Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

President Trump Endorsing Roy Moore for Alabama Senate?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 21, 2017 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:05]

STEVE LAVIN, FORMER UCLA BASKETBALL COACH: And I think Donald Trump has his team of people, and himself obviously at the top there, that has a certain strategy.

And, you know, he's -- he's sending out messages, and he has strategic thinking in terms of the way in which he communicates. Electronically, obviously, he's taken it to another level.

I wish Neil Postman or Marshall McLuhan were still alive, and we could time travel and get their perspective on what's going on today in this Twitter world and technologies and how far we have come in certain respects, but also being mindful and the concern that we should have about some of this.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Going too far.

Steve Lavin, coach, nice to meet you.

LAVIN: Nice to meet you.

BALDWIN: Happy Thanksgiving.

LAVIN: Thank you. You, too.

BALDWIN: Thank you very much.

Let's continue on, shall we? We're at the top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We're expecting developments on two breaking stories any moment now.

First up, in Texas, the FBI is expected to hold a news conference about the death of a Border Patrol agent there, and another Border Patrol agent sitting in a hospital in serious condition.

In Alabama, lawyers for the Roy Moore campaign are expected to step to the podium very shortly as well. We're told they will be there to refute more of the sexual abuse allegations against the Alabama Senate candidate.

Let's start there.

With me now, CNN political director David Chalian, and CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston, and also CNN legal analyst Areva Martin.

And, so, here we go.

Oh, actually here we go. There's the Moore campaign.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... men and women alike.

I supervised his staff for the past four years, three years or so, and never heard a single complaint by anybody about inappropriate behavior or uncomfortableness. So, I just wanted to state that clearly, as Phillip has done.

And as everybody who knows Judge Moore well will say that the man is above reproach. And it's why we stand here today, not because he's a man guilty as charged and we're going to stand by our man anyway, but because we don't believe a word of these lies against him and we know them to be false.

We want not only to see him succeed in the immediate fight ahead of him, but to clear his good name.

Over the past several months, "The Washington Post," the Republican establishment just Democrat Party have waged a three-front war to destroy Roy Moore's character and impeccable reputation.

We understand why. Their world views could not be more opposite than that of Judge Moore. The press is quick to preserve the benefit of the doubt for liberals like Bill Clinton, Anthony Weiner, Bob Menendez and Al Franken.

However, they're similarly quick to pass judgment on a conservative who has served his state and his country without a hint of moral turpitude, even when allegations are put forth completely out of character with his entire life's record.

We're here today to do the job for the press, to ask some questions, to offer suggestions and some new evidence.

The lies and character assassination of Judge Roy Moore ends today.

Let's look at Leigh Corfman. She's made some serious allegations against Judge Moore to "The Washington Post" and yesterday in a very softball interview on "The Today Show."

We reject them as false. And we continue to maintain that Judge Moore did not know Leigh Corfman, nor has he ever known Leigh Corfman.

But what we find interesting is that her story has been told in only the vaguest of terms without any deeper investigation by the media. Even on "The Today Show" yesterday, Corfman was not asked to substantiate one detail of her story.

So, we have done some basic research and offer the following for consideration. Corfman alleges, number one, that she was with her mother at a court hearing in early 1979.

According to court documents that we were easily able to obtain at the Etowah County Courthouse -- I will be glad give you directions -- the Etowah County Courthouse -- the court documents signed by Leigh Corfman's parents back when she was a minor asked for custody to be changed from the mother to the father.

And as best we can tell, the hearing, if it ever happened, to which Leigh Corfman refers took place February 21 of 1979, and on that date, you haven't this yet, on that date, the judge signed the order where the parents requested that Leigh Corfman be transferred from the custody of her mother to her father.

Secondly, she claims her life spiraled out of control after she first contacted or was contacted by Judge Roy Moore. However, as her own parents said in their joint petition to modify custody -- and I quote -- "that each of the parents have become increasingly concerned and worried about certain disciplinary and behavioral problems being manifested by their minor child."

[15:05:10]

And this was the basis for them asking that custody be changed from Leigh Corfman's mother to her father, because the father was better equipped, having been remarried and being of a stronger personality, to deal with the already existing disciplinary problems of Leigh Corfman.

Second problem with Leigh Corfman's story.

Third, as you know, one of the linchpins of her story is that Judge Moore talked to her on -- quote -- "her phone in her bedroom."

