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Mitt Romney's Spending Plan; Herman Cain Accuser Issues Statement; Cain Accuser Declines to Go Public; NRA Confirms Cain Accuser Filed Complaint; White House Rejects Solyndra Subpoena; White House Disputes Subpoena Issued By House For Solyndra Documents; Herman Cain Acknowledges Ties To Koch Brothers; Interview with Cain Accuser's Attorney Joel Bennett; No Charges for Family Court Judge Who Beat Daughter; Higher Airfare for Thanksgiving Travel; Dippin' Dots Files for Bankruptcy

Aired November 4, 2011 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now:


HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I have been in Washington all week, and I have attracted a little bit of attention.



BLITZER: The attention, though, may be turning very soon toward one of Herman Cain's sexual harassment accusers. We may be hearing from her this hour. Stand by.

Democrats have already turned their attention to Mitt Romney, as he unveils a new plan for deep government spending cuts. They call it something only a billionaire could love.

And the latest jobs numbers, the unemployment rate dropping a bit. We're going to show you some Americans are now looking for and finding jobs in Asia.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We may be hearing any moment now from one of the women who reportedly accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment. Her lawyer is waiting for approval from the National Restaurant Association, which was once led by Herman Cain, to issue that statement. You're looking at a live picture. The cameras are set up outside his office here in Washington, D.C., the office of Joel Bennett.

Our Brian Todd is standing by.

Brian, what are you learning? Because we're about to hear, we suspect, from Joel Bennett on whether or not they worked out an agreement with the National Restaurant Association.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're hearing that something could come soon from Mr. Bennett one way or the other to let us know if we're going to get some kind of a statement from his client, who is one of the accusers of Herman Cain.

He says his client wants to set the record straight. We believe we could get a statement fairly soon from Mr. Bennett distributed by him on behalf of his client. What we're not going to get is her identity. She has apparently said to him that she wishes to remain private.

But she does want to rebut Herman Cain's claims that the charges, the accusations against him are groundless, which he's been saying all week. So we should be hearing from Joel Bennett fairly soon. We believe that is coming up, Wolf.

In the meantime we do have some information. We talked to a former National Restaurant Association employee who knows one of Herman Cain's accusers. This employee met with the accuser on the day that that accuser left the NRA, according to this employee. The former employee said the accuser said that she was not getting along with her bosses.

This source said the accuser said she was getting a severance payment, which was about a year's salary. The source estimates that amount to be about between $32,000 and $37,000 year. This source said the accuser in the last couple of weeks did interact with her co-workers.

Right now we're told that Mr. Bennett is coming out. He is coming to camera, so stand by. Here he comes.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, stand by over there.

You saw Brian is joining us on the phone. As soon as we see Joel Bennett come to that camera, we're going to hear what he has to say. Gloria Borger is standing by as well.


BLITZER: He's passing out a written statement.

But let's listen.

JOEL BENNETT, ATTORNEY FOR CAIN ACCUSER: Are you all ready? OK, Thank you. Thank you all for your patience.

In 1999, I was retained by a female employee of the National Restaurant Association concerning several instances of sexual harassment by the then CEO. She made a complaint in good faith about a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from the CEO.

Those complaints were resolved in an agreement with her acceptance of a monetary settlement. She and her husband see no value in revisiting this matter now nor in discussing the matter any further publicly or privately.

In fact, it would be extremely painful to do so. She is grateful that she was able to return to her government career, where she is extremely happy serving the American people to the very best of her ability. She looks forward to continuing to work hard for them as we face the significant challenges that lie ahead.

She wishes to thank the media for the restraint they have shown her and thank her family for their love and support, her colleagues and supervisor for their patience and forbearance, and her advisers for their wise counsel and most of all her dear husband for 26 years.

Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. Sexual harassment is unfortunately very much alive and with us even today and women must fight it in all kinds of workplaces and at all levels. My client stands by the complaint she made.

Thank you.

I will take questions at this time.


BENNETT: Don't know. I'm sure she would disagree with the statements he has made concerning the complaint.

QUESTION: What was her level of interest though in responding with something specific because of the fact that Mr. Cain had in your word bad-mouthed her and her reputation? Wasn't there a strong desire by her to say something to refute that matter?

BENNETT: She believes this statement does refute that.


BENNETT: One at a time.

QUESTION: Was she married at the time of the incident?

BENNETT: She's been married for 26 years. The incidents were in 1999. Yes.

QUESTION: Mr. Bennett, can you describe the nature of the harassment that she alleges by Mr. Cain?

BENNETT: Beyond what's in the statement -- sorry. Beyond what's in the statement, she has decided not to relive the specifics of the incident. So I cannot give any further details.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Is that because she is not able to do so because she's limited by the confidentiality agreement? Or is that because she's made a decision that she doesn't want to but could if she wanted to?

BENNETT: The latter.

She's made a decision that she does not want to do that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) lift the NDA on her, sir, or have they?

