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Franken to Make Announcement Today; World Leaders Condemn Jerusalem Decision; Thomas Fire Spreads in California; West Bank Protests; Interviews With Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.). Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired December 7, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: For his future. Will he resign from the Senate after another woman came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct? We will, of course, bring that to you live. In the meantime, we're joined by Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of the state of New Hampshire. Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

You are not one of the more than 30 Senators who has come forward until now to ask for Al Franken to step down. That is because you serve on the Ethics Committee. Given that he has announced he's making this statement at 11:45, you know, are you ready to make a statement?

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE, ETHICS COMMITTEE: Well, again, as long as a matter is pending before the Ethics Committee, I' prohibited from commenting on that. So I'm not going to comment until after we hear what Senator Franken has to say.

I do think it's an important conversation for us to be having nationally. I think it's important for the private sector in business to understand that sexual harassment is not acceptable. It's important for the public sector. And I'm pleased that "Time" magazine recognized those women who came forward to blow the whistle.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: The silence breakers, as they named that "Person of the Year."

Senator, you've been an advocate for a long time for sexual assault victims. In fact, you co-sponsored legislation last year, the Sexual Assault Survivors Rights Act that was signed into law by President Obama. Do you believe the women who have come forward accusing Senator Franken?

SHAHEEN: I believe -- well, again, because this matter is still pending, I probably should not comment. But certainly there are a lot of women who have come forward making various accusations that I think are very credible.

BERMAN: Senator John Conyers stepped down from the House of Representatives this week. Al Franken, Senator Franken, may very well announce his resignation in a matter of two hours. Yet the Republican Party just officially backed candidate Roy Moore in Alabama despite the fact that he's accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl. The president of the United States, 13 women have come forward accusing him of various forms of sexual misconduct. Is there a double standard here? Is there a partisan divide on how the parties are policing their own?

SHAHEEN: Well, there's certainly been a double standard with respect to the president. It's very clear and he acknowledged on that "Access Hollywood" tape that he had behaved improperly towards women and yet the people of this country decided that was not an issue that they were going to use in determining the president.

HARLOW: So just to the other part of John's question, do you see a broader partisan divide here because there's this new Quinnipiac poll that shows that when asked, should a lawmaker, accused multiple times of sexual assault or harassment, be removed from office, 71 percent of -- of Democrats said yes -- 77 percent of Democrats said yes, 51 percent of Republicans said yes. So is there something bigger here going on party to party?

SHAHEEN: Well, I hope not. I hope that everybody in the country would understand that sexual harassment is wrong. It's wrong in the workplace. It's wrong in the public arena. It's wrong when you're out in an entertainment setting. And I think part of what we need to do is to continue to educate people about what it means -- what sexual harassment means and where you draw the line.

BERMAN: Senator, you sit on the Foreign Relations Committee. Obviously the president made an historic decision yesterday announcing that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. White House sources have told CNN that they only expect a temporary derailment of the peace process, admitting, though, that they do think it will derail the peace process temporarily. Can you see the Palestinians coming back to the table after this?

SHAHEEN: I think it's going to be very difficult. What the president did in making that announcement was to overturn seven decades of U.S. policy. He put at risk Americans and American troops around the world. We heard the State Department issue more warnings to our embassy personnel and Americans than at any time since the Iraq War.

So -- and it was done for what appeared to be only political reasons to appease his political supporters here in the United States. I think foreign policy needs to be about what's in the best interest of America's global interests.

HARLOW: Senator, finally, President Trump said yesterday that a government shutdown, you know, this Friday, if you guys don't vote on a continuing resolution to fund the government could happen. And he's pointing the finger right at you and fellow Democrats. What do you need to see in the bill to say yes?

SHAHEEN: Well, I think what we're going to see is a continuing resolution for the next couple of weeks. And the fact is, I haven't heard any Democrats in the Senate talking about wanting to shut down the government. The only person I've heard saying that maybe we should shut down the government is President Trump. [09:35:06] So I hope we're going to come together like grown-ups and

understand that we need to keep this government funded and we need to provide some certainty, not just for our military, but for our domestic programs, for people in the private sector who depend on government contracts. It is not in anyone's interest to shut down the government.

HARLOW: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, we appreciate you being with us --

SHAHEEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: And we look forward to what you say after Senator Franken speaks on the Senate floor.

Thank you very much.

SHAHEEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, officials in southern California warning these wildfires will grow bigger and more intense. Look at these live pictures out of California. Winds already reaching incredibly high levels, making this even worse. We'll have a live report, next.


[09:40:16] BERMAN: All right, there are serious new concerns in California this morning. These devastating wildfires showing every sign of getting worse. The Santa Ana winds gusting 60 to 80 miles per hour this morning.

