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Rep. Barton: Warning or Threat?; New Conyers Accusations; Thanksgiving Day Parade. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 23, 2017 - 05:00   ET


[05:00:14] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: A Texas congressman admits he used bad judgment before a nude photo of his was leaked. Now, a woman says Joe Barton warned he would report her to capitol police. But was he trying to keep her from breaking the law.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: More accusations of harassment and verbal abuse.


MELANIE SLOAN, CONYERS ACCUSER: Violence advocates and started screaming at me at the top of his lungs. He fired me numerous times only to keep me.


ROMANS: More accusations of harassments and verbal abuse against Congressman John Conyers, now calls to step down are coming from his own party.

SANCHEZ: And hundreds of thousands are set to shiver through a chilly morning in Manhattan for the annual Thanksgiving parade.

Good morning and happy Thanksgiving to you. I'm grateful that you're with us. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Dave Briggs.

ROMANS: Oh, grateful.

I'm Christine Romans. It is Thursday, November 23rd, 5:00 a.m. in the East.

This is the beginning, the launch of the holiday season, really.

SANCHEZ: Oh, yes.

ROMANS: The annual Thanksgiving right?

SANCHEZ: It's here.

ROMANS: All right. Are you cooking?

SANCHEZ: Oh, no. I can hardly cook pop tarts. I'm not going to try any Thanksgiving good.

ROMANS: Just put those right in the toaster.

SANCHEZ: That's right.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, let's get to the news. This morning, capitol police are looking into a salacious he said/she said between a Texas congressman and a woman with whom he admits to having a consensual relationship. Now, that came hours after an explicit photo of Republican Joe Barton circulated on line.

Report last night in "The Washington Post" revealed Barton had previously feared the leak of explicit photos he had taken of himself after a woman Barton says he had a relationship with shared the photos with other women.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that woman was not named by "The Washington Post" but she apparently had secretly recorded a 2015 phone call with the representative in which Barton warned the woman not to use the material in a way that would hurt his career. He also said that he would notify police if the woman didn't stop sharing the images. She said she felt threatened by that.

ROMANS: Now, there is not a federal law prohibiting the sharing of explicit material of adults without permission, so-called revenge porn. There is a state law against it in Texas. The woman who spoke to "The Post" said she did not intend them to be used against Barton.

So, did Barton threaten the woman or did she threaten him with revenge porn? The audio recording as reported by "The Washington Post" has not been released.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but in a statement first obtained by the "Dallas Morning News," Barton says, quote, when I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence. In retaliation, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill police to open an investigation. Well, today, the capitol police reached out to me and offered to launch and investigation and I have accepted.

Barton earlier apologized to his suburban Dallas district on Wednesday after an anonymous tweet posted a nude photo of the congressman. A spokeswoman for the Republican tells CNN that he did not release the image himself and that he doesn't know who did.

ROMANS: He says, while separated from my second wife prior to the divorce, I had sexual relationships with other mature adult women, each was consensual. Those relationships have ended. I'm sorry I did note use better judgment during those days. I'm sorry, I let my constituents down.

SANCHEZ: Yes, we should be clear at no point was Barton accused of sexual harassment. Barton's spokeswoman says that the congressman is not resigning and it's important to point out, this woman did acknowledge that their relationship was, again, consensual.

There are new allegations, though, against Michigan Representative John Conyers. A former Conyers staffer, Melanie Sloan, says the Michigan congressman repeatedly harassed and verbally abused her in the 1990's. "The Washington Post" was the first to report these allegations.

ROMANS: Now, she says she does think Conyers harassed her sexually, only that he routinely yelled at her and berated her. Sloan says she complained at the time to congressional leadership about Conyers' treatment, but then nothing was done.


SLOAN: I went to my supervisors, I was becoming increasingly upset about what was going on in the office and I was having a very hard time, it was emotionally very debilitating.


SANCHEZ: Conyers' attorney, Arnold Reed, says he is not sure why this is a story because Sloan admits that Conyers, quote, didn't harass her from a sexual perspective. But now, Conyers is facing calls to resign from his own party.

Sunlen Serfaty has the latest from Capitol Hill.



Well, Congressman Conyers is facing some new pressure over the allegations for sexual misconduct. And it's coming from members now of his own party. Congresswoman Kathleen Rice becoming the first to call for his resignation, saying in a statement, quote, Representative John Conyers should resign. I've reviewed the allegation against him and they're as critical as they are repulsive.

[05:05:04] And an attorney for Conyers tells CNN that he's taking the allegations very seriously but does not plan on resigning, adding, quote, if everybody facing allegations in quotes including the president, members of the House and Senate resigned, we'd have a lot of unemployed people walking around -- Christine and Boris.


ROMANS: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you so much for that.

So, let's bring in Jason Russell. He's a contributors editor for "The Washington Examiner". He joins us live from Detroit.

Good morning. Nice to see you this morning.

Let's talk about these cases.


