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Doug Jones Defeats GOP's Roy Moore In Major Upset; Support From Women Helps Jones Beat Moore; Trump Downplays Roy Moore's Loss. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 13, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. The only thing more politically problematic than endorsing an accused child molester might be endorsing an accused child molester who loses.

A shocking morning in politics. A brutal morning for the president. And a historic morning in Alabama where a Democrat hasn't been elected in the Senate in more than 20 years. Democrat Doug Jones is going to the Senate. He beat Republican Roy Moore by more than a point there. Moore of course was accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl among other things. Still, the president endorsed him, campaigned for him, recorded a phone message for him, but this morning he now says never mind.

HARLOW: Curiously, the president writes, "The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange, Moore's primary opponent, is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the general election. I was right. Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him."

"I was right" even though I was wrong, or maybe wrong even though I was right. We're confused this morning. Not confusing, though, the fact that the results could have major ramifications for this president and his party across the country.

Let's go to Alabama. Our Kaylee Hartung is there. Good morning.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and John. Yes, a source close to the White House says these results are devastating to President Trump but you noted there that change in tone we're hearing from him this morning after he spent the past week throwing all the weight of the presidency behind Moore.

Last night after the race was called for Doug Jones, there was an uncharacteristically subdued tweet from Trump. A congratulatory message to Jones for his hard fought race but in just moments later we heard this from Roy Moore.


ROY MOORE (R), DEFEATED ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: When the vote is this close, it is not over and we still got to go by the rules about this recount provision. And that's what we've got to do is wait on God and let this process play out.


HARTUNG: That's Moore refusing to concede this election. We don't know when we'll hear from him next. But the Alabama secretary of state tells me it's highly unlikely that anyone other than Doug Jones will be the next senator for the state of Alabama. The margin of victory he has right now, 1.5 percent.

The secretary of state doesn't think that can be overcome by Moore when you process the provisional ballots, write-ins, the military votes or get within that half of 1 percent margin you need to be for an automatic recount to be called.

While Moore may not have called Jones with a congratulatory message of his own, Jones had plenty of supporters to celebrate with last night.


DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATOR-ELECT: Alabama has been at a crossroads. We have been at crossroads in the past and unfortunately we have usually taken the wrong fork. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, you took the right road.


HARTUNG: You were calling this a stunning victory for Jones, and Poppy and John, I want you to take a look at this. The front page of the "Montgomery Advertiser," the local newspaper here in Alabama's capital city, just to see that in print, the abbreviation there, Senator Jones, Democrat, that is something this state is unfamiliar seeing, the headline doesn't really need more words than that in the state today.

BERMAN: And look, if you'd asked anyone a few months ago if it could happen, they would have said no.

HARLOW: No way.

BERMAN: Not ever, absolutely impossible.

Kaylee Hartung for us in Alabama. Thanks so much, Kaylee.

Of course President Trump he backed Roy Moore despite the pleas from leaders in the national Republican Party and this morning they are dealing with that fallout.

Joe Johns at the White House now with that -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. This president has a moment of reckoning today as you look at his situation. He doesn't appear as connected to his conservative base as he did just a year ago winning Alabama with 62 percent of the vote compared to Hillary Clinton's 34 percent.

This time around backing the losing candidate two out of two times in the Alabama Senate race. First in the primary, this morning in a tweet claiming he was right the first time around. A source telling CNN's Jim Acosta, among others things, that this is devastating for the president, an earthquake, suggesting he has egg on his face because he followed the lead of his former adviser, Steve Bannon, who also campaigned for Roy Moore.

Nonetheless, the spin here at the White House is and will be that the president had little choice, that once Roy Moore won the primary he had to back him because of his conservative base. Again in the state of Alabama as well as across the rest of the country would have expected no less. That is spin because in fact the senior senator from Alabama, Richard Shelby, was among the people who decided not to back Roy Moore.

[09:05:08] So a difficult situation for the president here at the White House, a concern about how in touch he is with his conservative base, and what that could mean going forward.

Back to you.

HARLOW: Joe Johns at the White House, thank you very much.

Joining us is our trio of political commentators, Doug Heye, Amanda Carpenter, Symone Sanders. Very nice to have you here all this morning.

And Symone, we're within the 24-hour window where you said you will be gloating without pause. So --


HARLOW: We will let you continue to do that.


