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Pelosi Calls on Rep. John Conyers to Resign; Paul Ryan Calls on Conyers to Resign at Weekly Press Conference; House Intelligence Committee Questions Sessions & Kushner Questioned by Special Counsel Team. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired November 30, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This has been an evolution, we should say.
Let's go to CNN's M.J. Lee on Capitol Hill with more.
M.J., what changed?
M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this is definitely very big news coming out of the House a few minutes ago. Nancy Pelosi officially calling on Congressman John Conyers to resign. She actually spoke about this at length at a press conference that just took place. She said that his allegations, the allegations that were made against him, were "very serious, disappointing and very credible."
Here's a little of what she had to say about the congressman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It's very sad. The brave women that came forward are owed justice. I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish them well. However, Congressman Conyers should resign.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just to clarify you just did call for Conyers to resign?
PELOSI: I said he should resign.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you relayed that to him?
PELOSI: I'm saying it to you right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEE: Kate, something else Nancy Pelosi said in the press conference was no matter how great a legacy, there's no license to harass or discriminate.
Now you were talking about kind of an evolution that Pelosi has gone through over the last couple days. Remember, it was not that long ago that she got some heat for saying in a "Meet the Press" interview that Conyers was an icon, he had done a lot to help women. That did not sit well for even some of her own colleagues who felt like Pelosi needed to speak out in stronger terms and come to a decision about what should happen to her colleague.
Now, it's also interesting that, you know, the context here, which is that a lot of members who were close to Conyers were actually talking in the last couple days about whether there is a way for him to gracefully exit, whether there is a way for them to help him, sort of keep his legacy intact. You know that he is the longest-serving member of the House, a big figure, a towering figure in the civil rights movements. So all of these things left open the question of, well, at what point will there be sort of enough momentum and enough support for the idea of calling on this congressman to resign. And I think the other sort of interesting context here and the conversations that will follow is, what is going to be the bar now for members to say, if a fellow colleague behaves in a certain way, then they really need to resign. What counts as very serious and credible as more of these sexual harassment allegations come out on Capitol Hill?
BOLDUAN: Yes. And we'll see what impact the statement from Nancy Pelosi just now will have on John Conyers and his decision. As we've reported throughout the morning he's in the hospital right now. That was some of the breaking news last hour. He is in the hospital at the moment back home in Michigan.
M.J., thank you so much.
Let's stay in the capitol. House Speaker Paul Ryan is holding his weekly news conference with reporters. Let's listen in.
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No woman should have to endure harassment in any form in any institution, let alone here in Congress.
Second, I'm formally inviting President Trump to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, January 30th, in order to report on the State of the Union. This will be a good opportunity for the country to hear directly from the president on the progress that we've made and on the work that needs to be done on our shared agenda. And we look forward to him accepting our invitation.
Lastly, on tax reform, I want to make sure you saw this letter, this letter from 137 economists across the ideological spectrum to Congress that we received yesterday. I want to read two sentences from this letter. "The question isn't whether American workers are hurt by our country's corporate tax rate. It's how badly. The enactment of comprehensive overhaul, complete with a lower corporate tax rate, will ignite our economy with levels of growth not seen in generations."
This is one reason why tax reform is the single biggest thing we can do to help middle income families and workers. With faster growth, you get bigger paychecks. With faster growth, you get better paying jobs. With faster growth, you get a higher standard of living. Of course, the focus of this plan is on hard-working American families, and that's why we're providing a significant tax relief for them as well. That's the whole purpose of this, to help people who are living paycheck to paycheck, not only keep more of their own money in the first place, but to help them make more money and find good, better paying jobs. Tax reform is going to make such a big difference for Americans of all walks of life.
We're looking forward to the Senate taking action on their bill. We're enthused and excited they're on the floor right now working on tax reform. And once they do, as the majority indicated, we will move to go to conference committee as soon as possible.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should John Conyers resign as speaker of the House? Can you guarantee tax reform will be passed by the end of the year?
[11:35:00] RYAN: First, Marianne Brown, is that her name? I heard what she said on NBC. No one should have to go through something like that, let alone here in Congress. Yes, I think he should resign. I think he should resign immediately. I've been briefed on the torrent of allegations and I think he should.
