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Washington Reels from Week of Chaos; Kayla Moore Speech; Moore's Wife Says Not Stepping Down; Trump Tweets on Franken. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 17, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: For us. "INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts right now.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King is off.

Sexual harassment allegations consume Capitol Hill. As Roy Moore and his family push back and dig in, Al Franken's political future is up in the air. His accuser says that decision is up to his constituents.


LEEANN TWEEDEN, ACCUSES SENATOR FRANKEN OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: I didn't do this to have him step down. I think Al Franken does a lot of good things in the Senate. You know, I think that's for the people of Minnesota to decide.


BASH: In conversations in the halls of Congress now are reminiscent of the Bill Clinton years. Some Democrats say the way their party dealt with those sexual misconduct allegations is coming back to haunt them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'll get off. Like O.J.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I just wish it was over and the country would move on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have any cabinet secretaries, did any of the four of you say these allegations must be addressed and must be addressed soon?



BASH: And the House had a big victory on tax reform, but the Senate bill is in trouble. A new report projects it would raise some taxes on American families.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will admit now, for the sake of this discussion, that some Americans, under this Republican, plan will be paying more in taxes, correct?

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: There will be people who make more than $1 million in high tax states that will be paying more.


BASH: Now if you at home are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the cascade of really consequential news this week, you're not alone. Even for this Trump era high volume environment, it has been remarkable.

Sexual assault against two politicians, Republican and Democrat, embattled Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore standing his ground, defiant in the face of at least seven accusers, several of whom were teenager when they say Moore harassed or assaulted them. Democratic Senator Al Franken accused just yesterday of groping and forcibly kissing a woman in 2006, expressing his remorse and welcoming an ethics investigation.

Another Democratic senator, Robert Menendez, is also facing an ethics probe, but, believe it or not, that's good news for him because it means he's still in the Senate since his federal corruption trial ended in a mistrial with a deadlocked jury.

Plus, House Republicans pushed through their first major tax reform legislation in decades. A key Senate committee approved their version late last night with lots of shouting. Oh, and don't forget, fireworks between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the House Judiciary Committee over forgetting and then remembering campaign discussions about contact with Russians. And before you all catch your breath, a reminder, it's only noon eastern on Friday. A lot still could happen.

And here to share their reporting and insights on this wild week, perhaps -- it's probably your best coping mechanisms at this point, CNN's MJ Lee, "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza, "Politico's" Rachael Bade, and CNN's Abby Phillip.

Hi, everybody.

Hard to believe that that Jeff Sessions event was actually this week.

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": The crazy thing is, I can think of three or four other stories that weren't even on the list.

BASH: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. I literally ran out of breath.

So, I should also say that we're waiting -- Kayla Moore is attending a press conference defending her husband, Roy Moore. And we're waiting to hear her remarks.

I want to start with you, MJ, because you have been really all over this story of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the halls of Congress. How would you describe the atmosphere up there right now? MJ LEE, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: I think there's a lot of tension

on Capitol Hill right now, and rightfully so, with this woman coming out yesterday and accusing Al Franken of having done these things, really disturbing things, in 2006. I think the thing that a lot of folks are wondering is, is this just the beginning? Are there other victims who are in their homes watching Leeann Tweeden tell her story and thinking, look, I experienced something similar maybe years ago, maybe until now I thought it was too long ago, or, I couldn't speak out, I didn't have the courage to speak out. Are there people like that who are now going to feel emboldened and feel sort of the courage that they needed to speak out and say, this is a member of Congress or a former member of Congress who did this to me? When you talk to folks on Capitol Hill, you know, there's a reason that there is such a thing as the so-called creep list, right? It's because these members who --

BASH: Which is an unofficial --

LEE: Unofficial, not written list.

BASH: Yes.

LEE: But that a lot of staffers, a lot of folks on The Hill --

BASH: Stay away from this guy or that guy.

