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Putin to Meet With Trump; Mueller Targets Flynn; Can Republican Senate Candidate Accused of Sexual Abuse Win Race?; Moore: Allegations A "Desperate Political Attack"; Louis CK on Sex Misconduct Claims: "These Stories Are True". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 10, 2017 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Can a man accused of the sexual abuse of a 14- year-old still make it to the U.S. Senate? We're about to find out.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Many Republicans are now saying Senate candidate Roy Moore should quit the race, but others are saying the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old is no big deal. Might Moore survive the scandal?

The Mueller investigation reportedly uncovers a bombshell right out of a Bond film. Did a foreign power offer Michael Flynn $15 million to deliver one of their enemies to them?

Plus, a shake and a smile. President Trump coming face-to-face with Vladimir Putin, but will they get down to business? Will they talk at all about Russians influencing the 2016 presidential election?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We're going to start with the politics lead today and the first tangible ripples from the stunning charges leveled by a woman in "The Washington Post" that she was sexually molested by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore when he was 32 and she was 14.

Today, the National Republican Senatorial Committee ended its fund- raising arrangement with the Moore campaign for the special election that is just five weeks away. Moore denies the allegation by accuser Leigh Corfman and those by three other women who also allege that Moore pursued intimate relationships with them when he was in his 30s and they were 16, 17, and 18 years old respectively.

Moore called the "Washington Post" report all-out war launched by the media. Some of Moore's defenders claim that the "Post" story, which cites four on-the-record accusers among 30 interviews, is false. Others suggest the notion of a man in his 30s sexually abusing a 14- year-old and pursuing other high school girls is no big deal.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is in Alabama today, where voters are telling us what they think.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): If anything can be said about Roy Moore supporters, it's that they're fervent and loyal, drawn to him in spite of a controversial past.

His values-based campaign centered around Christian beliefs, popular in this reddest of red states. And that loyalty now still strong despite these new bombshell allegations. Supporters unnerved, but so far unwavering.

At Merrill's Barbecue, Dottie Finch works in the kitchen. She says she doesn't believe Moore had that sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl or pursued other teenagers. And, even if proven true, she'd still vote for him.

DOTTIE FINCH, ROY MOORE SUPPORTER: At first, you know, I really wasn't sure how I felt about the situation, but then I look at it this way. I don't have the best past.

If he -- he went to the lord whenever and asked for forgiveness for that, and hasn't done anything like that in -- since then, I believe that if the good lord's forgiven him, as a Christian, I have to forgive him also.

MARQUARDT: Moore's campaign now using the report as a rallying call, sending out a fund-raising e-mail calling it part of -- quote -- "the forces of evil trying to silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me."

Steve Bannon, the former Trump campaign manager, who is now the head of Breitbart News, has been one of Moore's most prominent backers, comparing "The Washington Post" story to the "Access Hollywood" tape that they unearthed during the campaign.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: If you saw the way they came after him like they're coming after Judge Moore today, this is not -- they didn't debate, you know, policy or politics. This was the politics of personal destruction. Right?

MARQUARDT: Alabama's state auditor went so far as to call the explosive allegations much ado about nothing. "Take Joseph and Mary," he said. "Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus."

And like Jesus, Moore's brother told CNN on Friday, the judge is being persecuted.

J. Holland works with the county's Republican Party and has known Moore for decades. He thinks Moore could lose a few votes, but come Election Day, the turnout will be strong.

J. HOLLAND, REPUBLICAN PARTY OFFICIAL: This may be a little unusual, but not anything new for Roy Moore as far as being through the fire and being in a campaign like this.

MARQUARDT (on camera): Do you think there is any chance that he drops out of this race?

HOLLAND: No. No. You don't know Roy Moore. He is a fighter. If you have got to have somebody in a foxhole with you, you want Roy Moore.


MARQUARDT: The big question Moore supporters are asking now is, why now? Why are these allegations only coming out 40 years after the fact?

Do these women have an agenda? Are they trying to smear Moore just a few weeks before this election? Are the Democrats pushing them? Are they being encouraged by establishment Republicans like Mitch McConnell?

What people here are telling me is, they want more proof, more corroboration. And until then, they want Moore to stay in the race and they're confident that he can win -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alex Marquardt in Alabama for us, thank you so much.

Joining me now is former Alabama Republican Party chairman Marty Connors.


Marty, thanks so much for joining us.

