Return to Transcripts main page


Conyers Announces Retirement from Congress Effective Today; Bannon, Trump, RNC Support Roy Moore; Judge Considers Defamation Suit Against Trump; Fast-Moving Wildfire in Ventura County Chases Thousands from Homes; Trump Announces U.S. Embassy Move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; Fear of Revealing Their Politics Forces Tech Workers Underground. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 5, 2017 - 14:30   ET



[14:33:19] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Embattled Democratic Congressman John Conyers is stepping down. He's the first member of Congress to leave after fallout over sexual harassment allegations. And Conyers, who is the longest-serving member of the House, announced he is retiring on a Detroit radio station today. But he says he's not resigning because of calls from many in his own party. Instead, the 88-year-old Congressman saying he's retiring because of poor health.


UNIDENTIFIED RADIO SHOW HOST: Do you still maintain that the allegations that have been leveled against you are false?

REP. JOHN CONYERS, (D), MICHIGAN (via telephone): Whatever they are, they are not accurate, or they are not true. And I think that they are something that I can't explain where they came from.


KEILAR: Well, Conyers is endorsing his son now to replace him and he's calling for Congress to reveal the names of sitting members who are involved in confidential sexual harassment settlements. Conyers's attorney says the Congressman has no plan to repay his own $27,000 settlement.

Now to Roy Moore. He is moving forward with his bid to be next Senator from Alabama, despite allegations against him. He has regained the support and funding from the Republican National Committee. The party had pulled their endorsement after eight women accused Roy Moore of either sexual abuse or sexual assaults or pursuing relationships with them as teenagers, one as young as 14 years old.

The RNC decision came after hours after President Trump ramped up his endorsement for Moore. Trump reiterating that support today.


[14:35:01] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he's going to do very well. We want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama. Believe me. We want strong borders and stopping crime. We want to have the things we represent. And we certainly don't want to have a liberal Democrat that's controlled by Nancy Pelosi and controlled by Chuck Schumer. We don't want that for Alabama.

Thank you all very much.


KEILAR: CNN's Kaylee Hartung joins us live in Alabama.

Kaylee, it's looking like Trump could make the difference here? Or did it seem like perhaps things could swing in Roy Moore's favor anyway?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he certainly made the difference when it came to getting Republican National Committee funding back to Alabama for Roy Moore. Once the RNC said they would be sending money back down to Moore, an official told CNN the RNC is the political arm of the president and we support the president.

As one state GOP official told me in Alabama, what President Trump's endorsement also did was it gave cover to a lot of Republican officials in this state who haven't said anything about this race.

But there is one group, Brianna, that President Trump is swaying, is not swaying, that's the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose job it is to help get Republicans elected to the Senate. Last month, the chairman of that committee declared Roy Moore unfit to serve that committee, standing by their pledge to stay out of this race.

KEILAR: So his opponent, his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, was touting a really big announcement today. What did that end up being?

HARTUNG: It wasn't so much that it was a big announcement. But it was a big opportunity for the Doug Jones campaign to make a point. They wanted to present a very stark contrast in tone and message to what we all expect to see from Roy Moore tonight. Moore, tonight, will be on a stage in ha barn in Fair Hope, Alabama, with former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon. And someone close to Bannon, familiar with his remarks tonight, has told CNN, expect Bannon to be fire breathing. We are told that Bannon will go hard after Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that he will call Doug Jones a progressive radical. And that he will say that the GOP establishment in Washington would rather have Doug Jones, a Democrat, elected to the Senate than one of their own.

In contrast, listen to the message from Doug Jones today.


DOUG JONES, (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I believe these women. And so should you.

(APPLAUSE0 JONES: We need to look at this as parents, not voters. Will we tell our daughters that if you are abused and if you speak out, you will be believed, and Alabama will stand with you regardless of when you come forward? Or will we tell our young sons that this behavior, this disturbing behavior is OK. If you are powerful or important enough, Alabama will simply look the other way.


HARTUNG: Doug Jones appealing to the pride, Brianna, that he wants Alabamians to have in their state. We'll be standing by to see what the scene is like out in Alabama tonight.

KEILAR: That's right, as we are one week out from this special election.

Kaylee Hartung, in Birmingham, thank you so much.

Happening now, a woman who accused President Trump of sexual harassment is in court. And a judge could soon decide if her defamation suit against the president will get to proceed, and whether Trump himself will have to testify. We'll be discussing that next.

Plus, the White House holding its first briefing since the president's lawyers launched a debate over whether a president can actually obstruct justice. We'll bring you this briefing live.

We'll be back in a moment.


