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Did Kellyanne Conway Endorse Roy Moore?; Roy Moore Accuser Speaks Out; Trump Slams "Very Ungrateful" LaVar Ball; GOP Senator: Party Is "Toast" Under Trump; White House May Drop Obamacare Repeal If It Risks Tax Reform. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:07] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the hour. Good Monday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


New this morning a remarkable series of developments in the Alabama Senate race. For the first time we are hearing from the woman who says that Roy Moore sexually molested her when she was 14. Also for the first time, we seem to hear the White House saying it would prefer that Alabamians still vote for Roy Moore.

HARLOW: That's right. This is how Leigh Corfman described her interactions with Moore when she was -- look at that -- just a 14- year-old girl.


LEIGH CORFMAN, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: He basically laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and proceeded to seduce me, I guess you would say. And during the course of that, he removed my clothing. He left the room and came back in, wearing his white underwear. 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.


HARLOW: She talked about the loss of innocence, what that did to her for decades. You'll hear more of that in a moment. But this morning, when pressed what Alabama voters should do, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said we need tax reform and you can translate that how you want.

Our Kaitlan Collins joins us now from Gadsden, Alabama, with more.

It's pretty clear what she meant with that answer.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, she was essentially telling the people of Alabama to support Roy Moore in that election on December 12th if they want this tax bill to pass, Poppy. She said that Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate here in Alabama, will not vote for it if he makes it to the Senate.

Now they're trying to get that bill through right before Christmas so that would be right after this election here in Alabama.

Let's listen to what Kellyanne Conway had to say in full this morning.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don't be fooled. He'll be a vote against tax cuts.


CONWAY: I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The RNC has withdrawn support for Roy Moore. Mitch McConnell has withdrawn support. So has the young Republicans vote -- withdrawn support for Roy Moore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a lot of women.

CONWAY: Right. And, you know what? I just want everybody to know, Doug Jones, nobody ever says his name and they pretend that he's some kind of conservative Democrat in Alabama, and he's not.


COLLINS: Now she wouldn't state directly that the people of Alabama should vote for Roy Moore, but it was a very different answer than what we heard from Kellyanne Conway before when she said that no Senate seat was worth more than a child, while talking about those accusations, like Leigh Corfman's against Roy Moore.

But we've really seen the White House try to walk a tight rope here with Roy Moore. They haven't called for him to directly drop out of the race but they also aren't going to spend any time campaigning here in Alabama.

Kellyanne Conway said right now there are no plans for the president to come down here and endorse Roy Moore like he did with his Republican opponent earlier this year, Luther Strange, when he held that rally for him in Huntsville, Alabama. But Kellyanne Conway, if she's speaking for the White House, made it quite clear this morning who they believe should be in the Senate for Alabama -- John and Poppy.

BERMAN: All right. Kaitlan Collins for us.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN contributor Bianna Golodryga, CNN political analyst, national political reporter for the "New York Times," Alex Burns, and "Washington Post" senior political reporter Aaron Blake.

Bianna, let me start with you. We are hearing from Leigh Corfman now for the first time. We read her account in the "Washington Post." It's one thing to see the words. It's another to hear the words. Let me play a little bit of that for you.


CORFMAN: I met him around the corner from my house. My mother did not know. And he took me to his home. After arriving at his home, on the second occasion that I went with him, he basically laid out some blankets on the floor of his living room and to proceeded to seduce me, I guess you would say. And during the course of that, he removed my clothing. He left the room and came back in wearing his white underwear.

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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There will be people watching who say, why now?

[09:05:02] Why not bring this up over the last few years? Particularly when Roy Moore, who was a rising star in Alabama politics, ran for election, was a chief justice at the Supreme Court.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they say, it doesn't add up. Why wait? How do you respond to that?

CORFMAN: Well, it's very simple, really. I did tell people. My family knew. Family friends knew. My friends knew. I spent a lot of time every time he came up railing against, you know, him. And what he had done to me when I was 14 years old.

My children were small. I was a single parent. And when you're in that situation, you do everything you can to protect your own. And I sat in the courtroom -- in the courthouse parking lot and thought, you know, I'm going in, I'm going to confront him.


CORFMAN: 2000, 2001. And I wanted to walk into this office and say, hey, remember me? You know, you need to knock this stuff off. You know, I need to go public. My children were small. So I didn't do it.

The second time, I actually sat down with my children, who were then junior high and elementary school. And I told them, you know, a high overview and gave them the ability to make the decision. They were afraid that with all of their social connections that they would be castigated in their groups.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You had to tell your kids something about what had happened.