BENNETT: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Is the group going to lift the nondisclosure agreement on her?

BENNETT: We have not asked them to lift it beyond making this statement.


QUESTION: How long did the actions--

BENNETT: I don't remember the exact time period of the incidents, but it was over a period of time of at least a month or two as I recall.

QUESTION: Can you tell us the extent to which you were in consultation with the Cain campaign on this?


QUESTION: How many incidents are we talking about here?

BENNETT: More than one. We're not going to get more specific than that.


BENNETT: It's hard to say. We resolved the case at an early level. It never got to that point where I could evaluate it as a case for litigation.

QUESTION: Is there something more than just a number of instances when she was made to feel comfortable? Is there any evidence (OFF- MIKE)

BENNETT: If we had needed to bring a case in court, we would have marshaled the necessary evidence. I never got to that point.


QUESTION: -- any other attorneys who may represent any other women?


QUESTION: How much money did she receive in the settlement?

BENNETT: Other than the fact that it was a monetary settlement, we're not going to disclose the exact amount.


QUESTION: -- a year's salary, maybe?

BENNETT: We're not going to get into how much of a percentage of a salary it was or any further details on the monetary settlement.

QUESTION: When you say inappropriate behaviors, did that include any physical contact with your client?

BENNETT: We're not going to get more specific about what was physical, what was verbal. It qualified as sexual harassment, in our opinion.

QUESTION: Were there any witnesses involved who could actually corroborate this to make sure she was not misinterpreting any actions of Mr. Cain?

BENNETT: I cannot recall at this time whether there were any third persons were present for any of the instances. I'm sorry.


QUESTION: -- Mr. Cain bound by this agreement?

BENNETT: That's a legal issue. And I'm not going to get into that. Sorry.


BENNETT: Excuse me.

QUESTION: Do you believe he violated it?

BENNETT: It's a legal issues because, first of all, he did not sign the settlement agreement. And, secondly, he may have been gone from the NRA at the time it was signed.

So whether it could have bound a CEO who was no longer there who didn't sign it is a legal issue that I haven't had to get into and I'm not going to express an opinion on it.


BENNETT: Say that again?


QUESTION: -- NRA come out and make a statement?

BENNETT: Because we have a settlement agreement that has both confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions in it that I signed and my client signed. And I did not want to expose us to any liability under that agreement. I felt this was the prudent way to go.

QUESTION: Do you think these behaviors in any way make or does your client believe that it makes him unsuitable to be president of the United States?

BENNETT: My client has not expressed any opinion on that to me, and I don't believe she's going to express any opinion on that.


QUESTION: -- emotions this week as all this has played out? (OFF- MIKE)

BENNETT: She's been anxious about it, understandably, and I know she's relieved that we have been able to resolve it the way we have today.

QUESTION: Characterize how you view Mr. Cain's statements on this matter. He has said he did not hit on anybody, didn't call anybody hot or anything like that. Can you characterize how your client--


BENNETT: Those statements are inaccurate factually as to my client. I'm not aware of the other instances for the other women.

QUESTION: Is your client aware or does she understand that by not being more forthcoming about the facts that she opens up herself to the claim both by the Cain campaign and his supporters that maybe she really doesn't have a case and that there isn't enough evidence? That's sort of the way that things may play out.


Mr. Cain knows the specific incidents that were alleged. My client filed a written complaint in 1999 against him specifically, and it had very specific incidents in it. And if he chooses to not remember or not acknowledge those, that's his issue.




BENNETT: Internally with the NRA with whatever procedure they had at the time.


QUESTION: Does your client have the money to pay back -- the money she received in the settlement plus any penalty to pay back if she had decided to break this nondisclosure? Was that an option?

BENNETT: I never discussed that with her and it's not something we expected to do.

QUESTION: After the statement was given to the supervisor, did the behaviors and the activity stop?

BENNETT: I honestly do not recall whether he was even there when she filed the complaint. I believe her complaint was filed in July of 1999. We settled in September of 1999, and I don't know what contact, if any, my client had with Mr. Cain after she filed the internal complaint.


QUESTION: Did you personally hold a deposition with Herman Cain? Have you personally met him?

BENNETT: I have never met him. I have never spoken with him. We filed an internal complaint and it was settled. You don't take a deposition of someone when you file an internal complaint. Depositions are taken in court proceedings.

QUESTION: Did she make her grievances known to her colleagues in the office?

BENNETT: I do not know.

QUESTION: Mr. Bennett, can you describe the best you can her emotions when she did file these complaints back in the '90s and the impact it had on her?

BENNETT: I'm sure she was very upset at the time. I know I met with her personally and discussed it. But I don't have a present recollection of her exact emotional state at the time. But having reviewed the internal complaint recently, I'm sure she was very upset at the time.

QUESTION: Have you all considered any future litigation or suits against Mr. Cain for what he said?

