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Top Dem: Building Case of Obstruction of Justice Against Trump; WH Lawyer says he Wrote Trump Tweet about Flynn Firing; Schiff: I think the President Knew what Flynn Did; Trump Hits All-Time Low in Latest Tracking Poll; Polls Show Doug Jones Pull Ahead in Al Senate Race; Aired 2-3p ET
Aired December 3, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone and thank you so much for joining me this Sunday, I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin with a stunning announcement from the ranking democrat leading the senate's Russia probe. Dianne Feinstein says today that the senate judiciary committee is building an obstruction of justice case against President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The president is under growing scrutiny for possible obstruction of justice, particularly after he sent out a tweet offering a new reason behind why he fired his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn. The president tweeting this yesterday. I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI.
Today, the White House is playing damage control, downplaying that tweet saying it was written by an attorney for the president. We have a team of correspondents and analysts covering all of this and reacting to this developing story.
Let's begin with the senate judiciary committee building this case on obstruction of justice, CNN crime and justice correspondent, Shimon Prokupecz with me now.
So, Shimon, what did Feinstein have to say about the Russia probe overall, its possible implications for the president now?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hey, Fred. So, really, what she was getting at here today was that it's been very difficult and she said this, to get at the truth. It's a frustration that has been felt by many. Including those investigators on the special counsel team. We know how two players that were part of the Trump campaign, one of them who actually worked in the White House now have been charged and have admitted and have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the center issue here and that is contacts with Russian officials.
What you see here is no doubt could be playing out into a bigger case, into perhaps some kind of conspiracy, more of an organized effort here to lie, to not admit the truth to investigators. And Feinstein touched on that today. Here's what she said about her own committee wanting to investigate and start to build out an obstruction case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEINSTEIN: I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice. I see it in the hyper phonetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets.
And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey. And it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROKUPECZ: Feinstein and her committee of the senate judiciary committee, she's the ranking democrat there, but it's chaired by Senator Grassley, a republican. Certainly, if there's any movement on the obstruction, is really get out the president would require a bipartisan effort here. It's not clear that any republicans would want to go at this issue.
The committee though is still interested in Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. They have requested more information and more interviews with them. We'll see where that goes, but their investigation and the things that Senator Feinstein and that committee are looking at is in no way over.
WHITFIELD: Just the beginning perhaps. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks so much.
All right. So from the White House, damage control. The White House now says, the tweet was written by the president's personal lawyer, John Dowd.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.
So, Jeremy, reportedly Trump's tweet went out while he was in a motorcade in between events in New York. So, do we know if John Dowd, the attorney was in the car with Trump sending out this tweet or maybe John Dowd may have been out the tweet from another location?
What do we know about the attorney taking now responsibility for this tweet? JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. What we don't know at this point where John Dowd was at the time or whether he was with the president when this tweet was sent out.
But what we do know is that John Dowd has not confirmed to CNN that he was the one who drafted this tweet, but he also told me in an e-mail this morning that he was not the one who posted it. He said that he believes it was perhaps the president's social media director, Dan Scavino who actually physically posted the tweet that he had drafted and he refused to answer questions about whether the president himself actually reviewed this tweet before it was posted.
Again, the focus on this is because the president's initial explanation for why he fired General Flynn was because he had misled the vice president. Nothing about lying to the FBI which is what this tweet suggested.
DIAMOND: But now John Dowd, the president's attorney, is suggesting that this was simply an attempt to put the White House lawyer Ty Cobb's statement on Friday into tweet form.
Of course, White House lawyer, Ty Cobb statement, it made no mention at all of firing General Flynn because of having lied to the FBI. But again John Dowd not suggesting now that the president knew this at the time. Instead he is saying that no one at the time knew that General Flynn had in fact lie to the FBI as was revealed Friday in this indictment.
But again, this is continuing the -- keeping the focus on this Russia investigation here at the White House at a time when the president really should be able to take a victory lap in the wake of tax reform passing in the senate, instead he finds himself once again on the defensive with this investigation and focusing on those matters instead of this new legislative accomplishment. Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. It was just Friday night, Saturday morning again, hardly any discussions about that and hardly any gloating from the White House about that. Now, this is kind of center point.
