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Interview with Senator Mike Rounds; Interview with Senator Ron Wyden; Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired November 16, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Two more accusers coming forward, one woman telling "The Washington Post" that Moore was in his 30s, she was a teenager, when he made unwanted advances towards. Meanwhile, Moore's lawyer casting doubt on a different accuser's story.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The president remaining silent about the allegations against Moore, and instead tweeting on tax reform ahead of the House vote this afternoon, this as Republican Senator Ron Johnson, was just on NEW DAY, says he rejects the current version of their bill, raising questions about its future.
We have got it all covered. Let's start with CNN's Jason Carroll who is live in Gadsden, Alabama. All eyes on that race, such implications on a moral level but also in terms of the numbers in the Senate.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Without question, Chris. And the reaction from the GOP on Capitol Hill very different from the reaction here in the state. GOP leaders held a meeting last night, and this morning Roy Moore is still their man.
CARROLL: Two additional women speaking out to "The Washington Post," accusing Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore of making unwanted advances toward them when they worked at an Alabama mall years ago.
BETH RICHARD, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": She then was in school a couple days later in trig class when she heard she got a call. She thought oh, my goodness, is it my dad? She went to the office and it turned out to be Roy Moore asking her out on a date.
CARROLL: A total of seven women have now come forward, including two who say that Moore sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: He was on the no fly list for a mall, which, to me, is pretty stunning. So it gives credibility to the allegations of these women.
CARROLL: As Republican leadership in Washington actively tries to push Moore out of the race, the embattled candidate remaining defiant, tweeting a direct challenge to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- bring it on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you like to see the president weigh in and join your calls for Roy Moore?
GRAHAM: It would be up to him. But he's the head of the party, and it would be good if he would say something.
CARROLL: Despite mounting pressure to speak out, the president remaining silent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should Roy Moore resign, Mr. President. Do you believe his accusers? Should he resign?
CARROLL: Sources tell CNN the president has expressed apprehension about commenting due to his own past accusers. Mr. Trump's daughter Ivanka, however, speaking out forcefully, telling the Associated Press "There's a special place in hell who prey on children." The embattled candidate fighting back on multiple fronts, releasing a list of 12 female character witnesses, writing an open letter to prominent conservative Sean Hannity, denying the allegations and attempting to discredit one of his accusers, Beverly Young Nelson, who says that Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought that he was going to rape me.
CARROLL: Nelson says after Moore attacked her she never spoke to him again, but Moore's lawyer challenging this claim, citing Nelson's 1999 divorce.
PHILIP JAUREGUI, ATTORNEY FOR ROY MOORE: Guess who that case was before? It was filed in Etowah County and the judge assigned was Roy S. Moore.
CARROLL: This statement raising questions about Moore's own defense earlier this week.
ROY MOORE, (R) U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I don't even know the woman, I don't know anything about her.
CARROLL: Moore's lawyer also casting doubt about the authenticity of this inscription in Nelson's yearbook signed "Love Roy Moore, D.A."
JAUREGUI: Release the yearbook so that we can determine is it genuine or is it a fraud.
CARROLL: Nelson's attorney agreeing to turn over the yearbook if a Senate committee holds a committee to investigate Moore's actions.
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON: We want him to be subpoenaed if he won't appear voluntarily, and for him to testify. He can deny it if he wants as long as it's under oath.
CARROLL: And while Roy Moore has made public statements about the allegations this week, he's not opened himself up to be questioned by reporters in a press conference format. Moore says that's because he's going to be filing a civil suit and he says that limits what he can say. Chris, Alisyn? CUOMO: It also limits his ability to be tested on what he says.
Thank you, Jason.
Joining us now is political analyst David Gregory and CNN political director David Chalian. David Gregory, you've got the moral question. Elected leaders certainly within that party need to stand up and be accounted for in terms of what they make of these accusations. But then you have a larger question of what is supposed to be done about it. Should they strong arm that governor and try and monkey with the rules to get someone that they like more, no pun intended, or should this go to the election of the people?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's a couple of sides watching the momentum in this race and seeing if there's enough pressure for Moore to back down. That's why I think the president is important in all of this, whether he weighs, whether he tries to lean on Moore.
[08:05:02] But that's very dicey for a president who, you know, tried to put his thumb on the scales in this race before and got burned by it and didn't like how all of that looked. His former political adviser, Steve Bannon, sticking by Roy Moore at this point. So you have the specter of the establishment trying to rig the race to get Moore out so that he doesn't have to face the voters, and that's particularly ugly.
I thought it was interesting Senator Johnson saying he should get out, and even if he's elected we have the ability not to seat him and he's unlikely to be seated. Whether he can make good on that pledge is unclear, but I think it's only going to strengthen a lot of support behind Roy Moore right now.