BENNETT: We have not considered them.

QUESTION: One of the things Mr. Cain has repeatedly said is that this was just a severance agreement, as distinct from a sexual harassment claim. Is that true?

BENNETT: That is an inaccurate description of the settlement agreement.


BENNETT: A severance agreement is when someone is leaving employment and there's an agreement to pay the person usually a certain number of months of salary for whatever reason. It could be just because the person is leaving.

That's very common in companies that are having economic problems, that have severance policies that are unrelated to any misconduct or performance issues. This was a settlement of an internal complaint of sexual harassment. It was not a severance agreement.

QUESTION: Do you know if Mr. Cain knew about it at the time?

BENNETT: I don't know. I don't know the exact procedure that my client followed in filing the internal complaint at NRA, but I would be astounded if the complaint was not brought to his attention.

QUESTION: Did she continue to call--


QUESTION: -- witnesses? Were there witnesses-- BENNETT: I honestly do not recall whether any of the incidents involved third parties or other people being present.

It's very common in sexual harassment cases for almost all the activity to be one on one with no third parties or witnesses.

QUESTION: Did she write this--


BENNETT: I don't recall. That was 1999. I just don't recall those details. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Did she write this complaint with your assistance?

BENNETT: I don't remember that. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: And did she continue to go to work after she submitted the complaint?

BENNETT: I don't remember the timeline as to exactly when she left, but as far as I can recall, she continued working there after she filed the internal complaint for at least a month or so. But I'm not absolutely certain on that.

QUESTION: Mr. Bennett, your reaction to the fact that this is not the only claim, that we have another claim? There is now a third woman who said she did not file one, but she has complaints and we're hearing about it.

BENNETT: There's an expression. Where there's smoke, there's fire. The fact that there are multiple complaints tells me that it's more likely than not that there was some sexual harassment activity by this man at that time.

All of that is subject to proof. He would be allowed to rebut all of them, but I -- but the fact that there's more than one complainant is meaningful.

QUESTION: Mr. Bennett, if she wants to remain anonymous, fine. So then why bother having her lawyer come forward to even rebut any claim? Why not just remain anonymous and then just go on her way?

BENNETT: Because she's concerned about the statements Mr. Cain has made to the--


QUESTION: -- remained anonymous anyway.

BENNETT: I'm trying to answer your question, if you will let me.

Mr. Cain has made statements after Politico initially revealed that there had been one or more sexual harassment complaints against Mr. Cain. There were at least two sexual harassment complaints filed, one by my client. The statements Mr. Cain has made make it unclear who he's talking about all the time, but he has generally said: These complaints were baseless. I did not engage in sexual harassment.

And my client felt that she wanted to respond to those statements in a prudent way. And it's her position that it's most prudent for her to do it this way, way and it's her position that it's most prudent for her to do it this way rather than exposing herself personally. QUESTION: Is she concerned she's going to be exposed soon?

BENNETT: She prefers her privacy and not to be a public figure. If the media chooses to publish her name, that's the media's business. She would prefer that it not be published. Any other questions? Yes.

QUESTION: Are you making copies?

BENNETT: I gave out a number of copies. I'll make some more copies just when we finish the conference. Just let me know. She and I wrote it together.

Any other questions?

OK, thank you very much.

BLITZER: So there you have it. Joel Bennett, the attorney representing this one woman who worked in 1999 at the National Restaurant Association and filed sexual harassment allegations against the then chief of the National Restaurant Association, a lobbying organization here in Washington.

That would be Herman Cain, who is now the Republican presidential candidate. Clearly coordinated with this statement from Joel Bennett, we have just received the statement from the National Restaurant Association.

The statement from the association president and CEO, Don Sweeney. Let me read it to our viewers because there's news in here as well. I'll read it in full. "We have seen the statement Joel Bennett released earlier today on behalf of his client, a former employee of the association. The association consented to the release of that statement at the request of Mr. Bennett's client."

The NRA statement goes on to say, "based upon the information currently available, we can confirm that more than a decade ago in July 1999, Mr. Bennett's client filed a formal internal complaint in accordance with the association's existing policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment.

Mr. Herman Cain disputed the allegations in the complaint. The association and Mr. Bennett's client subsequently entered into an agreement to resolve the matter without any admission of liability.

Mr. Cain was not a party to that agreement. The agreement contains mutual confidentiality obligations notwithstanding the association's ongoing policy of maintaining the privacy of all personnel matters. We have advised Mr. Bennett that we are willing to waive the confidentiality of this matter and permit Mr. Bennett's client to comment. As indicated in Mr. Bennett's statement, his client prefers not to be further involved with this matter and we will respect her decision.

The association has robust policies designed to ensure that employees with concerns may bring them forward for prompt investigation and resolution without risk of retaliation. The association is fully committed to equal employment opportunity and to an environment that is free from any discrimination or harassment."

