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Lawsuit Challenges Trump's Pick to Lead Consumer Watchdog Agency; Conyers Steps Down From Post, Franken Apologizes; Prince Harry Announces Engagement to Meghan Markle; Trump Questions Authenticity of 'Access Hollywood' Tape. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 27, 2017 - 06:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leandra English filed a lawsuit against the president. She is seeking to block Mulvaney's appointment to run the agency.

[05:59:38] SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the president is on good ground here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a way to sabotage the agency.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: John Conyers is an icon in our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Conyers announced he would be stepping down as a ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I am trying to be a better public servant and a better man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As more and more Republicans have called for Roy Moore to drop out of the race altogether, the president has seemingly turned to support him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's now even intimating that the "Access Hollywood" tape may not be authentic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be on the side of right. History writes the story.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We also have some breaking royal news that we'll get to that's very exciting. But first, we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

This is NEW DAY. It's Monday, November 27, 6 a.m. here in New York. So here's our starting line.

The Trump administration faces another legal challenge this time over who will load the nation's top consumer watch dog agency? An Obama- era official who is set to take over is now suing President Trump to block him from installing budget director Mick Mulvaney, a vocal critic of the agency.

And on Capitol Hill, sexual misconduct taking center stage. Senator Al Franken apologizing again over groping allegations, saying that he's embarrassed and ashamed. While Congressman John Conyers gives up his top post on the Judiciary Committee as he faces an ethics investigation over sexual harassment claims.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump is refusing to withdraw his support from embattled GOP nominee Roy Moore. In fact, he's doing the opposite. He's giving more reasons why Moore should be the winner of that election.

In a new interview, the president is now privately doubting the authenticity of that vulgar "Access Hollywood" tape that he is on talking with the host, even after he publicly apologized for his own words.

All this as Congress comes back to work, and they have a daunting to- do list. President Trump and Republican leaders are hoping to win over skeptical senators and get that version of the tax bill passed this week. The possibility of a government shutdown is looming into the next week.

We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider, live in Washington outside the CFPB. Very much in focus right now.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You got it, Chris. The stage is set here for a potential showdown. A source does tell CNN that Mick Mulvaney, the president's pick to lead this bureau, will show up for work later this morning.

But this lawsuit filed last night says that the president has no authority to name Mulvaney as his pick, especially when someone else is already lined up.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Trump now facing a legal battle over who will head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Leandra English is suing to stop the president from installing his budget director as head of the watch dog agency, declaring the appointment of Mick Mulvaney, quote, "unlawful" and calling herself the, quote, "rightful director." The lawsuit is seeking legal clarity on succession protocol within the agency.

A source close to Mulvaney tells CNN that he will show up for work today at the agency, expecting a normal transition, rather than a showdown for power.

President Trump's decision also controversial, because Mulvaney has been a harsh critic, which was created after the global economic crisis in 2008. It's designed to protect consumers from predatory financial institutions. MICK MULVANEY, INCOMING DIRECTOR, CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION

BUREAU: It's a wonderful example of how a bureaucracy will function if it has no accountability to anybody. It turns up being a joke. And that's what the CFPB has been in a sick, sad kind of way.

SCHNEIDER: Mulvaney also voted to end the bureau, working with the president to roll back some of the agency's power, even slamming the agency before the Senate Budget Committee back in January.

MULVANEY: Because they're run by essentially a one-person dictator who believes he can't even be fired by the president but for cause. We have created, perhaps inadvertently, the very worst kind of government entity.

SCHNEIDER: The tug of war over leadership began Friday when Richard Cordray resigned as the agency's director, naming his chief of staff, Leandra English as his successor. Just a few hours later, President Trump stepped in, instead naming Mulvaney as acting director.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the architects of the agency, is asserting the president is overstepping his authority, arguing English is entitled to the position under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, which states the deputy director becomes acting director when the agency's top spot becomes vacant. But the White House citing a different law, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, which allows the president to temporarily appoint an acting head to an agency already confirmed by the Senate.

Republicans are applauding Mulvaney's appointment.

GRAHAM: I think the president is on good ground here to appoint somebody under the Vacancy Statute. In terms of the agency, it's the most out-of-control, unaccountable federal agency in Washington.

SCHNEIDER: While Democrats are slamming it as a political move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wall Street hates it like the devil hates holy water. And they're trying to put an end to it.


SCHNEIDER: But this morning the top lawyer here at the bureau is siding with the Trump administration. General counsel Mary McLeod has written a memorandum saying that President Trump has full authority to name Mulvaney as the acting director.