Your second question was on tax reform. I'm not a guy who's in the guarantee business because I can only control this side of the capitol. I am very confident we can get this done this year.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Tomorrow marks one week before the December 8th funding deadline. Based on the current state of play, how long do you think a continuing resolution would need to be for a deal to be reached, and at what point would that come together?
RYAN: It would be nice if they show up to meetings. It would be nice if our Democratic leadership counterparts would participate in the negotiations necessary to not just keep the government open but to get a cap agreement. I don't know why they decided not to show up for these negotiations. When you negotiate legislation, Congress passes a bill, the president signs it, and that's why Congress and the presidents negotiate legislation. I did it when Bush was president. I did it when Obama was president. Donald Trump is our president. People should show up for negotiations. So I'm getting there. So when they go -- when they decide not to participate in the negotiations, they're hardly in a good place to make a demand, I would say. We're going to, obviously, have to have a short-term C.R. The duration of the C.R., we're in talks with our own members and having a conference with our members that go through all of that. Stay tuned on that.
I would also like to point out the fact that the House has passed all the appropriation bills. The House passed all 12 appropriation bills in September. So we here in the House, I think, for the first time since '04, as a Republican majority, have passed all 12 appropriation bills ahead of the fiscal year deadline. But as you know, the Senate can filibuster those things. So, we will pass a short-term C.R. that is necessary to keep the government open, to keep talks going. Hopefully, people will decide to participate in the talks. And if the Senate Democrats choose to filibuster that, then they will have chosen to shut the government down, something we do not want to see happen. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator Collins claims she has an agreement
with Senator McConnell to get the Alexander Murray issue addressed before the end of the year and she appears to be conditioning her support for tax reform on that. Could you support Alexander Murray under those circumstances?
RYAN: I'm in the going to comment on end games with tax reform or conference committee issues. I think the Senate did a very good job of not commenting on our process while we were processing tax reform. I want to respect their process. I'm not going to comment on their deliberations while they're in the midst of considering tax reform. All these issues, and I'm sure there are a number of other questions on amendments to go through today, those things the Senate have to work out. And we'll work on the end game in the conference committee.
No, I'm not going to comment on any other deliberations right now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, more lewd social media messages surfaced today from Congressman Joe Barton. Apparently, a constituent said that he had messaged her over Facebook, some lewd messages, inappropriate --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well -- yesterday.
RYAN: I will have to get back to you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This is in addition to photos and videos. Have you spoken with Mr. Barton and do you think he should resign or face reprimand?
RYAN: I have spoken with him and I'm going to continue speaking with him.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you. I just want to -- (INAUDIBLE) --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is a conference committee how differences are going to be worked out or any chance that it will be a conference committee? My other -- my harder question is, despite all of the things in your tax bill, and what is emerging in the Senate tax bill that I know you guys feel very good about, good for the economy and good for taxpayers, the polling on your bill, which is finished, is not good. Why do you think that is and how do you turn that around?
RYAN: You know what turns it around? Economic growth, jobs, more take-home pay, bigger paychecks, a more confident economy, companies bringing money into America from overseas. So sure, you can see -- what people don't actually see, a law passing and results occurring and banter on television and pundits arguing against each other, are going to be confused, they're going to be -- going to be misled in certain directions. Results are what matter. We're in the results business here and that's why getting this done. I was shaking my head up and down meaning we're going to go to conference. This is such an important piece of legislation, it's generational defining, and you don't skip the legislative process. You go through the regular legislative process and that means we will be going to a conference committee.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any chance you make the tax reform legislation if you get it retroactive to this tax year?
[11:40:08] RYAN: I'm not going to get into the finer details of the end game in the conference, just like I answered Andy.
So you had one back there. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The disaster aid bill is still being formed by appropriators. It sounds like Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico and the U.S. V.I. want that moved by December. Can you give us an update on where you are and if that will be added to the C.R. and move on this?
