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Trump Weighs in on Franken Allegations Via Twitter; Moore on Allegations: 'Untrue, No Evidence to Support Them'. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 17, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERMAN: The president's flat-out refusing to stay, whether he thinks Roy Moore should be a senator. Overnight, he was talking about Franken. This morning he is talking about taxes. House Republicans passed their 1.5 billion, trillion-dollar tax reform bill.
[07:00:23] Well, the Senate advances its plan. It is looking in for a vote now sometime after Thanksgiving.
We're covering this all for you. Let's begin with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, live on Capitol Hill -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.
It was absolutely chaotic when this news broke yesterday as people began to spread the word here. Now, both parties are rocked with allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as harassment and abuse.
At the same time, sources say President Trump has been reticent about speaking publicly, weighing in on Republican Roy Moore and the allegations around him, but it seems as if he is not able to resist weighing in when it comes to Democratic Senator Al Franken.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Trump going after Senator Al Franken over this 2006 photo showing the Democrat groping radio host Leeann Tweeden while she slept. It was taken before he was elected.
In a series of late-night tweets, the president calling the picture "really bad" and speculating about where else Franken's hands may have gone, before criticizing the senator's recent efforts to speak out against sexual harassment.
Mr. Trump wading into the Franken controversy, while continuing to ignore questions about the accusations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, should Roy Moore step aside, sir?
MALVEAUX: Press secretary Sarah Sanders referring to last week's White House statement when asked about Mr. Trump's position on Moore's future and punting the decision to Alabama voters.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously. And he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be.
MALVEAUX: Mr. Trump going after Franken, despite the fact that a number of women have accused him of similar conduct.
JESSICA LEEDS, DONALD TRUMP ACCUSER: He was grabbing my breasts and trying to turn me towards him and kissing me.
MALVEAUX: The president has denied the accusations, attacking the women who came forward.
TRUMP: Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign.
MALVEAUX: Although he's on tape admitting to assaulting women in this now infamous tape.
TRUMP: I'm automatically attracted to beautiful and just start kissing them, like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
BILLY BUSH, FORMER "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" HOST: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You can do anything.
MALVEAUX: Tweeden says then comedian Al Franken forcibly kissed her while they were rehearsing a skit during a 2006 USO tour.
LEEANN TWEEDEN, RADIO HOST: 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. I was so angry.
MALVEAUX: After returning home, Tweeden says she came across the photo of Franken groping her on a CD given to her by the tour photographer.
TWEEDEN: It's belittling. It's humiliating. I mean, is that funny? Is that ever funny?
MALVEAUX: Tweeden choking up while explaining why she's coming forward after 11 years.
TWEEDEN: You know, you always -- I don't want to be a cliche but, you know, you talk about trying to leave the world a better place for your kids, you know?
MALVEAUX: Franken initially saying that the picture was intended to be funny but wasn't before issuing a second statement apologizing: "There's no excuse. I look at it now, and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate."
TWEEDEN: That one did seem heartfelt, and I believe it. I gladly accept it. And thank you.
MALVEAUX: Franken says that he will cooperate with an Ethics Committee investigation called by the Senate leadership. Mitch McConnell as well as Chuck Schumer. There are a lot of female lawmakers who are very angry and frustrated, and certainly helped at mandatory training on sexual harassment issues will at least start to address what they call is a rampant problem.
In the meantime, Franken is laying low. We have been told by sources that he apologized to his staff, that he was emotionally upset. But really, no sign of Franken since this scandal broke -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you very much, Suzanne. We'll see what happens today. Thank you very much.
So Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore forcefully denying claims that he pursued relationships with teenagers -- teenage girls when he was in his 30s. But as more accusers come forward, a new poll suggests that their stories are taking a serious toll.
CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Gadsden, Alabama, with more.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.
And yet, from what we see on the ground, Roy Moore gathers a lot of support here in Alabama. He continues to deny the accusations against him. At least two sexual assault allegations. And yet, he is painting -- he's painting himself as the victim of establishment politics.
And his supporters agree, saying his character is being assassinated and that he's being framed and that these attacks against Roy Moore are not just attacks against the Republican candidate but against everyone's presumption of innocence.
As he took the podium, Roy Moore went on the offensive against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'll quit standing when they lay me in that box and put me in the ground. I want to tell you who needs to step down. That's Mitch McConnell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: Roy Moore defiant as ever, even as these controversies swirl around him, and you mentioned these polls, Alisyn. It shows a new FOX News poll Doug Jones, the Democratic challenger, had eight points. And among women voters, it's even worse for Roy Moore. He's behind by at least 20 points -- John, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: All right, Nick, thank you very much.
