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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Allegations Of Misconduct Surround Senator & Candidate; Sen. Al Franken Accuser Speaks To CNN; Sen. Franken Apologizes After Groping Allegations; Fox Poll: Dems Doug Jones Leading Roy Moore By 8 Pts; White House Doesn't Call For Moore To Exit Race; House Passes GOP Tax Bill: Fate In Senate Unclear. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 16, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Jake Tapper now with a special edition of "The Lead".
[21:00:09] JAKE TAPPER, "THE LEAD" HOST: Welcome to a special prime time edition of "The Lead". I'm Jake Tapper. We begin today with a politics lead and extraordinary day today at Washington, with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse surrounding the United States Senate.
One involves a sitting senator, a Democrat, the other a candidate for the office, a Republican. We'll speak to one of the women at the center of this in just moments.
Today, the White House said that President Trump thinks the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama are very troubling. Eight women have now come forward to accuse Moore of intimate contact or attempted contact or assault with them when they were teenagers, one of them as young as 14.
But, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders today would not say whether President Trump believes the allegations, and she dodged questions about accusations of sexual harassment and assault against President Trump himself.
On the Democratic side, both parties on Capitol Hill are calling for a full Ethics Committee investigation. After news anchor Leeann Tweeden of KABC radio in Los Angeles, shared her story alleging the Democratic Senator, Al Franken, kissed and groped her without her consent.
She says that in 2006 USO tour then private citizen Franken wrote a skit, which involved their characters kissing one another, and he pressured her to rehearse that skit with him alone backstage. Despite her protest he forcibly kissed her, she says. And then later, Franken posed in this photo where he can be seen seeming to grope Tweeden while she was asleep.
Franken was elected to the U.S. Senate two years later.
Leeann Tweeden chose "The Lead" as the place to be her first national television interview. Leaann, tell us about this rehearsal incident. It is 2006, you're preparing for a USO show. Were you in Afghanistan, were you in Iraq, where were you?
LEEANN TWEEDEN, ANCHOR WHO ACCUSED FRANKEN OF GROPING: Actually, the first show was in Kuwait, we started in Kuwait, so then moved on to Iraq and we ended up in Afghanistan.
So the first one was in Kuwait, we were backstage, sort of the backstage area in Kuwait as a makeshift backstage area, which actually their gym, which is behind the stage that they built there. And we just sort of had a cordoned off area, up against the gym wall, which is a mirrored area. So they kind of have that for us, so we can see when, you know, everything changes back there and everything. And you can see, you know, make sure your dressed and everything.
And, you know, Al just wanted to rehearse saying, he's like, let's go over our lines and let's do -- and we really should rehearse the kiss, and that was the first time I had heard that part of it, I'm like, why do we -- we don't need to rehearse the kiss, you know. I start blew him off. And then he's like, no, we really need to rehearse the kiss. So I'm like, come on, Al, this isn't Saturday Night Live, this is -- we're just going to do it live on stage, it's no big deal. And he just persisted. He said, again, let's rehearse the scene. And, you know, I was trying to make light of the situation, because I started feeling uncomfortable, because I was like, OK, what is he getting at here? And, you know, I was trying to be funny, I said, OK, Al, you lean right, I'll lean right and we'll be fine, you know? And he's like, you know, actors really need to -- they need to rehearse. And I'm thinking, I'm not an actress, Al, I'm a host, I'm a T.V. host. This is what I do. I don't act, that's a whole other thing people do and that's not what I do. And he goes, no, we really need to do this. So, the persistent and -- just making me feel uncomfortable, I just finally said, OK rehearse the damn scene, OK?
And, you know, the whole time in my mind I'm thinking, it's like Bob Hope, you know, you're going to come in for the kiss, I'm the girl and I'm just going to turn my head or I would cover his mouth and it would be funny, right? We're doing this to entertain the troops. It's like a schtick, right? And so, he comes in, and it all happened so fast. He comes in and, you know, at the last second we're coming in and he just puts his hand on the back of my neck and he comes in so fast, and he just sort of -- you know, it's like that -- there was no finesse to it at all, let's put it that way. And he just mashes his mouth to my lips and, you know, it was wet and he puts his tongue in my mouth, and, you know, my reaction, it was just sort of a -- you know, I pushed his chest away with my hands. And I'm like, if you ever do that to me again, I was so angry, I was in disbelief really. And I just sort of -- you know, my hands -- to this day, I talk about it, my hand clinches into a fist, because I think my initial reaction is that I wanted to hit him. That's what I feel. And I still feel that to this day, I think. And, you know, I just looked at him, I said, don't you ever do that to me again, because I won't be so nice about it the next time. And I just walked out. And I just walked out, my mind was reeling, and I'm thinking, you know, I got to find a bathroom, I wanted to rinse my mouth out. That's all I can think about. I just want to go rinse my mount out. And I say I'm not an actress, but let me tell you, in five minutes, they're introducing us to go on stage to do our very first show and I think I was the best actress in the world, because I had to be out and be like Al Franken, ladies and gentlemen, and pretend we were the best of friends and do the whole show standing right next to him.
[21:05:27] TAPPER: I know you've said that you spent much of the rest of the tour being as professional as possible on stage acting the part --
TAPPER: -- while also avoiding him as much as possible backstage. Was there ever any acknowledgement by him that this had happened, any sort of attempt to talk about it or apologize or anything?
TWEEDEN: No, absolutely not.