RYAN: I don't think it will be in time for this current C.R. we're doing only because the appropriators have eight hearings this week on it. Let's just say there was a level of dissatisfaction with these delegations with the OMB submission. And so we have asked the appropriators to get together with these delegations to discuss the disaster supplemental and work with them on compiling a disaster supplemental. It will take more than few days to do that. They're doing eight hearings just this week on it. It's going to take the appropriators and these delegations, the U.S. V.I., Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, it's going to take them time it to work this out. We anticipate moving as quickly as we can, but we know a few days is not going to be enough. It's going to take longer than that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Speaker on Tuesday the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments in the Masterpiece Cake Shop case --
RYAN: What case?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Masterpiece Cake Shop case --
RYAN: Not tracking with you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The case is about Kyle Baker asserts a First Amendment right to deny making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple despite the state's discrimination law.
RYAN: I haven't given it thought. I've got nothing for you.
I will give one more.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As you know, Democrats have been pushing for some sort of DACA resolution on part of the zero-spending deal. Did you have that discussion at the White House?
RYAN: You have to show up if you want to make your point. I don't think Democrats are in a very good position to be making demands if they're not going to participate in the negotiations necessary to move legislation forward and to solve problems. Do we have to have a DACA solution? Yes, we do. The deadline is March as far as I understand it. We have other deadlines in front of that, like fiscal year deadlines and appropriation deadlines. But if they want to get to a solution, they ought to come to the table and start talking.
I'm not going to go into the would have, could have, should have, or go into it with the media, with all due respect.
BOLDUAN: House Speaker Paul Ryan there speaking with reporters at his weekly press conference, saying, for the first time, we believe, saying John Conyers, the long-time Democratic member of the House, should resign and resign immediately. And this also comes on the heels of the breaking news that Nancy Pelosi said the very same.
Let me bring in right now Rebecca Berg, a CNN political reporter, and Matt Viser, CNN political analyst and deputy Washington bureau chief of "The Boston Globe".
Rebecca, first to you.
What impact do you think the statements have on John Conyers? So far, he has denied and said he's not going to be stepping down. And now Nancy Pelosi coming out to say he should resign, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, saying he should as well.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Kate. It could create an unsustainable political burden for Congressman Conyers as he faces these allegations, as he faces also the political firestorm that they have sparked.
Look, Nancy Pelosi as you know, sparked a firestorm over the weekend when she stopped short of calling on Conyers to resign. This signaled that she sends today, gives Democrats the green light to take that step and follow her lead and also call on him to resign. So when the leader of your party in the House says you need to step down, the political weight is going to become unsustainable for Congressman Conyers at this point.
BOLDUAN: Matt, what's your take on this? What we've heard most often from lawmakers about their fellow lawmakers is, let the process play out. That's why there is an Ethics Committee, let the process play, let's get all the facts and then there will be a decision. What has changed this week?
MATT VISER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's been a couple things that have changed. One, the backlash to Nancy Pelosi's comments on Sunday, referring to Congressman Conyers as an icon and sort of downplaying the allegations because they hadn't -- nobody had come forward publicly. Yesterday, there was a Democratic caucus meeting where this was brought up, and a lot of attention brought to it, and some members of Congress leaving that meeting in protest, sort of feeling like it wasn't being taken seriously. The other thing this morning, the woman who was making these allegations about Congressman Conyers did come forward. So there have been a couple of different changes. But the biggest change I think is within the caucus and pressure on Nancy Pelosi to take a stronger line on this. So we're seeing her react quite slowly, but reacting nonetheless. I mean, I agree with Rebecca that this sort of puts unrelenting pressure on Congressman Conyers to resign.
[11:45:10] BOLDUAN: And also seeing notes that we could be hearing from Congressman Conyers' attorney in a few short minutes. We'll see what we'll hear from him. As we've been hearing from sources, the congressman, as of this morning, is hospitalized near his home.
Rebecca, thank you so much.
Matt, thank you.
VISER: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Lot of breaking news that we're following throughout the show today.
Also happening on Capitol Hill, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is speaking behind closed doors to lawmakers of the House Intelligence Committee as part of their Russia probe. This, as CNN learns that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, spent 90 minutes with the special counsel's team. What does this tell everyone? How does this inform everyone about where Robert Mueller's investigation is headed right now? That's coming up.
