Return to Transcripts main page
Menendez Jury Deadlocked; Accusations against Franken; Trump Leaves Capitol Hill. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired November 16, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[12:00:00] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This jury could come to an agreement on some counts and not others.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And this has been going on now for 11 weeks. Days on end this jury has been deliberating with teaching a deadlock. Another deadlock they have just reached in this breaking news. What this means going forward, stand by. This is a lot going to go on with this today.
Thank you so much, Jessica.
And thank you so much for joining me.
Dana Bash with "INSIDE POLITICS" picks up right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash, in for John King.
And we have breaking news on a very busy news day.
This in Senator Bob Menendez's corruption trial up in New Jersey. The news is that the jury has informed the judge that they are deadlocked. They are deadlocked. That they cannot come up with a verdict at all at this point. And we're going to bring it right around the table. A lot of people here who know the senator and know the situation.
Here to share their reporting and insights, "Bloomberg's" Margaret Talev of "The New York Times" -- excuse me, of "Bloomberg." Margaret Talev is with "Bloomberg." I'll start that again. Carl Hulse is with "The New York Times." Michael Warren is with "The Weekly Standard." And with "The Wall Street Journal," Michael Bender.
Carl, let me start with you. You've covered Senator Menendez for a long time and are familiar with this trial. He was charged with 12 counts conspiracy, bribery, and fraud related to abusing the power of this office. What do you think this says about the fact that the jury is saying they're deadlocked?
CARL HULSE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": No surprise. They've really been struggling. The judge has been trying to keep them in there to make a decision. You know, these are very tough cases, these public corruption cases.
The Justice Department does not have a good record in delivering -- getting guilty verdicts here. I think there was a lot of expectation in Washington that he might be found not guilty.
You know, this means it's going to drag on for a while. Does the Justice Department go back? Do they try again or what? People who were there don't think it was a really hard convincing case that they presented.
BASH: OK, stand by. We have our own justice reporter, Jessica Schneider, who is with us.
And, Jessica, what are you hearing from your sources and from our team up in New Jersey about what exactly is going to happen now, not to mention what the judge's reaction was. I'm sure he was not pleased.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Dana, this is the big question, what happens from here?
So the jury, in fact, coming back. This is the second time this week they've informed the judge that they're deadlocked, that they just can't come to a unanimous verdict. So in their note that they sent to the judge, they said that they have reviewed all the evidence slowly in great detail. Many of them saying they're not willing to change their positions.
So right now who's happening in court is both the defense team for Senator Menendez, as well as the government lawyers, the prosecution, they're deciding what to do next because, Dana, it is possible that the judge could once again instruct the jury to go back here.
So what the -- what the prosecution wants the judge to do is to, in fact, instruct the jury to go back, continue deliberating, perhaps even say to the jury, hey, look, there are 12 counts here. You do not have to decide on all 12 counts. You could come to a partial verdict here. So that's what the prosecution wants.
The defense team, on the other hand, would take this deadlock as a victory. This defense team wants the jury to instruct -- to have the judge instruct the jury that it is OK to be a hung jury. It is OK to not come to a unanimous verdict.
So those are the arguments right now happening inside the court, Dana. But, again, this is the second time this week that this jury -- remember, this is the second go around since this one juror had to leave on vacation last week. The second time this jury has said, we cannot come to a unanimous conclusion. We're not sure what the split is. We're not sure how many people want to acquit versus how many want to convict. That's all being played out in court right now. Uncertain if they'll have to go back into the deliberation room, Dana, but that's what's being determined right now by the judge.
BASH: OK, Jessica, thank you for that.