No, and I'll tell you this, there were little petty things that went on, you know, little comments here and there. Just like sort of passive aggressiveness, we would do autograph sessions after the show, because that's what you would do. When you go entertain the troops, you put on a show, and then afterwards the troops can come. And you sign autographs. You have little autograph sheets, right?
So they put out long tables and people -- you sit next to each other and you sign autographs. And troops can line up where they want and get an autograph. Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, very popular. And people come and line up. Well, sometimes, I'll be honest with you, there would be nobody in Al Franken's line. Because there's only a limited amount of time and people would line up who they want to -- sometimes you stand in one line and you only get one autograph for a night. You know, so they picked whoever line they really want to meet. And one time, you know, -- if I sat next to him, which it happened a lot because we're the host, so we would be sat next to each other. And I would just sort of have my back to him like this.
And one time I could see a picture moving. And I'm like -- you know, I see the picture moving -- trying not to pay attention to it, you know, you're trying to sign and take pictures with troops. And I look down and I see it kind of move back toward my pile, and there's my picture and Al Franken has drawn the devil horns on my face, and the goatee and the devil tail and the pitchfork. And I'm you know, that's what I'm dealing with.
So he's now drawing me as the devil. You know, it's the little things like that, so when it ends up and I have the picture taken of me that while I'm asleep and I don't see until I get home, it's like, all of that in totality, right? Like --
TAPPER: Yes, and let's talk about that because -- because people who are watching might not have seen your press conference. This photograph --
TWEEDEN: OK. TAPPER: -- we're showing it right now. You didn't see this until you got home from the tour. You received the cd of pictures from the photographer, and this was there, this was obviously taken when you were sleeping. And what was your reaction, obviously, you didn't find it funny. I don't know anybody over the age of nine that may find it funny, but what did you think?
TWEEDEN: I mean -- I thought and, you know, knowing how I felt about him. I was angry, because in my mind he was doing that to -- that was like his parting gift, right? Like, ha, she's going to see that, after we're all gone, and that's like -- I got you. You know. Ha ha, that's going to be the last thing she sees and, you know, I got the last laugh.
TAPPER: -- directly related to the kiss anyway?
TWEEDEN: Yes, of course. I mean, all those little things that was done to me. The like -- oh, you're the devil, you know, ha ha. You know, I mean, it's just -- you know, it's belittling, it's humiliating, I mean, is that funny? Is that ever funny? I mean, I wasn't his friend. That's not -- I mean, is that funny if that's your wife, or your daughter, or your mom? I mean, it's -- you know, I mean, he came out with the, you know, apology and he's appalled by it now. I thought it was funny but obviously it's not funny. I mean, it's -- you know, I've been angry about it Jake for over 10 years and it's a -- you know, I don't know. I've held it inside.
My circle of friends and my husband have known how I felt about it for so long. And, you know, I wanted to come out with it 10 years ago. And, you know, it wasn't the right time. And, you know, I don't want anything. I didn't come out for it to destroy anybody. I came out because I want, you know, -- if he did this to somebody else or somebody else has been sexually assaulted, or they've been, you know, abused in anyway, that maybe somebody else can come out in realtime, because they find strength in numbers, because people are coming out now.
Congressman Jackie Speier came on our radio show here in Los Angeles, and she told about her story when her chief of staff, when she was a congressional aide -- when she was in her 20s did the same thing. And when I heard her talk about that on our radio show, "McIntyre In The Morning", right here on KABC in Los Angeles. And she said, he pinned me up against the wall, put his hands on my face, kissed me and stuck his tongue in my mouth. I went, that was Al Franken. He did that to me.
[21:10:16] TAPPER: You were triggered in a way.
TWEEDEN: I said that, you know, that's a sign. It triggered me. And I said, you know what, that's going to make me talk. And maybe if Al Franken did this to somebody else or if somebody else has a story and they see me talking about it -- because, look, I was nervous to come out about it. This doesn't make me feel good. Everybody goes, oh, you're so strong. You're going to feel so great talking about it. I still have a knot in my stomach. This -- you know, this isn't some like, oh, yes, I'm going to do it and I feel great about it. TAPPER: It's difficult to do.
TWEEDEN: It is hard. Of course, it is.
TAPPER: Tell me why. Tell me it's why -- I don't doubt you at all, but tell me why it's hard. Because, I mean, first of all, it's -- this is -- I think -- important for people to hear --
TWEEDEN: It's embarrassing.
TAPPER: Yes, there you. That's why people don't come forward.
TWEEDEN: I mean -- right, it's -- why do you think there are people that haven't talked -- there are still a lot of people that haven't told their stories. And their -- you know, in the case of Roy Moore, there are people -- 40 years later that are reluctantly coming out about it. I mean, it's embarrassing, it's humiliating. There are still people I've looked on Twitter that are still blaming me for it. Unlike, you look at the picture, I'm asleep and they're still -- somehow it's my fault, really? OK, Al Franken has come out and apologized and said, you know what, that was in poor taste. I thought it was funny, and it's still my fault. That's why women don't come out.
TAPPER: The only thing I' going to say to you is don't read Twitter for the next week. That's the only thing I'm going to say to you in terms of --
TWEEDEN: What did you say?
TAPPER: Don't read Twitter for the next week.
TWEEDEN: Oh, right, I know. I know.
TAPPER: Because you're going to find people who are against cancer patients on Twitter.
But -- I do what you keep talking about Al Franken, Senator Franken's apology. And I want to read you -- he put out one statement and then he put a second one. I want to read it to you because I want to get your reaction. And this is what he said, "The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There's more I want to say, but the first and most important thing -- and if it's the only thing you care to hear, that's fine -- is: I'm sorry. I respect women. I don't respect men who don't. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed. But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us -- including and especially men who respect women -- have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think, perhaps, shamefully, for the first time, about how those actions have affected women. While I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women's experiences. I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate. And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. They deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them."
