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Al Franken Apologizes; Roy Moore Standing His Ground; Senate Committee Chaos; Opposition: Zimbabwe Takeover Planned Long Ago. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 04:30   ET



LEEANN TWEEDEN, ACCUSES SENATOR AL FRANKEN OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: It's belittling, it's humiliating. I mean, is that funny? Is that ever funny?


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Senator Al Franken facing sexual harassment allegations. The president now weighing in with a tweet, which is bound to raise questions about allegations in his own past.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: And, of course, we found him punting on Roy Moore.

[04:30:01] Moore is suffering a hit in the polls after eight women come forward with allegations against him. The White House now responding even as the president stays silent.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: With all due respect, I get sick and tired of the --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman. Regular order.


ROMANS: And a shouting match in the Senate as lawmakers battle it out over tax reform right after a big House passage of tax reform, now you can see the fight begins, or continues in the Senate.

BRIGGS: That's where the real battle lies ahead.

ROMANS: It really is.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

Both political parties this morning in damage control this morning, dealing with sexual harassment turmoil. A parade of Democrats joining calls for a full ethics investigation of Al Franken. The Minnesota senator has admitted to kissing and groping a woman without her consent in 2006 when he was still a comedian and talk show host.

ROMANS: News anchor Leeann Tweeden says in 2006, when they are both performing on a USO tour, Franken wrote a skit where he was supposed to kiss her. He wanted to rehearse that and she didn't want to rehearse that skit. And she spoke out last night in her first TV interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.


TWEEDEN: He just mashes his mouth to my lips and you know, like wet and he putting his tongue in my mouth and, you know, my reaction, it was just sort of a -- I pushed his chest away with my hands and I'm like if you ever do that to me again -- I was so angry. I was in disbelief, really, and I just sort of -- you know, my hand -- to this day I talk about it and my hand clenches into a first because I think my initial reaction was that I wanted to hit him.


ROMANS: She talks about how he badgered her to do to practice the skit. And she didn't want to. Finally, she said, fine, fine, we'll rehearse one just to sort of shut him up. And that's when he sort of lunged to her like that. Franken later posed for this photo where he seems to grope her while she sleeps.

BRIGGS: So, Franken releasing two statements. First a brief apology, then later, this extended one saying in part, the first thing I want to do is apologize to Leeann, to everyone else who is part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. I respect women, I don't respect men who don't, and the fact that my own actions have given people to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

ROMANS: Leeann Tweeden accepting Franken's apology, calling it heartfelt last night on CNN.


TWEEDEN: I honestly do believe him. And, you know, I wasn't -- I wasn't waiting for an apology from him. But I gladly accept it and thank you.


ROMANS: So late last night, the president weighed in on this, on the Franken revelations seeming to ignore both the Roy Moore allegations and, of course, the history of allegations against the president. Remember all these women when the president was running for office.

In a tweet, naturally, the president writes this. The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad. Speaks 1,000 words. Where do his hands go in pictures 3, 4, 5, and 6 while she sleeps? And to think that just last week, he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?

What does that line refer to? It's a reference to a "New York Magazine" article from 1995 in which Franken jokes with other "SNL" writers about pitching a skit where he would drug and rape CBS reporter Lesley Stahl.

BRIGGS: No question they were talking about that late last night on Fox.

Despite sounding off on Senator Franken, President Trump remaining silent on Roy Moore, leaving it to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to field questions about the claims of sexual abuse and harassment against the Alabama Senate candidate.


REPORTER: How would the president like to see that truth proven?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I'm not going to get into and litigate back and forth but the president's been clear that if any of these allegations are true, allegations that he takes very seriously, finds very troubling, if those do happen to be true, then he should do the right thing and step aside.

REPORTER: What's the mechanism by which the president will be satisfied if the allegations are true?

SANDERS: Look, I don't think the president laid out what the mechanisms are.


ROMANS: Eight women have now come forward accusing Moore of unwanted advances when they were young, very young in some cases, or assault in teens and early 20's. Those claims seeming to weigh on Moore's prospects in the race. A new Fox News poll shows Democrat Doug Jones beating Moore by eight points.

But Moore is vowing to stand his ground.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Gadsden, Alabama, for us with the latest.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Dave, using Roy Moore's own words, he says he will quit standing when you lay him in a box and put him in the ground.

[04:35:00] He said that during a very defiant news conference. He stood side by side with Christian conservatives primarily from out of state.

