Return to Transcripts main page


Conyers' Future; Trump Backing Moore; Face Off in High Court; Allies Warn Against Jerusalem Announcement. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we expect this announcement momentarily from the congressman himself. He's an 88- year-old man, the longest serving member of Congress. As far as we know, he's still in the hospital and he has flatly denied these allegations up until this point.

And this all comes on the heels of a fifth accuser going public just hours ago. Last night Lisa Bloom, the attorney, tweeting an affidavit from a fifth woman who has come forward to allege sexual harassment by John Conyers. Now, as I said, he has so far flatly denied these allegations saying that the calls from his colleagues to step down are political attacks. His attorney calling the accuser opportunists.

But we did start to see them laying the groundwork for an exit yesterday when his attorney tweeted that he was discussing the possibilities with Congressman Conyers and whether or not he could survive in a climate where these, as he put them, false accusations continue to come out.

Now, last night the fifth accuser who came forward, she is the cousin of one of the women who has already spoken out against Congressman Conyers alleging sexual harassment while she worked for him. The cousins worked there together.

The details of her affidavit really do stand out, John. She talks about how he called them the big-leg girls, and often would slide his hand up their skirts or grope their thighs against their will. She said she witnessed an incident where her cousin was red-eyed, had just been crying, clearly in tears, because of, you know, Congressman Conyers coming on to her when she believed that they were supposed to be just working.

And all of this happening just a few hours before we expect him to come on to a Michigan radio station, a Gospel radio station in the Detroit area, to make an announcement. This will be the first time we've really heard from him in his own words since these allegations began to trickle out, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Sara Ganim, that is exactly right. We are waiting to hear from John Conyers. That happens in just a few minutes. Will there be consequences for the actions that women say that he made? Just the same question that people are asking about Roy Moore.

Sara, thanks so much.

Mitt Romney says a Roy Moore win would be a stain on the Republican Party and the nation. Where do Republicans stand on this and how much impact will it have going forward? Stay with us.


[09:37:01] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes or no, do you believe any of them?

JANET PORTER, SPOKESPERSON, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN: PORTER: I -- what I believe -- eight of the people are non-accusers, that did not accuse Judge Moore of any sexual misconduct.

HARLOW: Do you believe these women? Do you believe any of these women? Any of these eight women? Do you believe any of them, yes or no?

PORTER: I believe that Beverly Nelson's own attorney doesn't believe in her. That's why she won't release the yearbook for independent (INAUDIBLE).

HARLOW: Do you -- we have had Gloria Allred on.

PORTER: And, by the way --

HARLOW: And we've asked her those questions.

PORTER: By the way --

HARLOW: My question to you is -- please answer my question. Do you believe the allegations of any of these eight women, Leigh Corfman, Tina Johnson, Gina Richardson, Beverly Young Nelson, Wendy Miller, Gloria Thacker Deason, Kelly Thorp, Debbie Wesson Gibson? Do you believe any of them, yes or no?

PORTER: Your premise is wrong, Poppy. I've got to call you on it.


BERMAN: That was moments ago. My partner, Poppy Harlow, conducting a master class in trying to get an answer from Roy Moore campaign spokesperson Janet Porter. Janet Porter conducting something of a master class of her own of not giving any kind of answer, of evading the questions.

We've got a lot to talk about. Let's bring on CNN political commentator Errol Louis and CNN political analyst Amie Parnes.

Amie, first to you, because there was a major development overnight. In addition to the president official endorsing Roy Moore, the RNC is back in this game now. The Republican Party of the United States is now backing, in words and with money, this candidate who is accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl. They made this decision. What's the near-term impact and the long-term impact? AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a really big deal because you

saw them kind of scale back in recent weeks along with a lot of Republican support. So the fact that they are coming to table, America First Action, a Trump group, has also come to the table. They're going to be donating a lot of money in the final week toward this campaign and making sure that it goes over the top. They think that they're going to win. It signals that they feel confident about it. And I think that's a problem, I think, for the Democratic Party.

BERMAN: It may be a problem, though, for the Republican Party long term because you can see the campaign ads in every cycle going forward. Roy Moore, the candidate of the Republican Party, Republican- backed Roy Moore right there.

And to an extent, Errol, that's the argument that Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee of the Republican Party, made overnight. He put out a message that said Moore would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor and integrity. We had that tweet.

We also have a response from Roy Moore who said, Mitt Romney has lost his courage and doesn't care about truth anymore. Sad day. America's reawakening was led by Donald Trump, not you.

Now, there's an extent, Errol --


BERMAN: For Roy Moore is absolutely right. If there was a bigger loser than Hillary Clinton or the second biggest loser in the last election, it was Mitt Romney. I mean he came out hard against Donald Trump. Republicans decided they wanted Trump, not the Mitt Romney type of Republicanism.

