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President Trump Slams Al Franken Stays Silent on Roy Moore; Democrats Condemn Franken's Conduct; Gillibrand: Bill Clinton Should've Resigned Over Lewinsky; Shouting Match Erupts In Senate Over GOP Tax Bill; Senate To Act On Tax Bill After Thanksgiving; House Passes Their Version Of GOP Tax Plan. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- a thank you check, she invited him to attend her real estate school for free, which is wonderful.

Look, doing the right thing is a regard in and of itself but it's always nice when there's something --

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That is good karma right there. Fantastic.

OK, thanks so much. Great to work with you.

BERMAN: Great to be here.

CAMEROTA: Have a great weekend. Time now for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Erica Hill filling in.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Erica Hill in today for John Berman, and Poppy Harlow.

Two sex assault scandals rocking Washington on both sides of the political aisle. The president, though, going after just one of those accused, slamming Democratic Senator Al Franken amid accusations he groped and forcibly kissed a woman in 2006. The woman, Leeann Tweeden, releasing this photo taken during a USO tour. She later described that kiss to CNN.


LEEANN TWEEDEN, SAYS AL FRANKEN FORCIBLY KISSED HER IN 2006: He just mashes his mouth to my lips -- to my lips and, you know, it was like, wet, and, you know, that, and he puts his tongue in my mouth. And you know, my reaction, it was just sort of a -- you know, I push his chest away with my hands. And I'm like, if you ever do that to me again -- I was so angry.


HILL: MJ Lee is on Capitol Hill but first let's get right to Joe Johns to what the president is and, Joe, isn't saying?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica. The president's tweets really weighing in to the controversy over

Democratic Senator Al Franken. His tweet last night giving him the characteristic Trump nickname, this time it's Al Frankenstein, though Frankenstein is spelled incorrectly. Also referencing that damaging photo of the senator appearing to grope Leeann Tweeden. Let's look at the tweet.

"The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad. Speaks to a thousand words. Where do his hands go in picture 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 while she sleeps." And then there's a second tweet. "And to think that just last week, he," meaning Franken, "was lecturing anybody who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Leslie Stahl tape," question mark, an apparent reference to 1995 "New York" magazine article in which Franken is quoted apparently joking about rape.

Now in the briefing room here at the White House, the message has been pretty clear. They're getting on board with many others in Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, calling for an ethics investigation.

But a lot of this, of course, predictable from at least one standpoint, but also important to mention the president simply has not weighed in on the issue of Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the Senate in the state of Alabama. A lot of reasons for that. You know, the president hasn't tweeted, he hasn't talked about it.

And part of his problem is because the Alabama Senate race has been a headache for the president for weeks, if not months. He picked the losing candidate in the primaries, all part of the reason why this White House has said they need to let Alabama voters choose the Alabama senator.

Back to you, Erica.

HILL: Joe, thank you.

MJ, as for the Democrats, what are we hearing from them? It was a swift response yesterday, at least.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Erica, Democrats are simply stunned just based on the reactions that we saw from lawmakers yesterday. And sources I've been talking to on the Hill as well.

This news came as a shock to many Democrats. This is not the kind of news that those Democrats expected to drop yesterday, but as Joe was saying, there is largely agreement among Democrats and Republicans on what needs to happen next with regards to Senator Franken. They are calling for an ethics investigation to look deeper into this issue and significantly Senator Franken himself has said that this investigation is necessary and that he will fully cooperate.

Now I do want to toss to some sound of Senate Democrats reacting to the news as it broke yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D), NEVADA: I am very disappointed. I support an ethics investigation. This kind of conduct should not be tolerated by anyone and any public official.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: He said that he was going to cooperate with the Ethics Committee. And that's the right place to handle these questions.


MERKLEY: I think the right place to address this is the Ethics Committee.


LEE: Now, Erica, as you can imagine, the fallout is really only just beginning. A lot of Democrats facing pressure to distance themselves from Senator Franken now as an example of what kind of actions Democrats will take.

Senator Gillibrand is going to be returning the money that she has received from Franken's tax over the year as an aide tells me that amounts to over $12,000. She will be giving that money to a group that combats sexual assault in the military.

HILL: In terms of also just addressing the issue of sexual harassment, which you have been covering of course for sometime there on Capitol especially over this past week, where do we stand now in terms of Congress actually addressing the issue?

