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Congresswomen Demand Probe Into Trump's Accusations; Alabama Voting Underway; McConnell Comments on Calls for Trump Investigation. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired December 12, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:01] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thanks for being with me.
Calls for the president to be investigated are growing. We just learned that about a hundred Democratic lawmakers are now demanding that Congress take action after multiple women have renewed their sexual misconduct allegations against the president of the United States.
But Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, along with several other Democratic senators say, no question about it that the president should resign.
President Trump is now attacking Gillibrand, directly calling her a, quote, lightweight and a total flunky. You see his tweet from earlier.
But here is how the New York senator is responding today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice, and I will not be silenced on this issue. Neither will the women who stood up to the president yesterday, and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the women's march to stand up against policies they do not agree with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's start the hour there at the White House of their senior correspondent there, Jeff Zeleny.
And so, we'll get through more of what you know that this fall out with Gillibrand and other members of Congress. But, first, the president also has attacked several of his accusers, saying that they are, quote, false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don't know and/or have never met.
But, Jeff, that is provably false.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Brooke. I mean -- and it's also a change from what Sarah Sanders said yesterday in the White House briefing room. She said that there were eyewitnesses saying that they didn't happen. But the president weighing in on this for the first time as president
on social media on Twitter, saying, you know, he doesn't to know them but the and/or I think is probably interesting there. There's no question, Brooke, it's unclear if he knows all of the 15-plus women who have come forward with some type of accusation about either sexual harassment misconduct or sexual assault but he knows many of them. In fact, he's been photographed with many of them. One of the receptionists worked at Trump Tower, you know?
So, the reality here is that a lot of those women we've seen on the screen there and other things knew him, had interactions with him. So, the president by saying that this morning I think has simply, you know, opened the door to more questions about this, and I think some of those will be will be asked at that White House press briefing coming up in the next hour.
BALDWIN: One of the women on the fifth season of his show, "The Apprentice".
BALDWIN: We'll listen for that from the podium.
Meantime, back to Senator Gillibrand. I mean, listen, she has a lot of respect on both sides of the aisle, but my question is and I know you're there at the White House, but how is the president's attack against her being received just down the road from you on Capitol Hill?
ZELENY: Brooke, there's no question that Democrats, Democratic women and others are galvanizing around their support for Senator Gillibrand here. Senator Elizabeth Warren, you know, using a very sharp language, accusing the president of slut-shaming, her word, Senator Gillibrand there.
But just a short time ago, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who's leading this movement on Capitol Hill, for more disclosure of these settlements and other matters, she defended Senator Gillibrand like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: What took place this morning when the president tweeted about our colleague, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, is grotesque. It took my breath away, and it represents the conduct of a person who is ill-equipped to be the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, of course, a lot of calls for congressional investigations, a lot of calls for the president to resign. Of course, that is not likely to happen, that will not happen, and Republicans control Capitol Hill.
So, the question is in the court of public opinion, can all of these news stories and renewed calls here impact the White House? We'll see. It's a new climate, a different climate from a year ago. But, Brooke, there's no question the White House is going to spend the rest of the day answering these questions -- of course, all raised because of that Alabama Senate race that we're also keeping around here at the White House -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: We are indeed. Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much.
Well, we'll listen and for that briefing as always.
Meantime, let's take a deeper dive into what Jeff just set up for us. I have with me, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston.
So, ladies, good to have both of you on.
And, Gloria, just to you. You know, we played the sound bite. Congresswoman Speier called the president's tweet grotesque. When you first saw it, what did you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I would agree with the congresswoman and I thought it was stunning that this president hasn't learned anything from what we're all going through with the Roy Moore controversies, that this is a president who steps in it time and time again and is a bully to both men and women.
And on a day when he's got a very important Senate race at stake, when he's got a tax bill that he's going to speak about tomorrow, that he's looked to become -- looks to become the crowning achievement perhaps of his -- of his first year in office, that he then cannot resist going after Senator Gillibrand, particularly in the way that he did which was so insulting and demeaning and derogatory and use whatever -- use whatever word you want.
[04:05:22] And coming from the president of the United States, and I know we get used to these things and we're all kind of -- we're all kind of used to these things --
BALDWIN: We should not be.
BORGER: -- But there's a -- we shouldn't be -- and there's a different environment now and it was just sort of stunning.
