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Report: Senate GOP Meets Tomorrow on Fate of Moore If He Wins; WH Says Trumps' Tweet on Gillibrand In No Way Sexist; WH Says Those Who Call Trump Tweet Sexist Are in The Gutter. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 15:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president said today Senator Gillibrand would do anything for campaign contributions, many, many people see this as a sexual innuendo. What is the president suggesting?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that the president is very obvious. This is the same sentiment that the president has expressed many times before when he has exposed corruption of the entire political system. In fact, he's used similar terminology many times when talking about politicians of both parties, both men and women. And certainly, in his campaign to drain the swamp. The system is clearly broken. It's clearly rigged for special interest. And this president is someone that can't be bought and one of the reasons he's president today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, you are saying this quote, Senator Gillibrand would do anything, is a reference to campaign contributions in Washington, the swamp, this has nothing to do with her being a female? What is he alleging would happen behind closed doors with her?

SANDERS: He's not alleging anything. He's talking about the way that our system functions as it is. That politicians repeatedly beg for money, that's not something new, and that comment frankly isn't something new. If you look back at past comments this president has made he's used that same terminology many times in reference to men. There is no way that this is sexist at all.

This is simply talking about a system that we have that is broken in which special interests control our government. And I don't think that there are probably many people that are more controlled by political contributions than the senator that the president referenced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president want Roy Moore to be seated in the senate if he wins tonight? And does he plan to call him tonight.

SANDERS: In terms of calls I'm not aware anything is schedule in terms of win or lose. In terms of being seated I can't speak on a hypothetical certainly not one that could potentially influence an election one way or the other two to the Hatch Act. -- John

JOHN KING, CNN, ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Does the president agree with outside legal counsel that special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the goings-on at the Department of Justice during the election campaign in 2016? It's the revelation about (inaudible) the former associate Deputy Attorney General?

SANDERS: I think it is something that certainly causes a lot of concern not just for the president and the administration, but I think probably for all Americans. And something that if we are going to continue to investigate things, let's look at something where there is some real evidence and real proof of wrongdoing. And this looks pretty bad. And I think it's something that we should look at. -- Dave

KING: Would he support the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into this?

SANDERS: I haven't asked him that directly, but I know he has great concern about some of the conduct that's taking place and something that we certainly would like to see looked at. -- Dave

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Sarah. Congressional leaders are saying they have no plans to reimpose sanctions on Iran by the deadline tomorrow that the president initiated back in October when he decertified the Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal. Is the White House OK with this? No action and if so where is the teeth in the president's moved to decertify them from compliance?

SANDERS: Look, the administration continues to make encouraging progress with congress to fix the U.S.-Iran deal and address long-term proliferation issues. There was actually no deadline to act by this week as the administration did not ask congress introduce legislation to reimpose JCPOA related sanctions. -- Jordan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Sarah, Senator Grassley said he's advised the White House to reconsider the nomination of Jeff Mateer to the federal court in Texas and Brett Talley in Alabama. Has the president spoken to Senator Grassley about the concerns and does he plan to pull back those nominations?

SANDERS: I'm not sure if they have spoken directly I will have to check and circle back with you. -- Mathew

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bashar Hafez al-Assad and Roderigo Duterte have both recently used the phrase fake news, to dismiss damaging reports about their regimes. And a state official in Myanmar recently said the Muslim minority Rohingya don't exist and added it is fake news. Is the White House concerned at all about authoritarian regimes adopting this phrase fake news to try to delegitimize the press? And does President Trump bear any responsibility for the popularization of this phrase among some world leaders?

SANDERS: I think the White House is concerned about false and inaccurate information being pushed out and to miss lead the American people. I think I made that clear yesterday. In terms of other leaders, I'd have to look at their comments to be more specific on what they've said. But our concern is making sure that the information that the people receive in this country is fair and accurate. And when it isn't, that it's corrected and corrected in the same fashion in which it was first presented when it was wrong, which is very rarely the case. -- Kristen

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you hear autocrats using the term fake news to describe events that reflect poorly on their regimes, that does not cause concern here?

