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Trump Mum on Moore Allegations; Roy Moore Campaign Questions Authenticity of Accuser's Story; Senators: Trump Too Unstable to Command Nuclear Weapons. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 15, 2017 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's see what happens. David, Jen, Kristen, thank you so much one and all. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for watching.

[17:00:19] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're standing by. We're following breaking news.

A news conference by the attorney for the campaign of Roy Moore, the embattled Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, who's been accused of sexual abuse and assault by multiple women. The steering committee of the Alabama Republican Party is also meeting this hour. We're standing by for live coverage. We'll be hearing from the attorney, Phillip Jauregui, momentarily. But I quickly want to go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, the president is back from Asia. Delivered a speech just a little while ago. But he's keeping very, very quiet about the entire Roy Moore scandal.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is, indeed. He, of course, is watching all of this very carefully, because the balance of power in the Senate potentially hangs on this, but he has decided not to weigh in today, even though some of his Republicans here in this town would like him to.

But Wolf, I can promise you that he is watching this news conference here as well. This is something that all Republicans in town are eager to have the president's voice on this. Senator Lindsey Graham said earlier he hopes the president, as the leader of the party, weighs in. So let's watch as this unfolds right here in front of us.

Wolf, of course, in Birmingham, Alabama, all the Senate Republicans now watching this race, Wolf.

BLITZER: There you go. Here's the attorney for Roy Moore.

BILL ARMISTEAD, CHAIRMAN OF CAMPAIGN FOR ROY MOORE: As you know, Judge Moore has been falsely accused of doing some things he did not do 40 years ago. This is a campaign so you can expect most anything to come out. But you know, we can't just stand by idly and let false charges go without some answering. We've had a lot of people tell us different things about some of these

stories, and we're checking them all out. One thing I can tell you is we do have some information we're going to share with you today, and we know that you're going to share it with those folks that you're communicating with about some of these charges.

I am Bill Armistead, chairman of the campaign for Judge Moore, and I wanted to introduce to you Phillip Jauregui, who coincidentally was chairman of Judge Moore's campaign for chief justice back in 2000.


ARMISTEAD: He's an attorney, and he is representing us in this case. And I'd like to now turn this over to Mr. Jauregui, and he'll make some comments.

JAUREGUI: Thank you, Bill.

Appreciate you all being here today. This is very important for us. There have been some serious, serious allegations, and we really appreciate the media and what you guys do to help get the word out and spread the truth.

Just as an aside, I've known Judge Moore for 24 years. When these allegations came out within the last week, it was incredibly, incredibly painful for him, for his wife, his mom, his daughter, grandchildren. You know, in these types of cases there is always someone who's alleging and the other person. And in those cases when it's true, it's horrible for the person making the accusations.

But when the allegations are made and it's not true, it's also horrible for the person who the allegations are directed against.

It's back in 2000 that Judge Moore asked me to be his campaign manager, campaign chairman, and it was one of the greatest honors and remains today and always will be one of the greatest honors of my life. During that time and afterwards, he asked me to be his attorney. and I was one of the attorneys that represented him in the Ten Commandments case.

And as you know, there have been some other cases over the last 20 years. And I've travelled with Judge Moore all over the state, different states across the nation. I've been with him in probably over 100 different meetings and been around probably in excess of 10,000 different ladies in Judge Moore's presence and not once -- not one time -- have I ever seen him act even remotely inappropriate against any woman. Toward any woman. Not when they were walking away, not when he and I were in private afterwards. That's the man that I know and that I've known for the last 24 years.

Now, the allegations that have come out. I hope you understand it takes time to work through this. We don't have a $20 million budget as a campaign. It takes time. And we want to be correct. We want to make sure that when we say something, it's proper, OK?

So we're still working through some things, but there are some things that you need to know and that we want to make you aware of.

During the press conference that Ms. Nelson and Gloria Allred had on Monday, they both said that Ms. Nelson, after the allegations, had never seen nor had any contact with Judge Moore. As it turns out, in 1999, Ms. Nelson filed a divorce action against her then husband, Mr. Harris. Guess who that case was before? It was filed in Etowah County, and the judge assigned was Roy S. Moore, circuit judge of Etowah County. There was contact.

Judge Moore signed an order in that case, as well, and we'll talk about that in a minute.

We've also had a handwriting expert looking at the evidence submitted. You may remember on Monday Ms. Nelson and Ms. Allred in support, really the only piece of evidence they had in addition to the allegations was a yearbook where they claimed that it had been signed. And they said very specifically, look back at what they said. Everything on that page, they said, was written by Judge Moore.

Now Judge Moore not only has denied everything she said before, but now flatly denies that, and he says it's not true. We have a handwriting expert, pardon me, that's looking at those. But here's the problem. A handwriting expert can't look at a copy on the Internet, right? They've got to look at an original.