CORFMAN: I had to tell the kids, right. And we decided together that we wouldn't do it at that time. So when the "Washington Post" sought me out, I didn't go looking for this. This fell in my lap. It literally fell in my lap. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: There you have it. Leigh Corfman in her own words, out loud, Bianna. What's the impact of hearing that?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's compelling. It becomes harder to question the authenticity of her story when you hear those details. You also understand why it's not so easy to come forward with these types of stories. You look at how times have changed. I mean, she was a 14-year-old girl. Her parents knew at the time. They decided not to come forward.

You see everything that she's gone through and her family had gone through, how it's permanently affected her life. How she had to take into account what would happen to her children, how they would react to it, how they would be treated on social media. And you get a better scope of why so many of these women just don't come forward when people ask them the question, well, if this happened, why not just come forward and be open and honest about it?

HARLOW: And she says, Alex, that for many years, if not decades, I felt guilty. She blamed herself. She talked about a loss of innocence, how it affected her trust for years and years ahead. How does the White House grapple with this now? Because they have -- the president has just been dodging this left, right and center. But then Kellyanne Conway this morning goes on FOX News, and you just heard it, and essentially tells Alabamians to vote for Roy Moore, in so many words, saying we need tax reform.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That was a pretty extraordinary moment because it's the furthest anyone in the Republican Party has gone towards sort of re-embracing Roy Moore, towards sort of renormalizing Roy Moore as a candidate.

I would be surprised if you heard that from any other people across the party. That Senate leadership still feels very strongly that if he's elected that is a bigger fiasco for them than if he is defeated. And I do think this interview this morning is a really, really big moment in this campaign.

HARLOW: A senior person in the White House saying that.

BURNS: But a lot of people out there -- I mean, a lot of voters out there who may have been skeptical of the original story, who may see these as kind of disembodied allegations, are going to have a much, much harder time maintaining that level of resistance to this story.

BERMAN: No, two big interviews. We have Leigh Corfman, but you have Kellyanne Conway, Aaron Blake. I was surprised. I honestly was surprised to hear Kellyanne Conway say that, given how careful the president has been, not to say anything at all. And how careful Sarah Sanders has been during the White House briefings. Kellyanne Conway just said vote for Roy Moore in so many words.

AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it is -- it is pretty striking. I'm not sure that I'm terribly surprised by it, though. If you look at the one thing the White House initially said about this, it was pretty similar to what senators at the time were saying, which is that if this is true, he needs to step aside. But if you look at that initial statement, which was given when they were in Asia, when the White House was in Asia, when Trump was in Asia, they also talked about these as mere allegations and said that such allegations should not bring an end to a 40-year political career.

The fact is that the president and his top spokesperson have been doubting this more than most people in the Republican Party have been for quite some time.

[09:10:02] They, by not speaking out more forcefully when other Republicans did, essentially gave their blessing to Roy Moore. So the fact that they would now essentially say, hey, this is a Republican vote and we need that, I don't think it's terribly surprising.

HARLOW: Bianna, you had a point.

GOLODRYGA: But you may also be seeing the workings of internal friction within the president's inner circle.


GOLODRYGA: You had his daughter, remember, say there is a special place in hell for people who abuse young children.

HARLOW: Right.

GOLODRYGA: Mick Mulvaney, the OMB director, just yesterday said well, the president's view is that democracy should play out and let voters decide. This is the first time you're really sort of seeing a veiled, at least, endorsement.

HARLOW: Yes. So, guys, we have some breaking news crossing broken by our MJ Lee, reporting that a Minnesota woman is alleging that Al Franken, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, touched her inappropriately back in 2010. MJ's reporting is that 33-year-old Lindsay Mends was taking a photo with Senator Franken at the Minnesota State Fair when he reached behind her and grabbed her behind very strongly, very tightly, the words that she used. She felt uncomfortable immediately.

And just to open it up to our panel, Alex, MJ's reporting is that, you know, this woman, Lindsey, called her directly -- reached out after reading the other allegations against Senator Franken last week and said I felt like I had to say something. So Al Franken's office says he doesn't remember this moment. But feels badly if this is how it happened. This was while he was a sitting U.S. senator. This is different than the 2006 allegations.

What does this mean for Senator Franken moving forward?

BURNS: Well, look, I think the biggest question for Senator Franken and whether he can weather all of this is whether there is a pattern of behavior or whether that incident in 2006 was an isolated incident. Whether that was bad behavior, acting out when he was a celebrity, and not a politician, or whether there is some, you know, more consistent pattern.

And I think today we have more questions to ask about that. I think Lindsey Mends I believe in the story says that she sees what happened to her as, you know, less intrusive than what happened in 2006 but still intrusive.

BERMAN: Right.

BURNS: Still certainly intrusive. So we're going to need to hear I think more from Al Franken about this, and part of the reason why I think a lot of folks in Washington favor a more intense investigation, an official investigation, is to establish whether this is a couple of instances of acting out or whether this is the way a person has behaved.

