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House Tax Vote Today: Future Of Senate Bill Unclear; Moore Not Backing Down As New Accusations Surface; Washington Post: Two More Women Say Roy Moore Made Unwanted Overtures At An Alabama Mall; Franken Promises To Cooperate With Ethics Probe. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 16, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:02] MICHAEL WARREN, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: -- some merit that they need to pass something. But what if they pass something? Then they had to run on it in 2018. That's a big problem that I don't think Republicans have quite figured it out. The running is sort of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell agenda with Donald Trump. So, Donald Trump is at 38 percent or 37 percent approval rating. That's not a very good, you know, popular agenda.

DANA BASH, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: We're going to take a quick break but it's also dangerous to run on the biggest tax cut in history. That's how the President has telling the House Republicans to market it behind closed doors today.

WARREN: If you don't get one.

BASH: If you get one.

WARREN: That's right. Or your tax bill goes up.

BASH: Yes, even worse.

All right. Standby. We do have live pictures on Capitol Hill. We're waiting for the President to leave the U.S Capitol, head down Pennsylvania Avenue back to the White House after his meetings. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: Bring it on. That's what Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is telling the Republican establishment today. Moore shows zero sign of backing down in the face of even more accusations of misconduct.

In fact, he and his team are pushing to discredit some of the then young girls who say they were his victims. Meanwhile, two more women have come forward, telling The Washington Post that Moore made unwanted advances in the past. Just to be clear, this makes seven women now accusing Roy Moore of sexual misconduct.

The big question today as it was yesterday and it was the day before, will President Trump weigh in? He declined an opportunity to comment today on Capitol Hill. But counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, said this this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: And the President will make a statement when he wants to make a statement and none of us should get ahead of that. Whatever the facts end up being, the premises, of course, the principle, the incontrovertible principle is that there is no Senate seat that's worth more than a child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:35:04] BASH: And the President's daughter and White House adviser is mincing no words. Ivanka Trump told the Associate Press, "There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I've yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts."

Let's get straight to our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny for the latest. And Jeff, you've been doing some excellent reporting on the discussions and the debates behind closed doors in the building behind you about what the President should say and obviously at this point why he hasn't said anything.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, we can hear right there looking at Kellyanne Conway and Ivanka Trump. At least part of the advice or the, you know, the thinking that is going on inside some of these meetings here. There are advisers to the President who do believe that he should say something. And I think that those two are among them. But then, I am told that the President is not inclined to address this today, not at this time. He has, you know, been watching it very carefully.

But yesterday, I was told by someone who is very involved in the decisions and close to this White House, a Republican, that President also just not want to get engaged in a entirely long conversation about sexual misconduct. He, of course, went through that himself during his campaign just a year ago. And, you know, essentially he said the women who accused him of wrongdoing were lying and the White House stood by that.

So, this is something that the White House is not eager to get into. But I can tell you this afternoon at the daily press briefing, the first one that the White House has had since the President left for Asia two weeks ago, Sarah Sanders of course will be asked these questions here. That will be the first opportunity for the White House to come in officially on this.

But Dana, I am not expecting the President to weigh in on this at all. He now believes that's also something that people of Alabama should decide here. So maybe at some point he will but I'm told not immediately and not today. Dana?

BASH: Jeff, thanks so much for that reporting. And Margaret, that's a really important point that Jeff is hearing from his sources. The President, part of the reason he doesn't want to weigh in is because of the baggage that he has.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: And certainly the White House wants to fire wall what's going on with Roy Moore from themselves and from the President. And on the one hand, that only makes sense from the other hand as part of what you're talking about. A desire to make sure that this doesn't become about the President. And of course, none of the campaign allegations that were raised involved minors, high school girls, people calling some of the high school, that sort of thing.

BASH: Right.

TALEV: Inside the White House, this is certainly been the -- a topic of discussion even before the President came back from Asia. Questions about how much to get into detail with him while he was still in Asia or on the plane and how much to wait until he got back and got well rested and could focus. But what to do about it has so many options.

Number one, if the President did weigh in, would he succeed? If he tells everyone don't vote for Roy Moore and they vote for him anyway, then he hasn't really helped the matter and he's lost again when it comes to --

BASH: Exactly.

TALEV: -- sway voters. That's part of the consideration. Now the part of the consideration is if he weighs on this, there's going to be a known expectation that he weigh in on other issues. But he's going to have to hold back or restrain himself from tweeting about Al Franken.

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: If you can imagine it would have happen on the any other --

BASH: Exactly. Yes. Can you imagine that we were joking downstairs that his aides are probably like stapling his hands closed?