That statement is from Don Sweeney, the president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Our Brian Todd is there at Joel Bennett's office outside. Gloria Borger, who has been reporting on the story is here as well.

Let's go to Brian first. We heard the statement, Brian, that Joel Bennett made, a very carefully crafted statement. You've just heard me read the reaction from the National Restaurant Association saying they were OK with this woman waiving her confidentiality agreement conditions.

But she has decided she and her husband of 26 years, they don't want any police it publicity. They don't want to go public other than what Joel Bennett said there. But give as you little bit of context. What else is going on?

TODD: Well, it's a very highly anticipated news conference here, Wolf, with Mr. Bennett coming out. If you look at the statement that he gave, there are a couple of key phrases in here that are at the beginning and at the very end.

At the beginning, Mr. Bennett on behalf of his client says "she made a complaint in good faith about a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from the CEO."

At the very end, the last line of the statement he says "my client stands by the complaint she made." Those first and last lines pretty much of this statement indicate that she is basically rebutting what Herman Cain has said.

That her complaints were in good faith and that she stands by these complaints. These were complaints she said she made in good faith about a series of inappropriate behaviors by Herman Cain.

Other than that, there are really no specifics in here, nor did Mr. Bennett give any specifics about the alleged incident. So, Wolf, that is what you have. She is standing by her complaint. She said she made it in good faith and that is what Mr. Bennett has just expressed.

BLITZER: Based on the notes I was taking when Joel Bennett was reading that statement, Brian, didn't he say at the very beginning that his client, this woman, alleged, quote, "several instances of sexual harassment?" That would be more than one, several instances. Is that in the statement? TODD: That is not in the statement that I can see right now. I don't believe it is in the statement. But he did say something later that there was more than one incident and then he said he wanted to leave it at that.

He did not want to get into specifics about that, Wolf. So looking again over the statement, I don't see anything immediately saying that there was more than one incident in the statement. But he did say there was more than one incident separately.

BLITZER: We'll look at the tape I think at the beginning in his remarks he said there were several instances that she alleged. Gloria Borger is with us as well.

All right, Gloria, we got the statement from the attorney representing this woman who used to work at the National Restaurant Association. We have the reaction from the National Restaurant Association.

She stands by what she alleged back in 1999. She could go public. The NRA, the National Restaurant Association, is ready to waive the confidentiality agreement, but she doesn't want any publicity.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and what's interesting about what Joel Bennett, her attorney, is saying is not only in addition to there being several instances that it was inappropriate behavior and unwanted advances.

And it's clear if you do the math that she was a married woman at the time, she's been married 26 years. This happened in 1999. When you look at the restaurant association statement, which is clearly written very carefully as well, it allowed that there had been an internal investigation.

That Herman Cain had disputed the allegations in the complaint and that they entered into an agreement without any admission of liability. Herman Cain has come out and said publicly in his own defense that he was essentially cleared internally of any wrong doing or any sexual harassment.

The statement from the National Restaurant Association does not go that far. It doesn't say what the results of their internal investigation were. It just says that there was an agreement.

And, by the way, they use the word agreement rather than settlement, which is the word that Herman Cain uses. They say -- so they're not saying what the results of their own internal investigation showed.

BLITZER: They do say that he disputed the allegations.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: In her complaint. But not saying whether or not they felt that he was right or she was right.

BORGER: That's right. BLITZER: They're not getting into that other than acknowledging there was an agreement to resolve this matter between the National Restaurant Association and this woman and that Mr. Cain was not a direct party to this agreement.

BORGER: That's right. And so we still do not know what the results of any internal investigation were. We just -- we don't know that. And clearly this woman, as her attorney Mr. Bennett has told me, he put it to me this way.

He said she doesn't want to become another Anita Hill. She wants to remain a private person. And so she didn't want to take this -- she didn't want to take this any further and wanted just to sort of go on with her life.

BLITZER: Were you surprised, Gloria, that the National Restaurant Association was ready to waive all those confidentiality restrictions on this woman?

BORGER: Well, I don't know how much they've waived because from their statement it sounds like they've waived it all and from listening to Mr. Bennett, it sounds like he didn't ask them to waive anything more than allowing her to issue the statement she issued today.

So I'm not quite clear what that was. I think the National Restaurant Association probably felt some kind of obligation to let people know that in fact they had taken her complaint seriously. They said that we take these things seriously.

And so in order to keep their own reputation, you know, they decided that they need to do something and allow her to release it to show that in fact they had given her the due process that she felt she deserved.

BLITZER: In the statement from the National Restaurant Association, they say specifically, I'll read that part, notwithstanding the association's ongoing policy of maintaining the privacy of all personnel matters, we have advised Mr. Bennett that we are willing to waive the confidentiality of this matter and permit Mr. Bennett's client to comment.

Now, see has commented on this matter right now in the statement that Mr. Bennett just released. But she herself has made this decision she doesn't want to reopen all of the specifics of the allegations that she made back in 1999.