I also want to bring in Jeffrey Toobin, our chief legal analyst. And, Jeffrey, you've seen cases like this, as Carl here said, public
corruption cases are always difficult to prove for the federal government. What is your sense of what happens next?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST (via telephone): Well, I would not be at all surprised to have the judge urge them one more time to go back to work and try to reach at least a partial verdict. Judges really hate hung juries. They never want to retry cases. And, you know, it's a tremendous amount of time, energy, money involved in trying a case like this and they don't want to do it again. There's something called a dynamite charge or an Alan (ph) charge, which judges sometimes give jurors to try to blast them out of the stalemate that they're in.
But given how long these deliberations have gone on and given how long -- how often they have said they are deadlocked, it certainly does seem like the case is headed for a hung jury.
[12:05:07] And one thing I think is worth keeping in mind is, you know, I think, if you don't follow the legal system, it's easy to think of a hung jury as a kind of tie. It's not a tie. It's a win for the defense here. Ninety percent of trials in federal court end in some kind of conviction. And if this is a hung jury, that will certainly be a victory for Menendez and the defense team. It may yet lead to another trial. That's a decision for another day. But certainly Menendez will remain a senator and a hung jury is something that the defense will always take in federal court.
BASH: No question, always better than a conviction, that's for sure.
Jeff, thank you so much for that analysis. We are going to watch to see what the judge does, if the judge does, in fact, say, no, I'm sorry, members of the jury, please go back and try again, which as our analysts are saying, is likely.
And as we wait for that, and as we wait on Capitol Hill for President Trump to come out of his meeting with House Republicans, which is happening as we speak, they're voting on the tax bill later today in the House, we're following even more breaking news on Capitol Hill.
A bombshell report about Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. He is now apologizing after a Los Angeles news anchor, Leeann Tweeden, came forward and said he kissed and groped her without her consent back in 2006 while they were rehearsing a performance on a USO tour that they were both on. Now, Franken was not a member of the U.S. Senate at the time. Tweeden also released a photo that appears to show Franken with his hands over her chest while she slept. She says she's speaking out now because she wants to inspire other victims of sexual assault to come forward and not keep their stories locked up inside for years.
I want to read part of Tweeden's account. And this is what she says. It's rather graphic. He, Franken, continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable. He repeated that actors really need to rehearse everything and that we must practice the kiss. I said, OK, so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth. I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again, I wouldn't be so nice about it next time.
I want to now get to our own MJ Lee on Capitol Hill.
And, MJ, Al Franken has released a statement about this accusation. What's he saying?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, Dana.
First of all, let me say, we are standing right outside of Senator Franken's office. We've been here all morning. We have not yet seen him. We don't know if he's still on Capitol Hill.
But, yes, we have gotten a statement from him. And let me just read that to you in full.
He wrote, quote, I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny, but it wasn't. I shouldn't have done it.
Now, I just want to make an important point here, Dana. Yes, he did apologize in the statement and he is not denying that these things happened. But he is also sort of questioning her recollection of the events that she said were so disturbing. So not exactly a full- throated apology.
And you can bet that this is only the beginning of the fallout for Senator Franken. A lot of senators are now being asked about this, asked about their colleague being accused of these actions.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now calling for an ethics investigation. Let me just read his statement as well, which also came out a couple of minutes ago. McConnell saying, as with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the ethics committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic leader will join me on this, regardless of party. Harassment and assault are completely unacceptable in the workplace or anywhere else.
Speaking of the Democratic leader, that's, of course, Chuck Schumer. I should note, he did have a press conference that was scheduled for around 12:30 or so. That press conference has now been canceled.
Of course, we don't know whether that had anything to do with Senator Franken and these new allegations. But we are going to be looking out for these senators, getting their reactions and see what they have to say about the fact that a current sitting member of the Senate has now been accused by name of sexual harassment.
BASH: MJ, thank you so much for that reporting.
And, as you said, we are -- we're waiting to see if the senator comes out of his office. And if he does, let us know. We'll come right back to you. Appreciate it.
Let's bring it around the table.
Margaret, what's your reaction to this?
