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Eight Rescued, Three Missing After U.S. Navy Plane Crashes Off Japan; Donald Trump Calls LaVar Ball an "Ungrateful Fool"; Trump Backs Accused Child Molester Roy Moore in Alabama Senate Race; North Korean Soldier, Under Fire, Dashes Across Border. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:04] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We do begin this morning with breaking news. A search and rescue operation is under way right now off the coast of Japan after a U.S. Navy plane crashes with 11 people onboard.

BERMAN: Eight people have been rescued, three, though, are still missing. CNN's Barbara Starr following this for us from the Pentagon. Barbara, what are you learning?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you. U.S. and Japanese authorities are continuing their search for the three still missing when this Navy C-2 aircraft crashed as it was operating around the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan.

Now the C-2 is a small fixed-wing airplane that carries personnel back and forth from aircraft carriers. We are told 11 Navy personnel onboard, eight were rescued, now onboard the Ronald Reagan in good condition. They are still, of course, searching for the other three.

This happening about 500 miles off Okinawa out in the Philippine Sea where the Ronald Reagan was operating. This comes as the fleet out there, the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific, has had a very difficult and deadly year in 2017. Two serious collisions. The USS John McCain and Fitzgerald, 17 sailors died in -- when each of those ships collided in separate incidents with commercial cargo vessels. 17 lives lost.

There were a total of four incidents this year between ships out in the Seventh Fleet and other incidents, coalitions and other minor incidents in the area. So it's been a really tough year for them.

Now this aircraft accident doesn't appear to be connected to any of the reasons behind the ship incidents but the Navy, of course, will conduct a full investigation. The top priority right now is to find the other three missing people -- John, Poppy.

BERMAN: Indeed. All right. Barbara Starr, keep us posted on that search. Thanks so much, Barbara.

So new this morning it is Thanksgiving eve at Mar-a-Lago but President Trump is complaining about the lack of thanks-getting specifically from LaVar Ball.

"It was me," the president wrote in all caps. Just like they did in the first Thanksgiving. "Me," who got Ball's son and two other UCLA basketball players out of a, quote, "long-term prison sentence in China for shoplifting."

This is all about the elder Ball's refusal to expressively thank the president for interceding for which the president now calls him, among other things, an ungrateful fool.

HARLOW: And I would just note, he tweeted about this this morning before tweeting about the Navy and the crash. He did later say that.

Also, you're looking at images of the president and Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate. The president is now essentially endorsing him despite being an accused child molester.

We will get to that in a moment, let's begin, though, with the president's messages on Twitter this morning. Our Joe Johns is in Palm Beach at Mar-a-Lago with more.

Why continue this fight?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Really want to underscore what you said there at the top. The president was up bright and early this morning, tweeting, the first coming around just before 5:30 Eastern Time. But he wasn't tweeting about Okinawa, the human tragedy, at least the human drama going on there.

He didn't get around to tweeting about that until about 8:00 a.m. So what was he tweeting about? That continuing feud with LaVar Ball, the man whose son got arrested in China, and the president apparently interceded and helped get him out of jail and get him back to the United States. The president has been demanding a thank you from LaVar Ball. LaVar Ball so far refusing to give that thank you.

I think this really underscores the president's continuing anger over perceived spites, if you will, by individuals going all the way back to about 2011 or so. President Obama speaking, making jokes about Donald Trump at the Washington White House Correspondents Dinner.

And I think it also points out that the president now is also engaged in a back and forth on Twitter with a man who refuses to kneel and that makes good copy, at least, in the reality show that is the White House these days.

Meanwhile, it is important to say, also, that the president is not traveling with some of the people who tend to keep him in check in a variety of different ways. CNN producer Liz Landers points out that a number of the people including the press secretary, the White House chiefs of staff not here as the president begins the long Thanksgiving holiday.

John and Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: OK. Joe Johns, thank you very much.

To Alabama now where in the president's view an accused child molester who is, quote -- who totally denies it is more fit than a Democrat to join the U.S. Senate.

Kaitlan Collins joins us from Montgomery, Alabama.

[09:05:01] The president did not have to weigh in on this. We are wondering when he would. But this isn't even a guy that he, you know, endorsed. He endorsed his opponent and now he is fully, clearly behind Roy Moore.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he broke with Republican leadership here, Poppy, by voicing his support for Roy Moore. This very contentious candidate in this high stakes Alabama Senate race when yesterday as he was leaving the White House for his vacation in Palm Beach for Thanksgiving, he not only criticized Doug Jones, his Democratic opponent in this race, he seemed to accept Roy Moore's denials of the many, many sexual assault allegations made against him.