First things first. Do you know if the Alabama Republican Party has convened its executive committee in any way to discuss this situation?


TAPPER: OK. Now, I know that you're --


CONNORS: I'm sure they have discussed it amongst themselves, but nothing formal.

TAPPER: I know you're skeptical of these charges from these four women. Why? Why are you skeptical?

CONNORS: Well, first of all, I want to state something very important. I'm a father of a daughter. I take these things very, very seriously, as does the people of Alabama and, frankly, the rest of the United States.

But don't you -- I mean, you're the journalist.

TAPPER: Mmm-hmm. CONNORS: Don't you find it mildly, just mildly curious, that this

would be coming out within a month of a big election where the Senate is on the line, where tax reform is on the line, where Obamacare is on the line? I mean, it's kind of timely, don't you think?

TAPPER: Well, the election is coming up, but I would also observe that in the last month or two, we have seen a lot of famous men left, right and center have their past actions dating back decades come under scrutiny, whether Harvey Weinstein or Bill O'Reilly.

CONNORS: Sure, sure, absolutely.

TAPPER: Louis C.K. And when the women are interviewed, they often say that they were inspired by other women coming forward.

Also, just having now covered a few of those stories, I know that it takes awhile in many cases for women who have horrible incidents like this, allegedly, in their past to get the courage to come forward.

CONNORS: Well, that makes sense, and I understand that, but I would counter what you're saying with the simple fact.

Roy Moore has run multiple times in the state of Alabama, governor, state Supreme Court chief, U.S. Senate. Just finished a very aggressive U.S. Senate race, millions of dollars of opposition research against Judge Moore. Where was it ever found? Why is it showing up now?

TAPPER: All I know is that some "Washington Post" reporters were down there doing a profile, and they say that they heard these rumors and they chased them down and they spent days and days, if not weeks, trying to convince the women to come forward. And they did.

The story in "The Washington Post" had 30 sources, including these four women coming on the record. If that's not enough for you, what kind of standard or burden of proof are you looking for?

CONNORS: Well, it's -- I would just think that that same "Washington Post" would have found this perhaps in August perhaps, or last year or the year before. It's just the timing of the whole thing that really doesn't pass the smell test.

TAPPER: Well, not for you, but, look, you were a regional chairman for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.

CONNORS: Yes. Yes.

TAPPER: Mitt Romney today tweeted -- quote -- "Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections. I believe Leigh Corfman." That's the woman alleging the sexual contact when she was 14.

"Her account is too serious to ignore. Moore is unfit for office and should step aside."

You and Mitt Romney disagree on this issue. He doesn't seem troubled by the timing.

CONNORS: Well, I think that everyone that is in an establishment position with the Republican Party are going to say those sort of things.

It's referred to as covering your backside. But I think the truth is you have just got to watch the timing on this. Roy has been scrubbed up and down, up and down. And, you know, "The Washington Post," I'm not sure they're the most credible source for news in the state of Alabama.

TAPPER: I mean, I don't know why you would say that. It's one of the best newspapers in the country.

CONNORS: Why would I say that? Why would I say is that? OK.

TAPPER: Yes, it's one of the best newspapers in the country.

You're curious about the timing, and you're curious about --


TAPPER: And you're impugning "The Washington Post."


TAPPER: But what about the four women? These are four Alabama women who have similar stories about Roy Moore in his 30s coming on to them, according to them, when they were 14, 16, 17 and 18. One of them -- one of these women is a Trump supporter.

CONNORS: No, well, one says she's a Trump supporter. I assume she is. And I take everything they say at face value. That's why we have a court system.

And let me tell you something else. If this is proven true, the courts will take care of it. And I can promise you one thing. The Alabama Republican Party will take care of it.


TAPPER: Well, hold on. You just said you take what they say at face value, but you're not taking what they say at face value. You're doubting what they're saying.

CONNORS: No. No, I'm doubting the timing.

I think that we ought to let the process take course. I mean, I'm thinking about the John Edwards case, when he was running for president, or, for that matter, the months and months and months that it took us to ever get to the bottom of Bill Clinton. And I think your network has a little bit to do with some of that.

TAPPER: I don't know what that means. We reported on all the allegations against Bill Clinton.

Last year, I interviewed Juanita Broaddrick in the lead-up. And Bill Clinton wasn't even running for office.


But let me ask you. You tweeted last month, "I guess Hillary doubted the Weinstein allegations, like she did Bill's."