[15:35:00] SANDERS: Look, I'm not speak to specifics of another country when I don't have the details. What I can talk about his problems that we have in this country with inaccuracies that happen frequently within news stories, so that I feel comfortable speaking about. Without that information and detail in front of me, I don't want to weigh in too deeply. -- Kristen

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president tweeted today that the accusations against him are false, fabricated stories of women who I don't know and-or have ever met. Fake news. Yet the reality is he's pictured with a number of the women who have accused him of the misconduct. So, do you concede that that part of his statement is not true?

SANDERS: The president was referencing the three individuals that were part of a press conference yesterday. And simply stating that you don't know someone means that you don't have a relationship with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of his accusers? Because they're --

SANDERS: Correct. He's referencing the three from yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Sarah, members of congress have called for an investigation into these accusations if President Trump is confident they are not true, would you support such an investigation?

SANDERS: Look, the president has answered these questions. He has spoken to these accusations. And denied and pushed that they are all false and fabricated accusations. Frankly I think if congress wants to spend time investigating things they should probably focus on some of the things that the people American people would like them to investigate, like how to secure our borders and how to defeat ISIS and pass tax reform that impacts them.

If you look at the issues in poll after poll taken by a number of the outlets in this room, and pushed out regularly, the issues that are top number one every single time, the economy, jobs, national security, immigration, health care, yet we never talk about those issues. In fact, 90 percent of the coverage that has happened -- hold on -- 90 percent of the coverage comes out of the media is negative and rarely covers those topics and those are the things that the American people want to talk about. If congress wants to investigate something, I think they should look at some of the priorities of the people they actually represent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And yet, Sara, this is something that is being discussed in businesses all across the country, there have been a number of people who have been fired over this. So why not allow this congressional investigation to go forward and president if he's confident in the accusations being false --

SARAH: The president has addressed these concerns, he has addressed them directly, you guys spent months talking about them on the campaign trail, and the American people voted for this president. They have confidence in this president. And they wanted him to lead our country, and they wanted him to focus on things like the economy, focus on health care, focus on fixing our broken tax system, focus on fixing our borders, and focus on national security.

That's what we are here to do. That's what we are focused on. These questions have been asked and answered. And we are ready to move forward and focus on the questions of the day the American people have. -- April

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: Is Gillibrand owed an apology for the misunderstanding of the president's tweet this morning, because many, including the senator, thinks that it's about sexual innuendos.

SANDERS: I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way. So, no.

RYAN: And so, it's not, what he said was open, and if it was not mind in the gutter.

SANDERS: He was obviously talking about political partisan games that people often play and the broken system that he's talked about repeatedly. This isn't new. This isn't a new sentiment. This isn't new terminology. He used it several times before. As I said a few minutes ago, he used it several times before, referencing both men of both parties, in fact. And so, I think that, if you look back at the past comments he's made, it was very clear what his references was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at this issue with the system, the president gave almost $8,000 to Senator Gillibrand over the years. His daughter also gave her $2,000. What specifically did they get for these contributions?

SANDERS: Look, I think oftentimes what you do, you are getting access, a member of congress will take your phone call, they'll take your meeting, and if you are driving something, as a business man, that the president may or may not have been driving at any particular point, you can talk to that individual about it. And sometimes they carry your water. That's the reason that we have a broken system.

That's the reason that often special interests control our government more than the people do. And that's one of the reasons that this president ran to be president. One of the top reasons I think that he won and that he's sitting in the oval office today and Hillary Clinton is not. Because he couldn't be bought. And everybody knew that she could because they had seen it time and time again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he admitting that he bought access in a corrupt way?

SANDERS: I think he's admitting that he is participating in a rigged system. He said that on the campaign trail.

[15:40:00] He knows how the system works. I think it would be disingenuous for anybody not to understand that. But at least this president is being honest about the process and his willingness to actually fix it and drain the swamp.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, Gillibrand called for him to resign and he says over and over again that he is a counterpuncher. So, the next day after she does that he wakes up and you are saying that he is tweeting about the campaign finance system.

SANDERS; I'm talking about she's controlled by special interest. And I am talking about the fact that she is a wholly-owned subsidiary of people who donate to her campaign, she is a puppet for Chuck Schumer. I'm talking about a number of issues she has, none of which make her an independent individual, but more somebody that is controlled by people that help donate money to her cause. That's simply all I'm stating.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What campaign-finance reform does president want?

