Return to Transcripts main page


Senator Franken Admits to Sexual Harassment; Roy Moore Standing His Ground; Senate Committee Chaos; Celtics Rally to Beat Warriors for 14th Straight Win. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 05:00   ET




[05:00:10] LEEANN TWEEDEN, ACCUSES SENATOR AL FRANKEN OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: My mind was reeling and I'm thinking, you know, I got to find a bathroom. I just wanted to rinse my mouth out.


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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore suffering a hit in the polls after eight women come forward with allegations against him. 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.


BRIGGS: And a shouting match in the senate, as lawmakers battle it out over tax reform. Monumental vote in the House would ordinarily be our lead story, but not the case today.


BRIGGS: Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans. It is Friday, November 17th. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

Both political parties in damage control mode 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 a talk show host.

BRIGGS: News anchor Leeann Tweeden says in 2006, when they were both performing on a USO tour, Franken wrote a skit where he kissed her. Tweeden spoke out last night on 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.


BRIGGS: That incident, of course, was the rehearsal for the skit that Franken repeatedly pressed on Tweeden. Franken later posed for this photo where he seems to grope Tweeden while she sleeps.

ROMANS: 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 was 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 a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

Leeann Tweeden accepted Franken's apology calling it heartfelt last night on CNN.


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


BRIGGS: Late last night, president Trump weighed in on the Franken revelation seeming to ignore both the Roy Moore allegations and history of allegations against him. In a tweet, the president said, quote: The Al Frankenstein, misspelled, picture is really bad. It speaks a thousands words, where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 while she sleeps.

ROMANS: All right. Let's bring in a CNN contributor Salena Zito. She's a reporter for "The Washington Examiner", comments for "The New York Post", and she joins us via Skype from Pittsburgh.

Good morning.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning. BRIGGS: Good morning.

ROMANS: The parade of creeps seems to be the head line of the past few weeks, bad behavior by men in power. Is there a risk here for the president from talking about Al Frankenstein and the picture that's worth a thousand words, when the president has half a dozen accusers at least for, you know, unwanted advances? And there's more than a picture. There's a tape of the president talking about grabbing women by their private parts. Is there a risk here for this president?

ZITO: I'll chalk this up as yet another risky tweet that he puts out that you think oh, my goodness, he shouldn't go there on this subject. This was in that category. He -- you know, this is a moment in history right now where you see women coming forward, and last night was incredible television in terms of watching that young woman just talk very authentically and in detail, and very frankly about what happened to her.

And so, we're in this moment of history where people are finally able to come forward. It's an incredibly difficult subject to come forward on. And the president, you know, who faces his own -- as you said, sort of all these lists of allegations by other women, this is just the time to not weigh in.

[05:05:04] He's not -- sort of done that with Moore so he should have done the same thing with Franken and just stepped back and let other people comment on it.

BRIGGS: We've talked about the tribalism that exists with sex assault in politics, where everyone retreats to their corner and it goes back to, of course, the Bill Clinton allegations but now it starts at the very top, it starts in the Oval Office, with the president weighing in on Franken but not on Roy Moore, punting on that issue.

What does it reveal about the president? He won't weigh in to the Roy Moore. He won't comment publicly. He won't call for him to step down. Why?

ZITO: I don't know why he hasn't done it. But certainly, I can't think of one Republican that's left standing that hasn't made a comment about, you know, he should step aside. The he should not -- or he won't ever sit in the Senate if he gets there.

And I think it's probably an incredibly important moment for the president to say, look, this guy should not be here. And if he is -- if the people of Alabama elect him, and they were right when they said it is up to the people of Alabama, right? It's their vote. But we don't have to seat him and there are procedural steps in place that we can utilize and where he never sets foot in the U.S. Senate.

He needs to come out with a strong statement like that. He's a father. He has a wife, he has daughters, he has granddaughters, he has a sister, his mother. You know, just think about any of that. I ask any man or woman to think about if it happened to someone in your life, wouldn't up want someone to stand up for you at that moment. ROMANS: And there is such a reckoning on this subject right now. You

know, a reckoning and a public shaming really of some of these men who have had maybe years of creepy behavior and still made it to the top of their game or career. One wonders if this is going to last.