So let's discuss all of the morning's headlines and the developments with CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian. OK, so Jeffrey, let's start here. I had to roll my eyes when, for the
past week, I heard pundits say, well, President Trump can't weigh in on Roy Moore. Because you know, it would bring up his issues. So that's why he's avoiding it. President Trump doesn't abide by conventional wisdom. Of course, he would weigh in if it suited his purposes. And here we are with Al Franken.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And here we are. As we've learned for the past 10 months, every story, ultimately, is about Donald Trump. And for better or for worse.
Because, you know, if he had simply left this story alone, it's very bad for Al Franken. But now you get to replay the "Access Hollywood" tape. And we get to revisit his own problems. But, you know, he can't resist.
CAMEROTA: He weighed in with his tweets. And he went after Al Franken, Karoun, and, you know, he just feels that he can sort of be sanctimonious on this topic and say that Al Franken did was so bad when obviously, we know the story. "The Al Franken picture is really bad. It speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five, and six while she sleeps?"
So he doesn't seem worried there, Karoun, about people then mentioning that there are a dozen women who came forward during the campaign to say that he had been sexually inappropriate with him.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He seems to be unaware that he's sitting in a glass House right now, as he's turning out these tweets. And, you know, that's -- it's very transparent.
And everybody can see that the president is potentially overplaying his hand, given the situation he's in right now, and trying to score a political point, you know, against Senator Franken when he's not willing to weigh in on Roy Moore, when he hasn't been able to address his own -- the allegations against himself.
But both parties right now are in glass Houses, and this is the problem for both parties, right? The Democrats were -- are in a more complicated situation right now, trying to make their case against Roy Moore and president Trump, because they're now having to deal with Al Franken. That's, I think, why you saw so many of them say, yes, we want an ethics investigation. We want to have that full vetting be done, so they can try to keep some of the moral high ground.
But in a way, there really is no moral high ground here on either side. Because both parties have these characters that have participated in this activity. And I guess the one way that you can try to say -- you know, try to judge who's handling it better, is who's actually acknowledging and apologizing for it.
That is something the president has not yet done. As you showed the tape, he's actually called the people who have accused him liars instead of doing any self-reflection on this. And it seems that Trump, with these tweets last night he's not actually moving in that direction. TOOBIN: Just one point. This is so much a FOX News presidency. The
president's comments were exactly like Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity has been a big supporter of Judge Moore. You know, went after Al Franken last night without, you know, addressing the issues.
CAMEROTA: Or the FOX News issues.
TOOBIN: Or the FOX News issues. But -- but, you know, the president builds his presidency around the feelings of the FOX News audience. He's treating this as FOX News does it. That's how he's organizing it. It's all about appealing to his base.
BERMAN: There's not a shred of consistency. I mean, he goes out of his way to avoid talking about Roy Moore. Will not say whether or not he thinks Roy Moore should be -- should be his candidate for Senate in Alabama, and yet jumps all over Al Franken.
TOOBIN: You know, I think -- the FOX News audience won't have a problem with that. And the base of the party won't have a problem with that. Because that's where he's directing all of his energy, all of his advocacy.
BERMAN: I will say -- I will say, Karoun, your point, though, when you have Democrats in the Senate and also Republicans in the Senate calling for an ethics investigation of Al Franken, I'm not quite sure I understand an ethics investigation of what. Because he's apologized. And he -- there is the picture. And there doesn't seem to be so much of a dispute there.
Is calling for an ethics investigation the same thing as the linguistic formulation of people saying, "If the allegations against Roy Moore are true"? Why don't these senators just weigh in on whether or not they think Al Franken should stay in the Senate.
DEMIRJIAN: I mean, some of them are certainly weighing in on that.
But the ethics allegation -- the ethics investigation, excuse me, has been the thing that Mitch McConnell has thrown out at both Franken and Roy Moore if he gets to the Senate if there will be that.
I think that it is kind of the safe middle ground that gives them some time. You figure out, I guess, that, in that long period of time, because the ethics inquiries do take a long time to run, if the senators are going to resign or if something is going to make this all go away.
But it's kind of the -- yes, it's the fact-finding period in the middle that is -- is the place that you can kind of put this and take some of the pressure off or just kind of leave it there. It keeps it a live issue that people keep asking about. And it does create at least the voter pressure perhaps or the more -- the less specific you will get out. We will vote you out, which is a very, very high bar to clear, which is hard to do. To just get these people to leave themselves.
TOOBIN: I actually disagree with you. I think the Ethics Committee is a good idea. Because who knows? Could there be other -- other untoward behavior by Al Franken? I mean, these accusations do not tend to come in single examples. So that would be the focus of the inquiry. And also, even if you believe that this event took place, as it clearly seems to have, the issue of what's the appropriate remedy, that's something the committee can deal with. Do you censure, do you expel? I don't know what the answer is. I don't think the committee knows at this point
And I think that's a useful reason to have a serious, you know, reasonably slow, inquiry by the Ethics Committee.
