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Republicans on the Attack Against Special Counsel; Trump-Russia Probe Intensifies; Trump Doubles Down on Support for Accused Child Molester Roy Moore. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired December 8, 2017 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:43]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me. Several new developments on this whole Alabama Senate race front.

Let's just begin with the president, his support getting louder and louder each day for Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate accused of sexual abuse of teenagers when he was in his 30s. So, tonight, President Trump will be holding this rally just 25 miles from Alabama. He will be in Pensacola, Florida. And this rally coming just four days before Alabama's special election.

But it also comes as this new Pew poll shows President Trump's approval rating this new low of 32 percent. See the other number, 63, 63 percent of Americans disproving of the job Trump is doing. In a tweet this morning, Trump offered up his loudest support of Moore yet. First, the president attacked the Democrat running against Roy Moore. And the you see the last three words all caps in the tweet here, "Vote Roy Moore."

CNN's Alex Marquardt joins me live from Pensacola.

And no doubt tonight's Florida rally is all about Alabama and Roy Moore.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Brooke.

The president due to start speaking in just under five hours' time in cold and rainy Pensacola. But you are right. This may as well be Alabama. We're just a short distance from the border. This is not being billed as an official Roy Moore rally.

The White House is saying this is a campaign-style rally. The president himself this morning saying that he will be giving a make America great again speech. But, of course, you can imagine the president will be reiterating his support for Roy Moore.

He issued a full-throated endorsement on Monday. As you noted, he tweeted again this morning in all caps saying vote Roy Moore. And the point that he has been making is that he cannot afford to have a liberal like Doug Jones in the Senate if he wants his agenda, if he wants the conservative agenda to be advanced. We are very close to Alabama here, not just in terms of proximity, but

also in terms of the media. This Pensacola TV market, it is shared with Mobile, Alabama, so a lot of Roy Moore supporters in the southern part of Alabama will be seeing coverage of the president's speech tonight.

The Moore campaign has actively encouraged its supporters to come here to the rally tonight. We are told by the campaign that Moore himself will not be here. I have spoken to the campaign asking if anybody else from the campaign, anybody from the Moore family will be here, and they have not gotten back to me on that.

But they have said that the president's endorsement has ignited all sorts of excitement among their base and has put wind in their sails. Now, the most solid connection, most official connection between the president and this non-Roy Moore Roy Moore rally is his daughter-in- law, Lara Trump, who has put out a robo-call in Southern Alabama, including hundreds of miles away from here, encouraging supporters of the president to attend the rally tonight.

Now, why this backhanded way of having a rally for Roy Moore? Well, perhaps because it is a very tight race. Moore could very easily lose this race. And so then the president could say, well, I didn't campaign for Roy Moore. And, of course, there could be a fear that that picture of the president with Roy Moore could be used by the Democrats in campaigns next year -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: I like how you said that. The non-Roy Moore Roy Moore ally. Alex Marquardt, thank you. We will of course see you covering this thing tonight.

I do want to get some brand-new comments now from a Roy Moore accuser. Beverly Young Nelson, you heard her name. She is one who has accused Roy Moore of sexual assault. Well, today, she admits altering the yearbook entry that she's been offering as proof of Moore's interest in her when she was merely a teenager.

The yearbook note with a signature Nelson says is Moore's reads -- in cursive there, it reads, "To a sweeter, more beautiful girl, I could not say merry Christmas. Christmas 1977, love Roy Moore, DA, district attorney," the date 12/22/77, location Old Hickory House.

Now, Nelson now is coming forward and saying the date and the restaurant notes are hers, not Roy Moore's. Nelson's attorney, Gloria Allred, has insisted that from the beginning that entire entry was written by Roy Moore.

[15:05:11]

After this admission today by Beverly Nelson today, Allred held this news conference, stressing that her client stands by her story that Moore attacked Nelson when she was just 16 years of age. And Gloria Allred also said today she announced that she had a handwriting expert look at the yearbook. Here they were.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: The expert concluded that the signature and the handwritten notation above the signature on exhibits one and two were prepared by Roy Moore.