There were some 20 of them who spoke of in favor of Roy Moore, calling everything that has come out in the press as merely lies. They said that they would not be moved, encouraging people from Alabama to get out to the ballot and vote for Roy Moore on December 12th. If there was a theme to all of this, it simply was it's us versus them.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA CANDIDATE FOR SENATE: Many of you have recognized that this is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama and they will not stand for it. They overcame $30 million and voted me in the primary and now they're trying a different tactic. I'll tell you who needs to step down. That's Mitch McConnell.

LAH: Moore also issued a blanket denial basically saying all accusation that is have become public are simply not true. He would not answer specific reporter questions even as we followed him out of the room, even as those multiple questions were shouted at him -- Christine, Dave.


BRIGGS: Kyung Lah, thank you.

A seventh woman coming forward with an accusation of inappropriate conduct against former President George H.W. Bush. The latest accuser, a 55-year-old Michigan woman spoke exclusively to CNN. She claims Mr. Bush grabbed her rear end during a photo op at a fundraiser for Bush's reelection campaign in 1992. Her story is similar to the ones leveled by six other accusers, but this is the first incident that allegedly took place while the former president was still in office.

ROMANS: All right. Investigators are looking into the cause of the latest Keystone Pipeline oil spill. TransCanada, the owner of the pipeline, says 210,000 gallons of oil leaked Thursday, about three miles from the town of Amherst, South Dakota. This is the largest in a series of keystone oil spills in that state. It comes just days before officials in Nebraska announced whether the Keystone XL pipeline, a sister project, can move forward. Officials say there are no signs of the South Dakota oil spill affecting waterways, water systems or wildlife.

BRIGGS: The House has passed its version of a tax bill, an historic vote. No Democrats backed the bill but the real fireworks were in the Senate Finance Committee, leading to its vote on the Senate's version of $1.5 trillion Republican tax plan late last night. The measure passed by a 14-12 vote strictly along party lines. Republican Chairman Orrin Hatch and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown getting into a shouting match with Brown questioning why the richest Americans need tax cuts.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I get kind of sick and tired of it. True, it's a nice political play. But it's not true --

BROWN: Well, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, I get sick and tired of the richest --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman. Regular order.


BROWN: How many times do we do this?

HATCH: Listen, I've honored you by allowing you to start off here. What you said was not right. That's all I'm 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 you didn't -- if we work together, we can pull this country out of every mess it's in.


BRIGGS: The bill, which includes a repeal of the individual mandate in Obamacare now heads to the Senate floor where action is expected after the Thanksgiving break. The battle really lies ahead. It should be tough.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

We should be clear. You know, this tax reform in both of these chambers is not meant to address income inequality, you know, which is something here that the Senator Brown was talking about. It's meant to provide corporate tax relief and a simpler tax system overall. I don't think that is really affects income inequality, which is still a big problem --

BRIGGS: Well, the argument is that growth, north of 4 percent, which they hope will impact income inequality and lift the lower middle class.

ROMANS: Something that Lawrence Summers, a Democrat and former treasury secretary says is like --

BRIGGS: Sure, but that -- it is the argument.

ROMANS: All right. You're right.

Thirty-nine minutes past the hour.

Mick Mulvaney may soon run the watchdog agency he once tried to shut down. He called it a sad failure at one point. But now, he might be the person tapped by the president as interim chief of the CFPB, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Right now, he's the budget chief now. That's what an administration official tells CNN. Mulvaney will still serve as OMB director.

The CFPB was created as part of Dodd-Frank and the agency has become an aggressive watchdog on the banking industry. In fact, many Republicans think it's too aggressive, claiming the CFPB oversteps its authority. That's something Mulvaney thinks, as a congressman, he cosponsored a bill to shut down the consumer bureau.

[04:40:01] And now, he's going to be running it I guess part-time with his other job. Richard Cordray, the first director will step down at the end of this month. He was appointed by former President Obama in 2012. Mulvaney will serve as until a permanent director is found.

Now, President Trump claims regulation is bad for business. So, Democrats plan to scrutinize any Trump nominee. They'll fight anyone too closely aligned with the financial industry.

A lot of us watching to see what was going to happen with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, because Richard Cordray, someone who widely thought was going to have political aspirations of his own.

BRIGGS: Run for governor.

