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Congressional Investigators Have New Questions for Kushner; Kayla Moore Says Husbands Campaign Won't Be Derailed; Trump Silent on Moore, Blasts Franken on Sexual Accusations; Trump Administration Pushes for Middle East Peace. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired November 18, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:10] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. So glad to have you with us. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.
We start off with the Russia investigation. New questions surrounding one of the closest individuals to the president personally and inside the West Wing, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner. A source now tells CNN Kushner told Russian investigators that he did not recall any contact with WikiLeaks during the campaign but now Senators on the Judiciary Committee say Kushner did receive an e-mail about WikiLeaks and he, in fact, forwarded it on to a campaign official. This new revelation could lead to Kushner coming back in to testify again.
Let's bring in CNN crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz.
Shimon, what are Kushner's attorneys saying about this?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They're kind of saying the Senators are playing somewhat cute here, calling it a gotcha question about whether or not he had any communications with WikiLeaks. His lawyer, Kushner's lawyer says he has basically told us he's turned over everything they've asked for, the attorney, Abbe Lowell, also tells us he was in meetings with members on the Hill for over six hours offering voluntary testimony, answering all questions put to him, and demonstrated there has been no collusion between the campaign and Russia -- Ana?
CABRERA: So, Shimon, it's not just what he did or didn't disclose regarding the communications with WikiLeaks, but the Senate judiciary leaders say Kushner's omissions include documents related to some kind of Russian backdoor channel and a Russian dinner invite. They were left out as well?
PROKUPECZ: Yes. So this have that e-mail. But their issue is that the e-mail that they have did not come from Jared Kushner. Now this all goes back to another Russian outreach. There have been many. We've reported on this for quite some time. This one came in May 2016, during the campaign. And it involved a Russian government official, a man by the name of Aleksander Torshin. He's close to the Russian president, banking officials. He made an offer to an intermediary who kind of reached out to the Trump campaign suggesting a meeting between them, between Torshin and the Trump campaign, perhaps Donald Trump himself. He also suggested that perhaps Torshin could plan a meeting, could make a meeting between the Russian president and Trump campaign officials.
CABRERA: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for that.
Let's discuss the implications of these latest developments. Joining us now is Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst, a former special assistant to Robert Mueller, and David Swerdlick, CNN political commentator and assistant editor at "The Washington Post."
Michael, what kind of danger could this put Kushner in?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it won't put him in any legal danger. They have responded pretty much as is required by a lawyer. They get it questioned. They respond with an answer. If the questioner thought that they should get a different type of answer, then it's incumbent on the questioner to ask a different question. Or a follow-up question. This is not before Mueller. They've not playing fast and cute with Mueller and his grand jury. They're just saying to the government, the Congressional part of the government, if you want information from us, ask it, and we'll give it to you. But we can't define what's in your mind or know what you really intended by your question, so we'll answer what we understand your question to be and answer follow-up questions.
CABRERA: So, David, does the fact that Kushner simply forwarded these e-mails matter?
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that matters, but I think Michael is makes the important point here is that legally, this doesn't necessarily mean additional jeopardy for Jared Kushner. Of I think there's a political jeopardy in the sense we see information dripping out rather than Kushner coming forward and being fully transparent with all these contacts with Russians or people adjacent to Russians. As Michael said, Abbe Lowell, Jared's lawyer has been fairly clear saying look, we're not going to answer a question that's not been asked. But if you go back to July 24, when Jared Kushner went before Congress initially, he gave this long statement where he said he was doing everything he could, words to effect he was going above and beyond what Congress had asked for. And when we get to a situation like this where Congress goes back to him and his lawyer and says, hey, what about this e-mail, that sort of flies in the face of the idea they're going above and beyond. For someone who has had to modify their SF86 security clearance form, for someone who has had information about various meetings leak out over time it doesn't look good.
