Return to Transcripts main page


Trump On Moore: "We Don't Need A Liberal" In Senate; Navy Plane Crash Latest Mishap For U.S. 7th Fleet; North Korean Defector's Daring Escape Captured On Video. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 22, 2017 - 11:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. I'm sitting in for Kate today again.

Let's begin with President Trump waking up this morning at what he calls the winter White House and firing off these pre-dawn tweets covering an entire grab bag of topics, even before sunrise, the president ripped into the NFL, saying the protests are killing the league.

He also criticized LaVar Ball, the father of one of the jailed UCLA basketball players. He called Ball, and I'm quoting the president here, "an ungrateful fool" for not crediting him with securing the release.

He also called for prayers for those involved in the search and rescue mission of a crashed U.S. Navy plane, but very little likely to divert attention from the president effectively endorsing his party's embattled Senate candidate in Alabama.

The president batting away the accusations of several women who say Roy Moore pursued them as teenagers. Instead, the president is breaking ranks with leading Republicans who have called on Roy Moore to step aside amid the myriad claims of sexual misconduct.

The reason, Moore says he did not sexually assault a 14-year-old girl and said he did not ever try to seduce other women.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He totally denies it. He says it didn't happen. He said 40 years ago, this did not happen. Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say. He denies it and by the way, he totally denies it. Well, he denies. Roy Moore denies it, and by the way, he gives a total denial. He totally denies it.


BALDWIN: I think you see the theme here. "Deny" being the key word. This is what the president is relying on. The word here of this accused predator, while also revealing a higher motive. The Republican Party's razor-thin majority in the Senate. His reasoning, quoting him, we don't need a liberal person in there.

Let's get straight to it. Our White House crews are covering it all for us today. Let's begin, though, with Jeremy Diamond, here with me in New York. And Jeremy Diamond, the tweets! Talk about the tweets.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Listen, the morning after the president, obviously, all but endorsing Roy Moore, the controversial Alabama Republican, who's been accused of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, molesting at least one 14-year-old girl, the president is tweeting about everything but that.

A kind of grab bag, as you were saying, of tweets here. We have him talking about LaVar Ball. This is one of the first tweets the president put out this morning, saying, "It wasn't the White House, it wasn't the State Department, it wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground, saying, it's me."

It's the president of the United States who secured their release by talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping. And the president returning to this familiar controversy of what the NFL national anthem's protests.

This is his tweet on that, "The NFL is now thinking about a new idea, keeping teams in the locker room during national anthem next season. That's almost as bad as kneeling." And then he asked, "When will the highly paid commissioner finally get tough and smart? The issue is killing your league."

So, I think we need to be clear here, Brooke, that these are obviously distractions. Distractions from what the president did yesterday. That's not to say that the president doesn't want Alabama Republican voters to know what he said.

He wants them to know what he said, to give them another reason to potentially believe Roy Moore's denials and disbelieve the allegations of multiple women against Roy Moore. But what he doesn't want is perhaps he doesn't want the entire country focused on the fact that he all but endorsed an alleged child molester and sexual assaulter. So, that I think is why we're seeing these tweets coming out this morning.

BALDWIN: That is where our focus was when it broke yesterday and that's where our focus continues because we're going to talk in Alabama now. Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much for setup here.

The White House has said that the fate of Roy Moore should be decided by Alabamians, right? The voters in the great state of Alabama. So that's where we have Kaitlan Collins standing by in Montgomery.

So, in the wake of the big news from the president standing on the lawn, headed out of town, you know, how are Alabamians feeling? Are any of them changing their minds?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, this is certainly a high-stakes race here, Brooke, in Alabama. And the president came out and voiced his support for Roy Moore yesterday, saying he seemingly accepts his denials of these multiple accusations made by multiple women against Roy Moore, accusing him of sexual assault.

And while the president was making those remarks, he was also very critical of his Democratic opponent here in Alabama, Doug Jones. Now, the president among many things said that Doug Jones was soft on crime.

Brooke, as you know, Jones is best known for helping successfully prosecute KKK members who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, that killed four very young girls.

[11:05:10] And here's how Jones responded to the president's remarks.


DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: I believe their stories. I'm not going to call names, OK? I believe their stories. I'm not going to call names. I'm not going to label people. I believe their stories.

I feel like my record speaks for itself, and I don't have to have the president or anyone else to talk about it to try to label it. My record speaks for itself. I know my record on crime and criminal justice issues. I know my record on everything else. So that's -- you know, we've got three weeks to go. People are going to make that judgment.


COLLINS: Now, this is certainly a boost for the Moore campaign, Brooke. There have been multiple calls from Republican leadership for them to drop out, but now that they enjoy the backing of the White House, it's not likely that they're even considering that anymore.

And we actually heard from several people from the Moore campaign here in Montgomery yesterday, during a press conference where they took no questions from reporters, but they attempted to refute these allegations made by multiple women.

And just to give you a sense of how in the detail, in the nitty-gritty they were truly getting, one of the accusers, Beverly Nelson said she met Moore when she was just 15 years old as a waitress at a restaurant in Gadsden, Alabama, where Moore is from.

And she said at one point, he had her in his car and drove her to the back of the restaurant where he said he assaulted her. And the Moore campaign is trying to refute those allegations by saying that in her story, the dumpsters were on the back of the restaurant.

But in fact, they were on the side of the restaurant and she said it was a poorly lit area, and they said it's a well-lit area. So, just give you a sense of what level of detail they are getting into.

And we actually heard from the candidate himself, Moore, last night in an interview, where he continued to deny these allegations and he said he believes that Brooke, more information is going to come out soon, that will prove him right.

But certainly, a race where the White House is hoping to keep this Senate seat in Republican hands for now -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan Collins, thank you. I was listening yesterday down to dumpster locations and who had a phone in their childhood bedroom, right? Those are some of the details.

But let's talk politics here. Let me bring in my panel. Rebecca Berg is a CNN political reporter. David Mowery is a political consultant in Alabama, who's worked on both Republican and Democratic campaigns in the state. So, welcome, welcome. Good morning to both of you.

Rebecca, just first to you on the politics of this and the president. I mean, obviously, he is going against -- by what he said at the White House, he is going against all -- so many of the Republican leadership in Congress and in his defense of Moore. Why do you think he's doing this?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you mentioned politics, Brooke, and that's a big part of this, obviously. The president recognizes -- and he has had some of his allies reminding him over the past few days that his political base, his most enthusiastic supporters in Alabama and even elsewhere, are people who are still supporting Roy Moore.

You look at the polling on this race and I know it's kind of been all over the place, but Roy Moore, even in the worst polls, is maintaining 40-something percent support in this race, and those supporters are Donald Trump voters. Those are enthusiastic Trump supporters.

And Donald Trump recognizes that he can't get on the wrong side of those people. He doesn't want to betray his base on this. But the other side of this, Brooke, is personal for the president.

He sees some key parallels in what Roy Moore is facing right now to his own presidential election when he was facing multiple allegations by women of sexual misconduct. You, of course, remember the "Access Hollywood" tape and how Republicans, many of them abandoned the president after that.

And so, he sees what Roy Moore is going through and he sees himself to an extent, in that -- in this controversy.

BOLDUAN: Now, that's the president. Let's talk Alabama. David, I was reading that strategists on both sides believe the race will really come down to whether the Democrat in this race, Doug Jones, can convince suburban Republican women from the state's larger cities that Moore is unacceptable.

Reading "The Daily Beast" this morning, saying that the Republican women in Alabama have been shaken against the accusations against Roy Moore and some of them have now been going door-to-door, canvassing for the Democrat. Are you hearing stories like that?

DAVID MOWERY, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS CONSULTANT: Anecdotally, yes, but it doesn't seem like they're moving en masse. I think the question is, do they vote at all.

BALDWIN: Do they, the Republican women who had been supporting Moore, you're saying they may just withhold their votes?

MOWERY: Yes, exactly. I think there's a conflict and they really want a Republican to win that seat. They want Republican control. They support Trump's agenda. But they don't really like Roy Moore, so the easiest thing to do there is just not vote and let the chips fall where they may.