Why do you believe allegations against people like Harvey Weinstein, I'm assuming, based on that tweet, but not ones about Roy Moore?

Isn't that the issue that so many -- you see comedians right now, comedians won't criticize Louis C.K., but -- you know, but they will criticize Donald Trump. And aren't you doing the exact opposite?


CONNORS: No. No. No.

I -- I -- I don't have an opinion on Weinstein. I think he too should have his day in court.

TAPPER: Well --

CONNORS: I just think that Hillary -- I think what's unique about the situation, though, is Hillary ran as a feminist, and yet dissed all of the women that came forward against Bill Clinton.

That's a big difference than this last-minute allegation. But let's just let it play out.

TAPPER: Did you believe the accusers of Bill Clinton when they came out during the Clinton years, Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick and Gennifer Flowers and the others, Kathleen Willey? Did you believe them?

CONNORS: I'm not sure about them. I do believe the blue dress.

TAPPER: I guess here's a question for you. If it came down in an election between a Republican who had been proven a child molester or a Democrat, would you vote for the Democrat?

CONNORS: I would vote against the child molester, if proven.

TAPPER: And does it need to be proven in a court of law for you? Is that the standard?

CONNORS: Well, I mean, what are we dealing with here, facts, or are we peddling gossip? And, at this point, I think we're peddling gossip --

TAPPER: What's the definition of --

CONNORS: -- until we really know what the facts are.

TAPPER: Well, I wasn't there, but four women coming on the record and making these allegations, people in their families saying that they told them these stories in years past, and, you know, certain details, such as the one woman who was 14 and at the courthouse, and her mom had been there for a custody hearing, and then Roy Moore, who was the district attorney at the time, allegedly coming and saying he would take care of the girl, watch her at the time, before he allegedly molested her.

I mean, they went back -- "The Washington Post" went back and looked at the court records, and the mom was there that day.

CONNORS: Yes. There will be depositions on that sort of thing.

And I think the Republican leadership in the Senate, as well as the courts, as well as in the state of Alabama, will be more than happy to clear that up when it is proven. Let's wait until then. Let's not peddle gossip.

TAPPER: I don't think it's gossip. I don't think a story with 30 sources and four women making the accusations on the record is gossip.

Let me ask you another question, because we have heard different things from people who are supporters of Roy Moore. Do you think that there is something wrong with a man who is 32 having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old?

CONNORS: Oh, absolutely.

TAPPER: What about a 16-year-old?

CONNORS: Absolutely.

TAPPER: And 17 and 18 as well?

CONNORS: Yes, or any woman, for that matter, without consent.

TAPPER: OK. But these women -- the point is, they were under 18 years old.

So, you don't doubt their stories, but you question the timing. I guess I'm just really confused about your position on this.

CONNORS: I -- I -- I -- I don't know what to think about their stories. You keep putting words in my mouth.

I say I don't really know what their stories are. It hasn't been really fleshed out. It just happens to be rolled out now just days before the election.

And another interesting thing, once the ballots have already been printed. It's just a little suspect. And I would like you to ask questions to some people.

TAPPER: About the timing?

CONNORS: I mean, again, yes, the timing. I mean, you're the journalist, right?

TAPPER: I did. I did. I asked the "Washington Post" reporter yesterday. I said this -- people are saying this is a hit job, this a smear job. Why is this happening now?

They said -- and she explained what I explained to you. They were down there doing -- they were doing a profile of Roy Moore, as one would expect after he gets the nomination for a Senate seat.

CONNORS: Sure. Sure.

TAPPER: And then while doing that, they heard these rumors, they chased them down, and they got this story.

I guess what I'm really curious about is, what kind of standard of proof are you looking for that would convince you that the charges are true, or is it just because of the timing, you don't -- that's not really important; the timing is the most important thing for you?

CONNORS: Well, the timing is the most obvious political thing, but, you know, I think that depositions could shine some light on that.

But it hasn't happened. So, I don't -- I don't draw conclusions until I have facts. But, then again, you're the journalist.

TAPPER: Conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin tweeted -- quote -- "If suburban women were mad on Tuesday when they turned out in droves, what happens when they hear Republicans defending pedophilia? -- unquote.

What's your take on that --

CONNORS: Nobody's --


CONNORS: Nobody is defending pedophilia.

TAPPER: Well, there are --

CONNORS: Are you kidding me?