LEE: Openly talk about. Right, these members of Congress who are well- known for having bad reputations, notorious reputations. There's a reason that they are on that list. And it's because they tend to behave this way repeatedly. That they do these things, not just once, not just twice, but all the time, consistently.

[12:05:11] BASH: Let's talk about the president's late night tweet storm last night. He tweeted about Al Franken. And I'll put up actually two tweets. The Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five and six while she sleeps? Speaking, of course, of the picture where his hands were above her chest. Then he goes on, and to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Leslie Stahl tape. Now, referring there to apparently when he was at "SNL." Franken wrote a script or proposed a script about raping Leslie Stahl.

OK, so, you know, this is kind of Trumpian in many ways.

LIZZA: Yes, many ways.

BASH: But in the context of the fact that he has not said a word, not tweeted a letter about Roy Moore.

LIZZA: Yes. Yes. I mean there are three things that are really weird about that tweet, starting with the fact that he talks about where his hands were going rather than actually showing some sympathy for the victim in this picture. I find that kind of creepy and strange, that that's the picture he decided to paint.

And the second thing is, there is a Senate candidate in Alabama who's credibly accused of pedophilia, and the president has not addressed that issue at all. You know, I don't know what -- it's hard to say one sexual assault is worse than another, but I think most people would think that pedophilia is about the most evil crime that someone could commit.

And then finally, he is -- the president himself is credibly accused of sexually assaulting women and arguably admitted as much on tape in the famous "Access Hollywood" tape. And so for him to go out there and citizen Franken on this is a little surprising given his own history and the fact that he has not dealt in any way with those allegations, except to say that they are all untrue.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean that's why it was so hard to believe that somehow the president would not have heard of what was going on with Roy Moore and that he would have absolutely no intention of commenting on it whatsoever. The president comments on literally everything. Literally everything under the sun.

And so I think the White House is at a little bit of a -- an untenable position here where Trump's silence speaks volumes on the Roy Moore situation. But I also think it -- this situation with Al Franken raises some questions about, what is the right way for someone who is accused of these types of -- this type of behavior to deal with the consequences of it. Is an apology sufficient? Is it better that his, you know, victim has accepted that apology or does it not matter at all?

What do we want President Trump to do about his accusers? Do we want him to acknowledge them and apologize for whatever it is? I mean I think we just don't really know how we want people to react.


PHILLIP: And I think some people are saying Al Franken should resign. Some people are saying Donald Trump should resign. What is the remedy here?

BASH: Yes. I mean and there's no clear cut answer and every situation is different. And there are obviously different opinions about each.

Before we move on to that, though, I do want to talk about what you mentioned, the question of why the president tweeted about Al Franken and has not said anything new as well about Roy Moore.

Here's how his counselor, Kellyanne Conway, explained that disparity.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Well, Al Franken was a brand-new news story yesterday and the president weighed in, as he does on the news of the day, often enough. The Roy Moore story is eight days old and the president put out a statement during his Asia trip on that. And since then our press secretary has spoken on behalf of the president by saying that he believes the people of Alabama will sort out what to do with Roy Moore and with that election.


BASH: Now, if this were Barack Obama or George W. Bush or the more traditional presidents, I would buy that. But as you said, Donald Trump -- and he was asked like three times yesterday by reporters and he pretty clearly heard them and kept walking. And, again, he's got his Twitter feed.

BADE: One hundred percent politics behind this. You want to -- Republicans defending their own and then going after or talking about Al Franken, because he's a Democrat and, you know, that goes further for them they think politically.

But, listen, I think that on Capitol Hill it's not just the Trump administration on this. I remember, I was covering the Senate tax bill yesterday when all this was sort of -- or the House tax bill when all this was blowing up. And I was talking to my Senate colleagues and they were saying that a lot of senators on The Hill didn't want to comment on Al Franken until after Al Franken had come out and said, I'm willing to be investigated. Please, look into this. I'm sorry. And then they were willing to talk about it.

