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U.S. Navy Plane Crashes Near Aircraft Carrier in Pacific; President Trump Feuds with LaVar Ball on Twitter; President Trump Comments on Sexual Misconduct Allegations against Roy Moore; Interview with Congressman Dan Donovan of New York. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: What's the latest there, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. At this hour U.S. and Japanese forces are continuing a search and rescue mission about 500 miles off the coast of the Japanese island of Okinawa where the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan is operating. A U.S. Navy C-2 aircraft was expected to travel there with 11 passengers onboard, all military personnel. This is a small aircraft that routinely goes on and off aircraft carriers bringing people back and forth. It crashed we believe quite close to the carrier because they were able to quickly rescue at least eight people that were brought onboard the Ronald Reagan and are said to be in good condition.

They are still searching for three more people. Three American families waiting for word on their loved ones as this holiday season begins to unfold. This has been a very tough year out in the Pacific for the U.S. Navy. Two Navy ships have had serious coalitions with cargo shipping, 17 sailors dying in those two collisions onboard the USS John McCain and the USS Fitzgerald. But there have been a total of actually four incidents this year with ships of the seventh fleet out in the Pacific and a fifth incident actually just on Saturday when a Japanese tug apparently drifted into yet another Navy ship causing minor damage there.

This aircraft incident not by any indication related to these other -- the causes of these other ship incidents, but it will all be under investigation of course to find out what happened. But the first main priority, the big priority at this hour is to get those three other people. Chris, Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Barbara, please keep us posted as to what is happening with that search.

Meanwhile, the president has just tweeted, I see, about that Navy crash. He says --

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He says "The U.S. Navy is conducting search and rescue following aircraft crash. We are monitoring the situation, prayers for all involved."

CAMEROTA: That's exactly what we were talking about this morning and now he is tweeting about it.

CUOMO: We learned about this some time ago.

CAMEROTA: Couple hours.

CUOMO: The president must have known about it when we did, or at least we assume, but he wasn't talking about this.

CAMEROTA: So, he has been talking about other things.

CUOMO: LaVar Ball and he was tweeting about that. Here's his tweet.

CAMEROTA: "It wasn't the White House. It was the State Department. It wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long-term prison sentence, IT WAS ME" in all caps. "Too bad!" exclamation point. LaVar is just a poor man's version of Don King but without the hair. Just think, LaVar, you could have spent the next five to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China with no NBA contract to support you. Bur remember, LaVar, shoplifting is not a little thing. It's a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool."

CUOMO: Then the president started tweeting about the NFL and the civil rights protests during the National Anthem. He writes, "The NFL is now thinking about a new idea, keeping teams in the locker room during the National Anthem next season. That is almost as bad as kneeling. When will the highly paid commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league."

CAMEROTA: So, those tweets coming, as we said, just hours after President Trump broke his weeklong silence on Roy Moore. He's all but now endorsed the Alabama Senate candidate despite the sexual abuse allegations against Moore. So let's bring in Joe Johns live from Palm Beach, Florida, where the president is vacationing. What's the latest there, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. I think one of the takeaways here is that while the rest of the country continues the national conversation about inappropriate sexual advances by men in power, for the White House, the Roy Moore story is very much about political consideration.

Before coming south here to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday the president did throw his support behind Roy Moore despite the fact that his communication's staff had really been pushing the idea that the vote in Alabama was all about a decision to be made by people in Alabama. Now, the question is how far the president will go to support Roy Moore.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can tell you one thing for sure, we don't need a liberal person in there, a Democrat.

JOHNS: President Trump all but endorsing embattled Senate Republican nominee Roy Moore. TRUMP: We do not need somebody that is going to be bad on crime, bad

on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.

JOHNS: Insisting his concerns were about policy above all else, despite allegations that Moore sexually assaulted two teenage girls when he was in his 30s, including one woman who said he was 14 at the time, and allegedly pursued romantic relationships with six others.

[08:05:04] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is an accused child molester better than a democrat? Is an accused child molester --

TRUMP: He denies it. He denies it. He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him, also.

JOHNS: The president siding with Moore over his accusers before saying he was happy that women across the country are now speaking up about sexual harassment.

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.

JOHNS: A Republican close to the White House tells CNN that the president doubts Moore's accusers and sees a similarity between the accusations leveled against Moore and the sexual misconduct allegations made against him by at least 13 women in the final days of the 2016 campaign, charges the president has denied.

TRUMP: Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign.

JOHNS: Mr. Trump leaving the door open to possibly campaigning for Moore ahead of the December 12th special election in Alabama.

TRUMP: I'll be letting you know next week.

JOHNS: Breaking with his own party's leadership and a number of GOP senators who have called on Moore to step down.

MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: He's obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate. And we've looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening.

