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Senate Tax Bill Future Unclear; Mistrust of Media; Reversing Ban on Elephant Hunt Trophies; New Allegations against Spacey. Aired 9:30-10:00a ET

Aired November 16, 2017 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:32:04] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

President Trump is heading to Capitol Hill to make the case for his tax cuts. It's not the House side, though, he needs to convince. Trouble appears to be brewing for him on the Senate side.

My panel is here. Salena Zito, CNN contributor and national political reporter for "The Washington Examiner," and CNN political commentator Matt Lewis and Errol Louis.

It is nice to have you here, gentlemen.

Matt, to you.

Steve Scalise says failure's not an option. We're going to get this through. He's the majority whip on the House side. They don't need to be worried. But on the Senate side, Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a no go on this right now. Susan Collins' words, I'm concerned. And we have a lot of, you know, still some wildcards in Flake, in McCain, also in Corker. How do you see this playing out?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's really bad news if you're a Republican. Look, I mean health care was always going to be a difficult issue. I wrote back in January that health care reform -- Republicans should probably just punt because it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Tax reform should be easy.

HARLOW: Yes.

LEWIS: And, look, I mean it's understandable that you might have a hard time getting some moderates to support it. But the fact that Ron Johnson cannot support tax cuts tells you all -- this is a conservative Republican, a fiscal conservative. And the fact that he cannot support this bill -- which, you know, there's two bills, one in the Senate, one in the House, but they're pretty good if you're a free market, supply side conservative. He won't support it.

I think Ron Johnson is actually very upset. He's disgruntled. He's mad that Republicans abandoned him in 2016. They didn't believe he could win in Wisconsin. He feels like he owes them nothing. Like, the back story doesn't matter that much, but, you know, if this guy -- this one guy could basically derail the entire plan for tax reform. It's pretty stunning what's happening right now.

HARLOW: Errol, I think Matt makes a great point. I mean it is stunning to see this coming from Ron Johnson. It's not stunning to see it or hear it coming from Darryl Issa on the House side, of California, because he's in a very difficult district for Republicans. You would expect that. State and local taxes, the issue there matters a lot differently. But you are hearing it from both of them.

You say that this is evidence of a lack of party discipline.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, that's exactly right. It's -- if they had had an opportunity to really shape these issues and come into this process with some kind of unity around what it is they actually want, they'd have a much better chance of actually succeeding. The reality is, though, they never decided within the Republican conference. And the thing that makes that I think dooms this to likely failure is that they're trying to do it without a single democratic vote on either the House side or the Senate side. And that is just a bridge too far.

I mean if it's going to be modeled on the last big tax reform, which was in the 1980s under Reagan, it took him more than a term.

HARLOW: Yes.

LOUIS: It had a ton of Democratic input, a ton of Democratic votes. The reality is, they haven't decided within their own conference what it is they actually want. They want deficit reduction. They somehow want to kill Obamacare along the way. They want to make sure that it happens without any Democratic input at all. The votes are simply not there.

[09:35:15] HARLOW: I think, Salena, Axios (ph) had an interesting take this morning, looking at -- you know, Collins and Johnson aside, looking at the wildcards of Corker and Jeff Flake, who are retiring, and then McCain, who was, of course, the famous thumbs down no vote on health care who is a wildcard in terms of which way he's going to go on this one. So you're counting on at least two Republican senators who aren't running again on this one and add that to the Collins and Johnson troubles.

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right, I mean, you know, there's a certain power and ability to do whatever you think is right outside of the constraint of politics when you are a lame duck member -- you know, elected official. You know, you don't have any political consequences.

I think what's really interesting that I found yesterday, certainly by accident, I was out in West Virginia talking to voters and I asked them, how do you feel about all these different sort of points of views and all these tugs and pulls? They actually thought that it was good for them because it gives them the ability to see who -- what sort of the concerns are from a bunch of different states and to see how they get to the eventual bill if they actually get there.

So they had a different point of view. And I thought that was pretty interesting. They're enjoying the sort of transparency and the back and forth because they get to see how they benefit or don't benefit from it.

HARLOW: Sure.

Selena, you're great about always getting out across the country and talking to the voters about this. Last Friday, when I was in Michigan, I was surprised at how many really blue collar Republican workers told me, we're OK with the corporate tax cuts because we think it's going to trickle down to us is their relief.

ZITO: Yes.

