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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump's Twitter Wars; Alabama Newspapers Rejecting Roy Moore. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 20, 2017 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:02]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEIGH CORFMAN, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: And he touched me over my clothing, what was left of it. And he tried to get me to touch him as well.

And, at that point, I pulled back and said that I was not comfortable and I got dressed. And he took me home.

But I was a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult's world, and he was 32 years old.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: She was a 14-year-old child.

Now, Moore denies all the accusations against him, insisting that he doesn't even know Corfman.

Here is how she responded to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Roy Moore denies these allegations and further says he does not even know you.

CORFMAN: I wonder how many "me"s he doesn't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Now the three biggest newspapers in the state of Alabama are calling on voters to reject Moore in a front-page, above-the-fold editorial with scathing language.

And I'm going to quote just some of it.

One here: "A vote for Roy Moore sends the worst kind of message to Alabamians struggling with abuse. If you ever do tell your story, Alabama won't believe you, or, worse, we will believe you, but we just won't care."

I want to bring in now John Hammontree. He is AL.com's managing editor.

Thanks so much for joining me now.

This is a powerfully written and clearly heartfelt position from a newspaper that it's been years since it has endorsed a Democrat for the position as senator. Can you describe to me what the feeling was, what the impetus in the newsroom was to make this strong stand now?

JOHN HAMMONTREE, MANAGING EDITOR, AL.COM: Yes, thank you, Jim.

You know, it's easy to get caught up in the hoopla of being on "Saturday Night Live" or late night and national news shows and think, what does the country think about Alabama?

But what we wanted look at is, what would Alabama think of Alabama if we voted for a man like Roy Moore? How could we look our wives and our sisters and our children and our neighbors in the eye and say this is the man that we voted for knowing what we know about him now?

And so we tried to appeal to voters in that way. You know, we all know someone who has been touched by sexual assault or child abuse. And this is a vote for them. This is to say that we're going to make Alabama a place that is safe from you and we're not going to condone this type of behavior.

SCIUTTO: I want to read another excerpt from the editorial.

It goes -- quote -- "To be clear, it's not only about his record on women and children that disqualifies Moore. If we vote for Roy Moore, Alabama will also show that we don't care about you if you're gay or Muslim or Catholic, if you're an atheist or an immigrant. We will show we each other that we only care about Roy Moore's definition of Alabama and that there is not room for the rest of us."

Clearly, your paper doesn't think Moore represents all of Alabama, as you said, but this is a very divisive time, where often in races like this we see people choose Republican or Democrat almost without looking at the candidate, right?

I just wonder, outside the newsroom, are you hearing a similar feeling from other fellow citizens of Alabama?

HAMMONTREE: Well, you know, obviously, the state Republican Party has stood behind Roy Moore, as has Governor Ivey and many other party leaders.

But the same day that we dropped this editorial endorsement, the Young Republicans of Alabama immediately pulled their endorsement of Roy Moore later that day. And so I think there is a real generational divide. I'm encouraged by what the young Republicans in the state are doing.

I think, this day and age, it's really easy to get caught up in the alt-right movement or the youth that are leading the Republican Party now, but I'm encouraged by the fact these young Republicans have said, no, if we're going to be a party that is standing for morality, then we need to own that and we need to make sure that we have candidates that own that. And so I think you will have young Republicans that will either stay

home, write in a candidate or even turn out and vote for Doug Jones.

SCIUTTO: Now, you, of course, have the Democrat Doug Jones, and that's who you endorsed here. Are you feeling, beyond the fact that he is not Roy Moore, are you feeling or seeing that there is support for him as a candidate?

HAMMONTREE: Yes.

You know, it's interesting to hear Kellyanne Conway come out and say that Republicans should vote for the Republican if they want tax reform, because there has only been one candidate who has been crossing the state over the last few weeks who has been talking about economic issues and tax reform and saving children's health insurance, and that's been Doug Jones.

And so, you know, the idea that you should vote for a candidate who has built his entire career on social issues and issues that I don't think moment Alabamans agree with him on at this point in order to pass tax reform is farcical.

Roy Moore is somebody whose own Foundation of Moral Law has been guilty of, at worst, delayed tax returns and -- at best, delayed tax returns, and most likely all sorts of tax issues.

[16:35:07]

SCIUTTO: Well, if tax issues were a bar to public office, we might be having a different conversation right now, as you know.

HAMMONTREE: That's true.

SCIUTTO: You know Alabama voters. Do you think that Roy Moore, looking at -- reading the political tea leaves -- and I don't mean to make you a political prognosticator here, but what are the chances that Roy Moore loses this race?