ROMANS: Yes, you too. So many of these cases. I got to say, the Conyers situation, the

Congressman Joe Barton situation, this latest sort of developments in the last 24 hours, there's a differs I think in a lot of these cases, aren't there? I mean, we've now gone from discussing, you know, sexual harassment in some cases, unwanted sexual advances that amount to sexual assault, to now we're talking about I think kind of bad behavior overall.

What do you make of this?

RUSSELL: Well, I mean, it's clear there is a cultural issue on Capitol Hill, you know, even in the Conyers case. This wasn't sexual harassment. Sloan said herself, but it's clearly conduct assuming this is true, was not becoming of a member of Congress, let alone a member of Congress who has been there for decades, who is the longest serving member in the House,

Same is true of Representative Joe Barton. He's been there for 17 terms in Congress. He was texting these women during congressional hearings and from the House floor, when he's supposed to be doing the work of his constituents.

So, clearly, conduct that is not becoming of a congressman. So, clearly, there's a big cultural issue on Capitol.

SANCHEZ: There's also a question from the woman named in that "Washington Post" report about Barton. She says that she specifically came forward because he is a social conservative who tends to vote for family values issues. She's making the case that it's not normal for a member of Congress who runs on that platform to have these relations on the side.

He apparently is not resigning. He's actually set to run for reelection next year. How do you think voters in Texas see all of this?

RUSSELL: Yes, it will be interesting to see that. I mean, like he said, he is a 17-term member of Congress, so he's fairly popular there. He has been pretty honest about this, you know?

If these very strict family values were extremely important to those voters, you know, he is twice divorced. During the Clinton scandals in the 90's, he basically said, I don't care what Bill Clinton did sexually but lying under oath was the problem for him in terms of the Clinton scandals there. So, you know, these are things that if his constituencies were OK with them in the past, it's possible that these are the things that kind of put those over the edge, but, we'll see. I don't think this will be such a big deal but I'm not an expert on that district.

SANCHEZ: Now, Jason, focusing in on Representative John Conyers. Yesterday, we had Representative Gregory Meeks on CNN and he was saying the representative of Michigan should resign. Here's some of that sound now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: Given that there is it one and now another incident, of women coming in to say that it would not be appropriate on the Judiciary Committee to sit there. He should step down as the ranking member with the opportunity, if he defends himself and shows there as nothing there that he can come back. But you can't, in my estimation, just in the scenarios we're in, to be the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee at this time.


SANCHEZ: To be fair, Representative Meeks said he should resign from his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, not resign from Congress overall.

But I did want to point out something his attorney said, essentially making the case that if everyone in Washington -- he named the president -- were to resign over allegations, there would be a ton of people unemployed. Was that the appropriate response?

RUSSELL: Yes. It's one of those responses that's basically a form of what-aboutism. What about what the other side has done? What about what that person has done?

It's not an apology that takes responsibility for one's actions, right? It's basically deflecting blame and saying, you know, everyone does this. Not saying it's OK, necessarily, but we're not going to resign because everyone else has done this isn't going to resign either.

So, generally, that's not what you want your constituents to hear. You want to take responsibility kind of like we saw Joe Barton say. He led his constituents down. He's going to stand for reelection again. Let's see what happens there. But again, the Conyers response is not something that I think most people want to hear.

ROMANS: We reported on Kellyanne Conway, switching gears. Kellyanne Conway and some comments she made on "Fox and Friends" this week where she was talking about the race in Alabama and she seemed to almost endorse the Republican in that race, Roy Moore.

[05:10:05] Let's listen to what she said and talk on the other end about how ethics experts say she went too far. Listen.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don't be fooled. He'll be a vote against tax cuts. He's weak on crime, weak on borders. He's strong on raising your taxes. He's terrible for property owners.


CONWAY: He's a doctrinaire liberal, which is why he's not saying anything and why the media are trying to boost him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, vote Roy Moore? CONWAY: I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get

this tax bill through.


ROMANS: So, Richard Painter, this is what he says, this is an official interview. She has violated the Hatch Act by using her position to take sides in a partisan election. This is a firing offense.

Walter Shaub, he says this. I found the video. She's standing in front of the House. It seems she was appearing in her official capacity, when she advocated against a candidate. This is a clear violation.

And identified with Castro -- she's talking about -- he's talking about the HUD secretary I think last year, who has found to have violated the Hatch Act for some comments he made about an election. Is this -- what do you make of this?

RUSSELL: Yes, basically, I mean, even if she did violate the Hatch Act, this is something if you go back to the example of what Castro did, he basically endorsed Hillary Clinton on air. He attempted to say, you know, I'm taking my HUD hat off here, but, you know, that was still found to be in violation of the Hatch Act.

Now, what happens basically when that happens is that the president gets to decide what your punishment is going to be. So, in Castro's case, they basically said, yes, he admitted he did wrongdoing. He knows not to do that again. That's the end of it.

So, if Kellyanne Conway is found to be in violation of that Hatch Act, I would expect the same thing to happen to her with little to no punishment.

