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AT THIS HOUR
First Al Franken Interview After Groping Scandal; John Conyers Steps Down from Judiciary Committee over Sexual Allegations; Kushner to Hand Over More Documents to Judiciary Committee; Flynn Attorneys stop Sharing Information with White House; "Politico" Writes of Trump's Russian Schizophrenia; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Announce Engagement. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 27, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:33:45] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Back to Capitol Hill. Democratic Senator Al Franken facing his first interviews and on camera for the first time since apologizing for groping a radio host during a USO tour. Since then, two other women have come forward saying he groped them while in office.
Here's what Al Franken is saying now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever placed a hand on some woman's butt?
SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D), MINNESOTA: You know, I -- I can't say that that hasn't happened. I take thousands and thousands of pictures. We -- sometimes, in crowded and chaotic situations. I can't say I haven't done that, and I -- I am very sorry if these women experienced that, and I have to say that I have to be a lot more sensitive and a lot more -- a lot more careful in these, when I take a picture. When I meet someone, and I'm going to make sure that this does not happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Go to CNN Sunlen Serfaty from Capitol Hill.
Sunlen, Franken is going back to work. He says he's not going anywhere. What are you hearing?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, he says he's not going anywhere. He says he's staying in the Senate. But faced with all of these allegations, there are questions about his political future. He returns here on Capitol Hill later today, potentially, soon facing the national press corps, of course, asking questions about these allegations.
He also faces his colleagues here in the Senate who are themselves raising questions. Senator Marco Rubio, one of the first to speak out this morning, saying that these allegations are horrifying, and he thinks Senator Al Franken should consider resigning.
Now, you know, based on that sound bite you just played, he has apologized. He's denied allegations, notably, but he's embarrassed and ashamed. The big question, Kate, that sort of apology, sort of mea culpa he's going through, there has been enough?
[11:35:51] BOLDUAN: Remains to be seen.
But on the House side as well, Democrat John Conyers is under pressure, also facing accusations. Just stepped down yesterday from big post on as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. What are folks saying about his future now?
SERFATY: That's right. Again, questions for him as well. He did step down from his post on the Judiciary Committee. And there has been an ethics probe launched in the House to look at his behavior. He has strongly denied the allegations and misconduct, and his office is pushing back. There was a group of 12 women who sent out a letter over the weekend saying they never saw anything inappropriate. But Conyers returns to Capitol Hill likely tomorrow. Again, facing questions up here for the first time since these allegations were uncovered. A lot of we'll wondering about his political future as well -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: And the settlement involved there.
Great to see you, Sunlen. Thank you.
And joining me, CNN political commentator, Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen, and CNN political commentator, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Angela Rye.
Thanks for coming in.
Hilary, before Conyers stepped down yesterday, Nancy Pelosi was on "Meet the Press." here's what she said on "meet the press" during that interview. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women.
CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, MEET THE PRESS: Do you believe John Conyers accusers?
PELOSI: I don't know who they are. Do you? They have not really come forward. That's for the Ethics Committee to come forward but I believe he understand what is at stake here and will do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: You sent that interview around yesterday with a simple word attached to it, Hillary, no. What did you mean? HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Nancy Pelosi should
have been stronger in condemning what John Conyers is said to have done. I think the issues around Congressman Conyers -- and let me just say for myself, I have known this man 35 years, cared about him, worked with him closely on music. He's a jazz lover, when I was in the music business. So I know him well. But the charges against him are much more serious than they are against Al Franken, you know, with his hand on a butt during a picture. I mean, these are -- women who said that John Conyers sort of took them to hotel rooms, put them on his congressional payroll, intimidated them as an employer. Very serious charges that go right to his service as a member of Congress. I thought Nancy Pelosi should have been more aggressive. I know that's where her heart was, and she, I think, was conflicted about protecting her caucus. I think later when -- Congressman Conyers stepped away from being the ranking leader on the committee, I think he did it in part because he recognized that he was putting his colleagues like Nancy in a very difficult position.
BOLDUAN: As I mentioned, Angela, of course, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, he's one of the founding members of. Caucus members, aren't feeling good about this whole thing. What are you hearing?
ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A number of things. One is I think it's unfortunate that, yet again, we see the hypocrisy in the Democratic Party. There's no call for Al Franken to resign. He's also a ranking member on a subcommittee on judiciary that's very, very important. But there's been no call for him to step aside while an investigation that -- is non-existent right now. Just calls for an ethics investigation on his part and literal photo evidence of Al Franken doing the same thing. Let me tell you what's different, Kate. Political expediency. This is the problem with the party. This is why people see us as the same as Republicans. You have to treat these things fairly. And what I will tell you as the former director, far too often, senior rankings in the House get targeted in very strange ways. There were ethics probes while I was a CBC directive director. Four of the six ethics investigations ongoing were for African- American members. Are you going to tell me black members are more unethical than white members? I would tell you, no.
RYE: I'm not finished.
I would ask this party to take a hard look what is different here. I stand with the 12 members, not just on Mr. Conyers personal team, but former Judiciary staffers very senior ranking, have never experienced, I'm sorry, but this is really frustrating. Never experienced Mr. Conyers doing anything like this. I'm not saying that this woman is wrong, but what I am saying is that the Democratic Party needs to take a hard look in the mirror, and treat these situations fairly.
[11:40:41] ROSEN: Let me respond to one quick thing, which is I do believe that Al Franken should be stepping down from his minority position while there is an investigation. I think they should be treated equally with regard to an investigation. I was saying I don't think the offense is equal. That's all.
RYE: And I beg to differ with you, Hilary.
ROSEN: OK. You can differ, but, because the --
RYE: No. We can say pedophilia is not as bad as grabbing someone on the behind. But I'm telling you that there's no place for either, and there's no place for what is alleged against Mr. Conyers.
ROSEN: I'm responding to what the women, the woman in the picture herself has said. And so I do believe victims' voices are the ones that should lead us here. And that was why I made that distinction, but I totally support Angela saying that members who are going through these charges need to step away, and not put their colleagues in this position of having to choose among them in terms of deciding what behavior is worse or better, because none of it is good.
BOLDUAN: It's important that -- I'm glad we're having this conversation, though. It's really important.
RYE: Very important.
BOLDUAN: Angela, thank you so much.
Hilary, thank you.
Thank you both for coming on. Appreciate it.
Still ahead for us -- that conversation won't end here. We'll continue it.
Still ahead for us, though, has Michael Flynn turned on his former boss? Why legal experts are now saying Flynn may have cut a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Where are the signs? What does it tell you? We'll be right back.
[11:46:27] BOLDUAN: Jared Kushner, president's son-in-law and adviser, is under pressure now to turn over new documents today. He's supposed to hand the Judiciary Committee more documents pertaining to his security clearance and, of course the Russia investigation into Russia meddling. Among what the committee wants, any e-mails from Kushner and fired national security advisor, Michael Flynn, with keywords, Clinton, WikiLeaks and Putin, key words.
Bringing in crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, with more on this.
You have that, Shimon. You're reporting on Michael Flynn, himself. His attorneys are no longer sharing information with Donald Trump's legal team. This seems a very big change. What does it mean?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. It certainly is a significant, perhaps, strategy here, by his attorneys, by Michael Flynn's attorneys. And it can mean several things. It can mean that they are negotiating some sort of plea deal where Flynn would plead guilty and admit to whatever crimes the government is going to charge him with, and then he would get sentenced by a judge eventually. It could also mean, separate from that, you could have a plea agreement without cooperation and a plea agreement with a cooperation. So that if he is cooperating, he would be providing information to the special counsel, to Mr. Mueller and his team. Whichever it may be, there are certain signs that there are at least negotiations that are ongoing. At least people that we've talked to, they believe there are negotiations that are ongoing between the Mueller team and Michael Flynn's attorneys.
BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Not the end of that there.
Shimon, great to see you. Thank you so much.
Speaking of Russia and the Trump administration right now, we are hearing for the first time in the man President Trump is charged with ending the conflict in Ukraine. Ambassador Kurt Volker, he tells "Politico" that that the U.S. should send Ukraine more weapons, so it can defend itself against Russia, and that Vladimir Putin is to blame for the conflict there. Doesn't that put Volker at odds with his own boss who seems only to offer kind words in public on Vladimir Putin.
I want to bring in the person who got this interview, "Politico's" chief international affairs columnist, Susan Glasser.
You did this extraordinary interview with Volker.
Susan, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.
SUSAN GLASSER, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL COLUMNIST, POLITICO: Thanks for having me.
BOLDUAN: So, Ambassador Volker, he's smack dab in the middle of the Russia crisis. You have not only Ukraine, I guess, when it comes to the relationship with the United States. You say that this sets up what you call essential schizophrenia of Trump/Russia policy. What does the ambassador say about that?