BORGER: But what she is saying with this statement is that when Mr. Cain said that the complaints were without basis, she clearly is making a point here that in fact this wasn't frivolous and that it was something that was taken seriously, not only by herself but also internally at the restaurant association.

I mean, without the details, though, Wolf, this is a difficult story right now because we don't know the details, her identity remains private, the charges are out there, Mr. Cain has denied them. We don't know what the results of the internal investigation were at the time restaurant association. We know that she did receive a settlement. So there are still an awful lot of questions out there.

BLITZER: Many questions out there. I want everybody to stand by. Brian's over at Joel Bennett's office. Gloria's here. Stand by. Much more of our coverage.

The breaking news here, we have finally gotten a statement from one of the women who worked at the National Restaurant Association making these sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain. We'll have much more after this.


BLITZER: Just getting this in. The White House is now officially rejecting the congressional subpoena for Solyndra documents. They're calling it a significant intrusion.

Lisa Sylvester has been working this story for us. Some tough words from the White House to the Republicans in the House of Representatives. What's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This is actually a very sharply worded letter that the White House sent to congressional lawmakers. The House Energy and commerce subcommittee voted just yesterday 14-9, to issue subpoenas to the White House and the vice president's office over the issue of Solyndra.

This congressional panel has been investigating whether or not political ties led to a $535 million loan to the company that California solar panel company went bankrupt in August after it received this Department of Energy loan. Taxpayers are now out a half a billion dollars.

Now the White House says, though, that this records request by Republicans in the House is unprecedented and unnecessary. They are also calling the subpoena overbroad. We have quotes from this letter we can read to you. Quote, this is from the White House counsel, quote, "Earlier this week we made a good faith effort to work with the committee to accommodate its legitimate oversight concerns. You rejected our offer without explaining how it fell short of your legitimate oversight purpose. I can only conclude that your decision to issue a subpoena authorized by a party-line vote was driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation."

Another part of that, quote, of that letter, quote, "There is no basis for such a broad request beyond a vast fishing expedition." Another quote, "We suggest that the committee focus first on communications between the White House and those agencies directly involved in the Solyndra loan guarantee. The committee has rejected that approach without any justification other than a general curiosity about internal White House communications." In many ways this mirrors what Democrats on the committee were arguing yesterday during this meeting on whether or not to authorize these subpoenas. Democrats being very clear that they think that this is overbroad, that they think that this is largely being driven by partisan politics and an attempt to embarrass the president. We are now waiting for a response from the committee to see what's next, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're just getting further clarification also from Jessica Yellin, our chief White House correspondent. She's saying that the attorney for the White House in this letter and conversations, apparently, with the Republicans, the attorney is refusing -- the White House is refusing to comply with the specific subpoena but is not necessarily refusing to comply all together. She's leaving the door open that would allow them to turn over some further internal White House documents if they can negotiate the terms of the subpoena.

And it refers to the last line in this formal to the Republican, "Given the breadth of the subpoena, I hope the committee's public statement that it intends to negotiate the scope of any document production is sincere." So it's a story that's creating a lot of tension, shall we say, between the White House and the Republicans in the House of Representatives.

SYLVESTER: Right. And the White House has said, look, we are willing to share some documents, we're willing to share some records, but we just don't want it to be overbroad. We don't want everything that is related to Solyndra because it would be unnecessary, that it would include things like, for instance, the president's visit when he visited the company in California, that it might have secretive information about the presidential visit and such. And so they said really we've got to limit the scope of this.

What Republicans are saying, though, is they're saying the White House has been stonewalling, that they have been going back and forth and having these conversations and the White House has really been dragging its feet, reluctant to produce the documents. The White House, on the other hand, saying we produced 20,000 pages of documents this week. You have a lot of internal documents also related to the various agencies, department of energy, office of management and budget, start there. Certainly the committee has a lot to go through before doing what's in the word of the White House is what they call a "fishing expedition."

BLITZER: Let's not forget the issue here was some $500 million in U.S. taxpayer money, loans that went to Solyndra to try to build up the solar energy company but the solar energy company went broke and that $500 million that taxpayers funded for these loans gone. That's the issue right now. Was there any inappropriate political activity or other activity that was involved in this decision to make this $500 million loan to Solyndra go forward? Lisa, I know you're working the story. We'll stay in close touch with you on that.

Let's get back to our other top story, the breaking news we've been following. We have now received a statement from this one woman who used to work at the National Restaurant Association alleging that Herman Cain engaged in a series of sexual harassment instances back in 1999 when she worked there. There was an agreement worked out between her and the National Restaurant Association. We've heard from her lawyer. We've now heard from the National Restaurant Association as well.

Let me play the little clip of what Joel Bennett just said at the top of the hour making the announcement on behalf of his client.


BENNETT: In 1999, I was retained by a female employee of the National Restaurant Association concerning several instances of sexual harassment by the then CEO. She made a complaint in good faith about a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from the CEO.