MARGARET TALEV, "BLOOMBERG": Well, this is obviously a troubling report. And you could, to some extent , foresee it from the natural evolution of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. But I think it's probably more important than the immediately context in terms of its implications for Roy Moore, whether he stays in that race, whether the debate or discussion about his past actions in Alabama are now diffused or, you know, kind of divided. Whether it becomes Al Franken versus Roy Moore instead of Roy Moore versus himself. So that's the conversation I would look to. And we're still waiting to hear the president weigh in, in public on the situation in Alabama.
[12:10:29] TALEV: The nature of the allegations is certainly different, both in terms of volume and in terms of specifics, the age or the person and the nature of the accusations. And the fact that the person who's being accused, in one case, has suggested he doesn't know these people or that their reports are false. In the other case, naming the person by name and apologizing, you know, immediately, at least for the fact that they were uncomfortable. So I think they're different but politically you can see how this all becomes one thing now.
And this is not somebody who Al Franken kind of met once and did a skit with once. He traveled with her on this USO tour back when he was a private citizen. To the point where he discussed it and her in a speech a few years ago on the Senate floor. Let's listen.
OK, we're going to have it in a second. Stick with us. We have this breaking news. So -- oh, we have it now. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: And during a show I would -- I was kind of a cohost with a beautiful woman named Leeann Tweeden and we'd do comedy routines and we'd introduce music and we'd introduce cheerleaders. And I'd go out and do a monologue. And this is something I would do -- had done for a number of years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL WARREN, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, I mean, I found video, actually, from the -- from the USO Tour in 2006. And you watch it and you get the sense, again from her account as well, this was something that she agreed to, maybe a little under duress, to do some kind of body skit. You kind of -- can kind of understand the bodyness (ph). You've got young men, you know, overseas. It's got a comedian. She looks a little uncomfortable. He actually makes a kind of leering comment to her about her physical appearance. And it's clear from her account, and maybe from the picture she provided, that he seems unable to draw the, you know, line between a character in a sketch on stage and getting off stage.
I think the big question, to what you were talking about, Margaret, is, are there going to be other women --
WARREN: Who come forward and talk about inappropriate behavior. It's -- we're in this weird moment here where we're sort of drawing dividing lines between inappropriate sexual behavior towards minors from 30 years ago and toward people of age, but it's still, you know, gross behavior. I think there's -- there's a lot more people are talking about sexual harassment being a huge problem on Capitol Hill. I don't think this is the end of it. Certainly the beginning.
BASH: No. And, guys, Senator Franken is one of many politicians on both sides of the aisle who came out and condemned Harvey Weinstein's -- his actions and his behavior. On his FaceBook page he put a statement up on October 10th when he said, as we hear more and more about Mr. Weinstein, it's important to remember that while his behavior was appalling, it's far too common.
MICHAEL BENDER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": That's why I think it's shocking, his statement here. MJ was saying before, this is not a full-throated apology. Franken's in this sort of overlay here. We now see that this is a part of the culture in Hollywood, which he was a part of. CNN's own reporting on -- from CNN's own reporting, we know this is part of the culture on Capitol Hill. Franken is at the center of both of these. And he comes out with a statement today with a half apology saying that's not quite the way he remembers it.
Well, the point is, is that that's the way she remembers it. and, you know, and I think he's going to have a lot of trouble getting away with trying to -- to parse this in a way that it -- that -- that the way she remembers it is different or the way it wasn't intended. That's beside the point.
And I do think Margaret's point earlier is that -- is true that I think this helps the Roy Moore -- I think this gives credence to those accusations. Now this is not just an attack on a Republican candidate. There's bipartisan accusations about a sitting senator and a potential senator and shows that this is not a partisan issue.
BASH: Right. That's true, but it is important, and I know you agree, to differentiate and delineate between allegations of going after minors and, you know --
TALEV: With very aggressive behavior and (INAUDIBLE) --
BASH: Right, and an adult, which neither is good. Let's just say that for the record.