All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.
So, the president's tweet regardless of who authored it or who sent it out sets off more questions about the timeline of various explanations of firings of both Michael Flynn and former FBI director, James Comey. Here's what we know.
After the resignation of former national security advisor, Michael Flynn February 13th, the president said it was because Flynn lied to the Vice President Pence.
February 14th, Trump meets with the FBI director, Comey and tells him, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go." Meaning Michael Flynn's meeting with the Russian ambassador. May 9th, Trump fires FBI director Comey which brings us now to yesterday. When Trump sent out this tweet claiming he fired Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI. This a day after Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his meeting with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
So originally just to help you kind of follow all of these movements, Trump never said that he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI. Now bringing more questions.
So, again, if Trump knew then that Flynn lied to the FBI, why wasn't he let go sooner and why would Trump have asked the FBI director to let Flynn go over that meeting with the Russian ambassador and why was Comey fired? Was it to get rid of that Russia probe?
All right. Let's discuss all of the latest developments now. Joining me right now, CNN contributor Salena Zito. CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali. And former U.S. attorney for middle district of Georgia, Michael Moore. All right. Good to see all of you.
All right. It's a lot to keep up with, but we're going to try our best to reemphasize certain points of the timeline and the relevance of yesterday's tweet and the relevance now of Dianne Feinstein and the senate and so many others now talking about obstruction of justice probes and questions.
So, Michael, to you first. This timeline. Are we starting to see how whether it'd be the Mueller team or even Feinstein's committee look at intent and whether there is any correlation behind the firings and the actions of the president?
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT GEORGIA: I think we are and I think really what you see in the tweet is that now they have the motive and intent link. A case or an investigation is a lot like a chain. You may have links of the chain that is hard to put together. This intent and motive link has been missing for some time.
And now we've got the president and his own Twitter account basically giving them that by saying look, he lied to the FBI. I knew it back then and now I fired the FBI director because he wouldn't go easy on him.
So if in fact Trump knew at the time, that Mike Flynn had lied to the FBI and then pressured Jim Comey into letting him go, then he already knew that a crime had been committed and he now pressured the person in charge of investigating that crime into dropping the investigation. And I think we're pushed now into a clear obstruction case.
WHITFIELD: And none of that looks good, but it certainly wouldn't look good if it's your attorney that is now responsible for helping to create this kind of confusion if the White House is indeed saying Trump, no, wait a minute. Trump didn't know about the lying to the FBI. It's just that inadvertently this tweet was sent out by the attorney. Does that sound plausible?
MOORE: No, It doesn't sound plausible at all. I think what happened is I told so many different stories that nobody knows which story is right. And if the attorney sent this tweet out --
MOORE: -- knowing the case was going on and they were talking about obstruction in the first place, then my guess is Trump is going to be looking for another attorney or at least give advice to do that.
WHITFIELD: OK. Adam Schiff also described his concerns about all of this and this is how he put it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The best way to explain the president's reaction when he ultimately did fire Flynn and the fact that he wasn't upset with Flynn, in fact that he waited so long to fire him in the first place and that what he was really upset was the press exposing the lie would suggest I think that the president was knowing of exactly what Flynn did and the question I think for Bob Mueller and for us in congress is, was this directed by the president? And if so, what are the consequences of that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if Michael Flynn were to testify that these contacts of the Russians were directed by the president, what would that tell you? Because we all know that during transitions, administrations have contacts with foreign officials all the time.
SCHIFF: Well, what that would tell me is that one of the reasons that he was intervening the president that is with James -- with James Comey was that he knew that this would come to light and that he wanted to protect Mike Flynn lying on his behalf. And then you do get very close to a case of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. So, Salena, you first. The White House in its best attempt for damage control, right now, to execute damage control. Are they doing a good job or is it only making matters worse?
SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think in this this age of Twitter, I think it would be really smart of the president and his White House communications team to effectively do what president Obama's team did. If President Obama tweeted from his Twitter account, he had his initials on there. I think he used VHO.
