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Conyers Steps Down as Ranking Member of Judiciary Committee; Congress Returns to work Tomorrow amid Sexual Assault Probes; Trump Pushes Support for Moore Amid Assault Allegations; Graham: If Moore Wins, GOP Gets the Baggage; Trump Administration Defends Consumer Agency Pick; Conyers Grills Sessions on Trump Influence on DOJ; Ashamed" Franken Says He'll Return To Work Monday; Kushner Has Until Tomorrow To Turn Over More Documents; Flynn's Lawyers Stop Sharing Info With Trump's Lawyers; President Trump To Visit Capitol Hill Ahead Of Tax Vote. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired November 26, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
There's breaking news. A big announcement today coming from Congressman John Conyers, the Michigan democrat and longest serving member in the house says he is stepping down as ranking member of the house judiciary committee. This in direct response to the congressional investigation into sexual harassment and workplace abuse allegations levelled against Conyers by former staffers.
In a statement, Conyers says, "I deny these allegations, many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for by a partisan Alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the house committee on ethics. I cannot in good conscience allow these charges to undermine my colleagues in the democratic caucus and my friends on both sides of the aisle in the judiciary committee and the House of Representatives." End quote there.
A senior democratic aide tell CNN that Conyers' decision to step aside, as ranking member, comes after days of house minority leader Nancy Pelosi working behind the scenes with Conyers and other Congressional Black Caucus members to lay the groundwork for Conyers to step aside gracefully in that matter.
Joining me now, CNN's Kaylee Hartung. So, Kaylee, that statement from Pelosi also coming after she spoke earlier today on the Sunday talk shows on "Meet the Press." She had, I guess, varying comments about Conyers, his legacy and these ongoing investigations.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this morning on "Meet the Press," Nancy Pelosi went so far as to call Conyers an icon. She refused to criticize him and she said, we are strengthened by due process.
But now with a better understanding, we believe of the conversations that were ongoing behind the scenes between Conyers and Pelosi and the other members of the black congressional caucus, it may help us better understand why she kept saying this morning, she believed Conyers would do the right thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC HOST: What is a fireable offense? You say it's zero tolerance, but what does that mean if you're saying John Conyers who already had due process gets to stay right now?
NANCY PELOSI, MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, as I've said, we've asked for the ethics committee to review that. And he I believe will do the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: So after hearing Pelosi call Conyers an icon, say that he will do the right thing and punt all of this to the ethics committee, hearing that statement from her this afternoon after the news came out that Conyers would be stepping down as ranking member of that committee. It draws a harder line, don't you think, Fred?
WHITFIELD: Well, congress also returning after their Thanksgiving break and of course allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct as it pertains to the latest charges involving Conyers or at least now people are talking about charges that have had some years between them.
But then there's Al Franken as well. He's had statements about the allegations against him, but it's a new work day tomorrow. And we understand that Al Franken will be talking to a local set of reporters in Minnesota. What more do we know?
HARTUNG: Well, we don't know much, but we do expect to hear from him today, which we can only think will make some news, but when you have this sexual harassment conversation looming over all that congress has on its plate coming up, you heard Nancy Pelosi there, defer to the ethics committee saying she needs that to committee to investigate any wrong-doing here. She wasn't the only one. We heard that when it came to questions of Senator Al Franken. But there's also a democrat who's taking a harder line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Senator Franken, one of your colleagues, obviously on the other side of the aisle, he called for a senate and ethics investigation into himself. I think you concurred with that.
What do you believe should be the threshold of whether he should still serve or not?
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Well, the ethics investigation ought to go forward and we had to get to all the facts.
REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: -- saying that we're going to have these allegations against politicians go before an ethics committee that can sometimes take a couple of years. No offense to my colleagues who were on the ethics committee, but that's not real. That's not real and that's not accountability. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: Conyers and Franken both say they will cooperate with their respective house and senate ethics committees. But, Fred --
HARTUNG: -- the history of these ethics committees so gray in your jurisdiction, it's a court of public opinion. You are asking peers to judge their peers. It will be very interesting to see what light is shined on the proceedings that happened behind those closed doors with such a bright spotlight on this discussion.
