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Lawmakers Return from Thanksgiving with Full Plate; Sources: Flynn's Lawyers Stop Working with Trump's Team; Pope Makes Controversial Visit to Myanmar; Al Franken Breaks His Silence After Sexual Misconduct Accusations; John Conyers Steps Down from Judiciary Committee; Trump Tweets Support for Roy Moore. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired November 26, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[18:00:12] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, you're in the CNN Newsroom. Great to have you with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
Today our nation's capitol rocked by stunning developments in three separate scandals. First, Senator Al Franken finally speaking out publicly about the allegations made by two separate women. Here's what Franken told Minnesota Public Radio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: What matters is that I am ashamed of that photo. I -- she is -- you know, she didn't have any ability to consent. She had every right to feel violated by that photo. I have apologized to her and I was very grateful that she accepted my apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: More of Franken's interview and what he's planning to do next coming up. Meanwhile, a major development concerning another Democrat on the defensive over alleged sexual misconduct. Congressman John Conyers stepping down from his role as ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee amid accusations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse. He denies these allegations and says he will be vindicated.
And then of course there's the scandal involving Alabama's GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore. President Trump today tweeting fresh support for Moore who has been dogged by allegations made by numerous women, including accusations of child sex abuse.
Our reporters are covering every angle. Ryan Young in Minneapolis, Boris Sanchez in Washington.
Let's begin in Minnesota with Ryan. So what else did Senator Franken have to say during that interview -- Ryan.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, really a tough conversation. He says he's embarrassed and he's ashamed. We thought this interview would happen somewhere in this area but it
looked like it took place in D.C., having that conversation with local reporters that he's probably handpicked from this area went up there. The "Star Tribune" published a story a few hours ago then the local radio station put out an interview with him. And we're told tonight another interview will happen with a local TV station.
So you can see he's trying to talk to the people of Minnesota about these allegations and how he feels. The last eight days are obviously have been very tough for him. This is part of the interview that he gave just a few hours ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKEN: I'm just going to do my job. And I'm going to go forward and this has been 10 days since this came out. I'm going to go forward. I'm going to -- I'm going to take responsibility, I'm going to be held accountable and I'm going to try to be productive in the way I speak about this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: One thing that he made clear, he's not stepping down. He isn't planning to step down. He plans to be at work tomorrow morning so we probably should see him on the Hill going through all the process as a senator.
Just walking around and talking to people here in Minnesota, there's a phrase called Minnesota nice. And we talked to a lot of people around here who wanted to hear the words from him themselves and I can tell you the initial reaction has been they want to hear more, they want to hear about the allegations and they want to -- and they're glad to see him talking about it.
One thing that was asked during this interview was, would there be more women stepping forward? He says in the interview that two weeks ago he thought nobody would step forward and now that people have stepped forward he's not sure if anybody else will come forward with any feelings or any kind of accusations toward him. So we'll have to see how this all plays out -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. It's far from the end of the story.
Ryan Young, thank you.
Let's turn to Congressman John Conyers announcing just hours ago he is stepping down from his role on the House Judiciary Committee. He's the ranking member and he is facing an ethics investigation to the allegations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse.
Conyers saying, quote, "I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for bipartisan alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House Committee on Ethics. I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member on the committee would not serve these efforts while the Ethics Committee investigation is pending." Reaction from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi raising some eyebrows
tonight. Here's what she told NBC before Conyers announced his decision. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused, and was it one accusation? Is it two? I think there has to be -- John Conyers is an icon in our country. He's done a great deal to protect -- violence against women act, right-wing is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that. And he did great work on that. But the fact is as John reviews his case which he knows, which I don't, I believe he will --
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Why don't you --
PELOSI: I believe that he will --
TODD: Well, how is it that you don't --
PELOSI: Excuse me. May I finish my sentence?
TODD: Sure. Sure.
PELOSI: That he will do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[18:05:03] CABRERA: Now, again, that was Pelosi before Conyers big announcement. Here's what Pelosi had to say after Conyers said he's stepping down as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Her statement reads in part, "Zero tolerance means consequences. As a woman and mother of four daughters, I particularly take any accusation of sexual harassment very seriously. We're at a watershed moment on this issue and no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment. I commend the brave women coming forward."
Now as all of this unfolds, President Trump is heading back to the White House from his private resort in Florida. He's scheduled to land in about 45 minutes or so. Not clear if he'll take questions from the press quite yet but CNN's Boris Sanchez is there, should he do that. He's joining us from Washington as we wait for the president.
