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Looming Showdown in Senate; Trump Backs Moore; Navy Plane Crashes off Japan; North Korean Defector's Escape. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:24] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here we are, day before Thanksgiving. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me.

Move over tax reform and dreamers, the Republican Party is marching toward an even more immediate Capitol Hill crisis now that President Trump has said he wants Roy Moore to be the next senator from Alabama. Roy Moore continues to deny all those accusations of sex abuse of a minor and sexual assault. And despite Republican Party leaders saying that they believe Moore's accusers and want him to drop out of this race, the president, finally after more than a week of being questioned, showed he is siding with a suspected molester over the women, some of whom voted for the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. He said 40 years ago this did not happen.

Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say, he denies it. And, by the way, he totally denies it.

Well, he denies. I mean Roy Moore denies it. And, by the way, he gives a total denial. He totally denies it.


BALDWIN: So before repeating Moore's denials, the president said, quote, we don't need a liberal Democrat. Two Republican sources shed a little insight into the president's thinking on Moore, saying that the landscape has drastically changed since November 9th when the Moore story broke and since then a stream of accused violators, including Democrats, have been outed. A source says, quote, since then, it's become much harder to tell who the bad guy is.

So let's kick off the hour with Tom Foreman there.

And, Tom, so looking ahead -- let's play out some scenarios, right? The special election is December 12th. He has these Republican senators who want to expel him if he's elected and the president, who now is supporting his candidacy. Walk us through potential showdown we could be facing. TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, let's look at the

idea that he simply wins the election. Let's say he goes through the whole way and he wins. Must Moore be sworn in if he wins? The answer is, yes, he has to. There is nothing that is improper about the election itself. He's of the proper age. There's no sense that people cheated on ballots or anything like that. So, yes, they would have to swear him in, even if they don't want to.

After that, could he be immediately ejected? Could they get rid of him? And the answer to that is, yes, they could. In fact, they could start the ethics committee review and recommendation before he was seated. So it was all done, where they're all in agreement, he could be seated and then the Senate could vote.

Which brings up another question here. Could this simply be a majority of senators voting him out? The answer to that is, no, you cannot do it with a simple majority. In this case, what they're going to need is to have two-thirds saying they want to throw him out. So look at the math here. Yes, Republicans have an advantage, but they're going to have to have some help from some Democrats who would also say they would vote to throw him out if he were seated in the office there.

And if he is thrown out, and this gets to that question of, what do you do about the balance of power? Republicans don't want to give it up. That's what the president's talking about here. If he is thrown out, is he replaced by another special election? A two answers here.

The first one is no. Immediately what would happen is that the Republican governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, would report someone as an interim senator. Some people have said it might be Jeff Sessions, currently the attorney general. He might be called back because he's still very popular there. But she would appoint somebody, most likely a Republican.

And then the answer is also, yes, because ultimately that's just an interim measure and you move towards some sort of special election to pick somebody to fill that seat.

So, yes, the Republicans are in a tough place here, Brooke. They do not want to give up that seat, and yet a great many of them clearly do not want to be seen standing alongside Roy Moore. The question is, which one weighs more heavily on them and what are they willing to do to achieve those ends?

BALDWIN: You laid it out perfectly, Tom Foreman, thank you.

And the president's remark from the White House breaks weeks of silence, really, on Roy Moore. But interestingly, the president has used Twitter to sound off on basically everything else. Everything except this scandal.

So let me just run through something for you. These are some of the topics the president has tweeted about instead of tweeting about Roy Moore.

OK, his predecessors and the blame he gives them. Hillary Clinton, her policies on Russia and then his endorsement for her to run in 2020. The haters and fools criticizing his relationship with the Russians. Progress in North Korea and Syria. Kim Jong-un's height and weight. Good wishes to the veterans in the Marine Corps. The Vietnam War. Economic and security achievements. His itinerary in Asia. Melania's plans to visit a zoo. The tax plan. A welcome back to Senator Rand Paul. Attacks on "The New York Times" and CNN. No shocker there. Cheers to Sean Hannity's ratings and a tease for "Fox and Friends." Again, no surprise. He attacked Democrats. Al Franken and his scandal. Jeff Flake, who he needs for the tax bill. His approval ratings. A crackdown on gangs. The jobs report.

