Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Jr. Refuses to Detail Conversation With His Father About Trump Tower Meeting; Whistleblower: Flynn Sent Inauguration Day Text Suggesting Russian Sanctions Would be "Ripped Up"; Interview with Congressman Eric Swalwell of California; Once Abandoned, Roy Moore Now Receives GOP Support. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired December 6, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
We begin tonight with breaking news on the Russia investigation and the president's son. Donald Trump Jr. testified before House investigators today but refused to tell the committee what he and his father, the president, discussed when the story over the meeting with Russians in Trump Tower first broke.
Multiple sources also tell CNN that Trump Jr. testified that he spoke with White House aide Hope Hicks about how to respond when the story broke. Hicks was on Air Force One with the president at the time.
Now, if you remember, Trump Jr.'s story about the meeting changed multiple times. The statement in question which the president took part in crafting read in part, quote: we primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up.
Well, that statement was proven to be false just a day later when apparently knowing "The New York Times" was ready to publish the truth about the meeting, Trump Jr. was forced to admit that it was actually about getting Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. Again, that meeting was in June of 2016.
A few weeks later, Trump Jr. acted like the very idea of the Russians helping his father was nothing more than a conspiracy cooked up by the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: It just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they'll say anything to win this. This is time and time again, lie after lie. You notice, he won't say, well, I say it is.
We hear experts, you know, his house cat at home once said this is what's happening with the Russians. It's disgusting. It's so phony.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well, once the truth came out about the nature of the meeting, which again was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, here's what he said on Sean Hannity's show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP JR: Like I said, in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently. Again, this is before the Russia-mania. This is before they were building it up in the press. For me, this is opposition research.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Trump Jr. repeatedly has said his father never knew about that opposition research, but again, in testimony today, he refused to tell a House committee what he and his father discussed when the story broke.
Tonight, there's other breaking news in the Russia investigation dating back to the inauguration day. As the president was giving his inaugural address, incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn was texting a former business colleague that one of the first things the administration would do would be to rip up sanctions against Russia. That's according to a whistleblower who is not being named.
Congressman Elijah Cummings of the House Oversight Committee released a summary of the whistleblower's account today. The account also suggests that Flynn had a personal stake in the Russia sanctions being lifted, having worked with companies to make a deal with Russia to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East.
A lawyer for one of those companies is denying the whistleblower's account of the text messages.
Joining me now is CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown.
So, Pamela, first of all, about this Donald Trump Jr. testimony, I understand he actually invoked attorney/client privilege today when asked about conversations with his father.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And that's actually had some legal analysts scratching their heads, Anderson. Donald Trump Jr. refusing to tell House investigators what he and his father discussed after those reports surfaced about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting he had, citing attorney/client privilege.
Now, we've learned, Anderson, that President Trump and Don Jr. had a conversation after Trump junior tweeted out the e-mails about his involvement in that meeting. That's according to Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who attended the session.
Schiff said Don Jr. invoked attorney/client privilege because of the presence of attorneys during the exchange with his father. Some legal analysts have questioned that. It's certainly caused debate. Some have said that attorney-client privilege can't be used in a case like this.
And it certainly raises questions about what they talked about, what President Trump and his son, Don Jr., talked about in the wake of the e-mails he released. And also, we should mention, Don Jr. once again today denied he told his dad about the Trump Tower meeting when it happened in the summer of 2016, Anderson.
COOPER: What more can you tell us about Donald Trump Jr. saying he communicated with Hope Hicks, not his father, about that Trump Tower meeting response?
BROWN: Yes. So, he acknowledged today that he spoke with senior White House aide, now White House communications director Hope Hicks, not his father, which first confronted with news reports about his meeting with the Russians, even though I just pointed out he wouldn't disclose what he discussed with his father. And around the same time, Trump Jr. said he went to Hicks first about how to respond to the reports of the meeting this past summer. He said -- he also said, according to the sources, speaking to my colleague, Manu Raju, that his dad was debating between a longer or shorter statement while Trump and Hicks were aboard Air Force One.
The initial statement in July 2017, as you'll recall, Anderson, gave a misleading impression of the meeting which later turned out was billed to Trump Jr. as a way to get dirt on the Clintons and some legal experts say the White House's involvement could be problematic since there was an ongoing criminal probe into Russian meddling, Anderson.
COOPER: Pam Brown, thanks very much.
Joining me now, one of the lawmakers at that House hearing today, Congressman Eric Swalwell.
Congressman Swalwell, what do you make of Donald Trump Jr. citing attorney/client privilege and refusing to describe the conversation he had with his father? I mean, can you do that just because attorneys were in the room?
[20:05:03] REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Anderson.
This falls in line with others who have casually exerted privileges. Jeff sessions cites a long-standing Department of Justice privilege, which is not found in the law, that he couldn't tell us what he says to Donald Trump and Roger Stone cited a privilege on behalf of a journalist when we asked him who he was talking to at WikiLeaks.
This is not a privilege in the law. If he's talking to his father and they're trying to get their stories straight, that's not recognized as a privilege. If it was, essentially every defendant in America could call into their attorney's office, an alibi witness, and talk to them directly to get their stories straight and a prosecutor would never be able to penetrate that. That's not how it works. And, you know, we hope that the Republicans will call him back under subpoena and actually compel him, which they have the power to do. COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that. I mean, you talk about the
Republicans calling him back. Obviously, they're in control of your committee. Is that what it takes? I mean, can they force him to answer the question?