ROMANS: As a Democrat in Ohio, a populist Democrat in Ohio. How does that tip the scales in a 2020 election, where populists in Ohio would be needed to re-electric President Trump. It's all kind of fascinating.

ROMANS: Yes. A few battles ahead.

All right. Search intensifying in Baltimore for a man shot and killed a police detective. The latest, next.


[04:45:24] ROMANS: Breaking out of East Los Angeles overnight, two children have been killed. They were hit in a multi-car accident involving a vehicle from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office. The LAPD says five people hit on a street corner when a three-car collision sent the sheriff's car on to the sidewalk.

One child was killed at the scene, another died at the hospital. The two deputies involve the have been hospitalized in stable condition. Officials believe the deputies lights and sirens were active at the time of the crash.

BRIGGS: New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez claiming vindication this morning. The jury in his federal corruption trial reported a hopeless deadlock Thursday, and the judge declared a mistrial. Menendez faced 18 counts of fraud and bribery. Prosecutions claimed his alleged co-conspirator, Dr. Salomon Melgen, repeatedly bribed Menendez in exchange of the senator's in various disputes with the government. Prosecutors did not immediately say whether they'll seek to retry Menendez. But after the mistrial was announced, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell called for an ethics committee investigation.

ROMANS: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is rolling out legislation to bolster background checks for gun buyers. The measure is designed to go insure states and federal government upload all required information to the national instant criminal background system.

Last week's mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, prompted lawmakers to tighten that system. The shooter had been imprisoned for domestic abuse, but the Air Force failed to report that information. If the gunman's conviction had been reported, he would have been barred from it buying his weapons. Senate majority whip John Cornyn of Texas and Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut are spearheading that legislation.

BRIGGS: The reward is growing and the search intensifying for the gunman who shot and killed a Baltimore police officer. Forty-three- year-old homicide detective Sean Suiter died Thursday, one day after being shot in the head. Police say he was investigating a killing in West Baltimore when he was gunned down. Detective Suiter was surrounded by his wife, five children and fellow officers when he died. Authorities are offering rewards totaling nearly $170,000 for information leading to the gunman's capture.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, firefighters in southeastern Pennsylvania battling a five alarm fire at a nursing home. CNN affiliate KYW reports at least 20 people were injured in the blaze at the Barclays Friends nursing home in Westchester, Pennsylvania. They believe none of those injuries are life threatening. At least 140 people, including residents and staff were evacuated from that fire.

Ohio State University suspending the activities of nearly all of its fraternities. The school says 11 of the 37 fraternities on campus are under investigation for student conduct violations. It says most the cases involve hazing or alcohol. The university calls that an unacceptably high number. Ohio State University is the latest U.S. school to take action against Greek organizations following incidents of hazing, misconduct and student deaths.

BRIGGS: All right. Some sports news. Houston Astros spark plug Jose Altuve and Miami Marlins slugger John Carlos Stanton are the most valuable players in Major League Baseball. Altuve led the American League with a 346 batting average and 204 hits before becoming an all star for the fourth consecutive season, speed, power and little scrappiness lifting the Astros to that World Series title. Rookie Aaron Judge of the Yankees finishing a distant second in the AL voting.

In the National League, Stanton narrowly edged out Cincinnati's Joey Votto by two points to capture top honors. It was the closest finish in 38 years. Miami slugger who is on the trading block set team records of 59 home runs, 132 RBIs in 2017. Derek Jeter now can decide what to do with his future.

ROMANS: All right. Tesla still has not worked out its production issues with the Model 3, but the company is unveiling a brand new vehicle, the electric big rig getting a lot of buzz this morning.

Details on CNN "Money Stream", next.


[04:53:47] BRIGGS: All right. Now to a new revelation in the political chaos rocking Zimbabwe. An opposition leader telling CNN the military takeover pushing out 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe was planned, quote, a long time ago. CNN's David McKenzie joining us now live from Harare, Zimbabwe.

Good morning to you, David.


Yes, it really is a critical moment here in Zimbabwe, everyone holding their breath. We were out on the streets to really see that heavy military presence. They are clearly still in control, Dave.

But we're learning from opposition leaders that this situation, when they took control of the country, has been planned for some time. The plan by the sacked vice president who was presumably trying to figure out a way to take power. But we're just learning that President Mugabe, who is still president on paper at least is attending a graduation ceremony here in Harare, a strange wrinkle to this tale, which has already been a very odd coup, many would say because the military is on the streets but the president is staying put.