CUOMO: The president having to weigh in on the accusations of the same kind that he totally dismissed about himself.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That is dicey. So David Chalian, one thing that we learned in the presidential race is that voters outside of the beltway don't like Mitch McConnell or journalist in New York City to tell them how to think and how to vote. And so it is still possible, quite possible that Roy Moore wins this race in Alabama.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is possible. Alisyn, remember, this race -- we haven't seen a competitive Alabama Senate race in a while. So this race was competitive before these allegations came out largely due to the fact that Roy Moore is not beloved by everyone in Alabama. He's a controversial figure. He's beloved by his supporters, there's no doubt about that.
And to David's point about the primary, you have to remember Mitch McConnell was the toxic word in the primary. I mean Mitch McConnell was the boogeyman that Roy Moore used to great success as he was running against Luther strange. So you are right, battling against the establishment, Mitch McConnell and media elites from the northeast, that works very well. And now that Roy Moore is trying to create a cloud here and call into question the signature on the yearbook, he's going to give his supporters something to hang on to, to give them a reason not to abandon him.
This was competitive before the allegations, it is even more competitive now. And I'll just say, even though Ron Johnson said that it is most likely that if he were elected that he would be expelled from the Senate because I don't believe there's a rule that prevents him from being seated, that is a tricky proposition because at that point all of the Alabama voters should Moore win this election would have had all this information and voted for him anyway, imagine what the Steve Bannon would do if a that point the United States Senate tried to expel him.
GREGORY: And let's step back and look how difficult all this is. Here you have a president who normally, all of his public pronouncements would be in support of somebody like Moore against the establishment, and yet he is compromised because of the allegations against Moore, because of the allegations against himself.
Then the broader picture here is look how the Republican Party is tearing itself up right now over Roy Moore, on the precipice of losing a tax bill vote in the Senate even as the House is, once again, moving forward. The health care behind all of this, this is a very, very sensitive moment for a party that's already looking out there in the grassroots after what happened in Virginia and seeing a really ugly picture in the midterm election next year.
CUOMO: What about all the Sessions talk, David Chalian, about that kind of monkeying around, get him to leave, the A.G. go in there, be a write-in, maybe ask the governor there to be accommodative of restarting the special election and getting Luther Strange to resign, all of those machinations. Do you think that's likely?
CHALIAN: Let's break those two apart. On the Luther Strange factor, we have checking in with the governor's office in Alabama, Chris, and they still stand by the statement that she issued publicly on Sunday which is that she has no intention to change the date. Even if Luther Strange were to resign --
CUOMO: She also says she backs Roy Moore even in the face of all these accusations --
CHALIAN: Right. If Luther Strange were to resign his seat before the election, the thinking inside the governor's office is we have a special election on the books December 12th to fulfill the remainder of Jeff Sessions term. So it is not required that a new election date is set. She certainly has that power and she may get some pressure from the Republican establishment in Washington to do so, but we have no indication that she's willing to do that yet.
On the Sessions front, again, this gets back to the silence so far from Donald Trump. Nothing is going to move forward on that notion of Jeff Sessions as a write-in candidate unless Donald Trump makes it so and asks directly of his attorney general to do so, and we have no indication that that's happening yet.
CAMEROTA: On that note, David Gregory, Ivanka Trump, the first daughter, she tweeted that basically there's a special place in hell, or she gave a statement, "There's a special place in hell of people who prey on children. I have yet to see a valid explanation. I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts." Does that give us any window whatsoever into her father's thinking?
[08:10:01] GREGORY: I think it does. I think that the White House's own comments about this, saying, you know, if these are true then he should step down. I don't think -- that creates a lot of distance for the president in issuing a statement like that. I think this is sensitive right now, but there's no question that McConnell has been working the White House here, and I'm sure he's rather impatient about the president weighing in on this, but there's reluctance for all the reasons we have talked about. And you know, that is what it is. We are going to stand by and watch to see, you know, this is not a president who shies away from much and who uses much discretion when it comes to staying away from delicate topics. So I have to believe he's going to commit himself one way or another before this thing goes to a vote.
CUOMO: What a reality if Moore goes through with the election, which he seems intent to do, wins, gets seated, they can't remove him, they don't want the distraction, and then Mitch McConnell has to spend so much time trying to get that vote time after time after time, and then Roy Moore would have the leverage.
CHALIAN: And every Republican running in 2018 will have to answer for Roy Moore being in the Senate every day. That's the fear.
CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much.