So right now, Trent Garmon, our attorney has sent a letter or is sending a letter to Gloria Allred, demanding that the yearbook be released. We'll send it to a neutral custodian, who will keep chain of custody and our professional expert will examine it, and we'll find out is it genuine or is it a fraud?

There are a couple of things also that you need to know. I'm not going to go into everything that's on that paper, because again, we need to have our handwriting expert draw some conclusions. I'm not going to draw them today, and I'm not going to make any allegations that we can't support with an expert.

There are a couple things that you need to look at. Look at the 1977 after "Merry Christmas." Look at those two "7s" and then look below at the "'77." And I want to ask you, do you think it was written by the same person?

I want you to look at "old hickory house," which they say Judge Moore wrote. Judge Moore says there's no way in the world that's his handwriting. And I want you to look at it. Look at some other writing of his and make your own determination. That's what our expert will be doing nothing. But for now, I'm asking you all to take a look. Use your judgement.

And then finally, after Judge Moore's signature it has the initials capital "D" period, "A" period. Remember I told you about that '94 divorce action. Judge Moore looked at that D.A. after his signature, which they allege was because he was the district attorney. Well, it wasn't. He was the assistant district attorney. But Judge Moore says he can't ever remember ever signing his name with "D.A." after it, but he had seen it before. You know where he had seen it? When he was on the bench, his assistant, whose initials are capital "D" period, "A" period, Deborah Adams, would stamp his signature on documents and then put capital "D" period, "A" period. That's exactly how the signature appears on the divorce decree that Judge Moore signed, dismissing the divorce action with Ms. Nelson.

Knowing these things, I've got a question, Ms. Nelson and Gloria Allred. Do you still hold that everything in that yearbook was written by Judge Moore, or was it written by somebody else? That's not an allegation. It's a question.

And finally, we demand that you immediately release the yearbook to a neutral custodian so that our expert -- you can send your expert, as well, if you'd like to -- so that our expert can look at it. Not a copy on the Internet. The actual document so we can see the lettering, we can see the ink on the page, we can see the indentations and we can see how old is that ink? Is it 40 years old, or is it a week old? Release the yearbook so that we can determine is it genuine or is it a fraud. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Jauregui, what do you say to the...

ARMISTEAD: I have some...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the accuser, does he remember her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't he -- didn't Mr. Moore say that he knew her? Didn't he say that? Didn't he say that, sir?

ARMISTEAD: Copies that were shown by Mrs. Allred. And I'll let you all pass them out if that's OK.

And also what we have here is the copy of the divorce papers. Not the entire thing. We show the cover page, and then what's so important is we show the final page, which has Judge Moore's signature on it with the "D.A."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two quick questions...

ARMISTEAD: You see, we have the Roy Moore signature here and the "D.A.," which was added by his assistant, the same "D.A." initials that are written on the yearbook.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill, does Judge Moore plan to testify under oath, like Ms. Allred asked?

ARMISTEAD: And I'll be glad to start these on this side.


ARMISTEAD: Since this is a legal matter, the legal expert has spoken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Didn't Judge Moore say that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't you answering questions?

ARMISTEAD: Thank you very much. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why isn't anyone answering questions?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At a later time, sir?

BLITZER: All right. So there you hear the charge from Roy Moore's attorney, Phillip Jauregui, suggesting that that -- that autograph inside the yearbook of that woman may not necessarily be authentic, could be a fraud.

[17:10:09] David Chalian, you listened very closely to what the attorney, Phillip Jauregui, had to say. I want to go through our panel, get some analysis. Very serious charges. He wants the yearbook, because he says that -- that Roy Moore never signed that yearbook.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Clearly, let's do the big headline out of that, which is not backing down. Doubling down. Roy Moore's staying in this race. That's the first thing that you've got to take away from that, Wolf, but they are clearly focused on this yearbook. Let's talk about some things, though, that the lawyer brought up that don't make a lot of sense.

He is asserting that Gloria Allred and her client were not telling the truth that there was no contact with Roy Moore after the incident she describes, and they said, "No, no, no, he was the divorce -- he was the judge assigned to her divorce case in 1999."

Well, Roy Moore said he doesn't even know that woman. That was his quote, "I don't each know that woman" when Gloria Allred came out with her client about that press conference the other day. Well, apparently, he did know -- so his own lawyer is rebutting Roy Moore's own point about his relationship, continued relationship with this woman.

The other thing I want to point out is, there's no mention here about the most serious allegation against Roy Moore, which is the woman who claimed when she was 14 years old that she was molested by Roy Moore. So while they may focus on a handwriting analysis of a yearbook, and we'll see if that proves to be true or not, and perhaps they'll be able to discredit this woman's claims. What is not happening is a complete complete refutation right now of all of the allegations, including the most serious one against Roy Moore.

