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Soon: Polls Open in Alabama's Senate Race; 56 Women Lawmakers Call for Congressional Probe on Trump. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 07:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There's a special place in hell for all the establishment that doesn't have Trump's back.

[07:00:03] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roy Moore will be the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about a Republican Party that's been torn apart.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: It is time that we take a road that's going to get us on the path to progress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump should resign. These allegations are credible. They are numerous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If they were willing to investigate Senator Franken, I think it's only fair that they do the same for Trump.

SARAH SANDERS HUCKABEE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has addressed these accusations and denied all of these allegations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They only believe women who accuse men when those men happen to be Democrats.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It is a big day this morning, and welcome to your NEW DAY. The long and bitter Alabama special race for Senate is now in the hands of the voters. In less than an hour, polls are going to open in Alabama. The verdict of the voters, whether it will be Roy Moore, with all the ugly accusations, or Doug Jones, a Democrat, he would hope to be the first Democrat elected in that state to the Senate in 25 years.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, the White House, on the defensive over sexual misconduct allegations against President Trump. Fifty-six Democratic lawmakers are asking a House panel to investigate those claims. Some Democratic senators go so far as saying President Trump should resign.

The White House, though, claims they have eyewitnesses who can disprove the allegations, though there's only two of them, and their stories and circumstances are fishy. So, we have it all covered.

Let's begin with CNN's Alex Marquardt. He is live in Mountain Brook, Alabama, where Doug Jones will be voting in about an hour. What's the scene there, Alex?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. Doug Jones expected to vote just after the polls open around 7:30 local time here at this Baptist church. He really has the bigger challenge today. He needs to get as many voters out here as possible.

Now, Alisyn, this was always going to be a very competitive race that got even tighter after these allegations came out against Roy Moore. But Roy Moore, he knows that he has this core base of support that will turn out, no matter what, even if it's a chilly day in mid- December for a special election.

So the big question is turnout. Secretary of state here in Alabama predicting that turnout will be between 20 and 25 percent. That is -- that may sound a little bit low, but it's actually a little bit higher than previously expected because of all this extra interest. So this really is the name of the game. This is what we're going to be watching so closely today, that turnout number.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT (voice-over): Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones making their final pitches to voters ahead of one of the most unpredictable elections in Alabama's history.

R. MOORE: It is time that we put our decency, our state before political party.

I'm going to tell you, if you don't believe in my character, don't vote for me.

MARQUARDT: Moore, bringing in a number of out-of-state conservatives, including the president's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who riled up the crowd by attacking Republicans who have been critical of the accused child molester, even appearing to take a shot at the president's daughter, who told the A.P. last month "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children."

BANNON: There's a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better.

MARQUARDT: Bannon also naming names, calling out the state's most prominent Republican, Senator Richard Shelby, who told CNN on Sunday he did not vote for Moore.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: The state of Alabama deserves better.

MARQUARDT: And former secretary of state and native Alabamian Condoleezza Rice, who released a statement urging voters to, quote, "reject bigotry, sexism and intolerance." But did not mention either candidate. Kayla Moore insisting her mother is not a bigot. KAYLA MOORE, ROY MOORE'S WIFE: Fake news would tell you that we don't

care for Jews. One of our attorneys is a Jew.

MARQUARDT: While Doug Jones, who has been working to shore up much- needed support from African-American voters, teamed up on election eve with basketball hall of famer Charles Barkley, who had this message for his home state.

CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: At some point we've got to draw a line in the sand. So we're just -- we're not a bunch of damn idiots.

MARQUARDT: Jones also getting a boost from former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, who both reported robocalls for his campaign in the final hours, after President Trump did the same for Moore.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Go vote for Roy Moore.

MARQUARDT: Moore letting the president do much of his talking for him in the past few days, alongside very few select interviews, shunning the national media. And instead appearing in a political action committee ad, interviewed by a 12-year-old girl.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So what do you think are the characteristics of a really, really good senator?

R. MOORE: Following the Constitution, adhering to principle.

MARQUARDT: Moore defending his near total absence from the campaign trail in the final week of this heated race, saying he was visiting West Point, his alma mater with his wife.