SWALWELL: Yes, and that's what ranking member Schiff asked for. You know, we believe we're on solid legal standing here that if he is there under subpoena, he would have to be -- he would be ordered to answer the question.
Now, most witnesses come in voluntarily and normally that works, but as we've seen, a number of them have refused to answer our questions and they cite that they're there voluntarily, and we can't force them. And so, I believe the Republicans should start putting these witnesses under subpoena and then when they assert bogus privileges, compel them to testify, and I think we'll get to the truth.
COOPER: I don't know if you can say, but did anybody challenge this idea when he invoked attorney/client privilege? I mean, did anybody say, wait a minute, this is ludicrous?
SWALWELL: Oh, yes, it was challenged. It was pretty vigorously challenged and they stuck to their position that they were not going to share any conversations that Donald Trump Jr. had with his father about the June 9th meeting.
COOPER: Can you say how the Republicans on the committee reacted?
SWALWELL: Well, you know, they had -- they had the power to tell him at he'll have to come back under subpoena if he refuses to answer. And sometimes that will just put the witness in a position of not wanting to go through all that and just answering, but they didn't do that. I hope that they recognize the seriousness of this, because this June 9th meeting is a cornerstone piece of our investigation and what the president knew, what Donald Trump as a candidate knew at the time is critically important for us.
COOPER: Also, if you can say just to be clear, do you believe conversations between Donald Trump Jr. and Hope Hicks were essentially conversations between Donald Trump Jr. and his father? Because Hope Hicks is, you know, his right-hand person.
SWALWELL: Yes, Anderson. So I can't go into what was discussed other than this objection over the privilege, but, you know, we do know she was the communications director and if there were conversations between Hope Hicks and Donald Trump Jr. And she was an intermediary, that's not privileged either.
So, I think the best thing to do is, you know, take this investigation as serious as it should be and bring these witnesses under a subpoena and we'll get the answers.
COOPER: Congressman, stay with us. I want to bring in Michael Zeldin, also our Gloria Borger.
Michael, I mean, you heard the congressman. Do you believe there's any legal merit to Trump Jr.'s claim of attorney/client privilege?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, ROBERT MUELLER'S FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT AT DOJ: None whatsoever. If there were any type of privilege between him and his lawyer as they spoke to one another it would probably be waived because there were third parties present. So, I don't think there's a colorable claim of attorney/client privilege, under the structure that we know the conversations took place in, which is Don Jr. and his lawyer talking through Hope Hicks to the president and her serving as intermediary in those conversations.
There's nothing that's attorney/client privilege protectable in that chain.
COOPER: And, Gloria, in terms of optics surrounding the investigation, how problematic is it for the president to have his son invoke what is -- you know, if you listen to Michael Zeldin, Jeff Toobin, and others, you know, pretty bogus legal reasoning and refuse to answering?
BORGER: Well, it's not great, I mean, because you have to ask the question, why is he refusing to answer the question about what he said to his father.
I notice that the congressman was talking about getting your story straight, I think as he put it. Well, if that was the case, I think either the special counsel or the congressional committees are going to want to know what story? What were you -- what were you discussing here? I think my not answering the question, you only raise more questions.
COOPER: Yes, go ahead.
ZELDIN: Can I just add one more thing? Remember when this whole thing broke, the attorney for the president, Jay Sekulow, went on "Meet the Press" and he said categorically, the president had nothing to do with the drafting of this statement.
COOPER: Right. He was it was Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyers.
ZELDIN: Right. That was -- that was -- that was untruthful. And so, maybe, the assertion of attorney/client privilege here is to buy time to get their story straight, which is in and of itself very problematic and I don't think Mueller will find that at all availing.
COOPER: Congressman, if there was nothing inappropriate about the discussions regarding the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, wouldn't it behoove the president and his son to just get it all out there?
[20:10:04] I mean, the president is the one who says this whole thing is a hoax.
SWALWELL: That's right. Actually, Donald Trump Jr. can actually just waive the privilege if he was forthcoming and wanted to clear the air. You know, Anderson, just to put this in perspective, June 3rd the
meeting is set up. That's when they offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. June 7th, Donald Trump the candidate, cryptically says he's going to reveal new information about Hillary Clinton. June 9th is when the meeting occurs and June 12th is when WikiLeaks first announces that they have dirt and e-mails on Hillary Clinton.
So, this is a pivotal point in our investigation. And, you know, to hide behind a made-up privilege sets us back in what we need to tell the American people.
COOPER: Michael -- go ahead.
ZELDIN: May I add one thing to that timeline of congressman Swalwell's, which I agree with?
Which is when the president said on June the 9th that there would be forthcoming, then the meeting occurs on the 9th, when the meeting is sort of a bust, if you will, from the dirt on Hillary stuff, nothing is ever forthcoming. So, when you have a timeline like that where June 3 is the initial e-mail, the president says dirt is coming, the meeting is a bust and then nothing is forthcoming, it just implies that they're talking to one another during that whole chain of events. It's not plausible otherwise.
COOPER: Michael, do you believe Robert Mueller would permit Trump junior to claim attorney/client privilege with conversations with his father? And if not, what mechanisms could he use to force Trump Jr. to answer?
ZELDIN: Well, Mueller was the authority to seek contempt hearing before a judge as well for failure to answer. I don't believe that Mueller will find that assertion of attorney/client privilege to be availing. I think that if he continues to refuse it this way, it's going to be tantamount to disaster for his team because it will be viewed as obstruction by Mueller and be added to the obstruction of justice mosaic that they're both building for one another.
