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Romney Becomes Target for Bannon at Rally for Roy Moore; Sen. Gillibrand Calls on Sen. Franken to Resign; Trump Speaks at Cabinet Meeting. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired December 6, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:32:46] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Mitt Romney and Steve Bannon, last we checked, neither of them are running for Senate in Alabama. But you might not know it by listening to a campaign rally last night. Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, of course, laying into Mitt Romney during a rally for the actual Republican candidate, Roy Moore.


STEVE BANNON, EDITOR, BRIETBART NEWS & FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: We can debate that, but if you hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary while guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam.

You ran for commander-in-chief. You had five sons. Not one day of service in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have 7,000 dead and 52,000 casualties. And where were the Romneys during those wars?


BOLDUAN: "You hid behind your religion." So why has this campaign become about Mitt Romney's military service? Good question. Bannon clearly charged up after Romney called Roy Moore a, quote/unquote, "stain on the Republican Party and the nation" if he wins next week.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in Alabama with the very latest on this race.

Kaitlan, if it could get uglier, it just did. What's going on here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly did. We're here in the last few days of this race, Kate, and though Steve Bannon came to the state to rally support for Roy Moore before voters go to the polls next Tuesday, he spent less time defending Roy Moore against those multiple sexual assault allegations made against him, and more bashing the people up in Washington that he doesn't like. Like Mitt Romney, saying that he did not serve in the military because of his religion. Now, this is because Mitt Romney has criticized Roy Moore in this race, saying not only that he should step aside, but that if he wins, it would be stain on the nation, a stain on the GOP, and that keeping this seat in Republican hands simply isn't worth it.

Now, speaking of these allegations, Roy Moore's opponent in this race, the Democrat, Doug Jones, has steered clear of them so far, but now that we're in the last week, he's also firing some shots of his own -- Kate?


DOUG JONES, (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment. When you see me with a gun, folks, I'll be climbing in and out of a deer stand or a turkey blind, not prancing around on a stage in a cowboy suit.


JONES: And I damn sure believe that I have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail and not the United States Senate.



[11:35:22] COLLINS: Now, Jones followed that by saying this race is not about politics, but it's about decency.

But the Moore campaign has certainly seen a boost in these last few days, with the full endorsement from President Trump and the Republican National Committee, announcing that it's restoring its support for the Moore campaign in this state -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: All right, Kaitlan, great to see you. Thank you so much for laying it out.

Joining me now to discuss, Ned Ryun, CEO of the conservative grassroots group, American Majority. Matt Lewis is here, CNN political commentator and senior columnist at "The Daily Beast." And Symone Sanders, CNN political commentator and former press secretary for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

Great to see you all.

Ned, Steve Bannon tells Mitt Romney to stay out of Alabama. Bannon's not from Alabama, either. So for the people of Alabama who say, stay out of our race, all you people outside of Alabama, why are they listening to him?

NED RYUN, CEO, AMERICAN MAJORITY: At the end of the day, Kate, it really doesn't matter what Mitt Romney says, what Bannon says, it is what it is. But there's a poll a few days ago that said that 83 percent of the likely Republican voters were definitely false or probably false against Roy Moore. So they're going to be the ones choosing the Senator. And that's how it should be. The people of Alabama should actually choose their Senator, not people outside the state.

I think the thing that will remain to be seen -- and I think Roy Moore will win by six or seven points next week. As he goes to the U.S. Senate, it will be interesting to see what happens with him, as long as Al Franken remains in the Senate, who we actually have photographic proof of what I call sexual assault on a sleeping woman. I'm not really people have moral authority right now to talk about stains on our nation, stains on the U.S. Senate, as long as Al Franken sits in the U.S. Senate.


BOLDUAN: I think Mitt Romney probably has more of a moral authority to speak on these issues, I'm just proffering up, than others would.

But I want to get to -- I will get to the Democrats in just a second. But matt, the hypocrisy of his hit on Romney's lack of military service is, of course, pretty rich, considering Trump's lack of military service, as well. But Kellyanne Conway said this morning on CNN that the president actually talked to Mitt Romney last night, made a point in this discussion to say that they spoke last night. Didn't say if they talked about this. What are they trying to say?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know why they had that conversation. The only speculation that I would have is that what Steve Bannon did last night was offend a large block of Republican voters. And I'm talking about members of the LDS church. He -- it's one thing to talk Mitt Romney, if you want to call him a chicken hawk or somebody that dodged the draft, I think that's bogus. But you can say that. It's personal enough. But to go after him for his faith --


BOLDUAN: He was a missionary! Like, OK -- keep going. Keep going.

LEWIS: Yes. And look, you have Orrin Hatch, who's contemplating whether or not to retire out in Utah, who is offended by this. But you've got a large block of LDS voters in places like Arizona and Nevada as well, and here you have someone who's ostensibly representing the Republican president of the United States, using what I think could be described as bigotry against that faith. So maybe that's why Donald Trump picked up the phone.

