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Trump Tweets Support for Roy Moore; Schumer & Pelosi Reschedule Meeting with Trump; FBI Silent on Trump's Attacks on Agency; Sen. Graham: Time for Americans to Leave South Korea. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired December 4, 2017 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:32:50] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: President Trump is now taking a stand in the Alabama Senate race, tweeting his full endorsement for the controversial Republican candidate, Roy Moore, saying, quote, "Democrats' refusal to give one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama."
The president also called Moore on the phone. This is in stark contrast to what we heard from the first daughter, Ivanka Trump, who said, quote, "There is a special place in hell for people who prey on children" and she has no reason to doubt Roy Moore's accusers, one of whom said she was 14 years old when Moore touched her inappropriately.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, joining from the White House.
Jim, the president said he wouldn't go to Alabama to campaign, so is this what we should expect over the next eight days until the special election a week from tomorrow?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think we should definitely keep open the possibility that the president could go to Alabama and campaign for Roy Moore. The White House has not announced that. We should point out he is scheduled to campaign or hold a rally in Pensacola, Florida, on the panhandle on Friday night. Keep in mind, Wolf, that TV market bleeds into Alabama. So the president's comments, when he speaks in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, this will air on Alabama. We should watch what he has to say. We should point out the White House confirmed this phone call between President Trump and Roy Moore this morning. They put out a statement saying, "The president had a positive call with Judge Roy Moore during which they discussed the Senate race and the president endorsed Judge Moore's campaign." This is a turn around, one we probably saw coming. Remember, on November 21st, a couple of weeks ago, the president was on the south lawn saying he believed Roy Moore's denials. But it is somewhat of a reversal in that the White House had been saying up until this point if the allegations were proven true, they want Roy Moore to get out of the race. This is far from that. They are a light year away from that statement at this stage.
Wolf, I think it's not really a big surprise that the president would take this position. It is interesting because he had been talking about needing votes in the Senate for the tax package that is going to make its way through the Congress. He doesn't need Roy Moore's vote to get tax cuts passed. But come next year, he may need him in the Senate. Every Republican vote he can get not only to pass portions of his agenda. But also because people at the White House and Republican allies are worried about the prospect of Democrats taking control of one or both Houses of Congress because that changes committee assignments and opens up the possibility of all sorts of hearings into the Russia matter, and the White House doesn't want Democrats in charge of that.
[13:35:44] BLITZER: They certainly don't.
Jim Acosta, at the White House, thanks very much.
Let's bring back Gloria Borger, still with us. Also joining us, CNN political analyst, David Drucker.
The president is fully endorsing Roy Moore with days to go until the election. What's your analysis?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He wants him to win. He thinks he can win and he wants him to win. As Jim was saying, he wants his vote, come January, for lots of things that might be on the line. And he wants to make sure they keep control of the Senate. We know that both Houses may be in peril right now. You even saw Mitch McConnell say, you know, let the people of Alabama decide. I think the president has talked to Steve Bannon about this quite a bit, his former adviser. He just has decided that this is the side he's coming down on. Don't forget, he also said that you know, Roy Moore has denied all the changes against him. Just like he said Putin denied hacking the election. And the president denied all the changes against him. He chooses to believe him.
BLITZER: How do you see it?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the president was probably always going to come around to this position. We saw Roy Moore rebounding in the polls after the initial revelations about sexual misconduct and it mirrored, in many respects, what the president went through before the election after the "Access Hollywood" tape came out. I think it was problematic for the president, from his perspective, but also just from the perspective of hypocrisy, to push somebody out of an election and a campaign, given he is always complaining about rigged elections and letting people decide. As Gloria noted, the president was accused of sexual misconduct by women on the record. And he denied that anything ever happened. Roy Moore was accused of sexual misconduct by women on the record. He denies that anything ever happened. I never saw any sense that the president was going to be motivated to come out opposed to Roy Moore.
Republicans in the Senate are in a tough spot. If they don't say anything or keep good on expulsion threats, they are leaving themselves open to attacks in the 2018 midterms as Democrats try and tie Moore to the rest of the ticket. Yet, if Republicans do talk too much about pushing him out, it helps Moore in Alabama, where voters are very angry at the Republican establishment and don't like outsiders telling them what to do.
BLITZER: Mitch McConnell is endorsing Roy Moore. His pals probably are saying, be careful what you wish for, with Roy Moore, a Republican in the Senate, that could be problematic.
There is another development we are getting word of. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who canceled a meeting with the president last week because of a nasty tweet that he levelled against them, apparently, now they are all getting ready to meet at the White House this week.
BORGER: The Chuck and Nancy show returns to the White House. They want to avoid a government shutdown. They have to try to decide what they want to include in this. DACA is on the table.
BLITZER: The DREAMers.
BORGER: The DREAMers are on the table. And there are a lot of important decisions that need to be made. There is no way to avoid meeting with the president. They need to tell him what they want and what they are willing to give and not willing to give. It's important for them to meet with the president.
DRUCKER: However, they're did leave open this idea that they could back out again. They said they hope the president this time approaches without preconditions and open to a broad deal where everything is on the table. We don't know in the next five minutes the president will tweet, thanks for coming and by the way, no DACA. I don't think the Republicans have the votes to include a DACA deal at the end of the year, given the reaction to the Chuck and Nancy, part one, back in the fall.
[13:39:38] BLITZER: We will continue to watch this late-breaking development as well.
Gloria, David, thank you.
More on the breaking news. The president's lawyer claiming the president is immune to any obstruction of justice claims. The strategy behind this new legal defense.