BALDWIN: Wow. Rebecca, we know that, you know, some senators have warned, if Roy Moore is elected, they may try to expel him.

[11:10:04] I realize there's a high bar for that. But doesn't that make President Trump support here -- and I know you're saying, it's all about playing to the base, but isn't that risky politics for him?

BERG: Sure, I mean, it would make him look like he supported someone who doesn't meet the threshold for serving in the Senate, but in a way, expelling Roy Moore from the Senate might be the best-case scenario for Republicans when we're looking at this politically.


BERG: Because it would give them the opportunity to elect a Republican and then say, he -- the take, essentially, a moral stand, to say that he doesn't meet our criteria. He doesn't meet this moral threshold for serving in the Senate. We're going to take a stand against him.

And then you would have an open seat, a Republican governor could appoint a replacement in the meantime and then you have another special election. So that, I mean, for Republicans, that would be the way out of this pickle, without having a Democrat take the seat and without having Roy Moore serving as a U.S. senator.

BALDWIN: So, does President Trump, David, go to Alabama, when he was talking yesterday to media, he didn't rule it out, right? The notion of going to Alabama, being on the ground, stumping for Roy Moore. How much do you think, a couple more weeks left until the December 12th special election, how much does that help Roy Moore?

MOWERY: I think it definitely helps him and I think that they're going to make that assessment based on poll numbers and based on where they think that -- where they think the race is at the time. If they feel that he needs it to get over the line, it would not shock me at all to see him come.

And it wouldn't shock me at all to see that either move or motivate voters that weren't going to vote, to go to the polls, especially his base of the white working class, white men, I think, would go stronger for Roy Moore at that point. I think that that would be -- that would be an indicator that the race is closer than even we all think it is.

BALDWIN: We know that Doug Jones is capitalizing on some of this, depending on how you look at it, bad press, right, for Roy Moore. How -- what's his winning strategy? In 30 seconds, winning strategy in these waning weeks?

MOWERY: Winning strategy is drive home the fact that he is -- that he's a tough federal prosecutor. That he has the type of background that most Alabamians identify with and that Roy Moore is just -- is morally not fit for the job, and that the Republicans will throw him out, even if they elect him.

BALDWIN: David and Rebecca, thank you both so much.

BERG: Thanks.

BALDWIN: Appreciate you. Happy early Thanksgiving.

BERG: You, too.

BALDWIN: Happening right now here at this urgent search for three people missing off the Pacific island of Okinawa after an American Navy plane crashed overnight. Eight military personnel onboard, they have been rescued and are said to be OK, but the other three are still unaccounted for.

President Trump tweeting earlier that the administration is watching the situation very, very closely and offering up prayers for all involved.

So, to Barbara Starr we go there at the Pentagon. And Barbara, do we know anything, first, about the condition of the eight and then what about the other three?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: We are told that all 11 that were onboard this small fixed wing aircraft that was going to land aboard the carrier "Ronald Reagan," all 11 were U.S. Navy personnel. Eight rescued, now aboard the "Reagan" and said to be in good condition.

It is, of course, nighttime out there. The search does continue by U.S. and Japanese authorities. Still for three missing Americans on this holiday weekend. So, they will keep looking for them, and that, of course, is an urgent priority.

The plane that landed, this is a workhorse of the U.S. Navy carrier fleet. It goes back and forth, shutting people on and off the decks of aircraft carriers. It's an old model plane, but it's got a pretty good safety record of reliability.

We don't hear about a lot of crashes of this, so there will be an investigation certainly into what happened here. It has been a very tough and deadly year for the Seventh Fleet, out in the Pacific.

Of course, you'll recall that two of the Navy warships had crashes, collisions with other ships earlier this year, the "McCain" and "Fitzgerald," 17 sailors killed in those incidents and a total of five ship incidents out in the Pacific fleet where all of this is happening.

The aircraft accident, no indication it had any relationship to some of the causes of these -- background causes of these ship incidents, but clearly, right now, the main priority is to find the three missing -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Barbara, thank you. Let's talk this over more with CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Rear Admiral John Kirby. Admiral, I was just on this plane three, four weeks ago, on the flight from -- I was going from the air base down in Southern, you know, South Korea over to the "USS Ronald Reagan" and here's my picture.