BOLDUAN: Symone, I'm starting to think -- and Ned will probably agree with me. I'm starting to think there's not a single persuadable voter left in Alabama when it comes to this race.



BOLDUAN: If there is one, how is Doug Jones going to win him or her over?

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: OK, well, I would also agree, there is not a single quote/unquote persuadable voter left in this race. It all comes down to turnout and is a large block of moderate Republican voters going to go to the polls on December 12th? And are they going to check the box for Roy Moore or are they going to check the box for Doug Jones and leave the box blank and not go to the polls at all? And will a substantial amount of Democrats, particularly African-American Democrats, come out and will turnout reach upwards of 25 to 28 percent for African-American voters in Alabama? I don't know. The bar is really high. It can be done, but --


LEWIS: I don't think so.


SANDERS: That's what I'm saying. I want to caution folks, I think we've hyped this thing up. And I do not believe a large enough block of moderate Republicans will refuse to pull the lever for Roy Moore for Doug Jones to come out victorious. And I know, because they elected Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Well, let me talk about another element of this. This was just handed to me, as, Ned, you were bringing up who has the moral authority, because Democrats have problems when it comes to the issue of sexual harassment in their case, as well.

This just came in, that Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York, she is now calling on Senator Al Franken to resign. This is marking the first time a Senator has called on the Minnesota Democrat to leave office, as, of course, he is facing allegations of sexual harassment, and he's responded to those, and those, however, do continue to mount.

Symone, what do you make of Kirsten Gillibrand coming out and --


[11:40:16] SANDERS: We need one standard across the board. So if folks are going to call on


SANDERS: If folks are going to call on Donald Trump to resign, John Conyers, who has retired or resigned, there's a congressman from Nevada that has also been accused. If folks are going to call on everybody else to resign, we have to hold Senator Franken and anyone else that is accused of sexual assault, sexual microaggression, sexual misconduct, to resign.

RYUN: Kate?

BOLDUAN: Go ahead. Go ahead.

RYUN: No, I want to say this, though. This $17 million slush fund in which Congressman paid out harassment suits, I want every name to come out on that, regardless of party, Republican and Democrat, anyone on that list, I think, they are morally obligated to resign.

At the end of the day, though, Kate, what I'm concerned about, it used to be in this country, allegations were considered false until proven true. And now we're saying allegations are true until you prove them false. If there is evidence, such as payouts I think people should be --

SANDERS: I want to be clear -- (CROSSTALK)

RYUN: -- regardless of party affiliation.

SANDERS: I want to be very clear --


SANDERS: No, I want to be very clear, that there are credible women who have come out, and not just accused Roy Moore or even Al Franken or John Conyers, but the president of the freaking United States of America, with credible stories. And so we cannot start talking about, oh, well, we have to prove the women -- these are credible stories. And when we live in a culture that has perpetuated and supported sexual assault, sexual misconduct, that has protected. Predators, and that has victimized -- villainized victims, that is a problem. So I'm glad that our current climate is now supporting folks who have the courage, women, and men, who have the courage to come out and stand up and tell their stories and speak their truth about the folks that have essentially preyed upon them. And we should not try to lambaste those people or put them on the stake. What we need to be talking about is why we have a culture that protects the predator and villainizes the victim.


BOLDUAN: Let me jump in --


RYUN: More than happy to talk about culture.

BOLDUAN: Me, too.

Let me jump in. This is also -- it encapsulated why this has put the White House and the president in a very uncomfortable -- in a very uncomfortable position.

Give me one second, guys. The control room is talking to me.

Let me quickly take one -- let me depart real quick and go over to M.J. Lee. She has more reporting on this news coming out about Kirsten Gillibrand and Al Franken -- M.J.?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Kate, this is a pretty remarkable moment. We have seen now a number of Democratic Senators almost simultaneously putting out statements, either through social media or through their offices, basically saying that Al Franken should resign.

Kirsten Gillibrand became the first Democratic Senator to actually call on Franken to resign. And then a number of others followed. I just want to read a couple of what these Senators said. And I just want to, you know, put this in perspective, which is that, up until this point, even though there have been multiple women either named or unnamed who have come out to say that over the years Senator Franken had touched them inappropriately, up until this point, we did not have a single Senator actually say that he should leave office. Now that has changed.

Here's a little bit of what Kirsten Gillibrand wrote on Facebook. She said, "While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn't acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve"

Now, we also heard from Senators Claire McCaskill, Mazie Hirono, Maggie Hassen. All of them Senate Democrats and women who are now saying that Senator Franken should resign.