And of course, the White House is applauding that memorandum, putting it this way, saying, "It is unfortunate Mr. Cordray decided to put his political ambition above the interests of consumers with this stunt. Director Mulvaney will bring a more serious and professional approach to running the CFPB."

But of course, Chris, that lawsuit still stands that was filed last night -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Jessica. Appreciate it. So sexual harassment scandals, we're now seeing them on both sides of

the aisle, and they are gripping Washington. The president and Republicans face a critical week in their legislative agenda under the weight of these scandals.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more -- Suzanne.


We expect the president to be here on Capitol Hill this week, on Tuesday's meeting with Senate Republicans for their lunch. He, of course, is trying to push forward the tax reform plan. This as the year approaches without -- no major legislative victories, at the same time promising before Christmas to get something done.

But as you mentioned, Chris, all of this happens, really, under this cloud of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment charges. Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota, he left Thanksgiving break without addressing this. Over the weekend, he broke his silence to a local media, essentially saying that he was shocked, that he expressed remorse. But he also said he has no intention of stepping down. What he wants to do is essentially re-earn the trust of the voters.


FRANKEN: I'm talking responsibility. I've apologized to women who have felt disrespected and to everyone I've let down. I'm cooperating fully with the Ethics Committee. And I am trying to handle this in a way and -- to -- that adds to an important conversation and to be a better public servant and a better man.


MALVEAUX: And there are also problems on the House side. On the House side, we expect members to come back from the recess tomorrow. Well, they're dealing with Congressman John Conyers, 88-year-old from Michigan, a Democrat. And he is faced with his own charges of sexual misconduct, sexual abuse. He vehemently denied those allegations over the weekend, saying that he will vindicate himself and his family.

Nonetheless, he has stepped down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, a very powerful position. He also, of course, will be back in session, as well -- Chris, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you very much. Things just seem to keep rolling and breaking on the sexual harassment front. We'll get to that in a moment.

Let's bring in our guests, CNN political analysts John Avlon and Gregory. Great to see both of you.


CAMEROTA: John Avlon, let me start here. So the CFPB -- not to get too alphabet-soupy on you, but this consumer watch dog agency, are we going to see a showdown two hours from now about who the boss is? And what's this going to look like?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, it's on. People have shown up to work, and two separate bosses are apparently going to show up to work with absolute opposite approaches to the agency they believe they lead.

And -- and this is a fascinating showdown. It's troubling. It's not the kind of thing we typically see in America. The courts are going to resolve who has the authority, ultimately, whether it's a matter of the statute itself and Laura [SIC] English can take it over or will Mick Mulvaney.

But it's also another case of the Trump administration reporting somebody who has a deep philosophical, you know, belief that the agency they are leading maybe shouldn't exist in the case of Mick Mulvaney.

So this is a real showdown in Washington today, and it sends a terrible message not only to folks working there but I think also to the consumers who the agency is intended to support.

CUOMO: You seem to have two very different issues at play, though, David. One is, does the president have the ability to appoint this acting head. And it seems like he's going to win that legal argument. The statutory authority there going for that Jon Avlon loves so well, 12 USC Code 5491.

CAMEROTA: You're familiar with it.

CUOMO: It's going to be seen is what they called discretionary language, which is just defining the person's job as deputy director. There's no intentionally here to supersede the authority of the executive. So there's one battle. But this is really about something else. Donald Trump, when he campaigned, I'm trying to have them pull the sound for us. Javi (ph), you tell me when you have it.

Such a big part of his mantra of appealing to the working man and woman was "Wall Street is dirty and I know their game, and I will bust their chops every day in my administration."

And he has done the opposite increasingly, and that's what's so suspect about this move. That now they want to get rid of the one animal in government regulation that protects people from Wall Street on the lending side.

GREGORY: Right. But also consistent with how he campaigned. Was a message that, "Obama got it wrong." All these regulations were hurting business and hurting consumers.

[06:10:06] I mean, the problem with this agency from the very beginning was how hyper partisan it was. Elizabeth Sanders [SIC], the senator from Massachusetts--


GREGORY: -- was being involved, who might have been the head of the agency at one point, added to that.

And this is -- this is the cauldron of what captures this huge divide over how far government should reach in and regulate the very complicated world of the financial system, when it missed it so badly in the financial collapse in 2008. And now this has just been a response that has not seen as helpful enough. Just so partisan that a Republican president is going to go in and unwind what -- what President Obama put in place.

AVLON: But, again, this comes out of the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. And this is the one entity that came out of it that's designed to support consumers. And if populism means anything, it's supporting the little guy in the face of Wall Street and elites.