Within days of the story coming out, her own mother told Breitbart news that there was no phone in her bedroom. So, we know that has proved to be a falsehood as well.

Fourthly, Corfman claims that Moore picked her up around the corner from her house. Corfman alleges she would meet Moore around the corner from her house, and he would take her to her house, according to her.

However, according to public records that the media has not bothered to look at, we have been able to find that Corfman's supposed pickup place was almost a mile away from her mother's house, and would have been across a major thoroughfare.

This is yet another improbable fact in Leigh Corfman's own words and story that the media has not bothered to investigate.

Finally, I would point out that Corfman's father didn't live in Gadsden or even Rainbow City at the time of all this. He lived farther away in Ohatchee, Alabama, as is borne out by these court documents that you all may find at the Etowah County Courthouse.

John Adams once said, facts are stubborn things. And whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

If the liberal media were half as interested in investigating these accusations against Judge Moore as they are in scaring up 1980s era false gossip at the Gadsden Mall, then we would be getting to the bottom of this and moving on.

We urge the press to do its job. Thank you.

STAN COOKE, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: My name is Stan Cooke. I have known Judge Moore for many, many years.

Knowing his history, knowing that he has run five campaigns in 35 years, I would like to point out, never has there been a time that his character or his integrity has been questioned in any of those political races.

And with all of this vetting, why now, four weeks before the election? And why has he been attacked so ruthlessly, especially by the media, when the evidence and the facts are so easy to find?

For my part, I want to review two things, the Gloria Allred story as attached to Beverly Nelson and the yearbook, and to the mall ban, the supposed mall ban.

First, Judge Moore adamantly, and without any hesitation, rebuked Gloria Allred and Beverly Nelson for the false allegations concerning the yearbook. On Wednesday, one of our attorneys pointed out the message in the yearbook had been altered, faked to look like Moore's signature.

And the Moore campaign has called on Nelson's attorney, Gloria Allred, to release this yearbook for further analysis. She has refused. Allred has refused.

And she said on MSNBC that even if the yearbook entry was altered, it would not affect the integrity of the allegation. Allegations are words. They are not facts. Allegations are words. They are not indictments. And they are not charges.

It would not affect the integrity of their allegation? That's ridiculous. The yearbook was her star witness, and the witness has failed. Nelson's stepson took it upon himself to even post a video saying that he believed his stepmother was lying, being deceptive, and she did that for financial gain.

In additional news reports, Nelson's former boyfriend at the time alleged that, when this incident took place, that the Nelson story was false, and her former boyfriend believes Judge Moore and not Beverly Nelson.

In addition, the Moore campaign has unveiled statements from key witnesses that completely counter all details of Beverly Nelson's story. And we can provide those to you. They are from past news releases that news media outlets have refused to print.

[15:10:11] Now on to the restaurant itself. Former waitresses at the Old Hickory House restaurant said employees had to be 16 years of age. No 15- year-olds worked there. According to former employees, the dumpsters were located on the side of the building. They were never in the back.

The Old Hickory House sat off a four-lane highway. It had a wraparound porch, lights all around that porch, and it was lit properly. Nelson claimed the surroundings were dark and isolated, again, a major contradiction.

Rhonda Ledbetter, who worked at the Old Hickory House for almost three years, states that the earliest the restaurant closed was at 11:00 a.m., but almost midnight. The reason why the restaurant never closed at 10:00 a.m. was that the Goodyear plant workers would come over and have their meal after their shift ended at 10:00 p.m.

The restaurant never closed at 10:00 p.m. And this also contradicts Nelson's claim. It is unlikely that there was an entrance to the back of the building, because the property was adjacent to homes and their backyards. There was no thoroughfare behind the building.

Nelson claimed that Judge Moore came there almost every night and sat at the counter. But former employees tell us that customers that sat at the counter were served by the short-order cook. And they never interacted with the waitstaff.

Additionally, two former waitresses and two former patrons state that they never saw Judge Moore in that restaurant. These witnesses have shared their testimony on multiple occasions with multiple news outlets.

But these media outlets have refused to tell their story. Now, let me go on to the shopping mall ban in Etowah County. As you know, Etowah County is a small county. Politics is rough in that county. Political knives are sharp. It's old-school. Some contests from old days are being relived now.

Some people are seeking vengeance for past events that they have concocted or set or dreamed up. But let me set this record straight. Roy Moore's character has been spoken of and spoken for, for 40-plus years of public service. And only now has these accusers come forward.

