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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Alabama Votes. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:03]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: How does he get away with it? Because I would think, if any Democrat or member of the media, you know, slagged on Ivanka that way, he would attack. But Steve Bannon, I feel like he's going to skate.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, probably so.

I guess they're buddies. He's the sort of the bard of the white working class. He also, by the way, took a shot at the University of Alabama while in Alabama, in favor of Harvard.

And I just want to say, as an SEC state school kid -- go, Dawgs -- that I find that a little elitist. But, look, this is an era where something like Kayla Moore's comment and his knock of Alabama or the Ivanka Trump knock, they don't matter. It's like it does not permeate in the way that it would have three years ago.

TAPPER: Yes. It's pretty remarkable. Don't go anywhere.

How much is President Trump's support of Roy Moore influencing voters as they head to the polls in Alabama? A longtime Roy Moore spokesperson joins us next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:35:16]

TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

We're just moments away from our first look at the exit polls in Alabama, where voters are choosing who will be their state's next U.S. senator, either Democrat Doug Jones or Republican Roy Moore.

Joining me now is Ted Crockett. He's a spokesman for the Roy Moore campaign.

Ted, thank you so much for joining us.

Let me ask you a question. If Judge Moore does win, how much of a role do you think President Trump's public support for him will have been a factor? TED CROCKETT, SPOKESMAN, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN: I think it was a push at

the end that helped, but I think Roy Moore was going to win the election anyway.

TAPPER: OK.

As you know, some Senate Republicans have called for Moore to step aside and they suggested they will not give him a seat -- or they will not seat him or give him a seat on a committee if he wins.

Obviously, there are those, including the majority leader, saying he will likely face an Ethics Committee investigation. How concerned are you that these allegations of sexual assault and misconduct will basically be an albatross around his neck for the whole time he's in the Senate?

CROCKETT: Well, I live in Alabama, and a lot of this has been refuted.

For example, the Gloria Allred client, Ms. Nelson, that's a forgery and a fraud. And everybody in the United States knows that by now.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Hold on one second. I'm sorry.

It's been proven that somebody wrote the date and the location, but I don't think it's been proven in any way that Roy Moore writing that in the yearbook has been -- that most of it was a fraud. I think part of it underneath, Beverly Nelson admitted she had written some of that, but not the part about -- not the whole thing.

CROCKETT: But you're accusing Roy Moore of something 38 years ago. You're making an accusation there, when we have a book that has clearly been altered and will not be turned over to our campaign to verify. That's a fact, Jake.

TAPPER: In any case...

CROCKETT: That's a fact.

TAPPER: It's true that Gloria Allred has not turned over the yearbook. That's absolutely true.

CROCKETT: Correct. Correct.

TAPPER: But my question for you was, is that how concerned are you these charges -- there will be an ethics investigation in the Senate.

CROCKETT: I'm not. I'm not.

TAPPER: You're not concerned at all?

CROCKETT: Each issue, he has taken it -- no. He will be seated. We all know that. The Supreme Court has already ruled that if you are of age, you won the election, you will be seated -- and you live in the district, you will be seated. They have to seat him, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Is Judge Moore prepared to testify under oath? Is he prepared to testify under oath? You said that he has refuted these charges. Is he going to raise his hand, put his hand -- the other hand on Bible and say none of this misconduct took place?

CROCKETT: Sure, he will. Sure, he will. Sure, he will.

TAPPER: Because one of the things that's been confusing, as I have listened to his explanations, is that he has contradicted himself on some of these issues, for instance, whether or not he knows some of the women who have made claims against him.

In that radio interview with Sean Hannity..

CROCKETT: When was that, Jake? When was that?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I will tell you exactly.

CROCKETT: When was that? Three weeks ago.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: In the radio interview he did with Sean Hannity, he said he knew two of the women, including Debbie Gibson, who was 17 at the time, when she says Moore pursued her. Take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I know her, but I don't remember going out on dates. I knew her as a friend. If we did go out on dates, then we did, but I do not remember that.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: He knows her, but he doesn't remember going on dates.

