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Moore Digs in as Scandal Erodes GOP Support; White House: Human Rights Came Up "Briefly" with Duterte; Trump on Russian Meddling: "I'm with our Agencies". Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 13, 2017 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He will be a star for better health care and lower drug prices. Azar worked as deputy secretary of HHS in the administration of George W. Bush and also has worked for Eli Lilly, the giant pharmaceutical maker here in the United States. We will have more on that coming up.

In the meantime, it is a time for choosing in Alabama. Will the White House choose to push Roy Moore from the Senate race there after a woman said that Moore sexually molested her when she was 14? Well, Alabama Republicans choose to stand by their candidate. We could know soon. As for Roy Moore himself his choice for now is to stay in and to attack, to attack the on the record claims that he touched a 14-year- old and pursued other teenagers and attack the newspaper that told their stories.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: "The Washington Post" published another attack on my character reputation in a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign. These attacks involve a minor child, completely false and untrue. And for which they will be sued.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Moore's defiance right now in contrast to some national Republicans saying that they do believe it is time for Roy Moore to drop out. CNN's Kyung Lah in Moore's hometown of Gadsden, Alabama. What's the situation this morning Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well let's contrast what we're hearing on the ground here John, what we're hearing from national Republicans. Some Republicans over the weekend went a step further beyond the "if true" phrase that saying if true, he should step aside to a couple of them saying look these are serious allegations. He should just simply step aside, the White House saying that these accusations, that they need to be looked at, but saying that they don't want him convicted in the press. Locally, we are hearing a bit of a mixed bag. It is not a uniform voice. Here's what voters here are telling us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JACK FLOYD, ALABAMA DEMOCRAT, FRIEND OF MOORE: Roy Moore is my friend. I'm a Democrat. I'm not going to vote for him because I'm a Democrat, but I've known him a long, long time. The thing that bothers me about those charges is that he's been in public life, run for many offices and as many times as this happened no one has ever said anything until now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I never was a Roy Moore supporter to begin with, but I see no reason why several women would come out and start talking about this stuff, you know, if it wasn't true.

CHARLES HERB, GADSDEN, ALABAMA RESIDENT: I'm waiting for more information to come out. But again, right now, I feel that there's -- where there's smoke there's fire.

DOROTHY ROBINSON, GADSDEN, ALABAMA RESIDENT: I really hate that all of this negative attention is on my home state and especially on my city Gadsden Country, Alabama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAH: Now the big question is going to be, what are all these voters going to do on December 12th. What is going to be the impact on that election? I have spoken to a Republican woman who says that she did vote for Moore in the primary, but since "The Washington Post" report, she's decided not to vote for Moore in the election. But, I also spoke to another Republican woman who said this is simply energized her even more to support Moore. So John, still right now, we simply can't predict it but it certainly is not a uniform voice coming out of this state.

BERMAN: A range of responses. Look, people still digesting the news which is relatively recent. Kyung Lah in Gadsden, Alabama thanks so much for being with us.

Want to get more local perspective. Joining us now, Bill Britt, editor in chief of the "Alabama Political Reporter." Bill, always a pleasure to speak to you to get a sense of the situation really on the ground in Alabama. Do you think that Roy Moore is feeling any pressure this morning to get out?

BILL BRITT, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER": John, thanks for having me on. I am actually in the Etowah County this morning at our family's home. It's a farm up here in the Etowah County not far from Roy Moore. The sense we've gotten over the weekend is that, much like the report that we just heard, there are folks that are just die-hard. They're going to stay Republicans and back Roy Moore. There are others who are saying I'm staying home. We're not seeing anyone, at least here in the Etowah County, saying that they're going to switch to Doug Jones from a Republican. But we're hearing they just will not vote.

BERMAN: What about the pressure that is now being -- or the signals now being sent by some national Republicans, Senator Tim Scott, Senator Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, those who have - in some cases supported Roy Moore or stayed out of the race who now say they think he should drop out? Any impact?

BRITT: Well, it does. It does to a degree. But in Alabama, I say we're kind of the make me state, just like a Missouri is the show me, we're the make me state. We want people -- we have to be made to do certain things. It's very contrary to the nature of Alabamians for someone from D.C. or anywhere to come down here and tell us what we can do.

[10:05:04] Now that may be good and that may be bad, but it is the nature of what we see here, even on the ground. People don't want to be told how to vote. So that's kind of where we are. It's a stubborn crew down here.

