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Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race; Senator Gillibrand Calls Trump Tweet a 'Sexist Smear'. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired December 13, 2017 - 06:00   ET



DOUG JONES (D), SENATOR-ELECT, ALABAMA: We have come so far, and the people of Alabama have spoken.

[05:59:19] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reckoning has continued. A Republican should have won the seat by double digits.

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

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president needs to be on notice. Donald Trump tried to rescue a campaign that was doomed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steve Bannon put himself into a position to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He lost.

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

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: I see it as a sexist smear. It's not going to silence me.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Your mind is in the gutter if you read it that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy is basically like a 7th grader. And you see that come out in his words and his tweets.


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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, December 13, 6 a.m. here in New York.

The Alabama special election was a huge shocker. Voters told Roy Moore and the horse he rode in on to take a hike. Democrat Doug Jones won. Moore is refusing to concede. But Jones is clearly the winner, according to that state's secretary of state.

So Jones won, as was an apparent call to decency. President Trump posting a rare conciliatory tweet congratulating Doug Jones. Alabama voters have now rejected two consecutive candidates backed by President Trump. So the question becomes, was the president's naked play for a Senate seat over the growing accusations of sexual abuse and child molestation a mistake that will have legs?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The national implications in this race cannot be overstated. Republicans' narrow majority of the Senate is now down to one seat, which could snarl President Trump's legislative agenda.

And this morning, Democrats say they feel more optimistic about trying to seize control of both chambers of Congress next year. So all of this as the White House is defending the president's tweet from yesterday that attacked a Democratic senator. They say reporters' minds are in the gutter for thinking that tweet was sexually demeaning.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is firing back to the president, vowing that she cannot be silenced. And there is a bruising new editorial that argues the president is not fit for office.

So we have all of this covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She is live in Montgomery, Alabama. What a night, Kaylee?


We saw President Trump throw the full weight of his presidency behind the accused child molester Roy Moore in the final stretch of this campaign. But in the end, it wasn't enough. A stinging defeat for Trump, who broke with much of his party's leadership to back the controversial candidate.


JONES: I think that I have been waiting all my life, and now I just don't know what the hell to say.

HARTUNG: Democrat Doug Jones becoming the first Democrat in decades to win a Senate seat in Alabama, stunning the country by defeating embattled Republican Roy Moore in the deep-red state.

JONES: As Dr. King liked to quote, the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.

HARTUNG: The Moore campaign refusing to concede.

MOORE: When the vote is this close, it is not over. What we've got to do is wait on God and let this process play out.

HARTUNG: Doug Jones's campaign telling CNN Moore did not call Jones to congratulate him. But the Alabama Republican Party declaring the race over.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you expect anything other than Mr. Jones being the next senator from the state of Alabama?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would find that highly unlikely.

HARTUNG: A source close to the White House describing Moore's defeat as an earthquake, telling CNN that the results are devastating for President Trump, who gave Moore a full-throated endorsement in the final stretch of the campaign.


HARTUNG: The president sending a characteristically subdued tweet after the race was called, but before Moore refused to concede, congratulating Jones on a hard-fought victory, saying, "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."

A GOP official close to the White House tells CNN Moore's loss should be a wake-up call for Mr. Trump, who was advised by many to stay out of the race but instead, followed the advice of his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, to back the accused child molester.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: If they can destroy Roy Moore, they can destroy you.

HARTUNG: The conservative Senate Leadership Fund super PAC, which refused to back Moore even after the RNC renewed their support, blaming Bannon for the loss, saying in a statement, "Not only did 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."

Fingers also being pointed at the president's political director, Bill Stepien. And a source close to the White House calling on Stepien to resign, despite the fact that he urged the president not to back Moore, criticizing his inability to influence Mr. Trump.

The president ultimately siding with Bannon, who a source says warned Mr. Trump that a Moore loss could embolden Democrats to go after Mr. Trump over the sexual harassment allegations he's facing, allegations that Mr. Trump has vehemently denied.


HARTUNG: Alabama's secretary of state, John Merrill, tells us it will take a couple of weeks to certify these election results. That won't happen until after Christmas. So it's very likely that Doug Jones won't be sworn into the Senate until the new year.

