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White House Defends Moore Endorsements; House Intel Panel to Interview Donald Trump Jr. Today. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 6, 2017 - 07:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama, believe me.

[07:00:18] DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Roy Moore has never served our state with honor.

STEVE BANNON, BREITBART NEWS/FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: They want to destroy Judge Roy Moore. You know why? They want to take your voice away.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump poised to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I'm concerned about the threat of terrorist reaction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We will always keep the safety and security of Americans paramount.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: The president's son set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know about his relationship with WikiLeaks. Could the vice president have been essentially the only senior person in the dark on this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I speak to the president, he thinks there's nothing to it.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. The White House defending President Trump's support of Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore. The president's endorsement of an accused child molester forcing Republicans to pick between controversial candidate and their principals.

Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon out on the hustings, rallying for more, slamming establishment Republicans again. Bannon accusing Mitt Romney of hiding behind his religion to avoid serving in Vietnam.

CAMEROTA: And world leaders are condemning President Trump's expected announcement that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The president will also make good on his campaign policy to move the U.S. embassy there. Palestinians are calling for three days of rage. So what does all this mean to Middle East peace?

We have it all covered. Let's begin with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's live in Fair Hope, Alabama, with our top story -- Kaitlan.


With just six days left to go in this high-stakes race here in Alabama, Steve Bannon came down to the south to rally support for his candidate in this race, Roy Moore. But instead of focusing his time criticizing his Democratic opponent here, Doug Jones, Steve Bannon spent most of his time going after what he calls the Republican establishment. And he saved his harshest -- harshest criticism for former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Republican senator of Arizona Jeff Flake.


BANNON: If they can destroy Roy Moore, they can destroy you.

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, rallying support for embattled Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore, attacking Republicans in Congress as cowards and unleashing a string of attacks on a number of GOP leaders, including former presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

BANNON: You avoided service, brother. You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary when guys were dying in rice paddies in Vietnam.

COLLINS: Bannon going after Romney for not serving in the Vietnam war, despite Mr. Trump's five deferments after Romney denounced Moore Monday, tweeting, "No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity."

BANNON: Judge Roy Moore has more honor and integrity in that pinky finger than your entire family has in its whole DNA.

COLLINS: Frequent Trump critic Senator Jeff Flake also on the receiving end of Bannon's criticism after posting this picture of a check he wrote Tuesday to Moore's Democratic opponent Doug Jones, noting country over party.

BANNON: Man, you're a total embarrassment. If you're going to write a check, write a check.

COLLINS: Bannon also taking aim at one of his favorite targets, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who appeared to flip-flop on Moore over the weekend.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Roy Moore should step aside. I'm going to let the people of Alabama make the call.

BANNON: The folks of Alabama were always going to decide, Mitch.

COLLINS: McConnell insisting Tuesday that he's not had a change of heart, that he would have no choice to see more if he wins.

MCCONNELL: If he were to be elected, he would immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee.

COLLINS: Without directly addressing the allegations against him, Moore casting himself as a political outsider while reminding voters of his controversial conservative values.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: And I know we do not need transgender in our military. If I'm in the foxhole, I don't want to know whether this guy next to me is wondering if he's a woman or a man or flip back and forth.

COLLINS: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defending the president's decision to endorse Moore, despite the allegations of sexual abuse.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's position hasn't changed. He still finds this concerning. But as we've also said, the president feels that he would rather have a person that supports his agenda versus somebody who opposes his agenda every step of the way.


COLLINS: Now, the White House has said President Trump will not come to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore. But he's getting about as close as you can get when he holds a rally this Friday in Pensacola, Florida, just right over the state line and just days ahead of this high-stakes race -- Chris and Alisyn.

[07:00:16] CUOMO: You just heard it there from Sanders. When she tries hard not to say that much. But she just said the president would rather have someone who favors his positions than to take a principled stand about allegations that even they regard as troubling.

Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN Politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza.

Chris, you know, it's as simple as that. I'm not judging the determination by them, but that's the determination by them, which is, "Yes, these are troubling accusations, but we need the seat."