CABRERA: Because half of these meetings, Michael, that we've learned about after the fact, after Kushner had already had an opportunity to be forthcoming, to say this is what I've got afternoon lay it out on the table, and yet, his lawyer says he has been fully cooperative. Do you agree with that?
[15:05:16] ZELDIN: Well, so I think he has been cooperativity. As a lawyer would interpret the word. And he probably hasn't been as cooperative as a congressional inquiry might expect. David is right. This flies in the face of what Congress hoped for, which was fulsome disclosure, and it is more legally correct. As a consequence, it sort of plays into the slow-foot obstruction narrative that many people want to pin on Kushner. And that's what they get. They can answer legal questions legally, and deal with the obstruction slow walk political consequence, or they can answer questions not asked of them and put themselves in potential legal jeopardy. Between the two, I'll take no legal jeopardy and whether the obstruction slow-walk media outrage.
CABRERA: So would you represent Kushner in the same way?
ZELDIN: Yes. I think Abbe is doing what he is to do as a lawyer.
CABRERA: So, David, if Senators actually knew about the WikiLeaks document and others, seems like a gotcha letter they wrote to say you didn't disclose everything. Why not just ask for those documents initially?
SWERDLICK: Well, I think that's a fair point and I think that's the point Kushner and his legal team would make. On the other hand, the Congress, the two congressional investigations going on, as well as the special council investigation going on, they are trying to catch the parties involved in inconsistencies, one, if they're trying to build an obstruction case, that would be one way to build a case by showing inconsistencies, either in Kushner's own statements one from another or from the statements of say.
CABRERA: And given this is the Senate Judiciary Committee, that is important to know. That's different than the Intelligence Committee.
SWERDLICK: I'm sorry. That's right. Thank you for correcting me on that point.
Either way, I think these various committee investigations are trying to get at the heart of the matter of was there collusion between senior members of the Trump campaign and representatives of the Russian government. The collusion's not a formal legal term but the idea being were these contacts just incidental, was there some other legitimate explanation nor them, as the Trump campaign and the members of the Trump campaign have had over and over again or was from something else going on. They're trying to get to the bottom of that.
CABRERA: I want to ask you about that, Michael, because as we continue to learn new information, I asked the question about whether evidence of a conspiracy or collusion of some sort has been laid before us when I spoke with Leon Panetta, former chief of staff to Bill Clinton, former Defense Department secretary. Here's our exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF & FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: There will are a lot of dots here. A lot of indications that various people did a lot of meetings here. I think there's something like 30 contacts with the Russians that took place by individuals involved in the campaign. But I don't know whether those dots can really be connected. I think that's going to be the judgment that Bob Mueller is going to have to make as special counsel, is whether or not you can connect those dots and really prove some kind of conspiracy took place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Michael, we've learned about these meetings. We're learning more about connections. But are you able to connect the dots based on the evidence we know about at this point?
ZELDIN: Well, not in a broad overarching conspiracy sense, where the whole Trump campaign apparatus was in agreement that they were going to be in collusion with representatives of the government of Russia. I don't think we've seen that. But, that said, we have seen things like Don Jr talking to WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks saying to Don Jr, look, we have stolen information. Would you like to help us distribute it? We'll give you a link. You can then tweet it out and people will be able to search those -- data points and further disseminate them. That's theoretically a crime. And so when we talk about WikiLeaks, I think the person who's more in jeopardy than Kushner who I don't think is in jeopardy buy forwarding an e-mail is Don Jr because I think he was told this is essentially stolen property. This is hacked information. And he apparently willingly and knowingly distributed a link to it to further disseminate it. I think that's problematic. I think that Jared Kushner is trying to separate himself from Don Jr. I don't think their interests necessarily alien in all respects.
[15:10:22] David, there have been calls, especially from Democrats, for Jared and Donald Trump Jr to testify in an open forum. Not a close the testimony. But Republicans seem a little bit hesitant to go there. Is there an argument for not having them come before the public and testify?