And just to remind you of some of the reporting that we have covered over the last couple of weeks, at least two of the women who have come out actually came out sharing their stories for this first time on CNN, describing actually a kind of pattern of behavior that sounded familiar with other women's stories. This kind of, you know, engagement or conduct where they said that Senator Franken either during when he was a Senator or prior to that would put his hand, you know, in inappropriate places. One woman that I spoke to last week, an Army veteran, said that he had groped her, touching her breasts, back when she was deployed in Kuwait in the 2000s.

So these stories have been piling up with, and the silence, actually, has been remarkable. We had not heard from Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, for example, and unclear if we are going to get a statement from him. But the fact that these statements, Kate, all came in at around the same time, goes to show that there was clearly some kind of strategy, clearly some kind of conversation that took place. And a decision that was collectively made, that this announcement and this call on Senator Franken to resign had to happen today.

[11:45:03] BOLDUAN: Yes, because it's not just Kirsten Gillibrand, as you mentioned. It's now four female Senators coming out in coordination to call on Al Franken to resign.

M.J., thank you so much for bringing this breaking news.

Ned, Matt, Symone, let's continue the conversation if we can later in the break. Appreciate it. We've got to keep moving.

Keeping a close eye on the White House right now, where President Trump is about to hold a cabinet meeting ahead of his very big announcement on Israel and where the U.S. embassy should be. This historic moment, coming in an announcement from the president in a short time from now. Let's see what the president says when he meets with his cabinet. We'll bring you all the news, come now when it happens.


[11:50:58] BOLDUAN: Getting back to our breaking news out of southern California, several fast-moving wildfires, including one in the heart of Los Angeles near the famous Geddy Center. President Trump reacting moments ago, tweeting out this. You can see it there, as well. "Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of California's wildfires. I encourage everyone to heed the advice and orders of local officials. Thank you to first responders for all your work." That coming in a tweet.

Let's go to California. And Paul Vercammen has been watching all this. He's near the biggest of the wildfires in Ventura, California.

What are you hearing from officials now, Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what they're telling us is 65,000 acres have burned here. And here is where it's burning furiously along this front. This is almost to the Pacific Ocean. You can once in a while see a truck go by. This is that major artery between Ventura and Santa Barbara called the 101. There are some fire crews in there trying to reckon with this.

I'm going to try to give you a sense for the scope of how widespread this is. OK, you see that pocket of flame over there? Spot fires is everywhere. I'm going to and have Tom Larson, my cameraman, pan into the hills. There are flames everywhere. It's not like a firefighting crew can get in there right now. And in a sense, we don't want to use this is worse waste too strongly, but they wouldn't put resources up there to try to get that out. It's dangerous for one. It's very difficult terrain. But they've got to let it burn down to the freeway and then blast it. As we drove in this morning, we could see this -- these active flanks of flame. They were stretching along the Pacific Ocean, if you will. I'd say three, four, maybe even five miles. So that's where the leading and active edge of this fire is right now.

The good news is, I'm sure you can tell, there are no houses here. On my side of this freeway, there are some very, very, you know, affluent areas with million-dollar homes. But right now, those houses are not being threatened, Kate, because they're making a stand right here.

Back to you.

BOLDUAN: Paul, thank you so much. Paul, I can see the fire burning behind you. Thank you so much.

Happening at the White House, let's head back to Washington. President Trump meeting with his cabinet as we speak. We're expecting some of the video where he spoke to cameras to be coming out. We'll play that for you any minute now. We'll bring that straight it out. What the president is going to be hitting on.

We know the president in a couple of hours is going to be making a major announcement on U.S. policy towards Israel. Announcing the U.S. will be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel. and the impact that will have. Repercussions very serious. We'll bring that tape to you when it comes in.

As we wait for that, I want to bring in "Real Clear Politics" reporter, Caitlin Huey-Burns, and CNN senior political analyst, Mark Preston.

We'll get to that as soon as the president speaks. I'm not sure what topics he's hitting on. We have more breaking news coming in from Capitol Hill. It is now, I

think, unless I haven't looked at my e-mail in two seconds, it's six Democratic Senators have come out to announce that they are calling on Al Franken to resign amidst the allegations he has been facing. The allegations and the apology he offered, allegations he's facing of inappropriate behavior sexual assault and beyond, including the third- ranking, the third-highest ranking Democrat in the Senate, Patty Murray, joining this list.

Mark, what's going on here?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as Kirsten Gillibrand said in her statement on Facebook when this first came out, it's a time of reckoning right now. It's important for you to point out Patty Murray, the number-three Democrat in the Senate, has asked for Al Franken to step down. What does that mean? It means a couple of things. It means that clearly the Democratic leadership knew that this was going to happen. So it's not like they're going to be caught in the dark. Of the six people we've seen so far, they are all women. When will we start seeing Democratic male Senators coming out and asking for Al Franken to step aside? Right now, Al Franken, the Minnesota Senator is on borrowed time. I would say by the end of the day, I can't imagine he would still be in office. He may do what John Conyers did yesterday and may just resign.

