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Army/Navy Football Game; Franken's Defiant Resignation; Papadopoulos' Fiance Speaks Out; FBI Director Defends Bureau; Three Lawmakers Resign in Three Days. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 06:30   ET



[06:33:05] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Santa Ana winds and bone dry conditions sparking and then spreading. The six wildfires in southern California. Nearly 200,000 residents have now been evacuated. And folks along the coast in Santa Barbara County are being warned that they could be next. The raging wildfires burning through 141,000 acres, destroying 500 structures. And firefighters say it could be a week before the largest fire, north of Los Angeles, is under control.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Army/Navy game, one of the oldest, most revered rivalries in college sports, but it is more than just a game. Coy Wire has the latest in the "Bleacher Report" from Philadelphia this morning.

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Dating back to 1890, this game is the greatest display of pageantry and tradition in American sports. And if only all of us could have the same perspective as these young men. They may be on opposite sides and oppose each other for three hours or more when it's time to handle business, but afterwards both winners and losers walk away better people for what they've just been through and they embrace and show respect for one another as brothers.


DJ PALMORE, NAVY LINEBACKER: Army/Navy is definitely the best rivalry in sports. It is. With everything going on in the world right now, or even just in our country, this is the one thing everyone can come together and just watch the Army/Navy game.

JEFF MONKEN, ARMY HEAD COACH: This is the only game where every competitor on the field that these people are going to watch are willing to put their life on the line for everybody that's watching. There's no other game like that.


WIRE: I played in NFL playoff games, big time college bowl games, but none of them can hold a candle to this. This is America's game where Army and Navy play not just for the love of the game but for their love of one another and to honor our great nation. Game time is tomorrow at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: I agree with everything you just said, Coy, but they really want to beat each other. Let's be clear, they each want to win very, very badly and they think about it all year long.

[6:35:02] CAMEROTA: Thanks --


CAMEROTA: Thanks, Coy.

BERMAN: I left him speechless.

WIRE: That's absolutely true.

You're welcome.


BERMAN: Speechless.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Coy. Thanks so much. A very exciting game.

Meanwhile, Al Franken announcing that he is resigning from the Senate within weeks. But is he somehow leaving himself some wiggle room to keep his job? That strange theory, next.



SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate.


CAMEROTA: All right, that was Senator Al Franken announcing that he's stepping down amid sexual misconduct allegations. Franken was unapologetic and he took aim at the commander in chief and at Roy Moore.

[06:40:04] So, is Franken done with politics or did the announcement suggest something different?

Let's discuss with host of CNN's "Smerconish," Michael Smerconish, and Minnesota Public Radio news host Kerri Miller.

Great to have both of you here.

Michael, I've read your notes. Are you going like full conspiracy theory here on what Al Franken has up his sleeve?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, "SMERCONISH": No. No, not at all. And if he should resign, I will not be wrong in what I'm saying. I'm interpreting --

CAMEROTA: But you think if he should resign, you are --


CAMEROTA: You don't believe that that was a resignation announcement?

SMERCONISH: I encourage people to take the time to do what I have done, which is not only to watch it, but also to parse the statement.

Alisyn, if he had been announcing yesterday that he was staying and fighting, probably one sentence of this statement would have needed to be changed. And that's it. He admitted absolutely nothing. There was really no contrition in the way that he went about it. And I can't help but read it and wonder, was it a trial balloon of sorts, leaving the door open just a bit to see what transpires on Tuesday in Alabama, giving him the opportunity to revisit the subject.

CAMEROTA: OK. So just let me play this out one more beat with you.


CAMEROTA: So if Roy Moore wins, then you think it's possible that Al Franken has left the door open to saying, just kidding, I'm staying?

SMERCONISH: Well, it's not a joke. I mean that's not what I'm implying. I don't know if you can use the words "moral high ground" in this climate anymore. But to the extent you can, he has given the Democrats the moral high ground argument.

People in Alabama are paying attention to what's going on with Al Franken. Doesn't it give voters pause when they're going in to cast a ballot on Roy Moore that, hey, Al Franken, and he wasn't accused to anything relative to a 14-year-old, but Franken is gone. What are we about to do with regard to Moore?

So I think that the subject is not quite done yet. It's just not a statement from someone -- and here's something else. Who announces that they are resigning in the coming weeks? Resignation implies that you have done something so unusual, so beyond reproach, that you're out of here. Well, why isn't he out of here already?