LOUIS: Well, that's right. And, look, the argument here, and what you saw with the RNC now getting back into this race is that it's about power and not about principle. Mitt Romney is sort of a lonely voice here sort of -- well, what about principle. That, you know, somethings are not worth winning an election for. And Donald Trump and the Republican establishment are saying, well, this ain't it, you know? We'd rather lie and say we don't believe the women. We'd rather say that this is one principle among many. You know, don't elevate pedophiles as one principle, but so is winning elections, and so is getting a new Supreme Court pick, and so is, you know, defending the right of people to carry guns, as many guns as they want, wherever they want at any time. You know, and so that's the choice that -- the way they framed it in front of voters and the polls suggest, and he's right, that they're responding to it. He's -- Roy Moore has been leading in five of the last six polls that I looked at.

[09:40:41] BERMAN: They chose in 2016 with Donald Trump when he was accused by 13 women. They are choosing now -- and I'm not sure there's a consequence, Amie, going forward. Is there?

PARNES: No. And that's the thing. I think that, you know, they want -- you know, behind the scenes I'm hearing from a lot of Republicans, yes, this doesn't look good for us. We should have done something more. But I think they -- they do want the vote going forward. They do -- this is more important to them. They're seeing -- they can't see the forest from the trees right now.

And Democrats, oddly enough, are in a weird situation themselves because they are saying, well, we should have done more about Conyers and Franken and we should have kind of thrown, you know, everything towards Republicans and said, this is on you. We're not the party of that. And so both parties are kind of going through an odd period.

BERMAN: And I definitely want to talk about the Democrats in just a second.

I guess a bigger issue, though, isn't Republican or Democrat, it's society here. It's what happens when women come forward and make these claims and they are either not believed, which is one thing, or they're believed and it's just not enough or people don't care.

None other than Billy Bush talked about this sort of in an interview. He was on Stephen Colbert last night. Billy Bush came out with an op- ed in "The New York Times" saying to Donald Trump, that Donald Trump has been lying behind the scenes about this "Access Hollywood" tape. Listen to what Billy Bush now says.


BILLY BUSH, FORMER "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD" HOST: Last week, for some reason, came out with, that's not my voice on the tape. Like I said, you can't say that. That is your voice. I was there. You were there. That's your voice on the tape.

Twenty women don't get together and say, hey, you know what would be really fun, let's take down a powerful guy together. Ha, ha. No, they don't. And their names are -- and I said, OK, you're reopening wounds on them, too. Enough's enough. Stop playing around with -- peoples' lives.


BERMAN: Errol, I mean I get to this question. You know, we've talked about what happened to Matt Lauer, what happened to Charlie Rose, what happened to Harvey Weinstein here. But if more and more women see this, see what happens when you come out and there's no consequence, what's the long-term (INAUDIBLE)?

LOUIS: Well, that's right, that is the long-term damage. And that's what we, as a society, are going to have to sort of figure out, that there are sort of spinoff affects that the people who wanted to vote for Donald Trump and say, you know what, I don't care how many people accused him of whatever, I don't care how many flagrant lies he tells, I want the Supreme Court picks, I want him to stick it to the liberals, I want this and I want that. That's, you know, that's a choice. People are entitled to make that choice.

There are consequences, however. And the consequences go up and down the line when you're not talking about a presidential race or a Senate race, you're talking about somebody who works at a gas station. You're talking about somebody who works at a convenience store. You're talking about somebody who doesn't have powerful friends in the media to stick up for them, and that's the lasting damage. That's the kind of thing that Mitt Romney, I think, was alluding to, that's the kind of conversation we really need to have.

BERMAN: You're talking about your sisters, your daughters, your friends. I mean you're talking about real life people here dealing with real life consequences. To this John Conyers is going to tell us what he's going to do with his career in less than half an hour right now. There was some talk he might retire. Now we're not quite sure.

You know, again, if it's retirement and not resignation, he's going out on his terms, a man now with five accusers, including, you know, some fairly dramatic accusations, would be going out on his terms. Politicians held to a different standard.

PARNES: Yes, and that's -- that's a problem and that's why you're hearing a lot of Democrats behind the scenes, as I said before, saying, you know, we should have done something about it and been more proactive.

BERMAN: Right.

PARNES: Particularly in the Conyers case. The Franken one is a little different, I think, for a lot of people. But, you know, they're saying, we should have made this the point and made the Republican Party kind of pay for this. And I think that's a problem (ph).

BERMAN: One last Russia question, Errol, to you. These mixed messages we've been getting on legal strategy from the Trump team, from the White House and his personal lawyers on obstruction, that even if it is obstruction it doesn't matter because the president cannot obstruct justice here. Do we think this is now a legal argument or have they moved full in to the political debate here, assuming that ultimately it will be voters and maybe Congress that decide if the president's in real trouble here?

LOUIS: Yes, it is moving into a political sphere. And that's where it belongs, frankly, because you don't go into the White House and snap handcuffs on any president, right? The tools that we have, according to the Constitution, involve removing him by voting him out or having an impeachment trial or sort of -- or process to figure out what happened and to determine the magnitude of it. That's really all it amounts to.

And so, you know, we're going to have to rely on the tools that we have, the democracy that we have, not the one we wish we had. It would be nice if it was all very simple, but it's not going to be simple. And very person watching this is going to have to be involved.