HARLOW: Let me stay on you, Salena, on Roy Moore, because you have a really interesting take on where we're at with this Alabama Senate candidate. And your take is how revealing it is the mistrust of the media, that people are willing there to give him, despite these now seven allegations, the benefit of the doubt over the -- completely over the mainstream media.

ZITO: Right. I mean that, to me, is like the soul of the problem in this story in that voters in -- will just -- we'll just put it in Alabama. Voters in Alabama, but this is across the country and it's across both parties. They have such a distrust for the media that despite all the evidence that has been placed before them by people from their own state, their sisters, their cousins, whatever, their mothers, you know, these women represent a wide swath of people in Alabama and they're much more willing to stick with Moore over these testimonies because they believe they are getting stuck by the media or stuck by the establishment.

That's a big problem in this country. I see it everywhere that I go. There isn't a state I don't see it. And it's also a problem with Democratic voters as well. This isn't just Republican voters.

HARLOW: Errol.

LOUIS: Well, look, journalism, of course, especially at this level, is not a popularity contest.

HARLOW: Yes.

LOUIS: So nobody should be surprised. I'm sure the Watergate reporters weren't all that popular. I've worked on stuff for about 30 years and it's never a popular thing to point out that someone is corrupt or someone is involved in a scandal or somebody is not telling the truth to the public. The public doesn't necessarily want to hear that or know that. That, unfortunately, is not quite relevant to what has to be done here. Voters need to be informed. And, you know, a lot of the stuff that apparently was bubbling around in Alabama for decades needed to come out. It took, I think, a combination of outside reporters from "The Washington Post," which then kind of goosed the local media so that now you see the local press kind of doing their job, maybe kicking it up a notch and putting out a lot of really unpleasant information.

And, yes, sure, I mean they could vote against the media if they have to. But what really matters is what they do on December 12th and that they have accurate, timely and relevant information before they go into the voting booth.

HARLOW: So, Matt Lewis, Roy Moore's team, his legal team, put out a list of quotes from 12 women across the state of Alabama vouching for his character. I'm sure you've seen that. So my initial thought was this morning, let's have them join us on the show.

So our team called every single one of them. Couldn't get through to every one of them. But the few that my producer did get through to hung up on her, said they didn't want anything to do with her, didn't want to talk to her. So, I mean, that just goes to show, you know, whether they don't like CNN or the media or what, but we want to hear their stories.

LEWIS: Right. No, I think that Roy Moore's team is very clearly trying to run out the clock. They've got about a month left. They don't have to prove his innocence. It may, in fact, be impossible to do so. But they do have to raise a shadow of a doubt. And that appears to be what they're in the process of doing. Give people who are going to go vote for him the possibility to believe that this is bogus.

[09:40:04] And I do think that it's gotten worse in terms of the media. So I know Errol made the point that people have always been, you know, skeptical or not welcoming of bad news from the press. But I think it has increasingly gotten worse and the fact where it's essentially nullification.

Yo know, the old line, you have the right to your own opinion but not your own facts.

HARLOW: Right.

LEWIS: Well, we live in a post-fact world. You know, "The New York Times," CNN, we could put out definitive proof, evidence that something happened, but if people just say, well, I don't believe it, well, how do you respond to that? There's no way to get past that. And there is huge skepticism and doubt out there all over America right now.

HARLOW: Thank you all very much, Matt Lewis, Errol Louis, Salena Zito. Appreciate it. Nice to have you on.

New allegations, more allegations of inappropriate behavior -- beyond inappropriate behavior made by "House of Cards" actor Kevin Spacey. The investigation and what it means, ahead.

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[09:45:25] HARLOW: The Trump White House this morning announcing that it will start allowing the import of African elephant trophies into the United States from Zimbabwe and Zambia. Now, why does this matter? Well, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesperson says this is actually a measure to help those African nations put a lot of money back into conservation. The idea being help save and preserve the species. The original ban that was put into place by the Obama administration in 2014 because the number of elephants worldwide had been dropping.

Our Michelle Kosinski joins us with more.

Where did this come from?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a change to a ban that was in effect that the Obama administration had put into effect. So it kind of leaked out. It hasn't even been officially announced yet. But conservation groups are, of course, jumping all over this and saying, you know, that there's -- specifically in Zimbabwe, because this only applies to hunting during a period of time, permitted legal hunting in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

So U.S. officials say this is because there's information that they have that shows that this is feasible there, that it would work, that it's regulated enough that it would actually help conservation efforts and incentivize doing it right, instead of poaching, because, of course, people who want to hunt in these places, they have to pay a lot of money. And then those who are organizing the hunts have to pay some of that towards conservation.

