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Moore's Lawyer Targets Accuser; Trump to Sell Tax Plan; Trump's Watershed Moment; Jerry Jones Versus NFL. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 16, 2017 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The attorney for Roy Moore going after one of his accusers. They want an inscription in the accuser's yearbook analyzed by handwriting experts as two new accusers come forward.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump heads to Capitol Hill to sell tax reform today. He'll meet with House Republicans before they vote. But the Senate's plan is running into early Republican opposition.




ROMANS: And President Trump with his own Marco Rubio moment. Given the president's past comments, the moment is dripping with irony.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: We were all thirsty for something like that. I'm Dave Briggs. It's Thursday, November 16. We're having a good time with this. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

But we start with something certainly not funny.

[05:00:01] This morning, two new accusations that Roy Moore made unwanted advances on young women. "The Washington Post" reporting on the stories of Gena Richardson and Becky Gray, who both worked at the mall in Gadsden, Alabama, in the late 1970s.

ROMANS: Richardson was a high schooler working in Sears when she says Moore, then a 30-year-old lawyer, introduced himself and asked for her phone number. Richardson declined but says he then called her at school a few days later, got her out of her trigonometry class, she gets on the phone and she says he asked her out. She relented and says their date ended in an unwanted forceful kiss.

BRIGGS: The other new accuser Becky Gray was then 22 and working in the men's department of another store. She says Moore kept asking her out and she kept saying no. Gray says he was persistent in a way that made her uncomfortable. The two women bring the total number of accusers to now seven. ROMANS: And now, Moore's lawyer is on the offensive, attacking the

credibility of another accuser who went public Monday. Moore's attorney zeroing in on a note Beverly Nelson says Moore inscribed in her yearbook.

We get the latest now from CNN's Kyung Lah. She is in Gadsden, Alabama.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, Roy Moore's attorney came out trying to defend his client. He also attempted to turn the conversation away from allegations of child sex abuse to handwriting analysis. The focus of his comments before the press today was about the yearbook, the yearbook signed apparently by Roy Moore in the 1970s by a high school girl who at the age of 16 says that Roy Moore attempted to make sexual advances toward her, unwanted sexual advances.

Roy Moore's attorney saying that the handwriting and that yearbook was forged.

PHILIP JAUREGUI, ATTORNEY FOR ROY MOORE: We have a handwriting expert, pardon me, that's looking at those. But here's the problem. A handwriting expert can't look at a copy on the Internet, right? They've 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'll send it to a neutral custodian. We'll keep chain of custody and our professional expert will examine it. And we'll find out, is it genuine or is it a fraud?

LAH: Well, all of this certainly complicates things. We spoke to a voter and the impact on what will happen on December 12th, this voter said it certainly made things muddier for him and much more complicated -- Christine, Dave.


BRIGGS: Indeed. Thank you, Kyung Lah.

The attorney for that accuser, Beverly Nelson, quick to respond to the demands from Moore's lawyer. Gloria Allred says she will release the yearbook to an independent expert if Senate committees agree to a hearing where her client and Moore can testify under oath.

ROMANS: Some conditions.

President Trump, meanwhile not saying a word about this. After giving an address on his Asia trip Tuesday the president refused to answer questions about Moore. Listen.


REPORTER: Should Roy Moore resign, Mr. President? Do you believe his accusers? Do you believe the accusers of Roy Moore, Mr. President? Should he resign?


BRIGGS: CNN has learned the president's silence on the issue stems from past experience. Republicans close to the White House says the president is concerned the focus will shift to earlier sexual misconduct allegations against him.

ROMANS: One Trump is speaking up. Ivanka, in a blistering response to the controversy, she told 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 victims' accounts.

BRIGGS: More for his part insisting he is staying in the race, with the tweet ending: we will not quit.

His examine also putting out quotes from a dozen women who have known Moore for years, all attesting to his character. And Moore himself signed an open letter to FOX News host Sean Hannity denying the allegations.

ROMANS: Hannity giving Moore 24 hours to give a better explanation. What he called inconsistencies in his stories or drop out of the race. He now calls the allegations beyond disturbing and serious but is not so far dropping support.

