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Sex Allegations Rock Alabama Senate Race; Conflicting Signals on Trump-Putin Meeting: WSJ: Flynn Offered $15 Million to Deliver Cleric to Turkey. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired November 10, 2017 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These women agreed to speak publicly to show there's another side to Roy Moore.
[07:00:06] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump calling for Roy Moore to step aside, if the allegations are true.
STEVE BANNON, BREITBART NEWS: The "Washington Post" that dropped that dime on Trump dropped a dime on Judge Roy Moore. Is that coincidence?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was his first project, and it has blown up on the Republican Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he continues to stand, the chances of a Democrat picking up that seat go up considerably.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The White House announcing President Trump will not hold a formal sit-down with Vladimir Putin.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The Kremlin spokesman said there would be a meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Russia clearly involved itself to change the American election. It leads up to the question is there a crime committed?
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. The White House and the Republican lawmakers calling on Alabama's controversial GOP Senate nominee to withdraw from the race if allegations of sexual misconduct with several teenage girls are true.
A defiant Roy Moore denies the "Washington Post" report. He calls the accusations, quote, "a desperate political attack," and he vows to stay in the race.
CUOMO: President Trump, of course, is in Asia. And that trip is being overshadowed by these political turmoil events here at home.
The eyes of the world are going to be on whether or not Mr. Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam. We've been told it was on. Then the White House said it was off, but the Kremlin said it was on. And now they're both saying that there is a scheduling conflict.
We have it all covered for you. Let's begin with CNN's Martin Savidge live in Gadson, Alabama.
How is this story about Roy Moore playing there?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.
This is all coming down as a huge shock here on a number of levels. Of course the seriousness of the allegations that are being made against Moore. But then, on top of that, the timing just weeks before a critical election. And they all go back to this town and the courthouse right here.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): The Trump administration responding to the bombshell allegations that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually molested a 14-year-old girl over 30 years ago, with a nod to both Moore's conservative supporters--
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation, in this case one from many years ago, to destroy a person's life.
SAVIDGE: -- and establishment Republicans, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
SANDERS: However, the president also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.
SAVIDGE: McConnell saying Thursday that if the allegations are true, Moore must step aside. Concerns echoed by a growing list of Republicans on Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're true, he should step aside.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: If that's true, I don't believe there would be any place for him in the U.S. Senate.
SAVIDGE: But Moore is digging in, denying the charges and blaming the, quote, "Obama-Clinton machine's liberal media lapdogs" for the "vicious and nasty round of attacks." And vowing to never give up the fight.
President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, standing by Moore, whom he championed during the primaries, comparing the timing of the "Washington Post" report to the release of the "Access Hollywood" tapes just before the 2016 election.
BANNON: Now is that a coincidence? That's what I mean when I say opposition party. SAVIDGE: Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when she was approached by Moore outside a courtroom in 1979. He was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. Corfman says he offered to stay with her while her mother went inside for a hearing. She says that Moore got her phone number and later took her to his house on two separate occasions.
BETH REINHARD, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": On one of the occasions, you know, undressed her, undressed himself and, you know, touched her over her bra and underwear and guided her to touch him over his underwear.
SAVIDGE: She said she was uncomfortable after that incident and asked Moore to take her home but never reported his behavior to police.
Three other women sharing troubling stories about Moore in recent weeks, telling "The Washington Post" that Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18, while he was in his thirties. But none alleged forceful sexual contact.
Moore, a devout Christian, is no stranger to controversy, remarking just this year that he thinks that the September 11 attacks was God's punishment for America's lack of morality and telling a reporter in a 2005 interview that homosexuality should be illegal.
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Just behind -- because it's done behind closed doors, it can still be prohibited by state law. Do you know that bestiality, the relationship between man and beast, is prohibited in every state?
SAVIDGE: One of the things that really impacts here is not that it's just politics we're talking about, Alisyn. It's also about faith, which is deeply important in this part of Alabama. Roy Moore has made it a point throughout his political career to stand strongly for what he says are his deep, religious conservative beliefs. If these allegations are true, they call into question all of that for many of his supporters -- Alisyn.
[07:05:10] CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Martin. And we'll just see how this plays out today and in the days to come. Thank you very much.