So from the Fish and Wildlife perspective, this is working well. This is like a good situation and that's why they made the change only in these specific places. Of course the Humane Society that put out a blog post that kind of exposed this yesterday, they feel exactly the opposite. They feel that numbers have been dropping among elephants across the board so much that this is a very bad idea. And they say, you know, when you look at other things that the U.S. government is now doing, like a Fish and Wildlife website that appeals to hunts -- to big game hunting and hunting of elephants in Africa, that this could have the opposite effect.

And, of course, we all know that the Trump family, the two Trump sons, were pictured as big game hunters from a hunt in Zimbabwe in 2011, that they are -- that they are fans of the sport. So that raises questions, too.

This is always going to be an argument between those who feel that if you do this, you know, in small numbers and you do it right, it helps conservation, and those who feel exactly the opposite, that this is setting a terrible example and these animals are endangered, Poppy.

HARLOW: Michelle Kosinski, thank you for the reporting. We appreciate it.

Ahead, a London theater conducts an investigation and finds 20 new allegations of inappropriate behavior against actor Kevin Spacey. The latest, next.

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[09:52:42] HARLOW: This morning, actor Kevin Spacey is facing 20 new allegations of inappropriate behavior spanning over a decade. The Old Vic Theater in London started investigating after the other sexual misconduct and abuse allegations came to the light against Spacey. Our entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, who broke a lot of this news, is on the story. She continues to follow it.

What do we know this morning about these 20 new allegations?

CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Well, good morning, Poppy.

So, again, another unfortunately explosive report when it comes to Kevin Spacey. So, like you said, the Old Vic Theater, this very famous playhouse in London, where Kevin Spacey was the artistic director from 2004 to 2015 there, the Old Vic Theater decided to launch their own investigation. They hired an outside law firm to see if anybody had ever been made uncomfortable by Kevin Spacey, if there were any sort of situations that they didn't know about and they did find that there are 20 personal allegations of misconduct against Kevin Spacey that date back, like you said, over a decade. The majority of those claims are from before 2009, and one of those instances was reported.

Now they don't go into explain what type of misconduct, whether it was verbal, sexual misconduct, like some of the other allegations that we've seen from like "House of Cards" people that I had spoken to.

HARLOW: Right.

MELAS: Now, they did release a statement, the Old Vic Theater saying, despite having the appropriate escalation processes in place, it was claimed that those affected felt unable to raise concerns and that Kevin Spacey operated without sufficient accountability. This is clearly unacceptable and the Old Vic truly apologizes for not creating an environment or culture where people felt able to speak freely.

Poppy, this is a common theme where people are afraid to come forward and name their accusers, either as soon as it happens or shortly thereafter, because they're afraid of professional repercussions and they're afraid of the star power. Because Kevin Spacey, you have to remember, is a two-time Oscar winner.

HARLOW: They feel like their job is disposable, whether it's on the set of "House of Cards," or the Old Vic Theater, and he's the star, so who are they to speak up, you know, to him. And yet, nothing from Spacey, right? We're hearing nothing from him?

MELAS: Nothing. Not a peep. CNN has reached out multiple times to his attorneys. No response. The Old Vic Theater says also Kevin Spacey has not responded to their allegations either. And, you know, Kevin Spacey, as far as we know, last we had heard from his publicity team before they dropped him, was that he was seeking treatment in rehab. But, again, Spacey has not said anything.

[09:55:07] HARLOW: Chloe, thank you for this and for all the news you broke on it that has really led to a lot of people feeling like they could come forward. We appreciate it.

MELAS: Thank you. HARLOW: OK. So, back to Capitol Hill, where the president is also

going to try to rally Republicans on tax reform. We'll have much more straight ahead.

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HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour. 10:00 a.m. Eastern, 7:00 a.m. Pacific. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

A major day on Capitol Hill for tax reform. The president heading there in the next hour to rally House Republicans. But perhaps he should save the pep rally for the Senate side. While Republican leadership in the House is confident they have this in the bag, Republican support for the Senate's bill is squishier than ever. At least one quite conservative Republican now says he's a no. Another one has concerns.

[10:00:09] Our Manu Raju joins us on The Hill with more.