SANDERS: The president has been talking about the need for us to put a stronger ban on lobbyists participating in the government process. We have taken a stronger ethics pledge under this administration than previous administrations. I think those are some of the first steps and something that we'll continue working on over the next seven years. -- John

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks a lot, Sarah. You are familiar with the president's tweets. He tweets pretty often.

SANDERS: I've noticed that too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this particular case, his criticism of Senator Gillibrand was very personal. Why must he criticize in such a personal terms? He called a sitting elected U.S. senator a light weight. Why go after her in such a personal manner?

SANDERS: I don't think that's all that personal I mean if you want to talk about personal, look at the comments she's made about this president over the last several months. Look, the president is always going to be someone who responds. We have said that many times before. And he's simply talking about a system that doesn't work for the citizens of this country and he wants to fix it. -- Tray

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two quick questions for you. One following up on John's question from earlier about a second special counsel. Does the president have confidence in the FBI as it exists today?

SANDERS: Look, the president has confidence in Director Wray and his ability to clean up some of the mess left behind from his predecessor. I know I have addressed that before. And he certainly has confidence in the record file members of the FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A follow-up on foreign policy. Today "Bloomberg" has an article out Trump administration encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider goods from U.S. companies as it relates to building nuclear reactors. Does the president see this as an opportunity to bring up human rights in Yemen during these talks with Saudi Arabia?

SANDERS: I'm not aware of the specific conversations in this process so I would to have to ask and certainly get back to you. Take one last question. -- Margaret

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. HR McMaster gave some really interesting remarks at a luncheon earlier today, and spoke in strong terms about China and Russia. He said they were undermining international order and stability and ignoring sovereign rights of their neighbors. He went on to talk about Russia in particular. He didn't use the words election meddling but talked about subversion, disinformation, and propaganda. And basically, pitting people against each other to try to create crises of confidence.

So, what I want to know is does the president agree with all of General McMaster's statements and is that a foreshadowing of a national security strategy that will take a harder tach on China and Russian then the administration has so far?

SANDERS: Look, we've been very hard on Russia from the beginning, there have been sanctions. We have increased energy exportation from this country. And we have done things to put pressure on Russia, asking them to engage in a bigger and greater way on some of the common enemies that we face. In terms of like a rundown, I haven't had a chance to sit down with the president and go detail by detail. But General McMaster certainly is one who understands and knows the president's feelings and our relationships with foreign partners, and something that we certainly feel confident in him speaking about. Thanks so much, guys.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, so the quote there, Sarah Sanders says only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way. That was her response to questions about the perceived sexual innuendo implication in the president's tweet from earlier today where he was personally attacking a sitting New York Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Let me bring my panel in. And Maeve Reston, I'm starting with you, "mind in the gutter," listen I know she has an audience of one. What did you make of that response?


[15:45:00] Every single one of us interpreted that remark has having sexual innuendo, there really is not any other way to interpret it. To say that it was about campaign finance reform coming from Donald Trump is just ridiculous. But I mean what was she going to say in response to that?

That's the tricky role she's in, she has to explain why Donald Trump would go after a sitting U.S. senator in these kind of very personal, crude terms. And there is not really anyway to explain that, Brooke. BALDWIN: I jotted down, Mark, some of the key phrases she used the

first time she was asked the question. Campaign contributions in D.C. Drain the swamp. Broken government. Special interests. All as a response to a question about sexual innuendo in the president's tweet.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Brooke, and then she went on to say Kirsten Gillibrand is influenced by every penny given to her by campaign contributor. Now we have all heard stories of folks in congress. I haven't heard any stories about Gillibrand think somebody who is influenced and who sells her vote in order for campaign contributions. But what also was really frustrating is when she talked about fake news and when asked a question about authoritarian regimes. Basically, using the Trump language to tamp down the free press in their own country and quite frankly CNN has been affected by that as our own reporting with our colleagues overseas. It's outrageous she would be sitting up there attacking the media at the same time where we don't always get the full truth from that podium.