SWERDLICK: I'd say from the perspective of just citizens generally, probably not much of an argument. There is an argument certainly from the perspective of Republicans in Congress. I think they know they can't simply brush this aside. That they do have to hold hearings and investigate, try to get to the bottom of this. At the same time, there's a political reality that since the president's own party controls both housing of Congress and therefore controls all of these congressional committees, they have an incentive even as they are trying to get to the bottom of it, control as best they can the flow of information. I think that's part of what this is. That doesn't mean they're trying to excuse it, but I think that from a political expensive. They do want to be able to get the information before we see it in real-time on CNN or wherever else.
CABRERA: David Swerdlick and Michael Zeldin, always appreciate your perspectives. Thank you so much.
CABRERA: Coming up, accuser number eight. Another woman has come forward alleging sexual misconduct by Senate Candidate Roy Moore. We're live in Alabama, next.
And President Trump is blasting Senator Al Franken over his sexual harassment scandal, but responding differently to the accusations against Roy Moore. We'll discuss this contrasting responses with the founder of the Me Too campaign, next.
[15:16:22] CABRERA: A list of women who say Alabama's Republican Senate candidate was sexually inappropriate to them is growing. Judge Roy Moore now stands accused by eight women. Now the allegations vary from inappropriate touching to sexual abuse to simply pursuing relationship with them as teenagers when he was in his 30's.
The latest accuser is Tina Johnson. He grabbed her from behind and put his hands-on parts of her body without her concept. She says this happened in the judge's law office in 1991.
Now Judge Moore denies every other accusation against him and has yet to publicly comment on her account specifically.
Yesterday, Moore's wife appeared in Montgomery, Alabama, and told supporters her husband's campaign won't be derailed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYLA MOORE, WIFE OF ROY MOORE: Even after all the attacks against me, against my family, against the foundation, and now against my husband, he will not step down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I want to bring in our correspondent, Nick Valencia, joining us from Gadsden, Alabama.
Nick, there is really no two ways to interpret that statement from Judge Moore's wife. They are clearly in this for the duration even as an eighth woman comes forward with the story.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Roy Moore has been defiant as ever as have his supporters. They really are digging in here and pushing back on these accusations of sexual assault. It was yesterday Kayla Moore was joined by about 30 or 40 women who say they personally know him and say the acquisitions are not indicative of his character.
Just a few days before that, we heard from faith leaders who say his character is being assassinated and that he's being framed by the GOP establishment.
But it was today that a group of different faith leaders convened in Birmingham to blast the Senator.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REV. WILLIAM BARBER, PRESIDENT, NAACP, NORTH CAROLINA: It is unlikely that any of Roy Moore's accusers can definitely prove that he sexually assaulted him 30 years ago. The defiant former judge knows well. But even if this is critical, particularly for the media to hear, where we have to stand as Christian ministers, even before these allegations made national headlines, it was clear that Moore's policy agenda endangered the children of Alabama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VALENCIA: The adamant denials by the Moore campaign have been equated by his critics to victim blaming. There have been at least two women accusing him of sexual assault when they were teenagers. Of course, the women have said that they felt intimidated and felt no one would listen to them if they came out at the time that these alleged incidents happened. A lot of people are listening now.
CABRERA: All right. Nick Valencia, in Alabama, watching the very latest for us. We appreciate it.
We are talking about a man, Judge Roy Moore, who is running for a seat in the United States Senate.
So what does President Trump say about the accusations against this Republican, accused now by eight women of some kind of sexual misconduct? Really, nothing. Not a word specifically. Not a tweet directly condemning Roy Moore's accusations at least.
The White House spokeswoman insists the president's position remains that the political fate of Judge Roy Moore should stay in the hands of voters in Alabama.
I want to bring Tarana Burke. She not only used to live in Alabama, but also the founder of the Me Too movement, which encourages women and men to share their insurances of sexual harassment and assault.
Thank you so much, Tarana for coming in.
First, I want to get your reaction to yet another woman sharing her Me Too story regarding Judge Roy Moore.