Boris, this all happening in just the last few hours with Conyers stepping down, Franken speaking out. Any reaction from the White House?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. The president did weigh in on Twitter attacking the Democrat but it wasn't John Conyers or Al Franken, it was Doug Jones, Roy Moore's opponent in the Alabama Senate race. The president digging in his heels today and defending the embattled Senate candidate after a series of accusations that he made unwanted advances towards teenage girls in his -- while he was in his 30s. The president going in a very different direction than his own party.
There were several Republicans on the morning talk shows today saying that Moore should drop out of the race, including Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, saying that him being in this race was not only bad for the Republican Party but for the country.
Today the president stopped just short of endorsing Roy Moore. He put out these two tweets earlier. Here's the first. He writes, "The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime. Weak on the border, bad for our military and our great vets, bad for our Second Amendment and wants to raise taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster."
He later tweeted, "I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. He shot way up in the polls but it wasn't enough. Can't let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be bad."
It's interesting that the president has decided to go this route after several days of echoing what other Republicans were saying, that if these allegations were true, Roy Moore should drop out. But earlier this week we heard the president when asked about the accusations against Roy Moore say that Moore has denied them and he left the door open to potentially go and campaign for Roy Moore in Alabama -- Ana.
CABRERA: Also interesting that he's tweeting all about this Alabama race, tweeting about other issues, but isn't this week supposed to be really about tax reform on Capitol Hill? What is the president planning to do this week? What is his schedule look like?
SANCHEZ: This is a make-or-break week for tax reform, at least following some of the president's promises on tax reform, that it'd be a big Christmas present for Americans. The Senate could vote on tax reform as early as Thursday. So the president on Tuesday is actually headed up to Capitol Hill for the third time in a little bit over a month to speak with congressional Republicans.
And then there's another huge thing on the horizon. Later that day he's hosting leaders of both parties at the White House to discuss keeping the government funded. You'll recall back in September, he cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to keep the government funded through December. So that deadline is fast approaching, government funding dries up on December 8th so they'll have to agree first to funding then to raise the debt ceiling and there's all kinds of other issues including DACA that might be on the table.
SANCHEZ: So it is a strange time for the president to be going in a different direction than his own party -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez in Washington. Thank you.
Still ahead, ticking clock. As he mentioned, Congress returns to Washington tomorrow with a very busy agenda. Will the Senate be able to pass a crucial vote on taxes? Plus swirling speculation that former National Security adviser
Michael Flynn may be about to flip on his former boss. And later, stunning images of not one but two volcanic eruptions happening right now. We'll show you much more of these images and tell you more about where it's happening coming up live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:13:27] CABRERA: The national conversation on sexual harassment today taking some wild swings. Senator Al Franken saying he's ashamed, embarrassed of his actions in this photo but he's ready to go back to work tomorrow.
Another Democrat, Congressman John Conyers, stepping aside from his crucial role on the House Judiciary Committee amid the allegations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse he's phasing. He denies those allegations.
Let's talk about more on this. Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times" is with us along with Daniel Lippman -- excuse me, Lippman, the political reporter and co-author of "Playbook," and Doug Hye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee.
So, Lynn, I know you have covered Congress for decades. How do you rate congressional leaders handling of these allegations and misconduct?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: I would rate them -- I don't know how to rate them yet until I know the following, Ana. Will they force the Ethics Committee to act swiftly and decisively and to do an investigation in real time instead of being the toothless tigers that these panels often are?
Now the leaders have said a lot of the right things, but I think if you're going to kick it to the Ethics Committee, then you have to force the Ethics Committee, panels that are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, to do a job in a way that is meaningful if they let this drag on, then I will -- then the leaders need to be faulted for not giving the Ethics Committees kicks to go work faster, dig up the facts, make the facts public and sanctions -- offer sanctions if appropriate.
CABRERA: Doug, do you think Democrats are giving a little here, I mean, the fact that Franken and Conyers have both said bring on these ethics investigations?
[18:15:08] DOUG HYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's been tough to really follow where the Democrats are going with this. Nancy Pelosi's interview was I think pretty surprising for a lot of people. Unless you pay really close attention to Congress and you know exactly how important the Congressional Black Caucus is to Nancy Pelosi's further political hopes. You know, I'd echo a lot of what Lynn said. I think we still have a lot left to be seen in what Congress does but not just with John Conyers and not just with Al Franken. That certainly deserved some intense scrutiny but also about how the culture is going to change.
