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EARLY START

Alabama Shocker: Democratic Doug Jones Wins; Trump Tweets Congratulations To Jones; Trump Under Fire For Gillibrand Tweet; Tillerson: No Preconditions For North Korea Talks. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired December 13, 2017 - 05:30   ET

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


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[05:30:34] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATOR-ELECT: I have been waiting all my life and now I just don't know what the hell to say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you could say for the first time in 25 years a Democrat wins a Senate seat in deep red Alabama. Doug Jones with the major upset over Roy Moore. So, how's the president handling the defeat and can Democrats carry momentum into 2018?

More of EARLY START's coverage from Alabama and Washington, right now.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Dave Briggs.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 31 minutes past the hour and Democratic Doug Jones turning deep red Alabama blue, capping off a long shot campaign with a stunning win over Republican Roy Moore in last night's Senate race.

Jones taking 49.9 percent of the vote, 1.5 points ahead of Moore who could not overcome sexual misconduct allegations and his own checkered past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: 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.

As Dr. King liked to quote, "The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIGGS: Moore refusing to concede, though. His campaign insisting a recount is possible, depending on write-in and military ballots. But, the Alabama state Republican Party says it's over and Alabama's secretary of state says it's highly unlikely the outcome will change. That secretary of state will be on "NEW DAY" shortly.

And our coverage of this historic election begins in Montgomery with CNN's Kaylee Hartung. Kaylee, good morning to you.

How did Doug Jones get it done?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, good morning, Dave.

You don't have to look much past this past week of Doug Jones' campaign schedule to understand how he pulled this off.

Over the course of the past week he had Barack Obama make a robocall call for him. He held events with former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. He even got the NBA legend and native Alabamian Charles Barkley involved in the final hours.

But he knew he couldn't do this without the help of African-Americans and they turned out for him in droves. Thirty percent of the electorate, African-Americans. That turnout greater than what Barack Obama got here in 2008 or in 2012.

Now, the other important demographic here for Jones, women -- specifically, white, well-educated women in this state. And you could call it the mom affect here. Women with children under the age of 18 turned out for Doug Jones -- voted for him by a broad 35 percentage points.

Doug Jones putting together a unique coalition to pull off this stunning upset. And you can't discount the fact that there were Republicans here who voted for a Democrat for the first time in their adult lives because they couldn't stomach a vote for Roy Moore following the allegations against him or some of his inflammatory comments from the past.

And there were also the Republicans who chose to sit this one out, another important number there.

Roy Moore, in the end, could not activate the conservative and Christian base that he thought he could -- Dave, Christine.

BRIGGS: Kaylee, a former sportscaster, like myself. Many of our colleagues saying this is Charles Barkley's biggest win of his career.

Thanks for being up early for us. We appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right.

President Trump was all in on Moore. When it was clear the Republican seat was lost his reaction was tame by Trump tweeting standards.

The president tweeting this. "Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard-fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!"

BRIGGS: But one White House source tells CNN the result is quote "devastating" for the president, describing it as an earthquake. Finger-pointing already underway with calls for the president to replace his political director, Bill Stepien.

ROMANS: All right.

Let's go live to Washington and bring in "CNN POLITICS" reporter Tal Kopan; Sarah Westwood, the White House correspondent for the "Washington Examiner;" and, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic."

Brown -- Ron, the number cruncher that you are --

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Yes.

ROMANS: -- Brown Ronstein --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

ROMANS: -- tell me what did you see in that race last night?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, what I mostly saw was a confirmation of the trends that have already been developing in 2017 where the groups that have been the most disaffected, disenchanted, if not disgusted by President Trump in polling, have turned out for Democrats.

What we saw in Alabama largely confirmed what we saw in Virginia and New Jersey governor's races in November where the Democrat was buoyed by three big movements.

[05:35:08] One, you had an enormous turnout among African-Americans and a big margin at 96 percent.

Second, you had the Republicans really struggling with younger voters. And the Democrats won not only 60 percent of everybody under 30, but 60 percent of everybody under 45 in Alabama, and that was after winning 70 percent of millennials in New Jersey and Virginia.

Worth noting here, millennials will surpass the baby boom in 2018 for the first time ever as the largest generation of eligible voters.

And then the third big piece were the suburban white voters that polling has shown President Trump significantly underperforming with. Doug Jones won 40 percent of them. That doesn't sound like a really big number but it's double what President Obama did in 2012, the last time we had a good exit poll.