So Republican Senator Ron Johnson says he cannot vote for the Senate's tax plan as is. Will the measure get the votes it needs to survive? We will ask another GOP senator how he's feeling about it, next.
CUOMO: And when you are in the car, did you know that Alisyn and I could be along for the ride with you? You can listen to NEW DAY on Sirius XM channel 116. It's free for a limited time. Look, I know it's not as good as seeing us, but it's the next best thing.
CAMEROTA: But I am a backseat driver.
CUOMO: Are you one of those? But you have a beautiful voice.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
[08:15:28] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The House is set to vote today on the Republican tax reform proposal that is speeding through Congress. In the Senate their bill faces a more uncertain future.
Republican Senator Ron Johnson announced his opposition to the plan, saying it favors corporations over smaller businesses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Neither the House nor the Senate version honor that 25 percent rate. It's far higher and we are leaving those pass-through businesses behind. I'm just looking for a fair shake for all businesses to maintain the competitive balance and position of all businesses. Let's not upset that up and harm our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: So can Republicans get the president a bill by Christmas?
Let's ask Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
Senator, thanks so much for being here.
SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: Appreciate the opportunity to visit.
CAMEROTA: Are you a yes on the way the Senate bill is at the moment?
ROUNDS: I am a yes on the Senate bill today but that doesn't mean we can't make it better. I think that's what Senator Johnson is talking about. He's looked at it, he truly believes there's a better way to do it, I respect him for that. If we can find a way to answer some of his concerns I think we make it a better bill. But if the bill remains the way that it is today, I would support it in its current form because once again what we're comparing it to is what we have today in law, and the proposal that's in front of us is better than current law.
CAMEROTA: But what about his --
ROUNDS: But it doesn't mean it's perfect.
CAMEROTA: Sorry to interrupt you but what about Senator Johnson's concern that it doesn't give a fair shake to smaller businesses?
ROUNDS: It provides a tax break in both particular cases but it does change the relationship between a pass-through business, such as a sub-chapter S corporation and a C corporation at the governance level, which is at the corporate level. The proponents of the existing system suggests that you have to look at the individuals who own corporations in both cases or invest in corporations, and in that particular case the sub-chapter S or the pass-throughs do come out better for the individual.
But where you invest the money and where you retain the money which is at the corporate level in both cases for successful businesses, the C corporations do come out better than what the S corporations do. So I think Ron is correct and we have to be able to explain that to folks, but in both cases the American economy actually has improved by what we are doing in the current proposed plan.
CAMEROTA: So from where you sit you think the president will have a Republican tax plan on his desk to sign before Christmas?
ROUNDS: Well, time here is different than time in the rest of the world, but I am hopeful that we will have it. It never seems to work out exactly the way we want it to, but I'm very hopeful that it's not just for the president, this is for the American people. They want -- they want a healthy economy and that's what this is all about is actually driving businesses back into the United States, creating more job opportunities.
And that's what this is all focused on, is can we make this economy better than what it is today? And the answer is absolutely yes. The bill in its current form does it. I think what Senator Johnson is suggesting is fair discussion and that would make this even better if we can come to an agreement to maybe modify some of those parts in there.
CAMEROTA: OK. Let's move on to Alabama. What do you want to see Senate candidate Roy Moore do?
ROUNDS: I personally think that Mr. Moore at this time should step aside. I think the preponderance of the evidence is growing in such a fashion that people clearly understand that, you know, it's going to be very difficult for Mr. Moore to, number one, win this election, or second of all, if he is here to be effective without clearing what I am convinced will be immediate ethics charges that would be brought against him.
CAMEROTA: If he does win, what does happen when he gets to the Senate?
ROUNDS: That's a good question. First of all, he could be under the constitutional directives that we have today. He would be seated but once he is seated leadership has made it very clear that the Ethics Committee would be expected to bring ethics charges against Mr. Moore immediately, and that by itself I think sends a message that there's a real concern there, and the as I say, the preponderance of the evidence in this particular case has clearly mounted and Mr. Moore has not mounted an appropriate defense at this time.
CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about this bipartisan plan to solve some of the gun violence, particularly after what we saw in Texas where the Army missed an opportunity to alert people to this gunman's violent pass with domestic violence.
[08:20:08] So this bipartisan approach where John -- I believe it's Chris Murphy and John Cornyn.
ROUNDS: Cornyn. Yes.
CAMEROTA: Are trying to just enhance the background checks, trying to beef them up. Do you see any problem with that?
