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Al Franken Apologizes to Accuser for Inappropriate Behavior; President Trump Comments on Accusations against Al Franken; Interview with Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- has been reticent to speak out against Republican Roy Moore about his own troublesome allegations because of the topic, if you will, around the own allegations of the president himself. Yet at the same time he has not been able to resist commenting publicly about Democratic Senator Al Franken.


MALVEAUX: President Trump going after Senator Al Franken over this 2006 photo, showing the Democrat groping the radio host Leeann Tweeden while she slept, this 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 LEADS, DONALD TRUMP ACCUSER: He was grabbing my breast and trying to turn me towards him and kissing me.

MALVEAUX: The president has denied the accusations, attacking the women that came forward.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll automatically attracted to beautiful women. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. And when you are a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the -


TRUMP: 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, ACCUSED SENATOR FRANKEN OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: He just mashes his mouth to my lips and, you know, and 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 was belittling, it's humiliating. Is that funny? Is that ever funny?

MALVEAUX: Tweeden choking up while explaining why she's coming forward after 11 years.

TWEEDEN: You always -- I don't want to be a cliche, but 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 and I gladly accept it, and thank you.


MALVEAUX: Franken says that he will cooperate with an ethics investigation on the Senate side called by Senate leaders, Mitch McConnell as well as Chuck Schumer. There are a lot of lawmakers, female lawmakers, who are angry and frustrated now. They certainly hope that mandatory training when dealing with sexual harassment will at least start to address a problem, a problem they that call rampant here. In the meantime Al Franken is laying low. Sources say that he apologized to his staff, that he was upset and that he was emotional. Very few people have seen any sign of Al Franken since this scandal broke. John and Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Suzanne, it will be very interesting to see what happens there in the halls of Congress today. Thank you very much.

So let's bring in CNN political analyst now Maggie Haberman to talk about all of this. Maggie, great to have you. What is the thinking inside the White House about how to respond to all of these various sexual assault stories given Donald Trump's history?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So as you know there's not usually one linear line of thinking within this White House. There are different aides and then there's the president. And you saw that yesterday. You saw Sarah Sanders in the briefing take the position that is the White House's position, which is this is troubling about Roy Moore, but this is up to the people of Alabama. The president, I'm told by a bunch of people, is very conscious of the fact that, a, his endorsement of Luther Strange in that primary did not go very well, backfired on him. He was afraid of losing his own base. That is something that stays with him and consumes him constantly. And he is aware of what he ran on and the impression of Washington, D.C., interfering in something statewide. You can make the case that this is little bit different, but that is where they are coming from.

[08:05:00] However, he then tweets last night as we saw about Al Franken, and that I think falls in the bucket of the president gets some desire to tweet and he doesn't control it and then he goes ahead. I don't think they are as concerned about the president not talking about these issues because of the accusations against him as I think they are just not wanting to get involved in what is an incredibly complicated situation in Alabama where Roy Moore likely won't win based on current polling, but he still could win. And they don't want to look as if they are interfering, and basically, essentially if Roy Moore does win and the president comes out and says he should get out or he makes a huge statement about it and does it and wins, that looks like the president has no juice, so why would you waste it at that point.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Does the White House and to whatever extent we can know this, the president, do they think that they have no baggage whatsoever when it comes to all the women who accused him of things on the record?

HABERMAN: Aides think that he does. They are aware of what the reality is. The president, as you know, tends to portray a different story and says that this is all not true and all a plot. He makes things very hard for his own White House when he does things like go out and tweet about Al Franken because it's very hard to say we're just not getting involved in these things, but I am going to get involved when it's a Democrat, and I'm going to get involved when it's a Democrat. The current conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault is vitally important and long overdue. But not all things are necessarily equal in terms of how egregious they are. What Al Franken did was clearly quite bad. What Roy Moore is accused of is some kind of sexual interaction with a minor.

BERMAN: A woman says that he molested her when he was 14. That's important to say.

