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Mick Mulvaney Takes Helm of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Senator Franken Issues Apology Concerning Sexual Misconduct Allegations; Trump Suggests Access Hollywood Tape "Fake" Despite Apology. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired November 27, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- again for his behavior, Congressman John Conyers giving up his post on Judiciary Committee, he's undergoing an ethics investigation for harassment claims. He denies the charges, but he did make that settlement. When will they stop?
We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider live in Washington outside the CFPB, the one agency that puts the consumer first. What's going to happen?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Chris, we've just learned, that Mick Mulvaney, he is here, and he's been given full access to the director's office with the full cooperation of the staff. Mulvaney showing up here, even bringing donuts for the entire staff here.
But it is still set to be a legal showdown. That lawsuit was filed last night by Leandra English. She says that she should have the position. It was handed to her as the director resigned on Friday. But the Trump administration pushing back, putting Mulvaney into the office this morning.
SCHNEIDER: 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 watchdog 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 of the agency which was created after the global economic crisis in 2008. It is designed to protect consumers from predatory financial institutions.
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT: It is 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 really 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 architects of the agency, is asserting the president is overstepping his authority, arguing English is entitled to the position under 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.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the president is on good ground here to appoint somebody under vacancies statute. In terms of the agency, it is the most out of control, unaccountable federal agency in Washington.
SCHNEIDER: While Democrats are slamming it as a political move.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: 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, she is saying that the president has every right to appoint Mick Mulvaney as acting director. The White House of course applauding that, and then even calling out the outgoing director who resigned Friday, saying this, "It is unfortunate that 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." And of course we do know that Mick Mulvaney is inside now. He's been given full access to the director's office. And we've been told that the staff is fully cooperating with him as acting director. Chris and Alisyn?
CUOMO: So he got the parking space. It started off as a joke, but now it is a legit coverage angle. Appreciate you being here.
Sexual harassment scandals are gripping Washington. The president and Republicans facing a critical week in the legislative agenda at the same time. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live on Capitol Hill with more. Suzanne? SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. We expect to see President Trump here on Tuesday on Capitol Hill. He'll be meeting with Senate Republicans, this after lunch they asked the Senate finance committee today at the White House. Clearly he's trying to push forward this tax reform plan to have something pass before the new year, that is the goal here. So they're scrambling.
But at the same time, you do have this focus on the allegations of sexual harassment. We are going to see today back to work with the rest of the senators, Senator Al Franken, Democrat from Minnesota, who was accused of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment before he was a senator as well as by a woman who claims that he did not touch her appropriately as senator.
[08:05:05] And so he has apologized through written statements several times. It was just over the weekend, however, that he did make a statement to local media saying he was shocked, that he is ashamed, but he has no intention of stepping down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA: I am taking responsibility. I have apologized to women who have felt disrespected and to everyone I have let down. I am cooperating fully with the ethics committee and I am trying to handle this in a way that adds to an important conversation and to be a better public servant and a better man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So as you can imagine there will be much focus and attention on the senator today as he comes back to Capitol Hill.
On the House side, they also have something they're dealing with as well, that is allegations of sexual misconduct against Congressman John Conyers. He is the Democrat of Michigan, long time, 88-year-old. He has stepped down now from his very powerful position as ranking member on the house Judiciary Committee, but he has also said vehemently that he denies these allegations, that they're false, and what he is hoping to do before the House Ethics Committee is to vindicate himself as well as his family. Chris, Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: OK, Suzanne, thank you very much for all of that reporting. Joining us now to talk about it is CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. David Gregory, did you hear what Jessica just reported of Mick Mulvaney's diabolical device to gain access to the corner office, he brought donuts to the staff, and they're now cooperating. So showdown over?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think so. I think we have a legal fight ahead about who's got the power to run the agency and who has the power to appoint that person at this particular stage when the statute is pretty clear that the head, when he is not available, passes it on to the acting director who is named in this case.
But this is a president who has really turned against this agency. This is a protection, consumer protection agency that has been pretty politically polarized from the start. But I did think Congressman Frank's analysis this morning was interesting in that you do have to push critics on the right about the agency to talk about what the particular errors have been of this agency that would require it to be dismantled, undermined, to have the law undermined in the way the president is trying to do not legislatively but through executive action. And that seems to be all part of this.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, I don't know who is going to win this lawsuit. It is actually a very complicated legal program about which director is going to be the one who has the authority.
CAMEROTA: The Trump administration does have legal ground to stand on?
TOOBIN: Absolutely. But the larger point is the president is going to nominate that someone and that person is going to be confirmed. So whether Miss English survives a month or six months, it doesn't really matter that much. This is going to be Donald Trump's agency, and he is going to dismantle it.
I think what's more interesting is the work of the CFPB and what it does rather than who is director today. Should Wells Fargo have gotten away with stealing effectively from 8 million of its customers? That's the kind of work that the CFPB does. And the question is will they continue to do that kind of work.