BALDWIN: Yes, and I'm glad you made the point on that. But really want to hammer home on this tweet so we are on the same page. Allen, will you put the tweet up we keep talking about. So, people watching at home know what we are talking about. And key phrase in parenthesis which is what Sarah Sanders had been asked about where he is talking about Senator Gillibrand begging for contributions, and would do anything for them. Former Pennsylvania Senator Republican Rick Santorum is with us. I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you make of that tweet?

Rick Santorum, Former Pennsylvania Senator (R): Well, I certainly read it the way that everybody else read it unfortunately. Could it be read somehow else? Yes, it could. I'm not sure that wasn't part of president's point to make it ambiguous

and use language that he has used before. Look, these kinds of tweets are certainly something that Donald Trump does a lot of. Something that I think I have uniformly said I wish he wouldn't do. And we have very important things that are being decided today.

We have a tax bill that may be finalized in the next day or two. Very important Alabama special election. And here we are talking about the president's attacking the senator and using terms that could be certainly read as sexual innuendo. Particularly in this environment, it is the president continuing to disrupt himself as well as the entire news cycle.

BALDWIN: He's tweeting about the other things to be fair, but also tweeting these very personal attacks, specifically on this female senator. Maria, your thoughts.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, what was interesting to me, I said at the beginning that I thought it was horrendous right before the press briefing, and that to me it was clear, as it is to so many others, that he was implying she was a whore and how discussing that was coming from the president of United States. But what Sara Sanders said in terms of how she was trying to defend this in saying that if you think that, then your mind is in the gutter. Well, OK, so maybe our minds are in the gutter, but they are in the gutter because Donald Trump is in the gutter and we have followed him there. Because he has been there all of his life, yes objectified women for the last 30 years. He has used misogynistic terms to talk about women.

And he has insulted women from as far back as we can remember when he was on all of these radio shows bragging about all of his sexual conquests. And so, you know, you'll forgive the American people, when they have a president of the United States who is a self-professed and bragging about committing sexual assault, and we have that on tape in his own words. So, if she believes that, then she needs to look no further than who her boss is.

BALDWIN: And now you have these women they came forward during the '16 election, now they are back, now, they're back publicly again accusing the president of, you know, forcibly kissing and groping and a lot more than that.

CARDONA: Exactly.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: So, they want congress to investigate this. And senator, back over to you because on that point, you know, Sarah Sanders was asked about this and asked, you know, if it's all not true, why not support this call for this congressional investigation? Do you think, senator, it is worth congress' time to do this?

SANTORUM: Actually, I don't believe this is the proper role of congress to take into what our sexual transgressions of a president.

BALDWIN: Why not?

SANTORUM: I say that as someone who voted for President Clinton's impeachment. But it was not on his sexual transgressions. It was on the fact that he committed perjury. And we were very clear about that. The president, we don't approve what the president did in the White House, we don't approve of the president's behaviors which was well known and well documented and well tolerated by very many Democrats.

But we said the role of congress is to look at whether the president is committing high crimes and misdemeanors. While groping is a horrendous and a terrible thing, I don't think it reaches high crimes and misdemeanors. I think that's where we reset the standard here, that all of my Democratic friends who are now crying how horrible this president was and what a cad he is were defending Bill Clinton during, in my opinion, much worse things in the oval office.

BALDWIN: Maria, does he have a point?

CARDONA: Well --

SANTORUM: Yes. CARDONA: He does, in that, you know, I will say, and many Democrats

have said this, that they are rethinking how they are looking at how --

SANTORUM: How convenient.

CARDONA: No, not convenient. What I will say, though, is if you recall, senator, Democrats did not give this -- President Clinton a pass. They reamed him for his behavior. There are many statements --

SANTORUM: Not one voted for impeachment.

CARDONA: There are many statements from the senate and the house of representatives from the floor from Democrats saying how completely hideous that kind of behavior was. And to your point, he was impeached. So, he did not get away with anything. But the fact of the matter is, that was 30 years ago.

Today we are here in 2017 and not even a year ago your party looked the other way to elect a self-professed sexual assaulter. So, yes, times change, and we have to now figure out how we're going to look at this, and the Democratic party has done the right thing in asserting that women have a right to be heard, have a right to be believed, especially when all of these accusers are believable like the 16 women who have come out against President Trump. And I think it's high time that it is the time of reckoning for how this president has behaved towards women, not just in the last year of the campaign but throughout his whole entire life.