So Republicans in Washington are reeling over these allegations against Roy Moore. Could the scandal put the narrow majority at risk? CNN's Brianna Keilar has that side of our story. She's live on Capitol Hill with more.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Alisyn. And that's really the concern, especially after the elections on Tuesday night, where Democrats really swept in gubernatorial, mayoral and state legislative races, as well as ballot referendums. It put Republicans on notice, and that was one of the reasons why they wanted voters focused so much on their unveiling of their tax reform plans in both chambers yesterday.
But instead, the focus was on Roy Moore as Republicans struggled to deal with this topic. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. McConnell, do you believe the women who made these accusations against Roy Moore?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the record, these accusations against Roy Moore, sir?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Incredibly awkward there, as you see Republicans smiling and trying to ignore questions about this.
The official word coming from Mitch McConnell and from so many Republicans is that if these allegations are true, Roy Moore should step aside. But make no mistake, they do not want Roy Moore here on Capitol Hill. And they're hoping, certainly, that that's not going to be the case.
But they also realize that it's out of their control. The former chief of staff to Mitch McConnell saying publicly on the record, quote, this is what -- or this is what happens, quote, "when reckless, incompetent idiots like Steve Bannon recruit candidates."
Republicans already had issues with Roy Moore. He was so controversial. He wasn't their pick. But at this point in time, they also realize they may not have the ability to control this. This really comes down to the state party. If they're going to ask the secretary of state in Alabama to invalidate Moore's nomination as the Republican candidate.
And it comes down to the Alabama voters, because Roy Moore is going to be on the ballot. And really, some of this out of Senate Republicans' hands. But that may be part of the reason why you're hearing them say "if true." They're not necessarily sure exactly where this fervent Republican base that backs Roy Moore is.
CAMEROTA: Brianna, so interesting to figure out the timing of all of this. Thank you very much for the reporting.
So joining us now is reporter and editor at large for CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza; and associate editor of RealClearPOlitics, A.B. Stoddard.
So A.B., let me start with you, because obviously, Republicans don't need this. This is not what they want to -- you can see them all across the gamut trying to figure out the response. So let's just juxtapose what we saw from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell there and his sort of -- what appeared to be, like gritting his teeth and smiling awkwardly through these questions and then trying to sort of shoo reporters out of the room, with Senator John McCain, who as you know, has been sort of, I guess, a truth teller or at least unplugged in the last couple of months.
And he just unequivocally said -- we have a tweet from him that we can pull up -- "The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying. He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of."
What are you seeing happen?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, it's interesting. Chris went on Twitter that these are not allegations. They're accusations, because the women are actually telling the stories themselves and accusing him of doing this. Which is -- which is quite strong, and people should read the piece, because it's pretty solid.
That said, Republicans are in an awful jam. You have Alabama Republicans saying this is fine. You have every Republican in the Senate in Washington, including Vice President Mike Pence, coming out with a very stern statement saying, if true, this is not acceptable, that his candidacy is not sustainable.
This cannot be proven. This cannot be prosecuted. Roy Moore is defiant. And what's interesting about sort of the larger question of what goes on in the Republican Party, this is an amazing situation. The Republicans in Alabama defending Moore are basically admitting it's true and saying there's nothing wrong with it.
And then you have Steve Bannon saying that it's all just a conspiracy from Jeff Bezos of the "Washington Post" and Amazon. And he's, you know, going to be as defiant as Roy Moore about this.
There are people saying this is only going to increase his support. All the evangelicals will rally to support, just like they did with President Trump after the "Access Hollywood" tape was released.
So don't be surprised if Senatorial Republicans will have to turn around in a few weeks and say they back the nominee and everything is fine. Because unless Roy Moore finds the better angels inside of him, if this is true, and then backs down himself, I don't see anything changing. I see him winning the Senate race and coming to town.
[07:10:07] CUOMO: Well, they do have a problem if he has to step down, though, Chris, because his name, I think, under state law, would still stay on the ballot.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: That's right.
CUOMO: So he would certainly split the ticket.
But, you know, even that suggestion, that level of analysis kind of betrays the significance of this. They've got to balance their moral agency, which is so important to that party, with the political expediency here.
So Bannon comes out and says, "Wow, you can't -- the timing." Sure, you talk about the timing because you don't want to talk about the substance of the suggestions and the accusations. These kinds of things often come out at the end of races. And by the way, probably plays in favor, for Moore on one level, because they don't have a lot of time to decide what to do here. And if he gets elected, it's really hard to remove him.