We are very happy to be able to announce this important, expert opinion regarding Beverly's yearbook. We think it's important evidence that supports Beverly's statements that Roy Moore asked to sign her yearbook when she was just 16 years old.

And it demonstrates that when Roy Moore stated -- quote -- "I do not know any of these women" -- end quote -- that statement does not appear to be true, because according to forensic handwriting and document examiner Arthur T. Anthony, the signature and the handwritten notation above the signature were prepared by Roy Moore.

We did not ask the expert to examine the printing after the cursive writing and signature, because Beverly indicates that she added that to remind herself of who Roy Moore was and where and when Mr. Moore signed her yearbook.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Let's start there.

I have with me CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and John Hammontree, managing producer for Reckon by AL.com. He's also on the editorial board of AL.com.

So great to have both of you on.

And just straight to Alabama, John, I want to go straight to you, because from listening to bits and pieces of this news conference, it's my understanding, even though she's saying, yes, Beverly Nelson just had added the date and the location to remind herself her this Roy Moore, the heart of her story is not changing. Is that correct?

JOHN HAMMONTREE, MANAGING EDITOR, AL.COM: Yes, I think that is correct.

And I think it's not out of line actually with the claims that were by Roy Moore's campaign in a press conference on November 15. His attorney Phillip Jauregui, what he came forward and said is that not that nothing on the page was written by Roy Moore, but that it didn't look everything on the page was written by Roy Moore.

And I think this would be consistent with that claim. You know, you could make a very strong argument that they should have disclosed this in their original press conference. But I don't think that this puts anything inconsistent with what they said earlier or what the Moore campaign itself has said.

BALDWIN: But even though her story is not changing, Gloria Borger, you know this is the kind of thing in the final, what, four days before Tuesday, the Roy Moore campaign is going to take this little piece, this little nugget, and run with it. GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, if they want to

talk about it and raise the issue again. So we will have to see whether they want to do that. And if they want to raise the issue of her, yes, they will say that, because they will say, well, you can't believe anything.

I agree that they should have just raised it at the outset, say she put in the date and place and the rest of it was his. I think the campaign that Moore is running now is very much against Doug Jones, the liberal, and who is going to vote with the liberal Democrats and who is going to be wrong on abortion and wrong on all the issues.

And so the question that I would have is whether the campaign would want to reopen this can of worms right now. They might. They might. But they might also just decide to stick with Donald Trump all the way and ride him to their victory, you know, because that might be the easier way.

BALDWIN: Yes.

What about, Gloria, just staying with us, this Pensacola event we were just talking to Alex Marquardt about and who referred to it as the non-Roy Moore Roy Moore campaign event? What version of Donald Trump do you think we will see? Will this be vintage campaign Trump?

BORGER: You know, I don't know.

At these campaign events, Donald Trump tends to surprise us. He tends to go off-script. And you never kind of know where his riffs are going to take him. That's why they are so kind of interesting to watch. So we don't know whether it will be all about Roy Moore and what Roy Moore can do for the state of Alabama and what Roy Moore can do with Republicans and Congress, or whether it will be a session on Donald Trump, as these things vary often turn out to be.

Donald Trump sometimes vents at these sessions, sometimes riffs at them. And so, really, at these kind of campaign events, when he doesn't stick to prompter is when you really do see Donald Trump kind of extemporaneously tell you what's on his mind.

[15:10:02]

We don't know. Will he, for example, talk about the special counsel and the Russia investigation, which they have tried to quiet him about? We don't know.

BALDWIN: We will all be watching. We will take it live.

Gloria Borger, thank you. John Hammontree, thank you so much as well.

Ahead how here on this Friday afternoon, we've got new details for you, exactly how much information prosecutors in this Russia investigation have on former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, what court documents are now revealing.

And on the attack, as developments on the Russian investigation continue to rise, so does the amount of anti-Mueller talk on conservative media. Are Trump's allies laying the groundwork for a potential Mueller dismissal? We will discuss that.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

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BALDWIN: Just in to us here at CNN, this new court filing shows the mountain of evidence that special counsel Robert Mueller has gathered so far in his case against former Trump campaign staffers Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

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Mueller has collected 400,000 documents -- I almost said 4,000 -- 400,000 documents, 36 laptops, phones, thumb drives, other devices, in 15 search warrants.