[07:05:05] MOORE: Here I am, once again surrounded by this gaggle of media, which I've come to love and enjoy, while Roy Moore was not even in the state of Alabama over this weekend.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARQUARDT: Now Doug Jones has a busy day after voting this morning, he will then visit five polling stations to greet voters. Roy Moore has a much lighter day. He will be voting on horseback. His trustee steed is named Sassy. He will be heading down to the fire station in his hometown of Galant to cast his vote -- Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: I don't know why the name of that horse makes me smile so much.

CAMEROTA: Alex delivered it with a straight face, which I appreciate it. Great reporting.

CUOMO: He's cool.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and John "Sassy" Avlon.

David Gregory, when you look at this race, what's going to be the determining factors for you?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's Democrats having to beat the odds. I mean, this has been nationalized as if this is a vote for president here down in Alabama. I mean, look at every major figure in the party is very involved. And drawing this line in the sand in Alabama. But it's an incredibly conservative state. You're going to have low turnout.

Democrats are not used to being organized in this fashion to really get out the vote in this way. So I still think it's going to be a very difficult for a Democrat to win.

But this is an unusual circumstance. The Republicans have been torn asunder by this guy, whose views are repugnant to most Americans, straight from the sexual misconduct allegations against him. It's really astonishing that we are where we are, that the president was silent for a while. Major Republicans in the country said we're not even going to seat this guy if he's elected. And now everybody is behind him.

So, it's a -- it's a stunning turn of events. And it is a test, despite how difficult it will be for Democrats. It's a test to how organized they're going to be against this new strain of the Republican Party led by Steve Bannon, led by President Trump. That's what's on the table today.

CAMEROTA: You know, John, we rarely talk about the opponent, Doug Jones. He hasn't come on our show, though we've extended an invitation, as Chris has pointed out. But he's hardly a left-wing fringe candidate. I mean, he was a U.S. attorney. He fought all of these sort of landmark civil rights cases that, you know, he's not a left-wing...

JOHN AVLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No.

CAMEROTA: ... by definition character.

AVLON: Not a hippie activist by any stretch of the imagination. This is somebody who brought the -- prosecuted the Birmingham Six bombings in the 1990s, decades afterwards, took a lot of courage. This is someone who's lifelong law enforcement. You know, the idea that Republicans are reflexively calling him soft on crime is just self- evidently ridiculous, and he has tried really hard to say this is about Alabama. I don't want to nationalize my profile. This is about people of Alabama choosing the person over the party. Because Roy Moore is just too extreme.

And look, Roy Moore is a polarizing figure, not only nationally, but even in Alabama circles, even in Alabama Republican circles. It is unprecedented that over the weekend you saw the senior, Shelby, saying I couldn't bring myself to vote for him. Condi Rice releasing a statement yesterday.

So these are the margins to watch. We don't know have to pull this race. As we find over and over again, it may be a cliche, but it's true. The only poll that matters is on election day. But this race looks a lot tighter. This is a state that President Trump won 2-1.

And by all accounts, this race is tight and that, itself, is fascinating. It will be a question of motivation as much as organization.

CUOMO: You know, David, we look at Roy Moore's history. He has never run for Senate before. His state-wide races have been limited to being a jurist. But he got tossed off the Supreme Court, because he refused to let the Constitution supersede his own feelings about his faith when it came to the Ten Commandments. They rewarded him for that and put him back on the court there.

So the question becomes, what is the level of tolerance when it comes to Roy Moore? Because as you mentioned earlier, he has a lot of things to answer for, David, but the answer has been given by the Alabama people on him before, up until these allegations of sexual misconduct.

GREGORY: That's right. And, look, there's every reason to believe that this could be a race that is not about what the race is about. It's not about focusing on his character and allegations of sexual misconduct. It's not going to focus on the fact that he said things were better during slavery, wants to get rid of every amendment after the tenth or that his wife ridiculously talks about, "Oh, well, we know a Jewish lawyer who works with us, so we're fine with Jews," despite the fact that her husband suggested all Jews are going to hell as an evangelical orthodox Christian. I mean, come on.

It's true that if voters want to make this about abortion, you know, they can hang their hat on that. If they want to make it about forgiveness, they can hang their hat on that. If they don't like elitists from Washington or the national mandarins of the Republican Party telling them how to vote, they can hang their hat on that. So they can be, certainly, independent minded, independent of anything of any substance that he said and make this choice. And perhaps that's where we're headed.

