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Sen. Al Franken Admits To Sexual Harassment; Mistrial In Menendez Corruption Case; House & Senate Finance Committees Approve GOP Tax Plans; Opposition: Zimbabwe Takeover Planned Long Ago. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 05:30   ET


[05:30:30] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEEANN TWEEDEN, ACCUSES SEN. 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 Sen. Al Franken facing sexual harassment allegations. The president now weighing in with a tweet -- a tweet that's bound to raise questions about allegations in his own past about his behavior.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Roy Moore suffering a hit in the polls after eight women come forward with allegations against him. The White House responding, even as the president stays silent.


SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH), MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE: With all due respect, I get sick and tired of the richest --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.

BROWN: -- people in this country getting richer and richer and richer.



ROMANS: And a shouting match in the Senate as lawmakers battle it out over tax reform. The House has passed its landmark legislation. Now, the job goes to the Senate and then they've got to reconcile the two.

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

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Both political parties in damage control though, 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 were both performing on a USO tour, Franken insisted on rehearsing a skit he had written where he was supposed to kiss her.

He asked her over and over again let's rehearse, let's rehearse. He kept pushing. She didn't want to do it and finally said fine.

Tweeden spoke out last night in her first T.V. interview about what happened in that rehearsal with CNN's Jake Tapper.


TWEEDEN: He just mashes his mouth to my -- to my lips and, you know, it was like wet and he puts his tongue in my mouth. And, you know, my reaction, it was just sort of a -- you know, 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 clinches into a fist because I think my initial reaction was that I wanted to hit him.


ROMANS: Franken later posed for this photo where he seems to be groping her while she sleeps.

BRIGGS: 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 a 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 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: Late last night, President Trump weighing in on the Franken revelations. He seemed to ignore both the Roy Moore allegations and the history of accusations against him.

In a tweet he said this. "The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five and six while she sleeps?"

BRIGGS: All right.

ROMANS: A picture's worth a thousand words but there's a tape of the president talking about groping women.


ROMANS: I just -- I think it's risky. It's a little risky to be talking about a picture of someone when he's on tape talking about things.

BRIGGS: Risky and revealing about this president.

ROMANS: Right.

BRIGGS: Let's discuss all this with CNN contributor Salena Zito. She's a reporter for the "Washington Examiner" and columnist for the "New York Post." Good morning, Salena.

All right, so we're going to talk about Franken and whether he can survive this.


BRIGGS: But can the president move the conversation with this late- night tweet because, of course, he punted on the Roy Moore issue? He will not say anything publicly about it, he won't tweet about it, he won't call for Roy Moore to stand down.

Is this because he doesn't want the conversation to be about his past or he just hates losing? He already lost once in Alabama and he really needs that Senate win.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, REPORTER, WASHINGTON EXAMINER, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST (via Skype): He really does hate losing. That's been his entire persona since he first stepped on the American stage, what, 20-30 years ago.

Having said that, you know, I think if he made the decision to make a comment about Franken then he needs to follow that up with a strident comment about Moore and urging him to step down.

[05:35:10] What he's done with doing that tweet is opened this up for at least an entire weekend of talking about this nonstop --


ZITO: -- on television --


ZITO: -- on Twitter, and conversations in family members.

But it also just makes everyone revisit "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" and everyone revisit the women who came forward and accusing him of things last year in the lead-up to the election.

BRIGGS: More than a dozen.

ZITO: And, you know -- yes -- and so, I just wonder who, you know -- what kind of guidance -- you know, moral guidance does he have and if he thinks this was a really, really good idea. You know, unless in his head he's like -- he stridently believes that there's no there there with his -- with his accusers. That's the only thing that I can imagine which made him feel that this was OK to tweet.

ROMANS: Or that it will matter for his supporters -- the people who got him in the -- in the White House -- that it just won't matter.

You know, the other thing I keep hearing from people is this sort of -- I guess, whataboutism.

Suddenly, it's what about Bill Clinton, what about Bill Clinton, you know? And remember, this country turned itself inside out over Bill Clinton's sexual behavior, you know, 20 years ago -- 25 years ago. He was impeached.

But, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was asked --

ZITO: Yes.

ROMANS: -- sort of about this what about Bill Clinton. Are we revisiting -- should we be revisiting sort of how we behaved or how politicians behaved, you know, in recent memory. And this is what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it your view that President Clinton should have stepped down at that time?

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I will -- 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.


ROMANS: She turned it to President Trump but this has really become a conversation about men behaving badly, going all the way to the Clinton administration. Actually, to the Bush administration and some of the allegations coming out --

BRIGGS: That's correct. ROMANS: -- even while George W. -- H.W. Bush was president.

ZITO: Right and, you know, and wow. Last night I don't know if you guys saw this but the Clinton team went after her on Twitter and it became -- I mean, I was like looking for popcorn to watch and see what happened actually. It was pretty telling.