This is an effort by these people, the liberal media, the Republican establishment, to malign the good name of Judge Moore. Yesterday, Judge Moore's campaign unveiled two witnesses that have debunked the claims of being banned from the Gadsden Mall.

We contacted Johnny Adams. Johnny Adams is the -- was the Gadsden Mall operations manager for 14 years. He worked there for 26 years. '

His statement is as follows: "In all my 26 years of working at the Gadsden Mall, I never heard anything about Roy Moore being banned from the mall or any other issues concerning him. As the operations manager overseeing mall security, I would have been aware of any incident that would have occurred. There were none."

In closing, I'm going to say this. You men and women of the media are responsible for the stories and printing the truth. Free press is what we cherish in this country, but not being free with the facts. And I'm asking you, I'm urging you, I'm imploring you to print and tell the truth.

Thank you.

DEAN YOUNG, ROY MOORE CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: No, we're not, right now.

Listen, I'm Dean Young. I have been with Judge Moore for 25 years. I was with him before the ACLU rolled into Gadsden, Alabama, and had their tails kicked. And I have been with him all these years. Let me just tell you something. The same thing is going to happen on December the 12th.

All of this stuff is going to be settled. And Judge Moore will be our next senator.

Now, Alabamians, I want to talk to you. You guys are seeing us through the national TV shows. But the local Alabamians, I want to tell you what's going on.

[15:15:08]

I want you to understand, Alabamians, that the Judge Moore you knew two weeks ago is the same Judge Moore. And what we're seeing on a national and a worldwide effort is to stop Judge Roy Moore at any cost. And when I say any cost, Mitch McConnell has spent $30 million trying to stop Judge Moore.

"The Washington Post" and all of the fake media, for the last two weeks, have said everything that they can say about Judge Moore. They're trying to dig people up, put them on TV and say Judge Moore is a bad guy.

The time test is this, and this is where the rubber hits the road. What are Alabamians going to do? If you can be tricked, Alabamians, with $30 million from Mitch McConnell, maybe it's 40 by now, and "The Washington Post" fake stories, if you can be tricked in two weeks about Judge Roy Moore, then they win.

And what do they win? Why is it such a big deal? Why two weeks ago did we wake up and we hear all of this stuff about Judge Roy Moore that we have never heard, although we have watched him for 25 years stand for what's right? Always has. He stands for what's right, what's just and what's fair.

And we all know that in Alabama. Right? So why did this happen? I think the future of this country rides on this race. And let me tell you why. Donald Trump just exploded the establishment.

This is the first senatorial election since Donald Trump went into office. So, the magnitude of what's going on here can't be overestimated. You have got to understand, Alabamians, that the world is watching you.

We read that story about Esther says, such a time is this. It's not just Judge Moore for such a time is this. It's you people in Alabama, because you are the ones that are put here, I believe by God, to make a decision that will affect the course of not only this nation, but the world, because the world is watching to see what you do.

And the question is, can you be tricked? Can you be tricked? Because all hell is coming to Alabama against Judge Roy Moore. Anything they can do, any lie they can make up, any person they can drag up and put in front of a TV camera and say negative things about Judge Moore is coming, but don't be tricked, because you, Alabamians, will have to start up on December the 12th -- that's 12/12 -- and you will have to show the world that we won't be tricked, that we're not a bunch of idiots, we're not a bunch of sheep, like the mainstream wants you to act like or Mitch McConnell.

They think they can do this stuff about Judge Moore in two weeks and all you all will just run for the hills. Well, they don't know you all. They don't know you all. And I'll tell you this, media, fake news people. Let me tell you this. Alabamians will go and they will have Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Black Friday will start. Then we're going to have a war amongst ourselves. It's called the Iron Bowl. And I'm going to tell you something. After church on Sunday -- and this is what I want you Alabamians to do.

I want you all to talk about it at Thanksgiving. And I want you all to talk about it Sunday night at the church. And I want you all to think in your brains Judge Moore that we have known for 25 years, are we going to be sold a bill of goods by Mitch McConnell and the fake news?

Are we? Are we that gullible? And the answer is going to be no. I will tell you right now, there was a poll done last night in the media, and Judge Moore over six points ahead still. FOX News to put out their fake polls, and everybody else can, too. But he's still winning, and he's never been losing, because the people of Alabama don't go for what you all are trying to sell.

So, just like you said Luther Strange and Judge Moore were even- steven, FOX News, well, guess what? Judge Moore won by 10. And we're going to win again. And that's the message. That's the message, Alabamians.