Listen to what the president had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't need a liberal person in there. A Democrat Jones. I've looked at his record. He's terrible on crime, he's terrible on the border, terrible in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. President, is an accused child molester better than a Democrat? Is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?

TRUMP: Yes, he denies. Yes, he denies it. I mean, if you look at what is really going on and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him also.


COLLINS: Now the Moore campaign was touting these remarks almost immediately, John and Poppy, after the president made them. They sent out a press release to their supporters, quoting the president's full statements where he seemed to pretty much put his full support behind Moore here.

Now as far as how the president got to this decision to voice his support for Moore, we're told that the president doubted the women who had accused Roy Moore of sexual assault so close to this very highly contested Senate race that we have going on. And that the president even compared the situation to what happened to him last year during the presidential election when he was also accused by several women of sexual assault.

Something he has steadfastly denied. And that the president also felt that the recent wave of sexual assault allegations made from Hollywood to Capitol Hill made it easier for him to stand by Roy Moore in this race.

Now as far as the Moore campaign, Roy Moore himself has not done very many interviews with reporters, several of his campaign staffers held a press conference here in Montgomery, Alabama, yesterday. But they did not take questions from reporters. But in an interview late last night, Roy Moore said that the campaign does not believe the women. He continued to deny these allegations.

And, John and Poppy, he said that he believes further information will come out in the coming days to prove that those women are not telling the truth.

BERMAN: Eight women making these claims against Roy Moore, 13 women who made claims against President Trump.

Kaitlan Collins for us in Alabama. Kaitlan, very -- thank you very, very much.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst Patrick Healy from "New York Times," CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four U.S. presidents, David Gergen, from the "L.A. Times," Christina Bellantoni.

David, I want to start with you on the LaVar Ball issue. As we noted, you worked before U.S. presidents, can you tell us about the time that Ronald Reagan or Gerald Ford the morning before Thanksgiving engaged in a playground name calling brawl with the father of a college basketball player?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I can't remember the day before Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving or any other day.


GERGEN: In the presidencies, in which the president has gotten down in a muck and had a brawl like this. It is -- you know, he just can't put it down. It's another, yet another look into his character and the narcissism that's there. He would be so much more into the country if he got -- just put this stuff down. Psychologically he doesn't have the capacity to let it go. And let the trivial go and focus on the big things.

Like, we are on the verge of a major tax reform in this country. Where is he talking about that? What is he trying to do to educate us? To understand what is in this bill?

HARLOW: Right. That's a -- that's a really good point. I mean, it's not just, Christina, as some will say, this is Trump being Trump and you have to accept him for who he is and he's not a politician, but he is a politician, but, you know, they say he's not like anyone else. That may be true. But what's the danger in doing this to his agenda, which we've seen no major legislation passed and what's the danger to the president to keep engaging in this?

One of his biggest supporters told me in Michigan last Friday this is, quote, "playground stuff."

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Sure. Well, I will point out LaVar Ball also could make a choice to not have engaged in this conversation, as well.

HARLOW: Yes. Except he's not president.

BELLANTONI: You know, in the media we're, of course, asking and talking about things like this because it generates a lot of conversation. This could be a teachable moment for everyone. Right? Like maybe talk to young people about why shoplifting is a bad idea. That sometimes can happen with young people and maybe you could use this as like an educational like Thanksgiving thing before Black Friday or something.

But will it distract from his agenda? It's a great question because we've seen that Trump's most loyal supporters are unwavering. They will say they don't like his style, but they are happy with what he is doing in the administration.

[09:10:05] So is that going to affect things? Well, look, Republican senators have been fed up with him for a long time. We've seen some openly challenging him and then others at least suggesting that what he is to doing is not helpful to their agenda. In the end it's going to come down to Mitch McConnell finding the votes for tax reform in his Senate and that is a very, very fine line.

Is President Trump's Twitter feed going to make the difference between Lisa Murkowski supporting a tax plan or not? Probably not. But anything is possible in this political era.

BERMAN: Hasn't helped opinions from, say, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker.

HARLOW: There you go.

BERMAN: I think that much we know.

Patrick Healy, to what extent do you think this is the president throwing up a shiny object to distract from the fact that he is now backing an accused child molester for Senate in Alabama?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I mean, 12 hours ago he got the question that he knew he was going to get, you know, for a couple of weeks now about Roy Moore. He made the decision to go kind of all in on a Steve Bannon-like answer. You know, sort of stick by Roy Moore. Sort of say, well, you know, there's a bigger -- there's something bigger going on here, sort of playing into that kind of insinuation game that he goes to often to kind of muddy the waters, to get away from the facts, to get away from very legitimately accusers and accusations that are coming forward and to muddy it.

