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AT THIS HOUR
Roy Moore Fights Election Loss Asks Court To Intervene; Bannon, Breitbart Cut Ties With Paul Ryan Challenger; Trump Touts First 100 Days As "Most Successful"; NY Governor: Tax Bill Is "Dagger" In Heart Of Blue States; Officials: Signs North Korea Is Preparing For Missile Launch. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired December 28, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in for Kate Bolduan on this Thursday. In an interesting twist to the Alabama Senate race, on the very day the election is supposed to be certified, Roy Moore is refusing to wave the white flag instead of trying to raise a red flag about his shocking defeat earlier this month.
Just three hours from now, state officials will certify the election results declaring Democrat Doug Jones the winner. Alabama secretary of state told CNN the plan has not changed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MERRILL, ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE (via telephone): Doug Jones will be certified today at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 1:00 p.m. Central Time. The governor, Kay Ivey, our Attorney General Steve Marshall and I will meet in the office of the secretary of state, in the executive office, and we will sign the document certifying him as the senator for the state of Alabama. He will be sworn in by Vice President Pence on the 3rd of January when the Senate returns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Yet Moore who is the former chief justice of Alabama Supreme Court is using a legal maneuver now to try to delay that certification of the election results. He became the first Republican to lose a Senate race in Alabama in a quarter century losing to Jones by more than 20,000 votes.
CNN's Boris Sanchez is covering the story for us. Boris, what is Moore alleging in this court filing?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Ana. Yes. Roy Moore is making the case that he lost the special election because of voter fraud. This is really a last-ditch Hail Mary effort by Roy Moore to delay the certification of the special election results. He is calling for either a new special election or a thorough investigation of what he calls voter fraud. This affidavit specifically cites 20 precincts in Jefferson County in which election integrity officials that Moore cites say that turnout was irregularly high. This is an area with a large African-American population and Moore is making the case that turnout was so high in these areas that the results there should be deemed suspicious.
Further, the affidavit makes the claim that people from out of state were bussed in to Alabama to vote for Doug Jones, Moore's opponent. Remember that Jones won the special election by more than 20,000 votes.
Beyond that, these election integrity officials are drawing scrutiny in part because of their backgrounds. One of them specifically, Richard Charnin (ph), has been known to push conspiracy theories about the assassination of JFK as well as the death of DNC staffer, Seth Ridge.
But perhaps the most surprising thing about this affidavit is the admission by Roy Moore that after the special election he took a polygraph test to answer questions about allegations that were made against him during the campaign that he was sexually inappropriate to teenagers when he was in his 30s and a district attorney.
Moore is making the claim that this polygraph test clears him and supports his view of the events. In fact, part of the affidavit contains a statement from Moore in which he writes, quote, "The results of the examination reflected that I did not know nor had I ever had any sexual contact with any of these individuals."
He goes on to call the allegations against him false and malicious attacks on his character and in a press release attached to this affidavit he argues or rather he asks that his supporters call the secretary of state's office to demand that the certification of these results be delayed. That, of course, Ana, as we heard from the secretary of state of Alabama is not happening.
CABRERA: Boris, as we know the secretary of state also addressed some of these charges by Moore of election fraud. What did he say about that?
SANCHEZ: Yes, well, on CNN's "NEW DAY," he said that they -- his office has received more than 100 complaints of voter fraud of different individuals across the state of Alabama. He said that 60 of those have been adjudicated.
He made clear that there was no reason to believe that the claims that had been investigated had any merit and as you heard him say, he said that at 2:00 p.m. local time himself, the governor and the attorney general would certify that Doug Jones was fairly elected the next senator of Alabama -- Ana.
CABRERA: Meantime, Doug Jones, what is he saying?
SANCHEZ: Yes. He put out a statement just over an hour ago in which he says that the move by Roy Moore is, quote, "A desperate attempt to subvert the will of the people and it will not succeed." He says, "The election is over. It's time to move on." So, clearly, Roy Moore is still hoping for some kind of last second change, but it does not appear to be going his direction -- Ana.
CABRERA: Boris Sanchez in Washington, thank you. Here with us to discuss CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan. So, Paul, the Alabama secretary of state says he plans to certify this election.
[11:05:10] This is going to happen in just a few hours. So, can Roy Moore do anything at this point to prevent Doug Jones from being seated as planned?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he can bring an action in federal court. He can try to take a shot here. This is an action that he brought in state court, but frankly, I'd put his chances at about zero. In reading this 27-page complaint, there's nothing here but mud being thrown up against a wall and he's hoping something sticks.