You all have known Judge Moore for 25 years. You all have watched him. And none of this has ever shown up until right before this election. And, again, this election has ramifications not only for Alabama, not only for the United States, but for the world.

And, by the way, that's why you saw Kellyanne come out yesterday and say we have got to have somebody like Judge Moore. We have got to have someone like Judge Moore.

You know, Kellyanne does talk to the White House. Now, why is that? Why, Alabamians, do we need Judge Moore?

Well, number one, there's a Supreme Court justice that's thinking about retiring. Now, this other guy, Doug -- the liberal Democrat -- Jones, he will not put someone on there that stands against because, Doug the Democrat, the liberal Democrat, Jones, stands for abortion with his own words all the way up until the baby's born.

[15:20:15]

And so that means partial-birth abortion. That's who this guy is. Now, he's trying to trick you all, too. Don't think the Democrats aren't trying to trick you guys. He's trying to trick you all to make you all think that he's some kind of moderate. Well, he's not.

He's for abortion until the baby is born. He's for transgenders going into your little girl's bathrooms, boys pretending like they're girls going into the bathrooms with your children at school.

And, Alabamians, if you have got a teenager that is in the locker room, girl, and one of these transgender people decides they want to be a girl for the day, well, Doug Jones think they should be able to go to take a shower with them.

So, here's what's going to happen. Judge Moore is going to win. Judge Moore is going to go help Donald Trump. He's going to pass tax reform. He's going to build a wall that Doug Jones is against. He is against -- Doug Jones is not for stopping Obamacare. No, he's a dyed- in-the-wool liberal Democrat.

And, Alabamians, we cannot send anyone like that to Washington. So, we want to send someone. We want to send Judge Moore to Washington, because Judge Moore will help President Trump get done what needs to get done.

And all of this Jerry Springer stuff is over. I'm talking to all of you all. We're not going to do this anymore as a campaign. So, all you people that run around yelling stuff at Judge Moore, asking him these ridiculous questions, I'm the chief political strategist.

And my advice is, every time they yell anything like that to Judge Moore to the campaign, just think, it's the Jerry Springer show. Don't answer it. Judge Moore has answered all the questions. We believe Judge Moore. We don't believe these women.

It's just that simple. And you all can keep trotting them out if you want to. But we're not going to talk about that. We're going to talk about helping Donald Trump making America great again.

So, you all can ask quit asking questions, quit yelling stuff, quit being rude. We're going to say what we're going to say. And, Alabamians, don't be tricked by this crowd.

BALDWIN: OK. OK.

In a nutshell, fake news, fake accusers, fake Mitch McConnell. The campaign for this candidate for the United States Senate just defended Roy Moore against claims that he was banned from a shopping mall because he preyed on young girls.

Let me bring in David Chalian, Maeve Reston, Areva Martin.

My goodness.

David Chalian, where to begin? Just your thoughts on what we just were listening to, A, but, B, also, I kept hearing this three-pronged war, right, that they're waging against the media, Republican establishment and Democrats, all three.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. Yes, that's the trifecta. Yes.

And that's going to work. That's messaging to the base of voters that they need to make sure turn out and most enthused on December 12. What you saw there, despite the legal trappings and some lawyers being involved, was a political pushback. This was indication that, two things.

One, Roy Moore is not backing down in any way whatsoever and that they are going to fight tooth and nail all the way through for the next three weeks here. That's one.

Two, what I also think you also see here is a campaign that acknowledges there's no way around this. They have to go through it. There is absolutely no way that they're going to be able to ignore this. The Democrat Doug Jones is advertising on these allegations. This is the central issue in the campaign.

And the Moore people are fully acknowledging that now, I think, in this press conference. But I think the most significant thing that we heard there was when he referenced Kellyanne Conway's comments, Brooke, and he said, she speaks for the White House, and she was out there -- basically, he was welcoming their support.

This was happening simultaneously while the president is on the South Lawn talking to reporters saying exactly what Kellyanne Conway is said, which is, we can't have a liberal Democrat in that seat.

So the tacit approval. He may not -- Donald Trump may not be wearing a Roy Moore sweatshirt, but Donald Trump is supporting Roy Moore in this race and has made clear that he's in a totally different place than all the rest of the Republicans in Washington on this. He wants to see Roy Moore win that Senate seat.

BALDWIN: Just to reiterate what you just reported, so just as we were listening to the end of the Roy Moore folks, we know President Trump and then family, they are all headed down to Mar-a-Lago for Thanksgiving.

