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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Roy Moore Vowing to Stay in Senate Race; Trump's Nuclear Authority. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired November 14, 2017 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with our world lead.
And the question, is there anything or anyone that would stop President Trump from starting a nuclear war if he wanted to start one?
Polls indicate that many of you are quite concerned about this. A CNN poll from last month suggested 63 percent of the public says the president has been more reckless than responsible in his responses to North Korean threats.
A Pew poll from August shows a majority of the American people, 58 percent, lacking confidence in the president's ability to make wise decisions about the use of nuclear weapons.
Today, on Capitol Hill, Republican Senator Bob Corker, who previously has called the Trump White House an adult day care center and questioned the president's fitness for office, he and his Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the president's sole authority to order a nuclear strike.
CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon filed this report.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A warning from President Trump, what will happen if the U.S. is forced to defend itself against North Korea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president recognizes that we're running out of time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many interpret that to mean that the president is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in order to deal with the threat of North Korea.
STARR: The rhetoric leading to an extraordinary hearing. For the first time in more than 40 years, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee publicly questioning how and when a president can launch nuclear weapons. But, this time, it is also about Donald Trump. SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: We are concerned that the
president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic, that he might order a nuclear strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests.
STARR: CNN has learned that some U.S. allies, as well as some in Congress, have sought reassurances that Trump could not rashly order a nuclear strike, even though he has the authority to do so.
SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Many Americans share my fear that the president's bombastic words could turn into nuclear reality.
STARR: But sharp warnings about changing decades of the president's ultimate war authority.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, if we were to change the decision-making process in some way to because of a distrust of this president, I think that would be an unfortunate precedent.
STARR: A former top nuclear commander underscoring, a nuclear strike order must be legal, in proportion to the threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is an illegal order presented to the military, the military is obligated to refuse to follow it.
STARR: And no appetite for change from the defense secretary.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think that we have to keep trust, keep faith in the system that we have, that has proven effective now for decades.
STARR: And tensions with North Korea certainly not easy. The U.S. Navy right now is conducting a very unusual exercise, three aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan sending a message to Kim Jong-un -- Jake.
TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thanks so much.
My panel is back with me.
Bill, this is the first time Congress has debated the power of the president to launch nuclear strikes in four decades, since the 1970s. So I think it's always a good discussion to have, you know, the legislative challenge the executive branch. But do you think that's what this is, or is this about President Trump?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Obviously, it's prompted by President Trump.
I mean, I think we have pretty good checks in place, honestly. One of the big lessons of the 10 months of the Trump presidency for me is that there are strong institutions within and without the U.S. government that constrain the president.
Maybe it's been a reminder that we don't want a president to have so much unilateral authority. And the secretary of defense -- the chain of command would be through the secretary of defense, between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I think, or maybe to commandant,to the nuclear commander.
But, in any case, Jim Mattis is there and he's not going to execute an order that he thinks is either illegal or crazy. So that's -- that's good, but -- so I don't actually think that's the greatest threat from Donald Trump, but it is worth taking a fresh look.
And one thing one should look at also is Congress' role here, Congress in general in war fighting, right? Congress could do more to authorize the fights we're fighting.
TAPPER: Well, they abdicate that a lot.
TAPPER: They don't want the responsibility.
And I would say, obviously, if we're going -- I don't think we will have to use nuclear weapons anywhere, but if there were a moment where we would have to, Congress should have a debate about whether we're going to have to use force in whatever country we would use nuclear weapons against.
TAPPER: Are you reassured by the presence of the so-called generals, Mattis, Masters, Kelly?
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No.
TAPPER: You're not?
SANDERS: I am not reassured by the presence of the generals.
I think General Kelly, for instance, has shown us that, in time, he will buckle under what I call the Trump pressure, if you will, and go along and get along for this president. That's why I really believe that Congress is very important.
A lot of folks forget in these times, but Congress is a co-equal branch of government. And so these hearings are important. I'm not here to leave it just up to the generals. I want my elected officials whom we sent to Congress to do their jobs.