WHITFIELD: But Franken and Conyers have said that they are open to the ethics committee investigations, but of course we'll see what happens from this point on.
Thanks so much, Kaylee. Appreciate it.
Meanwhile, President Trump continues to push support for senate candidate Roy Moore out of Alabama who faced a string of sexual assault allegations, tweeting just this morning, the president saying, "The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. senate is a Schumer- Pelosi puppet who is weak on crime, weak on the border, bad for our military and our great vets. Bad for our second amendment and wants to raise taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster. I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. He shot way up in the polls, but it wasn't enough. Can't let Schumer-Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be bad." That from the president today.
CNN's Boris Sanchez joining me now with more on this.
So, Boris, the republican establishment welcoming what the president has to say or wincing?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Definitely wincing, Fred. We've seen a whole shift in how the White House is handling the allegations against Roy Moore after initially echoing what the broad majority of republicans were saying at the time, which was that if these allegations were true, then Roy Moore should step down.
We've seen the president and his party going two very distinct directions, as more and more republicans call for Roy Moore to step down after several days of silence, the president is now outright attacking his opponent, Doug Jones and defending Roy Moore.
You'll recall that just a few days ago he said that he denies the allegations when he was asked whether voting for Moore was more important than endorsing someone who is accused of pedophilia. So the president also left the door open to campaigning for Roy Moore in Alabama and that really has drawn the ire of a lot of establishment republicans.
Recall that Roy Moore is the candidate of Steve Bannon and is representative of his work against the establishment which is why you have republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham who was on "State of the Union" speaking with Dana Bash earlier today saying that even if the republican in this race wins, the party loses. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: From a republican point of view, I don't see what winning -- I don't -- I don't know winning looks like with Roy Moore. If he wins, we get the baggage of him winning and it becomes a story every day about whether or not you believe the women or Roy Moore should he stay in the senate, should be expelled. If you lose, you give the senate seat to a democrat time we need all the votes we can get.
The moral of the story is, don't nominate somebody like Roy Moore who could actually lose the seat that any other republican could win. And from a party perspective, we've got to look long long-term not short- term and what I would tell President Trump, if he think winning with Roy Moore is going to be easy for the Republican Party, you're mistaken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Now, you'll recall, Fred, that there was a period where people continued to ask the president what he thought of the allegations against Roy Moore, and he was silent multiple days of ignoring reporter's questions. A source of republican source close to the White House at that point told CNN that the president was hesitant to discuss Roy Moore because he identified with the allegations against the senate candidate with his own previous allegations of sexual misconduct.
Clearly, that's no longer the case, because now the president has not only weighed in on this race but also Al Franken and other lawmakers that have been accused of sexual misconduct, Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, thank you so much from Washington. We'll check back with you.
All right. Joining me right now, a former democratic congressman, Barney Frank, thanks so much for joining us. Happy Thanksgiving weekend. A lot to talk about here. Thanks for joining us on all of this.
John Conyers stepping down as ranking member of the judiciary committee. Let's tackle that one first. Amid these sexual harassment allegations. Your reaction to him stepping down as a ranking member?
BARNEY FRANK, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS REPRESENTATIVE: It was entirely property and I think credit should be given to Nancy Pelosi. It's obvious that she was a major force in persuading him to do that. I don't think John Conyers himself, unfortunately, had an inclination to do that.
And I know people were concerned because --
[14:10:00] FRANK: -- leader Pelosi, I guess today described him as an icon. I getting to think in some of these cases -- well, we're talking about people who are more emojis than icons. But she clearly was following the two track effort of easing the way to get him out of that. That's real leadership.
She got him to step down from that position and that's very important. Contrast that of course with Donald Trump who is schilling for a man who was accused of things at least in quantity, at worse, that we've heard about what Roy Moore has done.
As I said, I think it was appropriate for John to step down. As to what happens next, I think it's essential that that settlement be made open. He agreed to a settlement. I assume it was under some confidential seal. I think it's incumbent on John Conyers, my former colleague to waive that confidentiality, which he has the right to do. I guess he complained about it. But I hope she would do and he do that because I think those facts ought to be made clear and I think John Conyers has a heavy burden of proof to exonerate himself with.