CAMEROTA: OK, Carrie, how did people on the ground in Minneapolis and his constituents hear this?

KERRI MILLER, HOST, MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO NEWS WITH KERRI MILLER: I just want to say to Michael, with all due respect, I think this is kind of crazy. I also have watched the whole speech and I've read the entire transcript and the way I interpret I'm resign in a couple weeks is potentially through end of December, end of the year he'll be leaving office.

I also think that when you have more than 30 of your colleagues say it's time for you to go, you don't get on the floor of the Senate, announce a resignation and then turn around and say, you know what, I want a do over on that. I just cannot see the way this reverses.

I hear Michael's theory, but I don't buy it. CAMEROTA: Yes. But, Kerri, what about people --

MILLER: What are Minnesota -- go ahead.

CAMEROTA: Yes, in Minnesota, did they -- did they feel that this was warranted or did they feel this was overkill? I mean what are you hearing on the -- you know, on the ground and on the radio?

MILLER: Yes, Alisyn, I do a daily call-in show and I'm doing actually a national show today, a national call-in. There's a lot of ambivalence about this. There are many, many Minnesotans who support Senator Franken, voted for him and don't think that he should go. There are, notably for me, a lot of younger women calling into my show saying, he's -- I see him being scapegoated here. I also think that in some ways he's a sacrifice on the way to that moral authority that Michael was talking about.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Michael.

SMERCONISH: So I think that plays in exactly to what I'm saying, that perhaps voters wake up on Wednesday morning, if Roy Moore has been elected, and they say, wait a minute, Moore is going to the United States Senate despite the argument that's been advanced by Leigh Corfman that when she was 14 he touched her genitals. And Al Franken for, among other things, including that picture, can't serve in the United States Senate? Perhaps Franken is hoping that people will say, this just isn't right. These two don't balance.

MILLER: Michael --

SMERCONISH: Why shouldn't Franken be in the United States Senate?

MILLER: Michael -- Michael, pardon me for interrupting here, but I don't think you've really answered what I was saying about more than 30 of your colleagues come out and say you have to resign. Some of the most powerful women in the U.S. Senate. You get on the floor of the Senate and you resign. And then you turn around and so, no, just kidding and all your colleagues go along with that? I just don't think that makes sense.

I also think --

SMERCONISH: I'm not using the kidding word. I don't -- I don't find -- I don't find any of this to be a laughing matter. And I'm not making light or a joke of it. Those colleagues all glommed onto this situation so as to provide voters in Alabama with a second consideration before they pass judgment on Roy Moore.

[06:45:09] In fact, let me say it more clearly. But for the election Tuesday in Alabama, I do not believe that Kirsten Gillibrand and her colleagues would have led the charge against Al Franken when they did.

MILLER: I -- I hear you. What -- I hear you. What you're saying is -- and I think this is true -- that there's a political calculation to this. I think there is.


MILLER: But that also goes to my --


MILLER: Yes, but that also goes to my argument. If there's a political calculation here, you don't turn around on Wednesday morning and say, well, there was an election in Alabama, so that's going to change the moral authority that we channeled to demand that Senator Al Franken leave. I just -- I don't buy the theory, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Why -- why isn't Al Franken already packed in his car and headed for Minnesota? Governor Mark Dayton is a Democrat.


SMERCONISH: It will be a -- you know, let me finish.


SMERCONISH: It will be a Democrat who replaces Al Franken. So any argument that his vote is necessary just doesn't wash. Who resigns in a couple of weeks?


SMERCONISH: All I'm saying is, he did it in this matter -- he did it --

MILLER: I think it --

CAMEROTA: Michael --

SMERCONISH: Hang on, I want to finish. He did in this manner so as to leave the door slightly ajar.


SMERCONISH: That's my thought.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Kerri.

MILLER: OK. So what I'm saying is, I believe that if it wasn't early December, the resignation might be happening more immediately. But I think because we're at the end of the year -- I mean this is how I'm interpreting it. Senator Franken has not said anything specific about this. So Michael might be right.

But we're at the end of the year. I think Senator Franken is indicating to us that he will pack up his things and be out of Washington by the end of 2017 and that Governor Dayton has some time to make this decision.


MILLER: Although, it sounds like from the governor's office, he's going to make this decision about who's going to step in within the next few days.


MILLER: So I think we'll have some news on that fairly quickly.