HYE: I can tell you, you know, I worked in Capitol Hill for about 10 years, and there's a pervasive culture there that isn't just about the bad actors that we hear about doing really awful things. It's about the day-to-day way that women are always treated differently, subjected to, you know, comments that maybe meant in an innocent way but certainly aren't innocent and having an effect to accumulate and cause a hostile workplace, whether anybody intends to or not.
If that culture doesn't change, then getting rid of two or three bad actors might be a positive step but isn't really going to address the big problem.
CABRERA: I mean, that reminds me of what Jackie Speier said just a couple of weeks ago when she said she knows of at least two sitting members of Congress who are accused of sexual harassment. And that does not include Al Franken or John Conyers.
But, Daniel, Pelosi has taken some heat today for calling Conyers an icon. After he announced he was stepping down, though, from his position, she changed her tune quickly putting out a statement touting zero tolerance policy. Why didn't she take a stronger stance earlier in the day?
DANIEL LIPPMAN, REPORTER, POLITICO: I think Pelosi and Conyers have been pretty closely aligned politically and they are close friends as well. And so it's very hard when you're in that position to throw your friend under the bus even when you have these multiple allegations against Conyers. But it also looks just bad for Pelosi. She said we don't know who the accusers are.
And yet in -- with Conyers, you have at least one, Melanie Sloan, who's a well known Washington operator. She is the head of CREW, the -- you know, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. And so this is not an anonymous person. She has said -- she has made allegations that are very serious against Conyers that you can't just dismiss as, you know, a partisan hit job.
CABRERA: Right. Lynn, if Democrats wanted to send a strong message of zero tolerance, why do you think they haven't done more? I mean, what do they have to lose if they were to force someone like Conyers to resign given he has a seat that is very safe for Democrats?
SWEET: I think the reality is you cannot force a member to resign. And the -- I'm just trying this out, Ana, no matter what Nancy Pelosi would have said, if John Conyers says he wants to resign, he's not going to.
I think that there is a tendency on everyone who is involved in the congressional episodes of harassment to wait and see what happens. And the reason these stories play out differently than the stories of the figures in the world of journalism and entertainment is that they are independently elected. No one can fire them from the job. That's why you see more of a wait and see and Harvey Weinstein, if his board of directors fires him and if the people who financed his movies pull out, it disappears around them.
A member is elected until their term is over or they quit or there is a sanction against them or somehow they're expelled. So that's why we see this different -- these different reactions to these accusations by members of Congress than by people who are employed in the outside world.
CABRERA: Doug, you talk about the culture on Capitol Hill. It's not just Congress, though. I mean, this president was elected in part for being an outsider to Washington and for a long time he was silence on the Roy Moore allegations. Last week then he all but endorsed Moore. Today he is firing off a couple of tweets slamming Moore's opponent.
I mean, obviously Trump needs the seat to stay Republican for his agenda. But is that what's more important here? And by the way, we're watching looks like the president just landing heading back to the White House. He's going to be at there at Joint Base Andrews before he heads there. We'll keep that up just in case he makes any statement.
But, again, my question is, is that what's important here? Is it all about politics?
HYE: Well, unfortunately I think politics play a role in everything that we've seen in the past couple of weeks, whether it's with Nancy Pelosi said this morning or what Donald Trump constantly tweets. And what concerns Republicans is after having so many terrible Senate candidates be hung around other Republicans' necks like an albatross.
I'm talking about Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Aiken, Richard Murdoch, four Senate seats that if we had won, if we had nominated good Republicans, that we'd be able to have already repealed and replaced Obamacare. We would have passed tax reform package that's currently in front of the House and Senate right now. We've seen these terrible candidates weigh down the Republican Party.
[18:20:03] I think we know that if Roy Moore is going to be sticking around on the national scene for the next year it's going to cause a lot of heartburn, not just in Washington, D.C. and with Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, where some people would like to cause some heartburn, but for Republicans throughout the country who are going to have tougher races that ultimately mean a Speaker Nancy Pelosi which certainly wouldn't be any Republican's goal.
CABRERA: So, Doug, as a Republican yourself, though, would you like to see Doug Jones win the Senate race in Alabama?