And yes, Chris pointed out, you know, the president campaigned against Wall Street. Unusual move for a Republican, but he did. So for the 29 million Americans who have been helped by this agency, which is nearly a tenth of our population, what recourse will they have if, A, the agency doesn't exist or, B, the person running it doesn't believe it should exist?

GREGORY: Well, that's a legitimate question. But whatever Donald Trump said as a candidate, I think we're all pretty well-versed in the idea that he would say two things at the same time.

And the reality is that he has come out hard against Obama-era regulations. And that is a key part of the Republican support that actually voted for him. And that he retains. Despite everything he does on Twitter and everything else. You talk to basic Republicans, tried and true Republicans, they will talk about a regulatory overreach on the part of the Obama administration.

CUOMO: Right. But I'm just saying, I think what the president was talking about in terms of getting rid of unnecessary taxes and burdens to starting businesses, and burdens to hiring, that's one set of regulations. He said he was going to protect the little guy. That's what this agency does. Now we'll see where his true intention is.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's move on to harassment. There have been developments over the weekend.

So Al -- Senator Al Franken has spoken out for the first time. He sort of went silent last week when there were more accusations that came forward. And then this weekend, he gave an interview to Minnesota Public Radio in which he talked about it. So let's listen to a portion of that.


FRANKEN: What matters is THAT I am ashamed of that photo. I -- She is -- you know, 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.


CAMEROTA: OK. So he's talking there, John, obviously, about the photo on the plane, coming back from the UFO [SIC] tour where he--

CUOMO: USO tour. Where she's asleep.

CAMEROTA: And Leeann Tweeden is asleep, and you see his hands doing something above or on her chest.

So what do you think about how Al -- I mean, I think, when I hear Al Franken, he has been very contrite since his second statement, sort of half in his very first written statement and then extremely contrite and saying all the things that you would hope that somebody would -- "I'm ashamed, I'm embarrassed. I'm doing some soul searching. I was wrong. This has demeaned the women." Like, he's saying the right things. What do you think about what his future is and how he's handled it?

AVLON: Look, there's no question, he has decided to be completely contrite, apologetic. I think in this -- in this national sort of soul searching and accountability we're doing around these issues, I do think we need to make sure that the -- the offenses are kept in distinct categories.

What Al Franken is accused of, which he has been incredibly contrite about, is a world different than, for example, what Harvey Weinstein was accused of, sexual assault.

CUOMO: Roy Moore.

AVLON: Or Roy Moore.

CUOMO: Apples to apples.

AVLON: And too often, I think there's a partisan situational ethics that gets framed on this. He's going to be--

CUOMO: The media plays into it with its appetite for new and more. That's what we were talking about last week. This is the concern. Franken has got allegations against him. He's got to deal with them.

But now look where you are. You're talking about Franken and how contrite he is. You're not talking about the settlements. You're not talking about the behavior, the endemic problems and that's a system that needs to be addressed.

AVLON: That's exactly what we should be talking about. Actually, that's a different level of culpability. Because what's happening to John Conyers and that conversation is about, in part, what did people know and when did they know it? If millions of dollars in taxpayer money were being given out since the mid-1990s, who was aware of that?

CUOMO: They had to know.

CAMEROTA: We keep asking that every day.


CUOMO: But it's about intensity. It's about intensity. And that's the problem with the media kind of looking for the next case, and the next thing, and the next thing. Because I don't know that it has -- There's no morality attached to the hunt for more. I think that that's going to be the problem here.

When Kathleen Rice came on, congressman out of New York, former prosecutor out of Nassau, she had her own harassment situation when she was an ADA in Brooklyn, Gregory. It was painful. And she believes it changed the course of her career. She came out, and she said Conyers has to resign.

I said what, "But what about due process? You're the prosecutor."

She says there is no due process for the victims in these situations. There is no trial. This has to be about political accountability. Listen to some of the sound.


REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: Because enough is enough. At this point what I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America. Why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else?


CUOMO: Right. So, look, Franken did what he did with his photos. He's got to pay a political price. But that bigger issue of what do you do in this situation to stop these settlements, Rice says that she's going to go after him. She's new to Congress. She didn't know about them.

But you know they knew, David Gregory. Everybody had to know. All they do is gossip about one another down there.

CAMEROTA: Not about the settlements, just about who might be on a list of bad guys to avoid.

CUOMO: How do you not know?

CAMEROTA: About the settlements?

CUOMO: No, no. That there's an office that's been set up to pay for exactly this.

CAMEROTA: Every single lawmaker has said they didn't know.