But if it was from someone staff --
WHITFIELD: I think it was BO. Right. Go ahead.
ZITO: BO. I couldn't remember. And so I think that's a policy that they sort of need to put out there, let people know this is how it goes. It's a very common thing that elected officials do and I think it's important that the president does this.
WHITFIELD: So perhaps that's way down the line, but right now in the midst of all of this and saying that it was an attorney, a personal attorney for the White House, if that's the case, then doesn't it also open questions about wait a minute, so who is doctoring or crafting these messages from the president on his official Twitter account.
WHITFIELD: Why does it make it better?
ZITO: Well, I think it makes an incredibly confusing because we don't know -- the lawyers that came out.
WHITFIELD: Who's now authorized to be president on via Twitter?
ZITO: Right. I mean, I think that there needs to be a clear cut role. This is how we do it. This is how my White House does it. No matter what way they decide to do it. My initials are on it, I did it. If my initials aren't on it, then it says staff at the end. I think that was clear up so you get into position like this and we're all sort of -- our heads are all turned upside down and it leaves more unanswered questions than answered questions.
WHITFIELD: OK. And Tim, this is happening when the president is looking at approval ratings that had dipped down to 33 percent. Dismal members here. Now this controversy over timeline over who was fired. What was the motivation of the firing? What was the president's role? Where was the director coming from?
All of this is heightened now. So, Tim, how does a White House get ahead, clean up so that the president can go on about his job, perhaps even get things done legislatively?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, observers of this president have been saying this for month, that the White House needs to clean up its messaging and it's got to keep -- it's not to step on its stories.
After all, the tax reform should be the big story for this administration and it's the president or his lawyer who tweeted out something extraordinarily damaging.
I want to step back for a moment and put this into some historical perspective. Previous or prior to this administration, presidential lawyers and the presidential PR officials, have tried to distance the president from scandals. This tweet, if Mr. Dowd did in fact write it, puts the president even at the center of this scandal. And I just -- it's baffling to me --
WHITFIELD: Which is why it sounds so unbelievable an attorney knowing all of that would get in the mix in this matter --
WHITFIELD: -- and inflame things. It doesn't make sense.
NAFTALI: It's baffling. Absolutely baffling.
WHITFIELD: So, Michael, former director of the office of government ethics, Walter Shaub tweeted this today saying, prove it, John Dowd, this is the personal attorney now, if this is true, there are surely e-mails you can show us corroborating your implausible story. Prove it.
So now this controversy is now inviting this attorney to better explain.
Is there a way in which this attorney or the White House can explain this any better or does the president at this juncture need to come clean, so to speak, with everything he knew if this is an effort that the White House needs to dispel the responsibility of this tweet?
MOORE: I think it's unlikely that Dowd will provide e-mails and I think really because he'll be opening the door to attorney-client contacts and communication that he probably does not want that door open in the long run.
I think if Trump tries to come clean about what he knew, then he's probably looking at packing his stuff and moving out of the White House because it's very likely that, I think, as the investigation keeps going, that they'll find that he was in the midst of this.
I heard of an interview from two of his close people, it was (INAUDIBLE) in Bosnia, is the name. And they were commenting on specifically how the president likes to be in the details. He likes to be in the weeds on things, even commenting about how he would make decisions about when the music came on at rallies and this kind of thing.
If that's the case and that's the kind of detail that this president likes to be involved in, but I can promise you he's involved in this Twitter comment. You remember not too long that the White House said the president whatever he says, that's a statement from the White House. They were sort of claiming the Twitter account.
WHITFIELD: And that would be in step with because I cannot let go of the tweet that came initially unrelated to this, but he was talking about Trump was talking about the secretary of state and the job, the secretary of state and he was commending Rex Tillerson, but at the same time he put in parenthesis, you know, I essentially make the decision and to say that in the context of the job of -- you know, the top job of diplomacy seems plausible to be applicable to just about everything in the orbit in decision making of this president whether were on the campaign trail or as the president.