[15:20:21] TARANA BURKE, FOUNDER, ME TOO MOVEMENT: I think it's indicative of what we've been seeing. Women are feeling emboldened to come forward with their stories because we've created this community and new sort of shift in culture where it's OK to stand up and say that these things happened to you.
CABRERA: We have Roy Moore, Al Franken, even President H.W. Bush. With more accusations against him this week. That's, of course, on the political side of the spectrum. Then the other side, too. The entertainment world, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey. The way the president has responded to this issue of sexual harassment or sexual assault has varied differently depending on who the accusations are against. And Chris Cillizza puts it this way, "We see the fruit of the seeds planted during the campaign. A president of the United States either unwilling or unable to seize the mantle of moral leadership when the country is crying out for it."
Tarana, do you believe that where we are today as a result of a -- sort of cultural wounds that were maybe opened during the campaign?
BURKE: Absolutely. Think that the audacity of the country to elect a president who was a known self-admitted sexual predator and sexual harasser was probably a bridge too far for people. We've come to a place where people feel emboldened to speak out loud. But before Me Too, it was just people being aghast that we could elect a president that could say the things that he said.
CABRERA: Representative Debbie Dingell, who was one of the people in Congress who just shared her Me Too story this past week, talking about sexual harassment she's experienced on Capitol Hill. And yet, she says she does not believe that this is a watershed moment because too many women she says will face consequences for sharing their stories and specifically naming their accuser. Do you agree?
BURKE: Well, we'll see. Right? I think there's a moment of shift is happening where look at hike Harvey Weinstein. He's been stripped of all of his titles and things like that. It's a time where we have to wait and see what's going to happen. I do think there are going to be different consequences for women not in the spot light. And I hope that doesn't happen to Roy Moore's accusers or to any other accusers, but I think it's kind of we have to wait and see.
CABRERA: Speaking of consequences, it's not just consequences for women, but for the men who have been accused also wide varied. Harvey Weinstein stripped of academy membership. Al Franken whose job now on the line. These are men who have apologized or admitted to some kind of inappropriate sexual behavior, and yet, you have Roy Moore, who continues to deny these allegations, he could end up being the next Senator from Alabama. You have Donald Trump who has denied, denied, denied.
CABRERA: Of course, he became president. So what message does that send?
BURKE: It sends a terrible message. Roy Moore has spent the greater part of his career setting himself up as a moral authority. He is the religious and moral authority and we find out his moral fiber is really not what he said it was. And so, we keep facing these situations where we have these men who set themselves up as some sort of authority, particularly Roy Moore as a religious authority and find out you have these skeletons in your closet.
CABRERA: Why are people still supporting him, do you think? If you bring it up, it being such a contrast.
BURKE: I think this is part of the schism we have in this country, the same way President Trump was elected president. There are people who are invested in what they represent more so in the things they've done. Roy Moore represents a similar sort of folks, who are more interested in having their agenda reach the White House and the capital.
CABRERA: Tarana Burke, thank you so much for coming in.
BURKE: Thank you for having me.
[15:25:24] CABRERA: Coming up, a bipartisan group of former top national security officials, including Leon Panetta, are pushing for congressional leaders to pass a fix for so-called DREAMers by December 8th. He tells me why this is a threat to national security, and the time to act is now.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: There's a new development this afternoon in a foreign policy issue that's been mostly dormant since President Trump took office, and that's Middle East peace. His administration is now trying to prod the Palestinians back to the bargaining table by threatening to close their mission in Washington using a little-known provision in U.S. law.
CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is joining us from Washington to break this all down.
Elise, what is the end goal of the Trump administration?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I think the end goal is to get the Palestinians to the table and make a peace deal with the U.S. This is an old law, essentially governing relations with the United States and the Palestinians. The Palestinians, for many years in the '80's, were not allowed to have an office in Washington. President Clinton, in 1994, allowed them to open up an office in Washington. But in 2015, Congress put a kind of provision in this law after the Palestinians joined the International Criminal Court, saying that if they took action against Israel in the ICC, then they would have to close the Palestinian office here in Washington.