And he even resorts to a rather strange maneuver and that is saying false things were said about him in the campaign. Well, what American campaign doesn't have false accusations thrown back and forth? We don't throw out the election because of that. And on the key factor that this claim that he was a child molester, he cites a polygraph test --
CALLAN: That he says he took but very interesting, although, he attaches expert affidavits about voter fraud, you know whose affidavit is missing? The polygrapher, who performed the test and the results of the polygraph test.
CABRERA: In fact, it was page 35 of 84 or something where he addresses the polygraph test. I read it, too.
CALLAN: It's only his own affidavit.
CABRERA: And he says if those other people who have brought allegations against him like Leigh Corfman, if they have a polygraph test that would contradict his own, that they would need to provide affidavits by the polygraphers themselves.
CALLAN: That's right. But he does not provide that affidavit nor does he provide a copy of his test so why would he leave that key piece of evidence out if it supports him. I didn't see it in his submission to the court.
CABRERA: Have you ever seen a challenge like this before?
CALLAN: No, I haven't. I mean, normally these challenges are based on, you know, solid evidence that there was inappropriate voting going on, there were lost ballots and a need for recount. Alabama has a law basically that unless the margin between the two candidates is 1.5 percent or greater you don't automatically qualify for a recount.
Here, the margin was greater than that. I'm sorry. So, he doesn't meet that test. The other thing is that all of the claims he makes here are strange. For instance, that large numbers of African- Americans turned out to vote in the election. He's claiming that that's a form of voter fraud.
CABRERA: It's so highly unusual.
CALLAN: Well, it's not unusual in this race. The Democratic Party put a lot of money into the race and encouraged black voters to turn out. So, the fact that black people voted in an election I don't think is an indication of voter fraud even in Alabama.
CABRERA: Paul Callan, thank you so much for your expertise. We appreciate it.
From legal strategy, now to political strategy, let's bring in our panel, Republican strategist and co-chair of the pro-Trump, Great America Political Action Committee, Eric Beach, executive director of Progress Texas and former Democratic National Committee super delegate, Edward Espinoza, and White House reporter for "The Associated Press," Zeke Miller.
So, Eric, I want to start with you because your group supported Moore in this election. Do you support his effort now to challenge the election result?
ERIC BEACH, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. We don't. I think it's time to move on. What I'm pleased about, and you have to give credit to Doug Jones extending an olive branch to Republicans, and I think after the passage of the tax reform bill, you know, Doug Jones realizes that it might be better if he's willing to work with Republicans.
And I think this is something that's a desperate attempt but time to move on. The elections in this country matter, and the will of the people matter so I think it's time to move on for all the voters and the country.
CABRERA: Edward, what does your reaction to Moore's challenge, especially given Democrats are expecting to welcome Doug Jones into the Senate any day now. Do you worry about the impact of this?
EDWARD ESPINOZA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROGRESS TEXAS: You know, it is not entirely a new move from some Republican playbooks. If you think back to 2008, there was a very close Senate race in Minnesota and it took six months to decide that race because the Republicans there had dragged it out.
So, I think Roy Moore's trying to repeat that and I don't think it's going to work for him because 20,000-vote margin is a huge margin in many states, especially in Alabama. But really, what this comes down to is he's complaining about voter fraud.
Look, Alabama is a state that has voter I.D. So, if he's complaining about voter fraud, I think what he's complaining about is that the suppression of the black vote didn't work. In this case, the black vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the Democrat and it turned out in force. I think Roy Moore should take up knitting. CABRERA: Zeke, even if this complaint goes nowhere, could there still be political fallout? Could this have people questioning the election results?
ZEKE MILLER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": Certainly, there will be some people somewhere who will doubt the results and buy into Moore's claims here, but you know, we are hearing the message of the White House silent on this. The president not tweeting, sort of echoing Moore's comments. The RNC and the National Republican Central Committee aren't raising red flags.
[11:10:02] They've all are moving to accept this and that will be the political winds for both Democrats and Republicans who are looking for that race as sort of a harbinger of what's to come next year.
Democrats have been holding by that. Republicans seeing warning signs in terms of turnout drop off in the suburbs and softness particularly with women voters. So, for all of them, they're trying to see the lessons of that race.
They are not saying there's fraud and learn the lessons of what happened in Alabama to try to apply next year and they are all accepting that right now only one who's not seems to be Roy Moore.