ROUNDS: I think Senator John Cornyn who is a strong defender of the Second Amendment, when Mr. Cornyn -- Senator Cornyn steps in and says look, I think there's a way we can make this better. A lot of us will take a very serious look at it. We want the background checks to work. We think the laws that are in effect have to be effective and if there's flaws in them then we want to have them corrected. And I think Senator Cornyn is the right person to lead the charge on that. CAMEROTA: Last question, as you know, in the House, Congresswoman
Jackie Speier has been talking about sexual harassment that's still going on, she says, inside the halls of Congress. In fact there are two members of Congress, she says, one Republican, one Democrat that are sort of well-known serial harassers. They haven't been named. Do you know who those are?
ROUNDS: Not a clue. This is the first time I have ever heard that statement made.
CAMEROTA: There have also been something like $15 million paid out of taxpayer money because of these sort of quiet or even secretive settlements that have been made because of what's happened inside Congress, with sexual harassment. What do you know about that?
ROUNDS: The first that I had heard about it was yesterday in talking about with another member, who has been asked by leadership to work through and to make repairs to the existing guidelines within the Senate. And she had shared with me that there had been a fund established unbeknownst to most of us.
We've never talked about it. We've never had a discussion on it and that there had been confidential payments made, and that there was a strong desire that those -- that those be made public, or at least that there be something done to start addressing this issue in a more outright and transparent matter than what has been done in the past, and I think the fact that leadership has recognized the need to move forward and to find a bipartisan approach to this is a step in the right direction.
CAMEROTA: Senator Mike Rounds, thanks so much for dealing with all of these topics with us this morning on NEW DAY.
ROUNDS: You bet. Thank you.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. On the other side of the aisle you've got Democrats speaking out against the renewed effort to repeal Obama's individual mandate in the Senate's new tax plan. What can they do to stop it without the numbers?
The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:26:45] SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), CHAIRMAN, FINANCE COMMITTEE: Excuse me, Senator, let me -- I try not to interrupt you. I hope you don't interrupt me all day.
SEN. RON WYDEN (D), RANKING MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE: Could he answer the question, Mr. Chairman?
HATCH: When you have an opportunity to ask questions, yes, he can answer them, but let me move on. I don't want to get into something (INAUDIBLE) this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, this is not like you.
HATCH: No, it isn't. But it's not like you either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: A heated exchange between Senate Finance Committee chair, Orrin Hatch of Utah, there and the ranking member for the Democrats, Ron Wyden, over the Senate's version of the tax bill. The Democrats and Republicans are clashing over a plan to get rid of Obamacare's individual mandate. But what can they do about it?
Joining us now is the Democratic senator that you just saw there, from Oregon, Ron Wyden.
What's the beef between you and your friend, Orrin Hatch?
WYDEN: Well, Chris, first of all, I'm very fond of Orrin Hatch and I always like giving him my dad's books and we have a good time. But the bottom line here is when they're looking at making $10 trillion worth of tax policy changes on the fly, we've got a lot of questions and we aren't getting answers. So that's what this is all about.
CUOMO: But he was saying that you weren't maintaining the decorum of the protocol in place, that it wasn't your turn?
WYDEN: We certainly were and that's why you heard Senator Nelson mentioned as well that all we're trying to do is ask some basic questions. They have, for example, a double standard in their bill. They are writing into black letter law that the tax breaks for the multinational corporations, who often ship jobs overseas, their breaks would be permanent and the breaks for the middle class are written in disappearing ink.
They're going to go away for a few years. That's not right. The middle class drives 70 percent of the economic activity in our economy. We want that to be the focus and we think it can be bipartisan.
CUOMO: So what can you do about it?
WYDEN: Well, right now I think we're seeing a lot of senators having some doubts and we see a lot of them concerned about the fact that people are going to lose health insurance coverage, premiums are going to go up. They're concerned about deficits. A lot of those deficit hawks went flying away originally. They're seeing that deficits are going to explode even more dramatically than they thought so I think we've seen in the headlines today a number of Senate Republicans are raising concerns. We beat them on health care. Nobody thought that we could do it. Again we wanted a bipartisan health care effort. You see that in the Alexander-Murray bill. That's what we'd like to do.
CUOMO: Ron -- WYDEN: But -- I've written two bills, bipartisan. One with Dan
Coates, a member of the president's Cabinet.
CUOMO: Well, you shouldn't be waving the checkered flag just yet, Senator, right? I mean, in this Senate bill, and the House supposedly is going to echo it, you're taking -- they may take away and over your disapproval perhaps, but a key part of the ACA. So saying that, you know, you stopped their efforts to change health care. If they take away the mandate, the whole big part of the structure of the ACA goes away.
WYDEN: Chris, my whole point is we could beat it. I mean, we're seeing --
CUOMO: Well, you don't have the votes is what I'm saying, Senator. How do you beat it?
WYDEN: Well, just like we saw with health care. Senators began peeling off.