AVLON: And this is -- one important thing. You know, southern politics loves to rail against Washington. There is a deep urban- rural divide, which we need to pay attention to in turnout as well as culturally. But also Southerners hate being stereotyped. And it's a source of deep frustration. And there are a lot of folks, you know, more independent-minded who look at this and say this is a validation of the worst stereotypes that folks here have been trying to climb out from under.

CUOMO: Well, that's not -- that's not a question. That's a fact. Roy Moore is a human bundle of attributes that are all disparaging, you know, that are used as slights of people from the south. I mean, it's just a fact. You check through every one of the things he says. You don't have to embrace homosexuality. That's your right in this country to do it or not. But to liken it to bestiality, to say it should be illegal, he is a collection of those attributes. Whether or not they get rewarded, we'll see.

CAMEROTA: So David, you did a good job of summarizing Kayla Moore, Roy Moore's wife -- I mean, I don't even know what to say -- statement about how of course they're not anti-Semitic. But I think that it bears repeating. And we should play it again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

K. MOORE: Fake news will 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. We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, and we also fellowship with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: David, how did you hear that?

GREGORY: Well, I mean, I think it kind of speaks for itself. I think she was, you know, in how she appears, which could not be more patronizing.

CUOMO: How close are you with someone if you fellowship with them, by the way?

GREGORY: Well, you can be close. I mean, actually, obviously, they absolutely could be close. I think what she's responding to is a criticism that her husband made of George Soros.

CUOMO: Right.

GREGORY: When he talked more generally about those people who don't accept God in the view that orthodox Christians believe that Jews don't accept Jesus Christ as our lord and savior and, therefore, we are going to hell.

That is a theologically rigid view. That is not the type of person you're necessarily going to fellowship with. And again, just the nature of this -- you know, she -- it was a distraction and, again, I just think it speaks for itself.

CUOMO: I fellowshipped with David Gregory at lunch, and he ate almost all the rock shrimp.

GREGORY: That's for sure.

CAMEROTA: I also know that you two fellowship on election days together sometimes. Perhaps we'll get another.

CUOMO: That's true. He bought a beautiful bottle of wine and we believe he took it home with him. Open question. Will not be decided today by the voters of Alabama.

GREGORY: No.

AVLON: Not on the ballot.

CUOMO: Open question. CAMEROTA: On that note, David Gregory, John Avlon, thank you very

much. OK, now to this. More than 50 female Democratic lawmakers calling on a House panel to launch an investigation to sexual misconduct allegations against President Trump. This, as the White House fights back, saying that they have eyewitnesses to prove that these claims are false.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. What do we know about these eyewitnesses, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

The fact of the matter is the "#MeToo" movement has already taken its toll and some real power players in Washington politics and, given the history, it was only a matter of time before questions about the president's treatment of women entered the conversation, especially because this is an issue that hit a fever pitch during the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): More than 50 female Democratic lawmakers calling for a congressional investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against President Trump. Insisting in a letter to a House Oversight Committee that the president's accusers cannot be ignored and referencing Mr. Trump's own words.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

BILLY BUSH, FORMER "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD HOST": Anything you want.

TRUMP: Grab them by the pussy.

JOHNS: Thirteen women have come forward, accusing the president of sexual assault, accusations the president has repeatedly denied.

TRUMP: The events never happened, never. All of these liars will be sued after the election.

JOHNS: Three of those women also calling for congressional investigation into the president's behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was serial misconduct and perversion on the part of Mr. Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not holding our president accountable for what he is and who he is.

JOHNS: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissing the allegations.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This took place long before he was elected to be president; and the people of this country had a decisive election, supported President Trump.

[07:15:04] JOHNS: Sanders also claiming eyewitnesses have backed up the president's accounts.

SANDERS: The president has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitnesses.

JOHNS: A White House official, pointing to two reports when asked by CNN to provide specifics of the eyewitnesses' accounts.

The first, a "New York Post" article, citing Anthony Gilberthorpe, a British political activist put forward by the Trump campaign to refute Jessica Leed's account that Mr. Trump groped her on a flight. Gilberthorpe offered no evidence and has been known in British media for making claims about the sexual conduct of politicians.

