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Voters Hitting the Polls in High-Stakes Special Election; Trump: Gillibrand Begged Me for Campaign Contributions; Trump: Sex Misconduct Accusations "Fabricated Stories"; Congresswomen Wants Investigation into Trump Accusations. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired December 12, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow.
The president on the attack this morning against the women who accuse him of sexual misconduct as well as their chief advocate in Congress is calling on him to resign. The accusers of the president claimed, quote, "I don't know and/or have never met."
As for Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the president says she would, quote, "come to my office begging for campaign contributions not so long ago and would do anything for them." The president, though, not explaining what he meant by that last part.
BERMAN: Meanwhile, and perhaps not coincidentally it is Election Day in Alabama. At long last, we will find out if Roy Moore, the Republican nominee, who has been accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl, will be elected to the U.S. Senate.
The Democrat, Doug Jones, voted just moments ago. We're waiting to see Roy Moore make an appearance today. We are also waiting for House Speaker Paul Ryan to face reporters. Will he address the calls from women in the House to investigate the president for sexual misconduct? We're following all these developments from Washington and Alabama. Want to start there, it is Election Day.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins on the ground. Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, John. We're going to see Roy Moore any minute now go cast his vote in this election and as you know from the primary and the runoff, he and his wife Kayla, ride in on horseback. He's on a horse named Sassy to cast their votes. And then they'll head down here to Montgomery where their campaign headquarters is and where they're hoping to hold a victory party tonight.
But we just heard from Doug Jones on the other side of this state in Birmingham, Alabama. He just cast his vote and even made a prediction for what he thinks is going to happen tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Look, that's not going to be me. First of all, I don't think we're going to get that. You know, in Alabama, we have come so far with too many things and there's this saying, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Alabama is not going to let that shame happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So we're finally on the final day of this high-stakes election that has been probably the most covered political event in Alabama. And over the last few days of this election, we saw national political leaders and celebrities flock to the state in hopes of winning over some last-minute support for their candidate of choice. And Steve Bannon has been one of Roy Moore's longest and certainly most fervent supporters in this race, not backing down from his support of him, despite those multiple sexual assault allegations made against him. And during a rally in Dothan, Alabama, last night, the former White House chief strategist, seemed to take a shot at one of his former colleagues and the president's daughter Ivanka Trump when he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There's a special place in hell.
BANNON: For Republicans who should know better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now that's obviously a direct reference to what Ivanka said after those sexual assault allegations were made against Roy Moore when she said, "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children." But we're waiting on voters to really deliver a verdict here, John and Poppy, on Roy Moore and on his history and the outcome of this race could affect and shape up to what's going to happen in the mid-terms in 2018.
BERMAN: Oh, one way or the other, it will absolutely have an effect on the mid-terms. Kaitlan Collins thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.
HARLOW: So what has history taught us about what we might see in Alabama today from voters? Our senior political analyst Mark Preston is with us. I know this is unlike most things we've seen before, but still, what does history tell us?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, a couple things now, Poppy. Let's take a look at the state of Alabama. Very, very Republican, it's going to be very difficult for Doug Jones to win down in Alabama. Specifically because Gallup estimates 50 percent of voters right now, Poppy, say that they are Republican or lean Republican on the flip side, only 33 percent of Democrats. But let's look at this recent elections as you say right there. Let's take a quick look at the most recent one between Luther Strange, the incumbent Republican right now, and Roy Moore. This was a primary back in September. Look, Roy Moore won by 10 percentage points. Where Luther Strange did better than Roy Moore, was in cities such as Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, which is home to more traditional voters. And for Doug Jones to do well today, to win today, he's going to have to try to get some of those Republican voters who supported Luther Strange in September to come vote for him now.
[10:05:04] Now let's move on and let's look at the last election right now. When you look at Richard Shelby, who is the incumbent Republican senator back in 2016, he defeated Ron Crumpton by 28 points, the Democrat. Now what Doug Jones needs to do here is he needs to over perform where Ron Crumpton did well.
Did you see that black rather blue line right across the middle of the state? That is called the Black Belt. No surprise that we saw Barack Obama do a robocall yesterday to try to get out the votes, specifically African-American votes. And in addition to that we saw Vice President Joe Biden do a robocall and that call was directed towards trial lawyers, union workers, blue collar workers.