BERMAN: There is one person who has not weighed in definitively yet on what Roy Moore should do and that's President Trump. He, obviously, is very popular in Alabama. Do you think if he came out Wednesday, for instance, when he gets back from the Asia trip and says I think Roy Moore should drop out? Do you think that would have an impact?

BRITT: Well, it didn't have much of an impact when he said that he supported Luther Strange. But of course it's going to have an impact on certain Republicans and certain folks. Donald Trump is hugely popular here. But so is Roy Moore. And what we've seen is a hardening, on both sides, folks that have always been against Roy Moore or have more reason to be against him and those who are for him are calling this a Washington conspiracy. We are on the ground with our reporters trying to illuminate the story even better.

BERMAN: All right, Bill Britt for us. Keep us posted as to what you hear. Thanks so much Bill.

Joining me now -- joining me now CNN political commentators Angela Rye and Ben Ferguson, and CNN contributor Salena Zito. Salena, you have an interesting story, you were already seeing the impact of the Roy Moore case in Alabama in other races around the country. Republicans are feeling pressure here.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, absolutely. There's a special House election to replace former Congressman Tim Murphy who left under his own cloud of scandal for encouraging the woman he was having an affair with to have an abortion. So he left, but he left immediately, as soon as the scandal came out, he went to Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan said time to go, and he's gone. But so now there's a special election. The Republicans and the Democrats have to pick their nominees through a process within the party.

The Republicans picked first. They picked Rick Saccone and within two minutes of him being picked on Saturday, an e-mail went out from one of the other seven Democratic rivals. They pick next week, saying he was just like Roy Moore. He was Pennsylvania's version of Roy Moore.

And so boom, right there, the Republicans, you know, sort of see in the first election after this scandal came out, that Democrats have no problem using this as a tool to sort of bludgeon any Republican candidates that come out afterward.

BERMAN: And many Republicans, including your own Senator Pat Toomey has now come out and said Roy Moore should step down. He believes the woman more than he believes Roy Moore.

Angela, one area which -- one place where they haven't come out with a definitive response is the White House. The president and the White House put out a statement early on saying that if the allegations are true, Moore should step down, but this weekend, Kellyanne Conway and Mark Shore went on TV and said we need to hear more from Roy Moore. That's as far as we're going to go. Is that far enough?

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Of course it's not. And I think what's mostly interesting from folks on the other side of the aisle is the way in which we will politicize these issues when it comes to Democrats, right. There's a no tolerance policy when it comes to Democrats, look no further than Harvey Weinstein, but I'm saying that there should be a line that we draw in the sand on a sexual assault, molestation, on sexual predators. That should not be a partisan issue. This should be something that we can come together and say there is no place for a sexual predator in the United States Senate and that message should come first and foremost from the commander in chief. I think the challenge that he has is he's been accused of the similar behaviors, not with underage girls but certainly with other women. And so, does it open up that can of worms for him and is that why they're keeping their hands kind of hands off.

BERMAN: Ben Ferguson, how do you see it? Does the White House need to say more than it already has?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not at this point, no. I think what you see here is there's a lot of people in Alabama, those that don't like Roy Moore who even come out and said, I talked to one of them last night, a Democrat, on my radio show in Birmingham that said I don't like Roy Moore, I can't stand his politics. But this is a guy that's been investigated by the attorney general of the state. This is a guy that's been investigated by three different branches of the state government and never did any of this information ever come out. He's been unseated from the state Supreme Court and they did an investigation. They also didn't find it.

So people in Birmingham, people in Alabama, I think they say, let's continue to look into this, but let's also not just immediately, because someone makes an accusation, assume that automatically he is guilty. And I think the White House saying if it's true, or if this comes to light that it is true or factual or accurate, you know then yes, we'll have him step down. I think that's a more appropriate response at this point.

I think look, Roy Moore is in a situation where you got to ask yourself this, do you care more about what you claim you believe in or do you care more about you as a person?

[10:10:02] If I'm advising him I would tell him to step aside because the issues you claim you care about are bigger than the person. I don't think he's going to do that. I think he's going to go down swinging.

BERMAN: Interesting. You say two things, you think Roy Moore should get out but at the same time you also think it's too early to pass judgment. Angela, one of the issues, and this goes beyond politics, this goes to allegations of sexual abuse, is sometimes we don't get more than this. This is actually a lot. You have four on the record accusations from women including one woman who says she was 14 who says Roy Moore did this. Roy Moore says no. This may be all we ever hear.