BLITZER: They're clearly, Mark Preston, going after Gloria Allred and her client, suggesting this is phony.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And Gloria Allred is certainly somebody who's not going to play very well down in Alabama. When this first came out, we saw what happened. They did not go after the victim. They went after the lawyer. Because she is seen as somebody who is very liberal, somebody who should not be coming into Alabama to be telling them what they should be doing.

You know what? They should get the yearbook, let them do the handwriting analysis. But as David points out, this is very, very, very weak claims right now to hang everything on. It's just -- it's amazing that they would hold this news conference.

BLITZER: Let me get Jeffrey Toobin in this. Jeffrey, you're -- you're the lawyer here. So you see these serious charges made by the attorney representing Roy Moore and -- and the leader of the Republican Party there in Alabama. Go ahead.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Unusual forensic analysis for a Senate race here.

There were two claims in this bizarre press conference. The first was, there was some subsequent contact between the woman -- Gloria Allred's client and the judge, but what I didn't hear from the lawyer was, was there some animosity there? Did -- did Judge Moore rule against this woman? Does she have some axe to grind against him? That was not said.

So even if it's true that he was -- you know, was the judge in the divorce, as far as I can tell, the only appropriate response is "So what?"

CHALIAN: Well, Jeffrey, I think the point they were making was connecting to the yearbook, because it was when -- it was when he was the judge of that case that they're claiming, it seems, that he -- his assistant, "D.A.," the initials, signed the name. I think that's why they brought up the '99 case.

TOOBIN: Right, right. I mean, the -- but the yearbook is only part of the evidence in the case. The evidence is what she says.


TOOBIN: I mean the fact that the -- you know, he's questioning the yearbook just -- just seems like only part of the case.

Now, I just think people ought to know about handwriting analysis. Now, handwriting analysis is sort of a forensic science. It is not DNA evidence. Forensic -- the -- handwriting analysis is often admissible in court, not always admissible in court, but it is not considered the gold standard of forensic science by any means.

So if some scientist -- some, you know, handwriting analyst comes in and says, "Well, that handwriting doesn't seem like Judge Moore's," that's not dispositive. And, you know, handwriting analysis is a pretty questionable forensic science.

And even if they get the yearbook and they find an analyst who says, "Well, I don't think it's Judge Moore," I don't think that that would settle the question at all.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But the key here, Wolf, I think is that none of this has to pass any sort of legal muster. All of the facts or accusations that Roy Moore's lawyer just laid out are for political purposes, purely. To plant a seed of doubt in voters' minds that maybe these women's claims are not credible. To give space for Republicans who want to vote for Roy Moore but feel uncomfortable about these allegations to say, "Well, maybe these were all made up, after all." This is all a political exercise. This really doesn't have to pass any legal muster whatsoever.

BLITZER: Manu -- I want to go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, where there's enormous pressure from Republican leaders for Roy Moore to drop out of this race. How this going how is this going to play up on Capitol Hill? You're speaking to a lot of those Republicans.

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not going to play particularly well, particularly among the leaders of the Republican Party, the Senate and House leaders, as well as some of the -- most of the rank and file senators who have come out to say that Mr. Moore needs to drop out of the race and get out quickly.

Clearly, here this was designed -- is in part -- for an audience of one, President Trump. President Trump himself has not yet, of course, called on Moore to drop out of the race, and I'm told by a source close to the president that he's unlikely going to call on Moore to drop out of the race.

Instead, he called these matters very serious and said that the Alabama voters need to decide.

And that presumably, however, Wolf, could change if more pressure builds, if more accusers come out and if the Moore team continues to be flatfooted in its response.

So this response today, to push back at least on one of the accusers, is designed at least to prevent President Trump from coming out and trying to push Moore out of the race. But it's not going to satisfy Republicans on Capitol Hill, Wolf, who desperately want him to step aside, are calling on Trump to get more involved, are getting agitated that Trump is not pushing Moore out. Because if he's still in the race, they're pretty much hand pp their hands are tied, Wolf, with really no good options on how to proceed and may have to decide on trying to expel him if he does become a senator at the end of the day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, wants him out. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, wants him out.

Let's go to the White House once again. Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, what are you hearing? Why is the president remaining silent on this sensitive issue?

ZELENY: Wolf, he definitely is watching this, watching all of these developments, again because as Manu and everyone has been reporting, the control of the Senate is influenced by this.

But I am told by a person close to the White House who's been involved in conversations here throughout the day the president, I'm told, is reluctant to weigh in on this, because he does not want the conversation to become about his past accusers, as well. We all watched during the presidential campaign, of course, several people, several women from his past that filed lawsuits against him, other matters, and he is not eager to have those discussed again.