Now, the last kind of certification period was in November, and Palestinian President Abbas did go to the U.N. in September, the General Assembly. We all covered it when he asked the ICC to take action against Israel for what he called crimes against humanity.
It's a very little-known provision but I think the president and Jared Kushner, who's leading the peace negotiations, this effort to make a peace deal, is trying to use that as leverage.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: In the meantime, the State Department spokeswoman also acknowledging times are kind of tough in the department, saying, quote, "Sure, there is a morale issue." What is going on there exactly?
LABOTT: You saw this week there were a lot of stories, statements on the Hill by supporters of Secretary Tillerson, like John McCain, Bob Corker, calling into question this redesign effort he has at the State Department. A letter by the president of the Foreign Service Association saying they're leaving in droves, that the Foreign Service and the State Department are being hollowed out.
Now, the numbers don't necessarily suggest, Ana, a kind of mass exodus but, at the same time, there is this morale problem at the State Department. Everyone acknowledges the State Department don't feel as if Secretary Tillerson really appreciates their expertise.
Take a listen to the Spokeswoman Heather Nauert yesterday telling the Foreign Service to essentially hang in there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEATHER NAUERT, SPOKESWOMAN, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: I know times may seem tough right now. I know the headlines do not look good. We have a lot of work to do here, from the crises that unfold in Burma right now, to what is going on in Iraq, and the good defeating of ISIS that we are doing. We have so much work that has left to be done to what is happening in Cambodia. Their work, I can say from a personal point of view, is valued, is needed. We need the Foreign Service officers to keep doing what they have committed their lives to do. I hope that they will stay on. It breaks my heart to hear that some feel they aren't wanted or aren't needed or aren't appreciated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LABOTT: Now, there are 25,000 employees around the world, full-time, at the State Department. And Secretary Tillerson does meet with some in the State Department, does speak to employees across the world. But I think talks to Foreign Service, they're really looking for leadership by the secretary of state to say, I appreciate you, I want to work with you, help me change the State Department for the future. They feel a little bit he's too insular.
CABRERA: This can't be helping the open positions, filling those --
CABRERA: -- at the State Department.
Elise Labott, thank you very much.
Coming up, the roast master general tackling immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF ROSS, COMEDIAN: So who's a DREAMer? You two.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Used to be everybody that was brought to the U.S. in a young age.
ROSS: Because you're undocumented?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ROSS: How old were you when you came?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) ROSS: Did you tell your mom, hey, mom, I want to go the U.S. --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't have a choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Jeffrey Ross joins me, live, after the break.
[15:37:52] CABRERA: Time is running out for undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers brought to the U.S. as children. President Trump gave Congress a March 5 deadline to find a legislative solution before he terminates the DACA program allowing these DREAMers to temporarily work, study, and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation. This week, some big names in national security signed a letter urging Congress to find a way to protect DREAMers before the year's end. They say it is a matter of national security. Signing a letter, people like Madelaine Albright, James Clapper, Janet Napolitano, and Leon Panetta, who has held a slew of crucial posts as former defense secretary, former CIA director, former White House chief of staff, and a former California congressman.
I sat down with Panetta to discuss DACA legislation, and why he thinks it needs urgent action. Watch.
CABRERA: I know you're a passionate about DACA and these DREAMers. You and 13 bipartisan national security officials signed a letter imploring Congress to pass the act by the end of the year. Why did you sign it?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF & FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I signed it for a lot of reasons. But I guess, first and foremost, because I'm the son of Italian immigrants and I believe deeply that this country is the land of immigrants. And we promised these DACA kids that they would have the opportunity to be able to be a part of the American dream, that they'd be able to get an education, get a job, serve in the military and, ultimately, find a way to be legalized in this country. That was the promise that was to them. And now that promise is about to be broken soon into the new year, unless we pass the DREAM Act, and allow them to be protected and to have an opportunity to be legalized. So, the main reason this was signed was because we're involved with national security. Nine hundred of those DACA people serve in the military. And we wanted to recognize their military service and protect them.
