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Alabama Senates Race: Election Day; Democratic Congresswomen Target Trump; NYC Terror Suspect Pledges Allegiance to ISIS; Dolphins Shock Patriots on Monday Night Football. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 05:00   ET


DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

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 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.


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.

[05:00:07] 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 burn the party down the road.

Our coverage begins this morning with CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She is in Midland City, in Alabama.


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 in her home state there.

Moore's Democratic opponent Doug Jones making his final pitch to voters at a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama, and he had some star power there from 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.


ROMANS: Jones also getting support from former President Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden in the final days of this campaign, both recording robocalls for the Democratic Senate candidate.

We get more 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.

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.


ROMANS: Alex Marquardt for us in Alabama, thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Let's bring in Hugo Gurdon, the editorial director of "The Washington Examiner".

[05:05:03] Good to see you, sir. HUGO GURDON, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Great to be here.

BRIGGS: And good to get this election over with I think for the people of Alabama.

I want to ask you about your papers position. On November 14th, you wrote, Republicans shouldn't welcome such a man into their Senate conference. Is that still the position of "The Washington Examiner"? Would a win for Roy Moore be bad for the Republican Party in the long run?

GURDON: It will be definitely bad for the Republican Party. If he wins, he's going to be a burden on the party for a very long time for both sort of practical reasons and because of the image it'll set for the Republicans.

The Republicans have had to fight Democrats who have accused them of waging of war on women for several election cycles, and this would give the Democrats a great opportunity to continue that. But the Republicans are also now in charge and they would have to decide whether or not they were going to take action against Moore. Whether there was going to be an investigation, whether he would be expelled despite the fact that the Alabama voters have chosen him.

So, it would be a real problem for the Republicans.

ROMANS: You know, Alabama voters, many that we have talked to in our reporters on the ground, you know, they don't like the outsiders telling them, you know, what to do. But, you know, Senator Richard Shelby said this is not my candidate. I voted for someone else, and Roy Moore has been a sort of the wrong side of the mainstream of his party for some time.

He called Sandy Hook where those children -- beautiful children were killed in gun violence, he called that a -- you know, reaction to America being ungodly. I mean, he has said that a Muslim should not be a sitting member of Congress. He has called homosexuality illegal and he has been thrown off the bench twice for not holding up the Constitution.

GURDON: Right. He has been a troublesome Republican for a very long time. And the truth is that Republicans know he's a he's a hunter he's an unlikable man. When he was back in the Army, in the -- you know, he was afraid of being shot by his own troops in Vietnam. He's an unpopular guy that has been all his life.

So, there's something about him apart -- just, you know, his positions that he's taken the inflammatory things that he said all make him somebody who the Republicans would find -- they would not want him defining the party and unfortunately he's loud enough and he's incendiary enough that he probably would define the party or at least to some extent.

BRIGGS: Or the man that defines the party right now is Donald Trump and he is all in on this racist fight. The fact that he didn't set foot there, he campaigned for him in Pensacola, made the robocall, he has tweeted repeatedly about this election.

What does this day mean for the president, win or lose?

GURDON: This is a -- this is a -- he is invested hugely in this. He won the state of Alabama very handily in the election himself. He didn't back Roy Moore in the primary. He backed his opponent the incumbent, and Roy Moore beat the incumbent.

So, he already lost a certain degree of credibility and his strength of his support down there became questionable. If now he were to lose, if Roy Moore were to lose, and that would be the first time in 20 years or more that a Republican has lost this, and were the president were backing him all in, this would be a real blow and the Democrats would take enormous encouragement from this as they head into the election.

BRIGGS: Indeed.

ROMANS: Yesterday here in New York, there were several accusers of the president.

GURDON: Right.

ROMANS: Before there was the women's march, before there was the me- too movement, there were these a dozen accusers last fall before the election accused of improper sexual behavior in some cases, a sexual assault. Yesterday, they took the cameras and tried to I think we revived their movement, and they called on the president to resign and seriously --

BRIGGS: They called for a congressional investigation.

ROMANS: And some have called and some have called for him to resign. Those accusers called for a congressional investigation.

Well, I want to listen to what Sarah Sanders said in this -- in this remarkable press briefing yesterday about the new accusers.


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.


GURDON: Certainly hasn't put it to rest. The point that she makes, though, there is a certain validity to this. People elected Donald Trump president as perhaps they will elect Roy Moore senator in the full knowledge of the accusations that have been against. There is a kind of political disinfectant that is an election will produce it.

ROMANS: Right. GURDON: It doesn't mean that he didn't do this, you know, didn't molest these women. It doesn't mean Roy Moore didn't molest these women. But it does mean that the voters have chosen and then you get into a really tricky position where the voters has said, despite the fact that these allegations have been made and they've been denied, we still want him for president, we still want him for senator.

BRIGGS: Well, we should point out, if the election litigated it, he lost the popular vote, so you could argue more Americans felt maybe that was an issue.

[05:10:04] But Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, two of the most prominent Democrat senators who were probably running for president, calling for him to resign.

Did they risk damaging their credibility in the long run, going further than the accusers themselves?