So one Republican, and this again is a Republican person close to this White House, a supporter of this president, says that is one of the reasons that President Trump is not eager to weigh in.

Again, not saying he will not at some point, because he does believe this is bad for the -- the brand of the party. He does believe, of course, it's bad for the potential control of the Senate, but he is reluctant to weigh in, as well.

And a bigger question here hanging over this is whether the president will decide to weigh in and have his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, be named as a write-in candidate.

Several Republicans up on Capitol Hill have discussed that as the possible scenario here. People close to the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, say he is not eager to return to the U.S. Senate, but of course, that would be a good sort of off-ramp, if you will, for his rocky relations with this president.

But I'm told right now that is a scenario that is simply that, just a scenario, one of many possible discussions. It's not gone much further than that.

But this is something that the president is deeply involved in, even though he's been absolutely silent on this publicly today, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He certainly has. We'll see if that continues.

You know, David Chalian, it's interesting that the audience for this statement by Phillip Jauregui, the attorney representing Roy Moore, clearly the president of the United States trying to raise some doubts there about whether or not Roy Moore was engaged in improper sexual activity with these young girls.

But also, it's interesting that last night that Sean Hannity on FOX, he said, "You have 24 hours to come up with an explanation." Now within the 24 hours, the attorney representing Roy Moore has come up with at least something that they regard as raising doubts.

CHALIAN: Right. So as Roy Moore looks around and sees different pieces of the Republican Party splinter away from him, he's less concerned about Mitch McConnell pounding his chest and saying, "Get out." Mitch McConnell is the name he made toxic to great success in his primary run against Luther Strange.

So what does fear [SIC] him a little bit is if there are cracks in that FOX News base and the Breitbart/Bannon base. You know, we're getting word that Bannon is sticking with him.

So, yes, maybe part of this, as Rebecca was saying, it clearly was all designed for political purposes, but part of this may be to respond to that 24-hour deadline that Sean Hannity put on this.

[17:20:03] BLITZER: This is occurring within that 24-hour deadline. We'll see how he reacts and the others react, as well.

Everybody, stand by. I want to bring in Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. So what's your reaction, Senator? I assume you heard what the

attorney representing Roy Moore just said.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: Yes, I did. I agree it's a pretty bizarre press conference. The fact of the matter is, whether Roy Moore decides to drop out or not, his name isn't coming off of that ballot, so when people go to vote in Alabama, they are going to see two names. They are going to see Roy Moore, and they are going to see Doug Jones.

And in the end, you know, we also have to spend some time talking about what a quality candidate Doug Jones is. This is a moderate Democrat rooted in Alabama values, somebody that prosecuted the KKK, just has a lifetime of community service. And so this isn't just a referendum on Roy Moore. In my mind, he was unqualified to be in the United States Senate even before these allegations, somebody that has ignored the Constitution, says that Muslims shouldn't be able to serve in government, thinks abortion should be illegal and criminalized. They have the opportunity to look at a really great Democratic candidate, as well, and I hope they do that.

BLITZER: If Roy Moore, Senator, refuses to step aside and actually goes on to win the election on December 12, should the Senate eventually refuse to seat him?

MURPHY: It's hard to imagine serving with somebody like that, but I don't think that's going to happen. I mean, I'm not in the business of answering hypotheticals. I think that Doug Jones is going to win. I think Alabama is going to choose him. That's the result that we're all working towards.

BLITZER: Republican Senator Susan Collins, your colleague, says that based on her reading of the rules, the Senate would have no choice but to seat Roy Moore. Do you agree?

MURPHY: I'm -- I'm maybe not as serious a student of the Senate rules as Susan is. She's been here for much longer than me. But I've been told that it's very difficult not to seat someone, that you d then have to move to expel them. That would be the means by which you would keep somebody like that out of the Senate.

Again, I don't think that's what's going to happen. I think we're going to end up having Doug Jones here, and I think he's going to be a great senator.

BLITZER: As you know, many Republican leaders, including the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, they actually want the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to run as a write-in candidate and win back his old seat. He spent 20 years as the U.S. senator from Alabama.

That might be an attractive option to President Trump, as you know, who isn't all that happy with Jeff Sessions recusing himself from the overall Russia probe, which led to the appointment of the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

With a new attorney general, do you worry that the president would feel emboldened to actually go ahead and try to shut down the investigation?

MURPHY: Well, the president is still bound by the law which says you cannot fire a special counsel such as Robert Mueller without cause, and there is no reasonable cause today to fire him. So ultimately, there would be a constitutional crisis, in my mind, if he tried to take steps to fire Mueller. No attorney general would have the cause to do that, even if that attorney general wasn't Jeff Sessions.