HAMMONTREE: You know, I -- it's going to be tough to speculate. We don't know what turnout is going to look like. Polls aren't going to be reliable, because, on the one hand, Democrats haven't had a candidate for a statewide office they have been excited about in a couple of decades.

On the other hand, you're not going to have a candidate like Barack Obama on the ballot that could increase black turnout. I will say that, just anecdotally, when you drive around the suburbs of Birmingham or Huntsville or Mobile or Montgomery, you are seeing a lot more support for Doug Jones.

You know, I think some voters who may have voted for Donald Trump, despite him facing similar allegations, aren't really willing to do the same for Roy Moore because he's not promising to bring back jobs and he's not promising the same types of things that Donald Trump was promising. He's really only appealing to his base. And that's a very specific

sect of evangelical voters. Now, maybe the albatross of Doug Jones being in favor of leaving abortion policy the way it is right now will weigh down on his candidacy and there won't be enough crossover voters to put him over the edge, but I think that it's a tossup right now, which is, you know, shocking for a state where Donald Trump won by 20 points.

SCIUTTO: It's a race we're going to be watching very closely here at CNN.

John Hammontree, thanks very much for taking the time.

HAMMONTREE: Thanks a lot.

SCIUTTO: President Trump may be silent on Roy Moore, but as you have heard, he has blunt language for many, many others. Is there a strategy behind his mixed messages? We're going to discuss.

Plus, inside the world of Charles Manson. Hear from a woman who produced the first TV jailhouse interview with one of America's most notorious killers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:41:33]

SCIUTTO: You're looking at images here of the White House Christmas Tree arriving just moments ago.

The first lady, Melania Trump and son Barron Trump received the tree which came from the Chapman family farm in Wisconsin this year. The Chapman family also contributed the White House trees in 1998 and 2003. This year, it is a 19.5-foot-tall balsam fir that will be displayed in the Blue Room of the White House.

Christmas is coming.

My panel with me here now. Lots of news to discuss.

So, over the weekend, the president using his favorite forum, Twitter, to take some shots at the NFL, three UCLA basketball players, Hillary Clinton, of course, and Senator Jeff Flake.

I wonder, Bill Kristol, listen, we have commented oftentimes before about, has the president gone too far with this? Does it serve any purpose, et cetera? Will his advisers hold him back?

I just wonder, over time, do these Twitter attacks have the same impact they have had before?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": I have talked to some reluctant Trump supporters, I would characterize them as, who are getting a little sick of it. So, maybe get some erosion in that respect. On the other hand, it's a good device to distract people. He tends to

pick on people who are unpopular, at least with his supporters and maybe with a broader swathe of the public, people who don't stand up for the national anthem, the father of the NBA basketball players, who seems like kind of a showboat.

And he's also, I will just say, from minority groups, where I think he has a little bit of a dog whistle there too. I don't approve of it, obviously, but I don't think he's entirely foolish. He knows what he's doing.

He has an instinct. If I can pick fights with unpopular people or people who seem to be -- like Hillary Clinton -- angry because they lost, that's better than actually debating the issues.

SCIUTTO: Joseph, in your view, is it a racial dog whistle to go after? I mean, he will go after the Ball father, but, I mean, Gregg Popovich, NBA coach that has been very critical, we don't hear comments about him, Steve Kerr, et cetera.

JOSEPH PINION, CHAIR, THE CONSERVATIVE COLOR COALITION: I think, on some basic level, you can't deny that there is a racial component because there is a preponderance of evidence there.

I think there is a larger macro issue here, right? Talking about an individual who is always ready to go after individuals who have a smaller platform than he does. And I think that is something that is much more, you know, indicative of this type of thing, when you start talking about some of the attacks on women, when you start talking about minorities.

There is a connective thread there. For us as a nation, I think we spoke earlier of the fact it was just kind of understood that the president of the United States would kind of accumulate gray hairs on behalf of, you know, a grateful nation.

And now you're sitting here looking at this tweet stream, and it feels as if a torn nation is sitting there forced to collect gray hairs on behalf of an ungrateful president. And it's just difficult to kind of rectify these things and figure out, how do we move forward?

SCIUTTO: You have supported President Trump before. Does it make you change your position on him?

PINION: Like I said, I was not an individual that voted for him, but I was someone that was in favor of having tax reform, in favor of us having the pertinent conversations around us getting to a health care system that worked for all people.