BENDER: Yes. BASH: Carl, you and I have walked the halls of Congress together for many, many years. I'm guessing that what the guys say to me off the record is different from what they say to you off the record.
[12:15:04] HULSE: I don't know why you would think that.
BASH: I don't know. Meaning, what do you think? Do you think that there's more coming?
HULSE: Yes, I think 100 percent that -- I think for Al Franken his big problem is, is there more coming on him specifically. I mean obviously -- we all looked at each other when we watched that speech when he said, I was with a beautiful woman, right, and he said that afterwards. That jumps out at you.
There's a lot of pressure right now on Capitol Hill to identify people and come out with names. You know, listen, there's been rumors. There's been lots of stuff that's gone on. There's been a reluctance to bring forward names because these are people you have to work with too. They're elected. You need to make an arrangement with them.
So we'll see whose names are beginning to be named.
I also want to say about Mitch McConnell with the ethics request, this is, you know, this is a classic Mitch McConnell move. He wants everyone to share the pain here. He's got Roy Moore out here. It's like, well, here's Al Franken, who is not popular among Republican members of the Senate for sure.
HULSE: And so -- and it's interesting, Senator McConnell was the chairman during the Packwood ethics investigation.
BASH: I was just going to say that. He's consistent. Mitch McConnell is consistent.
HULSE: Right. Well, but he also -- he used a lot of these tactics during that investigation was slowing down -- slowing it down doing some other things. And one of the main things he did to avoid having public hearings was threatening Democrats and telling them, if you want to go forward with public hearings, we're going to have -- on Packwood, we're going to have some more on some of your members. So, you know, I'm sure this morning the first thing he did was, get me ethics, right?
All right, everybody stand by.
President Trump is on Capitol Hill as we speak. He's in a meeting with House Republicans. we're waiting to see if he speaks to us, to the reporters, when he comes out, and what happened in that meeting. They're talking, of course, about the tax reform bill that will come up for a vote in about an hour or so.
But the Senate Republicans, they're hitting some speed bumps. We'll explain after a break.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. The tax is going really well. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Any comment on Senator Franken?
QUESTION: Mr. President, should Roy Moore stay in the race?
BASH: And you just saw President Trump come to the microphone, sort of, with not a lot of insight about what happened, but he -- a nice wave and seemed to say that it went well. And President Trump is on Capitol Hill, of course, talking to house Republicans. They are going to vote on their must pass tax reform bill in about an hour.
CNN's Phil Mattingly was right there on the other side of the camera when the president came up. He joins us by phone.
Phil, you've been talking to members who were inside the room that the president just left. What are you hearing?
Phil Mattingly, can you hear me?
OK. OK. We are going to wait to get coms with Phil Mattingly.
In the meantime we have reporters here who are certainly well sourced and I can tell you before I go to you that the president, we are told, was joking about his occasional battles with House Republicans and said of the members that he was gathered with, about 30 to 40 percent are fine people. And this is -- this is according to a member who texted that to CNN.
[12:20:18] Oh, I think we have Phil back. Let's try that one more time.
PHIL MATTINGLY: Hey, Dana. You know the basement of the Capitol quite well. Not always seems to -- the best of cell phone coverage.
Look, you guys just saw it, the president did not (INAUDIBLE) great, at least when it comes to the House (INAUDIBLE) some of the things he said inside the room. He spoke a little bit (INAUDIBLE) stress to all of the Republican leadership what they should really be doing to sell all these tax cuts, the biggest tax cut in the history of --
BASH: Phil -- Phil, I'm sorry. As you -- as I think you said at the beginning, the cell phone coverage there is not great. And that is certainly true right now. So we're going to try to get connected with you when you can come up to the first floor. I think you're probably still in the basement, where the -- where the president was. And we know that's hard to do. HULSE: No good service in the halls of the Capitol.
BASH: Not good service. Not good service. They need to work on that.