CUOMO: So Barney Frank, former congressman from Massachusetts, is one of the co-sponsors of this legislation. He was on NEW DAY earlier this morning, you can watch the interview and you'll get this full context. He makes two points. One, we designed this statute to insulate the five year term, that they did it on purpose. And it will be interesting if that is read into the record of litigation that this wasn't just defining what the deputy director is, that there was assumption that if the main person is gone, this person would come in and stay legally.
But he made an even more interesting point. The administration is doing this the easy way through administrative change because what they don't want to do is put to vote on the floor of Congress do you want these kinds of protections for consumers against banks like Wells Fargo with their fake atmosphere, $180 million they were rewarded, different credit card schemes, loan schemes, student loan schemes, because Republicans won't want to own that. That's an interesting angle by Barney. He says they're doing it this way because they don't want to vote on whether or not they --
GREGORY: But that's not particularly novel. That's what President Obama did this in a similar way in environmental policy, in immigration policy. I mean, this is where the executive gets a lot of blowback from people who say, accurately, you can't win it legislatively, so you use what power you do have that's unchecked to try to chip away at it.
[08:10:04] I think there's no question that's what the president is trying to do here. And as Jeffrey says, when he has to chance to name his own director, he will name somebody who will walk in and say I don't want the core function of this agency to prevail.
I think to take this one step further, the bigger problem here is what does the government agree about what government should do to intervene in the financial marketplace? There is not agreement about this. And there's lots of reasons why there's not agreement, principle among them the influence of the banks on Capitol Hill, the political interference that even when Dodd-Frank was passed you had major banks saying this is, A, not going to address the problem, and B, become so onerous as to make the work of banks more difficult, more expensive, and ultimately bad for consumers. So there has to be enough of a constituency that is not purely partisan that is going to stand up for consumers in a way that can be lasting.
TOOBIN: That's why there is a CFPB, because, particularly in fall of 2008, we saw what predatory lending went on. We saw how the financial institutions were in many respects responsible for the collapse of the economy, and there was very little accountability. Elizabeth Warren before she was a senator set this thing up, and now it's going to be -- it looks like it is going to be destroyed without Congress saying so specifically, administratively, as David said.
CAMEROTA: OK, next topic. Sexual harassment, there continues to be developments as you both know over the weekend. Senator Al Franken had put out a written statement when he was accused by Leeann Tweeden, and other women had come forward, but he hadn't spoken. And so this weekend he spoke to Minnesota public radio. And it is interesting to hear what he is telling the public. So listen to this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN, (D) MINNESOTA: What matters is that I am ashamed of that photo. 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)
CAMEROTA: So David, he is talking obviously about the Leeann Tweeden photo where Al Franken has his hands poised above her chest and is doing something highly juvenile. And she felt it rose to the level of sexual misconduct while she was asleep. So he has been apologetic, he's been public about that, he's issued statement after statement. What happens to Al Franken? What's next for him?
GREGORY: Look, there's an ethics committee process that, as he said in that interview, that he is supporting. Jeffrey made this point when this came out. When there's a process like that, sure, cynics would say it is a way for Congress to wait for this to blow over and to protect its own, or more allegations can come forward. And that has already happened to Senator Franken. And we'll see if he can survive politically.
I have noticed as this is happening real time, there's obviously a difference between politicians weathering this, and those who are in the media or in Hollywood where there's been very swift action. And I think it is untenable for Congress to hold on to this idea that they're going to keep secret the settlement policy for members of Congress who are accused of sexual misconduct and settled, I don't think that is going to less.
But with regard to Franken, yes, he seems to have responded well. I just think the simple question is, are there more people who come forward, and when does that become untenable for people in his state and others who would put pressure on him.
CUOMO: But all the different threads come together in this question, which is, look, you want to chase the new and next, and that's fine, that's part of the cultural conversation. But it also takes you away from the solution.
Those settlements matter. I have never seen anything else like them. Not that you shouldn't be able to settle certain things, not that there's certain matters that are going to come up legally where members of Congress should be able to use tax dollars to make them go away. I'm not saying the entire exercise.
But the idea that they were using these things for sexual harassment suits with our money, and you're going to hear a lot more people on Capitol Hill talk about Al Franken, even Conyers, even in party as Democrats and those settlements. And that's the problem, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: I have to say I thought I had lost the ability to be shocked by how craven and awful Congress can be. But the idea that they are spending our money to cover up or to pay settlements for sexual harassment by members of Congress, and we don't know whose sexual harassment, how much money they're paying, it is unbelievable.
CUOMO: They're saying they didn't know either.
TOOBIN: Somebody knew. Somebody wrote the check.
CAMEROTA: We first reported this on the tipping point about sexual harassment. And that was the day that CNN found out and broke this news. And we talked to scores of women, lawmakers, female lawmakers, who were like we have never heard of this, we don't know that this exists. It has certainly been shrouded.
TOOBIN: I have no doubt that they are telling the truth they didn't know, but I don't know if it is Paul Ryan or his predecessor as speaker of the House, somebody knew in the Congress that Congress was using taxpayer money to pay off sexual harassment and the public needs to know that.