But in an interview on Sunday of this week with the Voice of Alabama, Judge Moore denied knowing any of the women, including Gibson, who was shown in an ad released by his opponent, Doug Jones. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOORE: When I saw these pictures on the advertisements of my opponent, I did not recognize any of those people.

QUESTION: Sure.

MOORE: I did not know them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, did he know them or did he not know them? Because we have gotten different messages.

CROCKETT: Jake, Jake, this is a smear campaign. That's all this is.

TAPPER: What is?

CROCKETT: Doug Jones is a lawyer. This is the only thing he understands.

Lawyers are like this, OK? "Washington Post," Gloria Allred, this is simply a smear campaign of accusations. That's all it is.

TAPPER: Well...

CROCKETT: Roy Moore's going to win this election tonight.

TAPPER: I'm just asking -- I'm just...

CROCKETT: The people of Alabama understand that.

TAPPER: I'm just playing Roy Moore's words.

CROCKETT: They understand it.

TAPPER: I'm playing Roy Moore's words.

In one, he says he knows one of the accusers. And the other one, he says he doesn't know any of the accusers.

(CROSSTALK)

CROCKETT: He said if. He said if.

TAPPER: He said if what?

CROCKETT: He said if.

We were all gobsmacked when this story hit, Jake. It takes awhile, when you have pain like that come after you, and you're being lied about, and you go on the radio within 24 hours or TV.

He used the word if, OK? And all you're trying to do is smear the man. Everybody in Alabama knows that. We're voting today. We're going to vote for Roy Moore.

[16:40:01]

We're tired of this. We're ready for merry Christmas, Jake.

TAPPER: So, here's the thing.

I get that you want to make this about "The Washington Post" and the elite media and all that.

CROCKETT: It's -- no, I'm not really knocking you, Jake. I'm not.

TAPPER: But I'm just asking questions. The nine women who have accused the judge are all Alabama women. And

there are a lot of prominent Republicans, including Republicans from Alabama, who have said that the allegations, they think, are credible, including Senator Richard Shelby.

CROCKETT: Not the majority.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But I'm talking about Republican leaders, Republican leaders in Alabama, Shelby, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Alabama governor, Kay Ivey, they all...

CROCKETT: Jake, you can always cut a sheep out of the herd. You can always do that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: These aren't sheep. These are shepherds. These are leaders of the Republican Party in Alabama. Just take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: I think the women are believable. I have no reason not to believe them.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am -- have no reason to doubt these young women.

GOV. KAY IVEY (R), ALABAMA: I certainly have no reason to disbelieve any of them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, that's three incredibly prominent Alabama Republicans.

CROCKETT: That was three weeks ago. That was three weeks ago, Jake. In the meantime, a lot of information has come out. Go back and ask some of them again.

TAPPER: Well, the Shelby interview was just two days ago on Sunday.

Are you saying that...

CROCKETT: I know the Shelby interview. I don't get Shelby, OK? I just don't get where he's coming from.

Nobody in Alabama does right now.

TAPPER: You're speaking for a lot of people.

CROCKETT: And it won't matter. It doesn't matter.

TAPPER: Yes.

CROCKETT: Roy Moore is going to win the election tonight. TAPPER: Well, let me ask you about some of his policies, because it's

possible that he will win.

Judge Moore, he's also made some controversial comments about Muslims, and I want to play some sound from that. He also made some comments, some controversial comments about homosexuality. Take a listen to this from 2005.

CROCKETT: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Do you think that homosexual -- homosexuality or homosexual conduct should be illegal today? That's a yes-or-no question.

MOORE: Homosexual conduct should be illegal.

QUESTION: Should be illegal?

MOORE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Does Judge Moore still believe that homosexual conduct should be against the law?

CROCKETT: The reason people support Judge Moore in the state of Alabama is because he's a biblically based custom law of the Bible, the mosaic English law. Homosexuality is a sin in the biblical sense. That is where Roy Moore is in the state of Alabama.

TAPPER: Well, does he believe that the Christian Bible should be the law of the United States of America?

CROCKETT: This country was founded on the Christian Bible.

TAPPER: This country was...

CROCKETT: Founded on the mosaic law, the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jake.

TAPPER: This country has a separation of church and state. And we have laws that are not rooted in the Christian Bible. We have laws that are...