COOPER: Gloria, I know you've got a question for the congressman.
BORGER: Congressman, I just want to know what you think about bringing in Hope Hicks now before your committee. I mean, doesn't she become more of a central figure because she was the conduit between Donald Trump Jr. and his father, particularly on Air Force One?
SWALWELL: Certainly relevant because of prior reports as well with her role in the firing of James Comey, but, you know, we want to interview anyone who was involved in the June 9th meeting or who was involved in the statement about the June 9th meeting.
And so, you know, I'll leave it to our ranking member and chairman to hopefully sort that out. But I don't see how an investigation would be complete without her.
BORGER: Can I ask one more thing. Why do you think Don Jr. was reluctant today? You were sitting in that room. Why do you think he didn't want to answer that question about his conversation with his father?
SWALWELL: You know, I can't speak to his motives, I can just tell you as a former prosecutor, it's usually when you're seeking to protect somebody, that's when you don't answer a direct question when you demonstrate that you have information on it.
COOPER: Yes. Congressman Swalwell, Gloria Borger, Michael Zeldin, appreciate it. Thanks very much.
Coming up, the president, the RNC, Steve Bannon, all in Roy Moore's corner now with the upcoming election for U.S. Senate seat, despite the multiple accusations against Moore. I'll speak with Moore's campaign spokeswoman next.
Also ahead, the latest on raging wildfires in Southern California. The images unbelievable. The evacuations, a freeway shut down at one point. We'll have the latest.
[20:16:52] COOPER: The race for U.S. Senate in Alabama is now less that a week ago. The president and the RNC are supporting Roy Moore fully now. Four women, as you know, have come forward alleging some form of unwanted sexual contact or sexual assault by more. 2
These are two more serious accusations: Leigh Corfman tells "The Washington Post" when she was 14, Moore took her to his house, took off her clothes, touched her over her bra and underwear and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
In a press conference, Beverly Nelson says when she was 16, Moore sexually assaulted her in his car, groping her breast, squeezing her neck, trying to force her head onto his crotch. She said she eventually was pushed or fell out of the car.
Roy Moore says he does not know these women and never engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone.
Joining me now is Roy Moore's campaign spokeswoman, Janet Porter.
Janet, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it.
JANET PORTER, ROY MOORE'S CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: Thank you, Anderson. I appreciate you having me on.
COOPER: Janet, you believe these women are all lying, but Roy Moore has been removed twice as chief justice in the Supreme Court. The second time he had his honesty challenged by the Alabama court of the judiciary. Judges unanimously said he had not been credible and they found his use of case law had been incomplete, misleading and manipulative. That's a quote.
So, you don't believe any of these women, but you believe Roy Moore who was removed from office after found to be not credible and misleading. PORTER: First off, when we talk about believing the women, I would
ask the question of maybe some lacrosse players at Duke University, ask them if they believe every woman who makes an accusation. If we did a lynch mob media against innocent people as we did with lacrosse, there would be some lacrosse players in jail right now.
Let's look at what the judge did. He stood for the Ten Commandments. He said that I have the freedom of religion to display these commandments --
COOPER: Actually, what the judge did was he violated state and federal regulations and he was removed from the Supreme Court for that. And then four years later, he misled the -- he misled the judges by saying he didn't order probate judges not to marry same-sex couples. They said he was essentially lying.
PORTER: Here's what really happened. Having been down here in Alabama, I'm learning a whole lot about what's going on. And one of the things that I learned is that what the rule of law really means is that you follow the Constitution. Not activist judges that are acting outside the Constitution.
COOPER: Are you telling me Alabama has a lot of activist judges?
PORTER: And that's one of the reasons why the people of Alabama love him so much.
COOPER: You're telling me the judges, all of whom voted against him and took him off the court, they're all activist judges?
PORTER: Well, Judge Roy Moore was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the state of Alabama, the Constitution of the United States of America. That's what he was following.
COOPER: But they actually convicted him of violating state law.
PORTER: May I finish?
COOPER: Well, I'm just telling you what you're saying is incorrect.
PORTER: Well, I'm telling you what Judge Moore says is what I believe and it's the culture war that's going on down here. There are people who believe that government is god and there are those who believe what our Declaration of Independence says, that we are endowed by our Creator with the inalienable right to life and liberty.
And he was exercising his religious liberty, he was following the sworn oath of upholding the Constitution of the state and the nation, and that's why we want to send him to the Senate because he doesn't care about his job more than he cares about the principles or the Constitution of the United States.
[20:20:08] And frankly that's why, Anderson --
COOPER: Well, let me understand, he took an oath to mislead, he took an oath to manipulate? He took an oath that endangered probate judges?
PORTER: No, don't put words into this formula --
COOPER: Well, you're saying he took an oath. I'm telling you what the judges found him guilty of.
PORTER: He took an -- well, you know what? Sometimes rulings aren't necessarily accurate. I mean, there's all kinds of things that can be said about someone, but what he did is quite different.
COOPER: Well, let me tell you what Roy Moore said about those judges. He said that --
PORTER: -- and the Constitution of the United States.
COOPER: Right, at the time said that those judges were radical homosexuals and transgendered activists.
Do you really believe that the judges on the Alabama Court of the judiciary are radical homosexuals and transgender people?
PORTER: I really don't know about the judges and what their orientation happens to be.
COOPER: I thought you would have looked to see if they were homosexuals or transgender people running the court.