BERMAN: They're going to get into uncomfortable discussions about, you know, how bad is certain bad behavior, which is worse than others. It's something that I think we'll all be talking about.

HARLOW: And what happened before you're a sitting senator and while you're a sitting senator.

BERMAN: Yes. All in the hands of the Ethics Committee.

All right, guys, stick around. We've got a lot more to discuss.

HARLOW: We do. In just the past 24 hours, the president has taken on three different fights, critics, on Twitter. But are these Twitter wars turning off key voters for 2020?

BERMAN: And Jared Kushner's attorney talks to CNN.


ABBE LOWELL, ATTORNEY FOR JARED KUSHNER: If you look at the contents of these e-mails, he's the hero. He's the one who is saying there shouldn't be any contacts with foreign officials or foreign entities. '


BERMAN: Why he says this probe is nothing more than a partisan gotcha game.

Plus, Charles Manson this morning is dead. You know, cult leader, horrifying figure in American history. We'll have a live report from California, coming up.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Now to president Trump and sports, this morning, the president is calling out NFL star, Marshawn Lynch, for standing during the Mexican national anthem, but sitting during the Star-Spangled Banner. "Great disrespect," the president writes, "Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings down."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. I don't think it's just sports. I think the president is enemy shopping. There is Jeff Flake, but there is also a sports connection here as well. We are talking about the less than abusive comments for the father of a UCLA basketball player arrested in China for shoplifting.

The president said, "I should have left them in jail." He goes on, "Shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be, but not to father, LaVar." He's talking about LaVar Ball, every basketball fan on earth knows who that is right now, "very ungrateful."

CNN's Joe Johns at the White House with the latest on this. A busy president looking for people to fight with this morning -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's true. But also, you know, taking on sports figures really plays well to the president's base. And in a way, this sounded more like a couple of reality stars going after each other than it really did about policy or politics.

But that's how this White House rolls. They also like the fact that the president can seize control of the news cycle with his Twitter account. But in this case, because it's LaVar Ball, this is really a guy who has made a career of self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. It's clear that the president wasn't the only one getting something out of it, hints, the president's tweets.

Meanwhile, another of the president's Twitter targets that would-be Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, the outgoing senator, caught in an open mic moment, and teeing off or teeing up the president on Twitter. Jeff Flake really didn't say anything. He hasn't said about the president before, if you think about it. But here, judge for yourself.


SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Become the party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump, we are toast.


JOHNS: So, the president shoots back on Twitter with a tweet, "Senator Jeff Flakey," he calls him, "who is unelectable in the great state of Arizona, quit race, anemic, (inaudible) was caught purposely -- we don't know that, by the way -- on mic saying bad things about your favorite president. He will be a no vote on tax cuts. We don't know that either because his political career anyway is toast."

So, what does all of this mean? Well, the president has tweeted about a lot of things over the last 24 hours.

[09:20:05] But the one thing he has not tweeted about in the last five days and about 11 hours is Roy Moore, the Republican Senate race in Alabama, and allegations of sexual harassment against women. That is the topic they seem to continue to be staying away from. Back to you. BERMAN: All right, Joe Johns at the White House, thanks so much. Our panel is back. With us, Aaron Blake, I want to start with you. You know, I called it enemy shopping. You call it whatever you would like. The question is, what exactly does the president get out of this?

AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, he seemed to be in a certain mood on Sunday. That's for sure. You know, I think there is a tendency to view all of these things as, you know, distracting from something. Maybe he doesn't want us to talk about the tax debate by going after LaVar Ball and Marshawn lynch.

But then he also had the tweet about the -- about Jeff Flake and about the tax bill. You know, I think what's really interesting about the Flake tweet is that Jeff Flake was not a no on this bill. He did not come out against it.

He did say that he wondered what it would do to the deficit, but he was undecided and his office says that he is still undecided. What the tweet effectively does now is it puts Jeff Flake in a position that if he winds up voting for this, it looks like Trump actually pushed him into that.

This may actually make him less likely to support the tax bill, and they would only need one more senator to vote against it in order to kill the bill. So, I don't think that Republican leaders are probably terribly happy with what the president just did here.

HARLOW: Let's take a step back, guys, and look at this big picture. This enemy shopping, which is the term of the morning. In my book. Bianna, Adam Schiff, who is anything but media shy, and -- you know, spouts off whatever he's feeling on Twitter and elsewhere, as well.

But here's what he writes. The president would have left American students in a foreign jail because their families didn't lavish sufficient praise on him. How can someone in such a big office be so small, fair?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think we're hearing from a lot of people from both sides of the aisle saying this is sort of what a president does. You know, if there's an American in trouble overseas, especially if the president happens to be meeting with that foreign leader, then the president will make an appeal to help the American citizen, in whichever capacity that he can.