I just wanted to put a face on this story. These were the two young pilots who were flying when our crew was on it, heading the to go report on the sailors and I felt entirely safe.

[11:15:00] Obviously, at the time, we were head gear because of the catch on the aircraft carrier and strapped in six ways. How rare are crashes like these?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: For this particular aircraft, Brooke, they're extremely rare. Since 1980, the navy has only recorded three crashes of a C-2 Greyhound. None of them causing any fatalities. The most recent was back in 2012.

This was an aircraft, though it's an old model, we've been flying it for more than 50 years, it's got an extraordinarily good safety record. And you just don't hear much at all of mishaps with these things.

BALDWIN: Just to take people inside of a C-2, you're strapped in there, you're actually flying backwards in the body of the plane, and then you have the pilots obviously up in the front. You've got six different seat belts on and a helmet because of the way in which you land in a jarring fashion on an aircraft carrier.

But that said, and actually, here's our video from when we were walking to the Cod a couple of weeks ago in Korea. The Seventh Fleet, Admiral, this just adds to the list of bad headlines. What is going on?

KIRBY: Well, again, I think to Barbara's reporting, we need to be careful drawing too many parallels between this particular aircraft mishap and all the other issues, particularly ship handling issues in the Seventh Fleet. So, and they'll investigate this and they'll find out what happened for sure.

The Naval Aviation is really good at that. That said, you make a good point, Brooke. I mean, obviously, this is a very busy fleet. This is the fleet that's on the spearhead there in the Asia Pacific, the Western Pacific, and they have had a rash of mishaps and incidents.

I think that it will be prudent and I think the Navy will do this. They'll take a look at this mishap in the larger context to see if there are any connections to resourcing or training and readiness issues.

They'll certainly take a look at that, but I think right now the focus needs to be on recovering those remaining three personnel, investigating this completely, and then let the facts sort of take them where they may.

BALDWIN: Just lastly, in terms of the investigation, imagine they're looking into potential human error, but also, you know, when we were flying out to the aircraft carrier, we were flying out to an undisclosed location. They wouldn't tell us where we were going, but so I imagined the conditions out at sea, right, vary from day to day. So, might that have factored into it at all?

KIRBY: It very well could, Brooke, I mean, the crash happened at 2:45 in the afternoon, their time. So, it was daylight hours, but we don't what the weather was like. It could have been wind, sea state, visibility conditions. We just don't know.

Certainly, they'll look at all those factors including the potential for pilot error and also for mechanical problems. I mean, you know, it's an old aircraft. I'm not saying, I don't know how well this one was maintained, the Navy does a really good job keeping those aircraft flying, but you never know.

There could have been something mechanical or technical that went wrong with it. They'll dig into that and find out.

BALDWIN: All right. John Kirby, thank you. Obviously, our thoughts with the Navy today, especially around the holidays, especially with those family members wondering about their loved ones. Appreciate you.

Now to this, running away from a brutal dictator. A North Korean soldier attempts to escape to South Korea. We've got the video, look at this, his comrades firing at him as he is running to safety. The whole thing caught on camera. Coming up, we will walk you through exactly what happened.

Plus, Senator Rand Paul's wife giving exclusive new details to CNN on the attack that broke six of her husband's ribs. She said their neighbor blindsided her husband. She also said the senator is still struggling to breathe. Those details into CNN, next.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. A daring is escape to freedom, all captured on video. Take a look.


BALDWIN (voice-over): This is how it begins. A North Korean the soldier behind the wheel of this military vehicle, racing toward freedom, racing toward a new life on the other side of one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.

The vehicle comes to a stop just steps from South Korean soil. His fellow soldiers equipped with body armor and high-powered weapons, run toward him. Moments later, the defector ditches the vehicle and makes a run for it.

His own comrades firing more than 40 shots from pistols and an AK-47, as he struggles to reach South Korea. Doctors say he was hit at least four times before he ultimately reached freedom, making him just the third member of the North Korean Armed Forces to escape this year.