[14:05:49] Oh, my gosh, there's more. His own performance. The border wall. Elephant trophy hunters. He wonders aloud if UCLA basketball players will thank him, then says you're welcome when they do, then goes off on one of their dads repeatedly. The NFL. Yesterday's turkey pardon and yet not one single tweet on Roy Moore's scandal.

So there's that for you.

Now for the Alabama perspective. With me now, Sheila Gilbert, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Calhoun County, Alabama.

Sheila, thank you so much for joining me.

SHEILA GILBERT, CHAIRWOMAN, CALHOUN COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Hello. Thank you very much for having me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So what is your reaction to the president now supporting Roy Moore and not choosing to believe the accusers in this case?

GILBERT: You know, I'll just say right here in Alabama, we're doing the absolute best we can to keep Doug Jones in the forefront, not dwelling on all that negative, but looking at the positive things that Doug Jones has to offer for this state.

We know Alabama has sort of a reputation as not being on top of everything. But with this new election coming up December 12th, we are focusing on the positive things that Doug Jones will bring to the state of Alabama in the way of health care and jobs and things like that.

So that's where our focus is. We are so working hard to recruit, bring in new voters and to actually get those voters that have been out there in the past, to bring them back on Election Day and let them see where the -- where things are really going to happen.

BALDWIN: Let's talk, Sheila, no surprise Doug Jones is your guy. Here's what surprised me and this is why we really wanted to talk to you. You mentioned new voters.

I am told that you actually have Republican women calling you up, coming to you because Alabama is at a bit of a crossroads right now. Can you tell me about these phone calls?

GILBERT: You know, actually, this is really, really interesting. And it's not just phone calls, but it's in-person people. BALDWIN: No kidding.

GILBERT: And we have a headquarters. And people come in all the time. And, you know, in the past, I think there was this feeling of, well, I'm not real sure I want anybody to know I'm voting on this Democratic ticket. But there's no resistance now, no reluctance. Women will say, what can we do to -- how can I talk to my sisters and my brothers because they're -- particularly the sisters and the women, they're interested in voting on the Republican -- the Democrat side this time. And what can I do to help them? And so it's been most gratifying to watch Republican women, I mean smart women, good women that I've known forever, who've moved over and said, you know, I'm voting for Doug Jones in this race. There's absolutely no way that I could support Roy Moore.

And so when they come into the headquarters and they meet you in the grocery store and they send you a text and they send you e-mails and they respond to FaceBook, that's pretty powerful. And so we're going to try to capitalize on that and just keep working as hard as we can and try to -- actually on December 12th have a real positive result, not only for Democrats and Republicans.

And there's not a reluctance. There should be no shyness on the part of these Republican women. But I think once they come into a group and they see that it's all the same thing, we're all working toward one goal, to make Alabama a better state, then after that initial time, then they become part of the group and they join the door knocking, they join the phone calling.

BALDWIN: Sure. But you can understand, Sheila, sorry to jump in, but you can understand, you know, somebody who's been a life-long Republican and all of a sudden they're thinking, oh, my goodness, just because of what's happened, you know, in your state and maybe whispering, you know, that they may be for Doug Jones. We'll see -- we'll see how that plays out because some people, I have a feeling, may be still whispering that they're voting for Roy Moore.

Here's my next question.

GILBERT: This is true. OK.

BALDWIN: And this is about -- this is about the evangelicals, because a lot of people across the country have heard about some of these Alabama pastors. The pastors who are trying to justify, you know, Roy Moore's history with young women and teenagers in some cases. What's behind that thinking?

GILBERT: I don't know. As you know and everybody knows, Alabama has a strong evangelical base and so I don't know. And some ministers have come out and say they don't necessarily support the candidate, but they are opposed to what they see the Roy Moore side doing. Some of the others have had a reluctance to do that.

[14:10:13] So I don't know what the thinking is, but I think the people in the stronger churches, they really want the population to know, we're on the side of justice and the right thing and a lot of them appear to want to say, we really support Doug Jones, but they don't say it in so many words.

So I know they have to understand what's happening here. They are responsible for their -- not only their congregation, but the church as well. The church is a major force in this state. The evangelicals have always had a mighty say. And so at this time there's a little shift. We're seeing a shift in this. And I think they almost need to permission to say that it's OK.