The second, a "New York Daily News" article citing Miss Teen USA 2006, Katie Blair, who reportedly told TMZ she never saw Mr. Trump backstage during a beauty contest. But Blair was not present at the 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant where Trump was accused of walking into dressing rooms while contestants changed, something Trump later bragged about to Howard Stern.

TRUMP: I'll go backstage before a show and everyone is getting dressed, and ready and everything else, and no men are anywhere. And I'm allowed to go in, because I'm the owner of the pageant.

JOHNS: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joining Democrats Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, calling for President Trump to step down.

GILLIBRAND: President Trump should resign. These allegations are credible. They are numerous. I've heard these women's testimony and many of them are heartbreaking.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Intense questioning in the briefing room, as Sarah Sanders and the White House message team come to grips with how to handle the resurgence of this issue. They have been critical of journalists and media coverage so far today. We do expect to see the president, as he signs the National Defense Authorization Act. But the White House will be watching closely, of course, to see what happens in the Alabama Senate race.

Chris and Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: As we all will be, Joe. Thank you very much. You have a new tweet to read for us?

CUOMO: Ye. The president tweeting this morning just a few minutes ago, "Despite thousands of hours wasted and many millions of dollars spent. The Democrats have been unable to show any collusion with Russia. So now they're moving onto the false accusations and fabricated stories of women, who I don't know and/or have never met. Fake news."

CAMEROTA: Well, I mean, just to be clear, three women -- three of the accusers came forward yesterday and had a press conference. So Democrats are responding to that. CUOMO: Right. And, look, a lot about this -- this is what the

president does. Right? He attacks what he doesn't like, and that's his prerogative. And it's still allowed to be done under the First Amendment, for now. He's got his timing wrong. The accusations of the women came out before the investigation into the Russia situation, in earnest.

And this is Republican-led at every level. Bob Mueller, we assume that he is being objective and fair and nonpartisan. Lifelong Republican. Every committee in play, every subcommittee in play is led by Republicans. So, that's what this process is about.

And as for the "I don't know and/or have never met," I don't know why he needed both of those qualifications. But he clearly wants us to know it's not true. They still have to put forward their truth, though. If they have people who can say, "I was there. These allegations aren't true." They should be offered up, and they should be scrutinized and vetted by the media, the same way the accusers are.

CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, if Roy Moore wins, will his controversy stick with Republicans for years to come? That's what Lindsey Graham has suggested. So we're going to ask the former governor who may now have a Senate seat in his sights. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:22:56] CUOMO: We're covering the Alabama vote on CNN, because it has become a nationalized election. It is a special election for the Senate. You've got Roy Moore, the judge, controversial figure with all these sexual allegations against him; and you have Doug Jones.

And the question is whether or not a Democrat on any level could be acceptable to the Alabama voters. Now a win would allow Republicans to keep their slim two-seat majority. And that has become an overwhelming concern for the president of the United States. But some Republicans, like Senator Lindsey Graham worry that a win for Moore could actually be a loss for the party. Here's his rationale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Roy Moore will be the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats. It will define the 2018 election, at least 2018. And to think you can elect Roy Moore without getting the baggage of Roy Moore is pretty naive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Joining us now is Tim Pawlenty, former Republican governor of Minnesota. Good to see you, Governor.

TIM PAWLENTY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: Good to see you, Chris.

CUOMO: Merry Christmas to you and your family if I don't see you again. Thanks for being on the show.

PAWLENTY: Thank you. CUOMO: You are not from Alabama. You are not voting in the Alabama

election, but if you were, would Roy Moore get your vote?

PAWLENTY: I don't even think it's even a close call. This is a credibly accused serial child molester. And I don't think that's even a close call, no.

CUOMO: The president of the United States says you are cuckoo, that you have to vote for Roy Moore. You can't vote for Doug Jones. He denied the allegations. He is right for the state of Alabama. You are disagreeing with the president?

PAWLENTY: You have the right as others have done to write in another Republican candidate. And that may not be successful in terms of an election victory, but in terms of the values and perspectives that I hold and I think a lot of other people hold. I don't think you put into the United States Senate a credibly accused serial child molester.

CUOMO: Then how do you explain the position of the president?