HARLOW: And the National Weather Service says, as a result of that, we will see extreme growth in the fires today. That is very bad news for those men and women trying to fight the flames.

Let's go to our Stephanie Elam. She joins us in Ventura County, where the Thomas fire there, separate from the blaze in central Los Angeles, has already consumed more than 96,000 acres.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, that's a new update that we just got from Ventura County Fire Department, Poppy and John, saying the at this is now 96,000 acres that have been charred by this fire and still only 5 percent containment, which means it's pretty much out of control. We've been out here all night watching it burn.

Behind me in the Pacific Coast Highway, or 101 here, and for a good hour or so, maybe longer, it was closed down, basically shutting off a way between L.A. and Santa Barbara. They've just now, in the last few minutes, opened up the southbound lanes on the freeway. And part of the reason why they closed it down is because it was burning in this little town called La Conchita, that only has one way in or out.

We were there watching the fire burn down the hillside towards these little homes that have already been devastated by natural disasters before. This is where there was a massive mudslide years ago that killed people. Now they've got this wildfire. We watched the embers blow off of this fire on the hillside into a palm tree and the tree ignited and that was right above a few homes. That fire burning down towards the highway and into the road a bit. So they closed down the highway there.

That's what they're dealing with as those winds that, John, you were mentioning, those 50 to 80-mile-per-hour gusts. We felt them pull up and get stronger throughout the day. We're going to see more of that. That's a problem for all of the fires that are burning in southern California that have tens of hundreds -- tens of thousands of people who have had to run for shelter and leave their homes.

And also you remember yesterday at this time we were talking about the Skirball fire that was burning by the Getty. Well, it burned some 450 acres. We know four homes were lost and that 11 were damaged there. They're continuing to work on that. The goal there, to make sure that the fire doesn't spread and jump from those -- that eastern side there over to the western side of the freeway. Obviously these are all very moving situations. And with these winds picking up again today, firefighters are in for another big fight today and the winds are not expected to die down until Saturday.

John and Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, Stephanie, thank you for the update. Thank you for being there. We'll bring people more as this develops, of course.

Next, this --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tear-gas is coming in. Yes, we're out.


HARLOW: What you're looking at, protests and chaos in the West Bank. This after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. A live report from the region, next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the army is -- it looks like they're moving in, pushing people back.



[09:47:33] HARLOW: You're looking at images out of Ramallah in the West Bank. Today, 49 people have been injured so far, just one day after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

BERMAN: Let's get right to the ground right now. CNN's Ian Lee live from Ramallah.

Ian, give us a sense of what's happening. IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, John, you can see behind me that you have these fires. These are tire fires that people have set in the middle of the road. You know, these are made to stop the Israeli army from advancing. They push them and then they set these fires, hoping that the army doesn't move forward.

You can actually see the Israeli army -- you can probably see their lights in the distance. That's where they're positioned right now. And we've had these pitched battles for quite a few hours now. You know, you can see just the debris that's been strewn out on the ground, different rocks. They're breaking these rocks, creating them to put them in the sling shots, to toss them.

You know, Israeli forces have responded with tear-gas, with rubber bullets. And this kind of ongoing back and forth between the two has been happening for hours. And we've seen a number of people injured. You can see the ambulances, you can probably hear them, fairing people away, people with injuries we've seen to the face, to the arms.

You know, this has been a cross section of Palestinian society. You know, it's not just young men out here. We've seen old, young. We've seen men, women, out here voicing their frustrations, their anger at President Trump moving the -- or declaring he's going to move the embassy, also declaring that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

You know, and this is a typical flash point area, but we've just seen an intensity that hasn't happened really in years with the number of people coming out here.

And, John, this is a Thursday. In the Middle East, in the Arab world, typically Fridays are days of protest, of rage when they have a cause. So if this is happening on a Thursday, we're expecting more of this kind of protest, clashes to happen tomorrow.

HARLOW: Ian Lee joining us from Ramallah in the West Bank. Thank you for the reporting as this is unfolding live, as everybody can see on your screen.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida. He sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congressman, thank you very much for being here.

[09:50:00] Given the president's move, officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, planning to move the U.S. embassy there, something no other country has right now, is the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians better off today than it was yesterday before the president's announcement?



ROONEY: Yes. I'm not sure. I think that ultimately this responding to what makes radical Islamists mad is an appeasement that's not going to work. Maybe the silver lining here will show the world one more time how important it is that we get these people to come to terms with the modern world. They can't throw a temper tantrum just because Israel's doing something on its sovereign territory, just like Pakistan can't throw a temper tantrum over the blasphemy law.

BERMAN: You're saying it's a silver lining that violence has begun to erupt? Is that what you're saying?

