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Roy Moore Files Lawsuit to Block Election Result; Trump Falsely Claims He Broke Legislative Record; Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired December 28, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] SGT. AARON THOMPSON, JUMPED INTO FROZEN POND TO SAVE 8- YEAR-OLD: I have. Jason's father reached out to me a couple of times now, just expressing his gratitude, you know, not only towards me but towards all first responders. The doctors, the nurses, the life flight crew, the paramedics, the firemen. Everybody was there. This was a team effort.

I guess I was just the one that went in the water so I'm the one that's kind of being focused on here, but this really is about all emergency services and a combined effort to save this young man's life.

BILL WEIR, CNN ANCHOR: We salute you.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's really nice of you, sir.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Sergeant Aaron Thompson, thank you for all you do. Thank you for being with us this morning. And what a Christmas miracle.

WEIR: You're a hero, Sergeant. We salute you.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

WEIR: All right. Time for "CNN NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow. We'll see you tomorrow.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Now that is an incredible Christmas miracle story. Our thanks to that sergeant and our best wishes to that little boy and his family.

The top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has a well-deserved morning off.

Moments ago, Alabama secretary of state confirmed to CNN that Democrat Doug Jones will be certified today as the winner of the state's special election for that open Senate seat. That's despite a lawsuit filed overnight by the accused child molester and former Republican candidate, Roy Moore.

Moore claims there is rampant voter fraud. He's calling for an investigation. And what about all of those sexual misconduct and sexual assault claims against him? He says he took a polygraph test. He says that proves he's innocent. Boris Sanchez is with me and has all of the developments.

So, look, I mean, John Merrill, the Republican secretary of state of Alabama, was a supporter of Roy Moore and he just came on CNN and said, look, nothing changes.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. This was really a last gasp hail Mary attempt by Roy Moore to, at the very least, delay the certification of the results of the special election in Alabama dating back to December 12th. In this affidavit filed last night he demands either a new special election or a thorough investigation of what he claims was voter fraud.

Let's break down the affidavits. Specifically he cites 20 precincts in Jefferson County in Alabama. This is an area with a high African- American population, and according to this affidavit, Moore's election integrity experts say that turnout was unusually high and irregular, so much so that it makes the results in Jefferson County suspicious.

The affidavit also claims that people from out of state were bussed into Alabama to vote for Roy Moore's opponent, Doug Jones, who ended up winning the special election by more than 20,000 votes.

Now these election integrity experts are also kind of raising eyebrows, one of them, Richard Charnin, has a bit of colorful past. He has pushed conspiracy theories about the assassination of former president, John F. Kennedy, as well the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich. But perhaps the most surprising thing about this affidavit has to be the admission from Roy Moore that he took a polygraph test after the special election to answer questions about the allegations of sexual misconduct against him that he inappropriately courted teenagers when he was district attorney and in his 30s.

Moore is making the case that that polygraph test clears him. In fact he writes in the affidavit, 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." And he goes on to call these allegations "false and malicious attacks on my character."

In a press release attached to the affidavit he pushed for supporters to call the secretary of state's office to demand that the certification of these results be delayed, but as you noted, Poppy, the secretary of state of Alabama saying that by 2:00 p.m. local time, he, the attorney general and the governor of Alabama would certify the results in favor of Doug Jones, essentially rendering this last-ditch effort by Roy Moore a failure -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Indeed. Boris Sanchez, we appreciate the reporting in Washington today. Thank you very much.

Meantime, the president is winding down his first year in office. He is touting his accomplishments. Listen to what he said late yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things that people don't understand, we have signed more legislation than anybody. We broke the record of Harry Truman.


HARLOW: Except that's not true. The fact is that President Trump has signed fewer bills in his first year in office in any administration dating back to President Eisenhower.

Abby Phillip is in West Palm Beach where the president is spending the holiday. He's accomplished a lot on other fronts so it's a bit odd that he's touting the number of bills when it's factually not the case.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, Poppy. It's possible that what he was trying to refer to was some of the regulatory pieces that he's rolled back as part of this administration, but as you and I know that is not the same thing as signing a bill into law.

Take a look at where President Trump is in the list of recent presidents. He's almost all the way near the bottom of that list.

[09:05:06] He signed 96 bills into law since taking office. Other presidents going all the way back to Eisenhower, 514 bills into law, John F. Kennedy 684, and more recently Barack Obama, 118, George W. Bush, 102. So the president is pretty far off the mark on this one.

But yesterday's trip to the firehouse was really all about talking about what he's accomplished in the first year. He's very, very proud of the tax bill which he calls the legislation of all legislations. Listen to some of the other comments that he made to the firemen yesterday.