[15:40:07] CABRERA: So do you believe our nation security interest is at risk should this DACA limit lapse?
PANETTA: I think it impacts on our national security in a number of ways. First and foremost, because these are individuals, these 900 DACA soldiers, are serving in the military. Their language skills are important. Their service is extremely important. They're putting their lives on the line for our country. I think it's really important when people are willing to serve this country, that we recognize that, because, otherwise, it sends a terrible signal to others in terms of their service to this country.
But secondly, it's also about what the United States of America is all about. We are a country that has always welcomed immigrants to this country. We are a country that believes in diversity, believes in freedom and the opportunity to really be able to enjoy the American dream.
My parents, the reason they came to this country is because they believed they could give their children a better life in this country. That's the American dream. And if we don't stand by that American dream, it hurts not only our national security, it hurts what America's all about.
CABRERA: So if protection for these DREAMers is so important, should Democrats be willing to compromise on some sort of border security measure that the president has proposed, like the wall or family-based visas that have been suggested by other Republicans?
PANETTA: Well, you know, I spent a good part of my life in the Congress. And I understand what the give and take is all about when you try to get something done. I think that's part of the process. The important thing is that the DREAM Act ought to be part of the continuing resolution that the Congress has to pass by December 8th. That's the bottom line. We need to get this done. We need to get the DREAM Act made a part of our law in order to protect these young people. And so, if there's some give and take, I understand that process. But the bottom line is that we need to pass the DREAM Act. Period.
CABRERA: And December 8th is, of course, that deadline that you guys write in the letter and we know is also the deadline for the spending bill in Congress to have to pass. That's when that threshold is reached. So you're saying if we go past that, then what?
PANETTA: If we don't get this done by the end of this year, and this slops into the new year, my fear is that not only are there going to be DACA students who will be in trouble and concerned about the possibility of deportation. But once we get into an election year, it just becomes even more difficult to predict just exactly what Congress will or will not do. It's for that reason that both Republicans and Democrats have said they support the passage of the DREAM Act. If they do, now is the time to do it.
CABRERA: Catch more of my interview with Leon Panetta. We talk about new revelations in the Russian investigation, Bill Clinton in light of today's conversation about sexual harassment. That's all coming up in 90 minutes right here on CNN.
Let's get back to the immigration debate. It does not generally make people laugh these days, but roast master general, Jeff Ross, may change that. Yes, Jeff Ross, the comedian known for his funny celebrity roasts. His new special, "Jeff Ross Roasts the Border," live from Brownsville, Texas, debuted this week on Comedy Central. Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSS: What does America mean to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People in our countries.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of good people here.
ROSS: What's your dream now? What's your American dream?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have her own home.
ROSS: Congratulations on the baby and the United States. Congratulations
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Roast master general, Jeff Ross, is joining us now.
Jeff, thanks for spending time for us.
You visited a prison for the first, roasting inmates in front of the guards. Why did you decide to tackle immigration this time and what do you hope to accomplish through this special?
[15:45:02] ROSS: Well, I feel like we were forgetting in this country how important immigrants are. We're almost all of us are descendants of immigrants. I went in a jail to human ease the inmates base I wanted to talk about mass incarceration and get people talking about it. The same thing. I was curious about how the people who actually live along the border feel about America's changing immigration policies.
CABRERA: Now you say --
ROSS: I thought it would be funny to make fun of immigrants.
CABRERA: Well, we didn't show a clip necessarily where there was any kind of joke. Seemed like a pretty serious conversation. But, I'm curious what kind of reaction you're getting.
