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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump's Past Conduct With Women Facing New Scrutiny; Democrats Try to Pull Off Upset Win in Alabama; Bannon Back in Alabama Tonight to Campaign with Moore; Mueller: Manafort Violate Gag Order. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 11, 2017 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: -- taken seriously.

ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITICO: I thought she struck kind of the perfect tone in saying that these women should not be dismissed, their allegations should not be denied out of hand by anybody except maybe the president himself who has the right to do that.

But, it is the case that we heard from these women before the election. And we're hearing from them again now which is fine. And it is -- I think now a matter for the Congress -- impeachment is a matter for the Congress if that's what they are asking for.

One of -- we heard one of the women called on Congress to investigate this and members of Congress are accountable to the American people ultimately. And k she suggested kind of that that's where the matter ultimately will rest.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And (INAUDIBLE) obviously the Republicans control both chambers of Congress. But if you want a clamoring for some investigation, you mentioned impeachment is the only option Congress would have which would have to originate in the House, Republican-controlled House. Republicans also control the Senate. But listen here, even Democrat Chris Coons, a Trump critic, one of the Democrats who says, yes, if Al Franken has to resign, how does the president get to stay?

Now he says, is Congress stepping in on this front? Probably, a bridge control.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: It was known and it was litigated before the election. But in my view, it's distressing when people are willing to put morality aside and to vote for or against someone based on what they will or won't do.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think it gets reviewed?

COONS: My hunch is it gets reviewed at the next election. We don't have the mechanism to review it in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: From a political standpoint, that's probably fair and accurate, right?

JOSHUA GREEN, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Well, it's an honest description of who controls the Congress. Republicans control Congress and every indication we've got is that they are terrified of opening these questions as they pertain to their president. They've been willing to go along with him on most things.

It's hard to believe that they would open a congressional investigation. The twist become in 2018 if Republicans win back one or both Houses, then you could imagine the Government Oversight Committee or some kind of special panel doing something. Probably not with a lot of support from Republicans, you know, somehow looking into this maybe as a pretext to impeachment. But that doesn't seem like a (INAUDIBLE).

There's an issue of Congress forcibly removing the president or calling on him to resign. And the first issue doesn't seem to be on the table at the moment.

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG POLITICS: But the second one, there are at least three Democratic senators, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, and Cory Booker who suggested the president should resign like Al Franken did. The allegations against Franken and against the president are similar in nature, groping and forced kissing, that sort of thing.

In the case of Franken, there's photographic evidence and in the case of President Trump there is a video in which he's boasting about that. The question will continue to be asked, if Franken has to resign, what is the basis and what is the standard that President Trump gets to stay even if Congress doesn't forcibly remove him?

JOHNSON: You know, the difference I think with the president and it is somewhat complicated to say, but I don't think this president was elected by Republican voters under the illusion that he was a morally upstanding person. I think, you know, as we heard, you know, on these videos, people knew what they were getting with Trump which is not necessarily the case with Al Franken or others.

And the other thing is, I think there's general agreement that it's much harder and a much higher bargain to remove a president from office in terms of the national drama and trauma it would cause. It's just a much higher bar to clear than for Democrats who essentially were able to push Al Franken out of office cost-free.

(OFF-MIC)

KING: Yes, you had internal Democratic -- eternal family within the Democratic Party to feel pressure on Franken where as Republicans still have this disfunction with the president. Listen to Senator Tim Scott here, they don't like when this comes up, they think it hurts their brand. More so focus on Roy Moore at the moment but these allegations against the president also trouble a lot of Republicans. But listen to Tim Scott here, they're essentially -- their answer is the American people knew this when they voted. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Most Americans if not all Americans who voted had the information before the election. So for us to try to re-litigate the election is impossible. Should people who have been victimized have an opportunity to have their day in court or presenting their information? I have no problem with that issue.

The people of this country have the responsibility of choosing our president. They have chosen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: (INAUDIBLE) they don't put this back on us.

GREEN: Yes, I don't think he's wrong. I mean, as -- like he said, voters had this information, they voted for Trump anyway.

What's interesting (INAUDIBLE) that election came before the Harvey Weinstein story. This rolling kind of cultural societal transformation over issues of sexual harassment. And I do wonder if it would have been different had that predated the election.