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes. I mean, it's a sort of "who am I to judge" is the best-case scenario for that. The worst-case scenario is they just -- they see the train coming down the tracks. And Roy Moore, I think, is now favored. I don't know if he's going to win. But I think if you're a betting person he's be more likely to win than Doug Jones is. And they're going to -- he's going to come to the Senate. And they want to be on the right side of that.

McConnell is in a terrible position. I mean, here's what I would say. McConnell has flip-flopped. There's no question. But this is political pragmatism. He flip-flopped, because he knows Roy Moore is likely to win.

I do think it is dangerous for either political party. We've seen a little bit of this with John Conyers. He did resign yesterday. To say that the most important thing is winning. That winning is the only thing that matters. That principal is not central to a party, is dangerous. Winning is not a policy position. Winning isn't governing. And that's, I think, something that the Republican party is going to have to deal with, if and when Roy Moore wins.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But there's another thing that I want to bring up, which is another thing you're hearing with them, is, well, this happened 40 years ago. So it's also dangerous, they would say. The Senate Ethics Committee cannot go back in time and rewind the tape 40 years ago to hold you accountable for things that you did in your 30s. So -- if and win he wins, that's it, right? This goes away?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know that it goes away.

CUOMO: They can have Ethics Committee hearings.

CAMEROTA: But they said they're not going to do it retroactively.

AVLON: This is not -- this is not a criminal proceeding. But you have multiple women. A great deal of evidence, as well as personal testimony, saying that this was a pattern of behavior by Roy Moore when he was an assistant district attorney, when he was district attorney, that raises real ethics questions.


AVLON: What else is the Ethics Committee for? But look, a number of Republicans saying they wouldn't seat him. Now they've backed off that. Then they're going to have an Ethics Committee.

What they know is, you know, what Chris Cillizza is saying is, look, this is a pragmatic decision. They ultimately want to get the seat. That's what the Republican Party needs to stay focused on. But look, principal left the station a long time ago in terms of partisan identification. It shouldn't. There are people standing up for it.

But the complete retreat of Republicans who are taking a principled stand against Roy Moore, is troubling. Of course, this is up to the people of Alabama. And I think it's a huge mistake for anybody to say that one outcome looks more likely.

Yes, of course, Alabama is conservative. But you know, the South gets stereotyped. No one has a good turnout model for a special election.


AVLON: It's going to be who's more motivated, people coming out against Moore, and not wanting an embarrassment in the Senate with these kind of allegations versus people who are saying, buying into Bannon's logic and saying an attack on Roy Moore is an attack on me, regardless of what those attacks may be.

CUOMO: "Us versus them" is a very, very big theme going on. We saw it in full display on the show yesterday. Poppy Harlow went at it with a Roy Moore supporter who came on. And listen to the line of questioning and what was insisted on as a narrative.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe any of these women?

JANET PORTER, SPOKESPERSON, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN: I believe the man that I know and trust for the last 20 years that served in public office for 40 years. And you know to know what all of this is about? I'll tell you what it's about. It's all about the Supreme Court of the United States. You realize that this is a winner-take-all race. The win -- the one who wins this race is the one who will decide the Supreme Court for the next 30 or 40 years.

HARLOW: I think there are a lot of really important issues at play here. Right? And American people will decide, the voters of Alabama will decide. Among those important issues...


CUOMO: Too bad we didn't let Poppy finish her question. Poppy was on point in terms of pushing back on these hypocrisies. But the narrative was clear, Chris. These accusations, this is them trying to hurt us.


CUOMO: And us and our values. The problem for them is they're -- they're taking a pass on a values argument.

CILLIZZA: That's right. Look, this is a convenient argument to make. The quote that stood out to me from that Janet Porter interview yesterday, she said at some point this is the lynch mob media. This is liberal Democrats. This is George Soros. That's sort of what she put this on.

Now, I would point out that, I don't know all but a number of the women who have come forward are Republicans, who voted for Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: Oh, yes.

CILLIZZA: You know, I don't know how you put that out on the media. One thing you guys mentioned that I think is fascinating with Bannon, and Kaitlan mentioned it in her reporting, if you listened to Bannon last night, 85 percent of that is about the Republican Party. And 15 percent of it is about anything else.

I mean, Steve Bannon is not really focused on Doug Jones, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, you know, John Conyers. He's focused on Mitch McConnell, Jeff Flake, Mitt Romney.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Romney.