CAMEROTA: Michael, that's how I heard it. I mean I listened to both of your points. I think that they're both compelling. But the way I heard it was, that this was sudden. You know, up until yesterday Al Franken -- up until there was that sort of Greek chorus of coming forward of voices, Democratic voices and his colleagues, saying that he had to go, he thought that he was going to muscle through this. And so, you know, he doesn't haven't a date sort of --

SMERCONISH: This was not a guy -- this was not a guy who stood up -- this -- this was not a guy who stood up in the Senate yesterday and said, wow did I screw up. Wow, am I apologetic. Read the statement.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but he -- but what about, Michael --

SMERCONISH: This is a guy who said nothing in terms of accepting any responsibility. So he's clearly not comfortable with the ideas that he leave the Senate.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I hear you. I agree with that. I agree with that.

MILLER: But I don't --

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Kerri.

MILLER: Alisyn, I don't think there's any mystery to that. He is not comfortable. He feels in some ways that he's the sacrifice to the political calculation here. But that doesn't mean to me that for all of his discomfort with having to make this decision and having to announce it and have more than 30 of his colleagues come out and say you have to do it, that he's really holding back and leaving the door open, as Michael is saying, to be able to step back through it on Wednesday morning.

I actually think Senator Franken believes, as many of his colleagues do, that Roy Moore is going to win in Alabama, and yet he announced this decision when he did.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Kerri, one last question. People on the ground, do they think that this means that Al Franken is done politically, or could he somehow live to fight another day? And there were, at one time, talks of him running for president. I mean what do they think is the future for Al Franken?

MILLER: Yes, you know, Alisyn, we haven't quite gotten there yet. I'm not sure what average Minnesotans would think about Senator Franken coming back to run again. I don't think he wants to be governor of Minnesota. That will be the next statewide office that's up, along with his own seat in 2018 and 2020. So I'm not sure what the path is to another political office. My -- if I had to guess, I think maybe he goes back to work on writing another book and, you know, tells the story the way he wants to tell it. But, who knows? CAMEROTA: Kerri Miller, Michael Smerconish, thank you very much for the debate. Great to talk to both of you. Thanks for being here.

MILLER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler is challenging FBI Director Christopher Wray's stand-up to President Trump. He did that at a hearing on Capitol Hill, this after the president insulted the FBI earlier this week saying its reputation was in tatters, the worst in history.

Listen to this.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK: When he tells you that you need to, quote, clean house, that your agents are, quote, phony and dishonest, and that your, quote, reputation, or the reputation of the bureau, is in tatters and, quote, the worst in history, you should do more then send a private e-mail to your employees. Your job t hen is to stand up to the president of the United States


[06:50:08] BERMAN: All right, joining me now is Democratic Congressman Jerry Nadler of New York, who was recently made the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.


BERMAN: I do want to talk about that hearing in just a moment. But we have a little bit of breaking news here, which is pretty interesting. George Stephanopoulos over at "Good Morning America" has interviewed the girlfriend of George Papadopoulos. He, of course, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about meetings that he had with Russians. And she says some things which dispute claims that have been made publicly by the White House.

She says George Papadopoulos was not a coffee boy. That he was an important figure inside the campaign. He set up high-level meetings around the world with Trump campaign officials and said he had direct contact with Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn during the campaign, among other things. I wonder if I could just get your reaction to this.

NADLER: Well, that's very interesting. And it fits a pattern. And the pattern is that as this investigation has proceeded, all the people around Trump, from the president on down to Donald Jr., to everybody else, and Michael Flynn, have consistently lied. The president, we now know, said that that famous June meeting was only about -- he dictated the statement to his son that that famous June meeting was only about adoptions. We know that wasn't true. They've consistently tried to say that whoever was caught dealing with the Russians was only a fringe figure and that has proven not to be true. They've consistently said that they didn't deal with the Russians, that nobody talked to the Russians. That hasn't been true. And they feel probably more desperate as the walls close in around the president. And that's why the president is trying to discredit the FBI and the special prosecutor, the Justice Department, and CNN and anybody who is helping to bring the truth to light.

BERMAN: Along those lines, yesterday in this hearing Christopher Wray answered questions from you and others, the new FBI director. Afterwards, the White House said that their view of the FBI -- and, remember, the president said the FBI was in tatters. They don't see any discrepancies between their view and what Christopher Wray told you. Do you see it like that?

NADLER: Well, that's absurd. The president tweeted that the reputation of the FBI is in tatters, that they're dishonest. And Director Wray testified exactly to the contrary, that the -- that the -- that they're fine, public servants and that they're doing their job as they see it and fulfilling their duties, which they are.