BALDWIN: Miss Gilbert, thank you. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

GILBERT: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I should also mention, we're talking to a Republican woman from Alabama next hour. So stay tuned for that.

Meantime, just stunning video today of this North Korean defector running for his life, under fire, crossing the boarder there into South Korea. We will show you step by step what happened to him and also what they found inside his body.

Plus, Uber covering up a hack by paying off the hackers and not telling customers about it. Is this even legal?

And just a surreal revelation here, a senator says during this tax reform meeting that the president called in and his economic adviser faked a bad connection to ditch the president off the phone. Wait until you hear this one.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:16:08] BALDWIN: All right, so, we're going to talk about what exactly has happened here on this day before Thanksgiving. This tragedy in the Seventh Fleet here in the Pacific Ocean. Some U.S. military families are worrying about the safety of their loved ones after a Navy plane crashed in the Pacific. A search and rescue mission is underway right now for three people who are still missing. Eight others were rescued and are in good condition after this plane went down in the Philippine Sea. This is southwest of Okinawa, Japan.

And we have some pictures of exactly the type of plane that crashed. This is a C-2A Greyhound. Navy officials say the plane was on a routine transport flight when it crashed while ferrying passengers and cargo over to the aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan. Retired USS Cole Commander Kirk Lippold is with me now.

And so, commander, thank you so much for being with me and thank you, as always, for your service.

You know, I woke up this morning and thought, my goodness, I was just on a C-2 COD headed to the USS Reagan three weeks ago to report on the sailors there. And we'll talk about how they're used in just a moment.

But, first, when you heard about this, I mean how rare are crashes like this? COMMANDER KIRK LIPPOLD, U.S. NAVY (RETIRED): First, Brooke, what I'd

like to do is express my sympathies and hope that these families, that the thoughts and prayers of America are with them that they can be found and rescued.

BALDWIN: Of course.

LIPPOLD: But this is a very common aircraft flight that they were making. It's typical that they -- you know it's a carrier on board delivery, which is COD. It's used to bring out supplies and people back and forth from an air craft carrier to land (ph). So, as you know, having been on one, it's a routine operation. And while no flight should ever be routine, clearly there's an expectation that nothing would go wrong, especially when you've got a twin turboprop.

BALDWIN: So -- and we have some pictures from my trip a couple of week ago for people to understand. And when you're in a COD, you know, you're facing backwards. You're in this, you know, what looks like a very old plane. This is the inside of it. You've got a helmet on and you're, you know, seat belted in six different ways. But not because of the safety of the COD, but because of the catch on the carrier.

And so when -- as they're investigating what happened, what will they be looking at? You know, pilot error? Conditions around the aircraft carrier? What do you think, commander?

LIPPOLD: They're going to take that all into -- as they do the investigation, they will take every aspect of that into account. Their -- first and foremost they're going to want to talk to witnesses that were on board. What did they hear? What did they see? What were the communications that may have been going on? What were the indications in the aircraft itself? Were the engines running? Was there a problem?

But you have to remember, Brooke, the last aircraft from this particular model came off the assembly line in 1990. So they're 27 plus years old. And while the Navy has been investing money to upgrade their avionics and their structural integrity, nonetheless they're old aircraft. And unlike B-52s, which are decades old, these aircraft get a pretty rough life when you consider that they are continuously landed on and off aircraft carriers, which is a very stressful environment for those planes to operate in.

BALDWIN: Commander Lippold, you know I need to ask you then about the Seventh Fleet and what is going on. Just to remind our viewers, you had the two deadly collisions over the summer, which the Navy admits, you know, were preventable. A total of 17 sailors killed. Then you have today's plane crash where we also counted six other U.S. Navy incidents so far this year in the Pacific going back to January.

And now I know these incidents are not directly connected, but, still, how do we make sure our men and women, our sailors out there are safe?

LIPPOLD: Well, I think, first and foremost, there's a responsibility that resides back here in Washington. Number one, the Department of Defense is operating on a continuing resolution, which means that they do not have a budget. And while there is funding for basic programs, they're all freezing so there can be no new starts or anything else. So Congress has not done their job.