[09:05:09] LEE: Well, Erica, with so many of these stories starting to flood in on Capitol Hill, there's growing recognition that the system needs to change and this is why we saw legislation getting introduced this week by Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. And part of what this legislation proposes to do is to make sexual harassment training mandatory for all members, staff, as well as interns and to bring more transparency to the Office of Compliance. This is the office that actually handled all of the workplace disputes that take place on Capitol Hill.

And a big question that has come out of all of this is why have taxpayers been, you know, footing the settlement payouts that have been made over the years. What we have learned and we have done extensive research on this, reporting on this over the last couple of days, is that some $17 million have been paid out in these kinds of settlements, but the reality right now, Erica, is that even lawmakers are in the dark when it comes to the details of this $17 million in settlement cases that have been made.

HILL: Amazing that even they're in the dark and don't know where all of that money has gone and what specifically it was for in each case.

MJ Lee, appreciate it. Thank you.

This morning Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore, is standing firm, denying allegations he sexually assaulted or harassed multiple teens and young women. He said he will keep taking a stand until they, quote, "lay him in a box and put him in the ground."

The state party standing behind him as his numbers slip in a new poll.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Alabama.

And you have witnessed this firsthand, Roy Moore not backing down, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely not backing down, and just getting back to what you've said -- that you just said, Erica, I mean, he's basically saying until he's dead he is not going to give up any sort of ground. He fully intends on continuing to campaign around the state. We are seeing him again out and about today trying to get his wife out there to defend him, other women to defend him as well.

But what we have seen so far from Moore is that he held a recent news conference where he was flanked by Christian conservatives, some 20 of them, most of them from out of state, all flanking him saying that they support Moore.

If there's a theme to what we are hearing so far from the campaign, it is it's us versus them.


ROY MOORE (R) ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: As you know the "Washington Post" has brought some scurrilous, false charges -- not charges, allegations, which I have emphatically denied time and time again. They're not only untrue but they have no evidence to support them. Two of the speakers up here said words that I caught, one said unsubstantiated and another said unproven. Another said they were fake.

All of that is true. And the "Washington Post" is certainly not evidence.


LAH: And some of the biggest applause that he got during that news conference was when he invoked Mitch McConnell's name saying that Alabama would not be bullied by D.C.

Now how is this impacting the vote here?

Well, Erica, I want you to take a look at this FOX News poll. This was a poll taken between November 13th and 15th after all the publication of these accusations started to bubble to the surface. And according to the FOX News poll, Doug Jones is ahead. He's ahead by eight points, but there's also 9 percent who say that they remain undecided.

Now we have been everywhere across the state, from rural Alabama to Montgomery, to Birmingham, talking to voters across the spectrum, and I could tell you, Erica, that people who say they support Moore, they are still in his camp, it's the people who voted for Luther Strange who say maybe they'll just stay at home but they're not going to vote for the Democrat -- Erica.

HILL: It is fascinating. Kyung Lah, appreciate it. Thank you.

Joining me now to discuss, Rebecca Berg, CNN political reporter, Scott Wong, senior staff writer at "The Hill," and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Good to have all of you with us this morning. As we look at the developments, especially overnight, the president of course very quick to condemn Al Franken on Twitter. I want to play for you the accounts of two different women. So one woman accusing the president of sexual assault, the other accusing Al Franken.


JESSICA LEEDS, ACCUSED PRESIDENT TRUMP OF GROPING HER ON A PLANE: He was grabbing my breast and trying to turn me towards him and kissing me.

TWEEDEN: And he just mashes his mouth to my lips. And you know, it's wet, and he puts his tongue in my mouth.


HILL: Rebecca, these are very similar statements and yet it's tough to miss the hypocrisy when we look at the response from the president to Al Franken and to the allegations against himself.

[09:10:02] REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. And this is why I at least was surprised when I saw the president tweet last night, Erica, that he was engaging on this issue in particular. And it makes sense that he would have stayed away from the Roy Moore allegations, not wanting to publicly defend Moore or cast any sort of judgment in that case because he has dealt with his own sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations during his presidential campaign.

And for some people that seems like ancient history now, but the videos are out there, as you just played, and the president now potentially because he has raised this issue again will have to begin to answer these questions again.

Now the White House was asked about this recently in a press conference, Sarah Sanders was at the podium, asked whether the White House was suggesting as their official line or official statement that all of the women who had accused President Trump were liars, and Sarah Sanders said, yes, that that is the official White House position, that all of the women were lying who accused President Trump.