HABERMAN: Right. And several other women have made accusations about his behavior. That's pretty egregious. The president has not used his Twitter feed to weigh in on that. I think that when you have a tweet or lack thereof to compare side by side, that is where he puts his own team in a bad place. CAMEROTA: But here's the paradoxical lesson that we are all getting

during this watershed moment, which is when you own up to it and admit it or at least apologize or give some sort of acknowledgment, let's look at Kevin Spacey, let's look at Louis C.K., let's look at Harvey Weinstein, you go down in flames, you lose your job, your movies are taken down, you are edited out of things. When you say they are all liars and you never admit it, you are elected president. So Roy Moore has a model he could follow and he seems to be following the I want to win this one model.

HABERMAN: Yes and no. I think a couple of things. I think that, a, I think there's something about molesting a minor that I think goes well beyond, as bad as the accusations about the president were back in the fall of 2016, I think this goes to a different degree of depth.

But I also think that Alex Burns, my colleague and our colleague, has made this point repeatedly that actually what Donald Trump did was basically refused to get thrown out of the ring. This happened and then he marched right into the debates with Clinton. He was savage against her by bringing her husband's accuser to that debate, and that was one of the most astonishing thing we've ever seen in national politics, but it did help him win. He did go out and basically punch his way through.

Roy Moore isn't quite doing that. He won't debate. He's basically going to a series of churches but he's staying in a closed hole.

CAMEROTA: He's also slinking out of press conferences when it comes up.

HABERMAN: Correct, exactly. So that's not quite following the same model as what Donald Trump did.

BERMAN: Maggie, if we can get you on not just President Trump because you are an expert on this presidency, but you also have covered the Clintons for years and years and years, and now there is a moment where people are saying there needs to be a new reckoning of what happened during the Clinton years. Kirsten Gillibrand, senator from New York now, says that she thinks the president should have resigned. I think we have that sound bite. Let's play it.


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

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D) NEW YORK: 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.


BERMAN: What do you think the right way to interpret her stance is? HABERMAN: I think there are a couple of ways. I think one is she,

remember, has been at the forefront of trying to bring sexual assault in the military to the public consciousness as an issue, so it's not a surprise she actually would focus on this, number one. And I think that she feels the need to have her remarks be consistent. But let's be clear, she is seen as a likely 2020 candidate. She sees where the conversation is going and I think she's putting herself in a place where she can say she has addressed this.

[08:10:03] Look, she is also speaking about something that a lot of things Democrats have been saying privately for the last week, which is it is hard to reconcile how Democrats -- not all Democrats but some Democrats did defend President Clinton. Yes, it was consensual according to both sides. On the other hand there was a clear abuse of power and dynamic at play, you had the president of the United States and an intern in the White House. And then you had a bunch of other women who also accused him.

BERMAN: Not consensual.

HABERMAN: Right. And so I think that there is a very obvious question of why believe one set of women and not the other. Remember, this was Donald Trump's argument against Hillary Clinton, and you can make the argument that that's unfair to blame her for what her husband did. He was making an argument that she had also criticized these women. But it does make it complicated for Democrats to say one set of accusations is bad, another is not, and that's why you saw the Republicans in the Senate pounce so hard on the Al Franken issue yesterday.

BERMAN: Yes, they didn't say he should resign, they said the ethics committee.

HABERMAN: Because I don't think they want to set up the paradigm of get out, because what else is coming down the pike on either side? So of course it's going to go in a direction that is going to be a manageable process.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, thank you, always great to get perspective on all of this.

BERMAN: All eyes now shift to the Senate after the House passed its tax reform bill. Will senators come to a consensus and finally give President Trump an actual legislative win?

CAMEROTA: And when you are in the car you can still keep up with NEW DAY on Sirius XM channel 116. It's free for a limited time, so tune in now.

BERMAN: Good news and a good value.

CAMEROTA: There you go.


[08:15:22] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: House Republicans passed their tax reform bill with senators now preparing to act on their version after Thanksgiving. The Senate Finance Committee advanced the plan but not before chairman, Orrin Hatch, got into a spat with senator brown saying Republicans only are cutting taxed for the rich. Watch this.


