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China Shipping Oil to North Korea?; Trump Golfs Yet Again; Roy Moore Contesting Senate Loss in Alabama. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 28, 2017 - 15:00   ET



DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Roy Moore lost to Doug Jones by just roughly 20 -- I'm sorry, not -- by 21,924 votes. The number of write-in votes in this election was 22,852.

Ana, if you remember, a lot of Republicans who said that they couldn't stomach voting for Roy Moore when those accusations came out, including Senator Shelby here in Alabama, said that they did a write- in candidate. It exceeds the number of votes in which Roy Moore lost by here.

And so this does sort of show -- it also indicates that as the margin of victory of Doug Jones grew from election night until today. So Roy Moore on election night said that they were waiting for those provisional ballots, they were waiting for those military ballots. They knew that they had extra votes in there.

It turns out it was quite the opposite. The margin of victory for Doug Jones simply increased, instead of getting smaller. And the secretary of state here very protective over what he considered to be an election that was on the up and up.

He says voter integrity and election integrity very seriously and admits, though, even though this is certified, Ana, we may not have heard the last of Roy Moore. He still has from 48 hours from the time that certificate was signed, at 1:10 p.m. local time, to pony up the cash and call for his own recount if he'd like to.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: One thing that has been getting a lot of attention regarding this last-minute fight of sorts is this polygraph that the Moore campaign has been talking about today.

What more can you tell us about it?

GALLAGHER: So, it's sort of -- was a bit confusing to people at first as to why it was that actually included, that information, in the motion, the lawsuit to begin with.

But I want you to listen to something that happened between a Roy Moore spokesperson and Dana Bash a little bit earlier today as to why they thought it was important to put in there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Can you give me the circumstances of that polygraph test? Who administered it? Were there witnesses? So on and so forth.

JANET PORTER, MOORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: That's all been submitted to the court. I think it's connected to the complaint.

BASH: I know, but most people aren't reading all 84 pages.


PORTER: All I know is that it's a renown independent expert, that when he went before, he took the polygraph test. Not surprising to anyone who knows Judge Moore, he completely passed it.

What do you know? He didn't know any of these women and he never conducted, engaged in sexual conduct. What a surprise. To those who know him, it's not.

BASH: Why didn't he take the polygraph in the almost a month between the time these allegations came out and his Election Day?

PORTER: Dana, we may not agree on much, but you and I agree on that.

I will say, if I had -- if I was the one running the campaign, I have absolutely seen that that was done. But where we are right now, he took the test, he passed the test. And he also said, hey, all these people who have made these baseless allegations, you do the same.

Do a polygraph test. And if there is any variation, let's go to an independent -- he's willing to go to before somebody that is chosen between the two, they both agree upon and let everybody take a polygraph test. How about that?


GALLAGHER: Yes, so, Ana, real quick, it is important to point out that signed affidavit claiming that he took a test and passed it, that was signed by Roy Moore.

The polygraph administrator didn't file that paperwork, nor sign an affidavit. So this is again Roy Moore word. He's signing saying that this all happened. Something a bit unusual to include in a voter fraud lawsuit attempting to delay the certification of the election.

CABRERA: Which didn't work. Dianne Gallagher, thank you for the very latest from Montgomery, Alabama.

Joining us now to talk more about the politics of all this and any political fallout, CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Scott Jennings, both Republicans.

I will start with you, Ana. Does this Roy Moore move help or hut Republicans politically?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: At this point, I'm not even sure it's much a Republican problem. Certainly, supporting him in the general was a Republican problem. His defeat was a Republican problem. His candidacy and the race he ran was a Republican problem.

But right now, this is a Roy Moore problem. This is a 71-year-old guy who can now sore loser and cry baby to pedophile, homophobe, racist guy who likes to hide behind the cloak of Jesus Christ to say some of the most hateful, stupid things in the world.

This guy just doesn't know when to quit. Look, the president of the United States, who supported him, has basically congratulated the new senator, Doug Jones, from the night that it happened. Everybody else seemed to have moved on.

This guy is in complete denial. He needs a hobby, one that doesn't involve being around children, girls or in malls. But he needs to take up knitting, underwater basket weaving. Maybe he could go train Sassy. I don't know. But this is over. Put a fork in it. You're done.

CABRERA: Scott, do you worry at all about the impact, on a very serious note, of questioning election integrity? Does that set a dangerous precedent?


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think it sets a dangerous precedent.

And I actually think this helps the Republican Party today. And here is why, because Roy Moore is a snake oil salesman surrounded by charlatans, surrounded by grifters. This guy's candidacy from day one was bad news for the Republican Party.