And so it is a little bit of hypocrisy that they would totally discount all of those accusations but immediately latch on to this Al Franken accuser and try to make this into a political issue for Democrats. HILL: And of course what we're hearing from the White House in

response is exactly what we heard from the president in the campaign trail. But we're talking about a dozen women that had come forward, and just to remind people, this is exactly what the president said on the trail.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication.


HILL: Lynn, in many ways it just begged the question, perhaps it's over simplifying it. But is it just that these allegations are truly of a partisan nature, that sexual harassment, apparently is not sexual harassment, is sexual harassment, is sexual harassment, it depends on which side of the aisle, Lynn?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Well, I think going to your point about President Trump reopening this with his tweets, it's because maybe we need psychologists here instead of journalists to talk about when somebody believes something didn't happen then they think they can go forward and criticize others for the same behavior that they have been accused of carrying out.

So don't -- I just think when we discuss this, we are not dealing with the situation. You're looking for consistency in the reaction to President Trump and obviously what he opened up in going after Franken, know not only it's about himself that he reaps himself open but his silence on Moore is even more telling.

So I think you're dealing again with a president who either thinks he is impervious to these accusations, doesn't care, or thinks it's more important to stick it to Al Franken than to perhaps shield himself from charges of hypocrisy.

HILL: And we shall see what if any comments we hear moving forward.

So much of what we've heard from Republicans when we talk about sexual assault is a lot of what, you know, what about Bill Clinton. There's been much more talk about that, even prior to Al Franken.

But, Scott, with Al Franken now in the headlines, is this forcing Republicans to actually address the real issue as well and not push it off on, oh, look what happened over there?

SCOTT WONG, SENIOR STAFF WRITER, THE HILL: Yes, I think that's right. I think that GOP leadership, Speaker Ryan and Mitch McConnell, have had to react very quickly to sort of manage the fallout from all of these allegations. They have instituted new rules mandating training for all lawmakers and staff on Capitol Hill.

But Democrats are saying this is simply not enough. Jackie Speier of California and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have rolled out legislation that would make it easier for staff members to come forward, other people who work on Capitol Hill to come forward and report sexual harassment allegations, and so I think this is now a moment for leadership who believe they have acted, but I think there's a demand on Capitol Hill as this continues to dominate the news cycle of whether or not they have to take up legislation now and put some real teeth behind it.

HILL: This is -- I think you could also argue this is a moment of reckoning obviously for the Democratic Party, specifically when we listen to what Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told the "New York Times."


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it your view that President Clinton should have stepped down at that time given the allegations?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I would -- yes, I think that is the appropriate response. But I think things have changed today and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction and I think in light of this conversation we should have a very different conversation about President Trump and a very different conversation about allegations against him.


[09:15:08] HILL: Lynn, what do you make about that? How is that going to land with other Democrats? There's already been a little bit of pushback on Gillibrand?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": She got pushback from (inaudible), a Hillary Clinton longtime staffer and loyalist because Hillary Clinton helped her in her campaigns, but here's what may be changing now. Up until now, President Bill Clinton kind of served as the benchmark of how you get a second act in politics.

Hey, I was around the day that the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, and I remember talking to an editor back at the "Sun Times," I guess, we should get ready to write about President Clinton's resignation.

OK, that obviously never happened, you know, he went -- the impeachment survived a Senate trial, but this is different climate now in this post Harvey Weinstein era, I think things are changing and women are coming forward.

And I think things have to be looked at now in a perhaps even tougher and less forgiving way just maybe to get a little bit of this behind us now.

HILL: Rebecca, is there a sense that more Democrats will come forward and side with Kirsten Gillibrand and say, yes, it's time?

REBECCA: It's absolutely possible. I mean, one of the big questions that I have right now, Erica, looking specifically at the Al Franken allegations that came forward yesterday is does this open the flood indicates on Capitol Hill to more of these types of allegations against sitting and former lawmakers. Because as we have seen this happening in Hollywood, in other industries, we haven't really seen this sort of watershed moment yet of sexual assault and harassment allegations here in Washington, D.C.

But you hear about people talk about it all the time. You have seen some lawmakers come forward this week and sort of confirm that this goes on but not name any names. I really do wonder if this is the moment when you start to see a flood of allegations targeting our politicians here in Washington, D.C.