GURDON: No, I don't think that they do. I think that, you know, Kirsten, I think that they got they want to run for president. They get themselves out in front of this issue.

BRIGGS: But not out too far?

GURDON: No, I don't think so. I think that the mood of the country, the fact that we are at an inflection point in the culture where you know up on Capitol Hill people are not going to be able to get away with this sort of behavior we've had members of Congress having to leave and you know or announce their resignation, I think that they are showing themselves to be leaders in this way, and that's exactly the position they want to take into the 2020 presidential.

BRIGGS: Hugo Guerdon, thanks so much for being here, from "The Washington Examiner". We'll see in about 30 minutes.

GURDON: Great.

ROMANS: Thank you.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, for the second time in seven weeks, New York City, the target of a terror attack. What we're learning about the suspect, next.


[05:l5:06] ROMANS: The suspect behind New York City's second terror attack in seven weeks is pledging his allegiance to ISIS. Here's what we know this morning about 27-year-old Akayed Ullah. Law enforcement sources say he's a Brooklyn resident of Bangladeshi descent. He came to the U.S. in 2011.

BRIGGS: A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security confirms 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. ROMAN: The five people injured in yesterday's explosion have all been

treated and released. The suspect is still a Bellevue Hospital. He has serious burn injuries.

We get more this morning 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.


BRIGGS: Brent, thank you.

The largest of the southern California wildfires, the Thomas Fire, is now the fifth largest wildfire in state history. Officials say it's only about 20 percent contained after burning more than 230,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. The 101 highway closed on and off for the entire week with flames burning all the way to the coast.

ROMANS: Yes, more than 93,000 people remain evacuated. Some 7,000 firefighters are battling this Thomas Fire extremely dry conditions. We have seen so many dramatic images, including this one, this Christmas tree standing as a lone sentinel in the front yard of an evacuated home in Carpinteria with the flames -- look at that -- illuminating behind it.

BRIGGS: All right. Ahead, a shocker in the Sunshine State. The Miami Dolphins knocking off Tom Brady and the Patriots. Coy Wire with more in the "Bleacher Report".


[05:22:36] BRIGGS: A South Beach shocker. Miami Dolphins upset the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champs.

ROMANS: Wow. Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey there, Coy.


What happened? The Patriots needed just one win in the final four games to clinch yet another division crown. Not so fast, my friend. In Miami Gardens, the Dolphins, just 5 and 7 going into, snapped New England's eight-game win streak and they did it with some bang-bang defense. New England was unable to convert a single third down the entire game. The Dolphins intercepted Tom Brady twice. He didn't complete a pass to a wide receiver until about five minutes into the third quarter. Can you believe it? It's tom-terrific. Miami win 27- 20.

Here's Tom after the game.


TOM BRADY, PATRIOTS QUARTERBACK: We just didn't play good, got behind and tried to battle back and just couldn't do it. So, it's just a bad night.


WIRE: All right. Now, the Patriots going to ice cold Pittsburgh to face the red hot Steelers at AFC clashed with the number one seed on the playoffs on the line.

Why was Texas quarterback Tom Savage allowed to play after that scary scene yesterday in Houston? His hands appeared to be shaking as if he were seizing. He was evaluated on the side line, but he was allowed to return to play 11 minutes later. NFL's concussion protocol justifiably being called into question. The Texas head coach says he never would have let him continue had he seen what he saw on that video.


BILL O'BRIEN, TEXANS HEAD COACH: There's no video on the side line. All there are tablets. There's no video. There's nothing like that.

With benefit of seeing video, obviously, from my standpoint, the care for the player, I would have never let that player back in the game. At no point in time is there anything more important to me than the safety of our players. I love our players and I care about them and I cannot stand when players get injured.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WIRE: The NFL says they're investigating what happened there.

All right. LaVar Ball, who pulled his son LiAngelo out of UCLA after the school suspended him after the shoplifting incident in China will now be watching his son play in Lithuania?

LiAngelo Ball signed a one-year deal to play pro hoops in Europe. But that's not all. His 16-year-old younger brother LaMelo who at one point also committed to play at UCLA will not be playing collegiately in the States as he too has signed a one-year deal with that same Lithuanian team.

[05:25:06] They are expected to join the team in January. No word on any details of the contract.

Little feel good for you from the sports world. An incredible moment last night at the Warriors win over the Trailblazers. Kevin Durant signs his sneakers and gives them to a young fan. Look at the face, look at the tears of joy. He had just met one of his heroes, and he took the time to take off his shoes and sign them for him.

That's the power of sports. Incredible moment there for Durant. That little boy is going to remember it forever.

ROMANS: I love that.

BRIGGS: Good stuff. Golden State still winning without Curry too, man. They've got it all figured out. He's out three games. They win all three. Cruising, my man.

ROMANS: All right. Thanks for the feel good moments. Thanks, Coy.

BRIGGS: Coy, thank you.

WIRE: You're welcome.

BRIGGS: Voters have a big choice to make today in Alabama. Will they overlook sexual misconduct allegations against Roy Moore or can Doug Jones wrestle the seat away from Republicans?

CNN with both campaigns in Alabama, next.