And among those college-white women, as you were discussing, it was up to about 45 percent. That was enough to overcome what we could call the Trump coalition of older, rural, blue-collar, and evangelical whites, and it was even a little erosion there.

Finally, the Trump factor. You know, over the last 20 years the votes in congressional elections have increasingly tracked the way people feel about the incumbent president. Ninety-three percent of the people who disapproved of President Trump voted for Doug Jones. Eighty-seven percent of the people who disapproved of Trump voted Democratic in Virginia, 82 percent in New Jersey. That's what we have been seeing over the last 20 years. The relationship is holding under President Trump and that's bad news for Republicans who'll be running places in 2018, particularly in the House, where he's less popular considerably than he was in Alabama.

BRIGGS: Ron has the numbers to show what happened last night.

The New York papers, they just have one horse to sum up what happened in Alabama. Two papers, one horse named Sassy.

But this isn't just front-page news here in New York or in Alabama, Sarah, it's around the world -- France, Germany --

SARAH WESTWOOD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Yes.

BRIGGS: -- Spain, the U.K. -- around the world. And that's, in particular, because of the message this sends to the president. The blow it is -- you see there on your lower left -- to the President of the United States.

What does it mean for his influence as we move forward?

WESTWOOD: Well, the blow to President Trump is largely self- inflicted. Trump had a clean opportunity to break with Roy Moore when the rest of his party was doing it in October when these allegations of sexual misconduct first emerged.

The RNC pulled back. Senator Mitch McConnell came out and said that Roy Moore should drop out of the race.

That was President Trump's opportunity to wash his hands of this defeat and we wouldn't be having this conversation right now about the message that Roy Moore's loss sent to President Trump.

But because Trump decided to not just endorse Roy Moore but go down to Pensacola, Alabama's back yard, and campaign on behalf of him, to record a robocall, to go on the attack against Doug Jones, calling him a Pelosi-Schumer liberal Democrat. These are the kinds of things that expose President Trump to criticism and it will really reflect poorly on the White House's political operation as it moves into its most critical task --

ROMANS: Sure.

WESTWOOD: -- when 2018 starts.

ROMANS: Tell -- I wonder what's going on inside the White House as they try to move forward here and figure out who has the president's ear.

Listen to what the Senate Leadership Fund said about Steve Bannon -- that Bannon is to blame for this.

"This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running. Not only does Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco."

Do you think there'll be a shakeup?

TAL KOPAN, REPORTER, CNN POLITICS: You know, there very well may be. I was sort of musing aloud on Twitter.

I feel like Mitch McConnell, this morning, must be like those theater masks, like happy and sad at the same time because, you know, there's a bit of glee for the establishment Republicans that Steve Bannon suffered a loss here and really embarrassed the Republican Party.

And certainly, even though Mitch McConnell has to be sick to his stomach to lose a ruby red Republican seat in the Senate, there is an element of victory for those Republicans who have wanted to see the party move away from the influence of Steve Bannon and perhaps, think that Trump's base isn't quite as dominant as it seemed in the presidential election.

And so, there's a swirl of things here and Ron brings up an excellent point about House moderates who are running in districts. They're already a little bit squeamish about some of the things the Republican Party has been pushing. This type of wave could really wipe them out.

And so, across the board, the White House political operation, in terms of the 2018 midterms, but also legislatively and how Congress is able to move forward, you know, the president's hand is weakened there. So when you talk about a shockwave -- I mean, the implications of this really reverberate throughout Washington now, going forward.

BRIGGS: Ron, Lindsey Graham said had Roy Moore won he would have been the gift that keeps on giving to Democratic politics.

Jeff Flake tweeted "Decency wins."

[05:40:00] Cory Gardner of Colorado said "The NRSC will never support Roy Moore."

Is there --

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

BRIGGS: -- any hint of relief, do you think, inside the Senate as far as the Republican Party goes?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, it's kind of lose-lose, Dave, right? I mean, obviously, it's tremendously painful to lose the vote. I mean, down to 51-49.

But yes, if Roy Moore won it would have been kind of a symbol the Democrats would have used for as long as he was in the Senate.

I -- look, obviously, Roy Moore is a uniquely vulnerable candidate with unique liabilities. But as I said, what is striking about this is not what is unique to Alabama but what is common to what we are seeing in 2017. And if you are, in particular, one of those House Republicans --

because I think this is where this really kind of hits home -- in a suburban district and you are looking at places like Madison County or Shelby County or the counties where the University of Alabama and Auburn, in all of them Doug Jones ran 20 points better -- or roughly 20 points better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016.