You had the moment of these images released from statehouse of Robert Mugabe shaking the hands of the military who effectively have tried to depose him, all smiles there, real propaganda moment there released from state media.

[04:55:10] But it does appear that negotiations or ongoing. A source who was a very close direct knowledge with those negotiations saying that a deal was almost done. It was signed and delivered practically, but that Robert Mugabe really turned his back on that, and we don't know where these negotiations will be. Everyone's holding their breath -- Dave.

BRIGGS: Mugabe not going quietly. David McKenzie live for us, thanks so much.

Breaking overnight Iraqi forces have launched an operation to liberate the last town in the country held by ISIS. Operations began at sunrise in the town of Rawa. It is located in the Euphrates Valley of Eastern Anbar province, about 40 miles from the Syrian border. A few weeks ago, the anti-ISIS coalition forced the militant group from its last major city in Syria, though pockets do remain in some areas.

ROMANS: The White House claims no final decision has been made on whether to end a ban on importing elephant hunting trophies from two African nations. This comes after a U.S. Fish and Wildlife official said the administration would allow importing remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia. He said higher hunting permit revenue would allow those countries to improve their conservation efforts. Importing elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia was banned by President Obama in 2014, setting a drop in the African elephant population. We should note the president's son, Don Jr. and Eric, are big game hunters.

This got a lot of attention yesterday, a lot of attention.

BRIGGS: Very much buzzed about and controversial. You know, the argument is that the money could actually help save the elephant population. That is, of course, a hunting argument. But --

ROMANS: Yes, the flip side is that killing elephants is not nice.

BRIGGS: And it's not over, clearly.

All right. Today, rain in the U.S. heartland and snow in the mountain west, skiers certainly happy to have that.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam with the latest.


DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good Friday morning, Dave and Christine.

It's the weekend and it's looking fabulous across the East Coast. Dry conditions with blue skies overhead from Boston to New York, as well as Washington. But look what's off in the distance.

We do have a storm system that's bringing cold rainfall to Michigan, parts of Illinois and into Wisconsin, with a few wet snow flakes across the northern Great Lakes region. That system will move to the north and east. It will actually bypass the New England coast line, but it's this storm you see developing across that's bringing rain today. That will actually slide eastward and allow for precipitation by the tail end of the weekend for the major coastal cities from Washington to Philly, New York and Boston, again, that's for Sunday.

Here's the chances of rain showers and the snowfall. Look out west however, winter storm warnings. We're going to be measuring in feet for the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. Good new for the ski resorts as well. Daytime highs today, 47 for New York, 53 for Washington.

Back to you.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that.

Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" this Friday morning.

Global stocks mixed after Wall Street had a nice rebound. U.S. stocks soared.

But it's not because the House passed that tax bill, that big, you know, once in a generation tax rewrite. There were some awesome earnings. Dow stocks Cisco and Walmart had great results. Walmart stock rose 11 percent to an all time high for Walmart.

I think it was the best day for Walmart stock. Biggest rise in like nine years, great sales both in stores and online. Digital sales grew 50 percent. Watch out, Amazon. The Dow rose nearly 200 points snapping a two-day losing streak.

Twenty-First Century Fox may be up for sale, and it has lots of suitors. Both Comcast and Verizon approached Fox about buying most of its company. That's what sources familiar with the talks told CNN. It comes just ten days after news broke that Disney sought the same assets, including its movie and TV studios, as well as its entertainment networks, leaving Fox to focus on news and sports. Disney no longer in talks with Fox but its interest prompted the other companies to reach out.

Despite continued issues with its Model 3, Tesla is introducing a brand new vehicle. Tesla unveiled its electric big rig called the Tesla Semi. And it's quick as a performance sedan. The truck can accelerate to 60 miles per hour in five seconds. Oh, my gosh.

CEO Elon Musk revealed the big rig by riding the electric truck into an airport hangar. The semi can ride up to 500 miles with a full load. It's twice the distance of most trucking routes but far less than diesel. Musk did not give a price tag for these trucks, but says production starts in 2019.

BRIGGS: I was eagerly waiting for the price tag on that to see if that would go over.

ROMANS: Small detail.

BRIGGS: Yes, just a small thing.

ROMANS: Small detail.

BRIGGS: But 60 miles an hour in five seconds.

All right. EARLY START continues right now with the latest allegations against Democratic Senator Al Franken.