MOORE: Well, I think that's true and I think he's used to being a CEO and he's not -- he doesn't understand that you don't get to be a CEO when you're the president, because you work for the people and you're a coequal branch of government and you have certain checks and balances and things on your power.
But if he was a CEO, he can do whatever he wanted to. I think we really couldn't live much about it except quit his company. He's now the president of the United States and he's just got to learn to act like that.
WHITFIELD: Right. And then quickly, Salena, before I let you go. How does the president get out front to say while on one hand I'm responsible for everything that happens and on the other hand, I'm not responsible for this tweet because I allowed somebody else to craft a tweet or send out a tweet on behalf of me? Just in this instance.
ZITO: Well, I feel like you did that in 240 characters and I think that that would be exactly what he should do. I think he should just put out a statement or put out a tweet or there's plenty of opportunities for presidents to get a reporter to ask them a question.
And all he needs to do is say it. And I think it's as simple as that. And for someone who was incredibly effective communicator when he wants to be, this certainly is an excellent time to exercise that attribute that he has.
WHITFIELD: Interesting. All right. Salena Zito, Tim Naftali, Michael Moore, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it. We'll see some of you coming up.
Still ahead, senate republicans passing their tax plan. Why does it feel like it was such a long time ago? Guess what had just happened yesterday morning.
But getting it to the president's desk now, well, it's still, is far from a done deal. Could changes potentially even this week during the reconciliation process hurt the bill's chances of passing?
Plus, with nine days until the Alabama special election, democrat Doug Jones, gaining an edge over Roy Moore, but Alabama voters are still very much divided on the allegations and whether they will ultimately decide this race. The allegations, that is. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. The fate of the president's massive tax reform moves back to the full congress this week, the house and the senate, now have to reconcile the differences between the senate version and the house version, the house version passing November. The senate version just Saturday morning. Already the White House is saying it will consider small changes to the corporate tax rate in order to get it passed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET: We're very close to the finish line. You know he's wanted a 15 percent rate from the beginning. That moved to a 20 percent rate as part of the discussion. My understanding is that the senate has a 20 percent rate now. The house has a 20 percent right now. We're happy with both of those numbers.
If something small happens in conference and gets us across the finish line, we'll look at it on a case by case basis. But I don't think -- I don't think you're seeing any significant change in our position on the corporate taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right. Some the key differences between the two versions are the number of tax brackets and also the tax rate individuals will play. Also at stake are state and local income tax deductions and whether the mortgage interest rate deductions get to stay as they are.
All right. Back with me now, Salena Zito and Tim Naftali.
So, Salena, you first. Who has the most work to do right now to get this bill reconciled and onto the president's desk by the end of this year?
ZITO: You're going to see the house and the senate leadership work together and also the key people that were writing the bill. From the sources that I talked to, it doesn't -- it might be a little bit bumpy, but certainly -- I mean, the biggest hurdle was and always has been and has been all year was the senate.
So I don't think you're going to see sort of the drama and the hysterics that you sometimes saw with from both republicans and democrats in the senate version as you will still see when these two sides come together.
WHITFIELD: So, Tim, republican senator Susan Collins has seemed to be kind of on the fence about this bill. Ultimately, only Senator Bob Corker was the one who voted against the bill early Saturday morning. But here's what she said this morning about this reconciled bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, CNN HOST: You're comfortable with your vote on this tax bill? And is it there really no matter what comes out of conference?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: No. I mean, obviously, I want to see what comes out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, Tim, what does this tell you about the road ahead?
NAFTALI: Well, I think this has to do, I believe with the fact that Senator Collins pushed for an exemption or a deduction for up to $10,000 of local property taxes. And I believe that she must be referring to the fact that if the house forces the senate to remove that from the bill, it will make it harder for her to vote for the reconciled bill later on.
I don't believe this signals -- the signals that she's second-guessing the rest of the bill. But it's really -- what we really should look at here is whether some of the senators who were trying to push for other changes such as the child tax exemption, whether they -- or tax credit, whether they will be pushing more for that or whether they've given up all together. Senator Rubio was one of those pushing for the increase in the child tax credit. So I'm not sure. I mean, we'll see in the next couple of days if Senator Flake and some of the others who are on the cusp of voting against this bill whether they are having second thoughts.