TRUMP: You're doing well, right? You're all doing well. The 401(k)s are doing well. The stocks are doing well. A lot of companies coming back into the country and they are coming back into the country that we love, which is what we care about. Even before the tax cuts, and I will tell you that tax cut bill is something.


PHILLIP: So the president clearly very proud of what he's accomplished in the last couple of weeks. He is down here in south Florida at his Mar-a-Lago resort. A couple of minutes ago he left Mar-a-Lago to head to the Trump International Golf Course where he has been for the last three days. Despite saying back to work on Tuesday, we have not had much else on the agenda other than visits to that golf resort and that impromptu stop at the firehouse yesterday -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Abby Phillip, in West Palm Beach, thank you very much.

With me now Philip Bump, national political reporter for the "Washington Post," and Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times."

Nice to have you both here. So, Lynn, help me understand why the president would not have instead said, I got a Supreme Court pick, I got all of the lower court picks, I got travel ban 3.0 through. I got a partial Obamacare repeal and by the way I got the first, you know, tax reform in three decades. Why not tout all of those, which are big, big accomplishments for his base and for conservatives?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, and some of this is best left to psychologists, not to political reporter. This is what people who are serial liars and embellishers do. They can't distinguish between facts and the need and craving that President Trump has just to declare himself in any category the best, the biggest, the smartest.

Now everyone knows that all legislation isn't the same, Poppy. A bill renaming a post office is not the same as a consequential sweeping overhaul of the tax bill, so people make gradations. Everything you've just said are things that are worth bragging about, that President Trump did accomplish. And the naming alone of a Supreme Court justice who you think carries out your values is a consequential achievement.

The fact that Trump keeps framing and as we near a year in office for him can't stop this habitual, serial, compulsive need to aggrandize himself and be better than anyone. The festivus and this incessant comparison to other presidents, it's again -- the total answer is psychological but the political answer is he either thinks this keeps his base. He either thinks -- and I'm extrapolating, that he is and or he truly believes this which is a little bit -- which is everything you think it is when somebody totally disregards the facts, even on something as simple as bills signed.

HARLOW: Philip, to you, here is a fact, and that is that the Republican secretary of state of Alabama this morning saying on our air that, indeed, Doug Jones will be, you know, certified as the winner of the Senate -- special Senate election. That Roy Moore has claimed -- I mean, this is essentially him saying Roy Moore's sort of Hail Mary overnight with this lawsuit claiming voter fraud has -- holds no water, even though he didn't put it in those terms.

It strikes me that there are some things from Roy Moore that are similar to the President Trump playbook. One of them is claim voter fraud, set up a commission is what the president did even though he won the election, and also say all women that come out with allegations against you are liars. Is this the Trump playbook going bad, going sour for Roy Moore?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, I think that the voter fraud issue in particular extends well beyond Donald Trump. I mean, Donald Trump sort of seized on it last year in anticipation of, you know, back when the poll numbers suggested that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected the next president. Trump started talking about this issue of voter fraud.

This has been something that Republicans have isolated as an issue for some time now in part to be able to advocate for voter I.D. laws which then have the net effect of actually suppressing turnout from Democrat as a general rule. But I think it's important to note that in this case, those voter fraud claims, they are totally baseless.

[09:10:03] They were made by Roy Moore as they usually are. There's very little in-person voter fraud as has been documented repeatedly. And Alabama is a state with voter I.D. I mean, it is a state that actually has already passed laws, the sorts of things people argue for to combat voter fraud. So all of that said, I don't know that this is specific to Donald Trump, this issue of voter fraud, but it certainly is the case that there continued to be these parallels between what we see with the candidacy of Roy Moore and the candidacy of Donald Trump.

And it sort of raises the specter of had Donald Trump lost last November, I guess November 2016 at this point.


BUMP: What would have been the outcome? Would it have been something similar to this, with him continuing to fight?

HARLOW: And, Philip, just while I have you, one of the, you know, things that president keeps touting over and over again is the rise of the stock market. And it's great for anyone along this market, although half of Americans don't have a penny in the market, we should remember that, it's great for folks that are along this market, it's not unique to this president and in your new piece in the "Washington Post" this week, you point out, it's not unique to global markets right now, period.

BUMP: That's right. Yes, so Trump, as you said, he does like to tout the stock market in part because he likes to isolate particular numbers. They show him doing well, which I think is also why he made up that claim about the legislation. But there are -- yes, it is important to note that along with the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 index, they have both been rising consistently since 2009. This well pre-dates Donald Trump's tenure or election.