So when you look at this, what is the question for Republican leadership right now about how to deal with this?
CILLIZZA: Yes. Look, I'd say moral agency is critical to both parties, right? You have to -- you have to show that you are willing to stand up for what is right, even when it is not politically the most--
CUOMO: And Christianity, very often. Roy Moore is running as a Christian--
CILLIZZA: Yes, yes. No question.
CUOMO: This man is controversial because of that even beforehand.
CILLIZZA: The statements that you saw -- well, you didn't see McConnell say anything in that one, but that clip that you played, which is amazing. But he put out a paper statement, essentially saying what every other member of Congress, Republican member, said: "If true, then Roy Moore has to step down."
That feels like a Band-Aid to me that won't suffice all the way through December 12 if Moore does stay defiant and stay in the race. To me it's not a "he said, she said" here. It's 30 sources. It's four women named and on the record. I don't think--
CUOMO: Trump voters, by the way.
CILLIZZA: Right. And--
CUOMO: So it's not like they dug up some Democrats to come out with a bunch of accusations.
CILLIZZA: Four women who did not know one other, four women who did not reach out to the "Washington Post," who only spoke when contacted by the "Washington Post."
CUOMO: Thirty surrounding sources in terms of corroboration for their reporting.
CILLIZZA: Correct. So to me, Chris, it just feels inadequate to say, "This is fake news." What does that mean? It doesn't -- it has no meaning.
When you're talking about allegations, accusations that are this serious, I don't think any right-minded person should just say, "Yes, this is fake news." A.B. said the most important thing. Read the story. I guarantee you if you read the story you are not going to come out of that thinking this is some slapdash attempt hit job piece.
I just think what Roy Moore said is inadequate, and I think that will come into play with Senate Republicans. John Thune is the No. 4 ranking Republican in leadership; said if he does the right thing, it won't be a problem for us nationally. Well, of course, he thinks the right thing is Roy Moore getting out. I don't think that's happening, and that means that Senate Republicans are going to have to go further than they have.
CAMEROTA: Yes. Roy Moore has said more than just, "This is fake news." I mean, he was active on Twitter. So let me just read you, A.B., a couple of things. "The forces of evil will lie, cheat, and steal, even inflict physical harm if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me." That's just one of the four tweets that we have.
He is at the moment digging in. And by the way, I mean, I think that you have made the point, when we've seen this deluge of accusations against powerful men, the powerful men who have admitted it in some way or apologized for something have lost their jobs and fallen. I'm thinking of Kevin Spacey. I'm thinking of Harvey Weinstein.
The powerful man who didn't admit anything about the accusations and called it locker-room talk was elected to the presidency. So you have two models of how you can choose to go with this.
STODDARD: Right. And that's the thing, is he's going to be urged by his supporters and Steve Bannon, who you know, is championing his candidacy and is banking a lot on this, literally, in millions of dollars of funds to his -- you know, his insurgent revolution of purifying the Republican Party of all establishment incumbents. And he is going to be urged by everyone to continue to fight.
And then, as I said, it's remarkable that the Republican officials in Alabama defending him basically agreed that this -- everything -- that the story was true, but that it was fine. What a statement that says about what Alabama Christian conservatives will do on December 12. I think--
CUOMO: The state auditor, Ziegler, you're talking about, who said in terms of the age disparity--
CAMEROTA: We need to hear it -- So listen to this. I mean, it's just--
CUOMO: This is how we do it, by the way. I tee up this piece--
CAMEROTA: And then I deliver.
CUOMO: And then you do these dramatic reads.
CAMEROTA: Thank you.
CUOMO: Which is good.
CAMEROTA: OK, "There is nothing to see her. The allegations are that a man in his early thirties dated teenage girls. Even 'The Washington Post' report says that he never had sexual intercourse with any of the girls and never attempted sexual intercourse. Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager, and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There's just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual."
[17:15:06] Well, that's not true. It is illegal.
STODDARD: Alisyn -- Alisyn, it is state law in Alabama now that, if you try to lure someone under the age of 16 -- just lure them -- into your home for the purpose of sexual intercourse, that is -- that is a felony.