[09:45:08] BERMAN: Errol Louis, Amie Parnes, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

We do have some breaking news out of California. This keeps developing. This fast moving wildfire in Ventura County. This is a reporter from a CNN affiliate, KCBS-KCAL moments ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, guys, things have really intensified over the last few minutes since I last spoke to you. As we talked about, when the sun comes up, the winds kick up, too. And we've been seeing some really strong wind busts come out here. And that's, of course, affecting where we can stand as we've moved further away, and we're going to continue to do so after I'm done talking to you here with this (INAUDIBLE). The reason is because when these winds come so strongly, we have so many embers and so much ash in the air that it really just picks up and it can easily spread this fire elsewhere.

But as you can see, what's behind me is pretty grim. This is the hospital that we've been talking about all morning long here, the Vista Delmar Health Care Facility. We're told it's an 82-bed inpatient and outpatient mental health facility here in the area. We're told it not only has treatment programs for veterans dealing with PTSD, but also dependency issues as well and really anything for a variety of different treatments the folks may need here in this community. But it has been burning for quite some time now.

Now, what you don't see around me are any firefighters. That's because they have long since left this area. They were here apparently right after it started. They realized that they could not save this building. So they worked very hard to save the condos down below, which they were able to do. But, unfortunately, they had to leave this burning behind as they moved on to try and save other homes elsewhere.

And you've really seen the progression over the last couple of hours from the two-story standing facility, first the windows cracked from the heat. Then, of course, the roof collapses in. And now we're seeing the walls physically deteriorate in front of our eyes over here, the awning in front of the hospital now burning as it has been standing for quite some time despite the fire burning around it.

But there's probably at least four or five buildings that are out here in this complex. And because of all the ash and the embers that are burning. Unfortunately, we're seeing a lot of trees that are going up as well.

So -- something's creaking behind me.

But certainly a very alarming story that we'll continue to follow throughout the morning. But it's important to keep this in perspective, 150 buildings burned. This is just one of them. That shows you how much destruction has happened since this fire started last night.



BERMAN: All right, want to tell you, we've been watching these video feeds come in from California. This is a fast-moving fire and it has been developing. We're going to keep on watching it and keep you posted as we see it come in.

In the meantime, a growing list of U.S. allies urging the White House to hold off and not name Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

We'll be right back.


[09:52:07] BERMAN: All right, this morning, the supreme Court takes up a big religious liberty case that has very large implications. Supreme Court watchers camped out, hoping to watch the oral arguments today in a case that pits a Colorado wedding cake maker against the same-sex couple that he refused to serve. Here's our Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: John, this is a clash between religious freedom and LGBT rights. The case is brought by Jack Phillips. He owns Masterpiece Cake Shop. And he refused to make a cake to honor the marriage of a same-sex couple. He said it went against his religious beliefs. The couple sued at the lower court and they won when the court cited Colorado's anti-discrimination law.

But Jack Phillips has come to the Supreme Court with a free speech argument. He says his cakes are like his artistic expression and Colorado can't force him to convey a message that goes against his religious beliefs. And he has the support of the Trump administration.

On the other side is the couple. They say that this has nothing to do with free speech or cakes. It's about discrimination.

All eyes, John, are going to be on Justice Anthony Kennedy. Remember, he was the one who wrote the opinion a couple of years ago clearing the way for same-sex marriage, but he also has an expansive view of free speech rights. So that's what we'll be watching today.


BERMAN: All right, Ariane de Vogue for us at the Supreme Court. Ariane, thanks so much.

This morning, U.S. allies around the world warning the Trump administration to hold off on any announcement that would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The president of Turkey says he considers that move a red line. France and Saudi Arabia say it would hurt the peace process.

Joining us now, Ian Lee, in Jerusalem for us.

Ian, what are you hearing?

IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, we've had a number of key U.S. allies speak to President Trump, speaks to the U.S. administration, talking to them about the consequences that could happen if the United States does go forward and move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. You know, President Trump has worked hard to cultivate better

relations in the Middle East with the leaders here since he took office. Most noticeably with Jordan, with Saudi Arabia, and with Egypt. And all three of those countries have warned the president about going forward with this decision.

Now, Israeli officials, up until yesterday, had been noticeably quiet. But we've heard from the defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and as well as the mayor of Jerusalem. Both have praised and encouraged President Trump to make the move.

But it really boils down to, you know, what this will mean. Jerusalem is a very sensitive subject for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians see it as the eastern part, as the future site of their capital if they are able to achieve a state.

[09:55:04] But you also have to look at previous U.S. presidents. Every president since 1995 has postponed, has waived this decision because of the possible ramifications of what it could mean in this region.


BERMAN: All right, Ian Lee in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

We are watching this very, very closely, particularly if we're getting any new signals from the White House.

Thanks, Ian.

Moments from now, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, will address reporters. He, no doubt, will be asked about the latest in the Russia investigation. Does he think that the president can obstruct justice? This matters because ultimately it is the House of Representatives who might decide.


[10:00:12] BERMAN: So when is obstruction not obstruction?