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U.S. Navy: "Personnel Recovery is Underway; Trump Defends Roy Moore; Calls for Conyers to Resign; Report: Jerry Jones Backs Off Threat to Sue NFL. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 05:00   ET


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We're following breaking news overnight. A U.S. Navy plane going down off the coast after Japan. Search and rescue operations are right now underway. We'll bring you the latest in just a moment.


[05:00:01] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen and, you know, you have to listen to him also.


SANCHEZ: No endorsement, but no doubt President Trump wants Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate despite allegations that he is a pedophile.

And new sexual harassment claims 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.

Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Christine Romans, and Dave Briggs. It is Wednesday, November 22nd. About 5:00 a.m. on the East Coast.

And breaking news overnight, a U.S. Navy plane carrying 11 crew members and passengers crashed overnight southeast off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The plane was headed to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in the Philippines Sea. The Reagan is now conducting search operations. Already this year, four U.S. Navy warships have been involved in accidents in those waters.

CNN's Ivan Watson was in Okinawa, just a few weeks ago, on a different Navy ship. He's been following the developments all morning from Hong Kong.

Ivan, the good news is that there are some survivors but there are still so many questions to be answered.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and we don't know the state -- the current state of those survivors. Those details coming from the Japanese defense minister who says that eight of the 11 passengers and crew have been rescued from what he identified as a C-2 transport plane. Now, that is an aircraft fixed wing that has two propellers and is

used by the Navy to land on board aircraft carriers and be catapulted off, transporting people back and forth. And the Navy says in its statement that the crash took place within the last five hours in the Philippines Sea, somewhere off the coast of the Japanese island of Okinawa. It hasn't explained why the plane crashed and says that the search and rescue operations are still underway.

The Japanese say they have dispatched ships to assist in this process as well. The plane was flying according to the U.S. Navy to the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan which had just days ago been conducting exercises alongside two other aircraft carriers in the Pacific region. Exercises and demonstration of military might that greatly angered North Korea which, of course, is at odds with the U.S. right now.

And as you pointed out, this is coming on the back of what has been a very difficult and deadly year for the U.S. Navy in the Asia Pacific region, with at least four navy ships involved in collisions, two of them quite deadly. In June and in August, the U.S. destroyer's Fitzgerald and John McCain, 17 sailors killed in those collisions with commercial shipping vessels and the U.S. Navy concluded that those accidents could have been avoided, fired a number of top Navy officers and concluded that they were the results of mistakes by commanding officers -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Ivan, a vice admiral with the 7th Fleet of the Navy was relieved of his duty. We'll see if any changes come as a result of this accident. Ivan, thank you for following that story for us.

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. A few of them also accused Moore of assault. But Tuesday on his way to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, the president seemed much more concerned about the idea of another Democrat in a closely divided senate.


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 on the military. I can tell you for a fact, we do not need somebody who's going to be bad on crime, bad on borders, bad on the military, bad for the Second Amendment.


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

Senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president. He joins us with more from Mar-a-Lago.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: 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.

[05:05:00] 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.


SANCHEZ: Jeff, thank you for that.

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 Free 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.

The newspaper says that Conyers' resignation would send a clear warning to other members of Congress. "The Free Press" editorial board writing, quote, it is 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 to his former staffer, there's no defense for having used dollars from his congressional office to settle a claim. The House Ethics Committee announcing yesterday it is going to launch an investigation into Congressman Conyers' conduct. He is the longest serving lawmaker in the House of Representatives, serving more than 50 years.

Let's bring in CNN politics digital director, Zach Wolf. He's live for us in Washington this morning.

Zach, we'll get to Representative Conyers in just a moment, but first, I wanted to discuss the White House's changing tune on Roy Moore. I think we have a montage of how they've shifted over the past two weeks. Listen to this.


CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Is this Senate seat that important?

MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: There's no Senate seat more important than the notion of child pedophilia, Chuck.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The incontrovertible principle is that there's no Senate seat that's worth more than a child.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously.

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

SANDERS: The president wants people, both in the House and the Senate that support his agenda.

TRUMP: Roy Moore denies it. And by the way, he gives a total denial.