But in any event, look, this is a big deal, when a president goes to Capitol Hill, any president, to talk to any member of Congress. What do you think that this did for the Republican conference?
WARREN: Well, what I was paying attention to in Washington is the difference between this effort and the Obamacare repeal effort. Still the same sort of trademark confidence from the Trump White House. They kept saying for days and weeks, we know we're going to get this passed. But you're not seeing any plans. I don't think the White House has said they're not going to do this, any plans to have a Rose Garden celebration if and when the House passes.
But I think there are some lessons. And if you talk to the White House they'll say, we learned a few lessons about actually going and talking to members and trying to really making sure that they know that we have their back. There's a lot of confidence from the House as well on this and I think that's reflective of this idea that at least with the House Republicans there's unity. There's, of course, as we've been talking about --
WARREN: The different question is with the Senate Republicans.
BASH: No, absolutely. And I just want to give a little bit more of Phil's reporting. He was told that the president repeatedly told members that they have to sell the plan as the biggest tax cut in history. So, sound Trumpian, basically.
He also told members that this was a key line that they needed to remember.
BENDER: Yes, this is a -- the cut, cut, cut bill, right? I mean it's about marketing and White House aides told me before --
BASH: Which he knows a lot about, to be fair.
BENDER: Absolutely. Right, no, that's -- I mean people talk about him being a real estate billionaire. He made his money just as much in marketing as it was in real estate.
BENDER: And White House aides said ahead of time, to Michael's point, this was -- he was not going over there to negotiate the finer points of this law. He was going over there to a -- for a rally the troop moment, to give them some talking points and ways to talk about this and provide some historical context. It's a promise that they've made and, you know, the idea here that this is the biggest, the largest, gives it some historical edge that he -- which is the way he wants them to push it. And we'll see what the particulars trickle out and exactly how he conveyed that message. BASH: And I just want to tell our viewers that what you're looking at right now, that long, beautiful hallway, is -- it leads to the door at the end there, which is where the president came in. That's Memorial Door, right?
BASH: Memorial Door, on the House side of the U.S. Capitol.
Let me just also give a little bit of substance here about what we're talking about that the House is going to vote on today. The House GOP tax plan would lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, reduce the number of tax brackets to four and limit state and local property taxes.
So even getting to this point was not easy for House Republicans. They had to do a lot of wheeling and dealing. And, again, we're just talking about among Republicans. Democrats are, for the most part, not a part of this conversation.
HULSE: Well, you identified a really important issue here, the deduction for state and local taxes. The House bill retains some of that, which is going to allow Republicans in New York and California to vote for this version if -- the Senate version eliminates all of that. I've had a lot of Republicans on the -- in the House tell me that if that -- if it came back that way from the Senate, you would lose House Republicans.
This is going to be a close vote. They know -- but they know they're going to pass it today. This was a cheerleading session. But this bill is struggling a little bit out in the public I think. You're seeing polls that it's not very popular. People are starting to realize that they are going to lose some of the benefits that they've had on this. And it would help to call it -- when you're calling it the biggest tax cut ever if that was actually true. But it's not.
TALEV: And that certainly is impacting the numbers in the Senate, right? I mean we see it's a very close margin right now. One senator is gone already. There's a group of somewhere between one and six others that are kind of wobbly on it. They can't lose six. They can't lose more than two. And that's part of why you see President Trump, when he goes to The Hill to rally lawmakers not saying these are my red lines. This is my drop dead. He's saying, pass it, pass it and then we'll get to it.
[12:25:12] And during the break, the early reporting I saw from our team at Bloomberg, who has been there covering that this morning, is that to say that Roy Moore was not part of the discussion. There was another small victory lap on Asia. Shocking. Some discussion of the basketball players, but --
BASH: That's right. Yes, he did -- he walked around his role in getting the UCLA players back to the U.S.
