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Senator Al Franken finally speaking out publicly about the groping allegations made by two separate women; John Conyers is resigning from his post as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee; Lawmakers return from their thanksgiving break with a lot on their plates; Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law, senior adviser has until tomorrow to turn over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee; President Trump is wrestling for control of the nation's top consumer watchdog group; Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 26, 2017 - 19:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:00:06] ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: 7:00 eastern, 4:00 out west. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you with us on this Sunday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And tonight remarkable developments in the various scandal surrounding some top political figures. First, Senator Al Franken finally speaking out publicly about the groping allegations made by two separate women. Here is what Franken told Minnesota public radio later this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: What matters is that I am ashamed of that photo. She is -- you know, she didn't have any ability to consent. She had every right to feel violated by that photo. I have apologized to her. And I was very grateful that she accepted my apology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: More on Senator Franken's interview and what he is planning to do next coming up.

Meanwhile, a major development concerning another Democrat mired in scandal. Congressman John Conyers now stepping down from his role as ranking Democrat on the house Judiciary Committee amid the allegations of sexual harassment in workplace abuse he is facing. The 88-year-old denies the allegations. He says he looks forward to being vindicated.

And then the all-important Alabama Senate race. President Trump today voicing fresh support for fellow Republican Roy Moore who has been dogged by sexual assault and abuse allegations made by numerous women.

Our reporters are covering every angle. We have Ryan Young in Minneapolis, Boris Sanchez in Washington.

Let's begin with Ryan in Minnesota. Tell us more about this interview with Franken, Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana. Well, look, this interview happened and it lasted about 18 minutes. That public radio interview here with the Minneapolis public radio station. He talked openly and frankly about some of the things that everyone has been talking about.

Look. Senator Al Franken probably could have called any TV station across this country and got a half hour of time or he could have called anyone else. But he called the paper here locally. He also called the radio station and a local TV station. And in some of these interviews, he is pretty frank about what he thinks about the last few days of not talking and also dealing with the shock wave of everyone learning about these allegations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I think this will take some time. But I think that with -- I'm taking responsibility of apologizing to women who felt disrespected and to everyone I have let down. I'm cooperating fully with the ethics committee. And I am trying to handle this in a way and -- to -- that adds to an important conversation and to be a better public servant and a better man.

I have known Frannie for 48 years and she is -- she's my rock. I love her. She loves me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And she didn't say, Al, what the heck is going on with these allegations?

FRANKEN: No. She believes in me and supports me unconditionally. She -- and she -- no. She is the one who is angry about this. You talk a little bit about timing or something like that. But she is behind me 100 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Ana, these conversations happening in D.C. And that's what we have learned so far that the local TV station also sat down with them, will be broadcasting his interview around 10:30. When he was asked whether or not he was stepping down, he said no, he did not plan to step down. But he would face all these allegations and figure out what happens next.

He also plans to be at work tomorrow. So it will be interesting to see the fallout after all the interviews get released. And everybody has a chance to digest and to see what happens as we move forward.

CABRERA: Ryan Young in Minneapolis for us. Thank you.

Let's turn to congressman John Conyers announced hours ago he is stepping down from his important role in the House Judiciary Committee as he faces an ethics investigation as well into the allegations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse.

Conyers saying quote "I deny these allegations. Many of which were raised by documents reportedly paid for a partisan alt-right blogger. I very much look forward to vindicating myself and my family before the House committee on ethics. I have come to believe that my presence as ranking member of the committee would not serve these efforts while the ethics investigation spending."

Now reaction from House minority leader Nancy Pelosi raising eyebrows tonight. Here's what she told NBC before Conyers announced his decision. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused and was it one accusation, was it two, I think there has to be -- John Conyers is an icon in our country. He has done a great deal to protect women, violence against women act which the right wing is now quoting me as praising him for his work on that and he did great work on that. But the fact is as John reviews his case which he knows, which I don't, I believe he will --

[19:05:28] CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Why don't you? How is it that you don't?

PELOSI: Excuse me. May I finish my sentence? That he will do the right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Now that was before Pelosi learned of Conyers big announcement or before we learned at least. Here's what Pelosi had to say though after Conyers said he is stepping down as the top Democrat on the judiciary committee.