JOHNS: Moore's Democratic challenger Doug Jones defending his record against the president's attacks and speaking out about the accusations against Moore for the first time.

DOUG JONES, (D) ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I believe the women. I believe their stories have credibility and I believe them.

JOHNS: The Jones campaign releasing an ad quoting members of the president's own inner circle criticizing Moore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ivanka Trump says there is a special place in hell for people who prey on children, and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts. Jeff Sessions says I have no reason to doubt these young women. Conservative voices putting women and children over party.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And this morning the Moore camp moving quickly to capitalize on the president's words, putting out a fundraising e-mail for Thanksgiving, quoting both the president as well as the Reverend Billy Graham and including a link where you can donate money. Chris and Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Joe.

CUOMO: All right, let's bring in our guests. We have CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and CNN political analyst Amie Parnes. It's good to have you both here. OK, so Amie, we're seeing what's happening this morning in real time. The president is exercised about LaVar Ball. We had that big interview with him on CNN a couple nights ago and broke the internet. The president still thinking about it. Yesterday he didn't say anything, but today he is on vacation to Mar-a-Lago.

CAMEROTA: John Kelly is not with him.

CUOMO: So the new comes out about the Navy crash. We assume that the commander in chief knows about it before we do, but he does not tweet about it. He tweets about LaVar Ball, he tweets about the NFL, he raises issues about whether or not he tends to target things that exacerbate racial tensions. How do you see it?

AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's bad for him because it's taking him off message yet again at a time when his party is desperately trying to put parties on the board, trying to pass tax reform. You look at other presidents in the past and they would never go off message at this moment in time when his party desperately needs him right now to stay on message and not go, you know, in that direction. And that's problematic for him. And this is why we're seeing kind of this party in disarray, this party that is so incredibly, all these factions. And so I think this is very hurtful to him and ultimately to the party going into 2018. We're almost in December now.

CAMEROTA: Ron, how do you see it? Obviously so many people think it is strategic when he waves a shiny bauble over here so you don't look at Roy Moore or whatever the other issue is happening on the left.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as you know, I have a different view, and I have said it many times. I think this is fundamental to his conception of the presidency and that Republicans have essentially accepted an informal division of responsibility where the president's job politically is to constantly stir up these cultural and personal confrontations, many of them racially tinged with language that's extraordinary, gets extraordinarily sharp when he's talking about African-Americans - "Fools, sons of b's" about the NFL players earlier. This is what he does, he stirs up the base.

And meanwhile, kind of the machinery of government in Congress and the executive branch grinds on with a deeply, deeply kind of conservative agenda of cutting taxes and regulation, and he draws the spotlight and they kind of move forward.

Now, there is a cost to this, as we have said. You do have a consistent majority of Americans, particularly those white collar suburbanites, saying he doesn't have the temperament they want in a president. And as we saw in Virginia, and I think Alabama compounds this risk, those voters who are unhappy with Trump have shown they are willing to take it out on other Republicans. So while the congressional party may be accepting of this informal division of responsibility, it may come back to bite them in the end, no less.

[08:10:08] CUOMO: So what did the seven days do? Let's look at it. So he didn't say anything for seven days. All these mixed messages and stuff like that about what it is about and what it is not. You have got numbers. There are a lot of powerful men in politics and the media that have now come out. So now there's safety in numbers, right. Roy Moore is not the only one anymore. In fact, if anything, he is distinguished by the fact that he is the most adamant denier of the allegations. So, Trump had that.

Now we hear from Jim Acosta that he hasn't been such a believer with these accusations. He feels that this is what was done to him during the campaign with his dozen plus accusers, who are still out there, by the way.

And then there's just the raw score on the seat. But that part confuses me because why would McConnell and all the other Republicans -- we just had congressman, you know, true blue Republican Lance here, Congressman Lance. He says Roy Moore should not be in the Senate. How do you suss it out?

PARNES: He loves this parallel. He sees himself in this situation and he sees that he was elected even in spite of all these people coming forward. Even because people knew about that --

CUOMO: It's a different time, though. It's a different time.

PARNES: Right, it was a different time. But he thinks that he definitely sees the parallels. He's been telling people he can empathize with him behind the scenes. This is what has been playing out over the last seven days that he has been having these conversations and he does think that he can kind of get him through this, I think. This is why I think he's teasing the fact that he's going to be out there maybe on the campaign trail for him.

CAMEROTA: You heard what the president said about Roy Moore. Look, he totally denies it. He says it didn't happen.

CUOMO: He said that like 20 plus times yesterday. He kept going to the fact that the man denies the allegation.

CAMEROTA: So one denial, which was, by the way, a sort of strange denial he told Sean Hannity.

BROWNSTEIN: It wasn't a full denial.