TALEV: We can't talk and that as you don't talk about this.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: And he's already told the voters not to vote for Roy Moore once and to come up short, right. So, it's hard to imagine him intertwining himself in this race again.

TALEV: And he had a moral leadership question, I mean, doesn't it, to some extent?

BENDER: Yes. Not only the point about his own baggage and his own history with this case, with these sorts of allegations, but that was a litmus test for him back during the campaign and who is loyal to him and who is going to be around coming into office. And the one person who is adamant about not showing any sign of weakness about giving an inch is the chairman of his campaign, Steve Bannon, who is now the lead cheerleader for Roy Moore and who's got to be telling him the same exact thing.

BASH: Yes. No question. Having said that, mere mortal politicians who don't have Teflon on this issue as President Trump proved that he had during the campaign are trying to separate themselves big time from him. Just one example is Congressman Stivers. Listen to what he said this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE STIVERS (R), OHIO: Well, I've subsequently asked for my money back that was before these allegations came forward. I do believe these women and, you know, I think of that Roy Moore should step aside. To him at this point, I don't think he -- anybody can manipulate him, anybody into doing anything, but I hope he'll steps aside.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: So, he donated to the Moore campaign, asking for his money back. That's kind of an easy political move to show your disapproval and disgust.

[12:40:05] CARL HULSE, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. It's what you do --

BASH: Yes.

HULSE: -- to take your money back. I think that the build up against Roy Moore is pretty devastating. I think that the post story that today where the woman says he called her out of her trigonometry class in high school will probably the most memorable part of the story which she responded, when he asked what are you doing and she said I'm in trig class. I mean, that's pretty devastating.

To get back to the White House a little bit. It's tough for them to say how that we believe the Alabama women when their stance is Trump that all the women who accused him are liars. And that's a tough distinction to make. And I also noticed that Ivanka Trump's statement she referred specifically to children, you know, and that making clear that delineation.

So I think Roy Moore, people in Washington want nothing to do with him for the most part and are going to, you know, stick to that.

BASH: Hold that thought because there is one thing I have to bring up before we leave this topic. And that is Sean Hannity. Yesterday, or two nights ago he made a big deal out of saying Roy Moore, you have 24 hours. You have to better explain yourself. Roy Moore wrote a letter which -- to Sean Hannity, an open letter to Sean Hannity again denying the allegations. And here's what Sean Hannity said last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I lived in Alabama. I enjoyed my time in Alabama. And I know these people. They're smart. They're great Americans, God, family, faith, country. And I am very confident that when everything comes out, they will make the best decision for their state. It shouldn't be decided by me, by people on television, by Mitch McConnell, Washington, talk show hosts, news people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The technical term for that I think is a punt. And normally, you know, what a rival news channel says is not really relevant. But in this environment, in this administration, for this particular host, Sean Hannity, who is very close with President Trump. They talk often. He's probably one of his closest advisers, at least we're told. The fact that Hannity came out and suggested Roy Moore had 24 hours was an indication that he was maybe providing cover for the President and then he pulled back. I think that's really noteworthy.

WARREN: Yes, and we're probably reflected about the President's own sort of up and down views of this. I want to go back to something you said about Trump's Teflon qualities. I don't know if that's necessarily true. I think we think of it now as being, although we didn't think that he was ahead and so his win was a surprise and maybe these allegations didn't hurt him.

I'm not so sure that's the case. And here's -- the fact of the matter is, there is now probably about the same amount of time between Roy Moore -- between the allegations coming out about Moore and that Access Hollywood tape. It will be interesting to see -- it's been a steady now Trump (ph) be, not just one story coming out.

And Roy Moore is no Donald Trump. I think there is an indicate -- that indicates, you know, what Hannity said. What the White House is saying now is they really are hoping that Alabama -- they don't have to say what they want Alabama voters to do which is to just get rid of this guy. I think that's still a very big possibility.

BASH: And they might not. And I'll just say as we go break that I was in the Philadelphia suburbs right after Access Hollywood came out and every woman I talked to said they didn't care about it. So that was where my test -- my records come at. But, you know what, it was a different climate.

All right, everybody stick with us. We have a big vote in the House on taxes in the next hour. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:47:06] BASH: As we've seen, President Trump has just wrapped up a meeting on Capitol Hill ahead of a crucial must pass bill for Republicans in the House tax reform. And I want to bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly. Phil, what's the latest? It sounds like they might be voting soon.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. In a matter of minutes actually about 20 minutes is what they're expecting right now.

And look, the best distribution I got of where thing is currently stand in the House is from a member. Early this morning I texted him, I said what are you expecting today? He said two words. No drama.