CILLIZZA: I mean, it's all -- it's all Republican. It's fascinating to me.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Let's listen to that for a second. Just -- I want to listen to this. Because sometimes the hypocrisy is so stark you have to slap your own forehead. So just listen to this moment from Steve Bannon.


BANNON: 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?


CAMEROTA: Where were the Trumps?

AVLON: Where were the Trumps? Look, this is a classic move of deflection. Obviously, Donald Trump got numerous deferments.

CAMEROTA: Five deferments. Bone spurs that he couldn't remember which heel.

AVLON: Right. And this is a truly offensive, disgusting attack on the Romney family, which has a demonstrated history of public service, going back to his father, as well as him. Maybe not military service. But then to attack his faith for it and then hold up Roy Moore as a paragon of virtue.

And to the woman who was debating with Poppy yesterday, obviously, you know, that was largely about abortion in that interview, but let's make a Supreme Court argument. Let's not forget Roy Moore was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court twice.

CUOMO: Two times.

AVLON: The Spanglish thing. That's a big deal. This is what your argument -- this is about identity politics. This is about culture politics. This is also about a pattern of personal behavior.

CUOMO: This is a man who, out of nowhere, said at a rally, I don't want to be in a foxhole with someone next to me who's trying to figure out if they're a man or a woman.

AVLON: Right. And for all the alt-right folks who say, you know, when Breitbart, Andrew Breitbart was very progressive on gay rights, he would say it's about freedom for everybody. You know, freedom means freedom for everybody, in Dick Cheney's language. Backing a candidate who's, you know, baiting on trans issues and gay rights. Because it really is a -- look, Roy Moore politics are rooted in the fundamentalist faith. It apparently does not extend those values when it comes to young women. CAMEROTA: Chris.

CILLIZZA: As you're going to say, to echo John, this is a culture war. They are turning it into a culture war. In some ways, it's fascinating, because that hasn't been the Republican M.O. in recent years.

CUOMO: But what conservative doesn't respect women? I know people who are pro-choice are going to say, well, on that issue. But in terms of the value argument of the worth of women and of the dignity of women, how do you -- how do you reconcile being conservative with taking a pass on the accusations?

CILLIZZA: Yes, and Chris, look, I would encourage people if they haven't watched that Poppy interview with the spokesman for Roy Moore, Janet Porter, it's -- you know, the way in which he -- first of all, she said all the women are lying. And the way in which they derisively refers to the women. She calls one of them "the yearbook fraud."

It's just hard to reconcile. You can like Roy Moore. You can view him as more in line of your positions. But the savaging of these women and Roy Moore's inconsistencies on who he met, did he know any of that, the pattern of behavior that these women come forward. None of them know one another, all of whom tell very similar stories.

CUOMO: It wasn't really the dating. He got a little break from "The Washington Post," the most recent reporting about the woman who was 17 remembered dating Roy Moore. It's not the issue.

Assault accusations are the issue. This isn't about philandering. It's not about consensual relationships. That is all beside the point and nonsense. This is about two different accounts of women who say "I was underage" or "I was of age and I was assaulted by the man."

AVLON: And a man in his 30s, who's a public servant, holding himself up as a paragon of values and virtues who apparently enjoyed dating teenagers, in addition to those disturbing allegations. This stuff is not tough to square, though.

Let's be real clear about this, Chris. This is about an attempt to deflect and attack the victims and accusers. This is about an attempt to muddy the truth and to try to pretend it's about issues that it isn't. The voters of Alabama will decide. They will decide in a few days. This is a very high-stakes election for the country. It's also about the soul of the Republican Party or what's left.

CUOMO: If the president really cared about leaving it to the Alabama voters, he wouldn't have endorsed anybody. If you really want to leave it to them, then stay out of it. You already backed somebody who lost against Roy Moore. That was your call. Now stay out of it. So much about taking it to the voters.

CILLIZZA: He wants to be for Roy Moore. I think he -- he feels tricked that he was for Luther Strange in the primary in the runup. He wants to be for Roy Moore, because he sees a kindred soul. He sees someone he believes is the victim of a railroading by women that he views himself as, someone who's a fighter against political correctness, someone who's at war with the liberal media. These are all things Donald Trump believes deeply.

