. And that has been, you know, brewing and percolating, whatever you want to say, for days and days and days.


BORGER: And so then now you have a Democrat and these charges. And I can be sure of one thing, which is, this is not the last. This is just --

BALDWIN: The last which? For the Congress (ph)?

BORGER: The last woman who will come out against a member of Congress.


BORGER: This is just kind of scratching the surface here. He was not a member of Congress at the time this occurred. He was just a comedian.


BALDWIN: We'll see if her coming out gives other women sort of, you know, more purpose and allows them to talk about people who are currently in positions of power who could affect them.

Franken has no effect on her at this particular time in her life. It's a little bit more difficult for women who were working in the Congress. But I think what you're going to see is more and more on this, as we've seen around the country. Congress is always a lagging indicator and in this it is as well.

[14:20:01] BALDWIN: OK. She -- just also to mention, when you read her whole -- her whole -- Leeann's piece, the reason why I think -- maybe one of the reasons why she finally spoke up was because the woman we just played the clip of --

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman Jackie Speier was on her radio show and she thought, all right, if she can tell her me too story, then I will as well. What do you think?

EMILY JANE FOX, SENIOR REPORTER, "VANITY FAIR": It's interesting, what you think about what Judge Moore and his supporters must be thinking about as they watch this. If he does continue on in the election and win a seat in the U.S. Senate, this is the climate that he's going to enter into. He's sitting there watching what the Senate colleagues on both sides are saying about these allegations and Senator Franken, what are they going to do with the allegations against Judge Moore? And I think that that's a really important thing for the people who continue to support Judge Moore, that this is the climate he's going to enter into and it's not forgiving for anybody for any kind of allegation and certainly the ones against Judge Moore are more serious.

BALDWIN: Can I bring a legal voice in, just briefly, and then I want to come back to you, Gloria.

Faith Jenkins is joining us as well here, from a legal perspective.

Faith, you know, this was something that when you looked at the statement, the more lengthily statement that Senator Franken has put out, he says he doesn't remember the kissing incident as she does, and that was 11 years ago. That was two years prior to when he became a senator.

We've heard, you know, both from the left and the right calling for this ethics investigation. He says he would absolutely welcome that and participate.

What do you make of the next moves and his whole I don't totally -- he apologizes but he says I don't totally remember it the way that she does?

FAITH JENKINS, CRIMINAL LAWYER/FORMER CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think that Leeann Tweeden today, when she gave her statement, she comes across as very credible. He may not remember, but she seems to have a very vivid memory and gives a lot of -- and gives a lot of detail. But, Brooke, in like most of these cases, you're talking about incidents where a statute of limitations has passed so there won't be criminal charges per se. So it's all about what happens now with his job as a sitting member of Congress.

And it's also really important because you're talking about when people like Gretchen Carlson come -- when they come out and say, we need new legislation that helps victims of sexual harassment in the workforce. You're talking about going before Congress and ask for that legislation. So it's really important that, yes, there is an investigation. And, you know, perhaps there may be other allegations against members of Congress that come out. It's really important that these investigations take place, that members of Congress are held accountable for their actions, just like any other private citizen.

BALDWIN: Yes. And what about the president? I guess I'm left wondering -- and, Gloria, here's my question to you. You know we apparently -- questions have been shouted at the president, as he was coming, as he was going, from meeting with the House Republicans today before the big vote on The Hill. Nothing. You know, according to Jeff Zeleny's reporting, part of the reason that he hasn't commented on the Roy Moore piece of this whole story is, because, as I mentioned, his own personal, let me -- let's just rip the band-aide off, and it's his own issue with all these women who have come forward through the years alleging sexual, you know, assault and harassment against the now president. But how long can the White House just sit on this and not say anything?

BORGER: Well, you're going to see Sarah Huckabee Sanders come out and perhaps she will be the mouthpiece for the president in this.

BALDWIN: Especially as a woman.

BORGER: But, you know, don't forget, when -- during the campaign when he was confronted with all these women, who are now, by the way, they might come out again if they haven't already, and I believe one or two have and said, what about us?

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

BORGER: Are you for getting us? He said they were lying. He said he didn't believe them and that it was completely fabricated. So it's very difficult for him to say to Moore, who is saying the same thing, that this is fabricated, et cetera, et cetera, it's very difficult for him to say, well, you should have believed me that they were lying, but, you know, I want him to step aside. Everybody understands that this is very difficult for him politically.

However, I would argue this is about something larger than Donald Trump.


BORGER: And it is about the Republican Party. And it is about the values of a country. And it is about women and the way women are treated in the workplace.


BORGER: And elsewhere. BALDWIN: Yes.

BORGER: And that presidents are supposed to speak on these kinds of issues. And if he can't speak on that issue, his silence is very telling.

BALDWIN: Agree. Very curious to see how Sarah Sanders handles this in just a little while.


BALDWIN: It's the first White House press briefing since, of course, this big Asia trip. So how she -- what she says and maybe what she doesn't say will be quite telling.

Ladies, stay with me. Live pictures from inside that briefing room. We're going to take that when that begins this afternoon.

Also, though, as we've been talking about this embattled Republican Senate Candidate Ray Moore, he is also expected to step behind that very microphone there in Birmingham at the faith leaders press conference. As now you have these two additional women, these two accusers, coming forward and telling their stories to "The Washington Post." So we're going to stay on that.

[14:25:08] Also breaking today, the judge in the Senator Bob Menendez corruption case declares a mistrial after the jury lands in a deadlock. We'll tell you what led up to that decision and we'll play some sound where the senator speaking once the mistrial was declared got pretty emotional there.

So, stay with us. A heck of a lot to talk about on this very busy Thursday afternoon.

Stay here.


[14:29:52] BALDWIN: Breaking news on Capitol Hill this afternoon. The House passing a massive tax overhaul bill. Of course the Senate side, two senators already criticizing their version of the plan. And, by the way, it's more than two senators who are really to watch, who could, you know, really stall this whole thing. But one we're really watching is Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson flat out rejecting the current plan, although he has admitted --