And the current head of the FBI is still silent after the president attacks his agency. I will speak live with a former FBI agent.
BLITZER: President Trump lashing out at the FBI today, his former director James Comey, tweeting out this, "After years of Comey with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation and more, running the FBI, his reputation is in tatters. Worst in history. But, fear not, we will bring it back to greatness."
James Comey replied by retweeting a quote, "I want the American people to know this truth. The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is and always will be independent."
The former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, came to the agency's defense, quote, "The FBI is in tatters? No. The only thing in tatters is the president's respect for the rule of law. The dedicated men and women in the FBI deserve better."
The president also retweeted the suggestion that the current head of the agency, Christopher Wray, should clean house.
The former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, says criticizing the president in this situation could be tricky for Wray.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[13:45:20] ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Nothing preventing the head of the FBI from coming out and talk about the great work at the department and the FBI is doing. If the White House believes they should be doing things better, then express dedication to doing a better job. But I think directly contradicting the president, you can express support for the FBI without directly contradicting the president or taking the president on directly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss with Mike Rogers, the former head of the House Intelligence Committee, also a former FBI special agent. He's our CNN national security commentator.
Should Wray, the current head of the FBI, defend his agency?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I hope he stays out of all of this. One of the things that got the FBI in trouble was tiptoeing into politics and out of politics. The FBI Agents Association came out strongly. These are the men and women who are serving in the FBI and those who are retired, who came up strong to defend the FBI. Certainly, all of the outside players are coming in to defend the FBI. I certainly have been defending the FBI. I think that's the right way to do this. If he engages in this, I worry that the FBI itself will get dragged into this political morass that is not good for the FBI or the country.
BLITZER: Is the FBI in tatters as the president alleged in that tweet?
ROGERS: No, no. I wish the president would slow down and think about the bigger picture. These FBI agents are in all 50 states and around the world protecting the United States from terrorism and espionage and criminal actors. The FBI's credibility -- when they flip those credentials up and walk up to somebody's door, it has to mean something. It does today. The world respects the FBI, like other international law enforcement organization. When the president does that, it makes it harder. Every criminal defense lawyer in America has a grin on their face thinking, well, I can go after the FBI in court by saying even the president of the United States doesn't think you are doing a good job. None of this is helpful. We should be supporting the difficult work they do in the FBI.
BLITZER: I want to get to your thoughts on the breaking news we have been following. It's significant that the president was informed by the White House counsel, Don McGahn, that his national security adviser misled the FBI four days after the president took office in that interview with the FBI as part of the investigation into Russian intervention.
ROGERS: This is serious stuff. Did that lead to him saying he has to go, we can't have that in the White House? I don't know. The more they tried to obfuscate what happened, and it seems like they are not being truthful. As an old FBI agent, if you look a little guilty, that's ready meat to a pack of dogs. These agents and investigators are going to try to get to the bottom of that. This president would be well served if he would stop tweeting and stop talking about it and stop degrading the organizations, by the way, that he needs to help keep America safe. The more this happens -- I always thought if they didn't talk about what was happening, it would be very difficult for this investigative team to prove obstruction of justice. We talked about it, pretty hard to do, as the president does his daily work as president. The more they interject uncertainty and confusion and conflicting statements, I think the more they are going to lead these investigators into a place where they may find a charge.
[13:49:01] BLITZER: Good advice. And surprising that his private attorney is saying, I told him to tweet that controversial comment, which is potentially troublesome for the president.
Stand by. There's a lot more we need to discuss.
Is the U.S. moving closer to military action against North Korea right now? A new warning from a U.S. Senator suggesting that American families should leave South Korea.
BLITZER: Tensions escalating with North Korea. U.S. fighter jets could be seen this morning flying over South Korea for combat exercises. A senior South Korean air force official says the exercise is practicing a mock attack against a North Korea missile launch site.
Now Senator Lindsey Graham fears the U.S. is running out of time and he wants American families to start leaving South Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I'm going to urge the Pentagon not to send any more dependents to South Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour. It's crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea given the provocation of North Korea. So I want them to stop sending dependents. And I think it's now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mike Rogers is with us, our national security commentator.
Do you agree with Lindsey Graham?
ROGERS: I think it is rising to the point where families should take that consideration. There aren't a lot of options left. We've talked very publicly, the U.S. government has talked about decapitation and taking out Kim Jong-Un. So have the South Koreans. Matter of fact, we had a SEAL Team training, to do it very publicly. And they said publicly we have a battalion designing and training to take out Kim Jong-Un. And then they go to the next one, can you do limited strikes and get all of the sites? That has problems. Then there is a full-on invasion. South Korea said they would be ready for that if that came to that. And the last one is this mix of military pressure with diplomacy. Can you convince Kim Jong-Un that he needs to come to the negotiating table? And I'm not sure I've seen anything yet that would allow them to say that, including, by the way, that the opposition party in Korea just within the last couple of months came to Washington, D.C., and said, maybe it's time to put tactical nukes back on the peninsula. They've been very public about that. That tells you how far down the road that they believe we are in running out of options and running out of time to deal with it.
[13:55:48] BLITZER: Still about 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. Another couple hundred thousand American citizens in Seoul, but there are millions, maybe 20 million people in Seoul, and only 30 miles away from the DMZ, in harm's way, so this is a potential crisis out there.
ROGERS: It's significant and ratcheting up.
BLITZER: Getting worse.
Mike Rogers, thanks very much.
Showing you some live pictures of President Trump getting ready to speak live in Utah as he faces accusations that he obstructed justice. Stand by. We'll hear from the president and a lot more right after this.