BERMAN: Since we're talking about 2006, let's continue our walk...
CAMEROTA: Back in time.
BERMAN: ... down memory lane...
BERMAN: ... of the sexual misconduct yellow brick road right now. And looking back to the Clinton administration, you know, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand did an interview with "The New York Times" overnight where she was asked about President Bill Clinton and whether or not he should have resigned because of the accusations against him. Let's listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it your view that the President Clinton should have stepped down at that time given the allegations?
SEN. KRISTEN 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You know, it is interesting, Karoun. Last night, Bakari Sellers was on with me, and he says he thinks Al Franken should step aside. Kristen Gillibrand saying that he thinks Bill Clinton should have resigned. Is there a generational shift happening right now, the Democratic Party, where people are just trying to turn the page and say, all these guys should just go?
DEMIRJIAN: Well, it's very difficult for Democrats to maintain the moral high ground if they're not willing to do some self-reflection about similar things.
Again, you know, there are some people that have defended Bill Clinton by saying the Lewinsky affair was consensual. But there were others that came out and accused Bill Clinton of things that were not consensual. And so to say, OK, we maybe should have handled that differently in the past. Does that mean you can actually ratchet back 21 years and relitigate that entire affair.
But it does mean we have made mistakes in the past, and we're not proud of them. And that's why we're trying to correct in the present. That, you know, is something that is easier for people who are younger and perhaps less beholden to the Clintons, and we're less participating in that time to be able to say now that we're on board and maybe worked more closely with the Clintons 20 years ago would have that position.
But everybody is kind of going through this -- this difficult reflection period right now. So you do have a few voices that are coming out and saying there is no -- there is nobody that is excusable.
TOOBIN: It wouldn't be -- it wouldn't be politics without opportunism. And remember, Kristen Gillibrand had Bill Clinton come campaign for her. So now she's suddenly decided that he's no -- that he's no good anymore. I mean, I'm a little skeptical of that.
CAMEROTA: That's exactly what -- just let me introduce this so that you can comment on this, Karoun. Because that's exactly what Philippe Reins, who was the former senior advisor to Hillary Clinton, said, your point, which was "Ken Starr spent $70 million on a consensual" -- blank. "Senate voted to keep President Clinton but not enough for you, Senator Gillibrand? Over 20 years you took the Clintons' endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck."
Go ahead, Karoun.
DEMIRJIAN: I was just going to say, at some point you're not going to have a change actually take place unless you have people who are willing to say, "Yes, you know what? It is hypocritical. I said the wrong thing before. I did take the money. But now I'm saying that wasn't the right thing to do, and I'm changing my position."
If you don't have people willing to do that, you don't have any change. That's why people like Harvey Weinstein, like the politicians are able to kind of keep this, because they have money, they have power and people who are beholden to them. People have to kind of break that chain in order to actually be able to have anything shift.
And so, yes, Gillibrand will take a lot of heat for the fact that she's doing it and that she was perfectly fine being allied with Clintons before. But more people have to do that. Otherwise, you won't -- don't change anything.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, this is what we're wrestling with this morning, right which is when do you start the clock? OK? So we're clearly at a tipping point, where all these stories are coming forward. So is it -- is it now divided by before Harvey Weinstein and after Harvey Weinstein, or do we roll the clock back to the 2000s and to the 1970s with Roy Moore? And you know, that's what we're wrestling with right now.
[17:15:07] TOOBIN: It's not easy. Although, you know, I think in general it is pretty easy. I don't have any problem condemning, you know, dating a 14-year-old or trying to -- assaulting a 14-year-old. I mean, that's not that hard, regardless of what era you're in.
And that photograph with Al Franken, you don't need -- that's inappropriate then. It's inappropriate now. I mean, I think some of our standards haven't really changed all that much.
BERMAN: All right. Karoun, Jeffrey, thank you all very much.
Senator Franken says he wants the ethics investigation. What will this probe look like? A member of the House Ethics Committee joins us to help us understand things, next.
[07:19:48] BERMAN: Top Senate leaders are calling for an ethics investigation into Senator Al Franken after photographic evidence, a picture of the senator, emerged groping a news anchor back in 2006. Senator Franken is also asking for the investigation. So how is this process going to work? What will it try to find out?
Joining us now to talk about this is Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch of Florida. He's the ranking member on the House Ethics Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
Obviously, this is going on in the Senate not the House. But you do the same type of thing. You can help us understand. What's the committee going to investigate? There's no dispute over whether there's a picture. Al Franken has apologized for the incident. He says his memory is different than hers. But there's not an argument here.
REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: Right. Well, the -- I don't know as much, obviously, about the Senate Ethics Committee. But I assume what they will do is they'll start with that photo, which was absolutely revolting, and they'll then want to understand, investigate further what happened in connection with that episode.