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

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Mr. Chairman, the public believes it.

HATCH: I'm not through. I get kind of sick and tired of it. True, it's a nice political play.

BROWN: Well, Mr. Chairman, with all due respect, I get tired of the richest people getting richer --


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


BROWN: -- over and over again, how many times do we do this?

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 the things you are talking about, too. I think I have a reputation having worked together with Democrats.

BROWN: Let's start with CHIP.

HATCH: Not starting with CHIP. I have done it for bills --

BROWN: Start with CHIP today.

HATCH: I have more bills passed on this panel than anybody on this committee put together and they've been passed for the benefit of people in this country. Now, all I can say is I like you personally very much, but I'm telling

you, this bull crap that you guys throw out here really gets old after a while, and to do it right at the end of this was just not right. And I just -- it takes a lot to get me worked up like this.


CAMEROTA: Joining us is Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, Alisyn. Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: You too. What did you think of that exchange?

DENT: Well, look, I will be the first to tell you I am critical of my party when they use -- when they get very divisive on social or cultural issues.

By the same token, I understand what Senator Hatch is saying. I mean, I think many Democrats like to play the class warfare card. They're good at it, that's what they always do. And I don't think a lot of us like that.

We don't -- we're not about the politics of envy and I think Senator Hatch had reason to push back.

CAMEROTA: But didn't Senator Sherrod Brown also have reason to push back given -- I mean, look, these are the competing philosophies in stark relief right there, does this tax plan help the rich or does it help the middle class and the poor? I mean, you just see it on display right there.

DENT: Well, in my congressional district and I think in many congressional districts, I think about 70 percent of the people who file income taxes in my district do not itemize, they are not rich people and they're -- what matters to them are rates, their standard deduction is about to be doubled and the rates are about to be lowered. This is going to be helping a lot of working and middle class families.

Now, we also, of course, addressed the corporate tax code, aren't global -- our tax code is not globally competitive. We all know that. I'm tired of learning about companies inverting when I'm finding out it's easier to invest in America as a foreign headquartered company than as an American domiciled company.

It's time we change that and I believe the bill that passed the House yesterday does address, that very particular situation I am concerned about by moving to a territorial tax system. That is important. Somebody might want to call that class warfare, or might want to say it's a giveaway to the rich, but I'm talking about making it easier to invest in America so we can create American jobs and increase wages, that's' what we should be talking about in bipartisan basis. CAMEROTA: Fair enough, but as you know, sometimes when you give tax cuts to corporations, they don't create jobs and they don't invest in their people. What happens is they give stock buy backs and make shareholders richer. And, you know, frankly, I mean, in terms of how the public feels about it, we have the poll, the Quinnipiac poll asking, so does the GOP tax plan favor the rich?

[08:20:01] Fifty-nine percent right now of Americans believe, yes, it does, and does it not, 33 percent. So there's some sort of message incongruence here about what's going to happen when you give corporations all those tax cuts.

DENT: Alisyn, ask the question a different way. Do you think the United States should have the highest corporate income tax in the world? And the American people will say hell no. Absolutely not. You tell them we have a 35 percent rate and they think it's too high. But we're taking that down.

So, we can ask these questions any way we like. I have confidence businesses will invest money more wisely than the federal government will. I mean, you are right, some companies may not invest in jobs, they may pay out a dividend, they may do whatever they're going to do, but others will.

I mean, the federal government can't be as prescriptive as government would like. We have to at times trust people to make investment decisions. I believe they will allocate that capital more efficiently, more effectively, create more jobs and at a lower cost than the federal government would.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, look, I like your optimism, but what are you basing it on? I mean, what we've heard in earnings calls is these companies don't say they are going to create more jobs, they don't. They say that they're going to give out more dividends and save the money and stockpile it and all that stuff. So, who have you heard say that they are actually committing to creating jobs?

DENT: OK. I will give a specific example. Medtronic out of Minnesota. They are a company that has operations all over the world. They make money overseas. They were being bought out by Covidien, an Irish-based company.