I tend to suspect not based on the type of voters that Trump has drawn and what their priorities seem to be. But at the same time, this really did happen in an earlier era of politics.

DAVIS: But clearly Democrats are counting on that not being the case anymore. That this cultural change has actually brought with a political shift that will manifest itself in 2018.

[12:35:02] I think that's why we saw them turn so quickly on Senator Franken and push him out -- and pressure him to resign. And I think they're hoping that now as you mentioned earlier, women in the suburbs who tend to vote Republican or be independent will actually say enough is enough, I don't want to be voting for a party that condones this behavior and its elected officials.

And so, I think they're really banking on that. I agree with Josh that I'm not sure if that took effect.

GREEN: And that's why the Roy Moore race is so fascinating. I mean, in their ways, it's a proxy election that it's very quiet.

KING: Right, and so late tomorrow night and Wednesday we will be revisiting this and take you right through 2018.

Up next, the big test in Alabama could have answer this question too. Just how much influence does Steve Bannon have?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:40:08] KING: Welcome back.

Back to the Alabama Senate race. You will recall Steve Bannon never gave up on electing Roy Moore even after several women accused the candidate of pursuing them when they were teenage girls and he was a 30 something district attorney. Bannon is back in Alabama tonight for an election eve rally with the candidate.

Now Moore has largely stayed out of sight in the final days of the race, but hardly out of mind. Ask Democrats. They see a corollary between Mr. Moore and the state's divisive past.

David Russell, an Alabama Democrat said of the Republican candidate, "We are going to use Roy Moore just like we used to use George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door."

A member of our INSIDE POLITICS family Jonathan Martin of the New York Times is down in Alabama. Jonathan, you're doing a great job on the ground. It's the day before. How do the Democrats really feel, just quite their spin going into tomorrow?

JONATHAN MARTIN, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, John, thanks for having me on. In fact, the man that you quoted was actually standing just a few feet behind where I am right now outside of the 16th Street Baptist Church here in Birmingham which of course is famous in American history for tragic reasons.

John, Democrats here are typically fairly fatalistic which won't surprise you. You talked to them and you hear two things typically. The first you will hear, of course I'm voting for Doug Jones and we have to stop Roy Moore.

The second thing that you heard at least for a while of course Moore is going to win. What's striking is in the last few days, Democrats, even some moderate independents and Republicans are starting to wonder if in fact Jones does have a shot here.

And (INAUDIBLE) kind of shed some of that pessimism and thinking that, you know, maybe there will be a rejection of Moore. And I think they were very hardened by Senator Shelby going on saying yesterday John and talking about the fact that Alabama deserves better. But Jones campaign immediately turned that Television appearance into a web ad, and then last nigh, they crafted an automated phone call and going out to Republican households in the state.

Jones needs those moderate Republicans, he can't just win with Democrats alone in the state, John.

KING: Jonathan Martin on the ground (INAUDIBLE) and enjoy the final day. We're checking with you tomorrow as well.

I bring it back here in the room. This is -- yes, we can -- it's Roy Moore versus, you know, the Republican establishment. It's -- now Donald Trump and Steven Bannon versus Mitch McConnell. I mean, there are so many subplots to his race as we go into it. It's largely an Alabama story.

However, when it comes to Richard Shelby versus Donald Trump, you're an Alabama voter, who do you choose?

(OFF-MIC)

KAPUR: Shelby's been around for about three decades or so. He's a well respected senator there, but I don't think his opinion on this race or any national Republicans' opinion on this race is going to affect the outcome. It's an extraordinary statement though for the senior senator to say is possible would be a colleague of his own party should not be elected (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And how much should we read Wednesday morning into Steve Bannon said this is race number one and I'm going to carry this through 2018 and we're going to go after House Republicans, Senate Republicans. If you're a establishment, if you're anti-Trump, we're going after you in the primary.

You wrote about this, Josh. This is the candidate Roy Moore of Steve Bannon. "He's the counter to the fake news. He's been a stalwart, "says Roy Moore. "It helped us a lot. He's the master strategist."

Is this a referendum on Steve Bannon?

GREEN: To an extent. I mean, look, I think looking forward to Republican primaries next spring, I think you take the results from Alabama with a big grain of salt. Alabama is different, this is a different race but having said that, I do give Bannon and his affiliated right wing media outfit credit for having stop the slide away (INAUDIBLE).