But also we've seen increases in the DAX in Germany and in the Hang Seng and in the Nikkei in Japan. And at the same time if you look at the first year of Barack Obama's presidency, if you look at the first year of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency, you saw greater increases in the Dow --


HARLOW: President Bush. Yes.

BUMP: For H.W. Bush, exactly.


BUMP: Saw nearly equivalent rise. So these are -- again, this is an example of Donald Trump seizing on a number which he thinks portrays him well even if it doesn't really convey the message he has. HARLOW: Lynn, just on another note aside, but interesting, Steve

Bannon, very quickly, the president's -- formerly his chief strategist and his platform, Breitbart, breaking up with a controversial candidate, if you will, running against Speaker Paul Ryan, that is Paul Nehlen. This is the far-right activist, someone who recently has been using the hashtag #itsoktobewhite. He's, you know, touted reading this book that is widely seen as being anti-Semitic.

I don't get why right now this is the line, this guy is the line for Breitbart and Bannon to come out and say no, we're not behind him anymore.

SWEET: I don't know what triggered the final cutting between them, but the real question is, why would you go with this candidate to begin with? All anyone has to do is look at his last 20 tweets to know that this is somebody who is a white nationalist, who is putting out anti-Semitic tweets. This is not somebody who any decent person should stand behind.

HARLOW: But it's interesting that sort of this is the one. You wonder if there's sort of an Alabama lesson in this. I don't know.

Lynn Sweet --

SWEET: Well, at least they're trying to cut their losses.

HARLOW: Maybe.

SWEET: And this is a district where Paul Ryan is popular. This is his home district in Wisconsin.


SWEET: So they cancel this guy -- yes. This isn't an open seat like it was in Alabama.

HARLOW: Very true.

SWEET: And whatever issues they have with Paul Ryan, they weren't going to solve them by getting a fringe candidate.

HARLOW: Lynn Sweet, thank you. Philip, nice to have you both. Appreciate it.

A lot ahead for us in this hour, North Korea developing deadly biological weapons, a new report raising fears about just that. We will explain.

Plus, putting that rocky year behind them? This morning the nation's top diplomat is the president's fiercest defender.

And the president has many buildings with his name on them. Soon he can add a rail station in Israel. Israel's plans to honor the president, ahead.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said Americans should be encouraged by the progress the State Department has made this year. He writes that in a "New York Times" op-ed this morning.

He also writes about Russia saying, quote, "There are no illusions about the Russia regime and he also adds that the U.S. has poor relationship with what he deems a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors going a lot farther than the president on that. Russia quick to respond this morning calling that opinion piece confrontational and in their words, fake news.

Let's discuss with our military analyst, Major General Spider Marks, and also CNN global affairs analyst, David Rohde. Nice to have you both here. David, I was struck by a number of things in this Tillerson op-ed.

He clearly has signed off from the White House, right, with him putting it out there. But what do you make about his comments on Russia because he goes so much further than the president did even in his address last week when they laid out the national security strategy?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The tone is very different. The tone is very different, I agree with you. It may have been signed off by staff at the White House, but the question always is, is it the president himself? The President Trump has been critical of Secretary of State Tillerson.

He might criticize his op-ed. He might ignore it, but the tone is very different and much more aggressive towards Moscow. President Trump himself continues to sort of praise Putin and see Russia as this, you know, great power, this tremendous influence around the world, which I don't see, personally, at least.

HARLOW: Spider, how do you see it?

MAJOR GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, our relationship with Russia has been defined previously, obviously through the Soviet Union, and we have to be able to determine where we want to cooperate with Russia.

As a matter of routine, we compete. We compete very, very well, but what we need to be able to do is define narrowly areas where we could cooperate. I would hope that the president sees that as a possibility, but I am happy to see the secretary of state being cautious about what that approach needs to look like.

HARLOW: Spider, also, I mean, when he writes about North Korea, the language that stood out to me is this. He talked about the Kim regime and saying, "A door to dialogue remains open, but we have made it clear the regime must earn its way back to the negotiating table. Until denuclearization occurs, the pressure will continue." Earn its way back to the negotiating table. [09:20:00] This after the president tweeted in October save your energy, Rex Tillerson, don't worry about negotiating with the Kim regime. What would it take? I mean, what does he mean by earn your way back to the negotiating table do you think, Spider?

MARKS: Yes. Well, clearly, North Korea has been incredibly provocative, but they are doing what they do. There's no surprise. We understand the arc of what this regime has been like, and there are no bumps in the road in terms of their movement toward achieving this capability.

I think the United States would be wise to declare North Korea a nuclear power, and that would put Kim in a far more precarious position and that would lead to a freeze of what his development has achieved so far in terms of missiles and in terms of nuclear development.