Government lawyers have also labeled 2,000 documents that they label as -- quote -- "hot."

So, with that, I have John Dean back with me on this Friday afternoon, our CNN contributor who was White House counsel to President Nixon during Watergate.

John Dean, always a pleasure, sir.

Well, 400,000 documents, is that a lot, a little? You tell me.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's a lot of documents.

They have got a lot of time to devote to that, plus the digital documents that will be on the laptops. This is a massive amount of material. That's the power of the subpoena.

BALDWIN: And when they refer to documents as being hot, what does that mean?

DEAN: I would assume they mean that they have information that is helpful to building a case and probably not dissipating the pursuit thereon.

BALDWIN: OK.

The court filing from prosecutors, we are told, also revealed that -- quote -- "The defendants have testified in another investigation."

Does that say anything to you that maybe a deal is in the works?

DEAN: Well, it could be grand jury testimony. It could be -- I understand there are multiple grand juries. It could congressional testimony they are referring to.

There is increasing amounts of testimony because of the number of investigations. This is a problem for witnesses, of course, to keep their stories straight. BALDWIN: Which you are supposed to do, obviously.

Let me ask you, just turning the page, this new CNN exclusive on this reporting, new e-mails show that there was a follow up to this now infamous Trump Tower meeting that Don Jr. had attended. He had first said it was about Russian adoptions, downplaying the meeting. Here he was some time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: There wasn't really follow-up, because there was nothing there to follow up. As we were walking out, he said, "Listen, I'm sorry for that."

In the end, there was probably some bait and switch about what it was really supposed to be about. And so, you know, there is nothing there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: But now there was something to it, because, John, congressional investigators learned that another meeting participant, a man by the name of Rob Goldstone, e-mailed Dan Scavino, who is now the White House director of social media.

And so Goldstone wanted then candidate Trump to set up this page on -- essentially, it was Russia's version of Facebook. It's called VK. And we couldn't find any Trump page on VK.

But, apparently, that ask existed. And then another Goldstone e-mail was sent to a Russia who was also at the meeting talking about how -- quote -- "eerily weird" a CNN story was on the Russian hacking of DNC e-mails, given what was discussed at that Trump Tower meeting.

I know this is a lot of information, but I think the theme here being that Don Jr. says one thing, and then documents come out contradicting those initial statements.

DEAN: Well, that meeting, given the state of mind that preceded the meeting, and the purpose of the meeting was to exchange negative information on Hillary Clinton, the fact that it wasn't done right at the moment, given the attitude they all went in and the hopes they all had, I suspect we are going to hear much more about what did happen afterwards.

And this latest report is just a small sliver of information we have additionally learned. I think there is much more here. This meeting is playing large, the June 9, 2016, meeting. Looks like a very central part of this investigation.

BALDWIN: More and more keeps coming out of it. We know Goldstone is supposed to be testifying to Congress, and so you have to imagine they are going to ask him about precisely this. And we will wait to get more reporting on that.

John Dean, thank you so much. DEAN: Thank you, Brooke.

Coming up next, two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish and a chocolate malted, that is how Trump's former campaign manager describes the president's fast food-fueled diet. So what will be revealed in the upcoming physical? And does he actually have to make it public to the rest of us?

We are going to talk about that next, the president and the president's health, coming up.

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BALDWIN: Talking about the president's health now. It was hot topic in the White House Briefing Room after President Trump appeared to slur his words a bit recently during a speech about Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And God bless the United States. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, that moment, that little moment, got a heck of a lot of attention online and on late-night talk shows.

But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders simply said the president had a dry throat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's throat was dry, nothing more than that. He does have a physical scheduled for the first part of next year.

The full physical that most presidents go through, that will take place at Walter Reed. And those records will be released by the doctor following that taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Now, getting a physical at Walter Reed Hospital has been a presidential tradition, but will that doctor have the same report as Trump's personal physician?

Remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. HAROLD BORNSTEIN, TRUMP PERSONAL PHYSICIAN: His health is excellent, particularly his mental health. He thinks he's the best, which works out just fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[15:25:03]

BALDWIN: Remember that? That was Dr. Harold Bornstein, the same doctor who wrote this letter during the campaign -- quoting -- "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

My goodness, that feels like so long ago.

With me to talk more about this, CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali. He's also the former director of the Nixon Presidential Library.

Tim Naftali, good to see you.

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Great to be here, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Talking about health, all right, so we know about Walter Reed and who it's been this huge tradition. But my question is, once the president goes, will we ever find out how well the president is?

NAFTALI: Well, what will happen -- and, by the way, this is -- we should be careful about what this tradition is, because the first president, first modern president to issue an annual sort of physical statement or status about their physical health was George Herbert Walker Bush.

BALDWIN: Yes. OK.

NAFTALI: And Bill Clinton continued that.

And the first assessment for Bill Clinton was about the same time that President Trump will have his first assessment, which is about a year after the inauguration.

Now, these reports will tell us about his cholesterol level. They should. They will tell us generally about their cardiovascular health. They will nothing about psychological matters. And they might not even mention heart rate. President Obama's mentioned heart rate, as did President George W. Bush's, but not all of them do.

So, there isn't really a standard form that the presidential physicians have to fill out.

BALDWIN: And as far as information that the physicians then hand over to the country or made public vis-a-vis the White House, we may never know, or is that required?

NAFTALI: Well, no, they're not required.

In fact, there is no legal requirement. The president retains privacy. The president of the United States, despite being president of the United States, still can continue his medical records private records, so there is no obligation under the law for there to be a release of medical information. It was after the Reagan years and the fact that some of Reagan's

issues were not fully reported that George Herbert Walker Bush decided that there should be a higher standard for sharing information about the president's medical health.

BALDWIN: Got it.

NAFTALI: But there is no legal requirement.

BALDWIN: Got it. OK. OK.

So let's skip ahead to former Trump aide Corey Lewandowski. He has this new book out where he describes the president's diet. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: When the president would order for dinner two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and a chocolate milkshake and eat all of that, were you concerned about him?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, he never ate the bread, which is the important part.

So, it was really just a -- it was a couple fish sandwiches and a couple of pieces of meat, and a drink. And was I concerned? No. He was so busy campaigning, we didn't have time to sit down for a meal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: I love Alisyn's face, because he is like, he didn't eat the bread, Big Mac, Filet-O-Fish, chocolate shake, but he didn't eat bread.

So my question then, when the president goes to Walter Reed, do those doctors, should those doctors be saying to him, Mr. President, maybe cut out the Filet-O-Fish and the chocolate milkshake? Do they do that?

Because my doctor would.

NAFTALI: I'm assuming -- look, I'm assuming that most doctors would say that. I'm assuming that most doctors would tell this to someone of 70-plus years.

But, on the other hand, President Trump could make the argument, well, look, we know that Winston Churchill drank too much, smoked too much, and probably ate badly, and he lived a long time. So, hard to tell.

BALDWIN: And this is the same president who took Hillary Clinton to task all during the campaign about her health.

NAFTALI: Well, yes. Well, this is the same president who mentioned the fact that Barack Obama golfed a lot.

That's politics. When we're talking about health, though, of course, the president's physicians will want him to keep down the cholesterol, to eat healthy, and maybe do something apparently he doesn't like to do, exercise.

BALDWIN: Tim Naftali, thank you so much.

NAFTALI: My pleasure, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Just in to us here at CNN, congressman Trent Franks says he is resigning today. Franks had initially said he would step down by the end of the year after two members of his staff made sexual harassment claims.

The congressman now says he is resigning effective today, after his wife was admitted to the hospital due to an ongoing ailment. He is the third congressman in three days to step down.

Coming up next, as news from the Russian investigation heats up, so do attacks against the man in charge, Robert Mueller, and one of those voices now, Newt Gingrich, a man who once called Mueller a -- quote -- "superb choice."

We will get into that next.

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