They'll spend time trying to figure out if there are other episodes. They'll really dig in. And now that there is this concern that's been expressed and the photo that's so terrible, they want to get to the bottom of it.
Then they'll make a determination about how to respond. And there are multiple ways they can do that. One of them is to censure. Expulsion, obviously, is the -- the most extreme.
But John, I just want to say one word about this. It's important to focus on what's going to happen next in this case. But this is so much more than just Senator Franken and all of these others. I saw a statistic last night that one in six women in America claim to have been sexually harassed in the workplace. It's not just Congress, and we need to do more. And I hope we get to talk about Representative Speier's legislation. But it's every workplace in America. This is a moment of reckoning in this country. It's a really important conversation we need to have.
BERMAN: Have you seen enough to judge whether you think Al Franken should be a U.S. senator?
DEUTCH: Well, in my role on the Ethics Committee, I -- I would want to have the opportunity to speak with the woman who I've seen on television.
BERMAN: So you're not prepared to say he shouldn't be a U.S. senator?
DEUTCH: I'm not prepared to say that now, but I think that this investigation needs to go forward and needs to be treated as seriously as it will be.
BERMAN: Have you seen enough in Alabama to say whether or not you think that Roy Moore should be a candidate?
DEUTCH: Here's -- well, here's what I say. I don't know how someone, having heard these stories from women who so bravely have come forward years later, I don't know, given how horrific some of these stories are, how someone like that is going to continue on to seek office.
But it's not my -- it's not opinion here that matters alone. It's all of the Republicans who would be his colleagues in the U.S. Senate who have said that he should drop out.
BERMAN: But as an elected official, as a human being, you know, I'm asking you, do you think that you have seen enough to say he is not morally qualified?
DEUTCH: I don't think that Roy Moore should continue on in that race, of course not. And frankly, as -- these are terrible allegations. And the women who have come forward who have -- who have shared these deeply personal, hurtful moments in their lives must be taken seriously.
BERMAN: But why is that different than Al Franken, then? I mean, there's one woman, obviously, and she wasn't a teenager at the time. Is that the difference here? She's got a story, too.
DEUTCH: Right. So Senator Franken is in the Senate, and there's going to be this investigation. And ultimately, we'll see where the -- where the investigation leads.
But I know, given that the Ethics Committee in the Senate, the majority leader, the minority leader have all committed to do this. I think -- I think it's appropriate for them to determine if there's more, any other details, and then they'll take action.
BERMAN: But there is a discrepancy, when you're saying, ultimately, for Al Franken but there's no ultimately for Roy Moore. You're saying "I know enough now," in other words?
DEUTCH: Well, there's not a -- this is -- there's not a situation in Alabama where we're going to wait.
I guess, John, the only other way to look at this is do we wait until all of these charges are litigated until -- until we have an opportunity? There's not a procedure here. And there are so many, and they're so awful.
Look, I just want to make clear again, we have to take this -- this is not a partisan issue. I think senators -- a senator from Minnesota, a Senate candidate from Alabama, presidents from both parties, we have a responsibility to look and, again, not just in Washington.
DEUTCH: And not just in Hollywood, but in...
DEUTCH: every place in this country. That is a discussion that I think really needs to happen. And my fear is that we tend to fall back, and the...
BERMAN: It can't be political. If it's political, you've lost already. If it's a political discussion, there's no point.
BERMAN: The House of Representatives, Congress has paid $17 million in settlements over the last several years. They're not all sexual misconduct. Some of them might be different kinds of harassment, intimidation. But we don't know for which members.
BERMAN: Don't we have to know?
[07:25:00] DEUTCH: So Representative Speier has introduced legislation that I fully support. Here's the problem. The Congressional Accountability Act, the statute that applies to pursuing these cases, that statute is over 20 years old. It hasn't been revised since. It's the statute that makes members of Congress subject to anti-discrimination laws and sexual harassment claims. And it hasn't been revised. It needs to be.
And the biggest piece of it is there has to be transparency. Because if we don't know -- if we don't know any details at all, we don't know -- although we're starting, because of this information about the $17 million -- we're starting to learn how serious it is. But we have to -- there has to be transparency so that we can deal with what is quite clearly a very serious problem.
BERMAN: Congressman Ted Deutch, there's just not enough time to talk about everything we need to talk to today. I appreciate you coming in and having this discussion, really.
DEUTCH: Thanks, John.
CAMEROTA: OK, John. How are women on Capitol Hill reacting to the sexual harassment scandals now rocking Washington? Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell is going to join us live with her response, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TWEEDEN: I've been angry about it, Jake, for over 10 years.
If he did this to somebody else, or if somebody else has been sexually assaulted, or if they've --