I think it's very unlikely that there's a circumstance in which Jeff Sessions ends up in his old Senate seat, but that doesn't change what the law says about the ways in which you can fire a special counsel.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of pressure on Jeff Sessions to step down and be a write-in candidate there.

Yesterday, Senator, your committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, held a hearing on the authority of the president to unilaterally launch a nuclear strike. The Republican chairman of the committee, Bob Corker, said the hearing wasn't intended to target President Trump in particular, but you had a very different perspective. Let me play this clip.


MURPHY: 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 weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests.


BLITZER: So is that concern of yours unique to President Trump?

MURPHY: Well, my concern is unique to President Trump. And I don't think I'm alone. I think I was stating, you know, what everybody in that room was thinking. It's not a coincidence that the first major hearing that we've had on the decision-making process regarding the launch of a nuclear weapon happens at the exact same moment that President Trump is suggesting through his Twitter feed that he might use a nuclear weapon against North Korea without consulting with Congress.

So I think there's concern on both sides of the aisle about President Trump having access to the nuclear launch codes, and I'm not the only one saying that. Very clearly, Republicans like Marco Rubio have said that consistently.

BLITZER: Yes, Bob Corker has been concerned about -- he raised the issue of World War III.

Some of your Republican colleagues, though, some of your -- the critics are saying that even talking about restraining the president sends a signal of weakness to regimes like North Korea. What's your reaction to that?

MURPHY: Well, that's nonsense. First of all, the president doesn't have the power to engage in a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea. He does not have that constitutional authority. He would have to come to Congress in order to get authorization. I've introduced legislation that would clarify that. But that is the existing law.

I don't think that we're talking about passing legislation to set up a bunch of new checks or new procedures in the way of ordering a nuclear strike, but it is important to recognize that, unless there is an attack against the United States or an imminent threat, the president cannot launch a military strike against another country without coming to Congress. If he does, that would be another type of constitutional crisis.

BLITZER: So how would you propose restraining the president's nuclear authority? Can that be done through legislation?

MURPHY: I think it's very difficult to practically or logistically restrain his authority. I think we can make clear to this administration that, just because North Korea potentially -- ultimately obtains a weapon that could reach the United States, that doesn't mean that he can use a nuclear weapon without congressional authorization.

I think the administration seems to be trying to expand the authority that it has to launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. We can pass legislation that would curtail that authority.

BLITZER: Senator Murphy, thanks for joining us.

MURPHY: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We're following the breaking news. We'll resume our special coverage right after this.


BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories. The Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore's refusing calls for him to drop out of the race. Just now an attorney for the campaign raised questions about the latest accuser and demanded the release of her high school yearbook, which he claims Moore signed 40 years ago.


[17:31:30] BILL ARMISTEAD, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: You see, we have the Roy Moore signature here, and the "D.A.," which was added by his assistant. The same D.A. initials that are written on the yearbook.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Alabama. Our senior international correspondent, Kyung Lah is there.

You were there at the news conference. So what else can you tell us, Kyung, about what's going on right now? KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it wasn't the announcement we

expected. We thought that it would just be a forceful denial or that Moore would be stepping aside. Instead, now it comes to handwriting analysis.

The attorney for Moore asking people to use their eyes. And we have a side-by-side picture of what the attorney is asking you to look at. It's to compare the "D.A." Of both of these images. But, you know, handwriting analysis is difficult. None of us are experts, who -- at least most of us. A handwriting expert might be watching this, but most of us have no idea what all of this means.

What I can tell you is that right now, that a lot of this is theater. The real news that is happening right now is that the Alabama Republican steering committee is meeting. They are still talking about Roy Moore.

From what we heard from the GOP chairman here, the state party chairman, his words were the most important, because what he was saying is that the state party is behind Roy Moore; his name will be on the ballot; he will be endorsed by the state Republicans. Nothing is going to happen to him. Had they withdrawn their support, his votes would have been null and void, according to the secretary of state.

So December 12 is on as far as all parties are concerned. Everything moves forward. That to me is the news as all of this debate is happening.

But let's get back to the handwriting, whether they knew each other. I think, Wolf, that there are a lot of questions here. When you file for divorce, do you ever see your divorce attorney? Did they ever see each other? That could be a hole in -- in what he said, that they did have some sort of contact. Maybe it was just paper contact and she didn't know who he was.

The other thing is that, when Moore came out shortly after Nelson's press conference, that astonishing press conference where it was heartbreaking as she was crying, trying to tell this story, what Moore said was he didn't know her. But yet he's saying now that they had some sort of contact. So there are a lot of questions.