Now, I didn't read the whole thing. There was a section in there about the photograph too. But that's most of it. What do you think of that, is that -- do you accept his apology?
TWEEDEN: I do. I do. And, you know, the one that came out this morning, I accepted that one too. It was very short and brief, my initial reaction was, it sounded like a staffer put that out hastily, you know, which maybe could have been the truth, you know, to get it out quickly, because when it hit it was -- you know, it went viral and it was everywhere. But that one did seem heartfelt. And I believe it. And I believe I him, you know, and I honestly do believe him and, you know, I wasn't waiting for an apology for him, but I gladly accept, thank you Senator Franken. And, yes.
TAPPER: Do you want him to call you?
TWEEDEN: Sure. I mean, you know, look, my husband and I saw him at a USO metro gala a couple of years after and I was very cold to him. He found me in a room and said, "Hello, Leeann," and I said, "Hi, Al." And I turned and walk away from him and my husband said, "Hi, Al," and turned and walked away from him. And he didn't get it then. He didn't apologize to me then. So, if he didn't get it then -- he didn't say I'm sorry for, you know, anything that I did, you know, and it took this for the apology, so -- but whatever.
It's -- you know, I'm glad that he -- that second apology I think maybe he had some time to digest it and think about it. And, you know, I believe him. And I think it's heartfelt and I think men and, you know, there are men victims that have come out and, you know, this whole Harvey Weinstein era in the last month that have come out.
Yes, people need to take a long hard look at the culture that has been happening since, you know, men and women have walked the earth --
[21:15:00] TAPPER: Right.
TWEEDEN: -- and I hope it's changing, and I hope it will change, because it's going to take all of us. And not only what happens behind closed doors, a lot of this abuse and harassment happens in front of other people. And when other people let it happen and don't speak up to say something, and say, look, that's not OK it's going to continue.
TAPPER: Well, was anybody there when --
TAPPER: Or it was just you two?
TWEEDEN: No, it was just two backstage behind a little quarter and off curtained area, yes.
TAPPER: What do you think of the fact that everyone in the Senate now is calling for a Senate and ethics investigation, Ethics Committee investigation. Franken himself called for it. But just the day ago when it came out that more than $15 million had been paid off in settlements to women for sexual harassment and other charges by Congress, there was a lot of question about, should Congress really be in charge of investigating itself? Came we really -- I mean, I don't know if you saw any coverage of it when Jackie Speier did her -- did her hearing in the House a couple days ago, but they put a chart of -- a what woman or man need to do to (INAUDIBLE) complain of sexual harassment and it's this process -- it's like a Rube Goldberg design that only could have been designed by somebody who actually was a sexual harasser who is trying to dissuade women from maligning (ph) these complaints. I guess the question is, is the Senate -- if Ethics Committee -- forgetting Al Franken for a second, but is it enough for senators or should there be something else?
TWEEDEN: I think there should be, if anybody is going to be investigated, I mean, I'm not talking about this case in particular but it should always be an independent investigation. Because you can't expect -- I'm not going to say swamp, but you can't expect people within their own group to investigate themselves. That's never going to be a fair investigation, because they will always going to protect themselves. So I would think an outside investigation or an outside party that's unbiased and not part of that affiliation, is always going to be called for, because they're always going to protect themselves. And that $15 million payout -- I mean, that's like having these NDA's, I mean, that's how you protect.
TWEEDEN: That's how Harvey Weinstein was able to protect because that's how women stay silent or men, right? When you can pay off, and say, I'm going to pay you for your silence, OK, maybe I abused you, maybe I sexually harassed you, maybe I raped you, but if I pay you money that you're going to stay silent, they can continue that type of behavior.
TAPPER: They do. That's the whole point.
TWEEDEN: And if they can do that in Congress, and Congress, they're paying them off with our money.
TWEEDEN: OK, they're paying them off with taxpayer money. I'm sure that $15 million didn't come out of their personal pocket, right? So, how do we not know names? How do we not know what happened? Names need to be named. And the money needs to come out of their own personal checkbooks, OK?
This is wrong. When names start being named, right, and I think there was call yesterday on Capitol Hill that if we start knowing names, then people start being called out, maybe this behavior will start changing. TAPPER: DO you -- are you willing to testify before the Senate Ethics Committee?
TWEEDEN: I would be, sure. Yes. I mean, yes, OK? If they ask me to.
TAPPER: Do you think that Senator Franken should step down from his job or if he fails to be expelled from the Senate by his colleagues?
TWEEDEN: I'm not asking for that. I mean that's not why I came out with my story. I'm not asking for him to step down as senator, that's not my -- if somebody else calls for that, but that's not what I'm asking.
TAPPER: But in your heart, I mean, do you have any feeling? I mean, it sounds like you've nursed this understandably with a lot of resentment, again, completely understandably for 11 years. Do you want him punished? I mean, what is the -- or did you just want to be acknowledged as a human being and apologized too?