So let's move on now and let's take a look, though, historically about how Republican it is. Alabama look at how much Donald Trump won by, 28 points right there, defeating Hillary Clinton. And if you go back to 2012, we saw that Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by nearly 23 points. I should note too that if you go back to 2008 and 2004, the Republican presidential nominees each won by 20 percentage points.
Bottom line for Doug Jones to win today, he needs a spike in African- American voters. He needs a depression in Republican voters, specifically in the rural parts of the county. Poppy, John?
BERMAN: All right. Mark Preston, thank you very, very much. Six hours and 53 minutes until the election coverage begins. The Magic Wall - the CNN Magic Wall doing its stretching exercises.
HARLOW: Mark doesn't get to sleep today.
BERMAN: No one sleeps today.
All right, President Trump is now attacking one of the senators calling for his resignation over the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
HARLOW: This is what he wrote this morning, "Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office" quote, "'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill and Crooked-used!"
Lot of questions that need explaining in that, our Joe Johns is at the White House with more. Any explanation?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Not so far, but I have to tell you, that from past experience the aides of the president here don't like to get too far out in front of their skis, if you will, interpreting controversial presidential tweets until that response is vetted. So still waiting to hear from the White House on what they're going to say about the controversial part of that tweet.
Meanwhile, for her part, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, actually put something out on Twitter as well. I'll read that for you. "You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office."
One question, of course, is just how much money did Donald Trump give to Kirsten Gillibrand and it's clear that he didn't donate to her every single year, but we went to open secrets.org as well as FEC records and it appears that the president did give her $1,050 in 2007, $4800 in 2010. That would be $2400 times two apparently maxing out on the FEC limits. So that's what we know for now, waiting to hear from the White House about the controversial tweet and what the president meant. John and Poppy, back to you.
HARLOW: Joe Johns from the White House. Thank you very much.
So this also comes on the heels of more than 50 women in the House calling for an investigation into these allegations against the president from 15 plus women.
MJ Lee is on Capitol Hill with more. This takes it to a new level. The question becomes, sort of what now. What action if any?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Poppy. Another day, another Twitter feud, I just first want to mention that the reason President Trump and Senator Gillibrand have been going back and forth on Twitter this morning, stems from her interview with our Christiane Amanpour yesterday where she said there are credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity against President Trump and that he should resign. Now, that means that there are now four Democratic senators who have called on the president's resignation, including Gillibrand, as well as senators Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.
Now Democratic lawmakers are also saying that barring President Trump's resignation, they would like to see a Congressional investigation into the allegations of misconduct against the president close to 60 female House Congress women have sent a letter to the House Oversight Committee. And here's a little of what they wrote in the letter. They said, "In the time of 'Me Too,' women across the country are coming forward with their own harrowing stories of sexual harassment and assault. Members of Congress have also come under scrutiny and investigation, with some resigning, for improper sexual conduct. We cannot ignore the multitude of women who have come forward with accusations against Mr. Trump."
[10:10:10] Now I spoke with Congresswoman Lois Frankel who spearheaded this letter yesterday and she said a part of the reason she is speaking out now, writing this letter now calling for an investigation into President Trump is because she has heard from so many people who have said look, there are people in Congress who are resigning over allegations of sexual harassment, there are big, powerful figures in media and in Hollywood who are losing their jobs. Where is the accountability for President Trump? Of course it is very clear that President Trump intends to continue denying these allegations and in fact, dismissing them and we expect that to continue to be the case in the coming days and weeks. John and Poppy?
BERMAN: All right, MJ Lee for us on Capitol Hill. We are waiting to see Paul Ryan, whether he faces questions about whether or not there will be any kind of investigation. I would not expect it but we are waiting to hear from Paul Ryan very, very shortly. We'll keep our eye on that.
Also within the hour, Roy Moore expected to cast a ballot in the Alabama Senate race. This candidate accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl. He's expected to show up on horseback, seriously.
President Trump going after his accusers, he says he doesn't know or has never met them, but this includes a woman he was a business partner with, a reporter who interviewed him three beauty pageant contestants and an "apprentice" contestant.