ROONEY: Well, I think that it's very sad. You hate to see people hurt. But I think it's unreasonable to cower and make a decision based upon what other people are going to do like that. I think you can have a substantive discussion about cost, proximity to airport, whether it's worth having the embassy move or not, but just to say, oh, we don't want to do it because the radical Islamists are going to riot is not something I'm for.

HARLOW: Well, OK, to be fair here, they're not protesting -- they're protesting because the belief among many Palestinians is that this is not a way to lead to a true two-state solution. You have President Mahmoud Abbas, his chief negotiator, both saying that what the president did by making this declaration and this move disqualifies the United States from mediating the peace process, from reaching what the president calls the ultimate deal. This is about a lot more than proximity to the airport or costs.

ROONEY: Well, I think -- yes, I think that's distractive nonsense. President Trump did reaffirm his interest in a two-state solution and I think it's incumbent on the Palestinians to be ready to come to the table.

BERMAN: Well, to be fair, what the president said is he said he supports a two-state solution if the Palestinians and Israelis both do, which is actually a subtle shift from past administrations where he said the position of the United States is to support a two-state solution there. And, again, and we want to move on to other subjects here, but do you think this helps get to the ultimate goal here, which is peace in the region?

ROONEY: Well, let me give you an analogy. When I was serving in Rome, was the first of the "Charlie Hebdo" cartoons and we had a whole lot of riots all over Europe because of the cartoon of the rockets coming out of Mohammad's head and everybody coward and said, oh, my, they're throwing a temper tantrum. We have to talk about appeasement. And lo and behold, we've had three more instances of that which culminated with killing a lot of people in Paris. So I would say, let the world take note of these people that refuse to live in the modern world, if you will.

HARLOW: It sounds like you're saying all Palestinians right now that are reacting in this way, not all of them violently but protesting --

BERMAN: Right.

HARLOW: There's this three days of rage. It sounds like you're saying they are all radical extremists? Is that what you're saying? ROONEY: No. I'm saying the people that are reacting violently,

committing crimes, hurting people over this are exhibiting an extreme behavior.


BERMAN: Congressman, I want to ask you about Russia right now. Look, you've called Russia one of America's greatest geo political threats. There is reporting that a whistleblower came forward and said that during the inauguration Michael Flynn was texting people saying, you know what, we are going to drop -- the U.S. is going to drop the sanctions against Russia immediately. I wonder if I can get your response to that?

ROONEY: Well, look, the news about General Flynn continues to get worse. I mean we hear it -- we haven't heard anything good about him, and he's a problem. And I think that the reporting on all the different activities that he did or did not do, signing up under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, et cetera, has added a lot of light to this. The difference is that the investigation into whether Russia manipulated the election is a totally separate matter.

HARLOW: Don Jr., as you know, the president's son, testified yesterday in front of your colleagues who sit on the House Intelligence Committee and he apparently refused to answer their questions about the conversation he had with his father, the president, after that news report surfaced about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer. Now, you do have the Republican leader of that -- the Russia investigation, Mike Conaway, saying he answered all our questions. But Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, feels very differently.

The president's son is asserting attorney-client privilege because there was a lawyer in the room as to why he wouldn't answer those questions. Are you comfortable with that?

ROONEY: I really don't know all the details of what happened there. I would rather have time to find out why he did that and what would be the circumstances of why he took the fifth.

[09:55:02] HARLOW: But those are the details. He said, I can't answer your questions about the conversation with my father because there was a lawyer in the room. Is that correct use do, you believe, of attorney-client privilege?

ROONEY: Well, it might be technically correct. I assume that they've done their legal work. But I think the most important thing here is that we conduct a -- Mueller continues to show the integrity that he's generally shown in the past, he has a great reputation, and keep the investigation focused on what it was hired to do.

What I fear is a lot of his subordinates that have been in the papers lately and on the media in the FBI are kind of taking sides.

BERMAN: Well, in that we can talk about another time. Just to be clear, what he was charged to do was to look into the Russia matter and any other things that may arise in the investigation. It's right there in the actual letters from Rod Rosenstein, you know, to -- appointing Bob Mueller. So he -- most people believe is well within the bounds of his initial charge.

But, again, thank you for being with us.

We are waiting for hearings with Christopher Wray, the current FBI director, on Capitol Hill. It may be another cause to discuss this going forward.

Congressman Francis Rooney, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

ROONEY: Thanks for having me on.

BERMAN: All right, this morning, big news coming out of the Senate. We are waiting to hear from Senator Al Franken. He will speak in just a short while and announce his plans for his future. Will he step down after so many Democrats have come forward calling for him to resign after more allegations of sexual misconduct?