Look, you know -- I mean, part -- revisiting this and then sort of taking it back to President Trump, President Clinton -- I mean, that kind of conversation -- then what starts to happen is that you lose the thrust of what's happening today.

And, you know, whataboutism I don't think is very healthy on both sides of the aisle because, you know, what happened then -- people reacted to what happened with Clinton in that moment, in that space of time. And 1996 was a very different time than 2017 even though it was 25 years ago, 30 years ago -- whatever it was.


ZITO: And so, you know, some of this is difficult to sort of process as to what would you have done then, but then has already passed. We're in the moment right now. The reckoning is right now.

ROMANS: The reckoning is today.

ZITO: Right. How do we go forward because I think if we continue to do that we're sort of stuck in the mud and not -- you know, this moment ends right here.

BRIGGS: But hang on.

ZITO: And (audio gap) ends it.

BRIGGS: But right now, can Franken survive and will Roy Moore win in Alabama where according to a "FOX NEWS" poll he trails by eight?

ZITO: Well, you know, even -- Roy Moore could potentially lose.

It would be the first time that a Democrat has won since 1992 in that state. That was Sen. Shelby. He went on to become -- changed his party to Republican.

ROMANS: That's right.

ZITO: But, you know, the voters down there -- you know, this is up to them. You have two different things going on down there, right?

You have just like this complete distrust with the media and thinking that, you know, everyone is in their business and they're going to vote just because of that. They're going to vote against Washington, against media.

But then you also have -- I would say a rising majority of the people are very thoughtful about this. They don't want -- you know, they look at their daughters, they look at their sisters, they look at their mothers and say look, if that happened to my family I would -- there's no way I can support someone who did, you know -- who did the kinds of things --


ZITO: -- that he's been accused of.

And so, I think -- yes, I think that there's a large chance that Moore loses down there -- loses in Alabama.

[05:40:03] ROMANS: All right. We'll have to watch and know for sure what the people of Alabama want to do about that.

Thank you so much, Salena Zito. Have a great weekend.

ZITO: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez claiming vindication this morning. The jury in his federal corruption trial recorded a hopeless deadlock 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 you expect a retrial?

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

That is the big question right now whether the Justice Department will refile these charges against Sen. Menendez and do this case over from scratch. The prosecutors say right now they're looking at next steps.

But one of the jurors told us after court yesterday the jury was actually split 10 to two in favor of acquitting Menendez, saying prosecutors just did not have enough evidence in this case where their entire theory was built upon this idea that the senator was taking gifts from his friend in exchange for political favors.

But outside of court yesterday the senator appeared relieved at this mistrial decision, taking a shot at his political opponents along the way. Take a listen.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: To those who left me, who abandoned me in my darkest moment, I forgive you. To those who embraced me in my darkest moment, I love you. To those New Jersians who gave me the benefit of the doubt, I thank you.

To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won't forget you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JARRETT: Now meanwhile, the Senate Ethics Committee said in a statement last night it intends to resume its investigation on Sen. Menendez. So, guys, this case is over for now but perhaps not for good -- Christine, Dave.

ROMANS: All right, Laura Jarrett. Thank you so much for that and great reporting along the way. Thanks, Laura.

JARRETT: Thanks.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, embattled Zimbabwe President Mugabe making his first public appearance since the apparent coup. We're live in Zimbabwe, next. We've got the latest.


[05:47:06] BRIGGS: The House passed its version of the tax bill earlier yesterday in a historic vote. No Democrats backing the bill.

But the real fireworks over in the Senate on the Finance Committee.

Leading up to its party line vote passing the Senate's version of a $1.5 trillion Republican tax plan late last night, Republican chairman Orrin Hatch and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown getting into a shouting match with Brown questioning why the richest Americans need tax cuts.


HATCH: And 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 people --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.

BROWN: -- in this country getting richer and richer and richer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order, order. Bring it to order.

BROWN: We do attack --


BROWN: -- middle-class over and over and over again.


BROWN: How many times do we do this before we learn this?

HATCH: Listen, I've honored you by allowing you to spout off here and 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.

And let me just say something. If you didn't -- if we'd work together we could pull this country out of every mess it's in.


BRIGGS: Just a preview there of the fight still to come. The bill now heads to the Senate floor where action is expected after the Thanksgiving break.

ROMANS: The president's tweeting this morning. "Great numbers on stocks and the economy. If we get tax cuts and reform, we'll see some great results."

The president actually may be inadvertently weighing in on --

BRIGGS: Perhaps.

ROMANS: The biggest debate right now among people in the markets --

BRIGGS: Right.

ROMANS: -- is whether --

BRIGGS: Undercutting his own argument, maybe?

ROMANS: You know, the economy is doing very well. The stock market is doing very well. Is this the time for big stimulus at this moment? It's sort of interesting.