Those complaints were resolved in an agreement with her acceptance of a monetary settlement. She and her husband see no value in revisiting this matter now nor in discussing the matter any further publicly or privately.

In fact, it would be extremely painful to do so. She is grateful that she was able to return to her government career, where she is extremely happy serving the American people to the very best of her ability. She looks forward to continuing to work hard for them as we face the significant challenges that lie ahead.

She wishes to thank the media for the restraint they have shown her and thank her family for their love and support, her colleagues and supervisor for their patience and forbearance, and her advisers for their wise counsel and most of all her dear husband for 26 years.

Everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. Sexual harassment is unfortunately very much alive and with us even today and women must fight it in all kinds of workplaces and at all levels. My client stands by the complaint she made.

Thank you.


BLITZER: That's Joel Bennett.

Let's discuss what's going on, the breaking news we're following, our CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile is joining us, as well as our CNN contributor Will Cain, a columnist for

Let me get both of you, first to you, to react. Will, first to you. What do you make of this latest twice in this saga?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I almost see it as a non-event, Wolf. We're still missing the main ingredient in this whole story, and that is the details of the allegations. We still do not know any of details in the sexual harassment case, and the details are all that matter.

BLITZER: He denied any wrong doing back in 1999, Herman Cain, Donna. Mr. Cain according to the National Restaurant Association statement that was just released disputed the allegations in the complaint, although she did get this financial settlement as part of the agreement, as you well know, between the NRA, the National Restaurant Association, and this woman. Donna, what's your assessment?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think this is still a murky event and Mr. Cain has done a really poor job in handling this crisis. We've learned a great deal about his leadership skills this week and the way in which he first responded the allegations when questioned about it, and of course over the last five days we've had five different explanations.

And, quite honestly, Mr. Cain right now seems to be enjoying himself because of his standing in the polls and the amount of money he's raised over this.

Look, I have to agree with the woman in question, that, you know, she's put out a statement, she stands by her original complaint. She's decided not to come forward publicly to rehash this in the media. I totally agree. There's nothing in it for her at this moment to relive these painful moments in her life. And I think at this point Herman Cain, if he wants to pivot to another conversation, fine. Let's get back to nine-nine-nine and the nonsense that that adds up to. But for now I think Mr. Bennett has made it quite clear that his client would like to move forward with her own life.

BLITZER: And, you know, Will, Herman Cain was speaking before a conservative group here in Washington today. I'm going to play a little clip of what he had to say, but we're trying to get some reaction, first of all, from his campaign to what we just heard from this woman's attorney, Joel Bennett, also what we heard in this written statement that the National Restaurant Association just released as well.

Both of you stand by for a moment. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, I'm going to play for our viewers what Herman Cain said about all of this today.


BLITZER: Earlier in the day Herman Cain was speaking before a conservative group right here in the nation's capital and he spoke out about a sensitive subject, the billionaire Koch brothers and their influence on Republican candidates, the Tea Party movement and more. Listen to this.


HERMAN CAIN: You know, I've been in Washington all week and I've attracted a little bit of attention.

(LAUGHTER) And there was an article in the "New York times" today that has attempted to attract some more attention. The article tries to make a case of how close the Koch brothers and I are. I'm proud to know the Koch brothers. I'm very proud to know the Koch brothers.


They make it sound like that we've had time to go fishing together, hunting together, skiing together, golfing together. But just so I can clarify this for the media, this may be a breaking news announcement for the media -- I am the Koch brother's brother from another mother.


Yes, I'm that brother from another mother, and proud of it.


BLITZER: Let's bring back Donna Brazile and Will Cain. Will, give us some context. A lot of our viewers never heard of the Koch brothers, but they're very, very well known in Republican circles and certainly Democratic circles as well. And think about the answer, because first let me play this little clip of what he said back on October 17th when John King asked him about his relationship with the Koch brothers. Listen to how he phrased it then.


HERMAN CAIN: I know the Koch brothers. I have also attended some of their seminars and have found them very informative. So I don't have a close relationship, but I know them and I respect them and they know me and they respect me.


BLITZER: I don't have a close relationship but today he's saying something a little bit more dramatic, that we're brothers from a different mother. But go ahead, give us a little context, Will. Who are the Koch brothers and why are they so controversial in this current political environment?

WILL CAIN: Well, the Koch brothers are a couple of billionaires from Kansas who have funded a lot of the organizations behind the Tea Party, American for Prosperity and some of the others. They're contributing to some of these big conservative movements. They have a strong libertarian strain to their ideology.

And I got to say, Wolf, there was a couple weeks ago where Herman Cain gave a speech and he had a fedora on, and he stood up and said I'm not supposed to be here. I'm not supposed to here in this race, I'm not supposed to be standing here in this hat, but I am anyways. Well, you're not supposed to say you're a brother from another mother with the Koch brothers, that you're fans of the Koch brothers. But I'm going to tell you, this is evidence piece number 56 of why this conservative base likes Herman Cain, because he will say these things you're not supposed to say. And the conservative base sees nothing nefarious about the Koch brothers political activism.