The reality is that we are no longer following in those footsteps. The agenda is the cultural issue. The agenda is the all these other things, tiny wars, where every time you have a small opportunity for this president to unite a nation across partisan grounds, he literally, you know, instead of, you know, dampening the flames of division, he takes out a flamethrower and lights everything ablaze. SCIUTTO: And sometimes to his own detriment, because Jeff Flake,

although no love lost between the two of them, Hilary Rosen, he needs Jeff Flake's votes or -- if he loses Jeff Flake on tax reform, or tax cut, whatever you want to call it, with Ron Johnson, I mean, it's not smart for him to be -- to be not just picking that fight but adding fuel to that fight with him.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Well, they can't afford to lose three Senators. But you know, I think it's one of the reasons why you see the President so reluctant to attack Roy Moore because instinctively they think that he could win. We saw Kellyanne today doing something that disappointed me, which is to suggest that a vote for a pedophile is actually better than a vote for you know, a Democrat.

SCIUTTO: It disappointed you? Is that the word you're going to choose on that?

ROSEN: That's the word I'll choose because anything in favor of the agenda. I do think, though, that part of what the President does is something that he has done from day one, which is that he personally believes he is the best communicator in the administration. And that the news media doesn't say the right things, doesn't focus on the right things, that his own staff doesn't focus on the right things, and so he uses Twitter to try and move people -- move people's attention to the issues he wants to focus on. that he thinks the American people will pay attention to.

SCIUTTO: Joseph and Bill, this begs further discussion, Kellyanne Conway's comment saying in effect -- and, you know, pressed by the Fox host saying are you saying vote for, you know, vote for Roy Moore here? You know, it raises the question, what is -- what is the threshold then? You know, where does the support end? We're talking about a man accused repeatedly of preying on underage girls, just 14 years old.

JOSEPH PINION, OUTREACH CHAIR, NEW YORK STATE YOUNG REPUBLICANS: I mean, there is no excuse for pedophilia. You cannot -- you can't wipe that away. And so on some basic level, I think we're asking the wrong questions. Because history shows us there are always people that are willing to live and die on the wrong side of history. I think that what we're not talking about is the fact that the election has not happened yet, that the people of Alabama have an opportunity, you know, to quote that old, you know, George Wallace phrase, draw a line in the dust. Well, Alabama can draw a new line in the dust and they can be on the right side of history. And I think that that that necessarily mean that you have to go to the polls and vote for you know, for Doug Jones, but I think it is an opportunity to say that you cannot go to the polls and vote for Roy Moore in the name of a merciful God. You cannot go to the polls and vote you know, for child molestation in the name of a tax credit in your Christmas stocking.

ROSEN: I think that's a really important point, which is that we are giving Donald Trump too much authority here for how we think, for how we vote, for how we act, and the fact is that this country has rejected much of what he has said in his divisiveness since he became elected and that we have the opportunity to consistently do it over and over again to reject that, to reject the politics of division. And to not let sort of a fake moral authority overtake this.

SCIUTTO: Bill Kristol?

BILL KRISTON, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I agree with that but you know, you see something like this earlier today an Alabama pastor Earl Wise, a Moore supporter, "how these girls came up with this, I don't know. They must have had some sweet dreams somewhere down the line. Plus there are some 14-year-olds who the way they look could pass for 20. " I mean, the degree to which when learned something about what's happening maybe some aspects in the country. And this is -- I mean, this is a kind of corruption of -- you start down the road of defending Donald Trump himself. Well, all of those women lied about him. Then you go another step down the road. It doesn't matter because we want tax cuts and another step down the road. And suddenly you've got a pastor in Alabama making this --

SCIUTTO: Listen, I've got a two-year-old daughter, she's 12 years away from being, right, but by that standard, being a target. It's sickening.

ROSEN: It's the conflation also of this moral authority of using the Bible, of using religion, which it has historically been used by Roy Moore to divide people, to put people down, to now suggest somehow that that is going to be the saving grace for Roy Moore. I think you know, again that is not what people of Christian faith want to see.

SCIUTTO: Joseph, let me ask you this, I mean, if Roy Moore wins, which is -- which is certainly a possibility here, what does that mean for the Republican Party, damaging on a national scale?

PINION: Well, I think we have bigger problems than the Republican -- this is not a Republican issue in my two cents of the world. If Roy Moore wins, what is the outcome? What -- you're really left with poor options because are you going to not seat him? Are you going to seat him and then expel him? And now you're saying that individuals who are elected who sit in the Senate have the right to dictate who can serve. And then, where does that end? So you know, as much as we can sit here and talk about how repugnant it is, to sit here the fact that we have 2017 literally talking about how people can justify pedophilia against a tax break, how people can justify pedophilia against tribalism and all of these things that really should have no place in our politics. It's unfortunate that you know, I think there is an opportunity there for us to get some things done.