In Alabama, an emergency meeting of the state Republican committee ended last night without comment.

It's judgment day for the House tax plan. The president heads to Capitol Hill today speaking to house GOP members ahead of a vote on their version of the tax bill.

The tax reform's real hurdle is in the Senate. The first GOP Senate expressing opposition. Jeopardizing efforts to pass it by the end of the year. Senate Republicans can only lose two votes and Senator Ron Johnson says he won't vote for the current bill. He says the plan doesn't help small business enough, giving corporations a bitter deal. That prompted President Trump to give him a telephone call.

But Johnson is not entirely wrong. In the Senate version, most tax cuts expire in eight years, including the pass through rates. That's used by small and medium sized businesses. Corporate rate, that's permanent, by the way, lower. It's 20 percent. Pass through rates, 25 percent.

Ending most tax cuts, though, reduces how much the bill adds to the deficit, $1.5 trillion.

[05:05:01] It can't add more and still pass the simple majority. That's why Senate bill repeals the Obamacare care mandate, 13 million fewer Americans would end up -- fewer would be insured. Not paying for those people saves the government $338 billion. But also hikes premiums 10 percent. That concerns another Senate Republican.

Senator Susan Collins warns higher premiums may wipe out middle class tax relief. So, trying those things together, taxes and health care, one could wipe out the benefits of the other.

BRIGGS: These two top stories have everything to do with one another because, as you said, they can lose no fewer than two votes. If it Alabama goes Democrat December 13th, forget tax reform.


BRIGGS: It looks impossible.

So, let's discuss this with CNN politics reporter Tal Kopan live from Washington this morning.

Good to see you, my friend.

ROMANS: Hi there.


BRIGGS: This is part of the reason why this is so difficult for the president to step out on a limb on this issue, because he needs tax reform. He also has a complicated history, given his accusers.

But, Tal, should he be given a pass on staying out of this controversy. He wades into things that ordinarily a president belongs nowhere near, like an NFL anthem protests. How is he allowed to stay out of this?

KOPAN: Yes, it's a remarkable discipline to not comment on this. Look, Republicans are going to face questions on this continually, as they should. This is potentially a member of the party that's going to join them in Washington if Roy Moore wins. And it is absolutely Hail Mary time for Republicans.

That might be an understatement. I mean, the farfetched scenarios that are being discussed, whether it's expulsion from the Senate, which hasn't been done since the civil war era, whether it's write-in campaigns. Republicans are searching to find a solution because they don't want to keep asking questions about this man. He already had a controversial campaign. And they've asking questions about everything he says and whether they stand by it.

And now to add these accusers on top of it, Republicans just want to avoid this as much as they can. And so, it's not necessarily surprising that the president is in that camp, but so far, they don't seem to really have a choice.

ROMANS: You know, Roy Moore tweeting yesterday: We believe in god, the Constitution, sanctity of life and the sanctity marriage. We are everything the Washington elite hate. They will do whatever it takes to stop us. We will not quit.

There's a pretty good chance to Roy Moore supporters in Alabama and Alabama Republicans don't want Washington meddling in their election, and all of these accusations they can overlook.

KOPAN: Yes. I don't know how voters are going to make up their mind on this. But certainly, you know, Mitch McConnell and Roy Moore were not friends before these accounts. I mean, keep in mind that Roy Moore has been running against Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, for his entire campaign. And the super PAC that's aligned with Mitch McConnell supported the other candidate in the race, Senator Strange.

And so, you already have that dynamic going on here. And so, to an extent, Roy Moore can certainly use that to his advantage and continue to play these claims that he's an outsider that Washington doesn't want him there. Now, I do think there's some Alabama voters, even for him, who do take these accusations seriously, and consider these women credible. And are seriously weighing what they're going to do next.

BRIGGS: Mitch McConnell mentioned to "The Wall Street Journal" Jeff Sessions as the possible write-in candidate. The problem is he's a current attorney general who doesn't appear to be interested in something that can jeopardize his political future entirely.