TWEEDEN: Yes, I think that's it, the latter. I think I just wanted him to apologize to me for that, and say he was sorry. And I think that second statement that he came out with and the acknowledgement of saying that it was wrong. And the heartfelt and, you know, gathering his staff and saying, you know what, it was wrong. And I think everybody needs to take a good hard look. And I think he really came from a place of honesty there. And I think that's really where change is going to be driven from not from the victims coming out and talking about it, I think it's going to come from the people who maybe do the abusing that don't even realize they're doing the abusing, because it's so a part of the culture. And it's been so a part of -- when you can do this and look at a camera and laugh, and think that that's OK, and you can get away with it, and you know you're being photographed and you know you're doing it to a woman, and you think that that's OK, and you can do it with impunity, and think you can get away with it, and it's ha ha, funny, that's what's wrong with the culture, you know. So if we can have the people doing the abusing change, that's where -- that's when the change is going to occur.
[21:20:02] TAPPER: You've been -- we've all been watching the changes in the society when it comes to this issue of sexual assault and harassment in the last year I guess, I mean, slowly and now quickly, Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Mark Halperin, Harvey Weinstein, Brett Radnor, Brett Ratner, on, and on, and on, and on. Are there any of the women who came forward in any of those cases who inspired you? Because I think right now, you're probably inspiring a lot of people. And I'm wondering if there any women who came before you who inspired you to come forward today?
TWEEDEN: I mean, I don't think specifically. I think it's more of a -- as a whole. I think, you know, just for me, I say Congresswoman Jackie Speier just because when she came on our show a few weeks ago, and she told the story. And it was just almost verbatim what happened to me. And she happens to be, you know, a congresswoman and it's political and, you know, Al Franken is now a senator, and it just sounded like my words, you know what I mean? So I think that's why it was a trigger point for me and it inspired me to come forward.
But all of those women, we're just standing on the backs of those women, you know? It just is -- it takes courage and strength and I only pulled strength in them, look, this morning right before I talked about it on our radio show, I was terrified, you know. I told my husband right before I came to do your show, I was sitting in the car and I'm like, there was a moment this morning, all of a sudden I tried to go out and go to the bathroom and there were all kinds of T.V. cameras in the hallway, I had no idea, Jake, honestly, I have no idea what it was going to turn into, I thought maybe a camera was going to show up and then all of a sudden the hallway was flocked. And kind of -- I was like, I need to go to the bathroom, and right at that moment, my husband texted me, how are you holding up? And I literally just locked myself in the bathroom for a minute and -- I like -- I wanted to start crying. It was just like sort an overwhelming emotion, you know.
And I even had Lauren, one of the girls that came out about Harvey Weinstein, who's a friend of ours, and I've known her for a long time. And she told me -- she texted me last night, because she knew I was going to talk about it this morning, and she said, you're going to feel better, you know, -- once it comes out you're going to feel better. I haven't gotten to that point yet. I'll be honest. I still sort of have that knot in my stomach. And, you know, I don't feel like, yehey! It feels great coming out and talking about it. I mean, I still feel, you know, kind of sick about it, you know. It's not a feel good thing, and I still feel sort of embarrassed about it, you know, it's --
TAPPER: You don't need me to say this, but obviously, there's nothing you did nothing to be embarrassed about. I mean, I know you know that intellectually. But there's nothing you did that should be -- you should be embarrassed about. How are you holding up, you have a loving husband, you have a support network there, are you doing OK?
TWEEDEN: I just want to go home and I have a 2-year-old and a 4-year- old and I just want to hug my babies and my husband, that's all. You know, I've been up since 2:00 in the morning, California time. I haven't eaten anything. I have like cotton mouth. I feel like my teeth are sticking to my gums. You know, I'm OK, I'm holding up, you know, it's just been nonstop, that's all. I'm OK. Thank you. I'm all right.
TAPPER: The world that you're making for your children, for your 2- year-old and 4-year-old, you realize that you are making it better for them. I don't know the genders of your children, but actually it doesn't even matter.
TWEEDEN: I have a boy and a girl.
TAPPER: OK, well, but it's -- but both of them need to be impacted by this, right? Not just the girl.
TWEEDEN: You know, you always -- I don't want to be cliche, but, you know, you talk about trying to leave the world a better place for your kids, you know, sorry. TAPPER: Nothing to be sorry about.
TWEEDEN: I didn't think I was going to do that. But, you know, you do. You want to leave, you know. You try set examples for your children, right? You want to leave the world a better place. You try to -- you want to set examples, and you want the world to be better for your kids. You want to leave it better than what you had it. And it's like, you know, I've had so many of my girlfriends text me, I mean, my phone died twice already today because people have been texting and calling, and they're like, you know, stay strong because you're doing something that is going to make the world better for your daughter, you know. And maybe I am, you know. I didn't look at it that way. But maybe I am, and if I am, OK. I'll take it.
[21:25:00] TAPPER: You are. Of course you are. It's not just for your daughter, you're doing it for your son too, right?
TAPPER: You don't want him to grow up and either misbehave or --
TAPPER: You know, have women friends or family members who are affected that way. Because obviously what you're doing is making the world a better place, because you're bringing awareness in a very public and -- I know you don't feel it, but very brave way.
You said something earlier that surprised me. You didn't know how much this was going to -- how big a deal this was going to be, you thought there might be one camera. You didn't know it was going to be such a huge story of interest to so many people. Why?
TWEEDEN: Well, I mean, I knew it would be a story because it deals with Senator Franken. I didn't know that it would be like this. I guess, you know, I mean -- I guess, it's like trying to describe the Grand Canyon to somebody, and then seeing it with your own eyes, you know, I guess maybe it's just a little bit different in perspective, you know, but I just -- it's been a whirlwind. It's been nonstop. I think the flood of phone calls and e-mails, and messages and text messages, and the interest and the stories and the trending, and it's overwhelming, you know, haven't had a couple minutes to myself, and like I said, I just -- you know, I haven't had a chance to see my kids and, you know, I haven't been able to talk to my husband like twice, and just for a minute, you know, it's just -- it's -- you know, it's just -- it's overwhelming, really.