And as I said, you double the share among college-educated whites. That is kind of an ominous footfall, especially given how resistant many of those voters are to this tax bill that Republicans are trying to kind of push through here in the final weeks of 2017.

ROMANS: I'm so glad you bring that up because Sarah, I wanted to ask you about legislative agenda here. Now when you look at the balance of power there's one seat -- one seat in the Senate for next year and you've got a Republican Party that wants to do tax reform quickly now and had very high hopes next year.

Some have been whispering about entitlement reform, others --

BRIGGS: And Bob Booker's (sic) already out --

ROMANS: -- infrastructure.

BRIGGS: -- on tax reform.

ROMANS: Yes. So what about the legislative agenda? What are the implications?

WESTWOOD: Well, certainly, now Republicans see that the clock is ticking on tax reform. They have a self-imposed deadline of getting this done by the end of the year. It's something they've been talking about for months now.

But now they have a procedural deadline because once Doug Jones is seated in January, that gives congressional leaders a lot less wiggle room if they move this bill through conference, like you mentioned.

They already lost Bob Corker when the Senate passed its version of tax reform. They don't know that they will have another defector once the final product comes out of conference. And given the ominous implications of this race for 2018, Republicans know that they need to have something to run on.

You saw how many Republicans stayed home in Alabama because President Trump is just not popular, Republicans are not delivering, and Roy Moore wasn't exciting.

So they know now that, more than ever, they need to have at least one legislative accomplishment to tout out on the campaign trail next year. It just makes tax reform that much more important.

BROWNSTEIN: On the other hand -- on the other hand, real quick --

BRIGGS: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: -- you are looking at a bill that has a 32 percent, roughly --

ROMANS: Approval rating.

BROWNSTEIN: -- approval rating, the lowest we've seen for a major -- it is -- this tax bill is less popular than some tax increases that we've seen over the last 25 years.

ROMANS: Wow.

BROWNSTEIN: So it's not clear whether passing this is going to alleviate or compound the problems for Republicans, particularly in these white-collar suburban districts.

ROMANS: That's an interesting point.

BRIGGS: Well, that largely depends on economic growth. If what the Republicans think will happen does, then they're going to be just fine. It really increases the influence of people like Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, John McCain. The power they wield now is hard to understate.

But, Tal, it's also hard to understate the potential historical consequences of Jeff Sessions as attorney general, when you consider that 2018 could flip Senate control, and when you consider that the special counsel, depending on what he finds on this Russia investigation.

How significant is that selection of Jeff Sessions as A.G.?

KOPAN: Well, I think you just put it there, Dave, in the question. It's incredibly significant.

Now, keep in mind the math is still very difficult for Democrats --

BRIGGS: Yes.

KOPAN: -- in 2018. We can't overstate that.

You have 10 Democrats in very vulnerable positions but they're probably breathing a little easier after this Doug Jones win. And Republicans are probably a lot more concerned about seats like Nevada and Arizona. There is the potential for a flip.

But you're right, the cascading affects now of Donald Trump naming Sessions as his A.G., from the Russia investigation to now losing this seat --

ROMANS: Wow.

KOPAN: -- the president was already frustrated. You have to wonder if that's going to grow.

ROMANS: All right. Tal Kopan, Sarah Westwood, Ron Brownstein, nice to see you all this morning. Thank you so much for your analysis.

And then there's this. Was the president -- BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: -- making a sexual insinuation when he said a New York senator would quote-unquote "do anything" for campaign contributions.

And this morning, one editorial says the president isn't even fit to clean toilets. More, next.

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[05:48:56] BRIGGS: The president's tweets again leading to controversy. He's attacking New York's Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand calling for the president's resignation, citing the many sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Now, Mr. Trump being roundly criticized for tweeting Gillibrand, quote, "would come to my office begging for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them)."

The president's critics claimed he was insinuating the senator would accept sexual favors for financial support.

This scathing indictment of Mr. Trump from the typically restrained "USA Today" editorial board. Get this --

"A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush. This isn't about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Donald Trump, the man, if uniquely awful."

More now from CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

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JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave.

President Trump has injected himself squarely in the middle of the sexual harassment debate once again, going after, in a personal way, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, calling her a lightweight who would quote, "do anything for political contributions."

[05:50:08] This prompted this uproar over what the president meant by "do anything for contributions."

At the White House briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said this.

APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: Many, including the Senator, thinks that's it's about sexual innuendoes.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way, and -- so, no.

ZELENY: So, Sanders pushing back on the fact that there was any sexual innuendo intended by the "do anything" remark.