PORTER: It matters not to me. What matters is we have someone willing to defend our religious liberty, defend marriage as a Constitution as he's sworn to uphold the Constitution of the state and the nation. But let me tell you what's at stake here.
The reason I took -- can I finish?
COOPER: You're accusing these women are lying when he's the guy who has been told unanimously by judges he's been removed twice from his job and judges said he was manipulative --
PORTER: Because he stood for marriage and that's why the people of Alabama are going to send him to the Senate. You can repeat allegations over and over again but it doesn't make them true.
COOPER: They're not allegations. They're what the court actually found. (CROSSTALK)
PORTER: Well, let me tell you what really took place. You've got a guy willing to stand on principle and even if it costs him his job and his lucrative retirement. That's why this is -- you want to know why all this is going on?
Let me tell you what's at stake here. This is ground zero for religious liberty. This is ground zero for life. And the winner of this Senate race is winner-take-all. It will be the deciding vote on the United States Supreme Court, who will sit on the court for the next 30 or 40 years.
COOPER: Right, so, it --
PORTER: Because we know that Senators Mikulski and Collins are going to side with the Democrats. And it took -- even when they confirm Betsy DeVos, it took Vice President Pence to break the tie.
PORTER: So, that's what we're going to be looking at when we got a promise from President Trump for pro-life justices. But what good is that promise if you can't confirm them and that's what's at stake.
PORTER: That's why you see these baseless allegations just on the eve of an allegation.
COOPER: I guess I'm just wondering why voters trust somebody who a court has found was misleading and manipulative, but we'll obviously leave that up to voters. You said "The Washington Post" --
PORTER: Because they know the truth. They know he stood for marriage. They stood for life. The voters know that.
COOPER: "The Washington Post" --
PORTER: That's what we know. Not only does the voter know that, the voters of Alabama, but the president has stood with Judge Roy Moore, as has now the Republican Party come onboard.
COOPER: Well, now, he has. He wasn't a couple of weeks ago.
PORTER: The governor -- well, the governor is now on board and has been onboard, as we see people like Dr. James Dobson, pro-family leader, Dr. Ben Carson. We see Governor Sarah Palin.
Let me tell you who's working against Judge Moore.
COOPER: Well, let me ask you about that. PORTER: It's the Democrat establishment, the far left media, the ones
from the abortion lobby, the felons that George Soros is spending money to make sure they're registered to vote.
By the way, I want to know --
COOPER: Let me ask you about that --
PORTER: -- there are some people who Judge Moore sent to jail that do have an ax to grind against the man.
COOPER: All right. Let me ask you about that because you named a lot of people -- your campaign -- just as you did tonight, but your campaign has blamed an awful lot of people for the accusations being made by women against Roy Moore. I've heard Moore or his supporters blame Doug Jones, George Soros, the DNC, Mitch McConnell, mainstream Republicans, "The Washington Post", the lynch mob media, as you call them, homosexuals, transgender people and criminals.
Can you just explain to me how all these people got together and came up with this plot against Roy Moore? Because that's a pretty huge group --
PORTER: Well, Judge Moore is --
COOPER: -- and I don't know if there's a conference call that Mitch McConnell and like radical homosexuals are on? But it would be fascinating to hear that.
PORTER: May I respond?
COOPER: Go right ahead.
PORTER: When you have false allegations that are generated by "The Washington Post" there tends to be a pile-on. That's how a lynch mob works. And so, what we're looking at is a guy that has stood for life, unlike his opponent that favors abortion for all nine months of pregnancy.
COOPER: Do you have evidence that all these people are involved, the DNC, the RNC --
PORTER: Let me tell you my experience. Can I tell you, Anderson? This is where I come to this campaign. May I share something with you?
PORTER: When I ran for -- I've been trying to get a pro-life bill in the state of Ohio for the last six years and the Senate was blocking me. So I recruited candidates to run and I filed to run myself and when I was polling even with the establishment, they spent a million dollars telling everyone that I was the pro-abort, telling everyone that I was a liar. And my niece was listening to the radio one day and she said they just don't know Aunt Janet. And the same is true, what the establishment does is make false
allegations. The postcards look almost identical to the ones they sent out against me minus the sexual allegations.
COOPER: So you're from Ohio, right?
PORTER: Here's what happening. The people -- let me finish. Yes.
The people that know Judge Moore the most and the people of Alabama do are the ones standing with him now.
[20:25:01] COOPER: So, let me ask, why is it OK for you to come in from Ohio and tell the people of Alabama how to vote when you go after George Soros, you go after anybody else who's not from Alabama claiming they're outsiders? Are you just as much of an outsider as "The Washington Post"?
PORTER: Well, the reason I came to Alabama because this is ground zero in the fight for our freedom.
COOPER: Right. But you're not from the state. So, you're telling people in Alabama how to vote.
PORTER: Well, what I would tell people that aren't from the state of Alabama is to do what I did. Go to RoyMoore.org and make the most generous donation you possibly can, if you care about the future, if you care about the right to bear arms.
PORTER: This is the only guy that's going to stand for it. By the way, when the --
COOPER: Judge Moore, he's the only, really?
PORTER: May I finish?
COOPER: Judge Moore has talked a lot -- no, judge Moore has talked a lot about abortion and the right to bear arms. These are issues which are obviously incredibly important, I totally understand that.
I want to ask you where the judge stands on a number of issues that he's spoken about in the past but not as much recently because we haven't been able to get to him directly. Does Judge Moore still believe that homosexual conduct should be illegal and that homosexuality is still the same thing at bestiality?