But I do think that the leader took an appropriate position in saying to the extent that the democratic caucus confer the leadership position on someone -- it's inappropriate for someone who had to agree that kind of settlement to continue with it.
WHITFIELD: And so you said, it's up to Conyers largely in terms of for revealing more details about the circumstances of that settlement and is it your feeling that taxpayers are owed that explanation?
FRANK: Oh, absolutely. I served 32 years and I thought I knew a lot. I was surprised, not pleasantly, to find out that there was this policy of members of congress getting taxpayer funds to settle these cases and keep them secret.
I'm a great supporter of the institution. I enjoyed. I think many of the people there are outstanding people, but I have been critical of this tendency of members of congress to be able to self-protective. For example, to invoke the constitution to say that the criminal prosecution and to some to what we do violates the protections given to the legislature.
And I think it is outrageous that we had this policy of -- we obviously never voted on it. I never knew about it. But I think that should be changed right away. The notion that there would be taxpayer funds to cover up in these kind of settlements is a terrible idea.
WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling that stepping down as the ranking member of the judiciary committee is a precursor to another step or the other step for Congressman Conyers that potentially he would need to step down altogether?
FRANK: There is a distinction here and it would depend on the nature of the abuse. That's why I think it's important that we have the settlement. Certainly an indication about we're talking now about the two-year term to which it was like it's half over. And I think it's appropriate to have kind a kind of hierarchy there. If you have committed those kind of acts and again, the burden of proof is on John Conyers to show that he didn't commit it and he signed the agreement. I know people will always say, oh, I just signed that consent agreement because I want to avoid the litigation. Like Bill O'Reilly complained that he just signed an agreement to avoid the litigation. It turned out it was a $32 million avoidance.
I'm always skeptical of that -- of that effort to brush it aside. So it's clear that you should not be in a position of authority given to you by your colleagues. Whether or not you stay in office though, that's really more between you and your constituents.
It would depend. Obviously, there were some things that are so awful that you should have to leave. It takes two thirds votes of constitutional to expel someone. Only a majority to take them away in leadership position as an example of the difference.
But I would say at the very least, I think it's on John Conyers has to own it to show his constituents why he should be reelected given this. As to whether or not he should be forced to quit or expelled, that depends very much on the nature of it and I have no idea what's in there.
WHITFIELD: And do you believe it's contingent upon the congressman either revealing more details himself or perhaps releasing information from that settlement or is it contingent upon the ethics committee process?
FRANK: Well, the problem with the ethics committee is it does take a while. The ethics committee has no jurisdiction over a nonmember of congress. We have that cases in the past, by the way of people resigning --
FRANK: -- from congress in large part to kind of frustrate the ethics committee.
But I think John Conyers has the burden of showing of revealing that people can judge. Again, resigning that's a -- it would depend on what the nature of it was. It does not appear to have been a criminal issue. Some of the allegations against Roy Moore, people like Mitch McConnell said they believe were criminal.
But I do think he has -- he has an obligation to waive any confidentiality. And why have to go through the ethics process when the facts that the ethics committee would be trying to find out or in that settlement?
WHITFIELD: Do you empathize with Nancy Pelosi, minority leader, who underscores that Conyers is an icon or do you take issue with that? Clearly she is referring to his long civil rights activity, he's longest serving member of congress right now. He's a Korean War veteran. What are your feelings about how she kept alive earlier today? FRANK: There's not infatuation. Yes, John Conyers is a very distinguished guy. Look, we understand it. People are complicated. Very, very good people can occasionally do a bad thing and bad people can occasionally do a good thing.
I admire what Nancy Pelosi has done. I think she's a very skillful leader, one of the most skillful we've had. And what she was doing is she did the most important thing which was to get him to step down from that leadership position. That's not the usual thing.