PAWLENTY: I don't. I think that's -- you know, understandably, the Republicans, some of them, want to make sure that they get another seat in the Senate, and it's about retaining and maintaining political power. But I'm not willing to put my personal values to the curb for political power.

CUOMO: And let's just flesh that out a little bit. Roy Moore says didn't happen. I didn't do it. Why isn't that good enough for you?

[07:25:05] PAWLENTY: Well, as you mentioned earlier, Chris, what do you do about these things in the case where the court system isn't available to the accusers, because time has lapsed or other reasons, as presented against a politician.

The court, if you will, the forum, if you will, is the election. And so this is how it's getting heard. This is how it's getting prosecuted, litigated, processed. People have to make their own decisions. But for me, I don't think it's -- like I said, a close call.

CUOMO: Now, does your hardline view on this, if that's what you're going to call it -- I mean, some would say just a reasonable view -- but is it because that you are contemplating whether or not to run in a presumed special election for Al Franken's seat up in Minnesota? And obviously, his allegations are front and center.

PAWLENTY: I don't think anybody who understands the energy at the grassroots political policy on the Republican side these days would say being -- taking this position is necessarily popular with that group. So I don't think you can assign political motives to it.

CUOMO: And how about that? Are you going to make a run for the seat if Franken actually steps away?

PAWLENTY: Chris, I'm politically retired. And if that changes, you'll be among the first to know.

CUOMO: I would love that, by the way. That would be an early Christmas gift. I'd love to have you back to discuss it. By the way, do you think Franken should resign?

PAWLENTY: Well, he said he's going to resign. I think he did the right thing, unlike some of these other cases. There's not a dispute about what happened. There's actually pictures of him involved in some of the accusations and some of them occurred after he was in office. And so it's a little different than some of the other fact patterns here but, yes, he did it the right thing.

CUOMO: When we say if, do you think he's going to step away?

PAWLENTY: He announced that he's going to.

CUOMO: I know what he announced, but it was a little unusual, right?

PAWLENTY: I think it would be odd if he didn't now. Everybody is assuming that he's going to. And it would be quite a dramatic development if he changed his mind. I suppose he could, technically, but I doubt that he will.

CUOMO: What is your message to your party? The seats matter. I don't need to tell you this, Governor. You know, you've been involved with your party at a very high level for a long time. The margin is so slim. And it seems to be that the calculus is, look, Roy Moore may have some personal attributes we're not crazy about. But he does seem to back the Trump agenda. We would probably be able to count on his vote, and we need it.

PAWLENTY: I think sadly, we have gotten to the point where, no matter how bad our red tribe or blue tribe leaders may be. We're saying they're better than the tribe's other leaders, because the other side is worse. I understand that to a point.

But, look, this is the party of Abraham Lincoln. This is the party of Teddy Roosevelt. This is the party of Ronald Reagan. I grew up and did everything I could for this party, chair of the college Republicans back when I was in college, and I'm sad -- my heart breaks for my party. It's in a sad condition. And when you think about the virtues and values and leadership and decency of Reagan, of Teddy Roosevelt, of Lincoln and others.

I think we have to step back and search for the soul of this party and put some decency and some values back into it. Otherwise, I think it's going to have a very unfortunate future.

CUOMO: What is your response to Steve Bannon, who says there is a special place down south for Republicans like you, who won't back Roy Moore?

PAWLENTY: You know, I think if -- if their party is going to put a focus on unity, then he should focus on unity as well. And it doesn't seem like that's what he does.

CUOMO: Where do you think this all ends up? What's your guess about what happens today?

PAWLENTY: Look, the -- politics is a marketplace. Elections are a decider. And so you're going to get the decision. But the pendulum swings. And these things correct over time. They may not correct in one moment or in one two-year cycle. But over the arc of time, you know, as Martin Luther King said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice, and eventually, things readjust.

CUOMO: Those were wise words. We'll see how they're made manifest in these current times.

Governor, it is always a pleasure. Merry Christmas to you and your family. And remember that early gift you gave me. I look forward to hearing from you.

PAWLENTY: All right, Chris. Thank you. Merry Christmas to you, as well.

CUOMO: Thank you. Be well. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: We do have it on tape.

Meanwhile, four Democratic senators calling on President Trump to resign over sexual misconduct allegations. One of those senators makes his case here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)