RYE: Unless there are more accusers and I think that -- I don't understand what that number is, right. Is three enough? Is four enough? Is it 60? At what point do you begin to believe that these stories sound similar. If there are people that are from Alabama who say that this is well-known information about Roy Moore, right, which is -- which has been said, I don't know what else you really need. Again, I go back to the point that Republicans, when it's on the Democratic side, this is all they normally have, John.

BERMAN: Look, Salena, my hope on this kind of thing is it wouldn't be a partisan issue. That this is an issue of someone, a woman who says she was molested when she was 14 on the record, she makes this claim, you know, I think that a woman's words have to be taken into account if we want to move forward in this society. But, is this one of those cases where so many times over the last 18 months we've seen that a lot of people are saying that oh, my God, this is the biggest thing ever, but there are other folks who think it's all overblown, a media creation?

ZITO: Well, I mean what this -- this woman said about what happened to her when she was 14, and even the subsequent women who said it happened within the range that is legal, but still is kind of culturally creepy, you know, I think we need to take those things as valid concerns about the character of the person that's running for office. And I think the best thing that could happen in terms for Republicans is even if they lose this seat, or even if they refuse to seat him, they took the higher moral ground and they -- and if you're just talking pure politics, they lose less seats down the road than just losing one seat in the U.S. Senate.

BERMAN: Ben Ferguson, I want to ask you -- go ahead, Ben.

FERGUSON: No. I think there's one thing here that is very clear. And that is, the fact that people in Alabama, they feel like they know Roy Moore better than people outside of the state. I mean this is a guy that has lost his job multiple times because he went against what the law said.

BERMAN: Right.

FERGUSON: I never thought that he should have been running in the first place, but the people of Alabama feel like they know him and they also feel like he's been investigated by his enemies. He's been investigated by his enemies and this never came up.

BERMAN: I know what you're saying, 100 percent. When you're dealing with sexual abuse, though, and allegations of sexual harassment or molestation, we have histories here which tell us that often women don't come forward. It's not the kind of thing necessarily that comes up in investigations. Necessarily. Maybe it would, maybe it won't, but this is a different case. This isn't, you know, tax returns from 25 years ago. We have seen patterns like this, Bill Cosby, people come out decades later.

RYE: Yes.

BERMAN: It just happens. That's the way sometimes you see it in these cases. Go ahead, Angela.

RYE: And I was just going to say, I think one of the things that we kind of have to acknowledge is there are some things that are about antiquated values, right. We know more than 30 percent of Alabamians are evangelicals and coming out of that tradition, I understand that some of the kind "Little House on the Prairie" values don't materialize or cross over as well in 2017. There are some things about the way that people are conditioned to think that have to change. And to that point, that is why women are getting the courage that they now have to come forward. That is why you're seeing that from California to Alabama.

BERMAN: All right. Angela Rye, Salena Zito, Ben Ferguson, thank you all very much for being part of this discussion. It's an important one.

Mixed messages, President Trump under pressure to talk about human rights with the president of the Philippines, but did he? Plus, a shocking report says that two Navy SEALS are accused of killing a green beret after he discovered they were stealing. We're on that. And more than half of Puerto Rico still without power, but the top commander leading U.S. response there is planning to leave this week. CNN gets exclusive access as he takes one of his last tours of the island.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Many people with your departure fear they will be left alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:19:00] BERMAN: This morning, it is a he said/he said between President Trump and the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Did the two leaders talk about human rights or not? The White House says they did. In fact, they just put out a statement on paper that says the two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential. That is in a press release. But Duterte's camp says the topic of human rights did not come up. So which is it? CNN White House correspondent, Sara Murray, live for us in Manila. Interesting, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting, John. I mean, President Trump has hardly been a champion of human rights on the world stage. He hardly goes into these meetings to hold other presidents' feet to the fire on this issue but this is particularly bizarre because of the conflicting statements. I'm going to read you two of them. A spokesperson for Duterte said, "The issue of human rights did not arise. It was not brought up." Meanwhile, a White House spokesperson earlier had said, "Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines' fight against illegal drugs."

[10:20:02] Duterte has been waging a very bloody war against drugs here in the Philippines, one that has raised concern about among human rights watchers, saying thousands are being killed without going through the appropriate judicial process. Now, these two men did not take questions today when reporters tried to ask them questions about human rights, about the drug war. Duterte referred to reporters there as spies. That drew a laugh from President Trump.