TAPPER: One of the -- I know you're not doing this in any partisan way at all. These stories inevitably become partisan, not because of you, not because of how the media necessarily covers it, but because partisans seize upon it. And we saw that with the allegations against Donald Trump last year. We see this with allegations against Roy Moore. What do you think about that, about people taking credible allegations of sexual misconduct and using them for partisan purposes, one way or the other? TWEEDEN: Disgusting. I mean -- when is -- how can you take sides when there's right and when there's wrong? I mean, I tried to describe it yesterday, we were talking about it on the radio show, and I said, if you listen to stories like we watch "The Voice", for example, right, where you turn your seats around and you just hear a voice, right, you don't see the face, you don't know the person, you don't know where that voice is coming from, you just hear the beautiful melody, and you just hear the talent, right? If you just heard the stories of what some of these people do, and you've heard the accusations and then you hear the accusers or the stories that have come out, and you didn't know anything about the person or their affiliation, or what, if they're a liberal or if they're Republican, what side they're affiliated with politically. And you made your decision based on what you hear or facts or the allegations or what have you. It would be a very different story, and it's so sad to me that, you know, if you are sexually assaulted or abused or raped or whatever it is that has happened to you, you're a victim or you're an abuser or whatever, it doesn't matter if you have a D or an R in front of your name. That should have nothing to do with it, I mean that's the thing that when Congresswoman Speier came on the show, you know, she has, you know, teamed up with other Republican females in Congress to talk about like, this is not a partisan issue. Like, when you're sexually assaulted it doesn't matter. When you're sexually assaulted it doesn't matter if you're a Republican or a Democrat. The guy doesn't go, hey, are you Republican or Democrat. Because when I'm raping you, I want to make sure I know which one you are. The affiliation doesn't matter, right?
I don't see how people can go, oh, I'm so happy that she was assaulted, because she's a Republican, or I'm so happy that he's being accused because he's a Democrat, like that's disgusting to me. Like, that's not the point here, let's get back to the problem of what happened here, and what is he being accused of, regardless of what his affiliation is, because let's -- that's the issue here, let's not -- let's talk about the problem and the victim.
[21:29:58] TAPPER: Do you think it's going to get better? Do you think that there is becoming more awareness because of all these cases, including yours today that the behavior will change and more women will come forward and fewer men will feel like they can try this nonsense, try -- assault women and get away with it?
TWEEDEN: Yes, I'm a realist. So I hope it's going to get better, and I think it will. Yes, I think more women are going to feel, and men too, I think people are going to feel more empowered to speak up when it happens, is sexual a assault and rape and all of these things still going to happen? Yes, it's going to happen, because it's human nature and people are still going to be assaulted and things are -- we're not going to live in this perfect society where everybody is going to get along and, you know, we're going to have no crime and no rape and,, you know, everything is going to be perfect and we're going to live in harmony, let's be realistic, that's never going to happen.
But, I do think times are changing, and I think you see in Hollywood now, where these allegations come, look at the fall from grace of Harvey Weinstein -- TAPPER: Yes.
TWEEDEN: And it is -- we're talking about a guy who ran Hollywood. Who -- I mean, he could win an Oscar just by putting money into, you know -- I mean, it was just amazing how much control he had over, you know, the Oscar nominations, and the movies that were put out, and how much control he had over the movies that were put out and made and distributed, and all of that. And his fall from grace was just unbelievable.
And then you look at Kevin Spacey, and how people just cut and ran, you look at Louie C.K., and people just cut and ran. And we're talking about accusations, and with multiple people come out and, I mean, -- none of these were "proven," I mean, they just started hearing them and multiple people came out and people like, you know what, we pulled all of it, we're cutting the movie, we're replacing him in a movie, we cut our deals and they just cut and ran, I mean, just at the first sight of it. So it's really been incredible.
So, I think times have changed, people don't want to know. And there's been a silent departure of -- people don't hear this, but in a lot of, you know, agencies in Hollywood, a lot of talent companies in Hollywood, there have been a lot of people that silently cleaned out their desks than sort of just walk away that either been pretty (ph) too, that have been -- maybe part of that sort of culture. That the hammer's either coming down or they know that it's coming down the pipeline and have just gone, you know what, we're just going to take our leave now before maybe the shoe drops on them.
So it's really -- it's happening there and maybe it's going to happen in more places like Capitol Hill or, you know, maybe it'll take a little bit longer to happen in middle America because the spotlight is not shining as bright, you know, at the local chili's or at the local, you know, kinkos (ph) or wherever people are working where, you know, you don't have A list actresses and your big movie moguls and stuff that people know their names because they see on T.V. all the time. It might be little but different but it's definitely, you know, I think the change, the tide is turning, and I think it's definitely people are more aware of it now, and I think people are not as afraid to speak up because people are going to call it out as it happens, and I think this younger generation, and I think it's happening. I definitely do.
TAPPER: Leeann, one last question for you, and that is any woman or man watching right now, who has experienced the kind of thing that you have experienced, what's your message to them as you go through the end of this very difficult day?