One other thing I'd look at is, to what extent will Senator Flake and Senator Collins get the other legislative assistance that they were looking for? Senator Flake is interested in DACA. He wants to push that. Senator Collins wants to shore up the Affordable Care Act. Both of them said when voting yes on this bill, on the tax reform bill, that they had received promises from the White House and from the congressional leadership that their legislative priorities would be taken seriously. Do they still believe that?
WHITFIELD: All right. And then, Salena, these were unpopular packages both in the house and senate in terms of the American people. You've got an unpopular congress and an unpopular president with these new polls showing that his approval ratings at 33 percent. So, who is this tax plan and reform really for if all of this is so unpopular?
ZITO: Well, you know, if you look at tax reform bill, this essentially -- it's a pretty standard republican viewpoint on taxes. It is one that they have held for 20 to 30 years. And I think they feel despite how difficult it is to sell something that's complicated and it's still the same things sort of with Obamacare.
They believe as the democrats believe with Obamacare that once it's enacted, people will see it, they will like it, everyone will be happy. Honestly, we'll see. Right? With the support of that unknown part of governing that makes it difficult for political parties to hold their majorities.
So while the next election is a little under a year away, what happens in the next six months will sort of tell us if this was a good decision and if people had benefited from it or not. I mean, that's sort of the unknown.
WHITFIELD: Right. So, Tim, how comforting is that to American people who are saying, wait a minute. We'll see. We'll see if this --
WHITFIELD: -- if I'm able to reap rewards later, but let's go out for a test drive on this. And if it doesn't do well, then American people are the ones who are going to suffer the consequences.
I mean, Hillary Clinton also tweeted out this sentiment, saying this tax bill is only going to get worse as people learn more about it. We all need to get to work. So, Tim, how are members of congress being challenged on this real reticence out there?
NAFTALI: Well, first of all, let's see how this bill would be. If it is passed, let's see how this -- and becomes law. Let's see how this bill is phased in. When does it actually start to bite? When do people actually see the changes in the amount of tax they have to pay? If it's 2019, when they'll see these changes, then this is not going to affect much, perhaps the 2018 election. I mean, there will be an effort to say what will happen to you, but if you're actually not experienced the tax increase, the one you didn't expect, then perhaps it will have less of an effect in 2018. It all depends in how they face this in.
But there are many arguments that the democrats will be able to make about how middle class Americans will be affected adversely by this bill. Whether they'll be able to make it effectively in 2018 or not, depends on how this bill is phased in, I believe.
WHITFIELD: All right, Tim Naftali, Salena Zito, always good to see you. Thanks so much this Sunday. Appreciate it.
NAFTALI: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: OK. Coming up, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says, he'll let Alabama voters decide whether to send Roy Moore to the U.S. senate. But is he planning to take action if Moore is elected?
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. Hello again, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Senator Dianne Feinstein has confirmed -- I'm sorry, we don't have our scripts together here. Where are we going here?
All right. Less than two weeks before Alabama's closely watched special Senate race, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is softening his stance on Republican candidate, Roy Moore.
[14:35:06] When allegations of sexual assault first surfaced against Moore, McConnell was among the Republicans calling for the candidate to leave the race. But today, McConnell took a different view.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: I think we are going to let the people of Alabama decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate and we will address the matter appropriately.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Judge Moore should be in the Senate?
MCCONNELL: I'm going to let the people of Alabama make the call. The election has been going on a long time and they will make their decision a week from Tuesday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you are prepared to take action if he is indeed elected?
MCCONNELL: The Ethics Committee will have to consider the matters that have been litigated in the campaign should that particular candidate win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The latest "Washington Post"/Shar School poll has Moore's Democratic rival, Doug Jones leading Moore by more than three percentage points. To win, Jones would have to win a good number of Republican votes, and in a state as conservative as Alabama, that could be quite the challenge.