And now 12 hours later this is classic Trump getting into these small Twitter wars where he can, you know, use capital letters, use his explanation points, call people nasty names. Make his base, you know, maybe sort of, you know, laugh a little bit. But also sort of see enemies and resentments and disrespect. They particularly sort of focus on disrespect whether it's against the president, whether it's against them, whether it's against, you know, their candidate in Alabama. It drives so much of this.

HARLOW: And David Gergen, this is -- look, this sort of little back and forth distasteful fighting between LaVar Ball and the president is one thing. Backing publicly an accused child molester sitting in the U.S. Senate saying it is because they're better than a liberal when you tout bipartisanship and unity in your inaugural address, et cetera, what predicament does that put Mitch McConnell in, Paul Ryan in, Ivanka Trump in?

GERGEN: That is a very good question. I think all along the real issue has become whose side are you on? Are you on the side of the guys who are accused by numerous sources and you want to give them an alibi or give him a way out or get them off the hook, or are you on the side of the women who -- numerous sources have told the "Washington Post," that's been thoroughly reviewed in a set of articles, and they're saying, listen, this guy did molest, he chased after teenagers in inappropriate ways and so forth and so.

It's a question of whose side are you on? And Donald Trump has now taken his side. He is on the side of the men. He's against the women. Especially if you're a woman accusing a Republican who by definition are a liar in his book.

BERMAN: Let's play what he said about women because he was asked specifically what message he wanted to send to women.


TRUMP: Women are very special. I think it's a very special time because a lot of things are coming out and I think that's good for our society and I think it's very, very good for women.


BERMAN: Women are special unless they are the ones accusing Roy Moore or the ones accusing Donald Trump, the ones accusing Bill O'Reilly, the ones accusing Roger Ailes, see a pattern there.

And, Christina, the other thing, I think this is a societal issue here, which is the president of the United States is now choosing not to believe the claims, specifically these eight women in Alabama. He's also choosing to use language which in these types of situation is coded loaded language, which is this happened 40 years ago. You know, why has it taken so long?

BELLANTONI: Sure. Well, I think the second part of your question is the key here. It's what he is saying and communicating out there. So this is about communicating to that Steve Bannon faction of the conservative base that may very well turn out in Alabama and make the difference in this special election. He is making the calculation that he thinks Mitch McConnell needs to have as many votes as possible in the Senate. Doesn't want a Democrat there.

We don't know if he actually believes the women or if he actually believes Roy Moore. What we know from some reporting inside the White House is that he views this situation as very similar to what happened to him last year. And we've heard supporters say this very same thing.

Why are the women coming forward so late? I'm not saying that that's the case. But that's what people are believing when they fervently support Roy Moore, when they fervently were supporting Donald Trump last year.

And we've been doing our own analysis at the "L.A. Times" and of the Republican senators we compared their responses to the "Access Hollywood" tapes last year to what is happening with Roy Moore and you had, of the 53 Republican senators at the time, 12 disavowed President Trump. Now 52 Republican senators, 25 have disavowed Roy Moore.

[09:15:00] So, Trump in some ways, a lot of those same names are coming up. He is in some ways sticking it to the establishment Republicans, as well. He gets a lot of bites at the apple for some of his favorite targets here as he is doing what you're saying and saying this would be better than a Democrat in office.

HARLOW: And just to respond to your point and the question that Savannah Guthrie asked Leigh Corfman, the first accuser to come forward, why wait 40 years? The "Washington Post" sought her out and convinced her to tell her story. She said I will if other women come forward. She did not seek this out.

Patrick, to you, the other revelations this week. Charlie Rose getting fired after these incidents of sexual misconduct and Al Franken and John Conyers, both Democrats in Congress. The reporting from our Jeff Zeleny is that the president giving him some cover on this to come stand by Roy Moore. How do you see it?

HEALY: I think there's something to that. I mean, he -- I remember talking to President Trump back in October 2016, and he was so angry and resentful about the fact that no one was sticking up for him. No one was going on the Sunday shows and coming out very strong to give him that defense when women were coming forward and talking about this.

In terms of, you know, the kind of cover that he has now, what he knows, and this is, as we know, a pop culture president. He knows the way this drip, drip, drip that's going on every day and sort of two or three new figures who are being accused.

It very much gives him sort of the ability, I think, to come out now to say this about Roy Moore and he knows, frankly, he knows that by later in like today's news cycle, there probably will be another story that will at least take some of the heat off of him. He knows how this sort of media cycle work.