CROCKETT: Jake, you don't understand.

TAPPER: I think I understand perfectly.

CROCKETT: You don't understand.

TAPPER: But here is my question for you.

CROCKETT: You do not understand.

TAPPER: Here's my question for you, sir. Does he think that homosexual conduct should be illegal? It's a yes- or-no question.

CROCKETT: Probably.

TAPPER: He probably thinks homosexual conduct should be illegal?

CROCKETT: Yes.

TAPPER: And what would the punishment be for a man having sexual relations with another man or a woman having sexual relations with another woman? What should the punishment be?

CROCKETT: It's just a sin, OK? That's what it is.

TAPPER: I understand what they tell you in church or what they tell you in synagogue or what they tell you in a mosque. I'm not talking about...

(CROSSTALK)

CROCKETT: It's what my Bible tells me, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That's what this is about.

TAPPER: There are all sorts of...

CROCKETT: You people want to take the whole 2,000 or 3,000 years of our history, and you all just want to throw it out the window, as if you're just going to make your own rules, your own manmade rules, and do whatever you want in sin, and that's part of the problem we have got in Washington, D.C., today, Jake.

We have got too many people winging it up there. They're fooling with women they shouldn't be fooling with. They ought to love their wives. Roy Moore loves his wife. Kayla loves him. It's clear on television. You can tell that. And that's the problem in this country. We need to get back to moral law.

TAPPER: What should -- OK, you think we should get back to moral law.

CROCKETT: Right.

TAPPER: What should the punishment be for two men having sexual relations? What should the punishment be? I understand you think it's a sin.

CROCKETT: I don't know. I'm not going to make that decision.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: Judge Moore has also said that he doesn't think a Muslim member of Congress should be allowed to be in Congress.

Why? Under what provision of the Constitution?

CROCKETT: Because you have to swear on the Bible when you are before -- I had to do it. I'm an elected official, three terms.

I had to swear on a Bible. You have to swear on a Bible to be an elected official in the United States of America. He alleges that a Muslim cannot do that, ethically, swearing on the Bible.

TAPPER: You don't actually have to swear on a Christian Bible. You can swear on anything, really. I don't know if you knew that. You can swear on a Jewish Bible. You can swear on a...

CROCKETT: Oh, no, I swore on the Bible. I have done it three times, Jake.

TAPPER: I'm sure you have, Jake. I'm sure you have picked a Bible. But the law is not that you have to swear on a Christian bible. That is not the law. You don't know that? All right, Ted Crockett with the Moore --

CROCKET: I don't know -- I know that Donald Trump did it when he -- when we made him President.

TAPPER: Because he's Christian and he picked it. That's what he wanted to -- that's what he wanted swear in on. Ted Crockett with the Moore campaign, good luck tonight. Thank you so much for being here. My panel will react when we get back.

CROCKET: Merry Christmas, Jake.

TAPPER: Thank you, sir.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:50:00] TAPPER: We're back with our "POLITICS LEAD." Let's get straight to the panel. You guys just heard Ted Crockett, a Spokesman for the Roy Moore campaign. He said none of these matters. The judge is going to win. He also said when I asked him does the judge still think that homosexual conduct should be illegal as he said in 2005. He said probably, although he couldn't give me a punishment. What did you think?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, THE FEDERALIST: Yes. So this touch on -- this interview actually touched on some of the reasons that I found Moore unfit before any of this came out. He's had many instances where he's proven that he does not believe in the Constitution and how it's supposed to work and has, in fact, been thrown off the bench for that reason. So there are plenty of reasons stacked up before this. I do think it's worth taking some of what he said about people not caring about these allegations and trying to understand why that's the case. I do not endorse this position, but let me run through a couple of things. One is that he will anger Republicans and Democrats here in Washington and be a loose cannon. That is a feature not a bug for many of these base voters.

Two, when people say it's an embarrassment to the state. They don't care. They don't care for this reason. Because back when Jeff Sessions was a Senator, most people in D.C. and Washington found Alabama an embarrassment back then. There was no redemption for them then, and they don't feel like there's any redemption for them now. And then last, they're taking the bargain that the Democratic Party offered Democrats for a long time. These guys do some bad things, they're accused of some bad things but they vote the right way. Conservatives are now saying and I don't think they should, we'll take that deal.