BALDWIN: Let me -- let me point specifically, Maeve, to one part of the tweet. I'm right there with you, Gloria. You know, a lot of people are making much ado about the adjectives flunkey and then the begging part.
BALDWIN: But the part of the tweet, Maeve, where he says, you know, Gillibrand, someone who would come to my office begging for campaign contributions not so long ago, parentheses, and would do anything for them -- would do anything for them. What is -- listen, we can't crawl into the president's head, what is he suggesting? MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: No, we certainly can't, but I don't see how you can possibly read that statement and not see all of the sexual innuendo in it. And -- I mean, literally, that is the worst kind of locker room talk that any of us you know have dealt with over time, and it's just so crude and below the office of the president and it's very difficult to understand -- to Gloria's point -- why he wants to you know distract attention away from these other things at the end of the year by doing that.
The only thing you can really think is that he is sort of relishing this fight with Gillibrand and can't resist it because, certainly, she's going to be a very formidable challenger should she decide to run in 2020, and she's really championing these issues and taking on this fight and welcoming it with the president.
BALDWIN: Yes, she's building -- she's building her brand as well, you know, looking ahead.
BALDWIN: What about just the timing of all of this? Because we know that -- you know, is it similar to I think of Roy Moore, and saying, well, why are all these women coming forward now? And there's all kinds of reasons to refute that and now you have President Trump Gloria saying the Democrats have launched this crusade because this whole Russia collusion claim, you know hasn't worked.
But the thing is, these women have come out with these stories regarding Trump, you know way before anyone was saying the R-word Russia.
BORGER: Right, right, but he thinks the reason they're coming out again is because it's all this effort to delegitimize him. And so, the Russia investigation is an effort to delegitimize his election and these women coming out again is an effort to delegitimize him as president and another way to get at him. And I believe that he sees this all as just threatening his job and who -- and who he is and how he got there.
And so, he says, all these women, you know, this has been asked and answered. Well, as you've been pointing out it hasn't been asked and answered. As Sarah Sanders yesterday said, you know, it's been investigated. It hasn't been investigated.
And these women who see other women coming out now we're saying, wait a minute, our issues never got resolved here, and Sarah Sanders is saying there was an election and we all agree there was an election, and Donald Trump won that election. Let's all stipulate that. Trump won the election.
But that doesn't mean that these women don't have valid issues against a sitting president of the United States.
BALDWIN: Sure. Sure, it will also -- just riddle me this, how can he say he's never met them, A, right, and, Maeve, you can explain --
RESTON: That's a lie.
BALDWIN: Right, it is a lie. And, B, how do you stand up there Sarah Sanders and say, well, OK, it's a lie and we have eye witnesses to prove it. It's like if you're saying a thing didn't happened and how can you have people who they're saying saw the thing that never happened?
RESTON: Right, it's totally incongruous and, you know, that briefing yesterday was really remarkable for a lot of reasons. But she's going to have many, many more questions to answer today as far as I know from our White House team, you know, the White House has only been able to provide a -- to name so far those people as eyewitnesses that you know still need to be vetted.
None of this has been out in the open as Gloria's talked about and, you know, this is a time when the White House needs to be sort of reassuring people that, you know, that their sensitivity around these issues, that they feel compassion for these women and you've just seen none of that at all.
And the fact that the president would cap it with that tweet this morning is just -- you have to wonder what's going to happen with him and women in 2020, although we said that in 2016.
[14:10:06] So, who knows?
BORGER: And, you know, the president and Sarah Sanders has said the president is happy that women are coming forward.
BORGER: And she did say that.
BALDWIN: She did, she did.
BORGER: She did say that, that the press -- and so that this is how the president feels. So, if that is, in fact, how he feels with these other women coming forward, say, on Harvey Weinstein, why would he be taking on Kirsten Gillibrand this way with this kind of language, this kind of bullying language when she is just supporting women?
BALDWIN: I mean, that we'd be having a conversation on national television about, you know, sex -- sex and slut-shaming and sexist smears and the president, I don't think anyone fully, fully saw this coming.
Ladies, stand by. We have more to talk about.