Again, contrasting with Donald Trump who's out there schilling for Roy Moore. You don't find many examples of the leadership stepping in, I believe, in this kind of way. And yes, I understand that she did in a way that would kind of ease the concerns of people would have about -- you being unfair to this man who have been a civil rights leader for so long. But no, I thought Nancy Pelosi did it very well. And her description of John Conyers is an accurate one. He's 53 years in congress. He's been in the leadership position on civil rights. That makes it all the more poignant if he's unable to remove this serious doubt that exists, but it doesn't deny the fact.
WHITFIELD: All right. 1964, first elected.
All right. So I want to change subject. If I could also ask you now about President Trump administration fighting for control of the nation's top consumer watch dog group. An agency noticed the consumer financial protection bureau, CFPB. The president has slammed it as a total disaster. OMB director Mulvaney has called it a real joke and now the outgoing director names the deputy as the interim leader, but the Trump administration announced that it's going to be the OMB director, Mulvaney and many people are wondering who's going to show up to work tomorrow as the interim?
Where are you on how this conflict has now arisen?
FRANK: Well, I was one of the main drafters of the legislation working with Senator Elizabeth Warren. And I'm very proud of our -- creating the consumer bill.
Let me begin with the substance here. The consumer bureau is the most important protection in financial matters for the average citizen that we have ever had. And when people like Mulvaney and Trump attack it, it's very interesting that they have not given any specifics. I wish people would ask him, well, what is it that they have done that you don't like? Going after Wells Fargo? Helping people not have to pay student loan debt that was inappropriately coerced out of them? Protecting people against unfair bank overdraft practices?
The consumer bureau has been a very effective thing. And again, it is very interesting that for all this granting about how terrible it is, they don't give you any specifics.
Now, we have anticipated this. We knew that setting an agency up there with some independent to go after the largest, most powerful financial institutions and protect the average investor, depositor, citizen from them was going to generate a political backlash. So we deliberately wrote that statute, Senator Dodd, myself would be advised of us with one another, to make it somewhat independent and to give it protection against exactly what's happening.
And so, yes, it is meant to be the person who was there. We gave the director a five-year term and said the president couldn't fire him. As part of that, to complete that five-year term of independence, we said, if we he does the, not there for some reason, you have that process go forward.
And by the way, the key thing is this. Mick Mulvaney is supposed to be now -- he's a little busy. He's got a government to fund. We have a government shutdown facing us.
The notion that you take this budget --
FRANK: -- director who hates the agency, who has other things to do and to put him in charge is a sign of a contempt that Trump administration has the anger had itself, the notion that we would have someone to protect the average citizen.
Nothing more clearly refutes this self-image of Donald Trump as the little guy's friend.
WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling that this is the avenue to deconstruct, if not do away with an agency altogether?
FRANK: Oh, absolutely. You're exactly right. Here's the deal. They can't do it legislatively. They would have liked to have done it legislatively, but they can't get any democrats in the senate to vote for that. They would need and they don't even have all the republicans. Senator Collins of Maine voted for this. The consumer bureau, for all of the dislike that the right wing ideology is having about it, is very popular with the American public.
So the republicans in the senate don't want to vote and actually getting rid of it. So since they don't have the votes or even the courage to do this in a legislative way, this is a way to sabotage the agency, put them in in there, the budget director who's very, very conservative, nice fellow. Very, very conservative opposed to the whole motion of consumer protection and shut it down even though you can't change it legislatively.
WHITFIELD: Perhaps anticipating this potential conflict, the outgoing director Richard Cordray wrote on his letter to staff, saying first, he wanted to share with everyone that I made this decision to reassign Leandra English to the position of deputy director. Leandra that she's accepted and that has been effectuated accordingly upon my departure. She will become the acting director pursuant to Section 1011B5 of the Dodd Frank Act of your namesake in considering how to ensure an orderly succession for this independent agency. But now orderly is the last thing perhaps, potentially it has become. How worrisome or bothered are you by this?
FRANK: Very worried. I was worried about a lot of their efforts to dismantle the potential reform act. They're not doing much of it because the public does not want to see a return to the irresponsible and abuse of practices that led to the -- to the -- but the point is this, they are claiming, the president is, that he has a right to appoint Mr. Mulvaney under which called the Vacancy Act.