[14:43:13] KEILAR: Happening right now, one of the 13 women who has accused President Trump of sexual harassment and misconduct is in court. A judge could decide if her defamation suit against the president could proceed or be dismissed. And if moves forward, the president could be called to testify. Summer Zervos is a former "Apprentice" contestant and she broke her silence during the 2016 campaign. She says that Trump forcibly kissed her and groped her back in 2007, once during a visit to Trump tower and another time at the Beverly Hills Hotel.


SUMMER ZERVOS, FORMER "APPRENTICE" CONTESTANT: He grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me again very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast. I pulled back and went to another part of the room. He then walked up, grabbed my hand and walked me into the bedroom. I walked out. He then turned me around and said, "Let's lay down and watch some telly, telly." He put me in an embrace and I tried to push him away. I pushed his chest to put space between us and I said, "Come on, man, get real." He repeated my words back to me, "Get real," as he began thrusting his genitals. He tried to kiss me again with my hand still on his chest. And I said, "Dude, you're tripping right now," attempting to make it clear I was not interested.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KEILAR: Well, Trump's response to those allegations is what prompted Zervos to file a defamation suit against him.


TRUMP: Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. Total fabrication.


TRUMP: The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election.


[14:45:02] KEILAR: All right. Let's talk more about this now with Anahita Hasheminejad. She is a criminal defense attorney.

Anahita, just first explain to us how the Trump defense team is handling this.

ANAHITA HASHEMINEJAD, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So I don't think this is going to be a slam dunk for either side. So Trump's defense is making the argument that although there is a unite United States Supreme Court decision in the Paula Jones versus Bill Clinton case that held a sitting president can be shrewd civilly for alleged conduct that took place prior to the president taking office, acknowledging that case. But defense is saying that was only to federal cases not in state court. Which is going on in this case. And I think that's a compelling argument. Another argument they are making is that the president made these statements when he was on the campaign trail. Right. He was calling her a liar. Saying none of these things are true. But because those statements were made in the campaign, it is considered political speech, protected by the First Amendment, and therefore, he cannot be sued for defamation. So I think there is it really compelling arguments on both sides. We have to wait and see what this court is going to do here.

KEILAR: And so we know this, right, that there is it a question of whether a president can be deposed. You mentioned we know Bill Clinton was, that's what got him into all the trouble that he had lied, and then he was ultimately impeached because of that.

HASHEMINEJAD: That's right.

KEILAR: So it's just more difficult, right, to depose a sitting president than it is a private citizen. There's many more hurdles.

HASHEMINEJAD: It's more difficult. Above I can tell you if this court the case can move forward, absolutely Donald Trump will be deposed. He's going to have to testify under oath. Under penalty of perjury. He's going to have to answer a ton of questions. Not only about the allegations this woman is making but about the allegations of all the other women that have accused him of sexual assault. And, yes, if he lies he can be impeached. And we saw that happen with Bill Clinton. Remember, Clinton was not impeached because he allegedly had some miss conduct. He was impeached because he lied in his testimony.

KEILAR: Which pertained to -- it was because of the Paula Jones case. But you're right, because he lied about other things, not Paula Jones --

HASHEMINEJAD: That's right.

KEILAR: -- and that what tripped him up. It's a cautionary tale.

HASHEMINEJAD: Absolutely. He lied whether or not he had sexual relations with Monica Lewinski. And the famous quote that was given during his deposition, under oath, under penalty of perjury, when he was a sitting president in the Paula Jones lawsuit against him.

KEILAR: Anahita, thank you so much. Really appreciate that.


KEILAR: Still ahead, the White House press briefing. This is going to be a very interesting briefing because it's the first one that we have seen since General Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser to President Trump, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and struck a deal to cooperate with them. We'll bring that to you live.

And also, some very stunning images out of southern California. There was a fast-moving wildfire. It is chasing thousands of people from their homes. CNN is there for a live report, next.


[14:50:54] KEILAR: We are also watching breaking news in southern California where a fast-moving out-of-control wildfire is chasing thousands of people from their homes. More than 150 buildings have already been destroyed. More than 45,000 acres in Ventura County have been scorched. Multiple fires are burning in heavily populated areas surrounding Los Angeles. Moments ago, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency because powerful winds are continuing to fan these flames.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is in Ventura.

Paul, tell us what you see.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On cue, if you talk about this, these menacing winds kick up again. Right here, this is one of the places where the fire came howling through in the middle of the night. And you can see this house lost. Then we move a little more to the left -- thank you, Tom Larson, my cameraman, who has been sticking with us all day -- those houses destroyed. But fires can be very whimsical. So up above, you see the nice stately Tudor, survived this.

And how these fires often spread is you can see the faint embers in the air, those start blowing through. One-hundred-and fifty structures damaged so far, 45,000 acres burned. We understand one of the casualties is an apartment building in a small psychiatric facility.

Chance Parch (ph), behind me, rode it out.

Chance, I know you'll leave soon, but describe for us what the scene was in this foothill neighborhood last night.