So watching what the Christian conservative supporters of Roy Moore will do and say in the weeks to come, the actual voters will really, truly be interesting. I really believe, cynically and sadly in our -- in our tribal politics of late 2017, that people will say, "Oh, he's not a Democrat. Jeff Bezos is out to get him." You know, they will rationalize everything. And it's what we've seen with people rationalizing President Trump, because it's always about his opponents. It's never really truly about whether or not character counts, whether or not it's moral agency. It's, in the end this year what we've seen the most of is that it's always about their opponent and not really about what they've done.
CILLIZZA: And I think if you put party over principle, if you put part over principle again and again, true of either party, at the end of the day what you have as a party is not anything that you want to defend or sell.
I mean, that's -- you know, winning a single seat in Alabama is the focus here. Because they're worried that if they run away from Roy Moore, Doug Jones, a Democrat, who polls already suggest is closer than you would think, will win the seat. He would hold it, effectively, for two years, because in 2020, a Democrat running in Alabama would have a tough time winning.
But the bigger damage to the party of saying, "This is fine. This is fine. This is OK." Just switch it around. Imagine if it was a Democrat and what those same people would be saying. I guarantee it wouldn't be Joseph and Mary comparisons.
CAMEROTA: All right. Chris Cillizza, A.B. Stoddard, thank you very much.
CUOMO: So is Trump going to meet with Putin or not? Will the president of the United States make this very important meeting with the Russian president? First it was yes. Then it was maybe. Now we're saying there's a scheduling conflict. That's what we're told.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny live in Vietnam with more. What do you make of the vagaries of the certainty about this meeting?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. It's not uncommon for meetings like this, particularly on the Russian
side, to not exactly be scheduled. This happens in previous meetings. But I can tell you, trying to cut through all of this has been difficult.
The White House says a formal meeting is off, even though President Trump said just a week ago he wanted that meeting. The Kremlin is saying a chance encounter is likely. One thing we know for sure: this is all shining an even brighter spotlight on that Russian cloud that's still hanging over the White House.
ZELENY (voice-over): A highly-anticipated encounter between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, under negotiation for days, is awash in confusion this morning. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders telling reporters a scheduling conflict will prevent a formal meeting, although the two leaders could still cross paths.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- the same place, so are they going to bump into each other and say hello? Certainly possible and likely, but in terms of a scheduled, formal meeting, there's not one on the calendar and we don't anticipate that there will be one.
ZELENY (on camera): Just today?
SANDERS: There's not going to be anyone (ph).
ZELENY (voice-over): The president's 13-day trip to Asia continues to be overshadowed by a series of events at home, including developments in the Russia investigation, which is growing even closer to the Oval Office.
Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, seen here with the president aboard Air Force One, has been interviewed as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe, sources close to the investigation tell CNN. Miller is the highest-ranking aide still working at the White House known to have spoken to investigators.
His role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey was among the topics discussed as part of the inquiry into possible obstruction of justice, a source told CNN.
The president's long-time confidant, who delivered the letter of Comey's dismissal to FBI headquarters, Keith Schiller, also wrapped up in the investigation.
Schiller testified behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee this week that he rejected a Russian offer to send five women to Trump's hotel room during his 2013 visit to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant. Schiller told House members he took the offer as a joke, sources told CNN. And Mr. Trump, then a private citizen, laughed it off.
The president remaining focused on a series of priorities here in Danang, amplifying his call to confront North Korea's nuclear ambitions. And again, pledging that his administration would do what his predecessors did not and close the trade imbalance with countries like China.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am always going to put America first, the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first.
ZELENY: Coming up shortly here, President Trump and President Putin are heading to a dinner with other world leaders. So it is possible that they could cross paths there, even have a conversation. They also have an opportunity for that tomorrow.
But Alisyn, this is all playing out against the backdrop here in Vietnam of Danang, the city of Danang, which of course, was the site of the first U.S. Marines who came here at the beginning of the Vietnam War some 52 years ago.
[07:20:07] Of course, you know, the view of the United States here has changed over the years. One thing has not. Of course, in America we call it the Vietnam War. Here in Vietnam, they call it the American War -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: All right. Thank you very much, Jeff.
So there are these mixed messages about a Trump and Putin meeting. If they do meet, what will they discuss? Our national security experts join us next.
CUOMO: "The Wall Street Journal" adding some new details to a story first reported by CNN. So here it is. Special Counsel Bob Mueller is investigating an alleged plan for fired national security adviser Michael Flynn to forcibly remove a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania.