BALDWIN: You could see there, just how he was dragged across the border. That video, by the way, marks the first time the U.N. Command has released security footage of a defection across the demilitarized zone or the DMZ.

Officials say the North Korean troops violated the ceasefire agreement by firing across the military demarcation line, but that agreement remains in place and a key piece from Gordon Chang is that North Korea doesn't care about that armistice or whatsoever.

Gordon is with us again today. He is a columnist for "The Daily Beast" and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World." We'll get into that in a second. But I was just at the DMZ a couple of weeks ago.

They tell you to keep your hands by your side because of all the guards and the guns and the cameras. Why try to defect, a, there. How rare is it that you actually see something like this?

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN, NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Yes, it's really rare to defect across the DMZ because it is so heavily fortified. You have so many North Korean troops there. They will fire as we've just seen.

[11:25:03] So, most people when they defect, they go across the border into China. There are two rivers and an active volcano, but they just bribe the North Korean guards. The Chinese have not heavily patrolled their side of that border, so it's basically very easy for them to get across into China.

BALDWIN: The other interesting piece of this is the fact that there actually is video, right. We know that there have been defections, but the sheer fact that the U.N. Command actually released this for the first time. Why do you think they're doing that now?

CHANG: I don't know. But it could very well be a change that comes all the way from the White House, basically, saying, we're going to try to undermine North Korea. If we show this video, people in China will see it, people in North Korea will see it, and so, therefore, they'll understand that the regime is weak. But that's just pure speculation on my part.

BALDWIN: And this Korean war armistice, right, where, you know, one side is saying it's violated, the North Korean soldiers ran across the line and fired across the line. You say North Korea doesn't care.

CHANG: Yes, three times last decade, they formally renounced the armistice. Also in September, North Korea's foreign minister in New York actually talked about how North Korea has the right to shoot down American planes in international air space. That's completely inconsistent with the armistice.

And of course, all of these violations, what we call violation, it's that North Korea is conducting basically war. We're saying, oh, there's an armistice in place. No, there isn't. If you have an agreement of that type and one side says it doesn't exist, it doesn't exist.

And this puts our troops into some jeopardy, because, you know, the North Koreans fire at us, we don't fire back. And that's a real problem.

BALDWIN: The more we're learning, also, about this North Korean soldier, we've heard about how malnourished the North Koreans are, but -- put down your breakfast, because this is the detail we're getting. That the North Korean soldier has dozens of parasites that were actually extracted out of him because he ruptured his intestines and doctors say one of the parasites was nearly a foot in length.

CHANG: Eleven inches long. And this is the result of North Korea not using chemical fertilizer. What they use is human excrement as fertilizer and that is the reason why North Koreans have parasites in their intestines. That's another indication of how weak the regime is.

You've got to remember that troops close to the border on the north side, they're the best-fed, best-equipped because of the possibility they don't want these guys defecting. When you have one of them defect across the border, it shows that there are problems in the North Korean military.

BALDWIN: And still those on the border, those aren't huge guys. Those aren't huge guys. I saw them with my own eyes. Lastly, how do you think this affects any of the relations between the two countries and ours?

CHANG: It isn't going to help because we released the video, but that I think is a good thing because, you know, the Kim regime is unalterably opposed to the United States, to South Korea. It is absolutely determined to build the world's most destructive weapons, and perhaps use them or threaten to use them.

And so, we've got to deal with this and we haven't been. Over the course of decades, the North Koreans always get the better of us, and that is -- we've got to just change our way of thinking, which means, I think we need to re-think the armistice.

BALDWIN: OK. Stunning to have this conversation, stunning to see the actual video. Gordon Chang, it is a pleasure. Thank you for all your expertise as always.

Tonight, join CNN's Will Ripley for an exclusive journey inside North Korea. The documentary is "Secret State Inside North Korea." Please tune in, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN. This was not a scuffle. It wasn't a fight or an altercation. Those are strong words from Senator Rand Paul's wife in this new, exclusive piece to CNN. She talks about how their neighbor attacked her husband, breaking six of his ribs. Her new details that she is sharing with CNN, ahead.