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Election Day in Alabama; Democratic Congresswomen Target Trump; NYC Terror Suspect Pledges Allegiance to ISIS. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 04:30   ET


[04:30:01] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Voters head to the polls in Alabama today to decide a critical Senate race. Can Roy Moore overcome accusations of sexual misconduct to keep the seat in Republican hands?

CNN has team coverage this morning from Alabama.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And growing calls for Congress to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against the president. The White House points out the claims came before Trump was elected. But is that enough to quiet critics?

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. Three-thirty in Alabama.

We begin with the arrival of election day there. Polls open in less than four hours. Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones making their final pitch to voters in one of the tightest and most anticipated Senate races in recent memory.

Moore introduced at his final rally by his wife Kayla and despite his past controversial comments about blacks, Muslims, gays and Jews, she attempted to make the case that her husband is no bigot.


KAYLA MOORE, WIFE OF REPUBLICAN SENATE CANDIDATE ROY MOORE: Fake news would tell you that we don't care for Jews. I tell you all this because I've seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they're here.

One of our attorneys is a Jew.


ROMANS: Today's election has consequences for the GOP. If Moore losses, Republicans barely maintain control of the Senate. If he wins, it's a significant feather in the president's cap, but the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore could burden the party down the road.

We begin our coverage this morning with CNN's Kaitlan Collins in Midland City, Alabama.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, good morning, Christine and Dave.

After being introduced by his wife Kayla, Roy Moore took the stage and attempted to downplay those multiple sexual assault allegations made against him.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: If you don't believe in my character, don't vote for me. We're up to the neck and people that don't want change in Washington D.C., they wanted to keep it the same, keep their power, keep their prestige, and keep their position, and we've got to change that.

COLLINS: We saw some of Roy Moore's biggest surrogates return in an attempt to rally support for the embattled candidate just hours before the voters head to the polls here in Alabama. We heard from Sheriff David Clarke, Congressman Louie Gohmert and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon who at one point seemed to take a shot at President Trump's daughter Ivanka.

Ivanka, as you know, after those numerous sexual assault allegations were first made against Roy Moore said there was a special place in hell for people who prey on children. Now, Steve Bannon seemed to respond to that comment when he told the Roy Moore supporters this.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: As soon as they get that tax cut, you watch what happens. There's a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better.

COLLINS: The senior Republican senator from Alabama, Senator Richard Shelby, said he simply could not bring himself to vote for Roy Moore in light of these allegations, but with the support of President Trump, the Moore campaign seems to be feeling more confident than ever -- Christine and Dave.


BRIGGS: Kaitlan Collins in her home state.

Moore's Democratic opponent Doug Jones making his final pitch to voters at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama. And he had some star support from the Alabama native and NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, a longtime Republican who has moved away from the party in recent years.


CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: At some point, we got to stop looking like idiots to the nation. At some point, I mean -- listen, I love Alabama, but at some point, we got to draw a line in the sand, so we just -- we're not a bunch of down idiots. And people are looking at us like, they're actually thinking about vote for this guy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Jones also getting support from a former President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden in the final days of the campaign, both recording robocalls for the Democratic Senate candidate. Let's get more this morning from CNN's Alex Marquardt in Alabama.



Well, in his final campaign rally before this special election on Tuesday, Doug Jones implored his supporters to get out and vote. The reason so many Democrats here Alabama and across the country are so excited about this race is that it is their best chance to send a Democrat to the Senate in a quarter century.

Doug Jones said in his speech to supporters that this is the most significant election our state has seen in a long time, and he framed it as being on the right side of history, that Alabama should be on the right side of history and that's a reference to this moment that we are living through in our country, that this is part of the me-too movement which Roy Moore has featured in so prominently. Now, Jones also took to task the Moore supporters, including the president, though he was not mentioned by name, who've essentially said that they would rather see an accused child molester go to the Senate than a Democrat.

[04:35:05] DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: We have heard so many people that have decided, well, you know what, I'm not going to worry about the fact that Roy Moore has been kicked out of office twice. I'm not going to worry about the fact that he that he took money from a charity, and you know what I believe those women in Etowah County. But you know what my party is more important.