SANCHEZ: Well, Zach, it went from, you know, no Senate seat is more important than the notion of pedophilia to we want that tax reform bill passed.

What does this say about the White House right now?

ZACHARY WOLF, CNN POLITICS DIGITAL DIRECTOR: I think they really want that tax reform bill passed. If they lose that vote, that will be a crippling development for the math of not only the tax reform bill, but you know, any number of other things that they try to do, particularly with a simple majority if they try to do other things through budget reconciliation. So, yes, you can certainly see the change in tone there where they've gone from really -- you know, skepticism about Moore and these -- and these claims to maybe not an endorsement, but pretty close to it.

SANCHEZ: And, Zach, how does this play for Democrats? President Trump yesterday left the door open to potentially going down to Alabama to campaign with Roy Moore. That's a campaign ad that writes itself.

WOLF: It sure is. He's running out of time to do that and, you know, that would be a remarkable thing, I think, given these allegations against Roy Moore. That's a full-on endorsement if he were to decide to do that.

But leaving the door open to it, he's definitely playing around here with the language and you know, dancing up to an endorsement which is essentially an endorsement in itself. But you can definitely tell that they really -- they really want to keep that vote.

SANCHEZ: I want to play another sound byte for you from President Trump before he headed to Florida yesterday, before reporters. He talked about this being a special period for women. Here it is.


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 and I'm very happy --

REPORTER: Do you believe the accusers?

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


SANCHEZ: He's very happy it's being exposed but the president himself has an interesting relationship with women.

[05:10:04] Consider that source -- a Republican source close to the White House told CNN part of the reason the president hadn't weighed in on Roy Moore was that he was afraid of starting a conversation about the accusations against him.

WOLF: Yes, but then he decided to weigh in on Al Franken which kind of started the conversation anyway. Look, it's always going to be difficult for this president having weathered the allegations against him especially during the presidential campaign to talk about this stuff. It's going to be one of the most uncomfortable things for him I think going forward, especially in this kind of sea change moment we're encountering where so many women are coming forward. It's never going to be comfortable for him.

SANCHEZ: Zach, we have to talk about Representative John Conyers. He now apparently has a mixed legacy. He's known as a civil rights hero, but now, we're hearing reports that he allegedly paid a former staffer more than $27,000 for her to deny that her allegations, her initial complaint against him ever happened. Should he resign?

WOLF: Well, you certainly see the paper there in Michigan calling for it. This the complicated way that they sort of hid the payment or seemed to have hid this payment so that it was kind of off the books, it makes it even, you know, more shady, I guess if true. So, it's going to be hard for him to stay in office at some point, especially now that we've learned that there's another accuser who filed papers, but then when they couldn't be sealed, tried to basically drop that lawsuit.

So, it's not an isolated incident at this point and when it's not an isolated incident, it becomes more difficult for somebody like Conyers to stay on.

SANCHEZ: Zachary Wolf, we appreciate you being up early for us. I still have a ton more questions. So, drink some coffee and join us again at 5:30. Thanks, Zach.

WOLF: Sounds good.

SANCHEZ: A bit of sad news to pass along now. Fans are mourning the loss of David Cassidy. The actor, singer and former teen heartthrob who passed away last night.


SANCHEZ: Cassidy's role as Keith Partridge on the '70s hit musical sitcom "The Partridge Family" propelled him to superstardom allowing Cassidy to show case his musical talent to a national TV audience. "The Partridge Family's" first single topped the charts in 1970.


SANCHEZ: Cassidy went on to a successful solo career. His concerts regularly selling out stadiums around the world. In later years, though, he battled 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.

Some more bad headlines for Uber. The company may have paid hackers to hide a huge data breach. Was your information exposed? We have details, next.


[05:17:19] SANCHEZ: 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 $100,000 to conceal a 2016 breach. Uber would not confirm the ransom, but it did disclose there was an exposure of 57 million users as well as some 600,000 license numbers. Uber did not alert victims or regulators at the time of the breach.

The discovery of the cover-up led to the firing of two employees and it's the latest scandal, the latest challenge for the new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. He inherited a number of controversies including sexual harassment complaints, criminal probes and a court battle over stolen trade secrets.