But as for Sen. Gillibrand, she reacted strongly to the president. She was on Capitol Hill joined by other Democrats throughout the day saying that President Trump simply cannot talk like this to Democratic senators or others.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice, and I will not be silenced on this issue. Neither will the women who stood up to the president yesterday, and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the Women's March to stand up against policies they do not agree with.

ZELENY: So this back and forth puts President Trump, again, in the middle of this sexual harassment debate that's shaking the world of politics, media, and Hollywood. The president is saying he did not do what any of his accusers said. Now, many Democrats on Capitol Hill calling for his resignation or congressional investigation into any of that.

As for the White House, Sarah Sanders said the president would not participate in any type of an investigation on Capitol Hill into any of these allegations of wrongdoing -- Dave and Christine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks.

BRIGGS: It wasn't just the president critics that felt there was some innuendo in that tweet. Rick Santorum, longtime supporter of President Trump, said on CNN yesterday he took that tweet the same way as everyone else, unfortunately.

ROMANS: All right, 51 minutes past the hour.

Bitcoin just hit another record high but the chief U.S. financial regulator has a message for Bitcoin investors, buyer beware. Details on "CNN Money Stream," next.

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[05:56:21] BRIGGS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is ready for talks with North Korea without preconditions, not exactly in line with the president's position. He says it has not changed. But, Tillerson makes it clear if North Korea makes bad choices the U.S. is prepared to act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're ready to talk anytime they'd like to talk but they have to come to the table, and they have to come to the table with a view that they do want to make a different choice.

In the meantime, our military preparedness is strong. I will continue our diplomatic efforts until the first bomb drops.

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BRIGGS: Pyongyang has dramatically ramped up the pace of its missile program in 2017, firing 23 missiles since February.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton expected to name a replacement for Sen. Al Franken today. The Minneapolis "Star Tribune" reporting he'll choose his lieutenant governor Tina Smith, and sources say Smith plans to run for the seat in a special election next year.

Franken announced last week his intention to resign after he was accused of improper conduct toward more than a half a dozen women.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on "CNN Money Stream" this morning.

Global stocks mostly lower after another record-high day on Wall Street, folks. Bank stocks pushed the Dow and the S&P 500 to all-time highs. The Nasdaq closed lower, though, on a dip in tech shares.

The two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve concludes today. The Central Bank expected to raise interest rates, the third hike this year. This is the last meeting for Janet Yellen.

Bitcoin just hit another record high, closing in on 20 grand. It was $800 at the beginning of the year, I think.

BRIGGS: Yes.

ROMANS: But the chief U.S. financial regulator has a message for investors, buyer beware. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton is urging extreme caution with virtual currencies, warning investors to be wary if an opportunity sounds too good to be true or if you are pressured to act quickly.

Unlike traditional currencies, the virtual coins aren't tied to a Central Bank. They're mined by an algorithm in a computer. You can't hold them, you can't touch them.

Kind of made-up Internet money. What could go wrong?

Ticket sales are strong with the "THE LAST JEDI." "STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI" doesn't come out until Friday but it has already become the top advance ticket-seller of the year. That's according to Fandango.

"THE LAST JEDI" toppled another Disney production, "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST," for the top spot.

It is on track for an opening weekend of $200 million. It may not beat the previous "STAR WARS" film. "THE FORCE AWAKENS" had a very big box office opening -- the biggest box office opening in movie history.

I will not see it on the opening day because I don't do that because I don't like crowds, but I will see it.

BRIGGS: I don't do those crowds, either. ROMANS: I will do it. I will see it. I mean, I think it's getting great reviews.

BRIGGS: Ninety-three percent on "Rotten Tomatoes."

ROMANS: Yes.

All right, so long. Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

BRIGGS: I'm Dave Briggs. "NEW DAY" has you covered an all things Alabama-related. We'll see you tomorrow.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: We have come so far and the people of Alabama have spoken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reckoning has continued. Any Republican should have won that seat by double digits.

ROY MOORE (R), LOST ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE ELECTION: It's not over and it's going to take some time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working the African-American community is very, very hard and that turnout made the difference.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president needs to be on notice.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER SENATOR: Donald Trump tried to rescue a campaign that was doomed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steve Bannon put himself in position to be (INAUDIBLE). He lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States Senate is in play in 2018.

GILLIBRAND: I see it as a sexist smear. It's not going to silence me.

SANDERS: I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy is basically like a seventh grader and you see that come out in his words and his tweets.

(END VIDEO CLIP)