TWEEDEN: You know, you definitely got to find your strength with your loved ones and, you know, just know if -- the truth is on your side, if you have the truth on your side, you know, you can't go wrong, you definitely got to -- you know, you got to -- your heart's got to be in it to know that it's going to be definitely a difficult struggle, you know, it's going to be -- people are going to want to tear you down, and people are going to want to, you know, challenge your credibility and going to want to say nasty things about you, and like you said, don't look at Twitter for a while but, you know. They're going to -- people are going to want to challenge you, and it's not going to be easy. But, you know, if the truth is on your side, you have that going for you, and it's. If you want to make change, change is never easy, you know, change is tough. But if you want to be on the right side of history, and you want to make change, you know, you are going to have to do some walking and believe in that and do it, you know.
TAPPER: But you're making change. Leaann Tweeden, thank you so much. We're honored that you told your story to us.
[21:35:03] TWEEDEN: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: My panel is with me now to react to that emotional interview. Amanda, let me start with you, what struck out to you when listening to Leeann Tweeden describe her experience. It was very emotional obviously.
AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SEN. TED CRUZ: The word that she ended that segment with where she says, you know what, I'll take it. She went on camera and said I don't feel strong, but she is acknowledging the strength it takes when she says, you brought up her children, and she said I'll take it, because there's an onslaught, people are going to go through her history, they're going to question why she's doing it. But I think she was so -- clear she had no agenda, she said that Congresswoman Speier came on her show and talked about how she was assaulted and a man forcibly kissed her. And that reminded her how Al Franken did that -- who is now a U.S. senator. And so she decided to tell her story.
And the thing that is just awful about this is that -- for this to be better, these women have to relive it. They have to tell the world about the worst part of their day. And she's doing that on camera, and it's good because people can see the pain that it caused. That pain has to be seen and recognize and acknowledge. And that is why it's so commendable what she did and talk with you today.
TAPPER: And Symone, people out there including Roy Moore are talking about his accusers, why would they wait 40 years to come out to describe this? And when you hear Leeann talk about why she waited 11 years -- and this is, you know, she's a professional broadcaster, and even then she that said it took a lot of courage and she almost didn't do it today. It's not that difficult to see why people don't come forward.
SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, not at all.
TAPPER: It's incredibly painful.
SANDERS: It's painful. You have folks who are willing to tear you down. People question your credibility and your character. And you are also reliving what is a really terrible and horrible experience. I can't see how anyone who could watch that interview or any interviews, unfortunately, the handful of interviews we have --
TAPPER: There are a lot of them, yes. SANDERS: -- as of late. And think that this is some type of liberal orchestrated, you know, corporate media takedown of these powerful men. Because it's not -- these are women who are being so courageous coming forward and telling their stories. And a someone who has a "me too" story, someone who knows other folks that have stories far more egregious than mine. It takes so much courage to stand up and unabashedly living your truth and be authentic and share your truth with the world. So I just -- I commend her for doing that.
TAPPER: I have to say. When the whole "#metoo" thing started the hashtag campaign, for women just to say, I've been harassed too, I've been assaulted too. I'm not naive or I didn't think I was. But I could not believe all of my women friends on Facebook. All of my women friends on Twitter, all of them have a story. It's stunning. When I asked Leeann if Al Franken's apology was enough? She was very forgiving and showed tremendous class and grace.
CARPENTER: Which proves to me she has no agenda other than I think wanting to get this off her chest and saying, I went through this, this man is on the position of power. I went on with the show. I have to do this for job. I mean, she was (INAUDIBLE) for the truth which was pretty if you're righteous nice act to do, and she went on the show because she didn't want to ruin that, she didn't want to have a bad image for her career either.
And so, it's very difficult for women to make the decision, but you bring up the "me too" campaign, and why we're seeing such an avalanche of people coming out, because it's liberating to know that other women have come through with it. You can talk -- this is a safe topic now. I don't think it's a safe topic a year ago.
TAPPER: Two months ago.
CARPENTER: Two months ago. But now it is safe. Women are getting it out. Other women they'll free, they know these things may have happened to them but it wasn't because of them. And I think that's the distinction and a lot of women struggle with in their private though.
TAPPER: And this -- this is not a partisan issue.
TAPPER: Democrats are doing this to women. Republicans are doing this to women.
SANDERS: Independents have probably done it as well, Green Party folks, people that -- don't even believe in a political system.
This is about overall culture and system. We have -- it has far exceed a problem. (INAUDIBLE) had a really great piece in (INAUDIBLE) a couple weeks ago specifically about sexual culture, and talking about the fact that this is from the Hills, to Hollywood, to the boardroom, everywhere in between. And so this is a system and we have to examine what is it about our culture or sexual culture that seems to support this. We talk a lot about rape culture, but rape should not have been the bar that is met for us to have a conversation about this, for us to do something. Because it's not just rape, it's those sexual microaggression, the cat calling on the street, it's the someone "pushing up" on you in an office in a professional setting.
[21:40:04] None of these things are OK, but we are only now liberated to have these conversations because women have been courageous in coming forward, so now -- because this is bigger than Al Franken.
And to be frank, if people think what Al Franken did was egregious, I bet my bottom dollar, there are far more egregious stories than Al Franken of men who are currently sitting in positions of power on Capitol Hill, folks who just not come forward.
So, we have to start having a larger conversation about the system and it does -- these women know, it does us or the women. Any great service, if they come forward and tell their story, then nothing changes. So, we have to be committed to changing something.
TAPPER: Is the system -- is the Senate Ethics Committee, is that a good enough system? You heard my skepticism in the interview. Is that a good enough system to hear these complaints?
CARPENTER: In my experience, Senate Ethics commission complaints, it is design for -- where complaints go to die, you know. It will take a couple years to investigate usually by the time they come to a conclusion the senator either resign in shame or there's been enough time to rehab and then go through with the next election.