HYE: Yes --
LIPPMAN: You're on the hot seat, Doug.
HYE: Not a hot seat at all. I'd be happy to vote for him.
CABRERA: OK. There you go. Daniel, there is this intention, right. This seems like a watershed
moment the past couple of weeks with these allegations coming out of the wood work, everyone saying enough is enough. But then it's kind of like put your money where your mouth is. It does seem like politics just kind of get in the way, no?
LIPPMAN: Yes. It's kind of interesting that Donald Trump was elected last November after all of these sexual abuse allegations against him and then in his first year of his presidency, you have this wave of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Conyers, Franken, and so it's almost like, you know, Trump's election has ushered in this new era which means that, you know, we're not going to just sweep sexual harassment, you know, under the rug.
This is not acceptable behavior in, you know, 2017 and so it's almost a -- you know, a victory for women in that, you know, they are more likely to speak out and say, you know, we want to be heard, we're not going to be harassed in this way where you can just use federal taxpayer money to pay off accusers like you have seen in the Senate and the House recently.
CABRERA: It will be interesting to see if the Me Too Act gets traction this week when Congress returns to the Hill when you talk about that transparency as part of that legislation. We know that those Republicans and Democrats who are backing it would like to see no taxpayer money go to any kind of settlements and want transparency when those allegations are made.
Everyone, stand by, we will be continuing to watch the live pictures of the president to see if he says anything as he comes off the plane at Joint Base Andrews before heading back to the White House. We'll bring that to you.
But first, we also have this week's "Before the Bell." Despite a presidency known for volatility and political turbulence on Wall Street things are remaining steady looking good. The S&P 500 has hit another record, 388 straight days without a 3 percent fall. The longest stretch of that since the previous record in 1995.
It's in line with the so-called Trump bump which has seen stocks soar to a record 70 post election highs over the past year and the Dow and Nasdaq are up nearly 30 percent. The S&P 500 is up more than 20 percent.
Fueling this optimism, the promise of deregulation, pro-growth policies and above all tax cuts. So watch this space.
CABRERA: Welcome back, you're in the CNN NEWSROOM.
This is just moments ago where you see President Trump and the first lady arriving back in Washington. Looks like their son Barron is with them as well after they spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the resort in Florida in Mar-a-Lago. Again awaiting to see if the president has any comments as he prepares for a busy week ahead in Washington. We'll keep an eye on this.
Things look quiet tonight perhaps on Capitol Hill but come tomorrow it will be bustling no doubt with activity. Lawmakers return from their Thanksgiving break with a lot on their plates. Less than a month in fact left in the legislative year, so there's the vote of course on the Senate's Republican tax reform bill on their plate possibly as early as Thursday.
Lawmakers must also work to avoid a government shutdown. All while sexual scandals loom over lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Let's discuss more now with CNN political comment and Republican strategist Doug Hye. Also back with us, Lynn Sweet and Daniel Lippman.
All right, guys. Daniel, you first this time. What are you hearing about the likelihood that taxes will actually get done before the end of the year?
LIPPMAN: I think there's one thing that unites Republicans and has for decades it's cutting taxes. And so even with an -- you know, a mercurial figure in the White House, you know, across Capitol Hill, Republicans will probably be able to unite on this. They know that they can't go into the midterms next year with having accomplished nothing. And so it's just a matter of some of the details but I think, you know, there are several Republican senators that have real concerns about whether this is going to increase the debt and the deficit too much.
And so far they don't have good answers yet from the White House and from their leaders. They need to resolve those because I don't think Republicans can be a party of fiscal responsibility if they are expanding the debt by, you know, billions and trillions of dollars.
CABRERA: And that is a fact, Doug, the GOP tax plans will increase the budget deficit. The Senate plan we know completely gets rid of the state and local tax deductions in part to not increase the deficit more but that could hurt people in those high tax states. They may not get a tax cut because of it. That's not good for Republicans who represent those places and then there's also of course Obamacare individual mandate repeal which has mixed support.
So how are they going to get all of the Republicans on the same page?