I mean, what do you think, Salena? Do you think this is sort of a new moment where creepy men are getting the message that, hey, you know, this is behavior that you're going to be publicly shamed for, if not tried for?

ZITO: I'm -- you know, if there are creepy men out there that are quaking in their boots right now, then shame on them. I don't think this stops with the people that are at the top, as you said. Right? I think that people, whether they're in business, school, social media gives people the outlet to be able to say, hey, this happened to me. This is the guy or the woman that did it to me, and this needs to stop.

I think we're at the tip of the iceberg. I don't think this ends for a while, until people realize that certain behavior is just not acceptable. It's unwanted. And it shouldn't be -- it's awful.

ROMANS: I think it's interesting the "New York Post" calls it Franken slime with that now infamous picture of Democratic Senator Al Franken. And I think it's interesting -- what's interesting to me at least is that he remembers the kissing episode, the unwanted kissing episode differently than she does.

And it might be that we have to start talking about this stuff so that you know, men know that that, what he thought was maybe normal is just not.

BRIGGS: You think he thought that was normal?

ROMANS: I don't know.

BRIGGS: Shoving his tongue down someone's throat?

ROMANS: I keep saying no woman wants --

BRIGGS: Can Franken survive this, Salena?

ROMANS: Yes, that's what I wonder.

ZITO: Look, does he stay in the U.S. Senate? Fifty-fifty chance. His aspirations to become president, not so much.

ROMANS: Yes, his reputation is --

ZITO: You see members of his own party taking money that was donated to their own campaigns, from his super PAC and donating it to women's programs. And, you know, people had no problem walking away from him yesterday. I found that fascinating and admirable for the members of the Democratic Party who did that.

ROMANS: Quickly, and the house passed a big tax rewrite, the first one in a generation. Yesterday was such a crazy day.

ZITO: I know.

ROMANS: When you come back, we'll talk about taxes and that spat between Senator Sherrod Brown and Orrin Hatch, about who, you know, whether this is fair.

ZITO: Yes.

BRIGGS: All right. Speaking of which, the House passed its version of tax bill earlier yesterday in an historic vote. No Democrats backing the bill but the real fireworks over in the Senate, in the finance Committee, leading up to its vote on the Senate's version of $1.5 trillion 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 --

[05:10:02] 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: Perhaps a preview of the battle that lies ahead. The bill which includes a repeal of individual mandate in Obamacare now heads to the Senate floor where action is expected after the Thanksgiving break.

ROMANS: All right. The Senate tax plan gives big tax cuts to the rich while raising taxes on American families. That's according to go a brand new congressional study. All Americans will get significant cuts the first year but those savings decrease over time. In 2021, families earning $10,000 to $30,000 will pay more than if Congress did nothing. And by the year 2027, tax increases for all Americans making $75,000 or less.

Two reasons. Individual tax cuts expire in 2025 and the repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate. That's in the Senate bill. The study finds higher health care costs will wipe out tax savings. Now you've got this House bill to pass. Happiness from Paul Ryan and crew, you know. Now they've got to get a Senate bill set in stone and then figure out what it's really going to look like.

BRIGGS: And you have to talk about Roy Moore in that context because if they lose in Alabama, they can only lose one Republican vote in the Senate.


BRIGGS: All right. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez breathing easy this morning after a judge declares a mistrial in his federal corruption case. We're live in Washington with the latest, next.


[05:16:11] ROMANS: New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez claiming vindication this morning. The jury in his federal corruption trail reported a hopeless deadlock Thursday. And the judge declared a mistrial. Menendez faced 18 counts of fraud and bribery.

CNN's Laura Jarrett has been following this trial from the very beginning and she joins us now.

Laura, do we expect a retrial?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Hey, good morning, Christine.