This reality, that gives some urgency to the Republican effort to get their tax bill passed before Doug Jones makes it to Washington.

Chris, Alisyn, there is no word on when we'll hear from Roy Moore next.

CUOMO: All right, Kaylee, appreciate it. Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN senior

political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic," Professor Ron Brownstein.

[06:05:09] David Gregory, you heard people saying this is nationalized. It's all about Alabama. Keep it local. It never was. It was always nationalized. The president put his stamp on it. Both national parties ran down there to make an outcome happen. Now we have an outcome. What are the implications?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we are living in an age where our politics are so unpredictable. And isn't this just a stunning latest example of that?

Alabama has just sent a Democrat to the United States Senate. And, you know, the "Star Wars" movie is coming out over the weekend. So I think we can say that the empire strikes back. The establishment has struck back in this case, a rejection of a style of politics that is defined by Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. Their own voters don't come out in the same numbers that they did for Donald Trump for Roy Moore. Incredibly flawed, morally repugnant candidate in Roy Moore. And then regular math and politics. Suburban voters disapproving of Trump, disapproving of Moore.

African-Americans coming out in huge numbers, as well. And the establishment of the Republican Party saying, "No, this is the wrong direction." And ultimately, that prevails. Richard Shelby, the senior statesmen in the state coming out so decisively at the end of this cycle. So you have Democrats who are emboldened after Virginia, now Alabama with a head of steam into a midterm race, saying, "We can really turn things around after a 2016 loss."

CAMEROTA: Ron, let's dive more into the math that David Gregory just bought up. First of all, the voter turnout was twice as high. OK. It wasn't 20 percent as predicted. It was 40 percent. So let's just start there. Did that mean that the Democratic turnout machine was better than people thought or that people were motivated?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: People were motivated. We saw a very high turnout in Virginia, as well. Look, Roy Moore, to say the obvious, was a candidate with unique vulnerabilities and liabilities. But what ought to worry Republicans is how much this result had in common with what we saw in Virginia and New Jersey and, for that matter, what we've seen in polling about who approves and disapproves President Trump to begin with to begin with.

As we talked about yesterday, Alisyn, there were three components that all clicked together to make this win popular. The foundation was huge African-American turnout and margins. Black voters were a bigger share of the vote yesterday than they were in the 2012 presidential race. I mean, when does that happen in an off-year election?

CAMEROTA: They turned out more for Doug Jones than for Barack Obama. Put a final point on it.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. And then second, you see this historic Republican trouble under Donald Trump with younger voters. I mean, Doug Jones won 60 percent of not only millennials but everybody under 45 in Alabama. That was after Democrats won 70 percent of millennials in New Jersey and Virginia.

Again, what you would expect in Trump's disapproval with those voters is about 70 percent. And then the third piece that came together was a significant movement toward the Democrats, again as in Virginia and New Jersey, among college-educated suburban white voters. And Doug Jones only won 40 percent of them. That doesn't sound great, but that was double what Obama did in...

CAMEROTA: And women.

BROWNSTEIN: College-educated white women.

CUOMO: College-educated white women.

BROWNSTEIN: White women. We talked about this before. The gap between the college- and non-college white women was enormous. But Doug Jones got up to 45 percent among the college whites.

And I'll just write out one point. Doug Jones got a 40 percent among college whites. He ran 20 points better than Hillary Clinton in heavily white-collar counties like Madison and Shelby and the counties with the University of Alabama and Auburn.

Here's one other statistic that the CNN polling ran for me yesterday. Among college-educated whites who are not evangelicals, which is what you would see in most of the places where Republicans are going to be defending those swing suburban seats. Doug Jones won two-thirds of those non-evangelical college whites. That's an ominous number for people in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Or Orange County or New Jersey or New York or any Republican seats.

CUOMO: One of the inscrutable things, one of the reasons it was helpful to watch in real time last night, that that state moved from the north and the central regions of the manufacturing, the ruby-red Republican, the evangelical bases and then down. And you got to see the staggered returns in real-time.

David Gregory, two shockers. One was there is a mystery that the evangelical vote has to figure out. How can they be so all-in for someone who has so many checks on his morality? What is evangelical politics about? We know what the faith is, but boy, there seems to be such a disconnect between what is in the good book and what they're backing in candidates.