ROMANS: And the Hatch Act, we should remind people, is when federal employees cannot --

SANCHEZ: Endorse a candidate.

ROMANS: -- endorse a particular candidate.


Jason, thank you so much for being up early for us. Happy Thanksgiving.

ROMANS: Come back in a few minutes. Get a cup of coffee and come back. We'll talk about it more.

SANCHEZ: We'll see you in just a minute.

ROMANS: All right. A holiday tradition just hours from now. The annual Thanksgiving parade here in New York City. Will the forecast cooperate? Next.


[05:16:15] SANCHEZ: This morning, hundreds of thousands will brave the elements to see the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in person here in New York City. About three and a half million more are going to watch the festivities on TV. The parade packed with floats and its signature giant balloons kicks off at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, under heightened security.

As usual, it starts in the upper side west of Manhattan and winds its way down south along Central Park before finishing up in front of Macy's at Herald Square.

ROMANS: The increased police presence coming just weeks after a deadly truck attack killed eight people on a bike path in Lower Manhattan. Sand filled sanitation trucks will prevent vehicles from getting anywhere near the crowd, or the parade wrote.

SANCHEZ: And we're not kidding about braving the elements. It might be clear, but it's going to be chilly in New York City this morning.

Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has your Thanksgiving forecast.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Happy Thanksgiving Day, Boris and Christine.

And talking about the cold air today because that's really the big story across parts of the Midwest, and unto the northeast here, significant blast of cold air pushing in. So, the afternoon high is the best we can do about 10 below what's normal, 42 for high temperature. Chicago also at the same score, Detroit upper 30's, Boston at 42 as well. And mostly sunny skies.

So, we've seen it before where it's windy or wet, or windy even sunny. Today, we have the sunshine. We have the calm winds. A lot of them at 40s across the Northeast, same story across the Midwest, just about everyone sees sunny skies. And the hour by hour forecast through this morning, if you're heading out towards the parade there, 35 at 9:00 a.m., sunny skies, calm winds, and just about 4 to 5 miles an hour and temps stay chilly into the upper 30s and into the morning hours.

But good news, a warming trend expected, a gradual one five to six degrees each of the next few days. And then across the southeast, we're watching across parts of Northern and Central Florida, where heavy rainfall a possibility throughout this afternoon -- guys.


ROMANS: All right. That's your weather.

Time for the money -- Thanksgiving edition of your money this morning. Stock market is closed but near record highs. The economy has throne grown at 3 percent. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. Wages even picked up a little bit in the last couple of years. It's not just in the U.S. 45 countries major economies are all growing in sync. Part of the reason why AAA says more people will be traveling today than the last dozen years. Healthy economy leading to more time with loved ones, definitely something to be thankful for. The economy overall definitely something to be thankful for.

SANCHEZ: Another thing to be thankful for, for me, as someone who can't took is the fact that fortunately CNN is bringing food to us that are working today. So, I'm very thankful for that, our bosses are watching.

We do have an update for y8ou on a story from yesterday, a search expanding for three people after a Navy plane went down off the coast of Japan. We'll bring you the latest on the search efforts, next.


[05:23:37] SANCHEZ: An air and sea search is expanding for three people still missing following the crash of a naval transport plane in the Philippine Sea, near Okinawa, Japan.

Naval officials say U.S. ships have covered some 370 miles. Eight people were rescued from the downed aircraft. They're in good condition aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan. The cause of the crash is not known at this time. But Japan's defense minister says it may have been engine trouble.

ROMANS: In Baltimore, homicide detective Sean Souter who was killed in the line of duty last week, he was set to testify before a grand jury, the day after he was killed. The grand jury is looking at a corruption case involving the officers, police commissioner say there is no connection between his death and his scheduled testimony.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Davis said Souter was not the target of any criminal investigation. He said they made a spontaneous decision to investigate a suspicious man. At some point they say he was shot with his own gun.

ROMANS: Larry Nassar, the disgraced former U.S. team g doctor pled guilty to several counts of sexual misconduct. He admitted using his position to sexually abuse young girls. Other charges dismissed or reduced as part of a place arrangement.

[05:25:04] SANCHEZ: All 15 victims who reported assaults to police will be allowed to give impact statements in January. Nassar made a short statement in court apologizing and saying he hopes the community can move forward. Now, several Olympic gymnasts have publicly accused him of sexual misconduct in his role as team doctor.

A member of the Backstreet Boys is denying allegations by a former pop singer that he raped her 15 years ago. In a blog post, Melissa Schuman, a former member of the girl group, Dream, said she met Nick Carter when he was 18 and she was 22. Rather, I said that backwards, she was 18 and he was 22.

ROMANS: She says Nick Carter took her to a bedroom and forced her to have sex after repeatedly telling him she was a virgin waiting for marriage. Carter denying the allegation in a statement to CNN, saying in part that Schuman never told him anything they did was not consensual.

SANCHEZ: So was Republican Congressman Joe Barton trying to keep a woman from breaking the law or threatening her? A new report says he warned the woman not to go public with explicit photos. We'll explain, next.