SANDERS: I would --

HARLOW: In a moment --


HARLOW: Quickly, just all around the table, guys, 20 seconds or less, fill in the blank for me here. The result in Alabama means what? Amanda, you start.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It means it should be a wake-up call for the Republican Party and women. The closest thing to the Tea Party on the Democratic side is happening. It started with the women's march and it marched all the way down to Alabama last night. My question is, does the Republican Party care? Because President Donald Trump seems pretty intent on picking a fight with the Me Too movement. He picked a fight with Hillary Clinton and women in 2016, but I'm not sure it's going to work out for him in 2018 and 2020.

BERMAN: All right, Symone, the result of this election means, fill in the blank.

SANDERS: It means that the winning coalition for Democrats is a coalition that absolutely invest resources into African-American communities, but it's also a coalition of young progressive people. The coalition of white people. You had folks like the Working Families Party working with Woke Vote in Alabama. That is how we win. And Democrats have to take this, embrace it, and do better for 2018 because we have to make early investments.

HARLOW: And Doug?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Republicans should be breathing a sigh of relief, but they shouldn't injure themselves patting themselves on the back right now. We dodged a bullet last night but the party still has malaria, and we're still bitterly divided and we have to move past that.

BERMAN: Oh my god. That was like a metaphor cocktail right there, Doug Heye.


BERMAN: All right. Amanda Carpenter, I want to dig down a little deeper right now. What does this mean for the president here? Because you could say depending on how you count, he suffered either two or three political defeats. Number one, you know, he endorsed Luther Strange and lost.


BERMAN: You know, he backed an accused child molester despite calls from leaders of his own party. And then number three, that guy lost. So, you know, O for two or O for three depending on how you count it. What are the ramifications for him?

CARPENTER: Well, I think Doug is on to something. I mean, the Republican civil war continues. And I don't know where Donald Trump is going to be seeking political advice now. He followed Mitch McConnell's lead to back the losing candidate Luther Strange, and then he followed Bannon's lead and backed the losing candidate Roy Moore.

And so where does Donald Trump go? I think he's going to turn further inward and probably be more unpredictable. I mean, Steve Bannon went down there and trashed his daughter, OK? Steve Bannon trashed Mitt Romney, which is going to inflame, you know, that wing of the party that is looking for more decency and a return to -- you know, just basic Republican principles, and so, you know, Donald Trump is there tweeting, trying to save face this morning, saying, you know, I was right, and yes, maybe, Donald Trump, you were right, too, and you get so sick of winning because, you know, the Democrats are getting there right now. He wasn't talking about Republicans.


HARLOW: You know, Doug, this morning Peter King, Representative Peter King, Republican in New York, here's what he wrote. "After Alabama disaster, GOP must do the right thing and dump Steve Bannon. His act is tired, inane and morally vacuous. If we are to make America great again for all Americans Bannon must go and go now."

OK, dump him for what? And is he right?

HEYE: Yes, look, I think it's broader than just one person. Obviously in politics we like to take one person and make them the bogeyman and in this case there's truth to that. But this predates Steve Bannon, this predates this race. We saw fringe candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Murdoch in Missouri in Indiana, we saw Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. We saw Sharron Angle in Nevada. Four races that we had terrible candidates who cost us Senate seats.

What we saw last night was Alabama as red, a red a state as can be, and this is why it should be sending real shockwaves to Republicans in Washington and throughout the country to kind of torture a line from Frank Sinatra, if we can choke it there in Alabama, we can choke it everywhere.

We need good, smart candidates who can win, and these fringe candidates are what hold us back and ultimately have made it harder for a Republican conservative or even Trump agenda to be enacted.


BERMAN: Yes --

CARPENTER: Yes, but one point on that. These fringe candidates keep winning Republican primaries.

HEYE: Sure.

CARPENTER: And this is the problem with the Republican civil war. Mitch McConnell is toxic. He needs to stay out of these races. He helped the Republican establishment in Alabama pick Luther Strange who couldn't win statewide. That was a mistake. They knew the conservative base wasn't going to be excited about Luther Strange. So until the conservative base and the Mitch McConnells of the world can get on the same page earlier in the primary, this is going to keep happening.


HEYE: I would have supported a great female candidate like Martha Robby who's the hardest working member of Congress from the Alabama delegation.


[09:10:02] HEYE: That might have been a way forward that I think Amanda and I could agree on.

BERMAN: But she wasn't on the ballot.

HEYE: Should have been.

BERMAN: You know, there are three candidates and Roy Moore was the one who won it.

HEYE: Should have been nominated.

BERMAN: You know, Symone, let's talk more about the president right now because there is a figure, and hopefully we have the graphic for that, on his approval rating inside the state of Alabama right now.