Our Kaylee Hartung joins us now from Birmingham. So Kaylee, what are you hearing from people there?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, keep in mind about half of the adults in the state of Alabama identify themselves as Evangelical Protestants. Pastors who I've talked across this state, many of them have told me you won't hear them offer a prayer for the candidates from their pulpit or specifically endorse either candidate from the pulpit.
But as Dr. Daniel Wilson here at First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Alabama, just outside of Birmingham illustrated for me today, he is willing to touch on social and moral issues from the pulpit, specifically those which he feels are rooted in biblical scripture.
So, as we approach Christmastime, this morning in his sermon, he reminded his congregation that Jesus was once an unborn baby in his mother's womb and that God looked for a home for Jesus with a mother and a father.
So, while he won't specifically endorse a candidate, it was clear to me it's hard to discern for a lot of people in Alabama where religion end and politics begin.
ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: A poor that which is evil and (inaudible) to that which is good.
HARTUNG (voice-over): That's Roy Moore appealing to his constituents, but not all of them are convinced. Bill Brewbaker is a lifelong Republican and an Evangelical Christian, but he won't be voting for his party's candidate in Alabama's December 12th special election. No state has a higher percentage of Christians among them than Alabama according to Pew Research.
DR. JOHN KILLIAN, FORMER PRESIDENT, ALABAMA BAPTIST CONVENTION: And I think for that reason, Judge Moore's messages resonated because of the culture.
HARTUNG: Like many, Dr. John Killian, former president of the Alabama Baptist Convention thinks this deeply Republican state is ripe and ready for the taking by the former judge, but some like Brewbaker think that's an unfair assumption.
BILL BREWBAKER, LIFELONG ALABAMA REPUBLICAN: Evangelicals are being painted with a very broad brush.
HARTUNG: He says this goes deeper than the allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore.
BREWBAKER: The idea that there is a candidate who is wrapping himself in the mantle of Christianity and is at a political rally and pulls out a hand gun?
HARTUNG: Moore has been hitting his base visiting rural conservative churches. Though, some of the worship services have felt more like campaign events.
JEREMY RAGLAND, PASTOR, BRYAN BAPTIST CHURCH: The only way our voice can be heard throughout this country is by us taking our liberties and voting. They want to do two things, several things. They want to hide the true issues. That's why you see "The Washington Post" bring out the Russian investigation when the people want to know about immigration and health care.
HARTUNG: But Brewbaker worries about the message electing Moore would send.
BREWBAKER: I'm deeply concerned about the effect of Roy Moore's presence in the Senate will have on the reputation of Evangelicals. I'm tempted to vote for Doug Jones for that reason, but I can't bring myself to pull the trigger on that.
HARTUNG: Democratic challenger, Doug Jones's biggest hurdle with Republicans like Brewbaker is he is pro-choice, an issue, the issue that puts him at odds with conservative voters. Jones is also a man of faith, attending a fish riot in Montgomery.
DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: Folks, pray but we have to move our feet, all right?
HARTUNG: Jones will need high turnout in metropolitan areas particularly the African-American populations in the state to capitalize on Moore's perceived vulnerability. It's a steep mountain to climb in a state that has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in a quarter of a century.
HARTUNG: Like many Alabamans across this state, Doug Jones and Roy Moore both attended church services this is morning and Fred, that latest "Washington Post" poll that has Jones with just a 3 percent lead over Moore is within the margin of error of that poll.
[14:40:04] As Bill Brewbaker illustrated for us there a hard number to pin down right now. How many people stay home come December 12th?
WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung, it's right around the corner in Birmingham. Thanks so much. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. The fight over a wedding cake will soon play out in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Tuesday justices will hear arguments in a case involving a Christian baker, who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple saying it violated his religious rights and free speech.
The couple claims the baker's actions amounts to discrimination. The hearing has generated so much attention that spectators have been lining up since Friday, eager to claim a rare seat inside the U.S. Supreme Court.
[14:45:09] CNN's Supreme Court reporter, Ariane De Vogue has been following this very closely and joining me now. You have a lot of company out there outside of the U.S. Supreme Court. So, how did this case end up in front of the nation's highest court?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, Fred, as you said, the arguments are not until Tuesday, but there is a line has been gathering here since last Friday night. This is a clash between religious freedom and LGBT rights.