There were, of course, some lighter notes in this summit, though, one of them was this so-called family photo, this is when all of the leaders get together, pose for a picture. John, you're used to seeing this, of course, at the ASEAN Summit. President Trump though appeared to struggle a little bit with this cross-body handshake. I think we have some video of him trying to get around to it. He makes it there, eventually. This is a president who has somehow managed to make news repeatedly about the way he shakes hands on the world stage. John?

BERMAN: That's a very awkward position to be in. I give him credit for pulling it off at all. Sara Murray for us in Manila. Thank you very, very much.

In some ways these meetings with Asian leaders have been overshadowed by statements the president has made about Vladimir Putin and Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

Joining me to discuss that, CNN national security analyst Nada Bakos. And Nada, the president sort of half walked back his statement that he thinks that President Putin believes it when he says the Russians did not meddle and compared that to what the president calls the political hacks who were running U.S. Intelligence Director Comey, James Clapper, director of national intelligence and John Brennan, former director of the CIA. Well, both Brennan and Clapper had a chance to respond to the president right here on CNN. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Putin is committed to undermining our system, our democracy, and our whole process. And to try to paint it in any other way is, I think, astounding and, in fact, poses a peril to this country. The likelihood that the Russians are going to pursue like interests with us is slim to none. I think it's very naive and, again, perilous to this country to make an assumption that Russia is going to behave with the best interest of the world or certainly the United States in mind. They're not.

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think he's giving Putin a pass, and I think it demonstrates to Mr. Putin that Donald Trump can be played by foreign leaders who are going to appeal to his ego and to try to play upon his insecurities, which is very, very worrisome from a national security standpoint. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I think there are a couple specific charges there and I want to talk about each one.

Clapper said that the president's words about Vladimir Putin pose a peril to the country. Do you agree and if so, how?

NADA BAKOS, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think it does, mainly because what he and Brennan had reiterated is that Russia does not have our national security interests at heart. This is -- national security is about your own country and that's a very basic concept. For Trump to then say Putin is then telling him the truth, we know that Putin is a former KGB officer. This is not in Putin's best interest to then tell Trump the truth. We know that they've been caught meddling, but he's not -- when confronted he's not going to say yes, this actually happened and we were involved.

BERMAN: In the other interesting thing we heard from Brennan was the notion that what this shows is that President Trump can be played by other leaders. That's a charge which I have to believe gets under President Trump's skin, by the way. Do you think it's valid?

BAKOS: Well, given this example, I think it is somewhat valid. If Putin can actually persuade Trump that what he's saying is true, other leaders could do the same thing and it's a very basic skill that KGB officers or spies as Putin is have in coercing others. So I think it's somewhat accurate.

BERMAN: I've heard from Russian analysts, and I have no way of knowing this is true myself, but what I have heard from Russian analysts in the past is that one thing that Vladimir Putin does respond to is force, is strength. It's not sort of sucking up, if that's what the president is trying to do.

BAKOS: Right, exactly. So I think in this instance if Trump would have actually come to Putin and said, we have this evidence, this discussion is not about whether or not you did this, this discussion is about going forward, we don't want your interference in our elections and we will take the necessary steps to prevent this from happening. If he's using this supposedly as leverage with North Korea, we have a myriad of issues with Russia and North Korea. Intelligence communities think they possibly sold a high potency fuel for their long-range missiles to North Korea. So no, I totally agree, he needs to use force and, you know, solid conversations as sanctions rather than trying to befriend him.

[10:25:05] BERMAN: And Nada, one of the other things the president said, we didn't play that sound, he said that he thinks of Vladimir Putin meant it when he said that the Russians did not meddle but as of now the president believes U.S. Intelligence agencies as currently constituted, hinting again that he thinks they used to be run by political hacks. But do the people inside the agencies think that their reliability or their confidence ebbs and flows with changes in administration? BAKOS: Well, that's what he's telling them, is that it does. It depends who's sitting at the top. The people underneath haven't changed. These are dedicated civil servants who are still working in those positions and have through -- some through the Clinton administration all the way through George W. Bush. They're not politically affiliated. So I think at this point, they would question, is this going to change then given the next scenario when he disagrees with the Intelligence Community?

BERMAN: Nada Bakos, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

BAKOS: Thank you.

BERMAN: The general task with leading the military response to the crisis in Puerto Rico has been reassigned and only CNN is by his side as he takes his final tour of the destruction on the island. A live report ahead.