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EARLY START

U.S. Navy Plane Crashes Off Japan; Trump Defends Roy Moore; Calls for Conyers to Resign. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 04:00   ET

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


[04:00:36] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking overnight, a U.S. Navy plane goes down off the coast of Japan. Search and rescue operations are underway right now. We'll bring you the latest in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He says it didn't happen and you know, you have to listen to him also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: No endorsement, but no doubt President Trump wants Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate despite sexual misconduct allegations.

SANCHEZ: And new sexual harassment allegations against the dean of the House of Representatives. Now, Michigan's biggest newspaper wants John Conyers to resign after he used taxpayer money to settle with another accuser.

Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Nice to see you this morning. I'm Christine Romans. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

Breaking news overnight, a U.S. Navy plane carrying crew members and passengers crashing southeast of Okinawa, Japan. The plane was headed to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in the Philippine Sea. The Reagan is now conducting search and rescue operations.

SANCHEZ: Yes. Already this year, four U.S. Navy warships have been involved in accidents in Asian waters.

CNN's Ivan Watson was in Okinawa a few weeks ago on a different U.S. Navy ship and he's now following the developments for us from Hong Kong.

Ivan, what can you tell us?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Boris and Christine.

That's right. This accident took place according to the U.S. Navy within the last three hours. It was a U.S. Navy aircraft that was approaching the USS Ronald Reagan. That's an aircraft carrier that's been operating in these waters and then this crash took place. The Navy says there were 11 passengers and crew members on board and that a search and rescue operation is currently underway.

The Japanese defense minister and recall this took place off the coast of the Japanese island of Okinawa, he has since told journalists that at least eight people from the aircraft have been rescued. He also identified the aircraft as a C2 transport plane. That's a propeller plane that the U.S. Navy flies that I've flown on before that lands on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and then gets thrown off with that kind of propulsion system that is used to fire to propel planes off of a deck of an aircraft carrier.

And the Japanese have dispatched their own ships to help in this search and rescue operation. Now, this takes place as the USS Ronald Reagan had most been involved in joint exercises in these waters with two other aircraft carriers. That's a display of military muscle that angered North Korea, which is not far from these waters.

And this also comes during what has been a deadly year for the U.S. Navy, where there were collisions involving U.S. Navy destroyers, in these waters, in June and August, that resulted in the deaths of at least 17 sailors. The U.S. Navy conducted an investigation and finally concluded that a number of mistakes had led to these collisions which could have been avoided -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Ivan, a vice admiral of the Navy Seventh Fleet actually was put aside from that role because of all those accidents. We'll check back in with you for the latest shortly, Ivan. Thank you.

President Trump never actually used the E word endorse, but on Tuesday, he strongly defended Roy Moore. At least eight women have accused the embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate of pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers.

ROMANS: Now, a few of them also accuse Moore of assault, but Tuesday, on his way to Florida for the holiday, the president seemed much more concerned with the idea of another Democrat in the closely divided Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat. Jones, I've looked at his record. It's terrible on crime, it's terrible on the border, it's terrible in the military. I can tell you for a fact, we do not need somebody that's going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: As for why the president only spoke up now after two weeks of silence, a Republican source close to the White House tells my colleague Jim Acosta that President Trump doubted Moore's accusers, identifying Moore's experience as similar to the accusations leveled against him during the 2016 campaign.

[04:05:00] Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president. He joins us from Mar-a-Lago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Boris, President Trump doing something he has not done for the last two weeks, directly and personally weighing in on that explosive Senate race in Alabama. Before flying here to Florida where he'll be spending his Thanksgiving vacation, the president fully embraced Roy Moore. He said he did not necessarily disbelieve the women who had come forward to accuse him of wrongdoing, but he did accept Roy Moore's denials.

REPORTER: Is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?

TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen and, you know, you have to listen to him also. You're talking about -- he said 40 years ago, this did not happen. So, you know --

ZELENY: The president all but giving his endorsement. He said he would potentially think about campaigning with Roy Moore in the coming weeks before that special election in December. So, in trying to get a sense of what went into the president's thinking and into his abruptly supporting Roy Moore, aides close to him say that simply the noise and confusion from these tidal wave of cases across the country that have rippled from Hollywood to politics to media simply made it easier for him to stick with Roy Moore.

In the words of one Republican close to the White House, it's harder to tell who the bad guy is now and, of course, the White House eager to keep that seat from Alabama in Republican hands -- Christine and Boris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Jeff, thank you for that. Now, despite president's decision to stand behind Roy Moore and despite his skepticism of the allegations against Moore, the president says he's happy that women across the country are now coming forward with claims of sexual misconduct.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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. And I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out.