Alabama, by the way, a state he won by 1.5 million points, right?


BERMAN: I guess he won by 26 points? You know, a year ago. And now he's underwater -- not underwater, under 50 percent approval in Alabama, Symone. How problematic is that for the president around the country?

SANDERS: I think it's extremely problematic. Look, you have Donald Trump without one real major legislative win and currently we see that the Trump White House and Republicans on the Hill are staking their wins on this disastrous tax bill that everyone hates because it only benefits the wealthiest of the wealthy in this country. And so this is extremely problematic. I predict the folks are going to be running away from the president in the midterm elections. He is toxic. He was toxic for Virginia, it looks like he was toxic for Alabama. And I think he's going to be toxic for Senate and House Republicans going into 2018.

HARLOW: A surprising hat tip from Steve Bannon to the Democratic Party this morning, guys. Listen to this.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: A huge turnout yesterday and that's because the Democrats hustled and, you know, people have got to understand, you don't turn out, they're going to turn out. They did -- you know, hat tip to these guys at the DNC, they slipped in here under the scope and did a great job of ground game, and you got -- you know, all the other convergence of forces, as you said, Alex Marlo, just out hustling and out-working people is a big one.


HARLOW: Not, Amanda, what I expected from Steve Bannon this morning.

CARPENTER: Well, he has to save face. Listen, here's what happened. Roy Moore played the Trump playbook of denying sexual allegations. He called all the women liars, he threatened to sue them and said, any negative news is fake. That is the Trump-Bannon playbook. And this is why Steve Bannon is scared. They don't have anything else to do going into 2018 and 2020 because Roy Moore's accusers were heard. That means Donald Trump are going to get louder. And if Trump follows that playbook, that failed, utterly, completely, totally in Alabama, he's setting himself up for failure.

(CROSSTALK) BERMAN: And Symone -- go ahead.

SANDERS: But, you know, John and -- I just want to note that, you know, Steve Bannon gave a hat tip to the DNC, and I know Chairman Perez who sits on it, and yes, the DNC made an investment but there was a real investment from local groups on the ground, that coordinated themselves. The group called Woke Vote again, all of these folks are working together organizing specifically around the issues to turn out African-American voters and progressive voters.

And then you had outside national groups like Senate Majority PAC Party USA that put in a $1.5 million digital program for black people. That is how we win. We have to attack this at all levels. And so when you make an investment in African-American communities, when you make an investment organizing and mobilization, and you know, a little write-in campaign on the side in terms of persuasion, that is how you see results.

BERMAN: We have -- we actually have those numbers hopefully on the African-American vote in terms of the overall vote right now. They made up 29 percent of the voting population yesterday and of that group, what, voted 96 percent for Doug Jones there?


BERMAN: You know, of course a higher percentage than there are in the overall population. You know, they -- they voted more for the Democrat yesterday than even voted for Barack Obama in past elections, Symone, so, you know, what drove the African-American vote yesterday?

SANDERS: You know, people on the ground in Alabama are saying a couple of things. One, it was the issues. Two was that black voters in Alabama were just tired. They were absolutely tired of being overlooked, of being underestimated so they got together and they organized themselves.

But I want to be very clear, it was black women that put Doug Jones over the hump with this black vote. Ad so we have to understand that black women have emerged, have always been a voting bloc, a force of which to be reckoned with in the Democratic Party and I think now the media and the larger Democratic Apparatus is waking up to that. The way we create this in 2020 it's to invest early and often, and to stress black woman in America. So it's a good day to be a black woman in America.

BERMAN: It's always a good day as far as I'm concerned to be a black woman in America. I can speak from personal experience.


CARPENTER: Please don't, John. Please don't.

BERMAN: Guys, on that note, stick around, guys. We have a lot more to discuss, specifically what Symone was talking about, what does this mean for 2018. Was the result in Alabama just a fluke, a one-off or is there a roadmap for Democrats going forward? HARLOW: And also one hour from now it's going to get very, very

interesting, perhaps ugly. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein facing a grilling from House lawmakers over the Russian probe. This after an FBI agent taken off the investigation over the anti-Trump text messages. Stay with us.



HARLOW: Given the Alabama stunner last night, is the Senate really in play in 2018? We have a special guest star joining us --

BERMAN: Very special.

HARLOW: -- this morning from Chris Cilizza. You are usually snoozing during this show.

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I never get an intro like that.I do. I like to take a little morning nap. I'm not going to lie. Something wrong with that?

HARLOW: We are glad you're here. You write about it this morning. So, really?

