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Conway: White House wants Moore's Senate Vote on Taxes; U.S. Border Patrol Agent Killed; Trump on Border Agent's Death: We'll Bring Justice. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 20, 2017 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, I'm John Berman.


New this morning, the White House seems to finally reveal where it stands on the controversial Alabama Senate race. White House Counselor to the president, Kellyanne Conway, says without directly saying, yes, I mean we - yes, the White House wants Alabama voters to vote for Roy Moore. Why? To help get tax reform passed. We'll hear from her in a moment.

BERMAN: Yes. This comes the same morning that we are hearing for the first time from the woman who says that Moore sexually abused her - sexually molested her when she was 14 years old. Leigh Corfman describes this interaction with Moore when she was just a girl.


LEIGH CORFMAN, ROY MOORE ACCUSER: 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 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.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC ANCHOR: There would be people watching who say, why now? Why not bring this up over the last few years? Particularly when Roy Moore was a rising star in Alabama politics, ran for election, was a Chief Justice at the Supreme Court, 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. 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.


BERMAN: CNN's Kaitlan Collins now with us from Gadsden, Alabama. You know, hearing for the first time from the woman making these accusations. Also hearing for the first time, you know from the White House, seeming to say vote for Roy Moore.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, John. We have seen the White House try to really walk a tight rope since these accusations against Roy Moore have come out. As you know, this was a race that the president was pretty heavily invested in. He came down and campaigned for Luther Strange, who ran against Moore for the Republican spot on this ticket here for that Senate seat that's open. But now we're hearing from the White House this morning, from Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, where she's essentially telling the voters of Alabama to support Roy Moore on December 12th if they want to see tax reform get passed in the Senate. Listen to what she had to say during an interview on "Fox & Friends" just 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, we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.

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

AINSLEY EARHARDT, HOST, "FOX & FRIENDS": And a lot of women.

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


COLLINS: Now that's quite a departure from what we have heard from Kellyanne Conway before on these Moore accusations when she said that no Senate seat was worth more than a child, but now when it comes to tax reform, she's making it quite clear that the White House would like to see Roy Moore in the Senate, because they do not believe that the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, will vote in favor of tax reform, if he makes it to the Senate instead of Roy Moore. But Kellyanne Conway did say this morning that there are no plans for the president to come down to Alabama to campaign on behalf of Roy Moore ahead of that election on December. But it's clear who the White House is going for here. John and Poppy?

[10:05:02] HARLOW: Kaitlan Collins in Gadsden Alabama. Thank you very much.

A new accusation against Senator Al Franken, this one for inappropriate touching, and this one from a new woman.

BERMAN: Yes. This woman says that Franken grabbed her rear end as she took a photo with him at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Franken says he doesn't remember taking the picture.

Joining us to talk about this, the reporter who broke this story, CNN national politics reporter, MJ Lee. MJ, explain what happened here.

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: So this is a woman. She is now 33 years old. She went to the Minnesota State Fair in August of 2010. That date, of course, is really significant, because at that point in time, Senator Franken was actually in office. She was at a local radio booth where she was taking photos with different celebrities, different political candidates. When it came time to take a photo with the senator, she says that her husband was taking the photo, so he was standing right in front of them, and as the photo was being taken, the senator put his hand on her buttocks and that's what she was sort of shocked by.

HARLOW: And that he grabbed her tightly, as you described in this piece. What is interesting to me in addition Senator Franken's office says it doesn't remember it, but feels badly if this is what occurred.

She posted about it on Facebook immediately after it happened in 2010. So this actually -- she brought to light years ago, but now it's coming to the national spotlight, significance to you?

LEE: Yes. And you know obviously this is a very serious allegation. And in reporting out the story, we wanted to make sure, you know, did she talk about this at the time? Did she talk to people about this at the time? You know we interviewed her, her husband, her mother, her father, her sister, all of whom she spoke about this incident with, and she also posted it on Facebook at the time. So her Facebook friends would have been able to see it. And if fact, her sister noticed that she posted this photo back in 2010 and actually made a comment on the photo, something to the effect of who you're standing really close together. And at that time, Lindsay Menz, this woman, responded to her sister saying something like Al Franken totally molested me, creeper. I mean, those are her own words at the time.

BERMAN: OK. You've got a specific response from Al Franken's office. What is it?

LEE: So the senator's office basically saying that he doesn't remember this incident. Let me just read the entire comment. He said, "I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

So there's no actual apology. Of course there's no full denial, because he said he doesn't remember taking this photo, which is understandable. This is a politician in Minnesota. He goes to these fairs, these kinds of fairs all the time. And you can believe -- absolutely believe that he has taken these photos all the time on numerous occasions.