Plus, Tal, can you imagine a confirmation hearing given this political environment for a new attorney general and the special counsel and all that comes with it?

KOPAN: Yes. You hit the nail on the head. Like I said, farfetched scenarios at this point being discussed. Certainly you could argue Jeff Sessions is the only Republican who could successfully mount a write-in campaign at this point. There was some discussion of having Luther Strange attempt. But, he lost the primary, let alone a general now in a write-in.

It's an incredibly difficult feat. And keep in mind, you know, some ballots have already gone out, absentee ballots, there are votes that are already potentially being cast. There's a really deep concern a write-in campaign could ultimately help elect the Democrat in this race who is running surprisingly competitively with Roy Moore already. And if you split the Republican vote, that may hand Democrats another seat in the Senate.

So, it's almost an impossible situation that Republicans find themselves in, and that's why you have these almost fantastical ideas of having the attorney general leave his post and run for his old Senate seat and then potentially having to fill that attorney general post again.

[05:10:03] ROMANS: Fantastical ideas and also forensic analysis of 40-year-old yearbooks. Oh my gosh.

Let's move on to taxes quickly, because the House will have a vote today. The Senate is still marking its bill. What do you think is going to happen? Are you seeing Senator Ron Johnson back away, we've see some other concerns that there's not enough middle class tax relief. This is really a corporate tax cut that Washington is trying to push.

What do you expect today?

KOPAN: We expect the House to be able to pass their bill. Look, you talk to anyone on -- any Republican on the Hill. They deeply want to get this done.

It is not anyone's favorite bill and certainly they have lost Republicans in the House, but they think they have enough votes. But there is a deep sense among the conference that they need to end the year with something. And this is sort of their last shot.

But, again, we all -- we did this every week during the health care debacle. We know how much of a delicate balance it is. You move too far to one side you risk losing some on the other. And they're very much in that delicate balancing act right now.

ROMANS: I will say about Republicans, there are two things Republicans really stand for, lower taxes, right? This is really important.

BRIGGS: This is fundamental.

ROMANS: Get the government out of my life. The government shouldn't tell me what I have to do. Two elements of this reform for this debate right together.

BRIGGS: And they're both here.

ROMANS: So maybe there's common ground.

BRIGGS: All right. Tal Kopan, we'll see you in about 30 minutes. Thanks.

KOPAN: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. This painting identified as a long lost Da Vinci. Now, it's been auctioned off. You will not believe how much money. It's like the GDP of some nations is what this is worth. We'll tell you soon.


[05:15:44] BRIGGS: A manhunt under way in Baltimore this morning after a homicide detective was shot in the head. He's in grave condition. Police say the 18-year veteran of the force was conducting a follow-up investigation of a killing in northwest Baltimore when he observed a suspicious man and approached him. During their encounter, the detective as shot.


COMMISSIONER KEN DAVIS, BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT: What I want to describe this person as is cold and callous. And he's out there right now and he know knows that he shot a Baltimore police officer. He knows it. He's well aware of it.


ROMANS: The detective is in the ICU on life support with his wife and children by his side. Some of the detectives' fellow officers were noticeably devastated as they waited for information outside the hospital. A reward of over $60,000 is being offered for information leading to the shooter's arrest.

BRIGGS: The California man who killed five people and injured 10 others may have started his deadly rampage by fatally shooting his wife. Authorities in Tehama County say they discovered her body under a floor in their home. She was killed the night before Kevin Neal murdered four other people in a strain of random shootings.

ROMANS: We're also learning the gunman was ordered to give up his firearms earlier this year. That was after the local district attorney says Neal fired shots at two women, stabbed one of them, held them hostage. Neal's sister says he struggled with mental illness for decades which recently worsened.


SHOOTER'S SISTER: He just never had good coping skills and he had this tendency to fly off in these uncontrollable rages and it just could've have been anything in that situation.


BRIGGS: Neal's 25-minute rampage included an attempt to break into a local elementary school. He was thwarted by quick-thinking staff members who ordered a lockdown.