HYE: Yes. They're going to work one vote at a time. Look, the thing I'm hearing mostly from folks on the Hill is that there's a cautious optimism. But emphasis is on the word cautious, not optimism. This is a very hard thing to do in normal circumstances. The Republicans know obviously not only they had trouble passing big ticket items in the past, but also have not had the most reliable partner in the White House. And that's why it's critical that Donald Trump make sure that this is
an all hands on deck activity at the White House. Those can be big hands, those can be small hands, but all hands need to be moving forward in the same direction if there is going to be any hope to pass that. Because the one thing that Republicans --
HEYE: -- are saying, over and over again, is what they're hearing in their states and in their district. If they do not pass something, is that they're facing a legislative -- or, excuse me, an electoral Armageddon.
Their voters are not happy. Their base voters aren't happy, which makes it real hard, if you're moving from primaries to general elections, to be able to demonstrate any kind of real movement.
CABRERA: And, of course, next year is the midterms, Lynn. What does it mean for Republicans in 2018? What's your take if they don't get this tax reform done in the next month?
SWEET: Well, if they don't get it done in the next month and they'll come back in the New Year and try again, I think some -- you know, Congress, our experience, all has been only works under deadline.
We're journalists. We get the deadline pressure. But they will have other bites at the apple to get this done.
And one other thing, there is -- I just want to throw this out there for everyone. You can pass a less ambitious bill, call it a victory, and move on. So there's so many elements in this tax package that you might be able to change things.
The other thing to watch, just from the get-go, is will the property tax exemption also stay in?
You know, you mentioned state and local taxes. That's a big deal. There's, you know, a House -- you know, the House passed, I think, giving you a break on the first 10,000.
SWEET: So that is a huge deal. I don't care what your ideology is or where you live. I was -- and, yes, I know you get the double exemption. I would just say, everybody, look at your tax return, and you could figure out if this is going to be a better deal for you or not.
But for the Democrats, let's just first see if, indeed, the White House takes the ObamaCare provision out of the deal. They said they would be willing to do it.
CABRERA: Daniel, it's not just about taxes, though. You also have the debt ceiling and threat to shut down the government over the DREAM Act. How do you see that playing out?
LIPPMAN: Yes. It seems like Republicans are pretty united in terms of the leadership in getting a DACA deal done. They have a lot of moderate voters in the suburbs still that they need to turn out next year if they want to avoid a whole Democratic wave.
And so if one of their legacies that they can't get passed is to protect these hundreds and thousands of Dreamers when, in fact, President Trump has said, we should -- you know, Congress should do DACA, should protect these kids, that would be -- that would also hurt the Republican brand, especially with Hispanics, if they can't protect these people.
And so it looks like they may wait until that March deadline. But it seems like Dreamers will probably be -- you know, that -- they will be protected, no matter what, but it's going to be a tough fight against hardline conservatives who are, you know, of the Stephen Miller types.
CABRERA: Doug, there is --
HEYE: And, Ana --
CABRERA: There is bipartisan support for DACA, right? Could that -- could legislation to protect Dreamers end up about the President's first legislative victory? Doug?
HEYE: Well, I think, you know, for President Trump, it could be an only Nixon goes to China moment. The problem that House Republicans face is they know what a black eye it was for them. And Senate Republicans, too.
I worked in the House of Representatives when we had the last shut down in 2013. It was a black eye, even though we were in divided government then.
If you have sole Republican control of government and you can't keep the government open, it's hard to make a coherent argument about why you should be re-elected to do the same thing again. Republicans know that.
And regardless of what side issues may be a part of this, and regardless of how important they may be, that existential fact of having shut down the government before and having it been a -- be a real black eye and a cause of division within the Republican Party is something that they're well aware of this time.
CABRERA: Lynn, Lindsey Graham said this today on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: For the DREAM Act, I think you could get strong border security and break in chain migration. If you could put those three things together and put it on the end of the year spending bill, that would be a heck of an accomplishment for 2017.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Compromise! And remember that meeting between Trump and Pelosi and Schumer just a couple of months ago? This is an issue Trump has expressed a desire to work with Democrats on.
SWEET: Democrats have said, for years, they would be willing and have, in different forms of this immigration legislation, voted for tougher border security.
Senator Durbin said, when he was asked if he would go along with it, this is how you make a deal. You want more money, whether or not it's -- I don't -- I'm not saying it would be a wall per se, but the Democrats have a record of being open to, willing and voting, for a tougher border security.
[18:35:04] So this is, of course, the makings of a deal. What shape it will take, we're not clear.
Durbin -- Senator Durbin and Senator Graham have a standalone bill to provide protections to DACA and to the people who are here under the DACA provisions.