What I'm wondering, though, Wolf, is what does this mean to the voters? As we've travelled around the state and we've talked to people, especially Moore's supporters, what they've said was they want evidence. They want holes poked into the story to encourage them to get to the voting box. And I've been talking to some of the local political reporters here. They think this is simply going to energize Moore's base on election day.

BLITZER: Yes. A good point, indeed. All right, Kyung, we're going to get back to you. I know you're working your sources over there.

You know, David Chalian, the divorce was in 1999, Ms. Nelson's divorce. This attorney for Roy Moore, Phillip Jauregui, says that Roy Moore actually was the divorce judge in this case, and that -- but Kyung makes a good point. He originally said he never heard of this woman.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. So that's a complete inconsistency. His lawyer goes out to argue there actually was additional contact. That is completely and directly opposite of what his client, Roy Moore the candidate, said when he said, "I don't even know this woman."

So that -- those two things don't make sense together, and clearly, Roy Moore is going to have to come out with some additional statement at some point to explain his earlier comments, which seem no longer operative if you take what his lawyer is saying.

But Kyung also raises a good point. We don't know what that relationship, just because he was assigned as the judge to the divorce hearing, what that entailed.

[17:35:06] I understand that they are trying to create sort of political dust and get a lot of questions going, which may work for Roy Moore to continue to be able to have a conversation with voters about why it's important to him to go to the United States Senate.

But this one incident and what the lawyer's coming out to say, this does not automatically erase, Wolf, the very serious charges that go unrefuted, other than just a blanket denial, which still hang out there for him.

BLITZER: By the four other women who have come forward.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it's worth saying right now that that that ten minutes on camera right now is going to dominate, as David is saying, the news cycle all through the night, all through tomorrow, not only here on CNN but other national networks. But specifically on local newscasts that will be on the air in Alabama within the next 90 minutes right now.

So when people are getting home and they're watching their local news perhaps down there, this is what they're going to see. As David says, a lot of dust has been created. It's a lot of nuance. There's a lot of self-distraction right now.

BLITZER: Normally in a divorce, you know, Jeffrey -- and you're our legal analyst -- you know who the presiding judge of the divorce is, and the judge normally knows who the two -- the two people who are going through the divorce are, right?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, not necessarily. I mean, it depends on if the party settled.

What often happens in divorces is the two parties reach an agreement and they sign a divorce decree, and then it just goes to whoever happens to be the on-duty judge to sign it, to make sure it's fair. That -- in that kind of circumstance, the judge would have no face-to- face contact with the -- with the litigants.

Now if there was a trial, if the judge had to rule on motions, if there was testimony, then of course, the judge would have familiarity with the individuals. But based on what I heard in that news conference, I don't know what Judge Moore's role was in that trial and whether he ruled in the woman's favor, against her, she might have some axe to grind. I mean, none of that was made clear.

BLITZER: But, you know, in context right now, Mark Preston, here -- at least here in Washington up on Capitol Hill, even among the Republican leadership, Roy Moore has no support at all.

PRESTON: Yes. There will be no red carpet. If he does win, if he stays in -- he is going to stay in, it looks like right now. There will be no red carpet rolled out. So that is going to put them into a very difficult position. We're debating it a little bit off-camera here. This will be the big debate in Washington.

Let's assume Roy Moore wins, Wolf. Roy Moore comes to Washington. Chris Murphy, the senator you just had on, is absolutely right: they cannot exclude him. He will then be sworn in. That's when there will be the big debate over expelling him from the U.S. Senate.

And if he is not expelled, can you imagine how any progress in Washington, D.C., happens? Every woman senator, perhaps many, many male senators, I would think, would refuse to walk into the U.S. chamber, U.S. Senate, if Roy Moore is seated.

BLITZER: Any chance, Rebecca, that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, will eventually accept the recommendation of Mitch McConnell and others and leave the Justice Department and accept this notion of being a write-in candidate?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as they like to say, Wolf, there's always the chance. Nothing's impossible. But right now, a lot of this push is coming from Mitch McConnell's side. Coming from the side of people who really care about the Senate seat, who really care about the strategy here, really care about keeping their narrow majority as wide as possible in the Senate right now.

But Jeff Sessions, he has a good job. He has the job he's always wanted. And I think the wild card in this is going to be the president, President Trump. If he decides that this is something Jeff Sessions needs to do, what can Jeff Sessions say to his boss, the president, except "Yes, sir, it's my pleasure to serve." So that is really the wild card here. Can McConnell and, you know, chief White House staff convince the president that this is the right move?

BLITZER: Well, the Democrats believe Doug Jones, David, he can win that race in Alabama.

CHALIAN: They do. And by the way, before these allegations came out -- came out, there was polling in the race that showed it really strangely competitive for Alabama, largely because Roy Moore's not universally beloved. He has a very strong relationship with his base, but he's a controversial figure and has a history in the state of Alabama that has been controversial.