CABRERA: But President Trump endorsed him full-heartedly.

JENNINGS: Yes, I understand. And I wish he hadn't done that.

And I sort of publicly always advised the president this was a bad idea. And they did it. And now Roy Moore is out of the way, which is ultimately, trust us, trust Ana and me, it's going to be a good thing for the Republican Party.

But at the end of the day here, at the end of the line, we see what Roy Moore is. We see what they really are. They have degraded themselves into this ridiculous lawsuit that I think uses the word inexplicable more than any other word in the lawsuit.

But you know what's not inexplicable? How a guy like Roy Moore lost this race. He was a bad candidate. He hurt the Republican Party during the campaign. Thank goodness he's out of the way.

They need to let this go. And I hope people see him for what he is here at the end, somebody who just cannot accept the reality that he got beat in the reddest state in America. CABRERA: Ana, even Steve Bannon, who really backed Moore, campaigned

for him there, he seems to be having a change of heart at least for a different candidate who has been scrutinized for tweets that seem anti-Semitic, tweets that use the hashtag it's OK to be white.

I'm talking about Paul Nehlen. He's running against Paul Ryan in a primary for his Wisconsin congressional seat. Do you think Bannon's backtracking in this case as a result of lessons learned in Alabama?

NAVARRO: Look, frankly, I don't know and I don't care.

I think Steve Bannon is much to-do about nothing. I think this is a guy who wants to create his own myth. We have now seen him get beat in Alabama, despite going up there and giving it his all. He really is hurting the Republican Party by backing these very hateful, divisive candidates who are just not representative of the Republican values that most of us grew up with.

And, as far as I'm concerned, he's been defeated and he's been defeated pretty badly already, Steve Bannon. So who cares at this point what he's doing? The only reason that guy exists is because there is some secretive billionaires willing to keep funding him.

CABRERA: Do you agree with Ana on that, Scott, that Steve Bannon is sort of yesteryear and doesn't really matter in terms of political influence anymore?

JENNINGS: Well, he matters to the extent that President Trump keeps talking to him. I think he's been involved with two campaigns and both of them lost the popular vote.

It so happens that President Trump was saved by the Electoral College. But in Roy Moore's case, he of course lost the popular vote in a state where Democrats had no business coming within 20 points of a Senate candidate, let alone winning it.

I think Bannon needs to rethink his strategy here on going after Senate candidates and incumbent U.S. senators in the 2018 cycle, because if what we've learned in Alabama is what he is going to do going forward, the Republicans are going to lose control.

Right now, what the Republican Party has to do is focus on good candidates in what is going to be a bad general election environment. If you can lose Alabama with Roy Moore, you can definitely lose other states that aren't as favorable terrain for the Republicans.

So messing around with the congressional majorities here, I'm telling you, is bad news for the Trump presidency. If Democrats get control of either chamber, it will grind this presidency to a halt.

CABRERA: Let me ask you a little bit about what this president has accomplished. He was yesterday touting accomplishments claiming to have the most legislative victories of any president since Truman.

But when we did a quick fact-check, it's not true at all. In fact, he's actually he's signed fewer bills in his first year in office than any administration dating back to Eisenhower. And yet he just passed tax reform. He has plenty to celebrate, Ana. He could avoid putting out false claims, so why go there?

NAVARRO: Because it's his nature, because he's a pathological liar, because he began 2017 lying about having the largest inaugural crowds and about illegal immigrants voting in the elections and costing him the popular vote, and because he has continued lying, embellishing, exaggerating this entire year.

It's just his nature. Look, Ana, it's very hard to change a man at 71. I think it's very hard to change a man after they have teethed, much less after they've become full-grown adults. This guy is not going to change. He just doesn't think truth matters. He thinks him saying something makes it true. That he wants to believe it, he wants to put it out there he thinks makes it true.

But, look, facts are facts. History is history. Archives are archives. And there are people who take the time to PolitiFact the things he says.

I don't think he care that they aren't true. I think he just likes the high of saying it and hearing himself congratulate himself.


CABRERA: Scott, do you agree?

JENNINGS: Well, I think that what we have to think about here are the political ramifications of what they have accomplished.

And it has been a great deal. Whether you consider a president to be successful by signing bills into law or not, you cannot deny the stock market is up, unemployment is really low. We have more optimism in the American economy. ISIS is on the run. There have been great reports on that.

We have drilling in the Arctic, judges on the circuit, a Supreme Court justice. By the end of this year, they had an impressive round of accomplishments. And I think President Trump supporters...