[12:10:03] So they also didn't want to come out beforehand. And I think that that just speaks to this sort of culture of secrecy that we see on Capitol Hill where, you know, there are these very powerful individuals and young women who, you know, are afraid to come out and when they speak out that it could ruin their careers. And so this is happening everywhere, not just with the Trump administration.

BASH: And, you know, the fact that you mention that is notable because members of Congress are now saying that too. And not just women, men, who are -- who are elected officials. Listen to what Ted Deutch of Florida said this morning.


REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: This is so much more than just Senator Franken and of these others. I saw a statistic last night that one in six women in America claim to have been sexually harassed in the workplace. It's not just Congress and we need to do more. And I hope we get to talk about Representative Speier's legislation. But it's every workplace in America. This is a moment of reckoning in this country. It's a really important conversation we need to have.


BASH: Is that the feeling in the hall of Congress this week? Is there a moment of reckoning or is there still a big fear factor, which is why all of this has been suppressed for years and years and years?

LEE: I think there is still a little bit of skepticism as to whether the floodgates are about to open. Yes, it's, you know, significant that for the first time a woman has come out, spoken on the record. She is, obviously, naming Al Franken and going into vivid detail about what it is that he did.

But we haven't yet seen a number of other people come out and say, this is something that I have experienced. And I'm not sure if that moment is coming and I don't know if that moment can really come until there is a real recognition and actually real change on Capitol Hill in terms of, you know, culturally, how the institution deals with sexual harassment cases and complaints, and legislatively, if lawmakers really take it upon themselves to say this is such a problem that we have to change the rules of the law.

BASH: MJ, I'm just sorry to interrupt you. Kayla Moore is now speaking at a press conference in Alabama. The wife of Roy Moore. Let's listen.

KAYLA MOORE, WIFE OF ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE ROY MOORE: Wow, we're in a battle. Who knew? Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your messages, your phone calls. I'm so sorry, I can't get to them all. We've just been inundated with so much positive response from the people of Alabama.

For the record, it's about 90 percent positive and most of the negative is from out of state.

The people of Alabama understand what's going on here. My husband, Judge Roy Moore, is fighting for the people of Alabama and has been fighting for over 30 years.

The people of Alabama know him. They have seen what he has done. Fighting for -- fighting for life. Fighting against abortion. Fighting for the acknowledgement of God. Fighting for traditional marriage. And fighting to protect the Second Amendment. And fighting for our rights, given by God, protected by our Constitution.

So the liberal press, "The Washington Post," who endorsed Hillary Clinton, who also endorsed our opponent, gets involved in this race, along with the Human Rights Campaign, the DNC, and the Washington establishment. All of the very same people who were attacking President Trump are also attacking us. I personally think he owes us a thank you.

Have you noticed you're not hearing too much about Russia? To the president, I would say now is a good time to get some things done in Congress. While they are down here trying to distract the attention of our opponent, who is an ultra-liberal, who was an Obama delegate, who is for full term abortions, who is for more gun restrictions, who is for transgender bathrooms, who is for transgender in the military, is against everything we in Alabama believe and stand for.

"The Washington Post" just called everybody that I have ever known for the last 40 years. They have called everybody my husband has ever known for the last 40 years. They print whatever anyone says without checking to even see if it is correct. They have staked out Etowah County, basically camps out, to the end of this election.

[12:15:12] So to the people of Alabama, thank you for being smarter than they think you are. They will call you names. They will say all manner of evil against you. And I would say, consider the sources.

I have been married to my husband, Judge Roy Moore, for over 32 years. He was a graduate of West Point. He served our country in Vietnam. And he has always been an officer and a gentlemen. He is a loving father and a grandfather. But most important, he is a Christian.

So let me set the record straight. Even after all the attacks against me, against my family, against the foundation and now against my husband, he will not step down. He will not stop fighting for the people of Alabama. In his words, and I quote, I will not stop until they lay me in that box in the ground.

Thank you for being here and God bless Alabama and the United States of America.