And I think you've been watching House Republicans. And Dana, I know you have for a very long time that might surprise you quite a bit. But it really kind of underscores on the work that's been done behind the scenes by Republican leaders and to the political imperative, to get something anything done, legislatively. That is moving this forward.

But I think as you guys know quite well, this is one of a multistep of a multi-step process, a big one, no question about it with a lot of significant hurdles and already some problems bubbling up about what's going to happen in those next steps, Dana?

BASH: And Phil, no drama. So, I'm not going to put you on the spot. But do you have any sense that, you know, right now it just seems from your sources that they are not expecting anything last minute because sometimes that happens as members are sort of heading to the floor. It looks like we're minutes away from that.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look, no, they have this one pretty set. The House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady told me a couple of days ago. He felt like they had the votes locked up then. And they obviously still had a few more days to go, Dana.

Again, you know, this as well as anybody. We've seen over the course of the last seven or eight years. There are times when House republicans think they are on solid ground and then it shifts terribly underneath them and they fall through all together. This isn't that situation. In fact I'm told they won't get it this done by one or two votes. They should have a cushion there.

And I think that's really important because what comes back to the House on taxes in the weeks ahead is not going to be what they pass today. So if you lock the members into yes votes now, it becomes a lot more difficult for them to flip and flop if the future. So, Republican leaders are cognizant of that, they're keen on making this vote kind of as big of a vote as they possibly can. It will be close. But it's not going to be something where they scrape by one or two votes. At least not according to sources who are very involved in this process over the course of the last 20 minutes, Dana.

BASH: Phil Mattingly, the best person to follow and listen to on this tax legislation and kind of any legislation. Thank you so much, Phil, for your reporting. We'll check back with you.

Let's bring up back around the table. Look, the Senate's got problems. But let's give the House still (ph) assuming that nothing changes, you know, this was real wheeling and dealing for the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, for the Republican leadership to figure out kind of the secret sauce on what to put together here. There was a lot of discussion about getting rid of the deductions for the state and local taxes. They got rid of that. They kind of picked and chose and it seems as though they're going to do it successfully.

BENDER: Well, you're feeling more gracious than I am. I mean, the --

[12:50:05] BASH: Maybe because I'm seeing things crashed and burned so much in the House.

BENDER: Yes. I do. It's just that, you know, earlier in the year when they had troubles in the health care bill and Paul Ryan came out and said they were going through some growing pains here. It's the first time we've had the majority with, you know, the legislative and executive branches.

Well, the Republicans have been in charge of the House for quite a while now. I mean they should know how to do these basic, you know, first hurdles. And, you know, I think it's just sort of a, you know, symbolic of the era we're in where, you know, this first hurdle, the lowest hurdle they have in the whole process here, you know, that we can spend time talking about like that is amazing that even --

BASH: So you're right. And how many times have we been in the hallway seeing each other, come towards each other just like this? Can you believe this is -- that they can't get x, y, or z done?

HULSE: But this is the easy vote really --

BASH: Yes.

HULSE: -- in this right now. You know, Kevin McCarthy has played an important role here, the majority leader from California. The New York and New Jersey people have pulled away from this bill. He has managed to hold the California Republicans together to a large degree on this.

And, you know, because the tax burden in that state, there is a good argument for then to vote against this. They're not right now. They may later. I will say, the one thing I would say is when they added the health care issue into the Senate bill, they gave the Democrats the talking point they've been looking for against this tax bill. Hey, we're taking away your health care to give a tax cut to corporations. I think you're going to hear an off a lot of that.

WARREN: Let's just give a little credit back to the House bill back to the White House. Let's look at who has been on Capitol Hill. The Vice President Mike Pence was a very good rapport with House Republicans.

BASH: He was what?

WARREN: Absolutely. Marc Short is eight years old. So he's now the White House, the director of Legislative Affairs. They've been working on this hard, other people from the White House and the administration.

Also Donald Trump has not been around. He's not been around to tweet out. He doesn't like this particular detail coming out. I think that has helped. And also in a positive way, he has been talking about this for several months due actually going out there and doing this.

BASH: I just want to say, as you're speaking that you see the President is somewhere in there. He'll be coming. You see hi top aides there, Steven Miller, Sarah Sanders, who you all recognize from the briefings.

WARREN: I think I see more -- BASH: You see the White House chief of staff on the left, John Kelly, Marc Short who you were talking about is on the right of the screen, just turn the corner. Listen, when the President goes to the Hill, there's a big entourage, right. It's understandable.

WARREN: But I think it's -- I think going back to what I said earlier in the program, I mean, this is a rallying point for the president. He's able to come in there.