"The Journal" reports Flynn was offered up to $15 million to deliver the cleric to the Turkish government.
Jim Grimaldi is one of the "Wall Street Journal" reporters who broke this story. He joins us now.
Timing is important, Jim. Thanks for being on the show. Appreciate it.
JIM GRIMALDI, REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, you're welcome.
CUOMO: There was a meeting in September allegedly about this, reportedly about this. And now one in December. So that would be after the election and after Flynn was named as the national security adviser. Is that right?
[07:25:12] GRIMALDI: Right. What we understand, the FBI is investigating is an alleged meeting that took place in a restaurant, The 21 Club in New York City sometime mid-December and in which Mike Flynn attended. They've asked at least four people about this. And from we understand, there was discussions of as much as $15 million, the possible involvement of Mike Flynn's son, who was an adviser at the time, as well, to Mr. Flynn, who'd just been nominated and named as national security adviser.
And it's a really pretty remarkable meeting that would happen as -- after this earlier September meeting, which as you noted, "The Wall Street Journal" reported and then CNN also reported exclusively with one of the participants, someone who unwittingly went to the meeting, Jim Woolsey.
CUOMO: What does that mean? Help us understand the context of Woolsey's involvement and what the reckoning of what the -- your sources reveal about what the expectations were at the second meeting.
GRIMALDI: Well, yes, the expectations of the second meeting were to get him out of the country. As you know--
CUOMO: So these people actually thought that the national security adviser, you know, who was operating under color of agency for the United States of America, would cut a contract deal to remove somebody, kidnap somebody from the United States?
GRIMALDI: That's the remarkable part of this allegation. What's being investigated is that there would be, actually, cash payments involved with his removal. This is someone who at the time was working for the transition, had been nominated. Then became the national security adviser before he was then fired by the president. So yes, it's a pretty remarkable allegation that's being investigated by the FBI and being investigated rather seriously.
You know, we've actually known about this allegation for quite some time. But with, you know, the work of my colleagues, Shane Harris and our Justice Department reporter, we were able to find some corroborating information. And I think the FBI investigation has gone forward.
But as you recall, you were asking about Jim Woolsey.
GRIMALDI: He kind of unwittingly showed up at this meeting. He didn't know that's what it was going to be about. And then he blew the whistle on this in a story that ran in the Wall Street Journal. And then -- then he went on CNN later that day to talk about it.
CUOMO: The timing really relevant. There's no question that Flynn has been a proponent of getting rid of this cleric. He wrote an op- ed, I think, that came out on election day about exactly this.
But if this happened, this kind of meeting with this bargain for exchange and a potential kidnapping of a legal resident, after the election, when he was named NSA, that has some heavy political and legal implications. GRIMALDI: Very, very serious legal implications. I mean, obviously,
if you're working for the government even in the transition or what have you, you can't accept cash for any -- any official action.
GRIMALDI: That's considered bribery. We don't know that any cash was transferred.
GRIMALDI: But we -- but our understanding that the -- that cash was discussed at this meeting, and that's what the FBI is investigating.
CUOMO: And it has been reported that Mr. Flynn was worried about the exposure of his son. His son has been implicated in this meeting. So there's some dots being connected in terms of the mentality of what's going on with this investigation.
James Grimaldi, thank you for very much for the reporting and coming on NEW DAY, as always.
GRIMALDI: Yes. You're welcome.
CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, let's discuss with our CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd, and CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd.
Samantha, you just heard the reporting there from James Grimaldi. If Michael Flynn, who was the incoming national security adviser, was operating outside of the bounds of legal U.S. extradition and trying to send this Muslim cleric back to President Erdogan in Turkey, what does that mean?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That means that we should all be very worried. And that means that there's another thread in this investigation that's already consuming the administration.
It is no secret that President Trump and the administration are distracted by the investigation at a time when they should be focused on direct national security threats like, for example, Russian meddling in the election.
CAMEROTA: Yes. I mean, I think it's fair to say that much of his 12- day Asia trip, hugely significant, trip has been overshadowed by all of the stuff that's happening here at home, including all these latest threads that involve Michael Flynn.
VINOGRAD: Exactly. And now we don't even know if Trump is going to meet with Vladimir Putin, which means that Trump isn't going to have an opportunity to hold Putin accountable for interfering in the election, the digital warfare campaign on U.S. technology platforms.