SCIUTTO: Thanks to the panel. As always, difficult topics. Next, the intrigue with an icon of evil. Charles Manson, why the obsession with the cult leader and mass murder mastermind nearly a half-century after his crime? Our next guest squared off with him face-to-face.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] SCIUTTO: We're back now with our "NATIONAL LEAD." He was a psychopathic cult leader who commanded his followers to kill for him. The mastermind of a haunting set of murders, including actress Sharon Tate. Grizzly killings that paralyzed Los Angeles and terrorized the entire country back in the summer of 1969. Charles Manson died overnight at the age of 83 from natural causes. But despite being in prison for nearly half a century, the public fascination with his twist, evil charisma, you might say, and ability to brainwash dozens of young men and women has never abated. His very name becoming synonymous with murder, manipulation, fear and Helter Skelter. Joining me now is Veteran Journalist Shelley Ross who produced Manson's first ever jailhouse television interview. Shelley, thanks very much for joining us today. I want to ask you first why you think Manson has had such a lasting impact, why his story has maintained fascination for so many years, decades.

SHELLEY ROSS, PRODUCER OF CHARLES MANSON INTERVIEW IN PRISON: It was the end of an era. It was the '60s, love, peace, and flowers, and with Charles Manson's crimes, we learned that yes, hippies can murder as well.

SCIUTTO: You saw him face-to-face in prison. You sat with him. We have some photos of that here on screen. You played cards with him in prison. Poker, I believe you said. In your face-to-face encounters with him, describe him to us. Was he intimidating? Was he frightening? Or was he oddly charming?

ROSS: There was nothing charming about Charles Manson I can promise you. That picture with his hand around my neck, I was told that he would test me to see if I believed in the prosecution's theory that he was the mastermind and this big murderer and a terror. And when that was actually when he was testy when he didn't like the setup for the interview, Tom Snyder who actually did the interview was 6'5", Charles Manson is 5'2", 5'3", depending on what source. He was my height basically and when he was grabbing my arm, he was saying to me I will look up to no man. So he stood actually for much of the interview so he wouldn't have to look up to Tom Snyder. When he had his hand around my neck, he was actually -- it was very creepy. And he was actually saying to me, are you going to ask questions like is this where I hold the knife to women's throats?

SCIUTTO: Jesus.

ROSS: And my blood ran cold until I realized as I was warned that this was a test. So I'm actually responding right there, oh, Charles, you're such a kidder. And he shrugged and a little impish and walked away.

SCIUTTO: Jesus. I mean, that's frightening to imagine. Why do you think he was so good then at manipulating people particularly vulnerable women? Many of whom who stood by him, even after his conviction of these crimes.

ROSS: He was a little bit older than they were. He had been raised in the prison system and his closest friend was a pimp who really taught him. He always said this guy is my father. And he taught him how to manipulate in the prison system because he was so scrawny and tiny. And he got out in 1968 and basically, there were a lot of drugs. This group took -- smoked a lot of hash, dropped a lot of acid and he pontificated. And these were little runaway suburban girls who were fascinated and hung on every word. And I don't think that he believed it, but he sure had a captive audience. They had a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll. And that was a crash waiting to happen.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. No question. I mean, in the time since then, have you seen anyone in this category whose met that sort of notoriety in terms of capturing the fear of the nation really?

ROSS: Osama bin Laden. That was -- that marked a new era. Before Osama bin Laden, Charles Manson was the bogeyman in chief.

SCIUTTO: Now you did this interview some 35 years ago. Did you keep in touch? I mean, keep in touch as a journalist, I mean. Did you keep up in contact with him in that time period?

ROSS: No. I just went back -- 1981 was the first interview. This where I'm playing poker. I went to see him in 1982 when he had been transferred from Vacaville where he was in an isolated cell block to San Quintin's Mainstream Population where I thought he would really be killed as a trophy. I went to see him, what I thought might be his last interview. And he agreed to talk to me but said put away your reporter's notebook and I'll talk to you as we play five-card draw poker. And I think it was to look like he had me as a visitor.

SCIUTTO: Right. Always playing. Journalist Shelley Ross, thanks very much for taking the time today.

ROSS: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: You can follow me on Twitter @JIMSCIUTTO or tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Jim Sciutto, I turn you over now to Jim Acosta who is in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."