BLITZER: Donna, what do you think about the Koch brothers, because I know the Democrats make them sound to be sort of the right wing equivalent of the billionaires funding some of the left wing organizations out there?

BRAZILE: First of all, let's hope that at some point in his short presidential career Herman Cain will become a consistent candidate, because, Wolf, if he says it today, he could change it tomorrow. And god knows that the right-wing tea party would like to applaud inconsistency, then they should get ready for Mitt Romney because he is the darling of inconsistency.

But, look, the Koch brothers, they're anti-union, anti-workers' right, anti-collective bargaining, anti-teacher, anti-firefighters, I could go on -- anti- business regulations. Mr. Cain has been a spokesman for the Koch brothers. He has traveled on their behalf. He's attended rallies, he's attended events. He's very close. So I don't know if they're kissing cousins or brothers or sisters, but I know this much. Herman Cain loves the Koch brothers.

BLITZER: Hold on, Will, for one second. Donna, is it fair to say the Koch brothers to the right are what George Soros is to the left?

BRAZILE: You know, Wolf, honestly I don't know how much money George Soros has given liberal causes, but I do know the Koch brothers have given to the Tea Party and other right-wing causes hundreds of millions of dollars, and they're prepared to spend millions of dollars in this campaign season.

As you know, Mr. Cain's campaign has also caught up with some controversy in Wisconsin with the state laws in terms of the Koch -- American for Prosperity of Wisconsin chapter, Mr. Block has been their executive director.

So, I don't know, look, God bless Herman Cain, take a nap, get on that midnight train back to Georgia and get your campaign back on track.

BLITZER: All right, very quickly, Will.

WILL CAIN: I just want to say, it does bring up an interesting general election question. As Donna just described, the Koch brothers are becoming the left wing's boogie man.

When will Herman Cain start to run a general election campaign? Jon Huntsman ran one from the beginning. Mitt Romney is starting now.

If Herman Cain is for real, unfortunately, things like these conservative bases may like it, but you can't say you're buddies with the left wing's boogie man. I don't think that will work in a general election.

BLITZER: Guys, stand by, good discussion. We're going to continue to follow this story obviously. It's not going away. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, I'll speak with Joel Bennett. He's the attorney representing this woman who made these allegations against Herman Cain back in 1999.


BLITZER: All right, we're following the breaking news. The woman who back in 1999 accused the then head of the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain, of sexual harassment, she's now released a statement through her attorney, Joel Bennett. Joel Bennett is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mr. Bennett, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: I know you don't want to get into details and I know this woman has been married for 26 years, she wants to stay out of it, she doesn't want her name published, she's got a life right now, she doesn't need all this public aggravation, but tell us what you can in terms -- when you told as you little while ago that there were several instances, I believe that was the phrase you used, of sexual harassment, what can you tell us about the nature of this sexual harassment?

BENNETT: I'm sorry, I would like to be able to reveal all the details, but my client prefers not to do that. And all I can say is there was more than one incident, they qualified as sexual harassment under the law, in my opinion as a lawyer, and my client chooses not to get into the details again.

The details were filed internally with the National Restaurant Association in 1999, and I assume they were brought to Mr. Cain's attention.

BLITZER: So -- but you don't want to explain what she meant at the time by sexual harassment or what else you said in your statement, a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances? You just want to leave it in those sort of vague, general terms, is that right?

BENNETT: That's my client's choice, yes.

BLITZER: Even though the -- and correct me if I'm wrong, did the National Restaurant Association agree to waive the confidentiality agreement that she worked out back in 1999? She could if she wanted to go ahead and speak to the news media, do whatever she wants. She doesn't want to do that, but did the National Restaurant Association allow her to do so?

BENNETT: They said they would. We have not actually had an agreement to do that, but they said they would do that.

BLITZER: Because in their statement they put out this and I'll read it to you --

BENNETT: I've seen the statement. I've seen the statement. BLITZER: It says, "Notwithstanding the Association's ongoing policy of maintaining the privacy of all personnel matters, we have advised Mr. Bennett that we are willing to waive the confidentiality of this matter and permit Mr. Bennett's client to comment."

So when they say they're willing to waive the confidentiality matter, would that allow her to go public, do a long interview, explain what she meant at the time by sexual harassment?

BENNETT: Yes. Theoretically, it would. And earlier in the week I used the phrase "waive the confidentiality," but I was using it in the sense of allowing us to make the kind of public statement we have made today. My client never had any intention of revealing all the details of the complaint she field in 1999.

BLITZER: You know that several news organizations know her identity, but they have made a conscientious decision not to release her identity to protect her privacy. I assume you appreciate that.