BASH: You are listening to Kayla Moore, the wife of Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore give a very impassioned defense of her husband. And a big -- a pretty -- I would say fair to say attack of "The Washington Post" and the media and her husband's political opponents, who she says are unfairly accusing him of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

And I'll bring it back around the table. We should say that it's about seven, at this point, women, many of who were teenagers back then, who are giving some very detailed accounts of the way that they say that he mistreated them.

But just in terms of the politics here, that's going to play very well with the people who are already angry about the Washington establishment, about the Washington media, about people around the country trying to tell people in Alabama how to vote.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I think reading between the lines of what she said, you can see the strategy, which is, the Democrat in this race is a Hillary Clinton liberal and Roy Moore is a conservative and that's all that matters. Abortion matters. The Second Amendment matters. Transgender bathrooms matter. So you see that it's not about the accusations necessarily. I think the argument that (INAUDIBLE) is making is that the alternative is not what you want.

BASH: It's about the alternative.

PHILLIP: That being said, there's some polling out there and I want to take this with a grain of salt because I think it's too early to know, but it kind of indicates that if there is a shift against Moore, it is not necessarily because Alabama voters are 100 percent believing every single one of these women. But maybe they don't think that these kinds of allegations should be how they are represented in Washington. I think that's the kind of x factor that we need to look out for and see if that makes a difference. Does it matter whether or not they believe these women or not?

BADE: I was watching this and I was just thinking about, if he does make it to Washington, you know, that defiance right there that you saw on that screen, both with him as a candidate, but also being supported by his wife saying very similar things about how we are not stepping down. These are lies. This is the liberal media. And this is, you know, the Washington establishment.

Senate Republicans are going to have quite a time here with him if he makes it to the Senate. I mean they're trying to get tax reform passed. They're going to have to do a spending deal in a couple of weeks. DACA has to be fixed by, what, March? And in the middle of this, they're going to be talking about potentially expelling him, which is going to just suck up all the oxygen in Washington and totally distract from what they want to do legislatively.

LIZZA: And being in this sort of strange position of, if they go forward with -- if he wins and they go forward with an expulsion process, the voters of Alabama know all of this information, right? So they -- the Senate Republicans would be arguing, even though these facts were known and he just won his election, we still think he should be expelled, right? I mean you could understand expulsion as a process when you learn something about a senator that the voters didn't know. But he will, if he wins, just have been elected and they're going to take this, if they follow through with the threat --

LEE: And he --

LIZZA: Go ahead.

[12:20:06] LEE: No, I was going to say, if you just kind of map out every single possible outcome from this special election, none of them actually is good for the Republican Party. The Democrat winning is obviously really devastating for the party. If Roy Moore wins, then, as Rachael was saying, Republican have to contend with the fact that they have this kind of figure joining the ranks. And then if they do decide to go with the root of potentially expelling him, that is going to wreak, you know, complete chaos on the party at a time when they already are really, really struggling to get things done.

BASH: Chaos on the part, but at the same time many people in Congress, obviously by their actions we see this, believe critical to the party to continue to separate themselves from Roy Moore.

OK, everybody stand by because up next the White House ambassador to Congress is live right here on INSIDE POLITICS.


[12:25:07] BASH: Welcome back.

Accusations of sexual harassment are twisting both political parties in knots. GOP Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore and Democratic Minnesota Senator Al Franken. Moore insists he's innocent. Franken admits he is not.

Well, President Trump, last night, implied Franken was a hypocrite for speaking up in defense for sexual assault victims and wondered if a picture appearing to show Franken appearing a woman's chest was the worst of his transgressions. He said the Al Frankenstein picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. The president tweeted, where do his hands go in pictures two, three, four, five and six while she sleeps?

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short joins me now.

And, Marc, we are going to talk about tax reform. MARC SHORT, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: I can't wait.