Thanksgiving is notorious for being one of the busiest times of the year to travel and this may be the worst Americans have seen in more than a decade. Nearly 51 people are set to travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend. That's the highest travel volume since 2005 according to AAA. Of those traveling, nearly 4 million people are expected to fly.

CNN's Ryan Young is live at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

Ryan, are the skies friendly today? RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So far so good here, Boris.

I mean, look, it's already like 4:00 a.m. here, so the lines have not started to pack up just yet. Look, both of us are from Miami, so we know about traveling home for the holidays, especially during our jobs, we travel a lot.

When you look behind us, we've seen a lot of people who have decided to take on the friendly skies for the holidays. I talked to a few people a few minutes ago. They wanted to get here early because they wanted to avoid the long lines. Last year, we saw the question here and when you talk about the fact that nearly 51 million traveling, we're told the holiday roads will be the ones that are mostly packed here because most people will be taking to the roadways with this strong economy, gas prices still relatively low, it's like 49 million people hitting the roads.

In fact, here in Chicago, yesterday was the peak day with the travel. We saw wait times more than two hours in some congested areas and across the country, we've seen that backup, especially in L.A. with that video of the entire highway system shut down as people were trying to get to where they were going. And I was talking to people around here. They said, look, we wanted to avoid the trouble in being agitated in dealing with the TSA or anything like that.

So, the good news is so far, especially so far early in the morning, people just pushing their way through, thinking about the turkey times. Maybe we'll see a few arguments about what's on our channel, but outside of that, so far, so good, Boris.

SANCHEZ: I hope we don't get yelled out like some of us have gotten yelled at.

Best of luck today, Ryan. Keep those elbows --

YOUNG: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Thanks.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones having second thoughts about suing the NFL.

[05:20:01] Coy Wire has more on this morning's "Bleacher Report", next.


SANCHEZ: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is reportedly backing off his threat to sue the NFL. Coy Wire joins us now with this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Coy, it seems like there's always drama in Jerry world.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and maybe some of that drama is going away, Boris. Good morning to you.

According to "The New York Times", Jones has changed his mind and will not take legal action against the league over commission of Roger Goodell's proposed contract extension. Jones' lawyer wants all owners to be allowed to see Goodell's contract before it's approved, not just the six on the league's compensation committee.

[05:25:03] According to "The Times", Jones sent a letter to Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who's the chairman of that committee saying, quote, standing down from my threat of litigation against the committee.

All owners are scheduled to meet to discuss this issue.

The latest college football playoff rankings are out. Miami Hurricanes leapfrogging defending champion Clemson Tigers heading into rivalry weekend. The Hurricanes are number one after their comeback win over Virginia. Bama still number one, faces number 6 Auburn Saturday. Badgers are behind Clemson and Oklahoma who each have one loss.

Clemson fell to our Boris Sanchez of Syracuse Orange while Sooners fell to Christine Romans' Iowa State. Look at that grin on Boris' face.

All right. Last night, pro-football hall of fame unveiled 27 semifinalists for class of 2018 and Steelers legend turned CNN Sports contributor Hines Ward on the list. The two-time Super Bowl champ joins candidates like Randy Moss, John Lynch, Ray Lewis, Terrell Owens. The 15 finalists will be revealed in January with the final inductees being announced before the super bowl in February.

And --


DAMON HODGES: You really can do what you want to do. No matter who you are, no matter what the situation is.


WIRE: Meet Damon Hodges, an inspiring defensive end at Liberty High School in Youngstown, Ohio. Despite having two prosthetic legs, he decided to finally join the football team to make his late father proud. Damon lost both of his legs due to complications at birth and he lost his father when he was just 12 years old.


HODGES: I play for my dad. He knew how bad I wanted to play and I know he's watching me right now and I hope I'm making him proud.


WIRE: Damon has advice for anyone facing adversity. He says whenever someone tells you can't do something, use it as motivation to keep going.

Boris, he says that he is an inspiration as you can imagine to the entire team and more.

SANCHEZ: How are you going to do that to be so early in the morning, man? It hits you right here. He is an inspiration.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Coy, good morning to you as well.

WIRE: You're welcome. Good.

SANCHEZ: Search and rescue operations are underway right now 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 have a live report, next.