PORTER: Well, I think that what Judge Roy Moore and I can't answer that question.
COOPER: You don't know that? Because that's what he said in the past. Can you get back --
(CROSSTALK) PORTER: I don't have that answer but I can tell you what he does believe regarding that issue. And regarding that issue, if you want to talk about making sure we don't have sexual predators --
COOPER: No, I'm not talking about sexual predators, I'm talking about anybody who's homosexual, gay and lesbian people.
PORTER: Let me answer if I may. You've got to let me answer, Cooper -- excuse me, Anderson, Mr. Cooper.
COOPER: You're talking about predators. So, that's not gay people.
PORTER: Let me just say, he wants to put out a welcome mat in front of these young girls. If you are a junior high school girl or if you are a high school girl, what abortion Jones is saying we're putting out a welcome mat to any boy who's feeling like a girl that day, he's free to walk into the bathroom, the locker room with his camera phone and shower with your daughter.
COOPER: I've heard you say that numerous times.
PORTER: The people of Alabama aren't going to take this radical position.
PORTER: They're not going to take the radical position that says --
COOPER: Can you get back to us on whether --
PORTER: He said, I can't tell you I won't take your religious liberty away. That's where abortion Jones stands.
COOPER: Can you ask as a spokesperson? Can you get back to me on whether or not he believes homosexuality should be illegal?
PORTER: I believe that he believes the Bible and what the Bible has to say and something his opponent (ph) wants to criminalize.
COOPER: If you don't want to answer, that's fine. But can you get back to us?
PORTER: I can answer -- yes, I can look into that.
COOPER: Can I ask you, does he still believe that 9/11 may have happened --
(CROSSTALK) PORTER: -- is public positions.
COOPER: I'm asking you is public positions.
PORTER: Pardon me?
COOPER: Does he still believe that 9/11 may have happened because, quote, we distanced ourselves from God? That's what he said in the past. Does he still believe that?
PORTER: You know, this is -- this is the thing. A lot of people talk about God and how they're Christians. In fact if you look at the commercials of Roy Moore's opponent, he's telling everybody what a great Christian he is and how he defends --
COOPER: You don't know the answer about 9/11 either?
PORTER: I don't know the answer on 9/11. No, I'm sorry, I don't have that answer. But what I will tell you is that the people of Alabama --
COOPER: Third question. Does he still believe -- does he still believe --
PORTER: You've got to let me respond, Anderson. Come on.
COOPER: OK. Go ahead and respond.
PORTER: What I want to respond is what the people of Alabama know, their state motto, and I'm learning it while I'm here --
COOPER: Which you're not from, right.
PORTER: -- is that we dare defend our rights. And our rights, our rights to life, our right to liberty, our right to bear arms, our right to a strong military, our right to secure borders.
If you want to talk about protecting women, we need to run from Roy Moore's opponent who lets -- the Kate Steinle family, says, you know what, so what if this guy is illegally immigrating? So, what if he's a seven-time felon, we're not going to build the wall to keep him out because that's too expensive.
PORTER: I think the lives of Americans being lost are too expensive and that's what's at stake in this race and the people of Alabama are not going to be fooled. They won't be bought and they won't be bullied.
COOPER: OK. Just like two more questions. Does he still believe an American citizen who's a Muslim should not be able to serve in Congress?
PORTER: I think that what he's getting at there is we believe in the rule of law by the Constitution, not Sharia law. And I think that's really the bottom line in what we're looking at.
COOPER: Right, he said that Keith Ellison should not be allowed to use the Koran, to swear in the Koran.
PORTER: He said, I am sworn to uphold the Constitution, and he'll lose his job if he has to, to stand for that Constitution.
COOPER: So, you don't know the answer of that either?
PORTER: To stand for religious liberty.
COOPER: Whether he still believes that?
PORTER: Well, it's a message -- I believe his position has to do with whether we follow the Constitution or the ridiculously oppressive to women Sharia law.
COOPER: Does he still think Keith Ellison shouldn't be allowed to swear on the Koran?
PORTER: If you want a guy that's for women's rights, Anderson, if you want somebody who's for women's right, then you need to run Judge Moore.
COOPER: I get you don't want to answer these questions and that's cool but I'd rather you just say you don't want to answer them rather than just ignore them.
PORTER: I'm answering them. He picks the Constitution over Sharia law and the people of Alabama agree.
COOPER: Does he still believe there's Sharia law that exists, that communities in the U.S. are being ruled by Sharia law, as he did in the past? Does he still believe that?
PORTER: I think he sees there is a movement toward that, if you look to --
COOPER: That's not what he said. He said there were actually communities being run by Sharia law. Does he still believe that?
PORTER: Well, there are communities overseas that are being run --
COOPER: No, in the United States.
PORTER: I'm not sure if there are any here in America -- COOPER: Illinois, he said Illinois.
PORTER: -- but I know that there's a movement toward that and he stands for the Constitution. That's what you know.
COOPER: If you can get back to us on that, that would be great too.
PORTER: He's going to fight -- he's going to fight -- I've already -- I've told you what I know and that is the Constitution should trump any other rule --
COOPER: But you don't know what his position is. As his spokesperson, I'd love to hear his position.
Does he still believe Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States?
PORTER: That is his position. I'm pretty -- I can tell you with some confidence that this is the guy that stood with the constitution even when it cost him everything. You don't have to question that.