And what -- this is, as I said, part of the White -- and the questions and the campaign being launched by many of my Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and by Fox News and the people around the president is to discredit the special prosecutor and the FBI and anybody else so that when the special prosecutor -- or if, I should say, he brings in a report critical of the president's role or saying that the president and his campaign colluded with the Russians, if he does that they will -- they will have discredited the sources. And it's part of an attempt to discredit every institution other than the president.

BERMAN: Congressman, one of the focuses of this hearing yesterday, particularly among your Republican colleagues, was Special Agent Peter Struck (ph), who we now know sent what appeared to be anti-Trump text messages or maybe pro-Hillary text messages during the campaign and he was a key figure both in the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and then initially in the Russian meddling investigation. He's been reassigned to human resources here.

I listened carefully what Christopher Wray said. And while he defended the FBI, he didn't go out of his way to defend Peter Struck. He made clear that there was an inspector general investigation and pending the outcome of that investigation, he may choose to take action against Peter Struck. If action is taken against Peter Struck, depending on what the inspector general says, will you support it?

NADLER: Well, yes. Well, depending on what the evidence is, obviously.

But this is, again, a diversion. I mean, because what they're saying is, that there was one agent in the FBI who they think -- and, by the way, an agent, like anybody else, is entitled to have his own political opinions. And if he sent his political opinions to a woman he was having an affair with and if those opinions didn't affect his work, there's nothing wrong with that. But they -- but they --

BERMAN: It's the if -- it's the if that's the issue there, though. NADLER: What?

BERMAN: It's the if that's the issue.

NADLER: Of course that's -- of course that's the issue. But no one has shown, publically at least to my knowledge, any evidence that it affected his work. But the special prosecutor being very cautious here took him off the job, reassigned him to something else and they're having an investigation. So if anything you'd have to say the special prosecutor is behaving absolutely properly, maybe over properly here because Struck may have done nothing wrong. But if he did something wrong, he was taken off the job in any event. So what does that show? Why are we even talking about it?

BERMAN: Well, congressman, I want to end on this note. You've been in Congress for a long time and you've never seen a week like this where three members of Congress resign in three days.

[06:55:08] NADLER: No, I have not.

BERMAN: Because of various accusations against them of different kinds of sexual misconduct. I wonder if I can get your reaction to this, whether you think it's the end, where you think Blake Farenthold of Texas, whom a staffer has come out with accusations, whether he needs to resign and quickly. Where are you on this?

NADLER: Well, I think that we are seeing a revolution in that women who are victims of sexual harassment are coming forward and speaking up. And I think that's very much to be welcomed. And we're seeing a society become much more cognizant of this problem.

But I also think we're seeing a very different attitude between the two political parties. Congressman Conyers and Senator Franken resigned very quickly and were forced to do so essentially by the Democratic Party. Whereas the Republican Party is supporting someone of whom there is a lot of evidence that he was not only a sexual molester, but a child sexual molester. And I don't hear too many people talking about the fact that there are a lot -- there are more -- more credible accusations and even admissions by Donald Trump, who's the president of the United States, and own -- and the Republicans are not even dealing with that in any way.

BERMAN: Right. Well, we've been talking about it this morning. And just to be clear, you know, Trent Franks was a Republican. Paul Ryan seems to have pushed him out in less than a week. But I do get your point, there appears to be different standards for the party officially on Roy Moore.

NADLER: And I think -- I think that Congress and the political system and not only the political system but many areas of work, as we've seen with Harvey Weinstein and others, tolerated this kind of behavior for a long time.

BERMAN: Right.

NADLER: And it's ending. And women are speaking up and they're being believed, as is proper. We have to make sure that people get some due process also. But, in general, we're going in very much the right direction. But we also have to enforce it on both political parties.

BERMAN: Right.

All right, Congressman Jerry Nadler, ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, thanks so much for being with us, sir.

NADLER: Thank you.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, up next, we will have more on the sexual misconduct allegations that are rocking Congress, including a live interview with the latest Al Franken accuser. What did she think of his announcement?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Members of Congress should hold themselves to a higher standard.

CAMEROTA: Trent Franks becoming the third member of Congress to step down this week.

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I know in my heart that nothing I have done has brought dishonor on the institution.

[07:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a time for all of us to address this issue, not as Republicans and not as Democrats, but as Americans.