There's other remedies. I think Al Franken needs to do some -- if he's truly sorry, he needs to do some public interviews probably with females as much as I'd like to see you interview him on this topic. He needs to talk to this woman rather than issue a press release. And if U.S. Senate does want to take action, I don't think we need to wait for an investigation.
They can vote to center him to the simple majority vote and take a stand on this issue. And for that matter, Donald Trump or anyone else they see fit.
SANDERS: Yes. I mean, I guess it's just -- it just troubles me because Donald -- it seems like everyone else in this moment has had to account for what they've done and what they've been accused of except for the president of the United States.
And I'm concerned about what message that sends to young people, not just girls but young boys, sitting at home watching this that --
CARPENTER: Young men have been hurt on the Capitol Hill.
SANDERS: Absolutely. And so, what does this say? Does this say that when you've obtained a certain level of power, the rules no longer apply to you? I don't think so.
TAPPER: Stick around. We have lots more to talk about including the White House not saying that Senate candidate Roy Moore should leave the race. Stay with us. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[21:45:46] TAPPER: Welcome back. Tonight, brand new numbers giving us a sense of just what kind of toll the scandal involving Senate Candidate Roy Moore might be taking on his campaign.
A new Fox News poll showing that Democrat Doug Jones in this poll is beating Moore by eight percentage points in the state of Alabama, a state where Democrats tend not to do that well statewide. We learned tonight that the governor of Alabama will not delay the special election to be held in December and that the Alabama Republican Party chair says his committee will stand firmly behind the nominee.
Today, Moore assailed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying that McConnell was trying to steal the election from him. But we also continued to see new allegations from Alabama women who say that Moore made sexual advances toward them when they were in high school.
President Trump did not answer questions reporters shouted at him today about Roy Moore and his Press Secretary Sarah Sanders did not have a firm answer when asked whether the president believes Roy Moore's many accusers
One of the women who held a news conference supporting Moore today, a woman from the group called Faith to Action would not take those questions for Roy Moore either.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has Judge Roy Moore categorically denied he dated high school girls, teenage high school girls when he was in his 30s?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've read his letter and it addresses that very clearly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can he speak for himself, please?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, you're running for Senate. Speak please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I paid for the microphone. I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir, do you have a question about an issue?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the issue right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That's the issue right now. Let's bring back my panel. Symone Sanders, I have to say, I don't know if I believe this poll.
SANDERS: I do not believe this poll, Jake. Look. I think it's like what we saw in the general election. The general election, we saw all this polling where people just frankly didn't want to identify as Trump supporters, we know that now, because Donald Trump is the president.
And so, I think what we're seeing is folks in these polls do not want to identify as Moore supporters. There is -- Alabama is a really special place. And in order for Doug Jones -- I hope Doug Jones wins, I'll do everything I can to help Doug Jones win.
But, in order for Doug Jones to come out victorious in this, you -- the numbers have to really line up. And some of the numbers are -- the African-American turnout has to ratchet up to about 28 percent in a special election.
You need a very high percentage of moderate Republicans who probably feel badly and do not like that an alleged pedophile who is on the ballot to pull the lever for Doug Jones. And all these things have to come together on a Tuesday in December.
CARPENTER: But even if the poll is fake, I hope Republicans believe that it is real.
CARPENTER: Because I want the Republican governor of Alabama to take action to find -- to give Alabama Republican voters a better choice.
TAPPER: Oh, you want her to cancel --
CARPENTER: Yes, absolutely.
TAPPER: -- so they can put a new Republican as a nominee?
CARPENTER: Yes, I want the Republican Party to have standards. And yes, I do understand that it is radical action, but part of --
CARPENTER: -- politics is using the tools that you have available to you.
SANDERS: OK. Wait.
CARPENTER: The Republican Party of Alabama does have the tools to do this. I would strongly encourage them to do that. Otherwise, what are they going to do if he wins? Really right now, vote for Roy Moore so we can expel him?
SANDERS: Then my pick is vote for Doug Jones. My pick is for vote for Doug Jones because he had the better record and no one has accused him of sexual assault today.
CARPENTER: One point, I am sort of sick about the fact that senators just passed new sexual harassment training for members and staff on the Hill. And the fact that if Senator Roy Moore be the -- may be the first person to go through that, it's sort of revolting.
SANDERS: Well, I don't think one training is going to help Roy Moore because --
CARPENTER: Well, that's my thing. What's the point if you're going to elect this man and tell your people to vote for him?
SANDERS: Look. The voters in Alabama in their primary for this special, they made -- which was a mess, they made a decision about Roy Moore. I do not agree with that decision which is why I'm supporting Doug Jones.
CARPENTER: But they did not have the information available to them at the time which is why --
SANDERS: But look, I hear you. But we -- it is really dangerous to talk about just changing and moving an election. The Republican Party has a penchant (ph) to it. But sometimes, if they do not like things, they want to just change what's going on --
CARPENTER: -- I remember America --
SANDERS: We are America.
CARPENTER: I was encouraging the delegates to vote for someone else other than Donald Trump. I stood on a panel with Van Jones. He said you cannot aboard your candidate at this point in time. I said it is the right thing to do and look what happened, Donald Trump became president.
[21:50:02] TAPPER: I want to play some sound from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders earlier today. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president believe Roy Moore's accusers or does he think Roy Moore should drop out of this race?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, the president believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously. And he thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, that's a no? He thinks Roy Moore should stay in?
SANDERS: Look, the president said in his statement earlier this week that if the allegations are true, then that Roy Moore should step aside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So again, we're hearing -- this is a -- I mean, the story is so fast moving, I hate to say it, but like that answer is so last week because now we have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan saying I believe the women. I believe the allegations.