I'm going to tell you, folks, it is time, and I think we're going to see it tomorrow, that the majority of the people of Alabama say that it is time that we put our decency, our state, before political party.


MARQUARDT: Now, both the Moore and Jones campaigns have said that they are feeling confident ahead of this election. The Jones campaign, particularly in the wake of this barn storming across the state, knocking on doors, rallying people and getting people fired up, are do think that people will turn out to vote for them. I was speaking with a senior campaign official. He says that their internal polling is showing that they are slightly ahead of the Roy Moore campaign. But they are taking nothing for granted again imploring their supporters to get out and vote -- Christine, Dave.


BRIGGS: All about turnout today. Alex, thank you.

A large group of Democratic Congresswomen calling for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against President Trump. The Democratic Women's Working Group has already sent a letter signed by members requesting the investigation.

ROMANS: The move after three Trump accusers held a news conference, demanding Congress take their accusations against the president seriously.


RACHEL CROOKS, TRUMP ACCUSER: I want to believe that as Americans, we can put aside our political inclinations and admit that some things in fact do transcend politics, that we will hold Mr. Trump to the same standard as Harvey Weinstein and the other men who were held accountable for their reprehensible behavior.


BRIGGS: The allegations against President Trump making for a contentious White House press briefing.

We get more from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Dave, allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct have rocked Hollywood, the media and indeed politics, and it even reached to the Oval Office, at least those accusers did. A group of accusers in New York City held a press conference, three women coming front and center, saying that President Trump should be held accountable for what they say his actions were.

Now, of course, he has been accused by some 15 women of varying degrees of sexual harassment, misconduct, even assault over the years before he became president. Of course, he denied those allegations as he ran for office, even threatening to sue at one point. He never followed through on that.

But the questions at the daily press briefing on Monday at the White House, so strict in furious about President Trump and his denials.

This is what White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in his defense.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations, and this took place long before he was elected to be president, and the people of this country had a decisive election supported President Trump and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process.

ZELENY: Of course, this is a different time and moment. We do have Democratic senators, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, calling for the president's resignation. There's little chance that that will actually happen. They're actually calling for a congressional investigation into these accusations as well -- also, little chance that will happen given the makeup of Congress.

Now, the question here is as Democrats search for the high road in this, where this will go? Will this have any legs here? Will the White House continue answering these questions? No question the president does not want to answer these questions, the White House does not want to answer these questions, but this national reckoning, this national conversation is now here on the doorstep of the White House -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks for that.

A terrifying commute in New York City. New York targeted once again in a terror attack right there in that pedestrian tunnel between two subway stations. More on the suspect's motive and background, next.


[04:43:30] ROMANS: It is go time for taxes. Reform that will be felt in every corner of the economy, the House and Senate are reconciling their two very different bills and whatever the outcome, the president declares it will cost him a fortune. Now, he's keeping his tax returns secret, so it's impossible to know how the plan affects him. But key elements of both proposals help the president, help his family and help his businesses.

Let's start here. Tax cuts for pass-through enterprises. Trump owns hundreds of pass-through businesses, that's when a company's profits pass to the owner and they are taxed with the individual rate. For someone like Trump, that means the top rate of 39.6 percent. The House lowers the pass-through rates to 25 percent. That's key here.

The Senate bill reduces taxable income essentially lowering the tax rate either way. That's a nice tax cut for the president. There are also some goodies in here for the Trump family business real estate.

Both plans lower the tax on income from real estate investment trusts, a pool that Trump's to the Kushner's use. The Senate version allows bigger deductions on commercial property, while the House plan won't cap interest deductions on the industry and finally both parents plans keep a tax break for golf course owners. That benefits the Trump Organization which owns multiple courses.

And the alternative minimum tax here, the House bill repeals it. The Senate bill keeps it, but less people have to pay it. How many -- how will that help the president?

Two pages of his tax return leaked in March, remember, look at that.

[04:45:00] It shows Trump paid $31 million because of the AMT. Without it, he would have owed only $5 million that year. That is a big, big difference.