They found it would be easier to make that money that Medtronic earned overseas, bring it back to the United States as a foreign headquarter company, they would have had to pay a heavy penalty on bring that back as an American headquartered company, they wanted to bring it back.

So, it's easier for them to invert, become foreign headquarter to invest that money, that American company earned, and send it back into Minnesota to invest in jobs. That's a very specific example.

I can give you other examples of companies that want to bring their money home, and the tax code doesn't allow it. It penalized them and incentives companies to become headquartered overseas. We're sending jobs overseas foolishly. We just need to behave like the rest of the developed world when it comes to that type of taxation. I think all we're talking about is bringing that corporate rate to a

level that is competitive with Western Europe.

CAMEROTA: OK. I want to move on to answer topic, because you were the former chair of the House Ethics Committee, I want to ask you about the headlines today. What do you think should happen to Senator Al Franken?

DENT: Well, first let me say the allegations obviously are very serious. Now, as a former chairman of the Ethics Committee, believe me, I have seen a lot of these situations.

Now, I would caution by Senate colleagues, they had a similar case not too long ago where a senator, you know, for actions that occurred prior to his time in the Senate, you know, that was the D.C. madam case, that situation, the member was not sanctioned by the Senate because they felt they did not have jurisdiction.

I don't know what they will do in the Al Franken case. But I believe it's appropriate that they investigate. In the House, we typically do not have jurisdiction over members' conduct prior to them entering the House. So, that's just something to be aware of.

And, by the way, you can only do a few things as an ethics committee. You have four sanctions. You can expel, and there have been six or seven cases in our history, most of them for treason during civil war and the Abscam situation and Traficant I think were the other two, you can be censured, you can be reprimanded, or reprievable can be issued.

Those are the sanctions available to the House. You are not dealing with a criminal matter necessarily on an ethics case. And I think that's what you're dealing with here with Al Franken, but he's going to have to answer a lot of questions. I'm sure they're going to bring in any witnesses -- the woman who's complained, and, of course, Al Franken as the respondent.

So, he's -- by the way, the way the House Ethics Committee in Congress has dealt with it, if we don't want to set a precedent, the best thing is for a member to resign. I'm not saying that's what should happen here, but that is what is often been the case. I have seen members of Congress resign for cocaine use, I've seen members of Congress resign for getting inappropriately dealing with male staff a few years ago.

CAMEROTA: Yes, yes.

DENT: I can go down a long list. We just had a resignation a few weeks ago.


CAMEROTA: Do you think that's what Al Franken should do?

DENT: I am not here to give advice to Al Franken at this moment. He has to go through this process. But I will tell you, as a former chairman of the House Ethics Committee, and having been around the House a while, I often found if we don't want to set precedents, the easiest way to move forward is for a resignation.

We had a resignation in the House a few weeks ago. I mentioned cases, you know, whether inappropriate contact with male staff several years ago, that was a resignation, another for his shirt being off, you know, in an unusual situation. He resigned. John Boehner, you know, got some people to resign rather than having the institution go through the turmoil of this type of real drama.

[08:25:06] CAMEROTA: Understood.

Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you very much for your perspective.

DENT: Thank you. Alisyn, great to be with you, as always.

CAMEROTA: You too.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The special counsel's probe heating up while a Senate committee wants more information on Jared Kushner. The latest developments, next.


BERMAN: According to two sources, the Trump campaign has received a subpoena for more Russia-related documents from special counsel Robert Mueller. And the Senate Judiciary Committee wants more documents from the president's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Joining us to talk about all this and more, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes. He's on the House Intelligence Committee and he's the chair of the New Democratic Coalition.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.

Let's start with the investigation right now on multiple fronts. You know, we have Robert Mueller issuing a subpoena to the Trump campaign for more documents. You know, you are on the House Intelligence Committee, which has also been investigating the same matters. Has the campaign been forthcoming to you?

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: The campaign, of course, has been of interest to the committee investigation. And, remember, the committee investigation is completely separate, as it should be, from the FBI investigation. And, yes, of course the campaign has been of interest to us and they have, in fact, been cooperating and providing what we have requested of them.