BERMAN: All right. MJ Lee, fascinating development, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Joining us now, political panel. CNN political analyst, Josh Green Simone is here, our political commentators, Symone Sanders and Ben Ferguson.

Symone, to you first, this is now two accounts of -- at minimum, inappropriate behavior because under -- as MJ reports, under Minnesota state law, touching in this way over clothing is not illegal, but it's not appropriate of anyone, including a sitting U.S. senator. What does this mean for Senator Franken?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think this means that one, this isn't going away anytime soon and now this story has additional legs. And I also think it means that Senator Franken is going to have to come out and say more. And so I would love to see him sit down and do an interview with a woman - a woman reporter to talk about these issues. I would love to see him post an op-ed to give a full-throated apology, but to talk globally about our sexual culture and how this is a systemic issue that we have to combat together. But because it's not just Democrats, Republicans or Independents, Green Party, it's everybody. Sexual assault, sexual micro aggressions, sexual harassment, has no political party and it spares no victim.

BERMAN: Ben, can Al Franken survive this?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think so. I think, look, I'll say this. This is I think a bipartisan issue, whether it's Roy Moore or Al Franken. It's very clear that both of these men have no business being U.S. senators. The way that they have operated, the way they have used their positions of power to basically go after women in a clearly inappropriate way. I think that's beneath what we should be sending to Washington.

I don't think they have credibility. I don't think they have integrity to serve at this point. And I think society needs to send a very clear message that when you're in a position of power whether you're a former comedian or a guy that's standing next to do Ten Commandments. The bottom line is we are not going to accept this any longer in the U.S. Senate.

[10:10:03] And so I hope that Democrats and Republicans, on at least this issue, can come together and clearly say, we are going to go after our own. I hope Democrats demand that Al Franken step down, and I hope Republicans at this point make it very clear, Roy Moore should never spend a day in the U.S. Senate.

SANDERS: John and Poppy, I just want to be really clear that what Senator Franken is accused of and has done is absolutely horrible. He needs to answer for these allegations, and he has to be held accountable, but I want to be clear that I am not equating Senator Al Franken to Roy Moore, who has been accused of pedophilia, because in my thinking and I think that's a whole another level. It's a whole another level of something that we have to address and talk about. Al Franken has integrity.


FERGUSON: Symone, I agree with you. I agree with you, but Al Franken, you can't - then you can't bail him out as you just did. And say Al Franken - has integrity.

SANDERS: I'm not bailing him out.

FERGUSON: You just said Al Franken has integrity. This is the problem. When we see somebody and we see an "R" next to their name, we go and defend them because they're one of our guys in the Senate and you're defending Al Franken because he has a "D" next to his name. - And he doesn't have integrity.


SANDERS: I just told you Al Franken needs to be held accountable. -- Last weekend on CNN I noted that Al Franken should step down. So nobody's holding Al Franken but what I'm saying is it's a dangerous slippery slope.

FERGUSON: But you can't say he has integrity.

SANDERS: I can. It's a dangerous slippery slope.

HARLOW: Let's get -

SANDERS: -- for us to compare and equate pedophilia -

FERGUSON: I'm not equating that.

SANDERS: And Roy Moore is not taking responsibility.


HARLOW: Wait let me get Josh's - hold on, guys. In all seriousness, I mean there's a bar here, right? And it's been crossed on you know many unfortunate levels.

FERGUSON: That's my point.

HARLOW: But what about, Josh, the White House? I mean the White House is -- we saw what the president did last week. Goes after Al Franken vociferously, doesn't go after Roy Moore, and Kellyanne Conway all but says this morning, vote for Roy Moore. So where's the moral line from the White House on this one?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think if there was any moral line from the White House and remember Sarah Sanders originally came out and indicated that President Trump didn't support Roy Moore. That is now been rubbed out by what Kellyanne Conway said. She made it clear that the White House, things that getting a Republican vote in the Senate is more important than the moral - you know ethical appropriateness of having you know an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. But as we've seen from you know this latest Al Franken charge, this isn't an issue that's going to go away. The accuser this morning, I thought was very credible in what she said about Roy Moore. And so I think, ultimately, the voters of Alabama are going to have to decide if this is somebody who wants to send to the White House -

BERMAN: Josh -

GREEN: But if it is, it sounded to me like the White House isn't going to try and push Roy Moore out of the Senate. They want a vote.

BERMAN: I just want to reiterate that. I want to make sure that you heard this with your keen reportorial ears the same way we did. I don't think there was any ambiguity than what Kellyanne Conway was saying is that she would prefer and she is a senior counselor to the president, Josh. She would prefer Alabamians vote for Roy Moore.