SANTORUM: Look, Bill Clinton is still lionized by the Democratic Party. And today he's the most popular Democrat in the country. Don't give me this Republicans --

CARDONA: He's not president of the United States.

SANTORUM: Well, he was president of the United States when he was doing these things, but Donald Trump wasn't president of the United States when he was being accused of these.

CARDONA: There are many people critical about his behavior.

SANTORUM: Not one of them voted for impeachment. Not a single one. Not a single one called for his resignation. Come on, use the same standard and you fall very, very short.

CARDONA: Well, Brooke, I think this whole conversation --

RESTON: Republicans need to step up.

BALDWIN: Maeve, your turn.

RESTON: This whole conversation is so fascinating because --

BALDWIN: It is. It is.

RESTON: What we're talking about here is what is the definition of high crimes and what would be the standards for impeachment? And that is something that the congress could potentially decide if Democrats were to take control of the house. And so, in many ways, I think Donald Trump is really playing with fire here because the more that he sends out tweets like this, you may see in 2018 more women coming out to vote and saying, you know what, I really don't like the tone of this president, I'm not going to vote for the Republican. If the Democrats gain control then they'll be the ones in the position of deciding, you know, whether President Trump's behavior warrants impeachment.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me hit pause on this conversation. Nobody move. I still want to talk to every single one of you. Stand by.

There is this little election happening in Alabama that we need to talk about as well. Talking about the man riding in on his horse to vote today. The embattled Republican candidate for U.S. senate Roy Moore. We have just heard about the senate Republican meeting that could happen tomorrow if, in fact, Roy Moore wins this senate seat. We'll talk about that next.


BALDWIN: As Alabama votes on this controversial senate race, we are just learning about this Republican meeting that would happen tomorrow if Roy Moore wins. So, Mark Preston, Senator Santorum, they're back with me. Mark Preston, what's the deal? Tell me more about the meeting?

PRESTON: A couple of things, this is from Manu Raju, he's got three sources who say that if Roy Moore wins tonight, Mitch McConnell will convene a meeting of Republican Senators tomorrow morning to really figure out how to address the Roy Moore election. Basically, will he get committee assignments? What will happen with an ethics investigation and from the ethics investigation, could Roy Moore be expelled? This is a very big deal that senate Republicans are girding for less than 24 hours from where he sit right now.

BALDWIN: Senator, I mean, imagine if you were on capitol hill, right, you've been in a different set of shoes, not with this case necessarily, but take us behind the scenes. I mean, what are their options? What will this meeting look like?

SANTORUM: Every Republican senator is in a panic if Roy Moore wins this race because of the impact on the 2018 election and the fact that Roy Moore will be tied around the neck of every Republican up for election.


SANTORUM: And that's just not acceptable. I've been saying from the very beginning to all the people of Alabama that don't worry about voting for Roy Moore. Either Roy Moore is going to be vindicated by some ethics process that will investigate the credibility of these claims and he'll continue to be the senator or he won't be vindicated, and he won't be a senator very long. So, the people of Alabama can go and vote for the Republican nominee with the knowledge that they're going to have either a vindicated Roy Moore or somebody else over the next year.

BALDWIN: What's likely to happen if he wins?

SANTORUM: I think they'll immediately conduct, you know, call for an ethics investigation and go through as much of a rigor as you can investigating these charges. I don't think he'll -- I'll be surprised if he gets any committee assignments or is given any kind of thing until all of this matter is cleared, and I don't think it's going to take very long. I think they'll do a thorough and exhaustive job. You don't have a lot of cases here. You don't have a lot of detailed testimony and witnesses. This can be handled within the next month or two and the first of next year, we'll find out.

BALDWIN: What are the chances, Mark Preston, 30 seconds. What are the chances that if he were to win Republicans sort of suddenly back off him and then don't do anything?

PRESTON: I think the chances are very high, but I think Senator Santorum is absolutely right. The best-case scenario for Republicans, Roy Moore wins, comes to the senate, is either vindicated or he gets knocked out and they put another Republican in that seat. But tomorrow morning there are going to be a lot of nervous Republicans around the U.S. Capitol if Roy Moore wins.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, thank you so much. We will all be watching TV tonight to see which way this race goes. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper is next.