KRISTOL: Let me just one thing quickly.
Look, Trump ordered -- by tweet, kicked the transgender people out of the military. Right? That's a lot less serious than nuclear weapons. Has it happened? No, because you know what? There are laws and procedures. And Secretary Mattis said, we can review this in an orderly way, but somebody who is legally serving in the military cannot be separated on the whim of the commander in chief?
That is a good instance, I think, that the system, the deep state, as the left used to call it, now an alt-right term, works in some ways. I don't want to be complacent about it, but I think we should take pride in the fact that this isn't a Third World country, where if you have a somewhat unstable guy as president, he can just cavalierly commit us to military or other actions.
JULIA IOFFE, "THE ATLANTIC": Yet.
SANDERS: That's what I was going to say. For now.
IOFFE: But wanted to say something to Symone's point, but that's not the argument that you heard senators making.
They're saying this president is unstable, quixotic, you know, saying things about a president you haven't really heard sitting senators say from the bench. I mean, Bob Corker is just torching the place on his way out, right?
They're not making an argument about Congress abdicating responsibility or stepping up and taking their fair share of responsibility. They're making a character-based argument about this president, which is kind of a little icky, a little squeaky.
TAPPER: A little squeaky.
TAPPER: I do want to switch to taxes for one second, because there was just kind of an awkward moment from the president's economic adviser, Gary Cohn.
He was talking to business leaders today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask you all a quick question? If the tax reform bill goes through, do you plan to increase investment -- your company's investment, capital investment? Just a show of hands, if tax reform goes through.
GARY COHN, PRESIDENTIAL ECONOMIC ADVISER: Why aren't the other hands up? Why aren't the other hands up?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Gary Cohn surprised, apparently, that not a lot of those -- that was a room full of CEOs -- not a lot of hands went up, Bill.
KRISTOL: I was in a meeting with some economists yesterday about something else, really.
But they are center-right, center-left. No one thinks this tax bill is really a very good tax bill on actual economic grounds. Some think it's marginally better. Some think it's marginally worse.
I was really struck by the lack of enthusiasm. And there is a case for tax reform. There is a case for corporate tax reform. And there is a case for a lot of things, but they have managed to cobble together something that is an awful lot of old ideas bouncing around in a somewhat incoherent way.
TAPPER: Still, the corporate tax rate would be lowered from 35 percent to 20 percent, basically. You would think that some people would raise their hands, sure, we're going to have a lot more money to create more plants, more factories.
IOFFE: Or they're going to hand it off to their shareholders, which has been one of the main criticisms, right, of this law.
And, unfortunately, this is, like a lot of Republican tax plans and tax policy, there is the theory and then there is the reality, and never the twain shall meet. And this insistence that, no, no, no, this time, just give it another chance, supply-side economics will work.
Or, no, no, no, this time, CEOs won't just hand off the extra profits or the money they will get back from the tax cuts to their shareholders, but they will give workers those $4,000 extra per year that the White House says they're going to do.
And then you actually talk to business leaders, and they say, nah, not really.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks, one and all. Great panel. Really appreciate your being here.
Coming up next: Accused underage sex abuser Roy Moore just tweeted that the voters of Alabama decide the election, not the swamp things of Washington, D.C. But will Republicans be able to keep him out of the Senate, if Alabama goes along with him? That's next.
TAPPER: We're back with the politics lead, and Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore charging ahead with his campaign, despite growing calls for him to drop out.
A long list of Republican members of Congress either want him to quit the race right now or step aside if the sex abuse allegations are proven true. In response, moments ago, Moore tweeted this, "Alabamans will not be fooled by this inside hit job. Mitch McConnell's days as Majority Leader are coming to an end very soon." It's a clear jab at the Senate Majority Leader who said this today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: He's obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate and we've looked at all of the options to try to prevent that from happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Meanwhile, loyal supporters of Roy Moore are trying to discredit the accusers, particularly the fifth woman who came forward yesterday with her compelling press conference. CNN's Nick Valencia joins me live now from Gadsden, Alabama. And Nick, loyal supporters pushing back against these allegations.