BRIGGS: Not so eloquent on Twitter.

What some would argue is that the markets are up because they believe it's baked in this tax reform. They believe it's going to be passed.

ROMANS: And the economy is getting better. And the economy is getting better.

BRIGGS: No doubt.

ROMANS: 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 a long time ago.

CNN's David McKenzie joins us live in Harare, Zimbabwe. What do we know?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Christine. Good morning.

That opposition leader telling me that this wasn't some kind of last- minute situation that the police moved onto -- the military moved onto the streets. That this has, in fact, been planned for some time -- this military push -- this push out of 93-year-old Robert Mugabe. They say it isn't a coup but we've been on the streets. There are armored personnel carriers all over the place. The military is in charge.

But then, this bizarre moment just a few moments ago at a graduation ceremony at a university here in Harare. President Bob Mugabe at that ceremony being let out by the military, it seems, from his detention.

[05:50:00] We've been told by sources with direct knowledge of these negotiations that everything was almost signed, sealed, and deliver. That the exit of power of this man that's been in charge here for nearly 40 years was in the bag. And then, he threw in a spanner (ph) and effectively dug in his heels.

So it's unclear just what will happen now. A lot of Zimbabweans I've spoken to are not very comfortable with the military taking over like this but they do want to see the back of this leader who has ruled this country with an iron fist.

The U.S. has been pretty quiet about this. They say they won't take sides in an internal matter but it's certainly not resolved. We'll have to watch closely, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, David McKenzie. We know you'll do that for us. Thank you.

BRIGGS: Breaking overnight, Iraqi forces say they have liberated the last town in the country held by ISIS. Operations to clear the town of Rawa taking just hours. The town 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 of fighters do remain in some areas.

ROMANS: All right, 51 minutes past the hour.

Tesla still has not worked out its production issues with the Model 3, but the company is unveiling a brand new vehicle, an electric big-rig. Wait until you find out how fast this thing can go. Details on that next.


[05:55:50] 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: 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. The university calls that an unacceptably high number. Most of the cases involve hazing or alcohol.

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 Barclay Friends nursing home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. They believe none of the injuries are life-threatening. At least 140 people, including residents and staff, were evacuated from the fire.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks mostly lower after a nice rebound yesterday. Really, stocks soared not just because the House passed its tax bill -- that's part of the reason -- but mostly, this was because of earnings.

Great earnings from Dow stocks Cisco and Walmart. Walmart, in particular, a boffo day. Its stock rose 11 percent to an all-time high.

Solid sales both in its stores and online. It's the online component that's really staggering. Digital sales grew 50 percent. Watch out, Amazon.

The Dow rose nearly 200 points, snapping a two-day losing streak.

21st Century Fox may be up for sale and it has lots of suitors. Both Comcast and Verizon approached Fox about buying most of the -- of the company. That's what sources familiar with the talks tell CNN.

This comes just 10 days after news broke that Disney sought the same assets, including its movie and T.V. studios and entertainment networks, leaving Fox to focus on news and sports. Disney is no longer in talks with Fox but its interest prompted the other companies, we're told, to reach out.

Despite continued issues with its Model 3, Tesla introducing a brand new vehicle. It unveiled its electric big-rig called the Tesla Semi and this truck is as quick as a performance sedan. It can accelerate to 60 miles an hour in just five seconds.

CEO Elon Musk unveiled this electric truck by riding it into an airport hangar. The semi can drive up to 500 miles, twice the distance of most trucking routes but far less than any diesel truck can travel.

Musk didn't give a price for this truck but plans to start production in 2019.

BRIGGS: We're going to need the price tag to figuring out if that is economically feasible for trucking companies across the United States.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely.

BRIGGS: But certainly, fascinating.

ROMANS: It sure is. All right.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans. Have a great weekend, everybody.

BRIGGS: And I'm Dave Briggs.

"NEW DAY" starts right now. John Berman and Alisyn Camerota take the town. We'll see you next week.


TWEEDEN: He just mashes his mouth to my lips and puts his tongue in my mouth. I was so angry.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: This kind of conduct is totally unacceptable and I think Al Franken's apology recognizes this.

ROMANS: President Trump attacking Sen. Franken but remaining silent about accusations against Roy Moore.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes this is a decision for the people of Alabama to make.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: This is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The allegations of those women are much more credible than the denials that he's made.

TWEEDEN: The tide is turning. People are more aware of it now and I think people are not as afraid to speak up.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, November 17th, 6:00 here in New York.

Chris is off today. John Berman joins me. Great to have you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A week's worth of news in the last 20 minutes.

CAMEROTA: Let's get right to it.

On the "Starting Line," sexual assault scandals rocking Washington. The issue turning the White House into something of a glass house as the president goes after Sen. Al Franken. The president slams Franken's behavior despite the fact that more than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, too.

And then there's the bragging about grabbing women's genitals.