CABRERA: Why not list all of those, instead of speaking in untruths?

JENNINGS: Yes, look, I'm not going to try to get inside the head of the president on that.

But what I would say is Republicans right now, especially since they got tax reform, are generally pretty happy with the policy direction of this administration, even if there are days when they are not happy with the public communication direction, of what's going on.

They have accomplished most of what they set out to do, even going so far as to strike at the heart of Obamacare by repealing the individual mandate inside of tax reform. It's very difficult I think at this point to argue that President Trump didn't do anything this year. They did quite a lot and Republicans are pretty happy about it.

CABRERA: So the president has also accomplished another record for turnover rate in his first year.

According to "The Wall Street Journal," he has a 34 turnover rate -- 21 of 61 senior officials have resigned, been fired, or reassigned, much higher than that of any administration in 40 years.

Is that cause for concern, Scott?

JENNINGS: No, I don't think so.

Look, working in the White House under normal conditions is a meat grinder. I know. I worked in one for almost three years. Working in a White House that's under investigation is even more stressful. And working in a White House under a new president with a group of people who didn't have a lot of governing experience I'm sure adds even more anxiety and stress.

Let's also be honest. There were a few people who took jobs in the White House that probably should not have been hired in the first place. They washed out rather quickly.

I think the team they have in place right now, with the chief of staff, with the communications staff they have, the political director, Bill Stepien -- I wrote a column this week arguing he's doing a good job. I think the staff they have in place is a good staff.

Some of the people that needed to wash out washed out. But make no mistake. Working in a White House under just about any circumstance is really difficult to do. It's a lot of anxiety and it's a lot of stress. And for the people who have been caught up in any investigatory issues, there's a lot of legal bills that pile up as well.

CABRERA: Ana, final thought.

NAVARRO: It's been a chaotic year for that White House.

The turnover is not good because of the chaos that it creates. But it's good in that I think he's gotten rid of some very problematic people. I think the White House is a better place for not having a Steve Bannon in it. It is a better place for having a more professional staff in it.

The problem is Donald Trump was an outsider to politics. He really didn't have a team of seasoned political veterans around him who had worked together and knew how to work together and get something done. And he had all of these, frankly, apprentices working in the White House.

And, yes, they got fired. And a lot of them deserved to get fired. There are still a couple there who are hanging on who should be.

CABRERA: Like? NAVARRO: To look around the White House, you don't -- look, I think

one of the hardest things to do, Ana, is to go out there, and try to defend a president who lies and embellishes and exaggerates all the time.

I think that being a communications director, being a spokesperson for this president is, frankly, a Herculean feat, which is not easily done and easily sustainable for a long time.

I think you need to have somebody who is able to tell him, I am not going to go out there and defend your lies. We've got to get on the same page. I see he's going to see a lot more turnover as the one- year mark goes on, because the other thing this president has done is that it's not just the White House. His Cabinet, he's constantly in conflict, public conflict with them.

CABRERA: All right. Got to leave it there.

Ana Navarro, Scott Jennings, thank you.

One person we know who has had his future in the administration questioned is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and he's putting himself out there, taking a tough tone against Russia in a new op-ed in "The New York Times" today. The response from the Kremlin and the other reasons why Tillerson says he is proud of America's diplomacy.

Plus, we will talk about what's happening in Florida with the president and his golfing. He has hit the links again for the third day in a row. But we have an update on that mysterious white truck that was attempting to block CNN cameras from seeing his golf game, a live report from there straight ahead.

And later, the mad rush for people in high tax-states to prepay their property taxes, but some experts say it may not be worth it.



CABRERA: Confrontational and fake news is how Russia has labeled a "New York Times" op-ed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

In it, Tillerson writes: "The United States today has a poor relationship with a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine in the past decade and undermined the sovereignty of Western nations by meddling in our election and others."

So, the stage is set for a tense 2018, as President Trump takes to Twitter to shame China as well over its reluctance to stop propping up North Korea.

The president tweeting; "Caught red-handed. Very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea. There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen."

Elise Labott is joining us now. She's our global affairs correspondent.

Elise, do we know what spurred that latest tweet from the president?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, there have been some actions by the Treasury in the last month or so about North Korea receiving shipments of oil.

They never necessarily fingered China, but in the last week, there have been some anonymous reports in newspapers overseas and a Seoul news organization that have kind of repeated itself on some of the outlets here, including FOX News and Breitbart.


And so I think that the president is getting it from that. I mean, that said, there is a lot of question about whether China is going to implement sanctions on North Korea.