Jack Philipps is the cake baker and owns a cake shop in Colorado and refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple to celebrate their wedding out of his religious objections. They went to court and sued. The lower courts ruled in their favor, citing anti-discrimination laws.
He is coming to court now and he has a First Amendment argument. He said his cakes are like artistic expressions and Colorado can't force him to convey a message that goes against his religious beliefs. He has the lawyers for President Trump in his corner on this case, Fred.
On the side is the couple, their lawyers come back and say this is not about free speech or cakes. It's about discrimination. That, Fred, is what their lawyers will argue on Tuesday morning here.
WHITFIELD: And part of the argument is how is Philipp's objection to the same-sex couple different from a refusal to an interracial couple or a couple from two different religions seeking a wedding cake being made by that person, baker?
DE VOGUE: Well, that's exactly right, Fred. The government does draw that line. They said look, there might be room in the state anti- discrimination laws for people who have religious objections to same- sex marriage, but the government said that's not true for race.
That is with the heightened scrutiny. What is important is Justice Anthony Kennedy. Remember a couple of years ago, he was the one who wrote that opinion, clearing the way for same-sex marriage nationwide. There is a lot of language in there, but equal protection and dignity.
But on the other hand, Justice Kennedy also has an expansive view of free speech. That's what court watchers are going to look for on Tuesday. How is Justice Kennedy seeing this case? That's going to be interesting for court watchers to look at.
WHITFIELD: And this happened prior to the Supreme Court ruling that requires states to allow same-sex marriage. Does that weigh in on the justices as they hear these arguments?
DE VOGUE: Well, that's the tension here, right. When the court agreed to allow same-sex marriage nationwide, there was a lot of language in that opinion about people who had religious objections. That's what the other side said here.
We come here -- and Jack Phillips has the sincere religious beliefs, and they should be listened to. They see it as part of that opinion that cleared the way for same-sex marriage and the other side doesn't see that. So, that's what is at issue.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ariane De Vogue, I thank you so much outside the U.S. Supreme Court. People lining up trying to get a spot because they want to be in that courtroom on Tuesday. So, we are still a couple of days away. They are willing to stay out there in the frigid air overnight. All right, Ariane, thank you. We will be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. On this week's "State Of The Cartoonion," Jake Tapper takes a look at the alternative universe that exists for President Trump.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, "THE LEAD" (voice-over): As comic book aficionados know Superman has his arch enemy "Bizarro," (ph), who lives in a topsy-turvy world where stop means go and yes means no. increasingly, it sounds as though there is a "Bizarro Trump," who also lives in a world of opposites.
In the real world, reality, we all heard President Trump say this about the hideous "Access Hollywood" tape.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (voice-over): I said and have done things I regret. The words on this more than a decade-old video are one of them.
TAPPER: But "Bizarro Trump, well the "New York Times" reports that he still insisting the tape may not be his voice.
"BIZARRO TRUMP": Totally fake and made up. It's like a novel.
TAPPER: Here on planet earth, President Trump finally admitted this.
PRESIDENT TRUMP (voice-over): President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.
TAPPER: But in "Bizarro" world we are told, the president is still questioning the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate.
You can see this phenomenon almost everywhere, whether it's how often the president golfs or how well he is doing in the polls.
"BIZARRO TRUMP": I'm getting tremendous support even in your polls.
TAPPER: In fact, what we are all watching these days, it makes a lot more sense if as a kid you read a lot of Superman comics.
"BIZARRO TRUMP": This is reality. You know it, they know it, I know it and pretty much the whole world knows it
WHITFIELD: All right. So much straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: All right. Hello, again, everyone. Thanks so much for being with me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We continue this hour with that stunning announcement from the ranking Democrat leading the Senate's Russia probe. Dianne Feinstein said the Senate Judiciary Committee is building an obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR DIANE FEINSTEIN (D-CA), SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think what we are beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The president is under growing scrutiny for possible obstruction of justice after he sent out a tweet offering a new reason behind why he fired his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.