CAMEROTA: There were a few different messages he sent there against all the women, including a previously 14-year-old who come forward, one with a sexual assault charge. So the president has chosen, I mean, the president has chosen that one man against those eight women.

BROWNSTEIN: And the choice politically follows the broader choice that he has been imposing on the party in terms of who they are appealing to. Look, it is entirely possible to imagine Republicans winning the battle here and losing the war. It is -- I think this election in Alabama is a test of how far our politics have moved in a tribal or parliamentary direction where it's less about individuals and more about which party you want to see in control.

I like to say that in modern American politics, the color on the front of the jersey matters more than the name on the back of the jersey. And I think this is going to test how far that has gone because the argument that whatever you think about Roy Moore, why give Chuck Schumer a view to block a conservative Supreme Court justice is going to resonate with some voters in Alabama, no question about it. I'm betting Democrats are wishing the election was this week rather than in three weeks.

But even if it does succeed in getting Roy Moore over the line, what you have done is undermine the ability of Senate Republicans to distance themselves from him. Can you imagine going ahead with expelling him and getting the votes to do that after what the president has said, and as a result they're going to be I think tied to him at a time when as I said we've already seen this sharp movement particularly among college educated white women, 58 percent of them in Virginia voted for Ralph Northam. If you replicate those kinds of numbers in 2018, which is entirely possible given what's going on, there are a lot of suburban Republicans in northern Virginia, the suburbs of Philly, Orange County, New Jersey, Leonard Lance being one of them, who are looking for a new line of work.

So there is a risk here even if they are successful in the near term in saving this seat in Alabama.

You can almost hear the president saying, that's your problem, because Rick Santorum went out of his way last night in an interview with me where he was like, hey, if you're in an Alabama and you're thinking about voting for Roy Moore, know this. There is very little chance he will serve in the Senate. To Ron's point, and to counter Rick's notion, do you really think they can get 66 votes to get rid of this man and that there would be a basis with hearings and the president, evidently, not on their side. Is that a realistic outcome?

PARNES: I don't know. It's hard to say. But I think you're hearing this drumbeat of criticism and people saying that he can't get through the Senate, and the establishment there matters. So I think it's hard to believe that he could actually serve in the Senate.

CUOMO: So you believe that this could happen, this expelling, this movement of expulsion.

PARNES: I do because I know that there are strong opposition against this internally I'm hearing from a lot of people on the Hill that kind of very deeply oppose this. I've been hearing from Republicans, actually, who are donating to his opponent to kind of make this not even happen. So, I think, you know, it's hard to believe that this will actually go through.

CAMEROTA: Amie Parnes, Ron Brownstein, thank you both very much for the analysis.

BROWNSTEIN: Happy Thanksgiving.

CUOMO: Happy Thanksgiving. Thankful for you, Professor Brownstein.

CAMEROTA: And you, Amie

[08:15:02]

PARNES: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: President Trump effectively endorsing Roy Moore, how do his fellow Republicans feel today? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: President Trump breaking his week-long silence and supporting Roy Moore despite the sex abuse allegations against Moore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Joining us now to talk about this and more is Republican Congressman Dan Donovan of New York. He's a member of the Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committee.

Congressman, good morning. Thanks for being here.

REP. DAN DONOVAN (R), NEW YORK: Good to be with you. Thanks, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: What do you think president Trump saying he supports Roy Moore?

DONOVAN: Everybody has different opinion. I don't support Roy Moore. I think that he should step down, step aside, and let another candidate take the spot and let the people of Alabama have a better choice in the next representative in your senate.

CAMEROTA: You heard the president, Roy Moore denies it. He totally denies it.

DONOVAN: He does deny it, but I think those allegations are so disgusting. And it doesn't make the man to fit in the United States senate. The people of Alabama could have a better choice. CAMEROTA: The president said we don't need a liberal in the Senate.

Do you need an accused sexual abuser in Congress?

[08:20:00] DONOVAN: No, as I said, Alisyn, I don't think the man is fit to serve.

CAMEROTA: And what does Congress do about that? If he wins, then what?

DONOVAN: The Senate has procedures that they could take somebody out of office, I don't know what those procedures are. It hasn't happened since I've been there --

CAMEROTA: Right, if they're were to expel him. I mean, do you think that is possible? Do you think they would do that?

DONOVAN: I don't know. There's hearings, there's due process procedures that they have to go through. They hear from witnesses. I suspect that Mr. Moore would testify himself and come to some conclusion. It's a long process. I just don't know how, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Why do you think the president is ignoring the accusations of the eight women and siding with Roy Moore?