CILIZZA: Yes, it is in play and that you could say Democrats have a chance of winning the majority in 2018 and not be laughed out of a room of smart people. That does not mean it is the likeliest outcome because it's not. You still have 26 Democratic seats up and eight Republican seats.

Of that 26, 10 of those Democratic seats are in states that Donald Trump carried except a Democrat just won Alabama last night, a place where Donald Trump won bay 28 points and no Democrat has been elected to the Senate since 1982.

And that guy switched parties two years later, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of Alabama. So, yes, Roy Moore is a unique figure, a uniquely polarizing figure.

[09:20:09] But the disparity between the Democratic base particularly the African-American community turnout and the Republicans/Trump base turnout has to concern you if you are a Republican in virtually any state in the country up on the ballot.

BERMAN: You know, Doug Jones' victory might be necessary, but not sufficient --

CILIZZA: That's right.

BERMAN: -- for a Democratic takeover in 2018. So, that's what it might mean on election day, a year from now. What does it mean, you know, today and tomorrow for what the president is trying to do and Congress?

CILIZZA: Quickly, one other thing that it matters for other than raw numbers, I'll get to it. It does matter for fundraising and candidate recruit --

BERMAN: And retirement.

CILIZZA: Right. And retirements on the Republican side. If you are looking at this race and running for something and you are a Democrat and you see what you saw last night, you are much more likely to run, and if you are a donor, you are much more likely to give.

What does it mean for the Trump's agenda? I think it means very little for the tax bill. I think in fact you may see the tax bill speed up in terms of getting it passed because Republicans were close to panic prior to this, and saying we have not done anything and will be punished by our base.

Well, if you then have an election, which your base is clearly demoralized, which it was, and the Democratic base is super fired up. Now you think this is the only thing that we can do. I am not convinced it makes it better.

But for this tax bill, because Doug Jones is not going to be sworn in until late 2017 or early 2018, it doesn't matter. For the rest of his agenda, look, I mean, go back to the health care fight, they lost three. They could only lose two and now they can only lose two on anything going forward.

With a caucus that has Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, Bob Corker, and Jeff Flake. You know, the math is -- it's worse, and I'm not a mathematician, but I can conclude that three seats is a better majority than two seats.

HARLOW: We're glad you got up for us this morning from your nap.

CILIZZA: I'm going to go right back.

HARLOW: How many pieces did you write last night?

CILIZZA: I don't know. You know --

HARLOW: Well, being on television.

CILIZZA: You scale a new zone.

BERMAN: Our panel is back with us to delve deeper into this to figure out maybe what this means going forward when we talk about the control of the Senate and politically overall in this nation.

You know, we talked about the African-American vote. Let's look at another key factor and that's the suburban vote in Alabama right now. You know, it was essentially tied. The suburban vote was essentially tied.

But for Democrats to tie Republicans in the suburbs in Alabama, that's stunning. Republicans lost the suburbs in Virginia. That's why they lost that race there, Doug Heye. So, again, what does this mean going forward? HEYE: Well, you know, Simone highlighted earlier how organized the African-American vote was. That's true. The larger Democratic Party in Alabama and they did not just wait until the accusations to organize, they organized early, that's one of the lessons for Democrats and frankly for Republicans.

For me, you know, I look at a lot of seats where Republicans can make gains which is good news for Republicans moving forward, but last night sure felt a lot like the night that Scott Brown won and could be a mirror image for Democrats this time as they try and move forward not just in the Senate but in the House.

And it ought to send real shock waves of concern throughout the Republican Party. I can tell you the RNC has been pretty contentious and divided within the building over the past few days over the decision to get involve in the Alabama race backing Roy Moore. That contentiousness and those divisions within the RNC will only intensify over the next coming days.

HARLOW: Amanda, women broke for Doug Jones in a big way by 16 points he led women, and you talked about the "me too" moment this is, and the president is fighting it, in your words. So, I mean, what does it tell us and what does it say for the president and the midterms and what the White House strategist should be thinking about this right now?

CARPENTER: Well, they need to rethink what they are doing, but I am not sure they can unring that bell. I mean, the day after Donald Trump was elected president thousands of women came to Capitol Hill and started marching in opposition to him and that frustration has not gone away and only intensified.

Donald Trump never backs down from a fight. Here's what he does and here is what he will do, he will single out somebody as the face of the movement. Right now, he's picked Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

And he will bully and bully and bully her hoping that someone makes a mistake along the way, and I'd argue that Senator Warren already did make mistake by sort of implying that Gillibrand was being slut- shamed, which is just a shocking, stupid remark that showed she doesn't understand what that term actually means.