CUOMO: But that's why we need to do is, instead of just looking at the new and the more and the shiny is find out who drafted that legislation to create the fund. Go back to them. Say, "Did you know what the fund would be used for?"

GREGORY: Here's why I think there's a couple of things going on. I don't see how it's tenable not to release all that there is to know about this settlement fund, how it came about, who is involved. You do have some tension over that. You heard Nancy Pelosi say over the weekend that, for the benefit of

the victims, that they don't want to be public. They don't want their names to be revealed. That that would be a reason to hold back on doing that.

But it seems that it's simply not tenable for this to sort of, you know, be behind the walls of the dam here, and we're not going to learn about all of this. Politicians are being treated one way. Others in the media, Harvey Weinstein in -- in Hollywood, seemed to have lost their jobs immediately. Politicians are hanging on.

We'll see what happens with Roy Moore. We saw what happened with President Trump. So that's something to kind of understand as we move forward. That there has been a different reaction, at least up until now.

CAMEROTA: All right. David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you. Obviously, we'll be covering all these threads throughout the program.

But we do have some happy news to report. Breaking royal news: Prince Harry is officially engaged to American actress Meghan Markle. The announcement putting weeks of speculation to rest.

CNN's Max Foster is live in London with all the breaking details. So exciting, Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, lots of people do seem excited. It's going wild on digital. We now know that they actually got engaged early this month. But as is Prince Harry's style, he wanted to keep things under wraps. He wants to announce things in his own time. And he's done so.

They need to inform family first, of course, and friends. And we've got a series of statements coming out today. The queen is delighted. Prince Charles is delighted. Prince William is very excited. And also this from the prime minister: "This is a time for huge celebration and excitement for two people in love. On behalf of myself, my government, I wish them great happiness for the future."

These are images from Canada earlier this year. Their first official appearance in front of the royal press pack. Today we will have another one as they appear in front of the cameras. May say a few words at Kensington Palace.

But we've also heard from Meghan Markle's parents. So we've got Thomas Markle and also Doria Ragland. He's an African-American, and this has become quite a big part of the story today.

What they say is "We're incredibly happy for Meghan and Harry. Our daughter has always been a kind and loving person. To see her union with Harry, who shares the same qualities, is a source of great joy for us as parents."

So there are many things about her which make her relevant to the modern generation. One of them being that she's a divorcee, as well. So lots of people are very excited that she's going to bring this fresh spark, if you like, into the royal family. It's all seen as good news.

CAMEROTA: That's great, Max. Thank you for all of that background. I don't -- I don't know why I'm so excited about this. But there is something romantic and -- no?

CUOMO: No, it's great. There's certainly a point of fascination about this.

CAMEROTA: Yes, a fascination. No, I truly am happy that, like -- when people find each other and love prevails in this moment.

CUOMO: Yes. That's great. I actually think that's somewhat of a common sentiment. I don't think it's just, like, unique.

CAMEROTA: No, I know.

CUOMO: I don't think it's a penchant of yours.

I'm an American. We don't have royalty in this country. We have lots of love. Sometimes we have to search to find it. But I'm an American.

So this fascination with royalty, which is anathema to what our democracy is all about, has always boggled my mind a little bit. But I know this. Harry is a good man, and he focuses on those Invictus Games. He's really used his power as--

CAMEROTA: Yes, I agree.

CUOMO: -- ersatz as it may be, to do the right thing.

CAMEROTA: I love the guy.

CUOMO: So good for him. Any positive news is good news right now.

Feel better?


CUOMO: That's nice.

President Trump doubling down on his support of Roy Moore. According to "The New York Times," he is now privately questioning the authenticity of the "Access Hollywood" video.

[06:20:08] In my voice, you hear what you must all be feeling. He's saying it's fake? It's his voice. He apologized! What is going on? Next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump is still backing embattled Roy Moore. In that, he is aggravating others in the GOP. "The New York Times" reports that the president sees the calls for Moore to step aside as a version of the now-infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. The president even privately suggesting that that tape is not authentic. Of course, you'll recall, in the hours after the tape came out last year, the president admitted it was him speaking. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've never said I'm a perfect person nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I've said and done things I regret. And the words released today on this more than a decade old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it; I was wrong, and I apologize.


CAMEROTA: All right. Let's bring in CNN political analyst and one of the writers behind that "New York Times" piece, Alex Burns.

Alex, great to see you. So how is Roy Moore, the president backing Roy Moore, connected to "Access Hollywood"?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the common theme here is whether the president believes that women who allege sexual misconduct have a right to be believed. He obviously maintains all of the many allegations against him that came out in 2016 are false. And he has expressed a similar sense of skepticism about the women who have come forward.