That is the big question right now. Will the Justice Department re- file these charges against Senator Menendez and essentially get a do- over? As prosecutors say they're looking at next steps right now. But as one of the jurors told us after court yesterday, the jury was actually split 10-2 in favor of acquitting Menendez, saying prosecutors just didn't have enough evidence in this case.

Where the entire theory was the senator was taking gifts from his friend in exchange for doing political favors. But outside of court, yesterday, the senator appeared relieved, taking a shot at his political opponents along the way.

But meanwhile, the Senate Ethics Committee said it intends to resume its investigation of Menendez, now that the case is over, but perhaps not for good -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Laura Jarrett, up early for us in Washington after that following that trial -- thank you.

JARRETT: Thanks.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight: firefighters in southeastern Pennsylvania battling a five alarm fire at a nursing home. Officials say 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 resident and staff were evacuated from the fire.

ROMANS: 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. Most the cases involved 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 even student deaths, another student death, of overdrinking just this week in Texas.

Just last week a student at Texas State who was killed in a drinking incident. The hazing is happening even after 20 years of no alcohol in h the facilities. You know, all of these strict codes of conduct. It's really troubling.

BRIGGS: One by one seems to be eliminated. Florida State was an interesting date. So, we'll see where it goes ahead.

The Boston Celtics meanwhile tearing up the NBA with their 14th straight win. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


[05:23:18] BRIGGS: All right. Boston Celtics shocked the defending champs Golden State Warriors last night, all thanks to an inspiring performance by a player who wasn't sure he'd be at the game.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report". Hey, Andy.


You know, Jaylen Brown for the Celtics got word that his best friend Trevin Steede passed away just hours before tip-off. He said when he moved to a new school in Georgia, he was a shy kid and Trevin was the first kid to walk up and start a conversation. Since then, they have been best friends.

Well, Jaylen was so upset he wasn't sure he would even play last night. It wasn't until Trevin's mom called him and talked him into playing. And Jaylen ended up taking the court and add himself an amazing game, leading the Celtics 22 points as they beat the Warriors for their 14 straight win.


JAYLEN BROWN, CELTICS FORWARD: It was hard getting my thoughts together, but after talking to his mom, and his family, they inspired me to come out and play because I was -- I wasn't in any state to come out. I didn't want to leave my room, but they inspired me to come out and play and I came out and play in his spirit. Teammates held me up and we pulled it out.


SCHOLES: After the game, Brown tweeting this picture of him and Trevin saying this one was for you.

All right. The Celtics beat the Warriors 92-88. While the Houston Rockets scored 90 points last night in the first half alone. James Harden and company putting on a show in Phoenix, 90 points, second most points in a first half in NBA history. This game also featured the return of point guard Chris Paul.

[05:25:01] It was his first game since opening night. Rockets rolled the Suns in this one, 142-116.

Steelers hosting the Titans on Thursday night football. NBC showing the majority of the game using the sky cam view. No matter what view this game was in, Steelers Antonio Brown had himself a night. Brown three touchdown catches, including this one, where he pins the football up against his helmet. Steelers blew out the Titans by a final of 40-17.

All right. Major League Baseball announcing the MVPs last night. Giancarlo Stanton winning in the National League after smashing 59 home runs for the Marlins last season. The American League going to the World Series Astros' Jose Altuve. The 5'6" second baseman leading all of baseball in the batting average this past season. He came up huge for the Astros, leading them into their first World Series title ever.

And Yankees' Aaron Judge was the runner up. He tweeted congrats to Altuve saying, no one deserved it more. And, guys, I always love seeing the pictures of Judge next to Altuve because Judge is a full foot taller than him, but Altuve winning the AL MVP is great for us, for little guys, everywhere, it gives us hope that anything is possible.

BRIGGS: No doubt. He was once told to go home at a baseball tryout just over a decade ago. He said, I'll be back.

ROMANS: You cannot judge a book by its cover.

BRIGGS: Judge. Well said.

ROMANS: I meant to do that. All right. Thanks, Andy. Have a great weekend.

A woman speaking out against Senator Al Franken, saying he kissed her without her consent more than a decade ago. Her response to the senator's apology, as some call for him to resign.