So this was a closer race than expected before the allegations. Now it's even obviously far more competitive. And some internal Republican polling showing that since the allegations Roy Moore is tanking a little bit.

So there is -- there is real concern. This is part of the reason why the Republicans are trying to get him out of the race, because there is real concern that this seat may fall into Democratic hands.

BLITZER: Because if he doesn't get out of the race, and his name is clearly going to be on the ballot, no matter what. But if he's still actively pursuing the Senate seat and there's another write-in candidate, a Republican, Jeff Sessions or someone else, what the Republicans fear is that will split the Republican vote; the Democrat will win.

[17:40:08] PRESTON: Yes. No question about that. And right now, Doug Jones is a very formidable candidate. I mean, look, in any other state, perhaps, he would probably be the front-runner. He has an unbelievable resume. He fought against the KKK.

Let's see what happens. We haven't seen national Democrats in this race other than financially. Let's see, though, when we see the likes of John Lewis and other African-American leaders. Will they be in the state in the coming weeks? And what happens on Sunday in these African-American churches? Can they get the black vote out and energize the black vote to get behind Doug Jones to what David's talking to, where Doug Jones potentially wins outright?

BLITZER: Well, let me get Jeffrey Toobin back in. So where does this go legally now? You heard the lawyer for Roy Moore say -- challenge Gloria Allred to make that yearbook available to handwriting experts and other experts. What's going to happen?

TOOBIN: The most important general observation about this whole process is that it is a political process, not a legal process. There is not going to be some judge who appears on the scene to determine whether this yearbook was, in fact, Roy Moore's handwriting. The -- obviously Moore's team feels like, by raising the issue of this -- the signature, they are challenging the credibility of one of the five accusers. And it's only one.

So, you know, there will be discussion of this, but there will be no judge. There will be no lawsuit. There will be no final resolution of whether this signature was, in fact, Roy Moore's.

The real issue here is political. Will there be a write-in candidate? Will Doug Jones be able to mobilize enough Democrats to win? That's the real question here.

You know, the theater surrounding this signature is simply going to be something for the news media to cover or not cover as we decide, but it is not going to be a legal process at all.

BLITZER: And David Chalian, you heard when the president, right after he delivered that statement on his trip to Asia, reporters shouted questions about Roy Moore. He ignored the questions and walked out of that room.

He had promised a major announcement in that statement. We were waiting for the major announcement. Did you hear a major announcement there? I heard a lot of talk about how successful his trip was.

CHALIAN: Yes, I mean, what I would call a major announcement or you would call a major announcement and what the president might call might be different things. So from a news judgement point of view, I didn't hear a major announcement. He clearly thought it was a major announcement to tout what he saw as his successes from the trip abroad.

BLITZER: He went through every country, what he did and what he achieved.

There was an awkward moment when he paused to get some water, as you know, and it raised all sorts of memories of the Marco Rubio when he was delivering his response to the -- to President Obama in the State of the Union address. He paused for some water, and a lot of us remember at the time that then Donald Trump, a private citizen, was ridiculing Marco Rubio for that.

PRESTON: That's what made it so special, Wolf. Not that he needed water during the speech. It was a little awkward. But the fact that he decided to go out and criticize Marco Rubio for it and then, in fact, it came back to him. As Chris Cillizza has written, a great column on right now, it's all about karma.

BLITZER: Let me play the clip because all of us -- look, I've got water right here. We all love water. We all want to drink water. It was a little awkward. But this is what he said during the campaign. Rebecca, listen to this, referring to Marco Rubio's pause for water.




BLITZER: Yes, Rebecca, you remember that moment.

BERG: How can you forget?

BLITZER: He was having a little fun with Marco Rubio, who was then a candidate, as well, for the Republican presidential nomination, at Marco Rubio's expense.

BERG: And Donald Trump also tweeted, "Next time Marco Rubio should drink his water from a glass as opposed to a bottle. Would have much less negative impact."

BLITZER: That's what he tweeted back in 2013 right after the Marco Rubio incident. That's what he tweeted in February 2013.

BERG: Perhaps his aides should read his tweets and get the president a glass next time.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, he had some water, and you need some water. We all need some water. You know what? BERG: We all need some water.

BLITZER: I'm going to drink some water right now.

PRESTON: It was a great trip, though.

CHALIAN: He was drinking Fiji water made in Fiji while talking about the trade imbalance.

BLITZER: You noticed that? Good eye.

BERG: You know what's good for jet lag? Drinking water.

BLITZER: All right. We've got a lot of serious news happening right now. We're going to follow the breaking news. Roy Moore's campaign pushes back against the sexual abuse and assault allegations against him as pressure mounts for him to quit his Senate race.