Well, the Vacancy Act was passed in the 90s. The bill that --
WHITFIELD: For your act.
FRANK: Exactly. Ordinarily the later act amends the earlier one. And if we intended for that act to govern, we would have been wasting our time drafting what we did. We knew what the Vacancy Act was. It was in effect and we said and this is true in a number of areas of the consumer drill. Given the delicacy politically, the danger of political delicacy take on the most powerful financial institutions I the country with all that they can do with contributions and other pressures to get members of congress, to get into them.
We wanted to insulate them against being hindered from doing consumer protection. And so we gave them a five-year term. We said they have funded in a different way and part of what we did to protect them against the pressures, we knew were coming is with Richard Cordray invoking.
WHITFIELD: All right. Former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it. Doing double duty for us today. Appreciate it.
FRANK: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Straight ahead, more on our breaking news. Democratic congressman, John Conyers stepping down as ranking member of the house judiciary committee. So, what does this mean for democratic as they head back to the hill tomorrow? My panel weighs in next.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. More on our breaking news now. Embattled congressman and Michigan democrat, John Conyers stepping down as ranking member of the house judiciary committee amid sexual harassment allegations. Conyers has been front and center in the congressional hearings into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Well, here was Conyers a few weeks ago, questioning U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over accusations the president was trying to influence the U.S. justice department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: In a functioning democracy, is it common for the leader of the country to order the criminal justice system to retaliate against his political opponents? JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Conyers, I would say the department of justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents and that would be wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's discuss this with my panel now. CNN political commentators, Shermichael Singleton and Maria Cardona. Good to see you both.
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks, Fred.
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: All right. So a couple of things. That sound bite exemplifies just one role that John Conyers had as a ranking member of the judiciary committee. He has been very dogged as it pertains to the Russia investigations. At the same time, he has been pressed for more questions on these sexual harassment allegations and taxpayer money paid out for a settlement.
[14:30:00] So, Maria, with him stepping down now as a ranking member, what next for John Conyers as he faces the ethics investigation, at the same time what now for the tenor of the continuous grilling on the hill as it pertains to the Russia investigation without Conyers as a ranking member?
CARDONA: Sure. Well, first of all, let me say that it is the right thing that he stepped down. I think that these allegations are serious ones. They need to be looked into and if it comes to the point where he needs to resign, then he needs to resign.
I don't think that anybody that abuses their power the way that he allegedly did so and others have allegedly done so deserves to be in public office where you hold the public trust.
And so I think moving forward, we'll see what happens there. I also believe though that Donald Trump and the White House should not get comfortable because he is stepping down on the issue of Russia. The issue of Russia is still very much front and center. It is a bipartisan issue. I think it's something that both aisles, both sides of the aisle want to make sure we get to the bottom of. And clearly it is something that Donald Trump and the White House still don't want to talk about. And Donald Trump still to this day has not admitted that Vladimir Putin and Russia meddled in our elections.
And so that is a big problem. It is not going away for this White House. It is not going away for Donald Trump regardless of whether Conyers is stepping down and democrats and I hope republicans are going to continue to keep the focus on getting to the bottom of what happened with Russia to make sure that it never happens again and that includes whether there is possible collusion from the Trump campaign during the elections.
WHITFIELD: And, SherMichael, how do you see this as shaking things up for lawmakers and also shaking things up in the ongoing investigations of Russia?
SINGLETON: Fredricka, I think the way the process is set up, the investigation will continue whether or not Congressman Conyers is there or not. I think it should. Any time a foreign country meddles in our democratic process, I think we all have to take it seriously. It's beyond politics. It is not Republican or Democratic.
As it relates to Congressman Conyers in particular, I think this whole process with this $15 million that has been paid out for members of Congress, we should look more into this. I would like to know, who decides how much money will be paid out? Who is on this committee? Why haven't the American people been told more about this?
I think people should know that their congressmen are not acting appropriately so that they can make the determination if they want to vote them out during the election cycle.
So, there is a lot in Washington, D.C. where I think a lot of the checks and balances have completely been dropped. I think it's been coming on the rest of Congress to say you know what, we owe the American people some transparency here and we have to do the right thing.