It is highly unlikely that Congress would ever take up a standalone bill, but those two, you know, Graham and Durbin, could figure out a way, maybe, to inject this in some other piece of legislation.
You know, in Congress -- and I think you've seen this -- when there is a will, there's a way. It doesn't have to be in this bill. It doesn't have to be by the end of the year. It could happen in some other piece of legislation.
But these are real people who have real -- I can't imagine the stress they're under right now.
SWEET: So I would think that, if Congress is going to do something, people are aware that sooner, the better.
CABRERA: All right. Lynn Sweet, Daniel Lippman, and Doug Heye, I appreciate the conversation. Thanks, guys.
SWEET: Thank you.
HEYE: Thank you.
LIPPMAN: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: Don't miss "CNN's DEBATE NIGHT," Tuesday night at 9:00, "THE FIGHT OVER TAX REFORM."
We have Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Maria Cantwell, and Tim Scott. They will all be here, debating how the new plan could affect you and how much you should pay in taxes every year. That's Tuesday night at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.
[18:40:40] CABRERA: Lawyers for former national security adviser Michael Flynn are no longer sharing information with the President's lawyers. A source close to the Russia investigation say this is an indication Flynn may be cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating a deal.
But I want to take a quick moment now to look back as to why Michael Flynn is such a key figure in the Russia investigation.
You'll recall Flynn lasted just 23 days as the President's national security adviser. His first public statement in that role was to put Iran, quote, on notice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: President Trump has severely criticized the various agreements reached between Iran and the Obama administration, as well as the United Nations, as being weak and ineffective.
Instead of being thankful to United States in these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened. As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Less than two weeks after that, Flynn resigned after he admitted to misleading the Vice President about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador.
Now, Flynn denied he discussed U.S. sanctions with the diplomat, but then U.S. intelligence showed that was not true and Flynn did discuss sanctions with Sergey Kislyak, a possible violation of law. And the inconsistency was the reason that then Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House Flynn could be blackmailed by the Russians.
Here's some other factors that may impact Flynn's dealings with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Flynn also failed to initially register as a foreign agent. Flynn's consulting firm received more than $500,000 from a Turkish owned company for work, he later admitted, benefited the government of Turkey. In fact, his firm was lobbying on behalf of this client as Flynn was receiving classified intelligence briefings during the campaign.
And finally, Flynn was the reason President Trump pressured then FBI director James Comey, according to Comey himself under oath. Comey told the congressional hearing that the President asked him to drop the investigation of Flynn.
So you can see why some legal experts think it's likely Flynn could be trying to strike a deal. And one of them is Norm Eisen. He is former White House ethics czar under President Obama.
He writes this -- I negotiated a cooperation deal for a target with Mueller's office when he was U.S. attorney. And let me tell you, he is not going to give one to Flynn, unless he implicates someone up the ladder. That means Kushner, Don Junior, or big daddy. They are all having indigestion tonight.
Norm Eisen is joining us now. Again, he is the former White House ethics czar and a former ambassador to the Czech Republic.
Ambassador, thank you for spending time with us. As you noted, you've helped make deals before. You know how this process works. Why do you think Flynn would have to implicate somebody like Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., or even President Trump in order to get a deal?
NORMAN EISEN, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC: Ana, thanks for having me back.
You know, as somebody who cut many of these deals over the years as a -- principally as a defense lawyer, it's just the reality.
Prosecutors are not going to let somebody walk when, like Michael Flynn, he has significant criminal exposure -- they believe he's done wrong, he's broken the law -- unless he has something very significant to offer them.
It's very typical that they ask you to go up the ladder, to move up the food chain. In this case, Flynn himself is so senior, he is such a big fish --
EISEN: -- that there is relatively few people he could flip on. So that's why we're looking at Jared, Don Junior, the President. There could be others, but those are the big targets.
CABRERA: Now, based on what we know about this investigation so far, what info do you think Flynn could have that Mueller would be most interested in?
EISEN: Well, probably, Flynn has information from being such an intimate part of that Trump campaign and being in constant contact with Jared, with Don Junior, and with others about these dozens of Russia contacts that they were involved in.
And Flynn may be able to shed light on whether there was -- were contacts that some of those individuals were not candid or forthcoming about.
[18:45:04] We know there's a flap between the Senate Judiciary Committee and Jared Kushner about whether he shared information, contacts relating to WikiLeaks. So maybe Flynn could shed some light on those contacts, and it goes to possible collusion with Russia and also to false statements by these individuals.