[14:20:00] Number two, the admirals back here in Washington have a responsibility to man, train, and equip the fleet. And the bottom line is, every single one of these admirals came from the fleet. They came back to Washington after multiple tours now and it has literally been years that we have seen these problems building.

And so what you're seeing now is that, unfortunately, as we begin to really have readiness issues, it's being measured in lives. Sailors killed in collision because we don't properly train.


LIPPOLD: Aircraft that are crashing because they may not be maintained. These are the kind of issues where we need to not have a hollow force and that the Department of Defense needs sequestration taken care of, a predictable budget, and then we can move forward to insure these young men and women who serve our nation can do so safely.

BALDWIN: There you have it. There you have it. I mean given the sacrifices. I spoke with so many of them. It's just -- it's tragic to hear stories like these. I'll join you in just our thoughts with the families, the eight who are OK and the three who are still missing.

Commander Lippold, thank you.

LIPPOLD: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Now to this incredible video we have in today of this North Korean defector, this soldier running for his life, under fire, crossing the border into South Korea. We will show you exactly what happened to him and how the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un and the regime violated the Korean War armistice, next.


[14:25:46] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN.

This desperate moment of life and death caught on tape. The U.N. Command releasing this video footage showing this North Korean soldier, spotlighted for you, abandoning his post, trying to cross the border into South Korea. Look at this.


BALDWIN (voice-over): This is how it begins. A North Korean soldier behind the wheel of this military vehicle racing toward freedom. Racing toward a new life on the other side of one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

The vehicle comes to a stop just steps from South Korean soil. His fellow soldiers, equipped with body armor and high-powered weapons, run toward him. Moments later, the defector ditches the vehicle and makes a run for


His own comrades firing more than 40 shots from pistols and an AK-47 as he struggles to reach South Korea. Doctors say he was hit at least four times before he ultimately reached freedom, making him just the third member of the North Korean armed forces to escape this year.


BALDWIN: After more than a week in the hospital, that 24-year-old man is now conscious. The U.N. releasing this video to prove that the North Koreans violated the armistice between the North and the South.

So let's get more into what we just saw.

David Sanger is with me now, CNN political and national security analyst. He is also a national security correspondent for "The New York Times."

David Sanger, I mean, knowing the DMZ, right, and I was just there as well a couple of week ago, I mean talk about guns and guards and cameras and anything else. I mean how rare is it that a North Korean soldier would try to defect, A, but, B, right there?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Brooke, of all the ways to get into South Korea from the North, he picked here probably one of the hardest. I mean this is not only heavily fortified, but the area that he was going across is one of the most heavily guarded. So the chances they were going to open fire on him were pretty high. And it's actually amazing he only got hit four times, which is what we've heard.

What we've also heard from the surgeons that when they got into him, they discovered, you know, a number of incredible parasites in his system --

BALDWIN: Parasites.

SANGER: Which tells you a little bit about, you know, what happens in the North Korean sanitary system and their diet. So it was a little bit of a picture into the brutality of life in the North.

BALDWIN: I mean not to gross people out eating their lunch right now, but I think it's worth talking about because it speaks to the malnourishment as we keep hearing about, about North Koreans and even, you know, what's supposed to be the best of the best and the soldiers there. The fact that one of the doctors pulled out this parasite that was something like 11 inches long.

SANGER: Yes. Now this does happen and it frequently happens in places where they have bad sanitary systems and all that. So it's not a huge surprise. But, still.

It also tells you something about how paranoid the North Koreans are about any sign that the discipline within their border guards falls apart here because the border guards are supposed to be among the most loyal that are out there. They're the ones who obviously you see pictured on TV and who have so many opportunities to defect, so their loyalty is supposed to be particularly checked.


SANGER: And, of course, it comes as this particular fraught moment right now.

BALDWIN: Why do you think the U.N. Command -- I mean they -- we have never seen video like this. We know defections happen. But why do you think they released the video and why do you think they released it now?

SANGER: I think they released it for a clear propaganda reason, which was to make the case, and that -- particularly I think in this case, a very good case, that the North Koreans have such brutality that they'd rather kill one of their own than see them walk across the border. And I think they are hoping that by getting this video out, that it will actually make its way back into North Korea.

[14:29:57] And that's one of the remarkable things we're beginning to see happen, because there are a large number of North Koreans now who have cell phones, who can get video because they're near the Chinese border.