Her statement reads in part, zero tolerance means consequences. As a woman and mother of four daughters, I particularly take any accusation of sexual harassment very seriously. We are at a watershed moment on this issue. And no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment. I commend the brave women coming forward.

So President Trump is back in Washington tonight as all of this unfolds. He landed just last hour. We brought you those images live here on CNN after he spent his weekend with his family celebrating thanksgiving in Florida at their private resort. He didn't talk to reporters, though, tonight but as you know he does like to share via twitter.

So let's get to CNN's Boris Sanchez in Washington following the President.

Boris, fill us in on what the President is saying today about all of this.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana.

Yes. The President took to twitter today to attack a Democrat but it wasn't John Conyers or Al Franken, it was Doug Jones, the adversary of embattled Republican senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama.

As you mentioned, the President arrived at the White House a short time ago. He ignored shouted questions from journalists about Roy Moore and about tax reform as well. But like I said, he did weigh in on twitter, digging in his heels, stopping just short of endorsing Roy Moore who has been accused of making unwanted sexual advances to teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Now the President going in a very different direction than other members of his party. If you recall, initially, the White House put out a statement that echoed many other establishment Republicans which said that if these allegations are true then Roy Moore should step down.

As more and more Republicans have called for Roy Moore to drop out of the race all together, the President has seemingly turned to support him as he was asked by reporters before he left for Mar-a-Lago this week about the allegations. He said that Roy Moore has denied them and he wouldn't rule out going to Alabama to campaign for him. So it's really no surprise that he tweeted this out earlier today about Roy Moore's opponent.

He writes quote "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 second amendment and wants to raise taxes to the sky. Jones would be a disaster."

He then later tweeted, I endorse 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.

Let's not forget that Roy Moore is essentially Steve Bannon's candidate. He is emblematic of Steve Bannon's war against the establishment Republicans. So that's why you have senators like Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott saying that even if the Republican wins in this race, the party all together loses, Ana.

CABRERA: You mentioned tax reform this week and that's going to be a big focus of not just Congress but the President, right, as he returns to Washington.

SANCHEZ: Well, this is a make or break moment for this year, for the first year of President Trump's administration. After so many months of failed legislative attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, Republicans have a lot riding on tax reform. The Senate could potentially vote on it as early as Thursday. As you know, it's already a version of that bill's already passed the house. So the President is doing his part to try to sell this bill. He is actually visiting a Republican congressman -- a Republican senators on Tuesday at Capitol Hill. It'll be the third time that he goes there in just a little bit over a month.

And let's not forget. There's another huge thing on the horizon. After his meeting on Capitol Hill, the President is set to meet with leaders of both parties at the White House to go over the budget. As you know back in September, the President came to an agreement with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to delay a full blown agreement -- full blown bill on the budget so they are revisiting again in December. They are going to have to agree to a budget to fund the government and potentially to raise the debt ceiling and other things like DACA. DACA solution are also at play. All of that has to take place before December 8th.

So it is a crucial time for this administration. And it's interesting to see the President kind of at odds with his own party on the issue of Roy Moore, Ana.

[19:10:17] CABRERA: All right, Boris Sanchez in Washington. Thank you.

Still ahead this hour in the NEWSROOM, crunch time on the Hill. Little more than four weeks, just 12 scheduled legislative days left and Congress as Boris laid out has a lot to get done.

Plus, a possible new rift between secretary of state Rex Tillerson and the White House as officials say he is snubbing Ivanka Trump. Hear how live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:14:46] CABRERA: The national conversation on sexual harassment today taking some wild swings. Senator Al Franken saying he is ashamed, embarrassed of his actions in this photo but he is ready to go back to work tomorrow.

Another Democrat, Congressman John Conyers stepping aside from his crucial role in the House Judiciary Committee amid allegations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse. Conyers denying those allegations.

Let's talk it over with Julian Zelizer, historian, a professor at Princeton University and also a CNN political analysis. Patrick Healy is here with us, a "New York Times" deputy culture editor. And Ron Brownstein, senior editor at the "Atlanta" and a CNN political analyst as well.

Patrick, when Franken says quote "I am taking responsibility. I'm going to be held accountable," what should that accountability look like because it certainly sounds like he is planning to keep a seat in the Senate?