TAPPER: There are county party chairs and others in Alabama who have said it's no big deal, even if it's true, even if the charges are true.

CONNORS: I'm sure those are out of context as well.


Former Alabama Republican --

CONNORS: And, you know --

[16:15:00] TAPPER: -- go ahead. I'll give you the last word.

CONNORS: Yes, my last word -- I understand this is an interesting story, but when you have your Sunday show, could you get us updated on the Menendez trial? I'd like to hear about that. TAPPER: Sure. We've been covering the Menendez trial since it

started. Right now, we're just waiting for a verdict. We don't have access to jury deliberations right now.


TAPPER: But when there's a verdict, we'll bring that to you.

Thanks for your interest in that.

CONNORS: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: If you watch the show, you know that we do cover that trial.

Former Alabama Republican Party chairman, Marty Connors, thank you so much.

CONNORS: Thank you.

TAPPER: We've got a ton to discuss, including why there seems to be different rules for politicians than for some in Hollywood. Stick around.


TAPPER: And we're back with more in our politics lead. More on embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who made it clear he does not plan to go anywhere, even though four women on the record accused him of sexual advances. And in once case, sexual abuse when they were teenagers, in one case, 14.

Let's talk it over with the panel. First of all, Kirsten, what do you think? I just interviewed former Alabama Republican Party chairman, Marty Connors. I'm not sure if there is any standard of proof that would meet what he's looking for.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, it just reminds me of the presidential campaign with Donald Trump. It was a very similar situation. It didn't matter if it was one woman after another after another, and it didn't matter. None of them were believable. It was all suspicious. It was all suspicious because of the timing.

[16:20:02] And yet at the same time as this gentleman was, they're completely obsessed with Bill Clinton. Yes, it was like it's -- just all they want to do is talk about Bill Clinton who has been accused some pretty bad things, which you've covered. But it's definitely true in those cases. They just -- you know, it can't possibly be true in the cases when it involves somebody that they support.

TAPPER: The people looking at issues of accusations like these, especially when there are multiple accusations from multiple women, and only care about the party alignment.


TAPPER: And people on both sides of the aisle -- I hate saying both sides, but people on both sides of the aisle do this. It's really remarkable to me.

HAM: Yes. I mean, I think it's important to look at the evidence that is levied, especially when it's close to an election. I think that's a fair question to ask.


HAM: But these are multiple people with a similar M.O. who don't seem to know each other, who don't seem to be activists, who told people contemporaneously. And for one of them, the one was the court date seemed to line up when Moore would have been at the courthouse.

There's a lot going on. There are reasons for not coming forward earlier. Also make some sense. For instance, these young women who might have been flattered at the age of 15 and look back and said, ooh, that doesn't seem so great.

There are examples, though, of this going badly and being fake. The Carl DeMaio out in San Diego when the national GOP thought it might get a Congress seat with its -- one of its first openly guy candidates. One person came out with an allegation that he later told the courts was false. But that's one person.

TAPPER: Right.

HAM: Now, the media did obligingly run with that story, and he did not win that race. So, there is a risk there but -- we can rationally look at what the evidence is and decide whether it's credible. And I think these women fall in the rubric -- under the rubric of credibility.

POWERS: Yes. And, also, I mean, you explained to him how the stories came about. "The Washington Post" reporters have explained that. But, you know, they might have noticed there is something going on nationally right now about women speaking out.


POWERS: So, it's not just election. Also, by the way, people do tend to get covered more when they're running for office. So, when you're running.

TAPPER: For federal office especially.

POWERS: When you're running for Senate, people try to pay more attention to things and you get much more scrutiny than you did when you're running for local office.

HAM: Well, I was saying, you know, people say he's run for many things before over the years, why didn't any of this come out earlier? Another way of saying that is he's been very powerful in the state of Alabama for the entire --


TAPPER: So, Roy Moore just did a radio interview with Sean Hannity. I want to play a little bit of that, especially his reference to the woman who says he assaulted her, sexually abuse her when she was 14 years old.


ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I don't know Ms. Corfman from anybody. I've never talked to her. I never had any contact with her. The allegations of sexual misconduct with her are completely false. I believe they're politically motivated. I believe they're brought only to stop a very successful campaign, and that's what they're doing. I've never known this woman or anything --


TAPPER: All right. So, just a complete denial. He's never met her at all.