GLASSER: Look, bottom line, look who President Trump appointed and what policy they're pursuing towards Russia, it strikes you as almost a bipartisan consensus-driven thing, tough on Russia, very realistic and clear-eyed about Vladimir Putin. The problem, of course, is that Donald Trump has never yet seemed to really buy into his own administration's Russia policy.
BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the policy. I mean, there's many elements of it, but this is a key moment from your conversation about policy towards Russia. I want to play this for our viewers. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLASSER (voice-over): Everybody's a Russia hawk now. KURT VOLKER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO (voice-over): Well, you
know, Russia brings it on. You know? People don't want to be. People would -- what the president always say. We would like to get along with Russia, but what Russia is doing makes it really hard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So Volker says that. Do you see any evidence, Susan, that the president has given up trying to make nice with Putin, or, I guess, from both perspectives that Volker can have any impact on policy when it comes to Trump?
[11:50:00] GLASSER: That's right. So here's an example from the other day that I think is very telling. Right before the interview, Donald Trump spent nearly an hour on the telephone with Vladimir Putin literally leading to groans from some on his own team working on Russia. Why? Hours before that, Vladimir Putin was photographed physically embracing the Syrian dictator, Bashar al Assad, whom he was hosting in Sochi and whose regime has been shored up by the Russian military. In effect, this debate and this diplomacy that Volker and others have to have inside the Trump administration, it's almost as much to lobby their own boss, President Trump, as it is to try to figure out what the Russians will do and whether there is any hope for what is a hot war and conflict in eastern Ukraine that the Russians started a couple of years ago in 2014.
BOLDUAN: Does Volker see his role of bad cop to Trump's good cop when it comes to this stuff?
GLASSER: It's interesting. There is a delicate dance. Publicly, he's saying, as in the clip you just played, listen, even President Trump is on board with this and he understands the road to a better relationship with Russia must involve some sort of cessation of hostilities in Ukraine. They're saying if President Trump still wants his Russia reset, we have to stop the fighting in Ukraine, regardless. It's a very delicate dance. What I find interesting is these days when I go around and talk to Russia expert, if you asked them, what is America's Russia policy, they have no idea, but Ambassador Volker is doing a good job.
BOLDUAN: At least there is that. But what is U.S. policy towards Russia and why does the president's public statements -- go to the president on Air Force One when they are heading to Asia or back from Asia, when he told his reporters and how that defy what is you are hearing from the Ambassador Volker.
Great to see you, Susan. Great get. Thank you.
GLASSER: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, an American is set to join the royals. Prince Harry and Actress Meghan Markle announcing their engagement this morning. And what we know about the proposal, what the happy couple told reporters, and when is the next royal wedding? That's next.
[11:55:49] BOLDUAN: How about something just plain old happy, like rainbows and butterflies happy. We have to get far, far away from Washington and across the pond. A royal wedding officially in the works. Prince Harry and American Actress Meghan Markle announcing their engagement and taking part in this first engaged couple photo op.
Joining me now so give me the details, Kate Williams, CNN historian and royal expert.
Great to see you, Kate.
What has been the reaction and what are the details that we know?
KATE WILLIAMS, CNN HISTORIAN & ROYAL EXPERT: Well, Kate, it's just been so exciting here in London. Everyone is thrilled for the royal couple. We have been waiting for the news a long time. Some of the newspapers said get on with it. It's fantastic to have the news out there. We have this wonderful photo call today. The beautiful pictures of this young couple, so in love, so devoted. Meghan said she was thrilled and happy. All of the royal family congratulating them. And William and Kate saying how excited they were. Prince Charles said he was thrilled. Meghan's parents say it's a joy to see their daughter with Harry. It's been a wonderful day.
The wedding itself, we don't have many details so far. The current official line is spring. So probably sometime around the birth of the next royal baby due in April. Maybe March or May. We will see.
BOLDUAN: We will see. Stand by to find out. The ring is beautiful. Not like we would expect anything less.
Great to see you, Kate. Thank you so much.
So many details to come.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
Coming up for us, in just a few minutes, no more fun. Back to the work, folks. It's Monday. President Trump hosting key Republican Senators at the White House. This, as the Senate could be voting on the tax bill for a very important floor vote this week. It's all on the line, folks. Don't ask me. Ask Republican Senators. It's anyone's guess what the votes are. More on that, ahead.