HARLOW: We'll watch. Thank you all very much. David, Patrick, Christina, we appreciate it.

So, if you haven't seen it yet this morning, wait until you see this. Dramatic new video shows a North Korean defector's escape guard step behind the young man as they shoot him at least 40 times.

BERMAN: Plus, first hackers steal data on tens of millions of Uber users and then the company pays those hackers to keep it a secret?

And David Cassidy, of course, a "Patridge" fame legend, teen idol. What a loss, David Cassidy has passed away.



BERMAN: All right. We are getting our first look this morning at some remarkable video. A North Korean soldier makes a mad dash across the border to defect as his former comrades, they shoot at him. It's all caught on camera.

This is how it starts. At 3:11 p.m. on November 13th, this defector takes an Army truck and rushes over a bridge.

HARLOW: All right. Then one minute later he abandons the truck, you see that here. OK. He runs out. Makes a run for it over the, you know, over the border. Four North Korean troops on his heels. They shoot at him 40 times. There they are seriously wounding them in four places.

Take a look at this, again, in slow motion. The defector is a 24- year-old soldier. His last name is Ow (ph). He is now in the care of South Korean doctors after multiple surgeries.

Remarkably we've learned he is listening to K-pop music and watching American television like "CSI" as he recovers and then at 3:15 p.m., you see what's happening. This is a North Korean soldier briefly crossing the border, a violation of the ceasefire agreement as is shooting across the border.

So, it's remarkable to watch. What are the implications? David Rohde is here, a CNN global affairs analysis and online news director for "The New Yorker." I've never seen anything like this. It's rare. What do you make of what it means in terms of what they found so far. What is the significance of this?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: On a human level, it just shows how bad the situation is in North Korea. They perform surgery on the soldier. They found dozens of parasites in his intestines. That's a sign of how badly fed these soldiers are and then the tenacity of these other soldiers to stop him.

I think that shows their own fear that if they don't act aggressively to stop the defection, they themselves and their families can face repercussions. It's extraordinary. There hasn't been anything like this, a defection like this in years.

BERMAN: It shows you the deprivation and the conditions that even those in the military on the border for whom you might think, you might think they would be in better conditions than North Korean civilians, correct? ROHDE: I would think these soldiers are very carefully selected. On a broader sense, it's possibly that there -- this is stopped. There has been no rhetoric out of North Korea. No missile tests, nothing like this. And this is -- this does come during a two-month period of no missile tests for North Korea.

HARLOW: What do you think it could mean if anything in terms of being an intelligence asset for South Korea and America?

ROHDE: It is. It's a big thing. You know, he will recover and there's a lot of information he'll have just about morale in the North Korean military and the view of the regime at this point. And this is a big moment.

President Trump, he bragged about China was sending an envoy after the trip to Asia that this was a big sign that China was cooperating. This Chinese envoy went to North Korea and the president of North Korea refused to meet the Chinese envoy. That's a bad sign. That does not mean that there is progress in these ongoing tensions with North Korea.

BERMAN: And of course, just this week, the president designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terror, again. Then overnight we got an official response from the DPRK, "Our army and people are full of rage and anger towards the heinous gangsters, who dared to put the name of our sacred country in this retched list of terrorism and are harboring their will to settle all accounts with those gangster at any time in any way." First of all, they seem to be getting better writers.

ROHDE: Lots of gangsters.

BERMAN: But what does this response tell you. Also in this response, they referred to their nuclear arsenal, again. Just hardens their will to keep that.

ROHDE: I think this rhetoric and the failure of Kim Jong-un to meet the Chinese envoy shows he is not going to give up his nuclear weapons. That is the goal of the Trump administration and this conflict continues and Trump is going to continue to be tough. Putting them on the terrorist list is part of this, you know, big stick threatening approach by the United States.

[09:25:04] HARLOW: Back to the defector for a moment, you would think that if he has any family left in North Korea, children, parents, aunts, uncles, they could be at risk. What could happen to his family if he does have it?

ROHDE: That's the question. He's 24. It's not clear he has a family. He was very, one of the first things he said is that he decided to make this move to defect on his own. He might be trying to protect his family. This is a police state. President Trump is right about how cruel Kim Jong-un is to his own country. They will punish this family. It's very, very dangerous what this soldier has done.

BERMAN: All right. David Rohde, thanks so much. Amazing to see that. All right. His hometown paper says it's time for Representative John Conyers to resign. He is the dean of the House, the longest serving House member. The paper accuses his of using hush money to bury sexual harassment claims. Do his colleagues think he should step down? We'll ask one of them, next.