POWERS: Yes. Didn't she contemporaneously tell somebody else about this at the time? I mean, what would her motivation be? I don't understand.

Why would somebody tell somebody about a person who at the time was not somebody that -- anyone was trying to take down in an election, right? I mean, it doesn't really make sense that someone would just -- had told someone in real time that this happened and then later -- I don't know. I'm not really following it.

But, you know, this -- what else is he going to do? He's portraying this as a sort of holy war. He's the Christian candidate. He's got the evangelical Christians behind and he's going to -- this is going to be the way that he plays it out, the same way Donald Trump did.

TAPPER: One other -- there is other news today in the men behaving badly category of the news. And that is Louis C.K., the comedian who has been accused of behaving inappropriately, in a sexual context with five women. He came out today and said basically that all the charges are true.

He wrote, quote: These stories are true. The power I had over these women is that they admired me and I wielded that power irresponsibly. I've spent my long and lucky career talking and saying anything I want. I will now step back and take a long time to listen.

I mean, it's a very extensive statement. That's just part of it.

What was your response to his statement?

HAM: I mean, it was a very straightforward apology, at times graphic. And I think it sort -- in a very Louis C.K. way, reeked of self- loathing that often his act does. The act itself of which he's accused and this sort of matched that tone. But I -- even an apology that is frank doesn't take back what you did.

TAPPER: What did you think?

POWERS: Well, so the problem with this kind of apology is that he had been confronted about this in the past and didn't respond in this way.

TAPPER: In fact, two months ago, he told "New York" magazine it was just rumors. Just rumors.

POWERS: Right. And so, sort of complaining like about one of the women. Like why are you talking about this publicly?

So, he had an opportunity to come clean and he didn't come clean and didn't apologize until he was caught. And so, it's always a little harder to take these apologizes when someone is staring down the barrel of losing their entire life, right?

[16:25:03] And then they apologize. You kind of have to ask, well, is this a sincere apology? Because if it's sincere apology, then he is right, he does need to take some time and think about these things. But is this just somebody trying to save his hide, right, because he has nowhere else to go?

TAPPER: It's interesting also, when Mark Halperin issued his kind of apology for his behavior, he basically owned up to everything except for the parts of it that were assault. He basically admitted everything except for things that could get him potentially in legal or civil hot water. And I suppose that's what any lawyer would tell anyone to do, but it also makes an apology ring a little false.

HAM: Yes. I mean, I can understand someone going only to that line. And I also like the part where these super rich men who have done very bad things admit to them and then inform all of us they're going to take a vacation to see how they feel about it.


HAM: Weinstein has a very nice place, you know?

TAPPER: Roy Moore just released a new statement, quote: I have never provided alcohol to minors and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct. As a father of a daughter and a grandfather of five granddaughters, I condemn the actions of any man who engages in sexual misconduct, not just against minors but against any woman.

Kirsten, your response?

POWERS: I mean, OK. He -- I mean, he's saying he didn't do it. And, you know, there were 30 sources in this story?

TAPPER: Thirty sources and four women on the record.

POWERS: Yes, and I think, you know, this is a person I personally don't find to be the most straightforward person. So, I mean, he is a pretty controversial person. And so, if I had to choose between who I was going to believe, I probably would believe an investigative report by the "Washington Post."

TAPPER: You know, it's interesting, so, Mitt Romney when he issued his statement, he basically said what we heard from nobody else, most Republicans we talked about this yesterday, most Republicans are saying that if the charges are true, Roy Moore should step down. The White House even said something similar.

Mitt Romney basically said that proof in a court of law is not the same as proof in politics. And he believes the woman, Leigh Corfman, who makes the allegation about when she was 14 years old. And he thinks that Roy Moore should step down.

POWERS: Yes. And, the truth is, you know, you were sort of making this point earlier. It's actually very unusual that women make up these stories.

TAPPER: It does happen.

POWERS: It happens.

TAPPER: The Duke lacrosse case.

POWERS: It's so rare, right? But it really is rare. And so, especially in the cases where you have, you know, I think the number of sourcings that you have in these stories. And so, you know, but he's -- because it has happened, I think he's going to kind of use that to his advantage with the people who are behind him and who want to support him.

TAPPER: You two stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about.

President Trump and President Putin are shaking hands during the class photo in Vietnam at the APEC conference. But will there be more than small talk with the Russian leader? That story is next. Stay with us.