Still ahead here on CNN, decision day, they just brought up. Decision day for Alabama voters there are going to the polls right now to cast their ballots in the state special election. Will they be able to look past the troubling allegations against Roy Moore or will the Democrat there, Doug Jones, be able to pull out an upset? Roy Moore riding it on Sassy the horse to vote today.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [14:15:40] BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
It is judgment day for Roy Moore. Election day at Alabama a little more than halfway through, and Alabama voters are now delivering their verdict on the embattled Senate candidate.
The former judge wrote in on Sassy the horse today to cast his vote. He is the Republican accused of sexual abuse and assault against teenage girls decades ago, and he has the full support of President Trump.
Now, no matter which Senate candidate comes out on top, the outcome would fly in the face of the norm. Let me play this out for you. If Roy Moore wins, you have a accused sexual predator sitting in the U.S. Senate defying this nationwide reckoning against sexual harassers, this whole me-too movement, pitting the president who backs Moore against Republican leadership who have been mulling Moore's expulsion.
Play it the other way, if Moore's opponent, the Democrat here, Doug Jones wins, Alabama would send a Democratic senator to Washington for the first time in 25 years. Think about all of that for a minute.
Let's go straight to Alabama now. CNN's Kaylee Hartung is live for us in Montgomery.
Kaylee, set the scene for us.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, here precinct 101 in Montgomery, there's been a steady line inside this polling place over the course of the day -- as one official told me that equals good turnout, not quite the turnout they've seen here for a presidential election, but better than what they saw for the primary or the runoff for this Senate seat.
Among the Alabamians who have already gone to the polls today since they opened at 7:00 a.m. local, Roy Moore and Doug Jones, albeit they arrived at their respective polling places by different methods of transportation. Listen to the final message they each had for voters today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Judge Moore, if you win tonight, what's your message to Senator McConnell?
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I'm coming to the Senate, and we'll work out our problems there.
REPORTER: Judge, did you date any girls in high school when you're in your 30s?
MOORE: I'm talking about this race, the people will answer these allegations this evening, they have to vote. We're done with that. Get back to the issues in the state.
Go out and vote your conscience.
DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Judge Moore has been consistently wrong about the Constitution in everything he has done, consistently wrong. 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's not going to let that shame happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: This race has put such a national spotlight on the state of Alabama for so long now, Brooke. So, many voters here telling me that's just something they're not used to, they're not used to the national media attention. But as one voter told me he was so surprised when he had a friend call him from Boston and tell him how to vote in this race, when he had two more friends call him from Georgia and tell him how to vote in this race.
But as that same voter told me, you know, in the state of Alabama, the more people are told what to do, the more they resist. They like to say their motto here is we dare defend our rights.
By the end of tonight, we hope we know who will be defending the people's rights of Alabama in the U.S. Senate.
BALDWIN: We'll see. All of it translates later tonight.
Kaylee, thank you so much. Great reporting for us in Alabama.
Back with me, Gloria and Maeve.
And so, ladies, we've just gotten some sound in. So, let me just play this for all of us. This is just in from Alabama, sitting Republican Senator Richard Shelby who just talked to our friend Dana Bash. And so, you know, Senator Shelby, you recall a pretty extraordinary move, refuses to back fellow Republican Roy Moore. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: If Roy Moore is elected as your junior colleague from Alabama, will you support the wheels going in motion for an ethics committee investigation, ultimately expulsion?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Well, I think that's up to the leadership and the ethics committee itself. They always look to anyone's fitness to serve in the U.S. Senate.
BASH: Do you think he's fit to serve?
SHELBY: We would have to seat -- if Roy Moore is elected, we would seat them under the Powell case and would go from there.
BASH: Do you think he's fit to serve? Would you support the process?
SHELBY: Well, I -- BASH: You're not in leadership, but you're definitely a senior
SHELBY: I didn't support him.
[14:20:00] BASH: No, I know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: I mean, pretty telling, right, to hear that again. I mean, that this is a man, if Roy Moore wins, he would be face to face with the Richard Shelbys, the Democrats, the Republicans, many of whom vociferously, you know, opposed him, Gloria.
What's that supposed to look like?
BORGER: I don't know who gets to sit next to him is the question. I think, look, they're obviously going to send this to the -- if he were to win, it obviously would be referred to the ethics committee, number one. But that's kind of like a black box. You send it over the ethics committee, takes forever, who knows what happens.