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not only are they pushing back, Jake, it seems that they're trying to do everything in their power to discredit these women. The latest woman to come forward, Beverly Nelson alleging that she was sexually assaulted when she was just 16 years old while in a parking lot of a restaurant called the Old Hickory House. Moore's wife came out to say there's no way that assault could have happened because the Old Hickory House did not exist at the time. The problem with that theory is that that's not true. The al.com which is the largest media outlet here in the State of Alabama investigated this and they found the Old Hickory House in a directory and also report that that business has now changed names.
Now, even still, this has not stopped Moore's supporters from coming out to question the credibility of the women who have come forward, even questioning the timing of these women, also purporting that they may have been paid by the Washington Post who initially broke this story. The Washington Post has pushed back on that saying they did not pay these women. They actually had to convince these women to come forward. Beverly Nelson may have put it best when she said, she may have not come forward at all and taken this story to the grave had it not been for the courage of the other women who came before her. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia in Gadsden, Alabama, thank you. As the calls for Moore to quit the race grow louder, it begs the question, exactly what options do Republican leaders have to try to stop Moore from becoming a U.S. Senator. CNN's Tom Foreman is over at the magic wall for us. Tom, lay out the scenarios that could play out over the next few weeks.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's look at the series of questions. The first one is can Republicans block the December 12th election? Yes, the Alabama Governor Kay Ivey who is a Republican could delay the vote but says she will not. Furthermore, she says she's going to vote for Moore, but she says it's only at this moment in time when she adds we don't have all the facts. So can Moore's name be withdrawn from the ballot? No. The deadline for withdrawal is 76 days prior to the vote. We are way past that and many absentee ballots have already been cast. So let's say the election goes forward. Could Moore be beaten? Well, sure. These allegations have cut into his lead in the polls, and while Alabama has elected only Republican Senators since the mid-1990s, the state has a long history of Democratic Senators before that.
In addition, the Republican Party could put all of its efforts into a write-in candidate, and if President Trump endorsed that alternative candidate, that might help. Although bear in mind the President supported Moore's primary challenger and Moore won anyway. So even if you put someone like Jeff Sessions back there as the write-in candidate, which they're talking about, Moore could lose but it's a job to get done. Can they stop Moore in Washington if he wins? Yes. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could lead the charge to find him unfit for office. They could swear him in and then two-thirds of all Senators could agree. They could immediately throw him out. In which case the Alabama Governor who, again, is a Republican, would appoint an interim Senator, almost certainly another Republican, until a special election could be held. Jake?
TAPPER: But, Tom, Moore still has substantial levels of support in Alabama despite everything that the voters there have heard. What are the risks for the Republican Party if they stop him the way you describe?
FOREMAN: Look, a lot of voters might not like that. So the first is payback. Steve Bannon and other anti-establishment folks who support Roy could -- Roy Moore could harass, impede and hurt mainstream Republicans in retribution, bringing in all of those voters saying you were cheated. The thing is they're pretty much doing that to the mainstream Republicans anyway so presumably it could get worse. But the second one may be the bigger worry for Mitch McConnell and all the others out there. Through all of these maneuvers, the Democrat Doug Jones could win. And that would cut into Republican control of the Senate, posing a whole new set of worries for the GOP. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you so much.
We have more breaking news. One female lawmaker publicly testifying today. There are two current members of the Congress who sexually harass women and the Speaker of the House just weighed in. Stay with us.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. Breaking today in our "POLITICS LEAD." Speaker Paul Ryan just announced mandatory anti-sexual harassment training for the House of Representatives. This news comes hours after a hearing on sexual harassment and assault in Congress. Today Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat of California, a survivor of sexual assault on the Hill, testified how the current system is failing those affected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican, and Democrat, right now who serve, who have been subject to review or not have been subject to review but have engaged in sexual harassment.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN's M.J. Lee and Sara Ganim who interviewed more than 50 former and current lawmakers and staffers about the state of sexual misconduct on Capitol Hill. M.J., let me start with you. The hearing today raising a lot of questions about how effective the current reporting system works.