GREEN: Absolutely, which as I said, I think rolls back the indication we got from Sarah Sanders right after these charges or alleged that well, they prefer that Moore, you know, step back and be replaced by somebody else. That line apparently is no longer operative.

HARLOW: I thought, you know, and back to you, Ben. You read, obviously, the opinion piece from Alabama's biggest newspaper over the weekend, not only saying don't vote for Roy Moore, but saying vote for Doug Jones, the Democrat. But one thing they write in here that struck me very much. How can we look our neighbors, our parishioners, our colleagues, our partners, our children in the eye and tell them they are worth less than ensuring one political party keeps a Senate seat. That runs directly counter really to what we heard from Kellyanne Conway this morning. Does it not? I mean she'd asked should people vote for Roy Moore and she says we need tax reform passed.

FERGUSON: Look, I did my show last night and people were calling in from Alabama. They described it this way. I'm not voting for Roy Moore any longer. I'm voting for the values that I believed in that he claimed to represent. And I'm not going to give up six years of someone representing me because one man falls down. Hopefully the Senate will deal with him, and he will never take that seat and we'll get another Republican in there. That's how the voters described them. They said that what I believe in my values are a big deal and should be represented clearly to conservative state. That's why some people say that they can justify voting for him.

I go back to the core issue that we said the very beginning here. I don't know how you can walk in there and support Roy Moore. I don't know how you can walk into the Senate if you're a colleague of Al Franken and shake that guy's hand and act like he's on the same level of you. We have got to, finally in this country, take politics out of it and look at these two individuals as individuals and not as a Republican or Democrat and say neither these men should be in the U.S. Senate.

[10:15:00] And we should have a high standard here. And unfortunately there are too many people that are playing the politics and counting votes with both individuals. Democrats don't want to lose a U.S. senator. Republicans don't want to lose a U.S. senator. And I would say what the hell is wrong with us in this country that we actually even justify for a moment either of these men's actions. They shouldn't be in the Senate, period.

SANDERS: And I would like to remind everyone that Donald Trump is the president of the United States of America. At least 12 women have come out and accused - I'm not playing politics. What I'm saying is if we're going to hold everyone to the same standard, we cannot ignore the fact that Donald Trump - and justice for that matter is sitting at the Supreme Court and Donald Trump is sitting in the White House.

FERGUSON: See, this is the politics crap.


SANDERS: No. This isn't politics.

FERGUSON: You haven't even -- you're going after a Supreme Court justice for something that was clearly debunked because you care more about Democrats.

SANDERS: No, it was not debunked.

FERGUSON: -- when you care - for goodness sakes about Al Franken. If Al Franken did this to you or one of your family members, would you be defending him? -


SANDERS: Are you kidding me? Ben, you clearly haven't seen any of the hits I have done this week. I have noted time and time again -- on this program that Al Franken should step down. I've noted that we should have the same - the same consequences and we have to address it the same across the board. And in saying that, that absolutely means other individuals who currently -


FERGUSON: Talking about Clarence Thomas -

SANDERS: Talking about Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill - was one of the first women to come out -- talking about Clarence Thomas is -

FERGUSON: and Anita Hill is embarrassing and she was debunked. I'm not going to go there. It's embarrassing.

SANDERS: -- absolutely irrelevant. We all have to talk about Donald Trump. -- You should be embarrassed, because you again are trying to ascribe certain standards to some and others to other people. -

FERGUSON: Symone. Symone -- tell me right now you think he should be a senator. Come on.

BERMAN: She said no.

(CROSSTALK) HARLOW: She said three times.

SANDERS: -- How many times must I say it?

BERMAN: OK. Let me just -- Josh is so sort of our political safe sounding board - Josh, this is what in a way is interesting to me, which is that as we move forward with this, the parameters of this discussion have changed. Do we now need to be in a place where we discuss what they're discussing, albeit may be on a more congenial manner that there are some -- are all types of behavior created equal. And who gets to decide? Is it going to be the Senate Ethics Committee in this case?

GREEN: Well, I think it may be if Moore goes - I mean, first it's going to be the people of Alabama, and if they decide to send Roy Moore to the Senate, then it's going to be the Senate Ethics Committee. Certainly in the case of Al Franken and I think it is Mitch McConnell has said, will be also the case with Roy Moore.

What we don't know is what happens in this investigation. The Senate Ethics Committee is a black box. There's no public accountability. We're not going to know what's going on or who decides on what basis. So I think -- the danger of wading in between Symone and Ben, I think the one point that they both seem to agree on was that this needs to be worked out in public among parties.