[19:15:34] PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. You know, one of 100 senators and his interest is that Minnesotans still stand by him, that they still have faith that he can deliver kind the progressive liberal policies that he has. So his constituency is back at home. I mean, he is not necessarily looking for, you know, a national job. He is not sort of the voice of like a particular issue. So he is focusing back at home.

But Ana, his challenge right now is to prove what no one has proven so far in this kind of period of these sexual harassment allegations coming forward and that's that you can face multiple credible accusations and allegations and not pay a career death penalty. This has been happening to several people so far, you know. Harvey

Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., people who have paid real consequences. And what Franken is hoping is that he will be able to come back and basically say I will be able to work for the good of Minnesota, so I'll be able to, you know, be that, you know, Democratic voice and the minority and survive. And that is really an open question. We haven't seen that.

CABRERA: Right.

But also Julian, I mean, the types of allegations against Franken are vastly different than the accusations against people like Weinstein or Louis C.K.

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. You know, first, you have the distinction with what Franken is accused of compared to Harvey Weinstein where you are talking full throated sexual harassment at a very high level. And again, members of Congress are different than members of the private sector. They have been elected. He is in office. Congress has some mechanisms to deal with it. They might decide after an investigation to censor him which is essentially to reprimand him and embarrass him or two-thirds of the House or -- two- thirds of the Senate could vote to expel him. That rarely happens. But the idea is he was elected. He is in office now. So the bias is to wait for the next election to resolve the problem.

CABRERA: And it's not as simple as the boss saying you're fired.

ZELIZER: Exactly.

CABRERA: Ron, Conyers is resigning from his post as a senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee that sent a message. But here is what his democratic colleague Kathleen Rice had to say. This was on Friday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KATHLEEN RICE (D), NEW YORK: Because enough is enough. At this point what I am voicing publicly is what every single private citizen is saying across America, why are the rules for politicians in Washington different than they are for everyone else?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Rice wants Conyers to resign. She wants him to lose his job as a congressman just like people in the private sector have lost their jobs over similar allegations.

Ron, how likely is it that Conyers resigns?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know if he resigns. I mean, depends on the ethics investigation. Certainly at 88, it is an open question whether he would run again.

Look. I think the answer to her question, the congresswoman's question, is actually quite apparent, you know. Only 20 percent of the House and 20 percent of the Senate are women. This is a problem not only in Congress. It's a problem in state legislatures. So I'm in California where there's a significant problem, only 25 percent of all state legislatures in the country are women. Only 50 senators ever have been women. Less than 300 House members ever have been women. And I think the reason why there is a different set of rules is because in institutions dominated by men. They have not seen this as much a priority as you have seen in the private sector to create more transparency.

I mean, in some ways the most remarkable thing about the whole Conyers story is the idea that you can have a settlement with public dollars and, you know, the whole thing be kept secret. If nothing else, Ana, you know, after Anita Hill, 1992 was called the year of the women because so many women ran for office. I think we were heading in that direction anyway in 2018 and 2020. But this whole convergence of accusations and revelations, I think greatly increase the odds that we are going to see a lot more women candidates in 2018 and 2020 from both parties in part simply because the system seems so out of touch with what's happening elsewhere in the society.

CABRERA: Julian, you agree?

ZELIZER: Well, I agree it might be another year, the woman I think. Ron is right. But we have to remember that after Anita Hill there wasn't a moment of reckoning. That's part of what we are dealing with. The rules were not changed. They were not made more stringent. And this isn't a culture issue. This is a rules issue. And the behavior of members of Congress won't change unless there are institutionalized policies to really prevent this kind of harassment from taking place on a regular basis. And resignation, frankly, you know, if everyone resigns, my guess is who has this problem, we would have an empty chamber. So the rules are the key.

[19:20:12] CABRERA: It's interesting turning just a little bit here to the President's handling of the Roy Moore situation, because today, I mean, he initially remember was very quiet. He didn't want to say anything really about it and everyone kept asking like, where was all the silence about.

Well, today, he is coming out aggressively attacking Moore's opponent. He is not naming Moore, Patrick. So do you think that's his way of sort of threading the needle with his base and with the Republican establishment over this issue?