Can the White House continue to say, oh, he finds the allegations troubling if they're true he needs to resign or do they eventually need to like say whether or not the president believes them?
CARPENTER: Donald Trump and by extension Sarah Huckabee Sanders, they're gagged by Donald Trump's past. He cannot all of a sudden say I believe these women because nearly a dozen women have accused him, among them a former apprentice contestant, among them former beauty pageant contestants.
So, how on earth could he follow the correct moral line without saying, yes, these women who have accused me should also be believed.
SANDERS: Yes. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the accusers of Donald Trump liars. And so, people that live in glass houses to have a tendency not to want to try to throw stones. And that's what we're seeing here.
So, the president, his hands are essentially tied. If he thinks Roy Moore should step down, I'm wondering if he then is going to turn to his resignation as president of the United States of America.
TAPPER: Well, I am hearing a lot of people today saying Al Franken needs to step down, but they're not saying the same thing about President Trump. I mean --
SANDERS: We have to address across the board, OK? So if we are going to really attack this issue, if we really want to change the system, we have to have a certain set of standards by which we engage in this work of combating sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual microaggression. So, we can't have one standard for somebody and another standard for someone else.
TAPPER: One standard for everybody. Everyone, thanks so much, really appreciate. A lot going on including the House just passing the Republican tax plan, but will it get through the Senate? Stick around.
[21:56:26] TAPPER: Welcome back. It's the future of your bottom line and step one is now done. House Republicans passed their version of a tax bill this afternoon. Now, it's up to Senate Republicans to pass their version.
CNN Congressional Correspondent Phil Mattingly joins me now live in studio. And Phil, the White House said today that President Trump thinks that Senate Republicans will come around and pass something. But at this point, it's still kind of up in the air.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question. They've got a long way to go. It's what Speaker Paul Ryan actually said at their celebratory press conference today. They understand there's a lot of hurdles left. Let's try and kind of break them down. You already have somebody who is opposed to the bill, Senator Ron Johnson, not because of the repeal of the individual mandate, not because of his concern about tax cuts on the individual side, because of something called pass throughs. Essentially, these are smaller business entities. The pass throughs are income that are taxed on the individual side of things. He wants that to change. OK. They give the individual mandate. That's obviously a major issue for Senator Susan Collins.
TAPPER: Part of Obamacare.
MATTINGLY: Exactly, which has now been put in play in part to finance what they're trying to do on taxes. You've got people like Senator Jeff Flake, Senator Bob Corker, deficit hawks, very concerned about how this $1.5 trillion plan will add to the deficit in the future.
Senator John McCain who -- I talk to a lot of Republican aides who legitimately just don't know where he is after what happened on health care, obviously he thinks a lot about his legacy, voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2001, 2003. Is he going to come around? Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz want the tax cuts to be deeper. Will they come around?
They can only afford to lose too. Now, they feel good about where they are. I've had several aides tell me, look, compared to health care, we are in a great place right now. They feel like there's things that they can do to bring these numbers on board eventually.
But right now, you're looking at kind of a case of whack-a-mole. If you give something to Ron Johnson on pass throughs, that costs money and you've build -- it's pretty constrained by what they're trying to do right now on budget rules. The big question right now is will the political imperative end up winging out? It's always on the House. This is a big --
TAPPER: Pass something, pass something.
MATTINGLY: Pass anything. Pass something --
TAPPER: Regardless of the policy.
MATTINGLY: By the end of the year, give ourselves an achievement going into the election year. Give President Trump an achievement going into 2018 in the midterms. Will that win out over individual policy concerns, individual provision concerns? It won out in the house. Will it in the Senate? It's a different body. It's a different animal. But leaders are at least hopeful right now.
TAPPER: A nonpartisan study was released today showing the tax cut helps rich people much, much more than people with lower incomes.
MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, so to start with kind of the top line of what Republicans are actually doing here, individuals who make the most money will benefit the most from this plan.
However, if you look at this study from the Joint Committee on Taxation, in 2019, there's no question, across the scale of incomes, everybody gets a tax cut. If you look a little bit further, it's very problematic for Republicans.
In 2021, individuals -- or families making between 10 and $30,000 will see a significant tax increase. Why? Well, because of the individual mandate. They're basically calculating that people who fall off insurance will no longer get subsidies. Therefore, they won't have health on the tax side.
Now, Republicans dispute that saying we're not keeping people from buying insurance. They can choose to do so, choose to still get the subsidies but there's another major issue too if you really dig in to these findings here. Republicans, because of those budget constraints, because they only spend x amount of dollars, $1.5 trillion to be exact, are phasing out every single individual tax cut at the end of 2025.
TAPPER: They're sunsetting.
MATTINGLY: They're sunsetting.
TAPPER: It's a gimmick.
MATTINGLY: It's -- no question about it, every single Republican you talk to says, look, no one is ever going to vote for massive across the board tax increases in 2025. However, because of the deficit constraints, they're doing that.
And because of that, by 2027 people making under $75,000, major tax increases. You know Democrats have seized on that issue. They're going to continue to attack on the issue. The big question now is, can Republicans overcome that? And, probably more importantly, can they convince people economic growth, wage growth is actually going to happen with this?
TAPPER: And it also makes the deficit numbers just a joke because it's not serious, because obviously there's going to be a bigger deficit. Those taxes are not going to go away.
Phil Mattingly, thanks so much. That's it for "The Lead". I'm Jake Tapper. Handing it over tonight to CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.