BOLDUAN: And, Caitlan, what do you think? Al Franken has been defiant? He has said that he's apologized. He has denied some of the allegations against him. He's apologized for some of them especially if there's photographic evidence. But he has taken a different tactic than we've seen from others. He's been defiant that he has work to do and he's going to stay in the Senate to do it.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Until now, he had been supported by his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, which is counter to what we saw with John Conyers. I think the dam has officially broken on Senator Franken. This was clearly a coordinated effort by the women of the Senate to make a statement today. It's also important that Gillibrand and others are set to unveil legislation today dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace. That's a bipartisan effort with also male lawmakers on that, as well. But what happens by the end of the day, it's hard to see how this is able to be sustained. You also have the backdrop of the question about Congress lagging behind other institutions as it pertains to getting fired for sexual assault allegations. And, of course, that "Time" magazine cover today highlighting the idea this is a potential watershed moment in our country when it comes to sexual harassment.

[11:55:32] BOLDUAN: Also, Mark, this then enters an interesting moment in this very important chapter, which is you've had when it comes to the realm of politics, Democrat says but what about the Republicans, and the Republicans saying but what about the Democrats. Democrats have had - needs to answer some questions on this. This enters a whole new realm now.

PRESTON: I think it does, too. I think if we put it in the context of Roy Moore, as well -- BOLDUAN: Yes.

PRESTON: -- a lot of the argument about Roy Moore, his defenders, is they would say look at Al Franken. You're not calling for Al Franken to resign. Now we have.


BOLDUAN: Just the segment prior to this, exactly.

PRESTON: You're right. You're right. Of course. We have six now and quite possibly more by noon. We'll probably see more come out, as well.

I think it takes away that talking point for Republicans though. I do think if Roy Moore does win next week, Kate, how are these Democratic Senators, these women Senators who called for Franken to step down, let's assume he does leave, how are they going to walk into the same Senate chamber as Roy Moore, somebody who they think, as many people do, engaged in very inappropriate behavior with young women.

BOLDUAN: And this also -- I think this is an important -- because at the White House, Caitlin, the White House press secretary was asked about the president's endorsement of Roy Moore. Remember, the president endorsing the White House though, and they said it again yesterday, Sarah Sanders says they find the allegations very troubling, but also at the same time saying let Alabama voters decide. How can they -- these things don't seem to fit in line. Calling the president saying vote for Roy Moore.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: And the White House also saying these allegations are still very troubling.

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. I mean, this endorsement I think why it was significant beyond the Alabama Senate race was that it seemed to be interpreted by many as an endorsement or an overlooking of sorts of this behavior or saying that this doesn't matter because all that matters is a party line vote. I'm really interested to see --

BOLDUAN: But she wouldn't go there. She kept trying to have it both ways. Alabama voters should decide. I feel like this is the new way of dodging a question these days.

HUEY-BURNS: Which raises a question about Republican lawmakers now. If Roy Moore is elected when he gets to the Senate, if elected, how do these Republican lawmakers handle this? Yes, they said he'll go through the Ethics Committee. Donald Trump, as president, having endorsed Roy Moore, is he going to put pressure on them to overlook some of this, to not engage as you know --


BOLDUAN: I'm going to cut you off. The president of the United States is speaking to cameras now in front of -- as his cabinet meeting kicks off. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- respected once again all over the world. However, we face many serious threats. Lots of things are happening in our country. Lots of very positive things. But we have some things that we have to talk about. We're going to be discussing today the situation in North Korea. It will be handled, and it will be handled properly. Many of our brave troops will be spending Christmas overseas. We're thinking about them. We're funding them like they haven't been funded in a long time. Best equipment you can get. Our military is getting stronger. And I expect that very soon I'll be able to say stronger than ever before. It was very depleted when I got here. It's not going to be depleted any longer.

So I just want to thank everybody.

I want to congratulate Kirstjen Nielsen, who was just confirmed yesterday. Been a long wait.

We're waiting for a lot of others. All of you are waiting for people or most of you are waiting for people to come in and help. I know, from the standpoint of trade, we're waiting for a lot of our trade representatives to be approved. They just don't want to do it. The Democrats just don't want to give us those people. They delay them as long as possible. They take every single minute they can take. It's not right.

But the I would like to congratulate our new secretary of Homeland security.

Kirstjen. Good luck.


TRUMP: I'm especially thrilled to report that the Senate passed massive tax cuts and reform. You know about that very well. You've covered it, for most part accurately, which is surprising for you folks, but that's OK. We're on the verge of a historic victory that cuts taxes for the middle class, for businesses, brings back probably in excess of $4 trillion. As you know, we've been saying $2.5 trillion for years. Well, that number has greatly expanded. And we'll be bringing back an excess of $4 trillion.