Certainly, there are other elements of weapons of mass destruction with chemicals and bio. That can all be good together and it should be, but that's how you earn your way back because the imposition of sanctions can take hold.

We need to get China onboard to include an approach that looks like a quarantine sanctions. There's a history where sanctions clearly do not work, but North Korea can in fact make progress.

The United States and South Korea can in fact make progress on the peninsula. I think it would start with a freeze and an acknowledgment. Look, he's achieved the capability. Let's start there and let's hold what you got.

HARLOW: David, clearly Tillerson is well aware of the controversy within his own State Department, the number of departures and the ambassadors who have spoken out against him and what has been done at the State Department, he addresses that somewhat in his opinion piece.

Here's what he writes, "Our challenges must address root problems that lead to inefficiencies and frustrations. We are giving our people more opportunities to flourish professionally and spend more time confronting the global problems they have dedicated their careers to solving. What do you make of that?

ROHDE: Look, every current and former diplomat I have spoken to, said that Tillerson is gutting the State Department. A hundred top diplomats have left -- if a hundred top generals left the Pentagon under a Democratic administration, you know, that would be seen as an outcry.

So, I credit Secretary Tillerson I think with this North Korean approach. He has pursued negotiations and I agree that's the appropriate route there, but he has not done a good job running the State Department.

It's been a huge frustration to the people who work there. Young people aren't applying to become diplomats. I mean, it's really been a denigration of a critical elements with U.S. foreign policy. HARLOW: Look, it shows how different it is running, you know, a government entity like that than running a Fortune 50 company like ExxonMobil, which he ran, you know, for so long.

MARKS: You know, Poppy, there are only four elements of power, and as David indicated, diplomatic power is primary among all the others, which are information, military and economic, and if you don't have a robust diplomatic effort you have to build more weapons systems to solve problems. That's a bad solution.

HARLOW: That's a very important point, General. Thank you both. We appreciate it, General Spider Marks and David Rohde.

All right. So, new fears that North Korea is developing deadly biological weapons. The North Korean soldier that defected to South Korea has now been found to have anthrax antibodies in his system.

This is according to a South Korean television report that indicates that the soldier was either vaccinated against anthrax or exposed to it at some point. We must note that South Korea's National Intelligence Service told CNN it alone could not confirm that reporting.

Also, this morning, new signs that North Korea could be preparing for another missile launch. A lot of developments. Let's go to Barbara Starr with more on that front. Good morning, Barbara. First to that, what are those signs showing us?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, the question just as your panel was discussing, is North Korea preparing for another provocation. Sources are telling us, U.S. government sources are telling us there are some very preliminary indications that North Korea may be, once again, moving equipment around.

Including potentially vehicles that could be indications of preliminary activity for either another ballistic missile test or possibly the launch of a satellite. Either of those would be provocative because the South Korean Olympics are coming up after the new year.

And everybody is focused on trying to keep the peninsula very calm and very much a steady state in the region during those Olympic Games. So, something the U.S. is watching closely, preliminary signs. They have no conclusions yet, but they are watching around the clock -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Barbara, one of the other developments that you are reporting on in the last 12 or so hours, the Trump administration made a strategic decision, and that is to be more quiet, in their words, more discreet, about talking about these joint military exercises with our allies in South Korea and Japan. That is very significant. Why?

STARR: Well, quiet for now. Again, look at the calendar, the Olympics are coming up. [09:25:07] North Korea has always very publicly objected to U.S. war games in the region. China is very sensitive about it. So, it starts, at least, with the idea keep the peninsula quiet and stable during the run-up to the Olympic games and at least through the games.

There were U.S. military exercises scheduled and the Pentagon won't say whether they are continuing with them. It's very unusual because militarily you want to talk about your training, war game and exercises because you don't want your adversaries to interpret that perhaps real military operations may be under way.

You want everyone to understand the difference between operations and simply training. So, the Pentagon may be a little nervous about this strategy of not talking about it, but, of course, the big unknown in the coming weeks is what will President Trump do.

He may be looking at this and not talking about it very much or we could see him once again on Twitter with very assertive language about North Korea -- Poppy.

HARLOW: We will see if he tweets about it in his words, "Little Rocket Man." Barbara Starr, thank you.

So, more than two dozen Republican lawmakers are calling it quits this year. One Republican on his way out says Washington is in worse shape than when he got there. Congressman Charlie Dent is with me.

Also, we are just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street taking a look at future stocks set to open higher once again. The Dow inching closer and closer to that 25,000-milestone mark. We're keeping an eye on the market before the bell. Stay with us.