Also, the suspect behind the New York City terror attack faces charges now. We're also learning that the attacker was not on the radar of authorities at all. We're live with the latest. Stay with us.
[10:15:57] HARLOW: Voters hitting the polls in a high-stakes special election in Alabama today. This as the president is on the attack taking on a sitting U.S. senator and the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct.
BERMAN: We're joined by CNN political analyst Josh Green, CNN political commentators, Alice Stewart and Patti Solis Doyle.
You know, Josh, the president decided to go on the attack this morning. He calls the accusations against him fake and false. He never met the women, doesn't know them. Despite the fact he worked with some of them and had them as contestants in his beauty pageants and then goes after sitting Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of the state of New York saying that she came to his office begging for donations and hopefully we can put this up here and was willing to do anything to get them. He said.
Now Eric Swalwell, congressman from California said we all know what the president is saying here and calls it beneath the office. This is par for the course for him. He's done this type of thing before. We think back to Megyn Kelly, you know after that debate more than a year ago.
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well I think one byproduct of Moore or of Trump coming out and deciding to endorse Roy Moore so effusively was you know Moore, obviously, has been credibly accused of molesting all sorts of women. Trump had two during the campaign. And so it was inevitable that these attacks would blow back on Trump.
And I think what we're seeing in this tweet is evidence that that has gotten under his skin. I mean Gillibrand has branded herself in the last couple weeks as the Democrat in the Senate who is most out there on the wave pushing back against this wave of sexual harassment. I believe she's the first senator to come out and call on Al Franken to resign. She wants to identify herself as being in the vanguard of the "Me Too" movement and I think the next stage for that is to call on Trump to pay a price that he really didn't pay in the election for having this wave of women come out and accuse him of inappropriate sexual conduct.
HARLOW: Yes which she did on this network yesterday saying that he should resign. Obviously, prompting this anger directly towards her from the president. There was this weird, sort of bizarre - I should note sort of standing up for Bill and Hillary Clinton, the former president, at the end of that tweet. -
BERMAN: That's why he fired James Comey. He's been looking out for them for a long time.
HARLOW: OK. That's John's assessment.
But Patti, to you, I just wonder if you think anything is going to be different this time. I mean all of these accusations against the president came during the election. These women spoke out, did multiple interviews and the American people elected Donald Trump president. Does something feel different to you this time?
PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first I just have to address this tweet which I just find completely and utterly disgusting. I mean let's be clear of what the president just implied. That a sitting U.S. senator, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been, you know, focused on issues of sexual harassment for many years would do anything for money. He's basically implying she is a prostitute and that, coming from the president of the United States, I just find repulsive.
And especially this president, who as Josh just said, has been accused credibly by more than 15 women of sexual assault or sexual harassment, who has gone and bragged about grabbing women by their private parts, who has demeaned women by rating them on the scale from 1 to 10 their looks. And do I think it will be different moving forward?
Yes. I think we are living in a moment, in a moment that is affecting our culture, our society, our country. And I think he can't run from this anymore. He can't hide from it. And I don't think his accusers are going to go away any time soon. I think they have been emboldened and they are going to continue to speak up.
BERMAN: You know Alice I want to get your take on this, if one, the White House is beginning to feel the pressure - at least the president is beginning to feel the pressure. Number two, you know, I think for Patti to be right, this would require Republicans -
[10:20:06] HARLOW: It would. BERMAN: -- joining in. Do you think that would ever happen? Republicans saying the president needs to be investigated or even condemning the behavior saying I believe the women here?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think some of that will depend on what happens in the Alabama race. Look, Donald Trump should learn that the best way to avoid the sexual harassment fire growing is to stop pouring gas on it. And he continues to talk about this, continues to say these women are liars, continues to say that - they cannot be believed and that's just going to make it much, much worse.
And what he said about Senator Gillibrand is terrible and I think that will come back to haunt him. But the administration, actually, needs to get their story straight. If he's going to say these women are lying, I've never met them before, and they turn around and say we have got witnesses that say this never happened. They're not consistent.