COOPER: That he still --
PORTER: We already know that. He's been through the fire and he's come out gold. That's what the people of Alabama know.
PORTER: And they're not going to be bullied. They're not going to be told what to do --
COOPER: I hear that.
PORTER: -- by the lynch mob media and they're not going to be told what to do by a pro-abortion Democrats. That's what we're going to see six days from now on the 12th of December.
COOPER: Again you're his spokesperson, just try to get these positions down, does he still believe Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States? Because he didn't believe that in the past.
PORTER: You know what, that issue has kind of come and gone so that's an issue that --
COOPER: OK, because he commented about it in the past recently I just thought --
PORTER: I don't know. I just know that when I have to rent the library book or do anything else, I show my driver's license. I think that's a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But that's -- or birth certificate, that's a perfect reason --
COOPER: OK. So you don't really know any of the -- PORTER: Now, you can try to make the guy look -- look really as bad
as you can, but the people of Alabama know him.
COOPER: I'm not trying to make him look bad, I'm just -- he's made public statements --
PORTER: He's known as trust worthy for 40 years.
COOPER: He's made public statements, I'm trying to find out if he still believes these public statements. The last one I'm going to ask is, does he still believe --
PORTER: That one was irrelevant.
COOPER: Let's try this one on for size. Does he still believe that President Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as the focus of evil in the modern world could be applied to America today? Because he said that. He said it could be applied to America today because, "We promote a lot of bad things like same-sex marriage". So does he still believe that the U.S. could be the focus of evil in the modern world?
PORTER: I've heard him speak at many rallies and what he has is great hope for America.
COOPER: All right.
PORTER: He knows that God gave us mercy in last election --
COOPER: OK, not answer the question but.
PORTER: -- and he has great hope. In fact I think he would go along with the Ronald Reagan quote that says it's hard to remember when you're up to your arm pits in alligators that you game to drain the swamp and that's what Roy Moore is going to do, drain the swamp. That's why they're not real fond of him in Washington.
COOPER: Does he still believe though that the U.S. has become the focus of evil in the world because the U.S. promotes things in his words like same-sex marriage?
PORTER: Part me?
COOPER: Does he still believe that the U.S. has become the focus of the evil in the world because the U.S. promotes things in his words like same-sex marriage?
PORTER: Yes, you can ridicule biblical beliefs if you're not.
COOPER: I'm ridicule.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: I'm asking you -- I'm giving you quotes of exactly what your candidate has said.
COOPER: You're the spokesperson and you seem a, unwilling, I know you're not from Alabama but you seem either not to know what his positions are or in willing to actually tell me what his positions are.
PORTER: He should, it's very public knowledge that he stood for marriage between one man and one woman as it has been for 200 years in the United States. That's not a secret.
PORTER: There's no --
COOPER: I'm just wondering does he still believe the U.S. is the focus of evil in the modern world.
PORTER: -- and the people of Alabama do too.
COOPER: And that's a pretty bold statement.
PORTER: He has stood -- he has stood for the constitution and that's really what it's all about. It comes down to who do you want to represent the people of Alabama. In fact the judge said recently that -- he said they don't want Alabama values in Washington and he said I can't wait. And the people of Alabama are going to send him to Washington to drain the swamp and to defend life, defend liberty, our Second Amendment, he's going to build a strong military and perhaps most importantly he's going to be the deciding vote to make sure we confirm the judges that President Trump puts on the Supreme Court and that's what matters. The people of Alabama as their motto says, they dare to defend their rights. They're going to defend their right to vote and defend their constitutional rights as well.
COOPER: I appreciate your time Janet Porter, thank you very much.
Coming up --
PORTER: Thank you.
COOPER: -- more breaking news out of Washington. Senator Al Franken under fire as a majority of Senate Democrats say he must resign. Tonight we'll hear from a woman who says the president groped her on a plane -- or said that Al Franken grope -- oh that the president groped her on a plane decades ago, we have more on Al Franken. We'll also talk to a woman who said the president groped her on a plane decades ago and get her take on Al Franken and all that's been going on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JESSICA LEEDS, TRUMP'S SEXUAL HARASSED VICTIM: I'm sort of the opinion right now that any man over the age of 55 who holds any position of importance or power or wealth has got to be waking up at 4:00 in the morning in a cold sweat wondering whether another shoe is going to drop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:37:46] COOPER: Breaking news tonight. Senator Al Franken's office says he still has not decided whether or not he's going to resign in amid more sexual harassment allegations. An announcement from the senator is scheduled for tomorrow. The chorus of voices calling for him to step down has grown to include 32 Democratic senators. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty joins us now from Capitol Hill
Many of the allegations against Senator Franken surfaced weeks ago. Why did the senators call for his resignation just today?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well the seven allegations essentially Anderson turned into the straw that broke the camel's back in talking to many Republican and Democratic senators today. The sense that I kept getting from them is look, this was essentially just the tipping point. Many Democrats telling me that they had just been watching these allegations pile up and pile up and accumulate over the last three weeks against Senator Franken. And this essentially became one allegation too many. And one congressional source that I was talking to said that one thing that was most concerning, the fact that there was a pattern to these allegations, that it potentially the pattern of misconduct by Senator Franken, not an isolated incident.
Now, I'm told that played heavily into the decision by the group of female Democratic senators to come out today in a coordinated fashion and call for him to design. Here's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand earlier today.
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, (D) NEW YORK: Obviously, there were new allegations today and enough is enough. We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard. I do not feel that he should continue to serve.