You know, 80 plus to 18 were the numbers last night. And then you had the bigger question, David, of why, why Doug Jones won. I stated in the introduction it seemed to be a call to decency that was responded to. Do you think that's true, or is it being too optimistic?

[06:10:00] GREGORY: I think there was a call to decency, and I think there was just a rejection of Roy Moore as someone who has embarrassed the state deeply within political circles. You know, from the outside we were looking at Alabama. And it's easy

to caricature the state and its voters based yeaon Roy Moore. Well, Alabama set that record straight last night, saying, yes, there may be a core base of support for Roy Moore and what he stands for; but it was not enough to prevail in the state.

And I think that's very important. It also shows that Trump is something of a singular figure and that his politics don't necessarily transfer to other candidates. That's something that he's going to have to take stock of. He's got this divided, very uneasy coalition as he moves into being the head of the party in 2018 and then, of course, in 2020.

The evangelical piece bears, I think, deeper examination and more time. I think the high points of that are a deep strain of pragmatism that runs that in that community that is not about morality as such as who can, A, win and, B, who will not -- who will validate who evangelicals are.

It goes back to the 19th Century where they didn't want to look like fools after the Scopes trial and the battles over evolution. A kind of legitimacy. And I think Trump has spoken to that. I think evangelicals as a political block are not voting on the whole picture. They're being organized and are intense around issues like, you know, generally the role of God in life and kind of, you know, the millennial understanding of the end of days for some. And, you know, issues like the core of like abortion and so forth.

BROWNSTEIN: Real quick, as I said, recognizing that Roy Moore has problems, what you see is here the continuation of a big trend under Donald Trump and the way he is defining the party. Republicans are trading improved performance among older, blue-collar evangelical and rural whites for losing, a significant erosion among minority voters, millennial voters, urban voters, and white collar.

CUOMO: That's exactly what you saw last night. The flip between urban and rural was huge. The flip between straight evangelical versus college-educated, non-evangelical was huge last night.

BROWNSTEIN: It was huge. And look, the ladder, the groups of society that are growing. I mean, so you are -- in a suburbanizing, urbanizing society that is growing more diverse where millennials for the first time in 2018 will exceed the baby boom as a share of eligible voters. Those are the voters that the Trump-era GOP is trading away for very strong hands among older blue-collar evangelical. Those voters matter a lot.

Democrats have to win more to control the House and the Senate. In kind of the cosmic scheme of things you see again in Alabama, as we did in Virginia and New Jersey, that the Trump definition of the party is driving away a very consistent coalition.

GREGORY: Can I just say, too, look at the brand of Democrat that's been winning. Right? It's not the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. And I think there's something to take away from that. And I think it is specific to being in Alabama. It was specific to being in Virginia, as well.

But I think that there is -- there is something to take away from that. In these races, you do have one opponent against another.

And I think that the vulnerabilities of Hillary Clinton as a candidate led to certain demographic trends that we saw in that race that are being upended here that was about her as a candidate and about Trump running an inside straight in that election. And that's something to keep watching as we try to make this into a pattern. And that's what Ron's expertise is by looking at the -- at the numbers. We have to see if this continues to be borne out.

CAMEROTA: OK, so very quickly, Ron, in terms of the numbers going forward. The balance of power doesn't shift. The tax vote, if they can sneak it in, is safe.


CAMEROTA: But so -- but going forward, it just gets much slimmer.

BROWNSTEIN: Right, right. Absolutely. On the tax vote, what we've seen -- one of the clearest things, as we've said, in all of these races has been a big white-collar movement away from the Republicans. And you have in the House, northern Virginia, the suburbs of Philadelphia, Orange County, New York, and New Jersey, a lot of suburban Republicans who are being asked to vote for a bill that, because of the way it would affect state and local taxes and mortgages would raise taxes on many of the same voters in their district who are already pulling away from President Trump on cultural and personal grounds.

I mean, that is a big ask worth noting. Ninety-three percent of the people who disapproved of President Trump in Alabama voted Democratic. It was 87 in Virginia, 82 in New Jersey. Again, that's what you would expect. And in most of these suburban districts, the president is a lot less popular than he was in Alabama. So if you're one of those Republicans, you have to hear footfalls even as you're being asked to vote for this bill. That could be very difficult on many voters in your district.