HILL: It does absolutely make you wonder. Rebecca Berg, Scott (inaudible), Lynn Sweet, appreciate it. Thank you.

It got ugly.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order! Order! Regular order!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over and over again, how many times do we do this before --


HILL: A shouting match erupts as senators debate the Republican tax plan. We will dig into that bill and how it impacts you.

Plus, two major developments in the Russia investigation. In focus, the Trump campaign and the president's son-in-law. We have the latest there. The Iraqi forces score a major win against ISIS, we're on that.



HILL: This morning, Senate Republicans are one step closer to a full vote on their tax bill. The Finance Committee approving the plan along the party lines at another markup session, but this session got pretty ugly when Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown accused Republicans of only trying to cut taxes for the rich. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, at that point, had enough.


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH (R), CHAIRMAN, FINANCE COMMITTEE: I come from the poor people. I have been here working my whole stinking career for people who don't have a chance and I really resent anybody saying that I am just doing this for the rich. Give me a break. I think you guys over play that all the time and it gets old. Frankly, you ought to quit it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, the public believes it.

HATCH: Just a second. I'm not through. I get sick and tired of it, and it's a good political play but it's not true --

SENATOR SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Well, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, I get sick and tired of the richest --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order! Order!


HATCH: Listen, I have honored you by allowing you to spout off here and what you said is not right. That's all I am saying. I come from the lower middle class originally. We didn't have anything. So, don't spew that stuff on me. I get a little tired of that crap.

Let me just say something, if we worked together we could pull this country out of every mess it's in, and we could do a lot of things that you are talking about, too. I think I have a reputation of having worked together with Democrats.

BROWN: Let's start with chip.

HATCH: Not starting with chip. I have done it for years --

BROWN: Start with chip today.

HATCH: I have more bills that passed than this whole committee put together and they've been passed through the benefit of people in this country. All I can say is I like you personally very much, but I am telling you this bull crap that you throw out here really gets old, and to do it at the end of this was just not right. I just -- it takes a lot to get me worked up like this.


HILL: Joining me now, CNN Money chief business correspondent, Christine Romans. Wow.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN MONEY CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's why tax reform is so hard. It's true. When you look at the Senate plan, what you are hearing Senator Sherrod Brown and some of the Democrats worry about and some economists, quite frankly, is that, you know, tax relief for rich people and the tax relief for companies is permanent but the middle class is not.

It's tax relief for companies and rich people. The premise from the White House and Republicans on the Hill is that, look, if you can really get the economy growing strongly with tax cuts for companies, then that is going to benefit everybody. That's their operating assumption.

[09:25:10] But the Joint Committee on Taxation, this is Congress, not a righty group or a lefty group. This is a Joint Committee on Taxation looked at the tax changes under the Senate bill and found by the year 2027 the lowest earning Americans will see their taxes rising the most.

So, in the beginning, it's tax cuts for everybody then eventually that starts to peter out. If you were to keep looking at that chart going over to rich people, they would still have their tax cuts. That's at the core you are hearing from Sherrod Brown and others, it's not a vehicle to help income equality, it's a vehicle to help companies.

HILL: That, of course, is in the Senate. If you are looking at the House bill, you are actually learning more after yesterday's vote, specifically how it could impact home prices?

ROMANS: It's fascinating. You look at the House bill, and then the Senate bill will have to be reconciled and there are some big differences here. The House bill has four tax brackets. The Senate bill has seven. The House bill has no personal exemption, but it doubles the standard deduction, has a child tax credit of 1,600.

So, there are some middle-class goodies in there, but it eliminates your medical deduction. There are families frankly with chronic illnesses who plan their budgets around how they can deduct their medical expenses.

It eliminates the deduction for student loans. So, there are some student debtors who would be hurt. It eliminates the state and local income tax deduction. That's why 13 Republican senators did not vote for it.

If you live in New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Iowa, California, that affects you. It caps the mortgage interest deduction at 500,000 for new mortgages. That's what the housing industry says will hurt home prices, Erica, and it will be bad for any homeowner.

So, those are the lobbies you will see working very, very strongly in the next few days as the Senate and House have to go into reconciliation.

HILL: To your point, that's why we have not seen a lot of this done in a very long time. Christine, thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

HILL: Major developments on two fronts in the Russia investigation. Senators demanding to know more about Jared Kushner's e-mails involving Wikileaks while Special Counsel Mueller targets the Trump campaign.