SERFATY: And the chorus of female Democratic senators calling for their colleague to resign really unleashed an avalanche to cave in essentially around Franken today on Capitol Hill. Over 30 of his colleagues here in the Senate have called for his resignation including a late in the day call from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, although we are told he's lobbying behind the scenes calling for Franken to resign and telling him directly to do so.
COOPER: What do we know about this announcement tomorrow from Franken?
SERFATY: Well we don't know much. We don't know yet know if he will resign or not. We know that it will happen at some point tomorrow and that will happen here in Washington, D.C. His office says that late in the day it would be at this point premature to say he's made his decision. He is right now seeking counsel from his family.
[20:40:03] But at this stage, Anderson, I think it's safe to say it would be a long stretch to consider him staying here in Congress, now that he has a leadership against him and many of his colleagues against him, the writing is essentially on the wall. He just have to make (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Sunlen Serfaty, thanks very much appreciate it.
Jessica Leeds thinks this moment is a long time coming. Ms. Leeds is one of the first people during the presidential campaign to come forward to say Donald Trump sexually assaulted her. She said the president made unwanted sexually advances to her decades ago when they were seated next to each other on an airplane.
At one point she says, Trump lifted up the arm rest, grabbed her breast, kissed her and tried to put his hand up her skirt. She says the attempted groping lasted about 15 minutes. Years later, Leeds she ran into Trump in a gala in New York City and he recognized her as greeting her as "the woman from the airplane" using a derogatory word. I spoke to her earlier this afternoon.
COOPER: Al Franken is going to be making an announcement tomorrow. I'm wondering what you think of his situation?
LEEDS: Well, I of course am disappointed because I've enjoyed him when he was on as comedian, I enjoyed him when he was on the radio and I was impressed that he became a senator and I thought he was a very serious senator, and I was impressed with what he was doing and how he was doing it. Am I surprised? No. I'm sort of the opinion right now that any man over the age of 55 who holds any position of importance or power or wealth has got to be waking up at 4:00 in the morning in a cold sweat wondering whether another shoe is going to drop.
COOPER: Because they come from that generation --
COOPER: And they come from --
LEEDS: Yes, yes, yes. And what I think the next explosion is going to be is in business. Because it's there. Especially in the Wall Street area.
COOPER: Did you think you coming forward, the other women who came forward speaking about then candidate Trump now President Trump, did you think it would have had more of an impact?
COOPER: You didn't think it would?
LEEDS: I really didn't. And I was just so furious after the debate that I just had to get it off my chest. And so I did. And I really --
COOPER: It was that second debate.
LEEDS: Yes, yes.
COOPER: Which motivated you?
LEEDS: When you asked him point blank and he wanted to talk about Syria and you wouldn't let him and I was just like on my feet screaming at the TV, which I don't do. And didn't sleep that night. So the next morning I shot off a letter to the editor, to the "Times" just to get it off my chest. And I thought that would be as far as it went. I really did. I thought I'd be lucky to get a letter published. And then it sort of --
COOPER: So tab (ph) -- the White House continues to say none of this happened. Not only what you said didn't happen but none of these women who have come forward with allegations about Donald Trump are telling the truth.
LEEDS: I don't really know how to answer that. As I said when I told my story, everybody's got a perfect right not to believe me because it happened so long ago. But I'm not bothered by being called a liar. But what I find interesting is the stories of those other, what, 14, 15 women, they're all the same. And none of them have colluded with each other. So this is -- this is an M.O of this man. And just because they stand up there and say that we're lying, I don't think changes the situation at all.
COOPER: I want to play something he said after you came out publicly and made the allegations that you did. This was what he said about that.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: People that are willing to say, oh, I was with Donald Trump in 1980. I was sitting with him on an airplane. And he went after me on the plane. Yes, I'm going to go after. Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.
LEEDS: I find that just ludicrous because he didn't pick me. I was there. I was available and he was bored.
COOPER: That's all it was?
LEEDS: That's all it was. The other women who are beautiful and beauty pageant types and most of them have long blonde hair, which is something he seems he seems to like, he picked them. But I was just there.
COOPER: Do you regret coming forward and making yourself public? I mean with something so personal, something very -- which some people are going to believe, some people are not going to believe.
[20:45:06] LEEDS: This issue is important is to me, it really is. Having experience, having a daughter, having a granddaughter, I wish that we could somehow or another get through to some of these men or perpetrators that the damage that they're doing is so complete that the person that they have afflicted themselves on suffers for the rest of their life. The women I've talked to can remember when it happened, they can remember who it happened with, they can remember where it was, they can remember the time of day, they can remember what they had on and they can remember what they did, how to get out of it and most of them would say they went home and threw away their clothes and didn't tell anybody.
And as far as I can tell, most men just -- it was like scratching an itch. It didn't mean anything, didn't mean anything at all. But it means something to those people who suffered that attack.
COOPER: Jessica Leeds, thanks very much.
LEEDS: Thank you.
COOPER: Well we asked the White House for a response in Ms. Leeds allegations, but we never heard back from them. When she first told her story to "New York Times," the Trump campaign though called it completely false and threatened to sue the "Times." they never did.
Still to come, the president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, now the White House admits its decision hurts the peace process. The latest from the White House, next.
Also ahead, mandatory evacuations, schools closed, one of the nation's busiest freeways closed at one point, the fire so close. Fast-moving flames in and around Los Angeles. It could be getting worse. An update from the fire zone coming up.