HEALY: I think that's exactly right. I mean, he is basically trying to lock the Democrat in with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, calling him like, you know, a Schumer-Pelosi Democrat. And key kind of the focus on this idea that Alabama cannot, will not, should not tolerate electing a liberal Democrat, you know, to the Senate to Jeff Sessions' old seat.

CABRERA: You should elect an accused child molester.

HEALY: Exactly. Well, here is the problem. Mitch McConnell has said I believe the women in the Roy Moore case. I believe the women. Donald Trump hasn't said quite I don't believe the women but that is the message that he is sent. And fundamental to that is that a year ago he was accused by more than 15 women who talked to the "The New York Times," CNN, other media outlets in which he over and over again said that didn't happen, that didn't happen. He is now even intimating that the "Access Hollywood" tape that we have heard so many times in which can he made those comments to Billy Bush may not be authentic sort of suggesting this now.

I mean, Donald Trump in his sort of approach to allegations by women very credible allegations to sort of, you know, powerful men has gotten himself into this very difficult morass. So I think in a he was trying to thread the needle by kind of bluffing, you know, the Democratic candidate more in with Chuck and Nancy.

CABRERA: Ron, listen to what Senator Lindsey Graham said today responding to the latest Trump tweets on Alabama and the Senate race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: From a Republican point of view, I don't see what winning -- I don't know what 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 he be expelled. If you lose, you give the Senate seat to a democrat at a 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 got to look long-term not short-term. And what I would tell President Trump, if you think winning with Roy Moore is going to be easy for the Republican Party, you are mistaken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Ron, Trump likes to remind people he was not a politician before running for President. Do you think the President really cares about the long-term implications for the Republican Party?

BROWNSTEIN: Here is about the implications for his presidency. And obviously losing the House and/or the Senate would have dire implications for that.

First of all, I think the President at some level is at the root of this entire cultural moment. I understand that the avalanche was triggered by the great reporting of Patrick's colleagues at the "The New York Times" on Harvey Weinstein. But I think behind that is the frustration among many professional women, white collar women in particular over the fact that Donald Trump was elected despite these allegations against him and elected in part with large scale support from blue collar white women, over 61 percent of whom voted for him. And I think that frustration at some level is intertwined with all that we are seeing.

But there's no question that the President has enormously complicated the forward path for Republicans on Roy Moore because before his intervention I think it was pretty clear that even if Roy Moore won there would have been a serious effort to expel him. That takes 67 votes. That takes 19 Republicans. Are there going to be 19 Republicans to vote to do that if he wins. And I'm sure Democrats wish the election had happened already because I think their chances were better closer to the allegations.

If he wins, will there be 19 Republicans willing to break with the President and expel Roy Moore given that the President has open little cast doubt on the allegations at least if not actively, you know, contested them?

So I think this is going to be something that as Lindsey Graham said is going to dominate the first months of 2018 heading into the election year even if Roy Moore wins and it does threaten to exacerbate the problem with the group that moved most sharply away from them which are white collar white women.

CABRERA: All right. Everyone, stay with me. Much more to discuss.

Still ahead, it's a ticking clock. Congress returning to Washington tomorrow with very busy agenda as they are facing all these new allegations, the sexual harassment situation. They still are going to be working on getting tax reform passed. We will discuss how that's going to shake out live here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:29:28] CABRERA: Things look quiet tonight on Capitol Hill, but tomorrow lawmakers return from their thanksgiving break with a lot on their plates and less than a month left in the legislative year. There is the vote on the Senate, Republican reform tax bill possibly as early as Thursday. Lawmakers must also work to avoid a government shutdown here in the nest week or so. All while sexual scandals loom over lawmakers on both sides of the aisles.

So let's bring back Ron Brownstein and Patrick Healy.

I'll start with you Ron. Republicans, they want to keep your eye on the ball, right. They want to get a legislative victory with tax reform. How might these scandals so effect their ability to stay on message during this critical week?

[19:30:04] BROWNSTEIN: Well, look. Ronald Reagan cut taxes in the first year of his presidency in 1981. George W. Bush cut taxes in his first year of his presidency in 2001. The odds are high that Republicans will agree on some sort of tax cut. That is what they do in the first year of a new President, a new Republican President.

But look, this is a bill, this specific bill carries I think as much risk as potential reward for them. Obviously failing to pass a tax cut could be any kind of bill could be damaging to them particularly with their base.