Finally, the estate tax here. It currently taxes inheritances on estates of $5 million or more, like President Trump's. The House bill repeals it, the Senate bill, Dave, doubles that amount. Just another one of those examples of this there are very few wealthy businesses and family businesses that the estate tax would hurt. It's not really the small family farmers like you hear Chuck Grassley talked about, but it is something that certainly could pertain to the Trump family.

BRIGGS: All right. Commercial real estate, how the president made his fortune largely, he talked about carried interest on the campaign --

ROMANS: That's right.

BRIGGS: -- saying it was about hedge fund managers, who are getting away with murder. Does that also impact commercial real?

ROMANS: It sure does, and commercial real estate developers and people in the commercial real estate space are pleased because both of these plans basically leave commercial real estate untouched -- residential real estate like your house, in my house and our viewers houses, you could see home values maybe stall or even go down some expect because of changes in mortgage interest deductions, especially in some of these high tax states.

So, commercial real estate, two thumbs up. Residential, not so much.

BRIGGS: Concerning. Perhaps Sarah Sanders will be asked about in the near future.

ROMANS: Maybe.

BRIGGS: Thank you, Romans.

All right. The suspect behind New York City's second terror in seven weeks pledging his allegiance to ISIS.

Here's what we know about 27-year-old Akayed Ullah. Law enforcement sources say a Brooklyn resident from Bangladesh who held a taxi and limousine commission license from 2012 to 2015. He is a lawful permanent resident who came to the U.S. in 2011.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security confirming Ullah benefited from extended family chain migration where immigrants are admitted to the U.S. based on family connections. The White House quick to claim President Trump's immigration plan would have kept him out of the country. The five people injured in yesterday's explosion have all been treated and released. The suspects still at Bellevue Hospital with an injury described by fire officials as serious.

More now from CNN's Brynn Gingras.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dave and Christine, we're learning a little bit more about that bomb that was detonated by 27- year-old Akayed Ullah, according to law enforcement sources. A source tells CNN that that bomb was 12 inches long. It was a pipe. Inside that pipe was a black powder, some wiring, as well as some nuts

and bolts and screws. And also, we're learning that Ullah had at least two devices on him at the time that he was taken down right here at Port Authority. Now, many sources have said that had this bomb gone off the way he had plans, it would have done some major, major damage, especially happening during the morning rush hour on Monday morning here in New York City.

Now, as far as his motivations, much of what we're learning were getting from Ullah himself. According to a law enforcement source, he said two things. One, that part of his motivation was the recent or Israeli actions happening in Gaza, and a second was that he had pledged his allegiance to ISIS.

Now, authorities are going to take that information and they're going to move forward with the investigation trying to contact any family members or an also look at his social media accounts to sort of further exactly how long, he may have been inspired and how much he was planning and those sort of questions that they're trying to answer.

One other thing we learned is that he constructed this bomb about a week ago, and again now, it's all about continuing on this investigation -- Dave and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much for that.

Let's go to California now and those wildfires. The largest of the California wildfires, the Thomas Fire, is now the fifth largest wildfire in state history, burning more than 230,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

Officials say this thing is only 20 percent contained. The 101 highway closed on and off for a week with flames burning all the way to the coast more than 93,000 people remain evacuated. Some 7,000 firefighters are battling the Thomas Fire in extremely dry conditions.

The images have been dramatic. Look at this one here, a Christmas tree standing as a lone sentinel in the front yard of an evacuated home in Carpinteria with flames burning behind it.

BRIGGS: Meanwhile, a Monday night shocker in south Florida. The Miami Dolphins knocking off the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots 27-20. A victory would have clinched the playoffs for the Pats who had an eight-game winning streak snapped. Tom Brady intercepted twice in a regular season game for the first time since 2015. The Patriots

The Patriots failing to convert on third down on all night, 0-11. New England now 8-10 all time in Miami under Coach Belichick.

You know me, Romans. I wake up. I check the scores. That one I had to check three o four times to make sure I was right.

ROMANS: Really?

BRIGGS: Football fans are stunned about that.

ROMANS: All right. If you like stunned by how much you're paying your baggage fees, you are paying a lot.