M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Jake, that's right. And there's clearly this growing recognition that the current system, the current process that's in place simply does not work. That it is too antiquated, that it doesn't adequately protect victims. And just to give you a sense of how complicated this process is, this office of compliance is where a congressional aide would need to go to file a formal complaint and it takes a really, really long time in order for someone to be able to file that complaint. And just to walk you through that a little bit, first they would go to the office and they would need to go through 30 days of mandatory counseling. And if they choose to move forward after that point, they would need to sign a nondisclosure agreement, an NDA, that, of course, would prevent them from speaking out about their case in the future. And then comes the 30 days of mediation which is also required and then you have to wait another 30 days. This is called a cooling off period.
So all in all, this means three months before anyone could actually take the step of filing a complaint. And you can imagine that when a person has gone through sexual harassment or assault, the idea of waiting three months is a really, really long time and I think that has had the effect of discouraging people from speaking out. And Jake, I would note that the other big take away of course from that hearing is the fact that the female lawmaker said that current members of Congress have been accused of sexual harassment. And I think it's really important to highlight what kind of behavior we are talking about here. Congresswoman Speier, she said her office has been inundated with stories of sexual harassment and she's talking about stories like harassers exposing their genitals and also victims having their private parts grabbed on the House floor. Those quotes kind of speak for themselves. They're really stunning.
TAPPER: It wasn't just her, Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock also sharing such an anecdote. Let's put that chart up again. I just want to show people again how complicated this is. This to me, M.J., this to not to put too fine a point on it, this to me looks like the kind of process that you would establish if you are trying to discourage somebody from filing a complaint. It looks like a process set up by sexual harassers themselves. Sara, anyone who reports has to sign a nondisclosure agreement there in step two if they want to move forward. Is that normal?
SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is to have a nondisclosure agreement when you're in the process of litigation against someone. We saw that with Harvey Weinstein. We heard about the NDAs through his company. But what I've learned today from speaking to an attorney who has handled a lot of these cases is that these particular ones, these Capitol Hill cases, the NDAs are so broad they include you can't talk to your family and friends about it. You can't talk to your therapist about it. You certainly can't talk to your colleagues or report it to the police or to the House Ethics Committee. So the limiting nature of what that means if you go forward and report
it through the process, which you noted is the way that they're supposed to do it, then you are so limited in -- you give up so many of your rights to approach the problem from a different perspective. It really dissuades a lot of people from reporting at all. We know from Congresswoman Speier's office that 80 percent of the victims that have come forward to them in the last few weeks with stories, 80 percent of them did not go through this process because of what they learned it was going to be. Some of them say they started the process and walked out, saying this is not going to help me, this is going to hurt me.
TAPPER: Sure is -- sure is handy if you're writing the laws. M.J., I have to say, with this current wave of women reporting sexual misconduct in other industries and it's having an effect. Men for the first time are losing their jobs, but I wonder you hear about this on Capitol Hill today, Congresswoman Speier mentioning two current members of Congress but not naming them. Why such hesitancy on the Hill to speak out? I haven't heard about a current member of Congress involved in inappropriate sexual behavior since Mark Foley which is maybe a decade ago. Why is this the current situation on the Hill, M.J.?
LEE: Yes, this is a really important point. You know, in Hollywood, in media, we have recently seen these kinds of watershed moments where both women and men are speaking out against powerful figures and actually naming the perpetrators while on Capitol Hill that has not been the case. We have not seen, as you said, members actually being named. That has been -- that moment has really not come. And I'm sort of haunted by a conversation that I had with a congresswoman who told me that she has been harassed multiple times over the years but she does not feel like she can name that person.
TAPPER: Unbelievable. M.J. Lee, Sara Ganim, thank you so much. That's it for THE LEAD, I'm Jake Tapper. You can follower me on twitter @JAKETAPPER. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.