[20:50:03] COOPER: This breaking news tonight out of Washington. Senior White House officials tell CNN they are aware that the president's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has derailed the Middle East peace process. This comes as Palestinian factions are calling for three "days of rage" and demonstrations outside embassies and -- in city streets in the region.
Jim Acosta joins us now with more. So the announcement from the White House, talk about it. What can you tell us?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPODNENT: Well, first, Anderson, the president declared -- recognized that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. That means that the process has begun to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That process going to take three or four years.
And so the president signed a waiver today keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv. But the practical process that has been laid in place now is really in jeopardy because essentially, you know, Middle East peace was really hinging on this issue of Jerusalem. It wasn't the only issue but it was certainly an important issue. The Israelis obviously see Jerusalem as their capital but the Palestinians see East Jerusalem as their capital. And as you heard from Jeremy Diamond and Elise Labott they believe here at the White House at least temporarily that this derails the Middle East peace process.
I talked to another senior White House official earlier this evening who said there's going to be some short-term pain in the near future. Anderson, it's hard to remember a White House putting out an administration putting out a policy and then later on that evening acknowledging that they derailed something as important as Middle East peace. It just goes to show you when you have almost every U.S. ally in Europe and in the Middle East really condemning and criticizing this decision, they are fully aware here at the White House that there's going to be some pain in the near future on this.
COOPER: It was Vice President Mike Pence standing behind the president today, not Jared Kushner, who's been working toward Middle East peace. Do we know if that held any kind of significance?
ACOSTA: Well, it's a pretty surprising statement from the president today because one thing that you heard from the president is that there hasn't been much progress in Middle East peace talks. He said even though he's been signing these waivers keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv all these years, that there hasn't been much progress in terms of Middle East peace, he has put his own son-in-law in charge of that process, so it's kind of incredible to hear to president say that about something that he's put his son-in-law in charge of.
But it is true that both sides haven't made much progress during this administration. But when you have the Palestinians and they said this earlier this evening, Anderson, that because of this decision they don't want the United States to be involved in brokering Middle East peace talks, that's pretty stunning given that that is something -- that is a role the United States has played for decades, going back to the Clinton administration. You remember the Middle East peace talks that happened during his administration and all the way back to Jimmy Carter. And so this is really a representative of decades of U.S. foreign policy that the Trump administration is putting behind them and saying we're going to try something new here. The problem is this new policy that they put in place could very well inflame that region at a critical time. Anderson.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much, appreciate it.
More breaking news, a dire situation in Southern California. Several fires burning, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate, including in Los Angeles where several homes have burned. Video has just been extraordinary from the 405 Freeway earlier today. Take a look at how close it is to the freeway. A fire burning dangerously close to roadway. Authorities were forced to close parts of the Freeway for several hours and since reopen.
Also nearby flames threatened the famed Getty Museum. Officials are warning it's going to get worse for firefighters in Los Angeles and Ventura County before it gets better with winds picking up.
Tonight Paul Vercammen joins us from Ventura, California with the latest. So what are conditions like where you are, Paul?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well fortunately right now, Anderson, the winds are not whipping through here. If they were, you would see even greater flames over both of my shoulders. Fire is burning in these foothills right now as far as the eye can see. There are no significant population centers near here. There are some homes, by the way, on the other side of what is a major Freeway, the 101 from this fire. They're very expensive beach front homes. And one of the concerns is these fires can throw up all sorts of burning embers. You can almost see them in the lens.
And if they drop on a roof or so, it can touch off other fires. So what they're going to do is they can't send firefighters up into those canyons, that's extremely dangerous, but they're going to have to wait for the fire to come down and make a stand right here.
To recap, though, the winds right now are calm and that is good news. But you've seen and heard over the last few days, Anderson, those Santa Ana winds have just been menacing and caused so many problems, in December no less, in Southern California.
COOPER: Yes, and what's expected in the days ahead in terms of the wind?
[20:55:00] VERCAMMEN: They are expecting the winds to kick up again. And what happens is now very close to the Pacific as I told you, they come from inland and blow toward the ocean. So that's why firefighters and residents alike are saying their prayers and crossing their fingers and hoping that these winds don't whip up again. After all this fire that I'm on right now it has burned 65,000 acres. It is a monster, and I'm sure those numbers are going to change. I'll try to update you later on that when they have a major news conference. But they are eyeballing those winds and they do expect them to kick up again. After all, they often call them sundowner winds and the sun has finally set here out west, and so they going to keep a close eye on them.
COOPER: Yes, and those images in the Los Angeles area, what can you tell us about the other fires threatening other parts of the state?
VERCAMMEN: Well there's so many of them in Ventura and Los Angeles County. Now you refer that one that was along those 405 Freeway. And one of the tactics is, is to attack it with everything possible and quickly. It's a little easier in a suburban environment. This fire here started in the rural part of Ventura County.
The problem is there's so many fires and they have so many firefighters on the line here, that they have to make sure they don't compromise Los Angeles because there's three fires burning there. Off the top of my head, it seems like there might be 100,000 acres that have burned, so they're under the tricky little proposition of making sure that they're evenly deployed throughout Southern California, because if you put too many resources in one place, you could jeopardize another, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. I just can't imagine driving through that in the morning on your way to work and I mean just unbelievable on the 405. Paul Vercammen, thanks very much stay safe.
Coming up, Donald Trump jr. answered questions on Capitol Hill today but he refused to answer some of them about his father, the president. His testimony about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians before the election.
The breaking news is next.