CAMEROTA: All right. David Gregory, Ron Brownstein, thank you very much for all of the analysis this morning.

CUOMO: All right. And we'll be getting perspective throughout the morning about what this means. The president reportedly very upset, kind of looking around for who to blame because of this latest occurrence. He doesn't want it to be a reflection on him.

[06:15:04] Well, we want to bring in, first of all, to seal the deal on what happened in this election. So we have Alabama's secretary of state. Very important. Because he certifies the election. He makes it official. So what is this state? Is this over? We'll have him on.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, the White House defending President Trump's Twitter attack on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. The senator is not backing down. We have the growing feud, next.


CUOMO: President Trump is under fire once again for a provocative Twitter attack against a woman. This time Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. who called what he said about her a sexist smear. The White House is pushing back saying it wasn't sexist at all, and in fact, blaming anyone who thinks that for having a mind that's in the gutter.

CNN's Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. Joe, what's the story?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, the controversy over the president's tweet that got the most attention was an insult that was contained in the things he wrote there, indicating that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, one of the most prominent female officeholders in Washington, D.C., would come begging to his office for contributions and would do anything for them.

That was construed by the president's critics as containing sexual innuendo, especially given the fact that the president had used that kind of language before.

[06:20:07] The position from the White House press secretary was pretty simple, that people were reading things into the president's tweet that simply were not there. Listen.


SANDERS: You know, if your mind is in the gutter if you have read it that way. It's obviously talking about political partisan games that people often play and the broken system that he's talked about repeatedly. This isn't new. This isn't a new sentiment. This isn't new terminology. He's used it several times before.


JOHNS: But this controversy was certainly not going to end there, because Senator Gillibrand herself was not about to give the president the benefit of the doubt.


GILLIBRAND: 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.


JOHNS: This latest controversy coming in the midst of the "#MeToo" movement where a number of Democrats, including Senator Gillibrand, are calling on the president to resign. Others, of course, asking for an investigation into the president's treatment of women.

Chris and Alisyn, back to you. CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much. Let's bring back David Gregory.

Also joining us, CNN Politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza.

So Chris, let's just start with that tweet from yesterday. It came out on our watch.


CAMEROTA: So Chris and I had to react in real-time, as we so often do the president's tweets. And there was no getting around that parenthetical suggestion of what Kirsten Gillibrand had suggested she would do for campaign contributions. To the point where Chris and I were reading. We had to stop, just to each other. Like, "Wait. Is that what that's saying? That's what that's saying."

CUOMO: As usual, Alisyn assumed I was making it up.


CUOMO: "Wait a minute."

CAMEROTA: Wait, it couldn't believe it was that explicit. But so that the White House says our minds are in the gutter. That means either they're tone deaf, as if that's possible, or they're fudging this again.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Well, I mean, look, I think the reality of Sarah Huckabee Sanders's job is Donald Trump does stuff and she finds way to try to normalize what he does. I mean, she signed on for it. This is not an excuse. But that's what she does.

If "and would do anything for it", parenthetical there, if it doesn't have sexual innuendo to it, then what does it mean? I guess -- I expect more time than I'd like to admit trying to figure that. So the best possible thing is he's just tone deaf and he's unaware of how words mean things. So the begging reference before would seem to suggest that's some truth (ph) or it is she was willing to promise political or policy favors? If you give me this money I'll do something on a bill for you. But that's not at all what it's implying.

And let's remember, you can say well, it's Twitter. It's 280 characters. Like, you could say legislation, policy. There are ways to mitigate that and drive home the point here.

CAMEROTA: So many people hear it differently.

CILLIZZA: Everyone would hear it differently. Reasonable minds, in my opinion, reasonable minds when you look at that would think this certainly...


CUOMO: Three bad things came out of it. OK? Absolutely, no matter how you look at it, three bad things came out. One, there was this call once again, even from his friends we had on

yesterday from NewsMax who said, you know, "This is why people really should go over his tweets." No. Because if this is what he thinks, this is what I want to read. I don't want you to sanitize it and help a guy if this is what is actually in his said.