TAPPER: Jen, he didn't seem to know that you didn't have to swear on a Christian bible to be sworn in to be a public official.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He didn't seem to be thinking a lot past tonight. And so that is actually also emblematic of what's happening with this race because Roy Moore very well may win tonight. We don't know but he may win. Tomorrow morning it's not going to be a typical day for Republicans, at least in Washington because, A, awkwardly this is now their colleague, many of them didn't support him, including his own colleague from Alabama. B, there's going to be -- you know, investigations, ethics investigations, and, C, they're savvy, they will know Democrats are going to tie every single Republican in the Senate and even in the House if they can get away with it to the sexual assault accusations of Roy Moore, tie that to Donald Trump. That will be one of the platforms they run on in 2018.

TAPPER: Sounds like you think Roy Moore is going to win, though?

PSAKI: He very well could. I agree with what Mary Katherine said. I think sometimes we forget that every state politics is different. This is a very red state. It's -- on -- in Presidential elections, the last three cycles has gone by more than --

HAM: Those are -- the (INAUDIBLE) for Democrats doesn't --

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: Yes, I would say that Democrats who are involved in the -- what's going on on the ground, they actually think there's a good chance that Doug Jones could win. I mean, that seems unbelievable and I think if that happens it's earthshattering, but there's a definite possibility that that can happen.

PSAKI: He certainly could. I think we shouldn't forget, though, that Alabama voters don't always thing exactly what we think at the table or everyone in Washington, D.C. thinks.

HAM: But there's a lot of get out the vote presence down there for Democrats don't you think?

TAPPER: All right, everybody stick around. We've got much more coming up. Any moment, we're going to get our first exit poll results in Alabama. So what does it mean if Roy Moore wins? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:55:00] TAPPER: Breaking news in our "POLITICS LEAD". Senate Republicans are planning on meeting tomorrow if Roy Moore wins the Alabama Senate Race. Sources telling CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill that they will be discussing the next steps to take and the possibility that an accused sexual abuser takes his seat in the Senate. Let's brings in CNN's Tom Foreman now. Tom, what are the options for Moore and what's actually likely to happen?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Limited, to begin with. Look at the situation here. Republicans came into this year with a razor-thin advantage over Democrats and their allies, 52 seats to 48 seats. Then Jeff Sessions became the U.S. Attorney General. He left his seat. The Alabama Governor replaced him with another Republican, Luther Strange, who people thought would win the general election, got knock out in the primary by Roy Moore. And this is where they sit. So if Moore wins, the math is fine. But look at all the different Republican Senators that he will face who have raised some sort of objection or question or concern about the allegations against him.

Look at some of these -- Alaska's Dan Sullivan says, if these sickening claims are true, Mr. Moore should step aside." And that as Dean Heller says, Roy Moore should do what's best for the conservatives of Alabama and step aside. North Carolina's Richard Burr says, if any aspect of the story is true, he should withdraw. West Virginia Shelley Moore Capito, if the allegations are true, Roy Moore should immediately step aside. Colorado's Cory Gardner going in further, saying Roy Moore will never have the support of the Senatorial Committee. Jake?

TAPPER: Could the Senate refuse to seat him amid this controversy? Is it possible for him to be ejected?

FOREMAN: No. He cannot be refused to be seated. He's legally elected if he wins. He has to be seated. They could immediately launch an effort to investigate him and then vote to throw him out. If they want to do that, they're going to have to have 2/3 of this chamber voting in favor of throwing him out. And that is a rare occurrence, happened back in the civil war when more than a dozen Democratic Senators were thrown out for supporting the Confederacy, hasn't happened since. They tried it several times, most recently with Bob Packwood and with John Ensign in each case they resigned before such a finding could be made. But here's a really important point in all of this. If Moore wins and if he is thrown out, the governor will once again appoint an Interim Senator to fill in, an Interim Senator and call for a special election and Roy Moore could run once again. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. CNN's special coverage of the Alabama Senate Race starts right now and I will see you later in the broadcast.