On the other hand, we are looking at a bill that by independent analysis would add $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit, increasing the future debt that young people must pay off would still raise taxes on half of all American households by 2027, including a majority of those in the upper middle class, those same voters as we were talking about in the last segment who were pulling away from Republicans under Trump, all to give a substantial tax break to the top one percent and business.

I mean, that is not a formula that is necessarily designed to improve their fortunes going into 2018. And in fact, as you have seen, it has two to one opposition in public polling at this point which is a pretty remarkable position for a tax bill to be in that and that is extensively cutting, you know, peoples' taxes. Americas have looked at this and by in-large, they are not convinced it is going to benefit them.

CABRERA: If that's the case, Patrick, why would so many GOP members say this is the right path if there's as much risk in passing it?

HEALY: Right. I mean, we have seen now a year, first year, you know, under President Trump with legislative setback, legislative failure after failure, after setback after failure. I mean, right now, Republicans have sort of gone all in on their kind of their old chestnut as Ron said. I mean, cut taxes, do it in year one. You have got unitary Republican government, cut taxes. And they believe that this is a win that they can get on the board.

But the problem is currently is that the House and the Senate are so different right now in kind of how they are approaching this, how they are approaching their revenue goals. And the Senate has the repeal of the employer mandate from the health care bill in its bill, the House and Senate are a little different in terms of, you know, repeal of different state and local deductions, you know, on the tax front. And, you know, while it seems likely that the Senate will be able to get a majority for its vote in the chamber then you are going to have the House and Senate sort of coming together in conference --

CABRERA: And there's all this clash that we have seen within the GOP.

HEALY: There's all this clash and it's also going to be right when Alabama is having its special election and that, you know, that goes, you know, and as well as sort of like a spending bill. So right now, I don't think this is the, you know, this is sort of the pace, the schedule that President Trump and the Republicans would want to be on but, you know, mark this moment. I mean, this is sort of the win that they feel like they can get and they want to get.

CABRERA: I want to end on a happy note real fast, guys, because Ron, before I let you go. There is -- there are some statistics. I know how you like these poll numbers and so I thought this is perfect for you being on our show. New Pew research center study shows 86 percent of Republicans believe they are on their way to achieving the American dream or have achieved it along with 80 percent of Democrats. And that is a vast majority on both sides of the aisle who see a bright future. What does that say to you, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: Ron. No, we have been doing our own polling on this for years, something we do call the heartland monitor every quarter. And it's consistently 75, 80, 60 -- two-thirds, three quarters of Americans believe that they are on the path to achieve the American dream and it reflects the considerable belief that among individuals that they can master their fate, that they can achieve what they set out to do in this country that provides opportunity.

The darker side of the polling, though, is doubts that the next generation will live as well as the current generation which is the operative definition of the American dream. And that is much greater than it was 30, 40 years ago. You have many more Americans doubting that that is really been I think at the root of our political instability over the last 25 years with neither party able to sustain any kind of advantage. It's been an uncertainty that anybody has an answer to restoring the level of upper mobility the previous generations took for granted. But even within that, people have a lot of faith in their own ability, through the deed of their own effort to make life better for themselves and their kids.

CABRERA: All right. Guys, as always, I appreciate the conversation. Thanks so much for being with us.

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM, turn them over by tomorrow. That is the word from the Senate Judiciary Committee to Jared Kushner. This as the President's former national security adviser could be making a move to flip.

The latest on the Russia investigation next live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:39:05] CABRERA: Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law, senior adviser has until tomorrow to turn over documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee. You will recall, this committee says Kushner left out key emails about Russia and WikiLeaks when he handed over campaign records.

Now the deadline comes as Kushner and other White House officials face the possibility that Michael Flynn, the President's former national security adviser, might be working with special counsel investigators.

A source tells CNN, Flynn's attorneys have stopped sharing information with other defense attorneys involved in the probe including the President's lawyers. Legal experts say this could mean Flynn has decided to cooperate.

I want to discuss all of this with CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd. She served as a senior adviser to the national security adviser under Obama.