CABRERA: This election in Alabama was to replace Jeff Sessions who left his Senate seat to be the attorney general. Now, we know that Sessions relationship with the president has been rocky and that was even before this election, Alabama turned into a thorn in the president's side. He then backed two candidates who both lost. So, Zeke, do you think that this is going to reopen an old wound?
MILLER: Yes, certainly. We reported the associated press this week and sort of a retrospective of the president's sort of really turbulent in July. One of the things is the president has used Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, as a frequent punching bag.
And after Roy Moore's defeat in Alabama second Republican the president gone out of the way to campaign and endorse. The president was again sort of frustrated to complaint to advisers and people around him.
That again the piece problem that he's gotten himself into sort of stems from Jeff Sessions being in his cabinet and the position that the president publicly attacked him over the summer. Now they have tried to repair things, but privately behind the scenes, the president still kind of frustrated with that selection it seems.
CABRERA: Eric, another character in this election race is Steve Bannon. He was a big Roy Moore backer. He held rallies there. He was backing another controversial candidate in Wisconsin, Paul Nalen, who is challenging Paul Ryan for his House seat.
But after some inflammatory tweets recently, where he used the #it'soktobewhite, one Bannon adviser is now telling us, quote, "Nalen is dead to us." So, Eric, we talk about, I know Edward mentioned this idea of lessons learned. Do you think the change of heart with Bannon and Breitbart had anything to do with lessons learned in the Alabama race and backing a candidate who was so extreme?
BEACH: Well, look, I think what you are going to see in 2018 is a repeat of 2010 where Pat Toomey and Rand Paul and others like Mike Lee kind of elected into office and they become three of the most effective senators in the United States Senate.
You are going to see that in Arizona and Tennessee and other places. So, you know, I think the election -- you know, candidates are starting to realize that there's a platform that Donald Trump ran on that propelled him to victory and he's talking about protecting our border.
He's talking about U.S. job creation so, you know, I think the heart of the American people is in the right place where they want candidates that will go to D.C. to change D.C. Not the other way around.
And I think no room for somebody like Mr. Nalen in our party if he's going to make those kinds of comments. So yes, they are probably lessons learned, but I expect 2018 to be a very productive year for Republicans, especially after we passed one of the largest tax reform bills in our nation's history.
CABRERA: Edward, I owe a question next time and by the way, I wouldn't mind taking up knitting, as well. Eric, Edward and Zeke, thank you all for joining us.
Still ahead, the president said he signed more legislation in his first year than any of his predecessors since Harry Truman. We'll check the facts on that claim.
Plus, with new tax reform signed, thousands of homeowners are now lining up to prepay property taxes, but now the IRS is adding to the confusion over whether you can benefit from paying early.
CABRERA: President Trump is making a pretty astonishing claim about what he has accomplished during his first year in office. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, one of the things that people don't understand, we have signed more legislation than anybody, broke the record of Harry Truman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Well, this's not quite true. These comments came as the president was talking to first responders at a fire house in West Palm Beach, Florida, yesterday where he's spending his holiday.
Let's break down what he said with CNN's White House correspondent, Sara Murray, who is joining us in West Palm Beach. So, Sara, what are the facts?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look. Obviously, the president is riding high on his victory from passing a sweeping tax overhaul, which is no small potatoes in Washington. Republicans have been trying to do this for quite a long time. But we know that this is a president who certainly likes to embellish his record and he obviously can't stop talking about it. Listen to a little bit more of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I truly believe that the first 100 days of my administration has been just about the most successful in our country's history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, he may have had a successful first 100 days by his own right and may have had a successful first year looking at the tax reform victory, but in terms of how this stacks up to previous administrations, the notion that this president has been more successful in the first year than any of his predecessors doesn't really hold water.
This president signed fewer bills in his first year in office than any administration dating back to Eisenhower. Now, this is the president who's obviously very sensitive to that fact and one of his key grievances has been the notion that he doesn't believe that he's getting the credit he deserves both in terms of legislative accomplishments.
He's also rolling back regulations and economic achievements, but if you're looking at the sheer number of legislative victories, this president is lagging. Back to you.
CABRERA: All right. Sara Murray, thank you. What a beautiful day, by the way, in Florida. Wish I were there, looking lovely.
Well, one accomplishment that the president can claim signing the first major new tax reform bill since the 1980s. Now, that bill has millions in California, New York and other high tax states rushing to prepay their 2018 property taxes before New Year's Day.
And that's because this new tax law limits the amount of money to deduct for local and state taxes meaning you could end up owing a lot more in some places including a lot of counties in New York.