So, this is what Donald Trump is going to do, he's not going to change what he's doing. He's going to go even harder at these women. I think they are probably going to discredit the accusers that are coming out.

And so, you know, what we saw in 2016 with Bill's accusers being paraded around, Donald Trump will keep doing something like that. I believe that will continue to turn off suburban women.

I don't know what Republicans are going to do. People at the RNC -- honestly, I would resign and get out of there.

[09:25:07] This was an embarrassment to the party and you are not going to make things better by trying to help Donald Trump execute a flawed, fatal strategy. You will go down with him. That's his strategy. He said you will get behind me or I will take the party down with me. Well, go down by yourself, buddy.

BERMAN: It's notable the RNC did end up backing Roy Moore with money. All right. You know, Simone, Amanda brought up Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator from New York. She had an interview this morning, and she sort of tied together the election in Alabama last night and the attack that the president made on her yesterday where he said she would do anything for money. Listen to what she says.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: It was certainly just a sexist smear intended to silence me, and I will not be silenced on this issue. I've heard the testimony of many women, numerous accusers. I believe them.

And he should resign for that. I think Congress should do an investigation because we need accountability. Women are not going to be silenced right now. As we saw in Alabama, women will not be silenced, and African-American women will not be silenced, and they came out in numbers.


BERMAN: So, I guess, Symone, specifically, in the narrow sense, do you think this "me too" moment, this moment of reckoning will be important politically in the elections next year?

SANDERS: Absolutely. I think it will be important because we are not going to escape this conversation. Lawmaker after lawmaker, operative after operative, they are going to go on the record talking about sexual misconduct and assault.

And attacks on Senator Gillibrand were absolutely a sexist smear and was disgusting and did nothing good for Donald Trump and everything great for Senator Gillibrand because now she has an additional platform to talk about believing these women.

And so, this is not going away in 2018. You will have folks all across the country, congressional candidates, Republicans, who are running saying, you know, not necessarily do you want the president to resign, but if elected, would you vote for and support an investigation?

I think that's an important line to tow. The last thing I'll not is this, this "me too" moment, it's absolutely women but it's a broad coalition of women that includes women of color.

In Alabama last night, yes, suburban women came out, but it's increasingly more progressive women, moderate Republican women and women of color, because 64 percent of white women in Alabama voted for Roy Moore last night. We cannot escape those numbers and I think those numbers matter and they are important.

HARLOW: Doug Heye, an editorial in "USA Today" this morning going much further. A president who would call Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential library or shine the shoes of George W. Bush. Your response and what point is too far?

HEYE: Well, I think we got to the point where it's too far a long time ago. That's been one of the things that's frustrated so many Republicans and every Democrat as well. What we see is that when Donald Trump tweets at somebody, it's not the he silences them. He gives them a much bigger platform.

He makes them stronger and more public than they were before. That's one of the challenges. We say that Donald Trump never backs down from a fight and the reality is Donald Trump always takes the bait.

And if you want to go to a fight with Donald Trump to build yourself up, Donald Trump is going to do it. What we know is the language is going to be over the top, and that's what we see that causes so many negative reactions.

If I could say, John and Poppy, as we've discussed all the really interesting things about turnout models and so forth about Alabama, we are missing one very key point. If you want to win a Senate race, don't nominate somebody that will have multiple charges of attacks on children and women, don't do that. This is simple. Don't be like Roy Moore.

HARLOW: I was going to say, that is now, but the president ran with these 15 women coming forward against him, different allegations, but that was a different moment.

BERMAN: Absolutely.

CARPENTER: Here's the thing. Donald Trump does take the bait and loves to find a target and he's making Kirsten Gillibrand a target and is riling up the conservative base. I listen to a lot of talk radio and come from the conservative media world.

They are zoning in on Gillibrand. They think she is a fraud. They call her all kinds of things and they need an enemy. Donald Trump will have his laser on and he will choose one and rile up the base.

SANDERS: I think Senator Gillibrand will be happy to be Donald Trump's enemy. She is not backing down --

BERMAN: We are happy to have all of you. We have to run. Symone, Doug, Amanda, thanks so much for being with us.

HARLOW: All right. An FBI agent booted from Bob Mueller's Russia investigation over the text messages where he called the president an idiot, among other things.

BERMAN: All right. A quick check of the markets as they open this morning. Futures point to a flat opening following record highs for the Dow and S&P yesterday. The dollar took a hit amid the Alabama upset.