[04:50:00] The numbers are in. Flyers are doling out record cash.

CNN "Money Stream", next.


BRIGGS: President Trump hoping to send astronauts back to the moon and beyond. He's authorizing acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot to lead an innovative space program focused on human exploration and discovery.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.

[04:55:01] NASA says initial funding for the new space program policy will be included in its budget request for the fiscal year 2019.

ROMANS: Saudis will soon be able to go to the movies for the first time in more than 35 years. Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information announcing it will begin granting licenses for commercial theaters early next year. The first cinema expected to open in March. The Saudis are in the midst of an economic overhaul under its a vision 2030 plan.

A blueprint for a future economy less reliant on oil. The Ministry of Culture plans to open 300 cinemas with more than 2,000 screens by 2030.

It's not clear which movie genres will be shown or whether men and women will be allowed to sit together.

BRIGGS: Jimmy Kimmel returning to his late-night TV show with a very special guest. The comedian bringing out his son Billy during his monologue. He thanked his guest host after he was out last week for his son's heart surgery.


JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: I was out last week because this guy had a surgery. But, look, he's fine, everybody.

He may have pooped but he's fine which --


They each gave a full day of their very busy lives to give me time off, and I'm grateful to them for doing that, and daddy cries on TV, but Billy doesn't. It's unbelievable.


BRIGGS: Kimmel also took time out to target Congress for failing to renew the Children's Health Insurance Plan that provides coverage for kids who don't qualify for Medicaid and do not receive health benefits through their parents' employer.

ROMANS: All right. It's that time of the morning. Let's get a check on CNN "Money Stream" just before the top of the hour.

Global stock markets mostly higher today. Energy and tech stocks launched the S&P 500 and the Dow to record highs. A two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve begins today. The Central Bank is expected to raise interest rates the third hike this year.

Comcast is dropping its bid for 21st Century Fox, clearing the path for Disney. Fox is in talks to sell off its entertainment assets, leaving Fox to focus on news and sports. The sale includes its movie studio, some TV channels and its stake in a streaming service Hulu. So far, Disney has been Fox's main suitor with reports a deal could be announced this week. Disney's initial interest prompted at Comcast and other potential buyers to reach out to Fox.

Siri may get a new ear for music. Apple is buying Shazam, the music recognition app that lets users identify songs with a smartphone. The terms of this deal were not disclosed but TechCrunch who first reported the purchase puts the price tag around $400 million. Apple told CNN Shazam is a natural fit for its Apple music. It will help users of the streaming service discover new songs.

All right. Feel like you're paying more in baggage fees? You are. Flyers paid a record $1.2 billion last quarter. That's up 10 percent from last year. One reason for the spike, the growing popularity of the basic economy fare. That's where the tickets are cheaper than standard economy, but they only let flyers carry one small bag on board.

That forces passengers to check bigger bags for a fee, of course. And this ala carte, this fee model, I think is here to stay. I mean, they have found new ways to pile on these fees. The advantage of course is that the airfare is cheap, but then you really got to be careful when you start adding things on.

BRIGGS: Well, the Department of Transportation rolling back regulations, right? So, it's actually harder for us to find out what the baggage fees are. Transparency getting a little cloudier there.

All right. EARLY START continues right now with the latest from Alabama.


BRIGGS: Voters heading to the polls in Alabama today to decide a critical Senate race. Can Roy Moore overcome accusations of sexual misconduct and keep the seat in Republican hands? CNN has team coverage this morning from both campaigns.

ROMANS: And growing calls for Congress to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against the president. The White House points out the claims came before Trump took office? Is that enough to quiet critics?

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. It's Tuesday, December 12th, 5:00 a.m. in the east, 4:00 in the Birmingham, Alabama.

Election Day has arrived. Polls open in three hours, Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones making the final pitch to voters in one of the tightest and most anticipated Senate races in recent memory.

Moore introduced in his final rally by his wife, and despite his past controversial comments about blacks, Muslims, gays and Jews, she tried to make the case that her husband is not a bigot.


K. MOORE: Fake news would tell you that we don't care for Jews. I tell you all this because I've seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they're here.

One of our attorneys is a Jew.