Two, Sarah Sanders says, "Well, he's obviously talking about this terribly rigged system." He was a donor of Gillibrand's. He was in the swamp. He was a big old gator. So if you can't talk about that situation, you can't talk about him as a change agent. He profited from it.

And then the third one is the one that's getting the most juice, David, which is either he meant this and that's ugly and sexist; or it just goes to a tone deafness and where his head is whenever he talks about women. Because remember, context is everything.

April Ryan -- check her tweet for yourselves -- she had a brilliant take on this. But if he hadn't said what he said about Megyn Kelly, if he hadn't said what he said about Rosie O'Donnell, of he hadn't said what he said about all these other women, maybe we wouldn't take it that way.

GREGORY: I mean, this is -- look, this is a man who is now president of the United States, who referenced the size of his penis during a presidential debate. OK? Do we need to know any more? Of course this is what he says it is. He's crude and crass.

And actually, Chris, I disagree. I wish someone would review his treats [SIC] -- tweets and remind him that he holds the same office that Abraham Lincoln did and that perhaps he shouldn't send that out to tens of millions of people.

And at the White House, the people who speak for the president are not serious people. Their dissembling should be taken seriously and gravely, but they're not serious people. And they should not -- we should not spend a lot of time listening to the things that they say, because they shouldn't be taken seriously.

[06:25:02] These are the same people who are threatening Jim Acosta with not being invited to a pool event. They need to be reminded. This is the people's house and that these people, all administrations, are just passing through. And that this is not a kingdom.

So I think this is what it is. The president is crude and crass. He will be judged for this. He's a gut player who thinks that kind of street talk has gotten him to where he is. We'll see how it goes from here.

CAMEROTA: Well, here -- "USA Today" has an editorial today that could not be more stark. Here's what it leads with: "A president who would all but call Senator 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."

CILLIZZA: yes, there's a -- that editorial I would urge folks to read. I wrote about it last night. I think there's -- that line is the most catching, understandably.

There's a line in there that says -- it comes right after that. It says, basically, George W. Bush and Barack Obama made mistakes as president. They did things wrong. We didn't agree with them all the time. But they were fundamentally committed to sort of moral leadership in the country. They were trying to do what they viewed to be is right and decent. And that he has not.

Look, I've read about this. David and I have talked about this. We've all talked about this. There exists -- Donald Trump does not believe that there is a moral leadership component to being president of the United States. We saw it in Charlottesville. We see it over and over again. When confronted with things in which it is not about partisanship, it is about leadership, he simply vacates that part of the job, which is a critically -- I should say has been, from zero presidents to 44 presidents, a critically important piece of the job.

CUOMO: And I would submit there's a reason for that. For all the heat I take because my last name is Cuomo, I grew up very close to this process. And one of the fundamental traits of all the leaders I've met in my life is you have to, he or she, surrender themselves to the weak at some point. At some point they have to do that.

This president, I said it to him during the campaign directly. People around him know this. He struggles to do that. The proof: the tweet that he just sent this morning. This is a moment for him to surrender himself to what just happened, but he won't.

"The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange, and his numbers went up mightily, 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!"

David Gregory, this is proof of one thing: The president learned nothing last night.

GREGORY: Right. Well, he's going to -- right, because this is what he does, and what he's going to continue to do. He's just going to street brawl it out and try to make himself look better. And I don't think there's anybody around him who's going to talk him back from that. He looks bad. He's looked bad in this Alabama race from the very start. And, you know, he assumes that everything is about him.

And this is actually a striking point to your last point about your family's tradition and the concept of we, the concept of office over individual. You know, just as you write into people and say, "Oh, this guy is not my president," I say, "No, no, yes, he is. He's America's president." Because the presidency is bigger than Donald Trump.

That's what his predecessors understand. Plenty of moral failures along the way, by the way, among even the greatest of our leaders in history. But a sense that this is about the presidency, not just him, that's what matters for our country and the world.

CAMEROTA: David, Chris, thank you very much. CUOMO: All right. So another big story for you to follow this

morning. A diplomatic overture from the U.S. to North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says they are ready to talk directly with Pyongyang without preconditions.

Here's the problem. The White House may be sending a different message, next.