Be open and honest about what's going on in D.C. because I think that's part of the reason why some of the people feel detached from Washington today.
WHITFIELD: And potentially that can of worms have now been open where there maybe or it may lead now to some sort of transparency on all of that.
All right. So, meantime, the other person on Capitol Hill who openly is being accused of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior at the very least, Senator Al Franken had written statements. He made admissions and apologized.
Now we understand a sort time ago, he has spoken with his hometown newspaper, the "Minneapolis Star Tribune" and saying now, and I'm paraphrasing and giving you one quote that has been released to us, "I'm embarrassed and ashamed. I've let a lot of people down and I'm hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust."
We also understand that Senator Franken will be talking to a local television station later on today as well. Maria, is it that enough and you know, can Al Franken continue on about his business of being the senator when everyone reports back to work tomorrow after the holiday?
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that's something that still has to be determined. Again, I don't believe that anybody that has abused the public trust should be in a public elected office, but I think in terms of Al Franken, he at least admitted to what he has done.
He is trying to make amends for it. I think the big question is will others continue to come out? Are there other allegations and other women out there that we haven't heard from? This is just the tip of the iceberg, Fredricka.
You know, we have seen this across industries now, across sectors that women are now coming out. They refuse to be silenced any longer and it is now getting to the hallowed halls of Congress. I think that is a good thing.
I think there are many issues that need to be dealt with including what you were talking about in terms of transparency. The fact that, you know, when there is an allegation made by somebody on sexual harassment or allegations, the process right now is set up to protect the harasser.
All of that needs to be changed. I think moving forward, we are seeing sort of a tipping point, but this is again like Shermichael says, it's not a Republican versus Democratic issue. This is not left versus right. This is right versus wrong and we need to be on the right side of this.
WHITFIELD: So, Shermichael, also, you know, there are glaring differences though, aren't there? We have seen publicly the consequences that have been swift and immediate as it pertains to people facing similar accusations in the entertainment industry and then you have very powerful men who are facing very similar allegations in politics.
There has been a process being put in place where people ask to protect the process in place for due process or to be adjudicated, et cetera. Do you see this as the beginning of, I guess, disrupting those differences, changing those differences?
SINGLETON: I mean, look, Fredricka, we all respect the process. I don't think anyone would negate that fact. But let's keep in mind here, these are elected members. They are leaders. They are politicians. They were elected by the people to serve the people, to be open and honest and transparent with the people, and they are not doing that.
I agree with Maria any time there are these types of allegations that are remedied against any elected official is really, really difficult at least in my opinion for that person to do their job appropriately with all of the distraction.
[14:35:01] If you are elected to do the job, imagine, Fredricka, how difficult it is if they are women that are constantly coming out against you. If there are allegations that we don't know that may yet to have come. There are also investigations by the Ethics Committee.
It's really hard to do your job so I think it's a lot easier for the members to just step aside, allow the people of their state or the people of their states to have proper representation as they should.
I think the expectation again is on other members of Congress to put pressure on those members and say, you know, yes, we would like you to stay. Yes, you are a colleague, but you owe more to the people who elected you in office and perhaps it is in your best interest and the interest of your state or your congressional district to just step aside.
WHITFIELD: All right. Shermichael -- go ahead.
CARDONA: Fredricka, really quickly, this is why it's going to be really difficult for Republicans if Roy Moore gets elected. I mean, we didn't talk about the two elephants in the room. Roy Moore who is an alleged pedophile and is about to possibly be elected to Congress. I know a lot of Republicans don't agree with that.
And frankly, Republicans who are speaking out against Roy Moore were the same Republicans who looked the other way less than a year ago when Donald Trump, a self-professed sexual predator got elected to the White House.
SINGLETON: And that's why, I hope really quickly, Fred, that if Roy Moore does win while I respect the people of Alabama, he should be expelled. There is no way we should seat this guy because the repercussions are grave for the Republican Party, but it's also --
WHITFIELD: But you're saying even if the voters -- if the voters elect him you're saying that (inaudible)?