CUOMO: Well, then he's going to have to put his arms around the man. Forget about all the accusations. When Roy Moore is seated in the Senate and he says "gay marriage" and then starts talking about bestiality, the president's going to have to own that.

CAMEROTA: All right. Chris Cillizza, John Avlon, on that note, thank you very much. Now to the Russia investigation.

In less than two hours, Donald Trump Jr. will be in the hot seat answering questions from members of the House Intelligence Committee as new questions surface about what exactly Vice Pence -- Vice President Pence knew about Michael Flynn's contacts with Russia.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live at the White House with his reporting. Hi, Jeff.


You're right. Lawmakers will be questioning Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son for the first time in this Russia investigation. A top question on their list, of course, is that meeting at Trump Tower back in June of 2016 with Russian operatives.

But it is those new revelations about Michael Flynn's lies to the FBI that's raising new questions this morning about whether Vice President Mike Pence knew or how he managed to stay in the dark about those Russia contacts.


ZELENY (voice-over): New questions about how or whether Vice President Pence could have remained in the dark over Michael Flynn's talks with the former Russian ambassador. It's causing anxiety within the vice president's inner circle, that he'll eventually be called for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. They are preparing for that, one Republican close to Pence told CNN.

Court documents unsealed last week show several Trump advisers talked to Flynn about his calls with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak over U.S. sanctions even as Pence's aides still insist the vice president was unaware.

How some of Trump's top confidants could have known while Pence, who at the time was leading the Trump transition team, did not is a mystery hanging over the Russia administration. A review of a timeline of the events raises more questions than answers.

On December 20, Pence holds a national security meeting at the transition offices in Washington. On December 28, the day President Obama approved new sanctions against Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, President-elect Trump said this.

TRUMP: What do you think generally about sanctions?

TRUMP: I think we ought to get on with our lives.

ZELENY: On December 29, while Pence was in Indiana, preparing for his son's wedding, Flynn calls K.T. McFarland, who is at Mar-a-Lago with other transition officials to discuss Russian sanctions. Flynn then calls Kislyak to talk about sanctions. And finally, Flynn calls McFarland back to discuss the Kislyak phone call.

Sixteen days later, on January 14, Pence calls Flynn to personally ask about his calls with Kislyak. ON January 15, Pence goes on television.

MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I talked to General Flynn yesterday, and the conversations that took place at that time were not in any way related to new U.S. sanctions against Russia or the expulsion of diplomats. And they did not discuss anything having to do with the United States' decision to expel diplomats or impose a censure against Russia.

General Flynn has been in touch with diplomatic leaders, security leaders in some 30 countries. That's exactly what the incoming national security advisor should do.

ZELENY: Five days later, on January 20, Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Pence is sworn in as vice president. On February 9, a "Washington Post" story reveals Flynn did, in fact, discuss sanctions with Kislyak. Four days later, on February 14, Trump fires Flynn. Three days after that, on February 16, the president offered his reasoning for Flynn's dismissal.

TRUMP: He didn't tell the vice president of the United States the facts. And then he didn't remember. And that just wasn't acceptable to me.


ZELENY: Now the vice president's office still maintains that he did not know about any of this. We talked to seven officials who worked for the vice president at the time and some who still work for him; and they said he simply did not know about this. He was not read in on any of those discussions here.

But it raises the question of can the vice president maintain his credibility by being in the loop for these conversations and still, you know, answer questions of how he could not have known about any of this.

So the reason that this matters is Flynn, we know now, lied to the vice president. He's cooperating, of course, with the special counsel's office. As this investigation comes closer to the president's inner circle, will the vice president be called to testify or ask some some of these questions about how he could not have known?

That, of course, is coming up later, but most urgently is that meeting on Capitol Hill today with Donald Trump Jr. CUOMO: All right, Jeff Zeleny. Thank you very much for the reporting.

The poison of partisan politics is seeping into nearly all the debates on Capitol Hill, calling congressional investigations on Russia's election to stall. We're going to ask a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee why aren't they getting anything done? Next.


[07:24:26] CUOMO: Now, there is a lot of focus on the Mueller probe and with good reason. But the big questions about how Russia interfered and what the United States is going to do about it and how they can stop it the next time. Those are all being handled by Congress. And by all indications, that progress has gotten very constipated.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein is accusing Republican Chairman Chuck Grassley of not digging deeply into that committee's investigation. What's going on here? Is politics poisoning this situation?