I mean, it's been done before and what we're seeing different now is that the president really boasting about it, and suggesting that he's not getting enough praise and kudos for it. And I hate using this word, but it's just so unpresidential.

If you want to compare it to past precedent. And so, I think that's what keeps throwing people off and this was a good move on the president's part. These players apologized and I think Steve Kerr said it best over the weekend when he said --

BERMAN: John Abbott. Dramatic reading -- modern life. Two people seeking attention and they're both getting it.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. We're talking about that. And not tax reform, which I think to the earlier point is what most Republicans would want to be talking about right now.

BERMAN: Anything racial here? Because, you know, the president likes going after athletes. I mean, in the NFL, black athletes mostly. Anything -- is there that element?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there is certainly a pattern of the target the president chooses in professional sports. And the fact that he's going back at the issue of athletes protesting and what he describes as disrespecting the flag or disrespecting the anthem.

That is not an accident. He absolutely recognizes it and his advisers absolutely recognize that his largely white political base finds that extremely compelling. So, you know, I don't want to get to his what's in his heart or underlying personal motivations. But as a political matter, they absolutely know what he's doing.

HARLOW: What do you think? What's your read on that? Any racial element here?

BLAKE: Well, Alex is exactly right. This is a long-running pattern. The anthem protest is a big part of that. If you look at the LaVar Ball situation, this is a seed that Trump planted before those -- before this whole thing even blew up, before the players even spoke.

The president teed this up by saying, I wonder if these athletes are going to thank me for this. You have to think that maybe he knew that this would eventually involve LaVar Ball in some way. LaVar Ball is much like the president in some ways, that he can't really resist the attention-gathering aspect of these kinds of things.

And so, we have now wound up in a very maybe predictable place in this whole scenario, but the president seemed to really, you know, proactively seek out this feud.

HARLOW: Yes. And a few others. Thank you both. All three of you, Bianna, Aaron, and Alex.

BERMAN: Who both? Who are we leaving out? Who are you not thanking?

HARLOW: The White House wants tax reform to pass a lot, really no matter what. And it is willing, as we learned over the weekend, to ditch a repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate to make it happen.

Our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, is now with us. I was surprised when I heard Mulvaney say this.

[09:25:05] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he's a budget director and, look, we know that the GOP wants to kill Obamacare. I mean, has tried and failed to get rid of Obamacare. And when this repeal of the individual mandate made its way into the Senate bill, some folks thought tactically that might be a brilliant way to do two things that the GOP really wants to do, get rid of Obamacare and cut taxes.

But Mick Mulvaney, the budget chief, telling CNN this weekend, look, if that's going to be a deal breaker for tax reform, they'll get rid of that. Listen.


MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: I don't think anybody doubts where the White House is on repealing and replacing Obamacare. We absolutely want to do it. If we can repeal part of Obamacare, as part of a tax bill, and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that's great. If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, we're OK with taking it out.


ROMANS: Can only afford to lose two senators here, and already we know that Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, he is concerned that there is not enough support for small business in this bill. He has concerns.

And Senator Susan Collins has a list of things that she is concerned with in this bill here. Namely that it's not enough middle-class tax relief, and instead it favors corporations. She would like to even raise the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.

So, look, there are some concerns to iron out here and that is what they're doing. That's where we are in this budget calendar, where they are ironing out these differences. This is how the Senate bill differs from the House version. There are seven tax brackets, not four.

The individual tax cuts expire. The corporate rate cut waits a year to go into place at 20 percent. Then it is permanent. The 25 percent tax rate for pass-through entities is also temporary. So, that's something that people like Senator Ron Johnson are concerned about.

It ends the state and local tax deduction and keeps the mortgage deduction. So, there are a lot of differences to iron out here to be able to pay for it. Remember, getting rid of the individual mandate was something that would allow them to come up with a whole bunch of money to help pay for the tax cuts, so that would change the math, as well.

Looking at market rates right now, you guys, you can see a little bit of a higher open I think. It's been wobbly in the last week or so as the timing and the certainty of tax reform is something that is being questioned by those on Wall Street.

Remember, Wall Street is banking on a corporate tax cut, a permanent corporate tax cut. They have wanted it for years so headquarters stay in this country so that companies have more clarity about what their tax burden will be. And they have been banking on it and the markets have reflected that -- guys.

BERMAN: All right, Christine Romans, thank you very, very much. We have a lot of news this morning. Jared Kushner's lawyer says that senators are playing gotcha games with his client. Next, why he says the president's son-in-law is the hero, the hero in the whole Russia investigation.