And on CNN this morning, New York Governor Cuomo vowed the go after the legislation in court accusing Republicans of deliberately punishing Democratic blue states like his.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:20:03] GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: What the Senate was saying is because we have no senators from the blue states we don't care. So, let's pillage the blue to give to the red. That's never been done in this nation before. That's partisan politicking over any semblance of good government.
By the way, you want to hurt New York? You want to hurt California? They're the economic engines. How are you going to grow the economy after you put a dagger in the heart of New York and California?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Well now, the IRS says if taxpayers pay early whether it counts depends on your specific situation. CNN's Dave Briggs is in Oyster Bay, New York, one of the communities impacted by this new law. Dave, what have you found there?
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": We find a lot of people, steady stream in here and it is a case by case basis. People wondering would I save money if I prepay? Am I eligible to prepay the taxes? And lastly, is my county ready?
Well, Nassau County, New York is ready. They have some of the highest property taxes in the country with more than $11,000 a year on average and that's why despite appearances out here, it's quiet down here. In there, it is jam packed.
Hundreds of taxpayers snaked in long lines throughout this building. Everyone waiting more than an hour for an assessment and then another line where they can prepay their taxes. They expect it to stay that way as it's extended hours until 7:00 tonight, 7:00 tomorrow night, and even added Saturday hours in the final day to prepay the taxes before 2018.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to make a payment?
BRIGGS (voice-over): Hundreds of homeowners racing to pay the 2018 property taxes hoping to take advantage of a popular deduction that will be reduced when the new tax law goes into effect on January 1st.
STEPHANIE CHRISTENSEN, PRE-PAYING PROPERTY TAXES: I know we get it in this year and write it off but not sure about next year.
BRIGGS: The last-minute rush amid confusion of one of the most controversial parts of the bill signed in law by President Trump last week. A $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local taxes that will disproportionately impact homeowners in high tax states like New York, California, Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My concerns are that our new tax laws are unfairly targeting New York and I want to avoid as much payment as possible by prepaying in advance.
BRIGGS: But the IRS is now saying not so fast attempting to clarify who qualifies and cautioning that prepaying property taxes could work but only under limited circumstances. To avoid the cap, homeowners must pay taxes assessed this year meaning that those who prepaid based on estimates will likely be ineligible.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, officials already preparing to potentially have to issue refunds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIGGS: In Fairfax, they collected more than $16 million in prepaid property taxes Tuesday alone from more than 3,000 taxpayers. I spoke with a tax professional this morning saying this crowds, the confusion, it's all an example of why you do not rush through major tax legislation too fast for the IRS, the state and local governments to get up to speed -- Ana.
CABRERA: Making a busy time of the year even busier. David Briggs, thank you.
BRIGGS: You got that right.
CABRERA: Still ahead, with new signs that North Korea could be prepping another provocative missile launch. We'll tell you why the U.S. wants to be more discrete about its military drills on the Korean Peninsula.
CABRERA: This morning a new report that anthrax anti-bodies have been discovered in one of the four North Korean defectors, so this means he was either vaccinated against anthrax or exposed to the deadly substance.
South Korean officials could not confirm that report to CNN, but it all comes as U.S. officials tell us the rogue regime could be preparing for another missile launch.
CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr is joining us now. Barbara, what are these officials telling you about what they're seeing?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Ana. I think could be preparing probably are the very key words there. They're seeing some very initial signs we're told. Equipment, possibly vehicles, moving around. These are always some of the very preliminary indications that something could be happening down the road.
Too soon to say whether it's a missile test launch. Possibly the launch of a satellite which is something North Korea has talked about or they might be moving stuff around trying to deceive the United States knowing that U.S. satellites are overhead watching their every move.
But it all comes at a very sensitive time because, of course, early in 2018, we are all headed towards watching the Olympic games in South Korea and the effort right now to make that the region stays quiet, stable with no provocations on any sides up through those Olympic games.
Everybody's looking for some stability in the region so if North Korea were to engage in a provocation it's going to be quite unsettling -- Ana.
CABRERA: You're also reporting the Trump administration is planning to be more discrete about U.S. military exercises with South Korea and Japan going forward. Tell us more about this.
STARR: Well, again, the same idea as you head into the Olympic games, you want to keep things quiet, stable. North Korea always voices very aggressive objections when the U.S. engages in training or war games with South Korea, with japan aimed at demonstrating military power against North Korea.
So, the idea to keep it quiet for a while for that kind of stability, but there's a bit of a risk to that kind of strategy. The Pentagon likes to talk about when it's doing training and war games because they want people to know that it's simply is training.
So, there is no miscalculation that they are headed towards real world military operations.