[06:25:10] CAMEROTA: Sure. But the "Access Hollywood" -- were his words. Everybody heard them. We all heard them. And he just said, "I said it. I apologize for it."

BURNS: There's no question about that. And the folks who have spoken with him in private have heard him make these comments, really comments in passing to the effect of, you know, "By the way, we're not even sure that tape is real."

These folks have been pretty taken aback. These have not been deeply involved conversations. I think the folks who were speaking to the president at the time tried to kind of gracefully move on, because you don't want to relitigate that issue with him.

CAMEROTA: When did he start saying, "We're not sure the tape was authentic"? It wasn't then, in October before he won the presidency. He knew it was authentic. So now--

BURNS: This is months ago. This is not a direct consequence of the Roy Moore controversy. But it is the same mindset that you see him applying now to the Roy Moore controversy. This sense that, you know, men who are accused of these things are often unfairly accused of these things. That he was unfairly accused of things, and his impulse to go back, reopen that fight and try to resolve it in a different way to his advantage.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, before we get to the Roy Moore thing, the idea that it's not authentic, is he's saying it out loud and he's telling people in the White House that the tape might not be authentic, after he's admitted to it, after we all hear with our own ears him saying this. What is this, and what do people in the White House think that is? It sounds like a sort of significant -- if not revisionist, I guess revisionist history or break from reality. What do they think that is?

BURNS: Look, I think people see it as an extension of the impulse that we've seen with the president again and again to try to go back and change the facts of the recent observable past in order to persuade people that, actually, he was right all along. Or actually, he was more successful than he was all along.

It makes people uncomfortable. They're uneasy about it. They hope he doesn't say it publicly. But as far as I'm aware, there's no one close to him who has decided to sort of take him on directly and say, "Mr. President, you've got to stop saying that."

CAMEROTA: OK. Another thing that your reporting reveals is that when Ivanka sent out her tweet about Roy Moore, saying there's a special place in hell for people on who prey on children, the president didn't like that, was angry with his daughter.

BURNS: That's right. The president sort of turned to the people around him, sense of incredulity: "Do you believe this? Do you believe that she did this?" A sense of frustration, that the walls were closing in on Roy Moore without him having been able to make the choice about what ought to happen to this Senate candidate.

And you've seen that frustration extend to his handling of the Alabama race in general. Just as you have had this exodus of Republican support from Roy Moore in Washington. You did have the Republican Senate committee, the Republican National Committee terminate their funding for Moore's campaign. And the president's reaction to that has been, "Well, why are we doing this?"

CAMEROTA: And so very quickly, does that -- when he's angry with his daughter, and she's one of his advisers, does that blow over or does it somehow affect their relationship now?

BURNS: Well, we're going to have to wait and see. This is all stuff that has unfolded just in the last week or two. And the outcome of that race in Alabama, if a Democrat does work, you're going to see recriminations nonstop from Republicans within the party and within the White House.

CAMEROTA: OK, Alex, stick around for one second. We want to bring in David Gregory to talk about this and more.

David, what are your thoughts when you hear the president revising history in this way and being angry with his daughter for what was lauded as her speaking out, you know, quite passionately about protecting children?

GREGORY: Well, I think we're getting glimpses into a couple of things. One, it's kind of typical Trump behavior, which is, you know, allowing himself to think out loud and offer asides. I mean, I think this is what it is. It doesn't require much of an autopsy. We know what he said. We know what he apologized for. And if he indulges, you know, fantasies of the tape not being real, then we're likely to know about it, because he doesn't keep that kind of thing to himself.

And I'm sure he has been annoyed by even his daughter speaking out the way that she did. Because you know, this Roy Moore scandal harkens back to the allegations made against him, his own boasting about sexual assault in that "Access Hollywood" tape.

But he's clearly made a political calculation that he's arrived at, perhaps with the influence of Steve Bannon and others, saying, "Look, I got burned once in Alabama. I'm not going to side with the establishment again and do the right thing, even though that's clearly the thing to do, because voters may have a different idea." And as unpopular as the president is right now--

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: -- as perilous as his agenda is, the one thing he wants to protect is the most stalwart part of his support.

CUOMO: Listen, what we're seeing with the president is as obvious as it is shameful. OK? He's made a calculation with Moore. That's politics. OK?

But remember, it's easier for him to do it. He doesn't buy the authenticity of these accusations. He didn't buy them against him. He's now analogizing that to Moore. Your reporting reveals that he's having those conversations.

On the "Access Hollywood" thing, he really might believe that it's not authentic. I think it's way more troubling than it's getting credit for. I don't think that this is an offhand comment by him.