So Samantha, given your expertise, the national Security Council for four years in the past administration, do you think people in the White House are worried over the Flynn development, over Jared Kushner having to turn over more documents?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think people in the west wing are definitely uneasy this weekend and here's why. I worked for two national security advisers. And I can tell you the national security adviser is not a one man show. Every phone call that he or she has, every meeting is scheduled by someone he or she prepares with the member of the NSC staff. And at the same time once a meeting concludes, particularly for a high stakes meeting, like for example, with the Russian ambassador, a readout is prepared and delivered at a minimum to senior staff. So it would be very unusual to me for the national security adviser to be up to something illegal or illicit and no one else know what was going on.

[19:40:44] CABRERA: So you think that this could have all kinds of tentacles?

VINOGRAD: I think it would be very unusual for this could be contained.

CABRERA: OK. I want to ask you about this upcoming trip Ivanka Trump is taking to India. She is going to be leading the U.S. delegation at the (INAUDIBLE) Summit. We know in the past, high levels state department officials have participated in this. But Rex Tillerson isn't sending any high ranking officials with her. Our sources are telling us at CNN that it's because it's Ivanka leading the delegation. Who is the big loser in all this?

VINOGRAD: I think the big loser is, unfortunately, the state department. Now I have been on both sides of the summit. I worked for Obama when he launched it. I was actually in Silicon Valley when the administration was planning this year's event.

It is a major foreign policy event for whomever is the host country. In this case, it is a government of India. Now Tillerson's decision to understaff this year's summit actually undermines his own credibility going forward.

CABRERA: It undermines the state department?

VINOGRAD: Indeed. He is signaling to the Indian government that when it comes to India policy he is willing to take a backseat to the White House. Now I have been to a lot of summits. A senior White House official in a high level state department delegation are not mutually executive. They are actually mutually reinforcing. So unfortunately I think his decision is going to tell the Indian government that they should just go straight to the White House going forward and side step the state department.

CABRERA: How interesting. And then there was this attack in Egypt this week, horrible attack where 300 people killed including 27 children, a terrorist attack. The President was quick to tweet about it or react on twitter.

Here's what he wrote. We will be calling the President of Egypt in a short while to discuss the tragic terroristic attack with so much loss of life. We have to get tougher and smarter than ever before and we will. Need the wall. Need the ban. God bless the people of Egypt.

So this isn't the first time President Trump has invoked the need for his travel ban after some kind of an attack. But remember, the attack that happened here in New York City that was deemed to be a terrorist attack that was somebody from Pakistan. That is not on the travel ban list the President has put out, Egypt is not on the travel ban list, so how you square that tweet with those facts?

VINOGRAD: I think from a policy perspective, the tweet is both logical and dangerous. It's illogical because as you point out, a travel ban and a wall would not have prevented the attack in Egypt. And it would not have prevented the attack here in the United States.

His tweet is dangerous because it means that the administration is likely to focus time and resources on the wrong threat. The attacker in New York a few weeks ago was inspired by ISIS propaganda online. A smart policy tweet from the President would have focused on the need to develop a digital counterterrorism strategy for example.

CABRERA: Not to mention that the many, many lives lost that we have had recently in these mass killings have been by Americans who have shot inside a church or fired among a crowd in Las Vegas.

VINOGRAD: Indeed. The travel ban or the Muslim ban is actually not addressing the root cause of a lot of the attacks in our country. And again, it distracts us from whatever the real threat is. At the same time, the attack in Egypt over the weekend and the attack in New York make abundantly clear, we are not going to defeat terrorism by military force alone and by identifying inappropriate ways over twitter to address a nonexistent threat.

CABRERA: Samantha Vinograd, thanks so much for your insights. Great to have you on.

And coming up for us here, standup at the nation's top consumer watchdog. The agency Trump has labeled a total disaster. Consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader will join us live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:49:00] CABRERA: President Trump is wrestling for control of the nation's top consumer watchdog group. The agency the President recently slammed as being total disaster. Now, the departing director of the consumer protection agency Richard Cordray named chief of staff Leandra English as his interim leader before stepping down on Friday. But the President has other ideas, naming White House budget director Mick Mulvaney and insisting he has. And then to think he has the right to make this appointment.