Joining us is Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, a member of that committee. If I don't get to speak to you again before Christmas, merry Christmas to you and the family. Thank you for coming on NEW DAY as often as you do, sir.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: You bet, Chris. Thank you. Same to you.

CUOMO: So what's going on in this committee? Is Feinstein right? Is politics just poisoning the well and progress being the victim?

KENNEDY: Well, it's -- it's hard to me to defend it, because I don't set the policy of the committee. That would be Senator Grassley.

I would make this point. It's not like the committee has done nothing. Serious Graham held a very -- a very informative subcommittee meeting, where we explored social media and Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. I hope we have more hearings like that.

My sense is that Senator Grassley has made the decision to defer more, not exclusively but defer more to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Some of my colleagues who happen to be Democrats like Senator Feinstein, like Senator Blumenthal on Judiciary, don't agree with that premise.

CUOMO: So what's going to happen?

KENNEDY: I don't know. I mean, Congress does have a role to play here, obviously. So does the FBI. But the FBI is concentrating on what criminal violations, if any, were committed. The role of Congress is to -- to look out a little further and talk about policy. I would like to see us play a bigger role. I don't want to step on

the toes of Senate Intelligence and start -- start subpoenaing the same witnesses at the same time. But just speaking personally, I'd like to see us play a bigger role.

CUOMO: It's too bad, because these are big questions. Yes, we want to find out who, if anyone, coordinated, colluded. Was there any type of criminal activity in furtherance of that? But it's the that. It's -- you know, it's the res, as they say in the law, the thing that started all of this, the interference. How did they do it? How do you stop it? How do you keep your democracy more secure from this kind of invasion? There are big questions, and it appears that Congress is nowhere on it.

KENNEDY: Well, it's going to get worse. And one thing that was clear to me from the hearing with the social media companies, Facebook, for example, not to pick on them. But Facebook has absolutely no idea who's advertising on its platform. None.

They have 5 million advertisers every month that changes daily, weekly, by the minute. They have no idea who's running these ads. We focused on Russia. But others could have run ads. I'm not making the allegations. But for all we know, Venezuela did. Turkmenistan did. They just don't know.

And I know they've said confidently, well, this many ads were run. Let me tell you, they don't know. They're not geared up to know. They need to know, but they don't know.

CUOMO: The speculation is they can know whatever they want to know. and it's up to you guys to put the pressure on them to make them know.

KENNEDY: And I don't want to see government get too heavily involved in regulating social media. But at the same time, their power scares me. And they need to step up to the plate and suggest some reasonable alternatives.

CUOMO: They can do the same thing that we have to do and every other media outlet has to do in terms of reporting political donations. They can start there.

All right. Let me ask you about another thing that's a matter of principal. What's going on with Roy Moore? Here's what frustrates me about the proposition. I want your take on it.

If you want to leave this question to the Alabama voters, then stay out of it. Don't endorse anybody. Don't weigh in on it. That's not what the president has chosen to do or other congressional leaders in the GOP. And then they seem to have flip-flopped. And it seems like this seat matters more than any of the moral questions surrounding Roy Moore. Fair criticism?

KENNEDY: Yes. I think it's fair. You know, I'd give you my point of view. My point of view is that if a candidate who is in his 30s took out a 14-year-old girl, undressed her, fondled her, asked her to fondle him, that he's not -- that's a crime, and he's not qualified to be a United States senator.

Now those are the allegations. Mr. Moore has denied them. And he's not going to quit. Now the people of Alabama get a say. They do -- they're entitled to a say. If Mr. Moore is elected, he will be seated under the law. He has to be. Three will then be somebody who's going to file an ethics complaint, Chris. I mean, that's just a fact.

And then there's going to be a full-fledged investigation. People are going to be talked to under oath.

CUOMO: Right.

KENNEDY: We'll get the facts, and then the Senate will get to vote.

And I try not to prejudge the facts. I haven't endorsed anybody in the race. Don't intend to.

CUOMO: Right.

KENNEDY: It's up to the people of Alabama right now. Now, some of my colleagues have. They've weighed in on both sides. That's their business. I have enough trouble paddling my own canoe.