BASH: I am sure you can't, but let's start with that. He's basically accusing Al Franken of being a hypocrite. But is the president not being a hypocrite in tweeting about Al Franken and saying nothing about allegations about the Republican Roy Moore?

SHORT: No, Dana, I think quite the opposite. I think the president, in fact, there's a lot of consternation in the media saying, what else are you going to say. And there's -- there's a little short-term memory here.

The president went down and campaigned against Roy Moore. He campaigned for Luther Strange. The president was very active in this campaign. He chose a different candidate.

Where we are since the allegations surfaced, the president, even when he was traveling overseas, put out a statement that says, if these allegations are true, he should step aside. So the president's been very clear on this.

At some point, Dana, we have to trust the people of Alabama to make the right decision. Everybody here in D.C. wants to decide for them what to do. The president has weighed in. it's now up to them to make a decision.

BASH: That's a very different line that we're hearing from the Republican leadership, who you talk to every single day in the United States Senate. They think that he should step down. So the White House says they should -- is not thinking he should step down?

SHORT: Well, the -- the president said that if the allegations are true, he should step aside. He said that when he was traveling over in Asia. But at some point people here in Washington want to decide for people all across the country what they should be doing. The people of Alabama are smart enough to make a decision on this. All this has been aired publically for them. There's not secret information out there. It has been put out for them right in front every day in the national news. It's what you all are covering nonstop.

So the people of Alabama are smart enough to make a decision for themselves.

BASH: The White House -- based on what you're saying, the White House position is still, if true then. On Capitol Hill, there is no if true then. They said he should get out. That is not your position?


BASH: I guess the question is, does the White House, do you believe the women?

SHORT: I think that we've said is that Roy Moore, so far, explanations have not been satisfactory. But at the same time, Dana, what we expect is what we have said, we campaigned against him. The president was clear in that, Dana. I think that at this point we believe that it's up to the people of Alabama to make a decision.

BASH: So he's not speaking out in part because he didn't want him in the first place?

SHORT: The president chose a different candidate. He chose Luther Strange. That's who he supported.

BASH: Do you think he has a moral obligation as the president of the United States to say something?

SHORT: Dana, I don't know what people want him to do more than go down and campaign for his opponent. That's what he did.

BASH: All right, let me get back to the Al Franken tweet before we go to taxes, where he talked about the Al Frankenstein picture is bad because of his hands. We remember the "Access Hollywood" tape where he talked about what he did with his hands, where he would do with his hand, grabbing a woman's crotch. You don't see -- do you see any hypocrisy?

SHORT: Dana, I think that he was apologetic of that when those video surfaced. He apologized to his wife. He apologized to his family. He apologized to the American people about what he considered locker room behavior. And he's not trying to excuse it.

That, I do, think is different than the very visual evidence of what Al Franken did. I think that the president is making the case that Al Franken was out condemning Roy Moore and others just a month ago and there is a level of hypocrisy there.

BASH: Do you believe -- the White House position, the official position, is that the president's accusers, because it's not just talk, there are actual accusers of sexual misconduct, are lying? There are more than a dozen of them. What do you think?

SHORT: Dana, I think the president's been clear that those allegations were not truthful.

BASH: OK. Let's turn to taxes.

SHORT: Thank you.

BASH: You're welcome.

Republicans are touting this bill, rightly so, as a very important milestone. It's the first time tax reform has been done in two decades. But they also say that this is a big tax cut for working families.


BASH: The Joint Committee on Taxation, which is bipartisan, yesterday released a report saying that Americans earning between 10,000 and 30,000 would see a tax increase as soon as 2021. So if the president ran and won, it would be in his first year of his second term. And most making $75,000 a year or less would see tax increases by 2027. So how do you explain the disparity between what Republicans say and that?

[12:29:59] SHORT: I think I can explain that. I think that there's probably been no more dishonest or misleading study than that one that came out yesterday. And here's why. What their analysis says is because you're repealing the mandate of Obamacare, somehow you're going to pay more. By saying -- only in Washington could you come up with this explanation.