President Trump has really been looking for China to cut off oil shipments to North Korea. Last week, the U.N. Security Council passed the toughest sanctions yet to date on North Korea, cutting off about 90 percent of its fuel shipments.

And so I think we need to see, those reports aside from the last month or two, whether China will implement these latest sanctions, and that could really be a game-changer if they do.

CABRERA: And I imagine world leaders are listening and watching and reading both what the president is writing and saying, what they are hearing from his secretary of state. So how do their two statements today jibe, given we just had this op-ed as well from Rex Tillerson?

LABOTT: Well, look, it's very difficult to ascertain where policy is being made, who is making it, and what really is the truth.

If you look at the president's tweets on any number of things, whether it's cracking down on China trade, or talking about Russia, the rhetoric from President Trump refuses to recognize that Russia meddled in the election, while the rest of the administration, and clearly today Secretary of State Tillerson did.

I think there is a little bit of a disconnect, or a big disconnect, actually, between the president's tweets and what is coming out of his mouth and the actual policies of his administration.

You know, even though he refuses to criticize President Putin, although he refuses to recognize the election meddling, if you look at what this administration is doing on Russia, you know, last week, the U.S. named a lot of Russian individuals that are going to be subject to U.S. sanctions at the end of next month.

President Trump last week approved the first sale of lethal force to the Ukrainian military. In his op-ed, Secretary of State Tillerson said that it will never be business as usual if Russia continues it actions in Ukraine. So, you know, it's a really hard to separate the rhetoric from

reality, but I think that diplomats are starting to realize that the tweets, while President Trump sees it as a good communications tool, you really have to look at what the actions are of this administration, even if the rhetoric coming out of various mouths of different administration officials is different.

CABRERA: The State Department has also been criticized both internally and from the outside for what some have described as Tillerson's gutting of the department.

And you and I have talked about the low morale that even his spokesperson has addressed. How is Tillerson talking about this issue in his op-ed?

LABOTT: Well, I think this is part of effort by Secretary Tillerson that started a couple of weeks ago.

And you're kind of seeing this ramp in the new year to kind of reframe this debate about his State Department. Look, I think part of the problem is that there is low morale at the State Department. The Foreign Service doesn't feel appreciated. They don't feel like their ideas are being taken into consideration.

The other problem is Secretary Tillerson, I think admittedly, is not very good about communicating what he is doing and how the ideas of the State Department are funneling into the policies that he is advocating with the president.

So I think when he rolled out his redesign, there was a lot of questions about it. You are going to see a little bit more of that. But what he's saying is, essentially, I want to cut out the bureaucratic red tape, I want to cut out the bureaucracy, human resources, technology that stops the diplomats from doing their job.

So we will see if he's able to do that. We will see if he's going to boost morale. But I think, when you have an op-ed today that comes out, I'm proud of the State Department diplomacy, that's really an effort by Secretary Tillerson to reframe the debate and say, look, it's not all as gloom and doom as everybody says it is. This is what we're actually getting done.

CABRERA: All right. Elise Labott in Washington, thank you.

Up next: President Trump takes to the golf course for the third day in a row. Today, we didn't see that large white truck trying to block our cameras. But we have an update to what has happened regarding that white truck. A former Secret Service agent is going to join us live to discuss what it was all about.



CABRERA: Another day of golf for President Trump, the third straight day of hitting the links, despite this tweet from Monday saying he would be back to work after Christmas.

Take a look at this video. You can see the president here on the golf course. This is today, where there were no attempts to block CNN's view of the president. Yesterday was a different story.

A large white truck pulled up directly in front of our cameras. It appeared to be done on purpose, as that truck moved back and forth to block the view of CNN's photojournalists, and only left when the president moved on.

Well, joining us to discuss is CNN law enforcement analyst and a former Secret Service under President Obama Jonathan Wackrow, and CNN politics reporter Dan Merica.

So, Dan, I will start with you. Help us come full circle with this mystery of the truck. We know the truck was not blocking the cameras today. What more have you learned?

DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICS PRODUCER: Yes, so our job down here is to cover.

And what the president often does when he's on vacation here in Florida is hit his golf course near his estate at Mar-a-Lago. Because the state doesn't often confirm the fact that he's golfing, our reporters and cameramen have been very good at getting views of the president through trees that have been lined around this golf course.

And, as you mentioned, on Wednesday, a large white box truck pulled into one of those views, obscuring the president as he went by. As our cameras tried to move, that white box truck moved with them to further obscure that shot.

Now, the sheriff's department here denied that this was directed by them at all.