BORGER: The question is, will some Republicans and all Democrats feel the need to do something more? And I don't know what that could be, whether it would be to do something on the floor, whether it would be to -- the leadership would have to do something?
I mean the spectacle --
BALDWIN: You mean something more immediate.
BORGER: Immediate, but the spectacle of unseating somebody who has just been elected in a state, it's not really something that I think a lot of members of Congress would want to do. The question is, what else is there?
And I've been talking to people today who say they're kind of scratching their heads, can they make statements about this? Can they call for immediate expulsion after the people voted? I don't know.
RESTON: Well, I think this is also, for Republicans, this is an issue that has cut so personally for many of them. I mean, I know Gloria and I both been talking to Republicans across the country who feel that way, who do not support Moore and are mortified that this person is going to, you know, potentially be part of the image of the Republican Party.
And I think for that reason, there will be so much pressure on leadership to do something as Gloria said, because we do know that that women all across the country are paying a lot more attention to these issues now and are horrified by the allegations against Roy Moore, and there's a midterm election coming up. And, you know, Democrats are going to have a good case to make that, you know, that that they should have a greater power in Washington dc to be a check on President Trump and on people like Roy Moore, and that could make a big difference in the midterms.
BORGER: Well --
BALDWIN: Actually, Gloria, if I may, we've just gotten some new sound and I just want to turn the page on this conversation because we now -- so we've been talking about these Trump accusers, right? How they have resurfaced, they want this -- they're now calling for this congressional investigation into the president, and into their allegations and now we've seen a number of women -- I think it was 58, 59 different congresswomen and then also we should be fair to the guys too.
RESTON: And men.
BALDWIN: I think it ultimately amounted to a hundred and, you know, men and women standing up there today on the Hill saying, yes, this should happen. Now, we have sound of the Senate majority leader, Republican, Mitch McConnell, responding to that. Let's all listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Should Congress investigate sexual assault allegations against president Trump?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: What we're in charge of here is the Senate, and the Ethics Committee upon referral, if it determined it should, takes a look at senatorial conduct and that's what we are dealing with here.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) as part of their calculus, the unknown about what comes from Alabama whether it be Doug Jones or Roy Moore makes you want to make sure you know what the existing Senate is (INAUDIBLE) who may vote one way or the other on tax bill (ph).
MCCONNELL: No. How do you like that?
REPORTER: Thank for the clarification.
MCCONNELL: Senator Strange is going to be here through the end of this session.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) whether or not he will seat him on committees, he would be in line to replace Senator Strange and also formally invite him to participate in the conference.
MCCONNNELL: David, all of those are good questions for tomorrow and we await the outcome of the Alabama Senate race.
REPORTER: Mr. Leader --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCCONNELL: OK, so just calling our attention to that initial response where it wasn't a no, we're not doing anything to these, you know, calls for a congressional investigation, Gloria, but it was a -- well, to me I heard, let's let the Ethics Committee --
BORGER: Right, and we investigate senators here. Obviously, his point about the ethics committee. That's our -- that's the jurisdiction.
But this also really gives you an indication of what the 2018 elections going to be about. This is about who controls who gets investigated and who controls the agenda, who controls what gets on the floor, who runs the committees.
[14:25:05] And so, the Democrats are going to -- if Roy Moore were to win, they will hang him around the Republicans' neck like an albatross.
BALDWIN: And they said they would.
BORGER: And they -- and they will say as they try and control one or both of the chambers and they have a hard time going in the Senate, this is the party of Roy Moore and if you want these things investigated, we need to be in charge.
RESTON: And that that balance of power argument is really powerful with voters out there a lot of times. I mean, we have seen that -- you know, obviously Republican Party is expected to lose many seats, coming up in the midterm election. But there are all of these aggravating factors from Russia to sexual harassment to Trump's conduct, the things that he's saying, and I think that that, you know, makes it a lot easier for Democrats to make that check on power case that could be powerful at the ballot box.
BALDWIN: Sure. Maeve, thank you. Gloria, thank you.
BALDWIN: Ladies, appreciate it.
Coming up here, President Trump makes a new claim that he doesn't know or has never met more than a dozen women accusing him of sexual assault in a harassment. We have dug into the records. We will show you the evidence that that is not true.