ROSS: It's been pretty great, because comedy comes from pain. This is a tricky issue right now. The mayor of Brownsville, Texas, where there is a border fence, let me set up a stage and essentially roast the undocumented community. I expect the 50 people to come out. It was a free show. And 800 people came out because everyone down there has someone affected by this issue. So I thought it was important. Shout-out to the immigrants for having a good sense of humor. Taking a joke. It's so important.
CABRERA: Interesting that they, too, were able to laugh at themselves.
You say comedy can provide a platform to deliver the unfiltered truth. It makes it easier for people to swallow. Do you believe this special changed any minds on immigration?
ROSS: I do. Because I don't come at it from a political perspective. I talk about the people. The DREAMer people who it's heart breaking. They come to America as babies. They know no other life. They don't have another home besides America and apply for citizenship. Which I actually think is a lot of leverage to have on your parents. If it you're legal and your parents are undocumented, son, clean your room. Really, mom? I'm going to call ICE. See if they want to clean your room. You try to bring some levity, laughter to what is a painful situation. Even some of the president's supporters which I show in my documentary, they disagree with the president. They think that the DREAMers should be allowed to stay.
CABRERA: Do you believe activists comedy as you put it is on the rise? And of course, right now, the hot topic has been sexual harassment. How are comedians handing it involving Louis C.K.?
ROSS: I mean, my act takes on whatever is happening in the world. I think comedy mirrors what we do in our real life. So I do think -- I'm talking about it in my act, and I expect that to keep happening. If we don't laugh, we cry. And you know, I can't speak to louis, but for me, I'm doing these things in my act, and I think we'll be a better country for it. I think it's important to bring all the darkness into the light.
CABRERA: And on that note, the evolution of comedy, the evolution of our culture, Senator Al Franken, former comedian, under fire for that picture of him with his hands on Leeann Tweeden's breasts. He says it was meant for a joke. He thought he was being funny. A reminder it was a photo taken more than a decade ago. What does that tell you about our culture then versus now?
ROSS: It's interesting. You know, I know Leanne Tweeden and I know Senator Franken. Sometimes good people do bad things, and they learn from it. How many times have we seen -- I've been to jails. I've seen murderers become mentors. We've all seen alcoholics become sponsors. I think Senator Al will get behind this and be a champion on this issue eventually. I think people do bad things, but some silver lining could come from it in that way we all become enlightened and move on. That's how I feel about it.
[15:49:10] CABRERA: Jeff Ross, thanks for your time and thanks to are your work.
His new special, "Jeff Ross Roasts the Border" is streaming now on comedycentral.com.
Coming up, President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner's testimony in front of Senate investigators is under new scrutiny. New revelations he withheld information about the campaign's contact with WikiLeaks and Russia. What some lawmakers are asking for, next.
CABRERA: Voting is under way for the CNN Hero of the Year, and here is one of this year's top-10 heroes. Meet Leslie Morrissette.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Get set, go!
LESLIE MORRISETTE, CNN HERO: My son, Graham, passed away two years after he was diagnosed with leukemia. We spent two years pretty much in and out of the hospital.
When he was sick, the computer definitely helped him stay in contact with his school and friends.
When you lose your child, the love doesn't go away. It has to find a place.
I really wanted to make a difference with the families and the children that I had met in the hospital.
So I heard you like iPad, is that true?
You give away free technology to children with cancer and other serious illnesses.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Yea!
MORRISSETTE: We'd love to say that we're connecting kids when their world is out of reach. One of our major goals is to connect kids to their classrooms which really helps them continue their education.
CLASS: Hi, Phillip.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Phillip has to have a bone marrow transplant. We'll be here in the hospital like six weeks. Thanks to that robot, he's not going to miss out on anything.
MORRISSETTE: Nothing makes me happier, the joy that they have fills my heart back up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[15:55:16] CABRERA: Vote for Leslie or any of your favorite top-10 Heroes now at CNNheros.com.
Still ahead, Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore is adamantly staying in the race despite an eighth woman now coming forward accusing him of sexual misconduct. We'll tell you how Alabama voters are reacting, next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)