REPORTER: Do you accuse -- do you believe the accusers?

TRUMP: I'm very happy it's being exposed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: There is a contradiction there, Boris. If you are happy these things are coming out but you don't believe the accusers in this particular case.

SANCHEZ: Quite a few contradictions. He doesn't believe some accusers but he believes Bill Clinton's accusers. It's an interesting dynamic.

ROMANS: There are plenty of women who would say, I don't want to be special, I want to be equal.

SANCHEZ: Right.

ROMANS: So, let's put the special side aside.

All right. Alabama's Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones now taking direct aim at Moore, using Republican criticism of him as ammunition. Jones' new campaign ad quotes attorney general and former Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions, Alabama's current Senior Senator Richard Shelby and the president's own daughter, Ivanka Trump.

SANCHEZ: A new accusation of sexual harassment has surfaced against Democratic Congressman John Conyers of Michigan. A former female staffer alleging the incidents occurred in 2015 and '16. Now, "The Detroit Press" is calling on Conyers to step down, following reports that he paid a woman to settle a separate sexual harassment claim with taxpayer funds.

ROMANS: The newspaper says Conyers' resignation would send a clear warning to other members of Congress. "The Free Press" editorial board writing: It's a betrayal that breaches the most fundamental trust that exists between a public servant and the people that person represents. Even if Conyers could prove that he did not make inappropriate advances toward his former staffer, there's no defense for having used dollars from a congressional office to settle a claim.

SANCHEZ: Now, Congressman Conyers is the longest serving lawmaker in the House and he's now the target of a House Ethics Committee investigation.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has the latest from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Boris.

Well, CNN has not independently confirmed these allegations but according to "BuzzFeed", Congressman Conyers has a series of accusations and complaints filed in 2014 against him by former unnamed women on his staff. Now, according to these confidential documents which again were obtained by "BuzzFeed", the congressman repeatedly asked for sexual favors and once asked one of the women to work from his hotel room one evening where she alleges he told her she needed to touch his privates. In another incident, he alleges the congressman asked her to stay in

his hotel room to just cuddle up and caress him before going to bed. Now, this led to a wrongful firing settlement reached in 2015 to one of the women who alleges she was fired for refusing the congressman's advances. It was a $27,000 settlement which was paid directly to her from the congressman's office. Now, that's still taxpayer dollars, but importantly here, it's not from the fund that usually handles paying out these settlements within the U.S. Treasury.

Conyers has denied the allegations of sexual misconduct but he does admit the payments. In a statement, Conyers says, quote: My office resolved allegations with an expressed denial of liability in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation.

Now, meantime all of this comes as Senator Franken continues to lay low since his own accusations of sexual misconduct have surfaced and Democrats on Capitol Hill are continuing to be asked and continuing to struggle with their answers if she should resign -- Christine and Boris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[04:10:10] ROMANS: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks, Sunlen.

Charlie Rose fired twice in one day over sexual harassment allegations. Both CBS and PBS terminating the TV host after "The Washington Post" published accusations from eight women. PBS now confirming three more potential victims came forward on Tuesday.

SANCHEZ: Rose's former CBS co-host Gayle King appeared on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night, admitting that she's struggling with the downfall of her long time colleague but she says that, ultimately, it's the accusers that matter most.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAYLE KING, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: To be honest with you, it still isn't easy. It's still very painful. It's still very hurtful. You know, Charlie and I, we've worked together, been friends, but when you think about the anguish of those women, despite the friendship, you still have to report the news.

When you were doing the monologue about other people, I'm like ha, ha, ha, and then it was about Charlie and he's a friend, I don't like that, that's difficult.

STEPHEN COLBERT, LATE NIGHT HOST: Yes, I understand.

KING: And then I think about what these women were going through. I don't like that either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Gayle King's comments coming up as she and co-host Norah O'Donnell delivered a powerful response to the accusations against Rose on "CBS This Morning". (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more, generally, the safety of women. Let me be very clear. There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. Women cannot achieve equality in the work place or in society, until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And that reckoning continues because also developing this morning, a top Disney animation executive is taking a leave of absence after what he calls missteps. John Lasseter is the chief creative officer for Disney Animation and Pixar. An unnamed Pixar employee told "The Hollywood Reporter" that Lasseter had a reputation for grabbing, kissing and making inappropriate comments about physical attributes.

Now, Lasseter released this statement saying in part, quote: It's been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected and uncomfortable. That was never my intent.

A Disney spokesperson tells CNN the company is committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected.