GREGORY: Talk about culture of secrecy in Congress, there are prominent legislators, women that said I was sexually harassed in the past, don't want to reveal who it is because they fear the consequences now.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. We've heard from them as well. Gentlemen, thank you very much for the conversation. CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Just to be on the record, I question some of the credibility. I think people knew. They may not have thought about it in this context before, but I don't think every denial should be taken on its face. I think there's going to be a lot more digging on this.
President Trump is now privately questioning the authenticity of that infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. This does not require any digging. This is crazy talk. This is the president on this tape. He apologized for it. Why is he now planting seeds that maybe it is a fake, next?
CUOMO: President Trump attempting to revise history as he defends embattled Senate nominee, Roy Moore. The "New York Times" reports the president is casting doubt on the authenticity of the "Access Hollywood" video in the final weeks of his campaign.
[08:20:10] You remember, then Candidate Trump actually apologized the next day for his words. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone I'm not. I have said and done things I regret. Words released on this more than a decade old video are one of them. Anyone that knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong and I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: This should settle the notion of whether or not the president believes that the tape is inauthentic. He would have never apologized, it is the only one he's ever given if he thought there was wiggle room.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst, Jonathan Martin, co-wrote that "New York Times" report. You left, but my thread is blowing up with Trump people, how do we know it is a real tape. Maybe that's why Billy Bush isn't around and what about the timing of it.
CAMEROTA: Quite the impression.
CUOMO: That's how I see people on Twitter. It is like a toxic culture.
JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: As you point out, he is not someone who's given to easy apologies. He is very reluctant about apologizing. In this story that we wrote yesterday in the "Times," we are talking about why this president is so determined to stick with Roy Moore, even as all of his colleagues in the Senate, fellow Republicans in the Senate are disavowing Roy Moore.
One of the reasons is because he sees in the charges against Roy Moore echoes of women that came out against him last year during his campaign. So, it turns out we found out, my colleague, Maggie Haberman, in particular, that he is still consumed with the issue of the "Access Hollywood" video, and musing in private to staff and some senators that he doubts that it was actually him on that tape.
As you point out, he apologized and said it is me in that statement that you just played there, but I think he does not want to come to terms with the fact that he actually was caught saying this stuff.
CAMEROTA: I'm pretty sure Billy Bush thinks it was him on the tape. I'm pretty sure Billy Bush who was there, and has lost his job as a result, would confirm that that was Donald Trump.
But Jonathan, what happens in the White House when the president starts reviving history and starts going back over reality. What is the response to the staffers or the members of Congress, who hear him say that? What do they say to him?
MARTIN: That's a great question. I've actually had that conversation with some staffers there and with members of Congress. I think a lot of it is sort of dutiful, head nodding, modicum of engagement, and quick attempt to change the conversation. In fact, when Reince Priebus was still there, there were moments I think he would nudge members of Congress to actually steer the conversation back --
CUOMO: Reince Priebus said at the time, this is true Trump, this is what he feels in his heart. Do you remember that, that was Priebus weighing in on this apology.
CUOMO: The reason I think it is instructive, Jonathan, he can't believe what he is saying. You have a lying issue. OK. That's not new. What is an important reminder, is if the president is capable of making this kind of statement about something that he knows is authentic, it lends an understanding into why he finds it so easy to cloud the water the way he does on issues that matter.
You know, he is OK calling into doubt things he has no reason to call into doubt. The Russian investigation, how could he call it a witch hunt. This is how because this is how his head works.
MARTIN: And as you guys know from covering this president, this approach is not new for him. He wrote in his book which I believe is called "The Art of The Deal" if I recall that there's nothing wrong with a little hyperbole, truthful hyperbole.
This is sort of his signature going way back. I interviewed Senator Bob Corker, he said candidly the president says things on Twitter that aren't true, you know he does, I know he does, everybody does it.
This is a U.S. senator saying the president is basically lying on his preferred media on a regular basis. The kind of shock value has somewhat worn off. We thought in this piece it was instructive.
In the context of Senator Roy Moore, and by the way, you can find this story on nytimes.com, and on my Twitter feed.
[08:25:09] We thought it was instructive in this story because he sees Moore as almost a victim-type figure, facing accusations after years have gone by from women. That got to him last year. He is still living those accusations.
Post-Harvey Weinstein, I think this is more and more on his mind. That gives him a measure of sympathy for Moore. Lot of folks on Capitol Hill just don't share.
CAMEROTA: For sure. We see it dividing some in the GOP. Jonathan, thank you very much for sharing that reporting with us.
We have a quick programming note. Join us tomorrow night for a CNN debate on tax reform. Jake Tapper, Dana Bash moderate the debate with Senators Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Tim Scott and Maria Cantwell at 9 p.m. Eastern on CNN.
CUOMO: A woman that accuses Congressman John Conyers of sexual harassment wants her confidentiality agreement lifted. This will be an emerging issue. You're going to hear a lot more about this. Will she be able to share her side of the story? Her attorney, Lisa Bloom, will give her legal argument next.
CAMEROTA: Democratic Congressman John Conyers --