BENNETT: I appreciate it and my client appreciates it. It's in the highest standards of the media.

BLITZER: How worried, though, are you that given the fact that several people, a lot of people outside of the National Restaurant Association, your client obviously, you, but outside of this inner circle, how worried are you her name will eventually be made public?

BENNETT: I'm not worried about it. If it happens, it happens and she'll deal with it. We just appreciate people respecting her privacy.

BLITZER: When they say in the statement, the National Restaurant Association, that at the time Mr. Herman Cain -- I'm reading from their statement -- disputed the allegations in the complaint. He flatly says that whatever she was alleging was not true. I want you to respond to that.

BENNETT: In almost 40 years of being a lawyer, I cannot recall anyone who has been accused of sexual harassment who said I did it.

BLITZER: So you're just saying what?

BENNETT: They always deny it. Very simple.

BLITZER: But there was no formal investigation, shall we say. He says he recused himself. This agreement was worked out between the National Restaurant Association, the general council, I assume, and you representing her at the time, right?

BENNETT: And their outside counsel at the time.

BLITZER: They had an outside counsel, a private lawyer whom they retained.

BENNETT: Correct. Correct.

BLITZER: So where does this go from here from your perspective?

BENNETT: My client hopes it's over from her perspective. There are other complainants out there and what they choose to do is their business.

BLITZER: How many other women, as far as you know, made other allegations of sexual harassment toward Herman Cain?

BENNETT: I know there was one other complaint filed, although I have not seen it, and I understand from the media that there are one or two other people who claim that he sexually harassed them, but I don't know any more details about them.

BLITZER: Is that -- your own knowledge of the one or two others, is that only from the news media or is that from other legal sources shall we say?

BENNETT: From the news media and there was one other person who actually called me and left a voicemail and told me -- and left a voicemail saying she worked at the NRA and had been sexually harassed by Mr. Cain. When I returned the call, she told me she had thought more about it and decided not to go public. So I left it at that, and I'm not going to reveal anything about her identity.

BLITZER: Was that phone call back in 1999 or recently?

BENNETT: This week.

BLITZER: This week in the aftermath of the Politico story that was posted Sunday night.

Let me read to you, by the way, we just got a statement in from Herman Cain's campaign. Let me read it to you, Mr. Bennett, and then we'll get your reaction. This from J.D. Gordon, the spokesman for the campaign.

"We look forward to focusing our attention on the real issues impacting this country -- like fixing this broken economy and putting Americans back to work through the 9-9-9 Plan, as well as strengthening national security."

That's the statement in full that they have just released. Clearly, they want to move on, they want this thing to be over with.

Is that OK with you?

BENNETT: It's fine with my client, fine with me.

BLITZER: What about this --

BENNETT: As long as I don't --

BLITZER: The reason it's generating so much interest, as can you imagine, is, together with Mitt Romney, he is the Republican presidential front-runner right now. He's doing amazingly well nationally in the key states like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and he's raising a lot of money in the aftermath of these allegations.

Do you want to tell us how you or your client have reacted to this?

BENNETT: My client has no reaction.

My reaction is people are free to support any candidate they want. I'm sure if some people feel strongly about this, I've received hate e-mail, obscene phone calls from people who apparently are --


BLITZER: We just lost our feed, unfortunately. We just lost our feed with Mr. Bennett. We'll try to fix that.

But you just heard him saying he's been receiving hate e-mails, obscene phone calls because he's representing this woman who has made these allegations back in 1999 against Herman Cain.

So once again we got reaction from the Cain campaign; they want to move on.

We'll take another quick break. More on this story and all the other important news of the day when we come back.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Lisa Sylvester. She's monitoring some of the other stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what else is going on?

SYLVESTER: Hi, there, Wolf.

Well, a Texas district attorney says he cannot file charges against a judge seen beating his teenage daughter in a 2004 video that's due to a statute of limitations.

The daughter tells CNN she released the tape to show her father what he was doing. The judge, Williams Adams, faces a judicial conduct probe. He questions his daughter's motives and the timing and the release of this video. Police are looking into filing criminal charges in a federal court.

And if you're planning to fly this Thanksgiving holiday get ready for fewer travelers, but higher fares. A new industry report shows there will be about 37,000 fewer air passengers than last year.

That's a 2 percent drop. But since major carriers are reducing the number of flights or destinations, chances are your plane will still be crowded.

And Dipping Dots ice cream is filing for bankruptcy. The company says it's due to a failure to reach an agreement with its secured lender. Dipping Dots has $12 million in liabilities. But it says it will absolutely stay in business. The beaded ice cream is popular at malls and amusement parks. And after spending 526 days in seclusion, six astronauts have ended their simulated Mars mission. The volunteers from China, Russia and Europe lived in a closed space showered rarely and survived on only canned food. The trip replicated all aspects of a mission to Mars including orbiting the planet, landing and returning to earth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.