And on his way out of town, he said, speaking about exactly what we were just listening to, he said we don't need a liberal Democrat in that seat.

[15:25:00]

Maeve, to you.

And, then, Areva, I want to go through some of the legal strategy and how they were picking apart a lot of the accusations. But just hearing the final gentleman really speaking to Alabamians saying the world is watching you and that Trump has exploded the Republican establishment and keeps mentioning Mitch McConnell.

In a lot of circles in Alabama, Mitch McConnell is a bad, bad word, which, again, to David's point, isn't that just drumming up the base?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, that was extraordinary television right there. It was such a call to action to that, those Trump voters, that Trump base, the people who supported the president, using that sort of tacit support that Moore's been getting from the White House to really galvanize those voters.

And all of the talk about transgender people in America, and they were just sort of putting all of these issues together and making it one huge culture war, saying like that's what this race is about. I think at one point the strategist referred to Moore as being the candidate who was basically endorsed by God.

I mean, this was a really robust call to action to those voters. And we will see if that works.

BALDWIN: But the fact is, David Chalian, just coming back to you and what the president said is significant, because for weeks now, reporters having asking the White House how does the president feel about Roy Moore. Right? And just to underscore, does this essentially mean -- is this an endorsement officially from the president of the United States?

CHALIAN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: It is?

CHALIAN: Let's make it clear. The president of the United States would like to see an accused child molester be elected senator from Alabama.

I understand he denies the accusations. It's an accusation and an allegation. But in what world do we ever think we were ever going to see the president of the United States all but endorse and express his desire to have the accused child molester be the one elected to the United States Senate?

RESTON: Over tax reform.

BALDWIN: I got nothing for you. I don't know what to say. I don't know what to say. But you're absolutely right. That's exactly what we have just seen happen.

And we know from our own reporting that the president hadn't wanted to wade into these waters because of the elephant in the room, his own accusers. And so now I suppose on his way out of town he went there.

CHALIAN: Was that to me or Maeve? I'm sorry. Yes, he did.

BALDWIN: Either, either.

Yes, Maeve, go ahead.

RESTON: It's amazing also because, you know, what -- the White House has shifted so subtly and kind of gradually over the course of these couple of days. You sort of wonder what they're looking at. Are they looking at that same polling?

Would you make this kind of bargain just to get tax reform through? And to have so much riding on that bill, because Donald Trump is really in a very difficult situation. And this underscores that. He has to get something done, so he's going to essentially back, as David said, an accused child abuser in the Senate.

CHALIAN: One thing on the tax reform.

Mitch McConnell is on the record saying that whoever wins the Alabama election is not going to be seated in the United States Senate until December 23. He plans to have tax reform done by that. We will see if he can keep to that schedule.

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: Right. Exactly.

But to underscore what Maeve is saying of why it's so important, because we know they don't have all of the votes locked into yes yet. And so if indeed the timeline that Mitch McConnell prefers slips and then all of a sudden they're only potentially working with a 51 majority, that makes a big difference there.

But I think the other reason, and, Brooke, you brought up the president's own history with accusers and not wanting to delve into that realm. Yes. I also think there's a political calculation here because he does not want to be crosswise with his base. You heard that that gentleman there who was speaking on behalf the Moore campaign constantly referring Roy Moore's going to go there and support the Trump agenda, President Trump, the people here who support President Trump, talking to Alabamians.

This is what's key for Trump. He knows the Bannon wing energy, that his fiery base of the party has not abandoned Moore here. And he doesn't want to be on the wrong side again necessarily with those voters, the way he was in the primary.

BALDWIN: OK. Let me hit pause on this conversation.

I promise, Areva, I'm coming to you.

But let's go to the White House.

Ryan Nobles was there and witnessed this exchange between the president of the United States and the press.

Ryan, what exactly did the president say?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, he really did not mince words.

He essentially told the voters of Alabama that they could not afford to elect a liberal Democrat and have a liberal Democrat represent them in Washington. And when he was asked repeatedly whether or not he believes the accusers of the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, the president's response was simply, "He denies it. And that's all I can say. He denies it."

And the president seemed to have a pretty firm message about this, that between the choice between Doug Jones, who is the Democratic candidate, and Roy Moore, the Republican, that Moore is the better candidate.

Now, he never came right out and said that voters should elect Roy Moore. But he was very critical of Doug Evans.