[11:50:14] BOLDUAN: Happening now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions behind closed doors with the House Intelligence Committee as part of its Russia investigation. There's video of him going in this morning. This comes as we're also learning the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met earlier this month with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team, met with them for 90 minutes to answer questions.
Let's bring in CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, for the details on that one.
Shimon, what do you know about what happened in this meeting with Kushner and what it means?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: We don't know much except the focus of what we are told, and people were very specific in telling us this, is that the questioning that Kushner faced had to do with the former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, his relationship with Michael Flynn, some of the Russia meetings, some of the interactions that he and Michael Flynn had. That's basically all we are being told. We haven't been told any other questions were posed to Kushner. This revelation comes as we learned that the attorneys for Michael Flynn are no longer sharing information with Trump lawyers and other lawyers who are associated in the case. Essentially, leading people to believe that he is now, Flynn, is now in talks for a possible plea deal with a special counsel.
I should read to you Kushner's lawyer's statement. He said, "Kushner voluntarily cooperated with all of the relevant inquiries and will continue to do so, in the special counsel investigation as well as the investigation that is ongoing on the Hill."
BOLDUAN: Shimon, thank you very much for the update. Appreciate it.
To get context and analysis, CNN analyst, Paul Callan, is here with me.
Great to see you, Paul.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Nice to be here.
BOLDUAN: Shimon was laying out, and the additional CNN reporting on this meeting with Kushner and the special counsel, is the nature of the questions he was asked were not about himself really. It seems that they were mostly about does Kushner had anything or not have information that would clear Michael Flynn. What does that mean to you?
CALLAN: I'm not surprised at all. Kushner early on said he would be open and cooperative with any investigation and he is following through on that promised strategy. The special prosecutor, on the other hand, has focused on Flynn as a target, and he is either going to get indicted or his son will get indicted, but they are filling out the case.
When you look at Kushner, he is the person who is there at key points in time. For instance, in December of 2016, there was a meeting with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, and Flynn may have set up that meeting with Kushner in the Trump Tower. Flynn's meetings with the Russians are central to the Mueller investigation. Kushner is cooperating as a witness with the special prosecutor.
BOLDUAN: At what point in the investigation, kind of getting in the mind of the special counsel, why would you go to central figures like Jared Kushner to ask questions, even about Michael Flynn? At what point in the investigation would you --
CALLAN: Late investigation. What you top the do is, if you are doing an investigation like this, you want to interview all the peripheral figures first, as you then move in towards the central characters who become the most important people. Kushner may be somebody that they have to call as a grand jury witness to make out a case against Flynn or his son or whatever target they are looking at.
BOLDUAN: This meeting that they had, and the questions were basically about Michael Flynn, does this mean that Kushner is not a focus himself of the investigation itself, do you think?
CALLAN: I think it reduces the probability that he is the focus of the investigation. Kushner's lawyer would not allow him to go into a meeting like this if he had been told that Kushner was a target. This says to me the special prosecutor has not said that Kushner is a target and that this attorney representing Kushner is confident that the testimony will be used against other people and not against Kushner himself.
BOLDUAN: And Shimon was pointing out this all comes after we learn that Flynn's attorneys are no longer sharing information with Trump's team with regard to the investigation and what they are being asked. If Flynn is negotiating with Robert Mueller, does that mean -- does it have to mean he he's negotiating, they have something on a bigger fish or could it be less than that?
CALLAN: If he has cutoff communication with the rest of Trump's legal team in the White House, the suggestion is clear that we are coming to the end game on Flynn. Mueller is looking at maybe an indictment of Flynn or his son or has significant leverage against Flynn to cause Flynn to be more cooperative with Mueller and less cooperative with the president. That's all it says to me. Whatever is happening with respect to Flynn, something is going to happen in the near future.
[11:55:10] BOLDUAN: Fascinating.
Paul, great to see you. Thank you so much.
CALLAN: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Still ahead, is the secretary of state on his way out the door? New report that a plan is in the works to replace Rex Tillerson with the current CIA director, Mike Pompeo, just as the Trump administration faces multiple threats abroad, multiple crises abroad, the least of which is the threat from North Korea. The latest on this breaking news is coming up.
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