Democratic congressman, the former congressman, Barney Frank was instrumental in setting up this agency. And he tells CNN Trump does not have that authority. And protecting the agency's independence is essential.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARNEY FRANK (D), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS CONGRESSMAN: The notion that you take this budget director who hates the agency, who has (INAUDIBLE) and you put him in charge is a sign of the contempt the Trump administration has and the anger it has, it is the notion that we would have someone to protect the average citizen. Nothing more clearly refutes this self-image of Donald Trump's image as the little guy's friend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[19:50:00] CABRERA: Joining us on the phone to discuss all this is independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who has been a leading advocate and voice for consumer rights since the 1960s. He is the author of the book "Breaking through Power, it's easier than we think."

Mr. Nader, thanks for joining us. This Barney Frank right, do you see this as an attempt to gain political power over what should be an independent consumer agency?

RALPH NADER, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (on the phone): Very much, the Dodd-Frank law that named after Chris Dodd and Barney Frank is very clear on this. This is attempt by the Trump and Michael Mulvaney to destroy the law enforcement ability of the government against corporate crooks. You know, fraud on mortgages, payday loan rackets, credit card, (INAUDIBLE), blocking people from going to court with fine print contracts.

It's clear what they are doing. They are trying to take the federal cop off the corporate crime beat especially Wall Street crime. And people would be pretty upset about it and contact their members of Congress.

CABRERA: This take off Mulvaney has taken on a lot of water, because Mulvaney once said he wanted to kill this agency all together. He wanted to get rid of it. But he released a statement yesterday saying his goal is to identify how the bureau can transition to be more effective in its mission while becoming more accountable to the taxpayer. That is a quote from him. Is there room for improvement in the agency?

NADER: There is, but it's one of the toughest federal enforcement agencies in the government. Now has returned over $12 billion to gouged consumers around the country and returned money to the federal treasury from corporate crooks. This is a time when Michael Mulvaney called it a sad, sick joke, it was harassing business, that was impeding the banks. The banks have never made more profit. They are rolling in profit, but they have got to be subjected to law and order.

CABRERA: Former representative Frank, as we have heard, he said the Doo-Frank reform laws estimated the watchdog deputy director, the leaving director wanted to have that person serve as the acting director in the event of his vacancy. Well, it was specifically to give it independence from the White House. What is the risk if independence is compromised?

NADER: Well, that's the reason why the agency is under the Federal Reserve which is about as independent as you can get in the federal government. So if they take away its independence then the Congress dominated by the Republicans can cut its budget, they can named the anti-law and order against corporate crime leader. And what's Michael Mulvaney be called Donald Trump that he can have two jobs? One of the heaviest burden jobs, bureau of the budget where he has advocated taking away meals for elderly people, where he has advocated cutting budgets for children. Never said anything about bloated military expenditures. He has the most attack dog against American people that is ever been in the office (INAUDIBLE). He wants to give him two jobs at the same time? Maybe he wants to give him two salaries.

CABRERA: All right. Ralph Nader, thanks for your time. We appreciate it.

NADER: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Still ahead, Senator Al Franken finally speaking out after allegations of sexual misconduct and a photo that show Franken with his hands over a woman's breast while she was sleeping more than a decade ago. His interview coming up here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

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[19:58:04] CABRERA: With swimsuit competition is disappearing from more and more beauty pageants, one contest is really turning heads. In this week's episode of "THIS IS LIFE," Lisa Ling travels to Thailand to follow an American woman competing in a pageant like no other.

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LISA LING, CNN HOST, THIS IS LIFE: Hormone injections, adam's apple reduction, nose jobs, liposuction, butt implant, facial reconstruction and for some, genital reassignment surgery. It's not easy and it's not cheap. A woman's transition can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. So now that they finally have the bodies they want, is it any wonder they want to show them off?

That was, wow.

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CABRERA: Catch "THIS IS LIFE with Lisa ling" tonight at 10:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.

Hello on this Sunday. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for staying with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Senator Al Franken has now spoken publicly about the sexual harassment allegations against him made by two separate women. One of those allegations came from Leanne Tweeden. She says Franken forcibly kissed her and groped her while she was sleeping in 2006 before he was elected. Listen to what Franken told Minnesota public broadcasting in a radio interview today.

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FRANKEN: What matters is that I am ashamed of that photo. I, she is, you know, she didn't have any ability to consent. She had every right to feel violated by that photo. I have apologized to her. And I was very grateful that she --

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