ROMANS: Police now confirming the suspect in a series of killings putting the Tampa area on edge say this man seen walking in two surveillance videos. Tampa police released images showing the suspect near the most recent shooting scene this week and near one of the shootings last month. In both, they say his clothes and demeanor are similar. The string of unsolved killings is within a 10-15 block area of the Seminole Heights neighborhood. The reward for information leading to an arrest now topping $90,000.

BRIGGS: All right. Talk about return on investment. A long lost Leonardo Da Vinci work titled "Savior of the World" selling for more than $450 million.

ROMANS: Oh my gosh.

BRIGGS: That is the most ever paid for an artwork sold at auction, far eclipsing the $100 million expected price.

ROMANS: Get this. The painting last sold at a Christie's auction for $60 back in 1958. They didn't know it was a Da Vinci then. It was only identified as a Da Vinci in 2011. It apparently disappeared near the end of the 18th century.

It's considered the greatest artistic rediscovery of the century. No word on the winning winner. It is the only Da Vinci in private hands, and one of only a couple dozen I think that survived.

BRIGGS: So, is it gone from public view forever? We don't know yet.

ROMANS: I know it was on display last week and there were art lovers lining up to get a glimpse never guessing it could be 400 -- half a billion dollars.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, the football feud pitting Cowboys owner Jerry Jones against the NFL, just keeps escalating.

Andy Scholes with the details in the "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:45] BRIGGS: UCLA players who were arrested for shoplifting in China thanked President Trump yesterday for helping get them out of trouble because of course he asked them to.

ROMANS: And, boy, they were in a lot of trouble.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Andy.


Yes, UCLA holding a press conference where all three players apologized for shoplifting in China. And earlier in the day, President Trump had tweeted this, asking if the players were going to thank him for getting them out of trouble and when the players got their chance, that's exactly what they did.


LIANGELO BALL, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'd also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help they provided as well. I'm grateful to be back home and I'll never make a mistake like this again.

CODY RILEY, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER: To President Trump, and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out.

JALEN HILL, UCLA BASKETBALL PLAYER: Thank you for the PAC-12 and the whole UCLA community that helped us the whole way, and thank you to the United States government and President Trump for your efforts to bring us home.


SCHOLES: The UCLA athletic director confirming that the players stole from three different high-end stores there in China. Coach Steve Alford said the three are suspended indefinitely from the program.

[05:25:00] The power struggle within the NFL taking another turn. The league sending a letter to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' attorney, accusing him of trying to sabotage Roger Goodell's contract extension, calling his actions, quote, detrimental to the league's best interest.

Now, the letter which was obtained by "The Wall Street Journal" and "New York Times" says Jones,' quote, antics, whatever their motivation are damaging the league. As reported by pro-football talk on Monday, some owners have discussed the possibility of removing Jones as the Cowboy's owner.

In the meantime, the Ezekiel Elliott suspension saga is officially over as he has decided to end the appeals process and serve his six- game suspension. Elliott missed his first game this past Sunday.

All right. Finally, the panther's Devin Funchess played with extra purpose on Monday night. Before the game, he told Tina Palmer the he'd score a touchdown. Now, Palmer is the mother of 22-year-old Army Sergeant Dillon Baldridge who died while fighting in Afghanistan last June.

Now, Funchess wore Baldridge initials on his helmet during the game, and he scored not one but two touchdowns on Monday night. And Panther tweeting out pictures of Funchess meeting Palmer yesterday. As you can see, the two sharing a hug and Funchess giving her the game ball, one of the balls he scored a touchdown with.

And, guys, you know, this hit home for Funchess he said because, you know, Dillon was only two months older than him and, you know, definitely just a special, special show of honor for what he did for that family.

BRIGGS: NFL players care about the troops, memo to the White House. They care about the troop troops. Maybe they should do salute to service week every week, though. I mean, not just seven days during the NFL season. Good move there.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes, thank you, sir.

BRIGGS: Thanks, Andy.

ROMANS: Two more women coming forward with accusations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Now, his lawyers are trying to discredit one of his accusers based on Moore's handwriting.