And so it would be very typical, Ana, that you get Don Junior and you get Jared through Flynn. And then you squeeze them to move up to the ladder, up the ladder. And we know who the target would be after that.
CABRERA: Sure. So if you were President Trump's attorney right now, how concerned would you be? What would be your next move? EISEN: Well, President Trump's attorneys have staked an awful lot on
cooperating. They believe that they -- that there's a firewall and that whoever else may go down, maybe even members of the President's own family, that it won't reach the President.
But that's a very perilous position for them to take, Ana, because they have the most dishonest client possible. The President is notorious for lying, and so how can his own lawyers trust what he's been telling them? So I'd be a little uneasy if I were counseling the President right now.
CABRERA: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about Trump's new store. Here's the Web site.
It's run by the Trump Organization, not the campaign, so that means all of the profits go directly to Trump. You can buy everything from a coin bank in the shape of a gold bar with Trump's name to a phone charger.
Is this a conflict of interest, a way for the President to profit off the presidency?
EISEN: Ana, we've never seen an exploitation of the presidency like Donald Trump and his family have run. They've turned the Oval Office into the Home Shopping Network.
So I do believe that it is a conflict to nakedly shake down the presidency like it's a piggy bank you're breaking open. The only question is whether the Oval Office is going to go from HLN -- from the Home Shopping Network, rather, to an episode of "Cops."
CABRERA: All right. We'll leave it there. That seems like a good place to button it up.
Ambassador Norm Eisen, thank you for your time tonight.
EISEN: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: Coming up. Dramatic images of dueling volcanos on two separate continents, one of them forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes. Incredible pictures. We'll take you there next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[18:52:08] CABRERA: Not one, not two, but three volcano eruptions within the past 24 hours on the Indonesian island of Bali, forcing tens of thousands into shelters and causing local officials there to advise residents to evacuate.
Mount Agung, dormant for more than 50 years, has roared back to life, spewing a volcanic ash cloud more than 4-1/2 miles into the air. Several airlines had diverted or even had to cancel their flights to this popular vacation spot.
And then, halfway across the world, another volcano has blown its lead. On Friday, this volcano, some 40 miles southeast of Mexico City, erupted a total of three times there, spreading ash across nearby villages. The last eruption here was in 2000 and displaced some 50,000 people.
Pope Francis is about to begin what could be the most difficult trip of his papacy. He is en route to Myanmar right now, a country accused of launching an ethnic cleansing campaign against its Rohingya minority.
Now, he is the first pope to visit Myanmar, where government troops in this primarily Buddhist country are accused of a brutal crackdown against the Muslim minority there.
Hundreds of thousands have now fled to neighboring Bangladesh just since August, crowding the refugee camps.
CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher has details on the Pope's controversial trip.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the most diplomatically delicate trips Pope Francis has ever undertaken.
He is going to Myanmar and Bangladesh at a time when the United States and the United Nations have accused Myanmar's military of what amounts to ethnic cleansing of its Muslim minority populations, the Rohingyas.
Some 600,000 of them have fled to neighboring Bangladesh amidst reports of rape, murder, the razing of their villages to the ground on the part of the Myanmar's military.
Pope Francis will be meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, perhaps the most well-known member of government in Myanmar, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, but a woman who has come under intense international criticism for not speaking out against the atrocities of the military.
Now, her defenders, including the Catholic Cardinal of Myanmar, Charles Bo, who is one of the top advisers to Francis for this trip, say she is not completely in control. It is the military that makes the decisions there.
And to that end, Francis will be meeting with the head of Myanmar's military, the Senior General Hlaing. And that will be a crucial meeting to determine whether Francis can succeed where others have failed in helping to convince the General to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Of course, Pope Francis will also be meeting with Rohingya refugees, a group of them in Bangladesh, on Friday. They are perhaps the real reason he is going on this trip.
Whether or not he succeeds in finding a political solution to the crisis, his intention in going, as he himself has said from the Vatican, is to be a sign of hope and to show his closeness to the people of Myanmar and Bangladesh. [18:55:05] Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.
CABRERA: Straight ahead, Senator Al Franken finally speaking out after allegations of sexual misconduct and a photo that showed Franken with his hands over a woman's breast while she was sleeping.
His interview next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:00:06] CABRERA: Seven o'clock Eastern, 4:00 p.m. out West, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us on this Sunday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.