And I'm not drawing equivalence. What I'm saying is that there's a process of working through the facts in both these cases. I think that Senator Franken has come out, had been very forth right about what he did. He has apologized, he seemed to engage with these charges, whereas Roy Moore seemed to have all but disappeared except from Fox News and hidden behind pastors, his wife, other people. He doesn't seem to want to answer for these charges. I think that is part of the process that's got to happen between now and Election Day on December 12th.

BERMAN: All right. Josh Green, Symone Sanders, Ben Ferguson, thank you one and all.

HARLOW: Thanks, guys.

I was just going to say that you know, do you vote on the apology or you're talking about just the action? You have to -

BERMAN: Only thing I would add is a statement about our politics, when those two agree, they actually agree on most things -

HARLOW: They did. --

BERMAN: They're still fighting.

All right, Jared Kushner, is he the hero in this entire Russia matter? That's what the attorney for the president's son-in-law says, that he's firing back in Senate investigators.

A border patrol agent is killed along the border with U.S. and Mexico. Now the president is talking once again about the border wall.

HARLOW: Plus a top U.S. general says he would push back against an illegal nuclear attack from President Trump, or order from the president, but really what power would the generals have to do that? Doesn't the president have the ultimate authority in that call? That's ahead.


[10:23:38] HARLOW: Jared Kushner's attorney is calling his client a hero. That was his word choice. He tells CNN, the Senate Judiciary Committee jumped the gun with Kushner, and he is playing a "Gotcha Game" by accusing him of not providing documents.

BERMAN: CNN's Evan Perez interviewed Abbe Lowell because his attorney joins us now live from Washington. Evan, what did he tell you?

EVAN PEREZ, TNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John and Poppy, when it comes to contacts involving Russia, you know during the 2016 campaign. Jared Kushner he's been forgetful. He's been slow to acknowledge these contacts over the last few months from his failure to list them in his security clearance application only this year. So this week, when the Senate Judiciary Committee sends them a bipartisan, a public letter saying he hadn't over documents that the committee knew existed.

The documents we're talking about include Kushner's communications with the fire national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Kushner's security clearance forms, campaign contacts with "WikiLeaks," and there was this curious Russian back-door proposal to connect the Russian President Vladimir Putin with the campaign, an idea by the way that Kushner rejected. But in an interview with me, Abbe Lowell, Kushner's attorney, pushes back against all of these accusations. Take a listen.


ABBE LOWELL, JARED KUSHNER'S ATTORNEY: In my communication with the Senate Judiciary Committee, I said take these - let's talk about what's relevant. They jumped the gun. And any perception that Mr. Kushner has been anything but not only cooperative, about you if you look at the contents of these e-mails, he's the hero.

[10:25:03] He's the one saying there shouldn't be any contact with the foreign officials or foreign entities, that's what the Senate Judiciary Committee should pay attention to and not create some sort of partisan "Gotcha Games."


PEREZ: So just to correct Abbe Lowell there, this was a bipartisan letter. It's not a partisan thing here. The bottom line here is that Kushner is not promising to do an interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is what they want. The documents in dispute, by the way, many of those were turned over by other witnesses, which is how the committee knows they exist. John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Evan Perez, thank you. Good job! You're working all the time, like every weekend, you're getting these interviews.

PEREZ: I'm always here.

HARLOW: You're always here, for us. Thank you, Evan.

We're getting new details about the death of a U.S. border patrol agent. This happened in Texas. Our Kaylee Hartung is there. What happened that lead to the death?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, that's the question we're asking. What happened? There is a lot of uncertainty here and we don't know how. Rogelio Martinez died. U.S. Customs and Border for checks and telling us he was not shot. But here's what we do know. Martinez and his partner were on patrol in Van Horn yesterday morning. They responded to activity near the Southwest Texas border. And shortly after they responded, his partner called and asked for assistance, saying both agents were injured. Martinez then died in the hospital. Last night, his partner remains in the hospital in serious condition.

The FBI in El Paso is handling this investigation. Local and federal assets are on site to assist in the investigation and to look for suspects or witnesses who could help provide some more information. We're told by officials to expect to get more information about what happened there yesterday, to clear up this time line of events later today. These circumstances are unclear, but it's being called an attack by Texas Governor Greg Abbott and by Senator Ted Cruz in their respective statements and President Trump too quick to weigh in on the matter.

On Twitter last night saying, "We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the wall." The border patrol lists only one other agent who has died in the line of duty this year.

BERMAN: All right, Kaylee Hartung for us. Kaylee thanks for the reporting.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: He is in charge of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Now an Airforce General says he would not launch if the president gave him an illegal order, but what exactly does that mean?