And look, I think the party really needs to take a stand on this and if Roy Moore were to win, whether he wins or not, the party standing behind candidates and men who have harassed women and credible accusations of harassment and not believable denials by Roy Moore. Look we're -- the Democrats will use that against this all the way through the midterm elections. We will be the party that does not support women and if that's the case, this will make Mitt Romney's binders full of women look like a children's fairy tale. I think now is the time for us to really stand up for these women.
HARLOW: To your point, will Republicans come out -- Nikki Haley said these women should be listened to.
BERMAN: And if you believe the reports the White House got angry about that. But who knows.
HARLOW: There you go. So let's turn Alabama. Huge race today, huge day in Alabama thus the countdown clock at the bottom of your screen. Josh you have a new piece about this. You actually spoke to Roy Moore, one of the few reporters who have gotten to about the Steve Bannon influence. Of course, he wrote the book on Steve Bannon. And you say that Roy Moore told you that he's the master strategist. What has Steve Bannon meant to this race?
GREEN: Well, you know, I asked Moore how he had managed to come back from these accusations of what amounts to pedophilia. If you go back three weeks, there were polls showing Doug Jones, his Democratic opponent, leading by six or eight points and you flash forward to today.
And while the polls have been all over the place, if you look at the polling averages Moore has climbed back into the lead and that is a remarkable comeback in light of the kinds of charges we've seen. And the fact that party leaders like Mitch McConnell had called on Moore vociferously to drop out. You know I asked him how did you come back and he really credited Steve Bannon for creating a kind of a counter narrative to the stories in the mainstream media of these accusations from now I believe it's up to nine or 10 women who accused Moore of inappropriate sexual conduct when they were teenagers.
You know, the most remarkable poll number to me that I've seen in the last few days is not a horse race poll in Alabama. It was a CBS poll a few days ago that showed 71 percent of likely Republican voters in Alabama believe that the women are lying. And I don't think you wind up in that kind of situation unless there's somebody out there. In this case, Steve Bannon and his political apparatus, spinning a fairly convincing story, convincing to Republican voters, that everything you're seeing on TV is a lie pushed by the mainstream media.
BERMAN: So Patti, to his point, what if Roy Moore wins? What will that tell you about this type of messaging, Patti?
DOYLE: Well look, first of all Alabama is not the best test case for this. Alabama is a very conservative state. You know, a Democrat hasn't won statewide in decades. So I don't know if Alabama is the best test case. But I will be most interested to see from tonight what women do tonight. I want to see whether they go out and they vote for Roy Moore, or they, you know, they can't stomach that and they vote for Doug Jones, or do they stay home? I'm most curious to see what kind of impact the "Me Too" movement has made, not in Alabama so much, because as I said it's not the best test case, but what kind of impact it will have in 2018 and in 2020 moving forward. So I'm most curious about what women will do tonight.
HARLOW: Alice as a Republican strategist -- go ahead.
STEWART: I think -- with regard to what Bannon has done in this race, look, he took a candidate that was on life support and brought it back to life and this is a neck and neck race. And he did so masterfully, I guess if you want to look at it that way, by not making this about the allegations and to some degree not even really so much about the issues, but making this about not about whether you believe these women but you absolutely cannot believe fake news. You cannot believe the GOP establishment and you cannot believe our Democratic opponents and that's what he's made this about. That's when a lot of the voters who are standing behind Moore have in their mind and that's how they are going to the polls.
And I think this will be a -- this will be interesting to see how this comes out, but as a Republican, I think this is a time where we need to look at what is best for the long term for the party?
[10:25:03] I would rather take a defeat here for the long term gain. This is about standing for principles and integrity and not about political outcome. But we will see. It's going to be extremely, extremely close.
HARLOW: It is. Alice Stewart, Patti Solis Doyle, Josh Green, thank you all very, very much.
We do have more information coming in this morning about the suspect who detonated that bomb in New York City 24 hours ago. What charges he's facing, and what he used to make the device. Ahead.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BERMAN: New this morning, the suspected New York City, now bomber facing multiple terror-related charges.
HARLOW: We know that he made this bomb at home in Brooklyn. He used pieces that he collected from his workplace. We're learning a lot more. Brynn Gingras is outside Port Authority, where this attack was placed. What else have you learned?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy and John, we do know that state city --