TALEV: But then in terms of drawing lines in the sand about this is what I like in the House bill, this is what I like in the Senate bill, that is not what today is about. And, in fact, what he's trying to do is rally them to the next phase by saying, if we get this done, we can go on and begin to tackle entitlement reform, welfare reforms, something that's popular (ph).
BASH: Well, let -- you see on the screen, Trump -- Trump said to House Republicans, the Senate will come around on taxes. Let's talk about that.
So the House is going to vote today on what I just talked about. The Senate is, as it tends to be, a different beast and the issue there is that you have one Republican, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, already saying, no, I can't support this. Now, whether or not he's getable --
BASH: It depends on whether they can make changes. But I -- there's a list of many others who are not nos and not yeses. John McCain, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz. OK, we don't have that -- that up there, but I will tell you, it's a long list.
HULSE: Lankford is on it.
BASH: James Lankford. It's a long list. Now, some of these guys -- there it is. There you see their faces.
Some of these senators are, you know, playing for leverage, which is a smart move. It's legislating 101. But, you know, since they only -- they, the Republican leadership, only have two votes to play with, meaning they can lose two and then a third means that this thing is not going to happen, it's kind of dangerous.
HULSE: Well, Susan Collins, I think, is a really interesting case here. As I've said before, she wants to vote for a tax bill but -- including the health care mandate repeal in there complicated that for her.
Corker and Flake, we know about them too. Who knows where they're going to come down on this. Senator McCain has been opposing these big efforts here.
Johnson -- we all watched him negotiate on the floor during the health care vote --
HULSE: Right up to the last second and then (INAUDIBLE).
TALEV: He seems more gettable than the rest of the pack, particularly when you tied the health care in with it, right?
HULSE: And this is all part of the dispute over Roy Moore too. You know, that election's on December 12th.
HULSE: Can you get the votes in time? I think it's an open question in the Senate.
I was actually a little more confident a few weeks ago that they could pull this off and now I look at it and think, oh, well, I'm not sure.
BASH: And it's obviously worth repeating -- we've been talking about this for several days now -- but the critical difference and the change this week was adding the repeal of the individual mandate, throwing Obamacare into the mix.
Senator John McCain, one of those who is not a yes, not a no, said the following. He said, I just picked up the newspaper today and they made a huge change. Every day there seems to be. No, it's not regular order, he said. I have no idea, but I'm insisting on regular order.
And that's why he helped --
HULSE: That seems -- that sounds like a guy trying to buy a room.
BASH: Yes, maybe, or -- and -- but, look, he helped sink the other two efforts.
HULSE: Yes, I'm saying that he was -- had been fairly -- it looked like he would back it and now he's raising the regular order, which is his -- kind of his rational.
BASH: How -- can you even imagine a world just politically -- truly politically here where Republicans failed to do this in addition to Obamacare? I mean I have not talked to one Republican who has not been desperate and fatalistic about getting tax reform done just to say to the voters, look, you can put us in charge and we can get something done as opposed to, we got nothing.
BENDER: If the Republicans head into 2018 saying they've got nothing, I can -- it would not shock me at all. They have not been able to advance the ball on any issue for several years. They've had the majority in both chambers over there. And, with this president, you know, their lack of progress on health care gives me no confidence they can get the tax reform done.
And to a point that Carl was making earlier, the last time a big, juicy tax bill got passed 20 some years ago, Gallup showed it was almost two out of every three Americans, the tax bills were too high. That number now is right around 50 percent. It's still a lot, but it's not the ground swell that it was back in the '80s. And I'm just not sure that some of these senators feel the need to push a tax cut through just for the sake of having a victory.
BASH: Very quickly too.
WARREN: I think that is the conundrum that Republicans find themselves in. They've convinced themselves -- not without some merit -- that they need to pass something. But what if they pass something? Then they've got to run on it in 2018.
[12:30:06] BASH: Yes. WARREN: That's a big problem that I don't think Republicans have quite figured out. They're running as sort of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell agenda with Donald --