SINGLETON: Absolutely. I respect their right, but the voters of Alabama should also understand and respect the fact that we as a country have a right to decide who we want representing us on the world stage and in Congress. This guy should not be in the Senate, Fredricka.
The repercussions of this for the Republican Party, I think we will feel next year and will feel these way down the line beyond President Trump. I think we have to keep that in mind. You cannot just think about months ahead. You have to think in the long-term.
WHITFIELD: OK. We will leave it right there. Shermichael Singleton, Maria Cardona, thank you so much. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The president's son in law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner is facing a deadline tomorrow to hand over more documents relating to his security clearance.
Congressional committees want the information as they investigate whether there were inappropriate meetings or contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates during the 2016 campaign.
Also adding to White House concern, news that attorneys for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn are no longer sharing information with the Trump legal team.
CNN's Kara Scannell is joining me now. So, Kara, Kushner has been asked repeatedly to turn over more documents. Do we expect that level of cooperation as early as tomorrow? KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: One of Kushner's lawyers, Abbe Lowell, has called the request for documents a witch hunt. However, he is also saying that he would be willing to turn over documents that he deems to be relevant. So, we will have to see if they reach an agreement and what is relevant.
But what is relevant and very significant is the development that the lawyers for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have told President Trump's legal team that they will no longer share communications they've had with the Special Counsel's Office.
What that tells us is that Flynn's legal team is now beginning communications with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators and that could be because he is looking to potentially plead guilty or it could be that he is exploring potential cooperation deal with the investigation.
Earlier today on "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash asked Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York what he thought of these developments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: If you are President Trump right now, knowing that this is your former national security adviser, somebody who you spent a lot of time with during the campaign, how worried are you that Michael Flynn is cutting a deal?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It depends on what the president has done and what the president's conversations with Michael Flynn and others have been. If you have done bad things, then you should be very worried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: Now lawyers for President Trump have tried to tamp down any speculation. One of those attorneys, Jay Sekulow, has said that no one should draw any conclusions that Michael Flynn was cooperating against the president.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kara Scannell in Washington, thanks so much. The president is heading to Capitol Hill this week for his sales pitch on the massive tax reform bill that's currently in the Senate. I'll ask our panel if that bill has a fighting chance of making it to the president's desk.
WHITFIELD: All right. Just as soon as Congress gets back to work this week, President Trump is heading to Capitol Hill making his final pitch to senators on tax reform as they prepare to vote on their version of the bill later on in the week.
The House version of the bill has already passed. The biggest difference in the Senate version is the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate. Other big differences include leaving the mortgage interest deduction alone and does not repeal the estate tax.
Earlier, Senator Lindsey Graham explains why he thinks the bill will make it out of the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: They are concerned that the personal tax cuts expire in 2025 and that's a bit of a gimmick. We will get there because failure is not an option when it comes to the Republican Party cutting taxes to every Republican senator, the fate of the party is in our hands as well as that of the economy. The economy needs a tax cut and the Republican Party needs to deliver. So, I think it will get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. I want to talk this over with Stephen Moore, CNN senior economics analyst and a former economic adviser to the Trump campaign, and Maria Cardona, a CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist back with us.
All right. Stephen, you first. So, will Mitch McConnell be able to deliver through the Senate and when will the president be at all influential when he visits the Hill this week?
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMIC ANALYST: You know, Fredricka, this is a big week. There is no question about it. It's kind of do-or-die time now for the Republicans. I agree with Senator Lindsey Graham. I think the Republicans will get to 50, but I had it wrong on health care. I thought they would get to 50 votes on Obamacare repeal.
WHITFIELD: And already there are at least nine members who have expressed, you know, concerns about it.
MOORE: Right. There is work to be done, no question about it. You know, you have some senators, for example, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who says he wants more tax relief for the small businesses, and so they are scrambling to work on that.
Some of the senators are worried about the deficit impact and so they are trying to maybe reduce the impact on the debt overtime. But I think that Senator Lindsey Graham put it very well.
It really is no turning back at this point for the Republicans. I feel pretty confident that they will get it done this week. There is not a lot of margin for error. I think virtually all Democrats will vote no on it so that means they got to get 50 out of 52 Republicans. They can't lose more than 2 Republicans to get this pass.