DONOVAN: Well, I don't know if he's ignoring them, I think he just expressed an opinion he had. I think what's on the president's mind is, yes, the past tax reform and margin of the majority that the Senate has right now as far as Republican members is so small. If you lose that seat in Alabama, makes it that much more difficult to pass tax reform.

CAMEROTA: Is it fair to say that he's thinking of taxes over having a possible --

(CROSSTALK)

DONOVAN: I'm not sure the president would be opposed to another Republican running in that seat. Block tax reform that he has been working so hard to pass.

CAMEROTA: You didn't vote for the tax plan, why not?

DONOVAN: No, no, because I think it's harmful to the people I represent. There's been a deduction since 1913 in the tax code that allowed New Yorkers to deduct their state and local taxes.

CAMEROTA: Called SALT.

DONOVAN: SALT, the state and local tax deduction. It includes your mortgage interest that you can deduct. And we also are able to deduct a personal exemption to yourself, your spouse, and each one of your dependent children, all that is eliminated when you take away those deductions and you replace that with a $24,000 deduction. That ends up being a tax increase for many New Yorkers.

You talk about the average New Yorker, a hard working, tax-paying, middle class people. In New York that's a schoolteacher and a firefighter, a police officer and a nurse, a construction worker and a bus driver. Making $200,000 as a family income doesn't make them rich. That's middle income here. But that will result in eliminating those deductions for those hard-working people, that will result in a tax increase for those folks.

CAMEROTA: What do you think will happen with this next plan?

DONOVAN: I don't know. Right now, there's -- the house passed the version that I voted against. The Senate will vote next week on theirs. Those two bills don't mirror one another. So, they'll bring it to conference and try to work out the differences.

My hope is that there is somebody in that room saying that it's unfair to New York, New Jersey, California, those people who are subsidizing the federal government. We're a donor state, alisyn. Every dollar we sent to Washington we only get 79 cents back. New Yorkers want to pay their fair share, they just don't want to pay for the tax cuts for the rest of America on their backs. They deserve the same tax relief that the rest of the country is going to get.

CAMEROTA: You're on the Homeland Security Committee.

DONAVAN: Yes.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about the deaths of these, well, the death of one of the border patrol agents and the other one being so injured. What do we know about what happened along the border there in southwest Texas.

DONOVAN: The FBI is investigating it now. I was a prosecutor for 20 years. I would let them do their investigation before any conclusion. But it seems no shots fired, that blunt force trauma that resulted in --

CAMEROTA: Could it have been from a fall? The blunt force trauma.

DONOVAN: You know, that's up to the medical examiner to determine, and the FBI to continue whatever evidence are at the crime scene. But one, one gentleman was killed and one was severely injured. Just shows you how dangerous the border is. Shows you I'm a supporter of border security and the plan to secure all borders and it shows you that we need more of these agents and more of the border patrols to protect themselves, as well as they're trying to protect our country.

CAMEROTA: Do you have questions? Do you have more questions about exactly what happened there and how you'll try to find answers for what happened to these two?

DONOVAN: Again, I was a prosecutor for 20 years. If I was leading that investigation, there is a lot of questions I would want answered. There could be information that the FBI hasn't become public yet. They will investigate the crime scene and pull whatever evidence they can find whether it's electronic evidence or physical evidence or if there's recordings and they had communications between one another or their headquarters. All this to be examined by the FBI before they reach a conclusion.

CAMEROTA: Congressman Dan Donovan, thank you for being here and for all the information.

DONOVAN: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Chris?

CUOMO: President Trump taking up the NFL civil rights protests and basketball dad LaVar Ball and his latest tweet storm this morning. Why? Is there a coincidence that it comes on the heels of the Roy Moore statement? Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:28:46] CUOMO: President Trump is on vacation but up early and tweeting. Not about what happened with the navy right away, but about LaVar Ball and the NFL. In fact, it took him about three hours to tweet about the search for survivors after that Navy plane crashed off the coast of Japan. This comes as the president is under fresh scrutiny for his defense of Roy Moore.

Let's bring in our guests to discuss. CNN political commentator Ana Navarro, former George W. Bush political director and the chairman of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp.

Good to have you both. As I have said before, we are thankful for you. The best of Thanksgiving for you and your family.

MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: You, too.

CUOMO: Now, Matt, the president apparently defended Roy Moore, supports him in the race, is considering whether to campaign for him. Do you agree with the move?

SCHLAPP: I don't know if I agree with your premise. I think the president definitely moved closer towards Judge Moore. He defended the fact that Roy Moore is denying these allegations.

And I think his main focus is to say that the Democrat, if you're a conservative or a Republican in Alabama, the alternative is the Democrat and he's terrible on all the issues Republicans care about. So, I think his focus so far is on the shortcomings of the Democrat. He could take that next step, Chris, and go down there. And I think if he does, I think it's fair to call an endorsement.