CHANCE PARCH (ph), VENTURA COUNTY RESIDENT: Last night, around 11:00, I kind of went out to the car, and came back in, and just over the ridge up there you see kind of an orange glow. I went back inside for about five minutes to get Barbara. And we come back out, and it's just a bright red and starting to see the flames over the Hill. So we got everyone up, packed our stuff, then we left, and just got out of here as soon as possible.

VERCAMMEN: You are going to leave again?

PARCH (ph): Yes, there is just too much smoke. So we'll stay at a hotel another night.

VERCAMMEN: Great. Thank you. I'm glad your house survived.

If you look over here, they just got another fire crew up here, Brianna. And again, we were talking about those embers. I was feeling anxious for chance and his fiance if they were going to leave this stuff back here. Because, as we said, so often with fires, winds whip up again, 40, 50, 60 miles an hour, and embers in the air, and catches another vehicle or, excuse me, structure on fire.

So I'll wrap this up from Ventura, California. Brianna, they are in for what could be a very, very long couple of days here.

Back to you.

KEILAR: They sure are.

We know you'll be watching out for us, Paul Vercammen, in Ventura. Thank you, sir.

Up next, we'll talk about the president and if he's above the law. The White House is getting ready to respond the president's lawyer who says the president cannot, is incapable of obstructing justice.

Plus, more on our breaking news. President Trump is expected to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and signal his intentions to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. This is a decision has the world warning of violence and unrest. Stand by for that.


[14:56:03] KEILAR: Now to allegations of a witch hunt in Silicon Valley with some unlikely victims, rich, young, white conservative men. In an industry known for liberal leanings, tech workers say a fear of revealing their politics is forcing them underground.

CNN's senior tech correspondent, Laurie Segall, is joining us with more on her specially "Divided We Code."

Laurie, tell us about this.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECH CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting, I get lots of calls, but these were calls that surprised me. I've protected the identities of many different types of sources. But I've never been asked to protect the identity of someone because they are conservative. This gives you a sense of how polarized it is in Silicon Valley. Conservatives are telling me the stakes are too high to reveal their identities. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a real fear.

SEGALL: He's not hiding his identify because he committed a crime or is worried about his safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I describe myself as a blend of conservative and Libertarian.

SEGALL: He's an entrepreneur who worked with several big names in tech and conservative in Silicon Valley. It's enough to want him to go incognito.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saying I want more border security. Are people going to complain to H.R.? Am I going to get fired for saying that?

SEGALL: And not only one in hiding. We spoke to several others who say the stakes are too high to share their identity.

Here's another conservative from a major tech company. Spoke with us on the condition of anonymity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I walked into work with a "Make America Great Again" hat, there's people who take it as a personal affront. I would expect to be out of the company within weeks, if not a month.

SEGALL: These are the undercover conservatives of Silicon Valley. Its' a perfect equation for a culture war playing out in what has long been a mecca for liberal politics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big deal as these tech companies get more and more control over things we see. Easy content distribution coupled with fewer gatekeepers, means people in these companies will have far more power, which is why I think it's a sad state where conservatives feel they might lose their jobs and can't speak out about some of the editorial decisions that could be made.

SEGALL: Civil rights attorney, Harmet Dillon (ph), thinks they might have recourse. She says she's been getting called discriminated against but too afraid to speak publicly.

HARMET DILLON (ph), CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: If you are a young man in your '20s, making a quarter million dollar with your salary and your bonus and your stock, do you want to be the martyr of conservative rights?

SEGALL: The multi-million tech entrepreneur, an unlikely poster boy for discrimination.

DILLON (ph): Well, what it looks like is being disciplined for innocent remarks, it's being not considered for job opportunities and internal promotions.

SEGALL (on camera): It's so ironic because I feel you could take that exactly thing you just said and applied it to women's cases at these tech companies.

DILLON (ph): I've suffered sexual harassment as a woman as well. So the fact that that exists does not take away from the fact that political and viewpoint discrimination exists in Silicon Valley. Both can exist.


SEGALL: It's interesting, Brianna, because I think we are all having these conversations, is technology polarizing us, are we increasingly in our own filter bubbles. And the people who created the technology that is maybe further polarizing as they are facing their own divisions. And that does have real implications for the rest of the country.

KEILAR: Certainly does.

Laurie Segall, thank you so much for that.

And make sure to watch Laurie's full special, "Divided We Code." You can see that Saturday, at 2:30 p.m. eastern, on CNN.

It's the top of the hour now. Hi, there. I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin.

We are standing by for the White House briefing. And this is one to watch because it will be the first briefing that we have seen since Michael Flynn pleaded guilty. Many other developments that have happened as well in the Russia probe. We expect the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, is going to be asked questions about the president's support --