WHITFIELD: So, Maria, the president is counting on Republicans. I mean, when he goes to the Hill to talk tax reform. He is scheduled to meet mostly with Republicans. He will have a bipartisan meeting later, but that's really about the budget.
[14:50:06] Should he be courting some Dems on the Hill with some hopes that maybe he could convince them to pass this?
CARDONA: Of course, he should, Fred, because a bill that is this impactful, that is this meaningful, that touches the lives of so many Americans, should be bipartisan. It should not be something that is pushed through by one party.
But I think that this speaks volumes about President Trump and I think the interest that he has in not really trying to work with the Democrats. I agree with Stephen. It is very possible that this gets through Congress.
It will be very sticky because they don't have a whole lot of numbers here to play with. You know, Susan Collins said that she does not top the do this if the individual mandate is in there.
Then Rand Paul said he won't vote for it if the individual mandate is in there. You have a big balancing act that Republicans have to play here. But what I will say about Democrats and frankly, the American people is they should continue to let their voices be known.
This is a big wet kiss for corporations and millionaires and billionaires, and it will actually see the taxes of middle class families go up. It adds $2 trillion to the deficit. Since when were Republicans for adding to the deficit.
So, this is a very complicated bill. It does nothing to help middle class and working-class families. We need to do it in the right way. Trump and the Republicans are not going about it in the right way to make it bipartisan.
WHITFIELD: A lot of polling is showing it's not very popular among Americans. When the White House said they have a contingency and it means passing the plan, we will let go of the individual mandate portion and sticking in repealing Obamacare. How does the White House offer assurances that this is a tax reform plan that will help the middle class and not necessarily most benefit the wealthy?
CARDONA: They can't.
MOORE: Well, it's all about growing the economy. You have to admit whatever Trump is doing so far for the first 10 months of his presidency is working because the economy is red hot right now with huge number of increases in jobs and confidence among consumers and businesses.
WHITFIELD: He didn't start from zero. It was (inaudible) --
CARDONA: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: -- this is continued momentum.
MOORE: But remember, Fredricka, the economy was decelerating and grew at 1.5 percent in Obama's last year in office so there's been a big bounce up in the economy. One of the points I made to Republicans is you have to get this done because the economy -- I think if they don't get it done, the economy will actually slip back a little bit.
I think a lot of investors and business owners and employers have kind of factored this tax cut in. On the fact of the middle class, this is -- I'm sorry, Maria, you have your facts wrong here.
Two things in that bill have substantial benefits for the middle class. One is we double the standard deduction. So that means for your first $25,000 or $26,000 of income, you will not pay any tax at all. That's a big benefit.
The other one is that we increased by about $600 per child the tax credit. So, if you're a family with say, three kids, you are going to get $1,800 back on your tax -- and you're going to get the increase in deduction.
But most importantly, we think it will be good for the jobs and the economy and put people back to work, which, that's, Maria, how it helps the middle class.
CARDONA: So, Stephen aside, most economists are against this and they don't believe that it will grow the economy by 4 percent. That is a pipe dream. Everybody understands that trickle-down economics does not work. The last two Republican presidents tried it and ended up with a horrible economy and guess who had to fic it, Democratic president.
WHITFIELD: All right. We are going to leave it right there. Maria Cardona, Stephen Moore, thank you so much. See what happens this week. We will, of course, be tackling taxes in a special CNN debate on Tuesday night, Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. eastern on CNN. We will be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. In tonight's "PARTS UNKNOWN," Anthony Bourdain takes a look at the sights and sounds of Southern Italy. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST (voice-over): Never been to this part of Italy before. He exposed underneath Italy. There is a romance to this country. I'm
here because of (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This remind you of your tabloid movies?
BOURDAIN: A little bit. Is Italy even a country? What's happening in this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Anthony Bourdain, "PARTS UNKNOWN" tonight 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Hello, again, everyone. And thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
Sexual harassment claims and a major move today on Capitol Hill. Congressman John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat and longest-serving member in the House says he is stepping down as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.