ROMANS: Meanwhile, dozens of women with ties to "Saturday Night Live" are coming out in support of Senator Al Franken. Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden alleges Franken forcibly kissed her without consent during a USO tour in 2006.

SANCHEZ: And now, 36 women who worked with Franken on "SNL" say that they never experienced any inappropriate behavior. They write, quote: What Al did was foolish and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms. Tweeden and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer and an honorable public servant.

ROMANS: All right. Fans are mourning the loss of David Cassidy this morning. The actor, singer and former teen heartthrob who died last night.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

ROMANS: Cassidy's role as Keith Partridge in the '70s hit, musical sitcom "The Partridge Family" propelled him to super stardom, allowing Cassidy to showcase his musical talent to a national TV audience. "The Partridge Family's" first single, "I Think I Love You" topped the charts in 1970.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

SANCHEZ: And David Cassidy went on to a successful solo career, his concerts regularly selling out stadiums around the world. In later years, though, he did battle alcoholism and drug abuse. In early 2017, he revealed that he was suffering from dementia. In a statement, his family says that Cassidy died surrounded by those he loved. David Cassidy was 67 years old.

ROMANS: All right. Fourteen minutes past the hour.

More bad headlines for Uber. The company may have paid hackers to hide a huge data breach. Was your information exposed? Details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[04:18:23] ROMANS: All right. Uber may have paid hackers to side a huge data breach, the latest scandal for the world's most valuable startup. "Bloomberg" reports Uber paid hackers 100 grand to conceal a 2016 breach. Uber would not confirm the ransom but did disclose the exposure of 57 million users including personal info like names, e- mail, phone numbers and 600,000 driver's licenses.

No financial information was stolen and Uber obtained insurances that hackers had destroyed the data. I'm sure you can trust them. They did not alert victims or regulators at the time of the breach.

The discovery of that cover-up led to the firing of two employees. That's according to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Uber would not confirm which employees were let go.

Now, the scandal is the latest challenge for the new CEO. He took over in August from the cofounder Travis Kalanick and inherited a number of controversies, including sexual harassment complaints, criminal probes, a court battle over stolen trade secrets. He promises Uber will do better, writing, while, I can't erase the past, I can't comment on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes.

SANCHEZ: Meantime, the Justice Department closing in on what could be the first big affirmative action case of the Trump era. The department is actively investigating Harvard's use of race in its admissions policies. The Department of Justice documents obtained by CNN accuse the school of being out of compliance with federal law. The department's interest stems from a 2015 complaint accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-Americans.

Harvard calls the investigation highly unusual and says in a statement that it will certainly comply with federal law, but the school says it is trying to work with the DOJ to protect student confidentiality.

[04:20:06] North Korea is being accused of violating the arms disagreement with South Korea by chasing a person who crossed the border. He was shot five times. We have some incredible video to show you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Three members of the U.S. military have been reassigned from their White House posts for allegedly making improper contact with foreign women while traveling with the president on his trip to Asia. That's according to "The Washington Post". They allegedly broke curfew during the president's stop in Vietnam and could lose their security clearances or even face court martial. [04:25:02] ROMANS: All three service members worked for a specialized

White House agency in charge of securing communications for top level security for top officials. In August, four members of the same White House communications agency were reassigned for allegedly bringing women to their hotel rooms during the vice president's visit to Panama.

North Korea accused of violating the armistice agreement with South Korea by crossing the border to shoot a defector. Dramatic U.N. security video shows the North Korean soldier running across the border.

SANCHEZ: Yes, he's being shot by the North Korean soldiers. At one point, South Korean troops begin to crawl toward him to rescue him. At that point, one North Korean crossed the military demarcation line dividing the two countries. That's another violation of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

That soldier is now the third member of the North Korean armed forces to defect just this year. Officials say that he has regained consciousness after multiple surgeries but he's going to need additional treatment.

Zimbabwe is celebrating the dawn of a new era. Celebrations breaking out after Robert Mugabe stepped down as president. The speaker of parliament reading his resignation letter after 37 years of rule. Someone even tearing down an R. Mugabe street sign after the news came down.

Mugabe was considered by some to be an African independence hero, but critics say he became a corrupt dictator who ruled by fear and brought a once promising economy to near ruin. Former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa fired by the Mugabe earlier this month is now set to succeed him and he is expected to return to Zimbabwe today.

ROMANS: All right. Search and rescue operations underway right now.

SANCHEZ: Yes, after the crash of a U.S. Navy plane off the coast of Japan. It's the latest in a series of accidents for the U.S. military in that part of the world. We break down the details, next.

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