BASH: And there he is with the Vice President. You were talking about his rapport with his former fellow colleagues. And that's a big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, should Roy Moore step aside, sir? Should Roy Moore step aside, sir? Should Roy Moore step aside, sir?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BENDER: A little discipline there.

BASH: Just in case you couldn't hear, it was nice and loud. A reporter asked if Roy Moore should step aside. He didn't answer. A reporter asked about the Al Franken news. He didn't answer. Go ahead.

TALEV: I'm not sure the time is a friend to this legislation not just because of what's going to come out of the Senate. If something comes out at the Senate and what the conference press is looks like. But because for the average middle class tax payer who this has been sold as a boon to them. There are many consequences in the off years in particular. And they may not be realized for a while in terms of their loosing the ability to deduct individual things that are important, the many sort of blocks of the American middle class whether it involves medical expenses, whether it involves student loan stuff.

So, the implications of getting the $1,000 or $1,100 cash in hand are -- I don't think fully realized yet. And once that's vetted, public support may react, there may be reactions that will affect some of the same House members who were OK now with it, their ability -- and on the Senate as well to go back and be in support of it in the end.

BASH: I just want to make a turn to one of the things that we started with at the beginning of the show which is Al Franken and the allegations against him. And I was just handed a statement that our Manu Raju got from Senator Patty Murray, the -- a Democratic senator, member of the leadership who said that she is happy that Al Franken apologized. But it's unacceptable behavior.

And she said that his apology doesn't reverse what he's done or end the matter. And she said she supports an ethics committee investigation into accusations. And hope that this is the latest example of the D problems on this front. Spurs continued action to address it. Pretty strong. Again, fellow Democrat. WARREN: And I don't mean to be cynical here, but it does help Democrats that the Minnesota governor who would be appointing say a new senator if Al Franken were do resign is a Democrat as well, so --

[12:55:05] BASH: You're jumping a lot of steps ahead.

TALEV: The Democrats have no choice but to take this --

BASH: Of course.

TALEV: -- entirely what you expect on, not just because of the Democratic bases, but because they want credibility to continue pressing for more answers and changes to get rid of Moore out of there and they can't do that unless they are completely in step and ahead of the program.

BASH: And I'm told that the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, who was supposed to have a press conference about 20 minutes ago and canceled it is also saying that there should be an ethics investigation. He is supporting one which is originally called for by the Senate majority leader.

HULSE: Yes. I mean, I think you're seeing something that could actually spiral Moore as more --

BASH: And I also say that's the President leaving Capitol Hill. Go ahead, Carl.

HULSE: Just spiral Moore as more things come out, more names get named. You could end up with, you know, big legislation some sort of big oversight hearing on, you know, what's going on the Hill over a long time. You know, we both know Patty Murray. She's very tough, strong, will person. She's not going to accept that kind of behavior or I think write an apology, take this away.

And, you know, you have some Kirsten Gillibrand has been pushing these issues. I think you have some Democratic women who are not going to be afraid to stand up for their colleagues on this. You know, the time has come.

BASH: Yes. It sure has, reckoning time as you saying (ph) there. It's women, but it's also men, right? I mean --

HULSE: Well, certainly yes.

BASH: Yes. I mean, a lot of the, you know --

HULSE: Yes, because it spreads and, you know, a tangerine institution, this is what Mitch McConnell has, you know, in the past about the institution, the Larry Craig case, the Packwood case. You know, they worry about the reputation of the institution which isn't that great to begin with. And they don't want --

BASH: You think?

HULSE: Yes. And they don't want, you know, but they consider themselves, you know, very civilized place in society. And so when this comes up, they want to make sure, and especially in this environment we're in right, now to smack it down and do what they can to cut it of. I think the environment on Capitol Hill is going to change now from what it has been historically in the past.

BENDER: Especially if this does --

BASH: Which is a boy club.

HULSE: You said it.

BASH: I did.

BENDER: Yes. There's been a lot of reporting. You mentioned Kirsten Gillibrand that the number of accusations, these kinds of accusation on the Hill that don't have a name attached to it. And now you see a Democratic senator supporting an accuser here of her democratic colleague. And if these accusers are going to see that they're going to get their support, this kind of support on the Hill, I mean, it just has to start to -- and snare more members. And this could be quite a busy ethics committee for a while.

BASH: And Jackie Speier when she had her press conference said, that there are two sitting members whom she has heard accusations about. She said she don't want to give names because it was up to the victims. But it's hard to imagine. Look, like what we saw with Weinstein, the dam breaks. And it's hard to imagine that we're not going to see more.

We're going to have to leave it there. Thank you for rocking and rolling with us on this very busy hour. Thank you for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS.

The House is expected to vote on tax reform very soon. You're in the very safe hands of Wolf Blitzer who is up after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)