And after President Trump insulted Kim Jong-un during his Asia trip, North Korea's firing back right now, calling the president of the United States a human reject and a mean trickster. Where is all of this headed? Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including a new attempt by Roy Moore's campaign to raise questions about one of the women accusing Moore of sexual abuse years ago. Moore is refusing calls to drop out of the race.

[17:50:01] We're also following a new round of anti-Trump rhetoric from North Korea. Kim Jong-un's regime is heaping new insults on the President just as a top Chinese diplomat is trying to calm down tensions.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. He is working the story for us.

So, Brian, what are the North Koreans now saying?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're calling President Trump a human reject and a lot of other things.

Tonight, the personal insults between the two rivals are ramping up again, and some believe the best chance of dialing them back could be in the hands of a Chinese diplomat heading to Pyongyang.


TODD (voice-over): North Korea's brash young dictator could soon get some arm-twisting from his most important ally.

Tonight, China says it's sending a special envoy to North Korea. It comes in the wake of what experts say has been near hostility between Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

JONATHAN POLLACK, SENIOR FELLOW IN THE CENTER FOR EAST ASIA POLICY, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: North Korean officials are saying, you know, we don't trust China. We don't expect China to play any kind of a major role here. In one context, Xi Jinping was accused of betraying North Korea.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say the Chinese President, himself, detests Kim Jong-un for his reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons.

POLLACK: He really, really dislikes young Kim. He feels that Kim is doing nothing but creating bigger risks for China, bigger dangers for the region, and that Kim isn't listening to anyone.

TODD (voice-over): Did the Trump team coordinate the Chinese envoy's visit to Pyongyang to build on the President's trip to Asia? The White House and State Department aren't commenting.

Experts say, in Pyongyang, the Chinese diplomat may press the Trump administration's message, may try to get Kim to at least pause his weapons build up. But they say the Chinese will never exert all their might on Kim to give up his nukes, and they'll never squeeze him out of power. A collapse of Kim's regime, analysts say, is China's biggest fear.

ANDREW SHEARER, FORMER AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: China would, obviously, be concerned about refugee out flows. It would be concerned about loose nukes, as it were, where what happens to those nuclear weapons that the Kim regime has developed. But even more fundamentally, it would be concerned about the potential for reunification of the Korean Peninsula on Democratic terms.

TODD (voice-over): At the same time Kim welcomes a Chinese diplomat, he's hurling more insults at President Trump. His regime, tonight, calling the President an old lunatic, a mean trickster, still resentful of Trump's personal salvos about Kim's ambitions.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A dictator's twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail.

TODD (voice-over): An affront to the dignity of the Supreme Leader that experts say can't go unanswered.

POLLACK: The North Koreans clearly take great offense at things that attack Kim Jong-un personally. So at the end of the day, the North Koreans feel that they have to protect the sort of the eternal wisdom of the Kim family and of the regime and the dynasty that they have built. So those kinds of words bite.


TODD: And there's another potential piece of fallout here. Rex Tillerson, other U.S. officials, and even President Trump have implied recently that they could, someday, sit down and negotiate with Kim Jong-un's regime. Experts say all of these personal insults back and forth are starting to erode the possibility of all that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, while we haven't had a North Korean missile test or a nuclear test in several weeks, you've spoken to several experts who are deeply worried about what the North Koreans still could be planning.

TODD: Yes, don't let that silence on their part deceive you, Wolf. These are weapons experts, people who are watching North Korea's nuclear program and others.

They're increasingly worried that Kim's regime may soon test fire a long-range missile that has a nuclear warhead on it. They might detonate that missile somewhere in the Pacific.

They say if that happens, that's going to ramp up tensions to a level we have not seen yet. That's the next big step. Watch for it.

BLITZER: Deep, deep concern amongst all of the experts. Brian, thanks very much for that report.

There's more breaking news we're following. Roy Moore's campaign pushes back against multiple allegations of sexual abuse and assault as he refuses to drop out of the Senate race. Alabama's GOP meeting right now in emergency session.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Moore defiance. Alabama Republicans hold an emergency meeting as Senate candidate Roy Moore battles allegations of sexual abuse and assault and refuses to step aside. This hour, Moore's campaign is making new demands of one of his accusers.

Watered down. President Trump refuses to answer questions about Moore after lengthy remarks touting his Asia trip. We'll talk about his statement and a few awkward moments that viewers couldn't ignore.

Going after ObamaCare. Senate Republicans make the battle over tax reform more complicated by linking it to the repeal of the health insurance mandate. Tonight, a GOP Senator is speaking out, the first Republican to reveal he is against the legislation.

And unqualified? President Trump's judicial nominees are being approved at a rapid rate, including some with rather questionable credentials. Should a political blogger and a man who has never tried a case serve on the federal bench?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.