I mean, you're back at three weeks and it looked like even Sean Hannity was about jump shift, call on Moore to step out of the race. I think had that happened, it's difficult to imagine we would have seen Moore resurrected and endorsed by President Trump in the way that he has been over the last week or so.

So, I think Bannon was instrumental in creating a kind of counter narrative which I think a lot of independents and even moderate Republicans find difficult to believe that the idea that these women are all lying or they're being paid or at some prestigious liberal media plot to keep a Republican from getting elected.

What he did was gave Roy Moore a reprieve and we'll find out tomorrow night whether that reprieve was enough for Republicans to hold on to the Senate race.

KING: And would the president have come back around if the conservative media had turned on Moore? Well, that's what the president listed as excuse most of the time.

KAPUR: And it seem to have given him the political space to do that. I mean, without that who knows. And Josh pointed out, he could have continued to slight and there could have been -- you know, the bottom could have fallen out.

JOHNSON: I think the president coming around was more -- he was in Asia when this news came out and he was initially sympathetic to Moore because he saw Moore abandoned by the same people who abandoned him in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape. [12:45:02] And it was really Moore's non-denial on Sean Hannity Show. I think that was a way that conservative media influenced him -- pushed them in the opposite direction. And then his reluctance to take the advice of his advisers who said don't get involved in this at all. Ivanka Trump's comment that there is a special place in hell for child predators and Trump pushes back on that instinctively.

So, I almost think it was the president's instinctive reluctance to follow the advice of the people in the White House that got him involved on Moore's behalf, and almost more so than Steve Bannon.

KING: And a giant stake for the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell here because he doesn't want Roy Moore. He won't say this publicly, but I'm not thinking he is actually rooting for the Democrat to win this race because he doesn't want to have to deal with Roy Moore coming to Washington. He also doesn't want to deal with more of Steve Bannon saying this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE STRATEGIST: The folks of Alabama will always going to decide, Mitch, right? You know, what change their minds. You know what change their mind. It was the numbers and the polls started coming back.

They think you're a bunch of roots, right? They hold you in total contempt. Can anything show they hold you more total contempt than what they did to Judge Moore?

Remember it's not Judge Moore they're trying to shut up. It's you they're trying to shut up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: OK. And I'm putting words in his mouth, Mitch McConnell wants to shut him up.

DAVIS: Exactly and -- as Josh who knows these issues very well can say that we should take the results with a grain of salt. Mitch McConnel is very well aware that if Roy Moore win, that is going to be seen as a referendum against him. And that's going to be not just a problem for him dealing with Roy Moore on Capitol Hill, but dealing with a lot of Senate campaigns in the run up to 2018. That this narrative that Steve Bannon was very talented frankly in pushing during the presidential campaign and has pushed during this Alabama race of don't let Washington and don't let the mainstream and don't let the establishment tell you what to do.

You should do what you want to do. He knows that that's difficult when -- for Mitch McConnell to --

GREEN: And real quick, there's an irony here because the candidate in this race that Steve Bannon originally supported in the prior was Mel Brooks, it wasn't Roy Moore. So essentially he's using Moore to whack Mitch McConnell.

(OFF-MIC)

KAPUR: If Roy Moore does makes it in, the same force including Bannon and his allies who were defending him now are going to be fighting any effort to remove him among, you know, Republican senators and that's going to be a huge headache for Senator McConnell. It's a (INAUDIBLE) situation --

KING: Getting into 2018 election year where he's got enough to worry about and that would just add too.

Everybody sit tight, up next, President Trump's former campaign chief still under house arrest. Back in front of a federal judge today after facing new allegations from the special counsel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:52:12] KING: This news just in CNN. A law enforcement source says the New York attack suspect told investigators that recent Israeli actions in Gaza are the reasons he tried to carry out this morning's attack in the underground passage way in New York City. We'll keep reporting on that story.

Meanwhile, a federal judge overseeing Paul Manafort's case is ordering the ex-Trump campaign chief to stop communicating with the media about anything to do with his case and his trial. Manafort is back in court this morning after Special Counsel Robert Mueller accused him of violating a gag order in the case by helping to write an op-ed essay that run in the Ukrainian newspaper defending Manafort's activities there. The evidence? This Microsoft Word document that Special Counsel Mueller got his hands on which shows dozens of edits made by Mr. Manafort to the op-ed that ran last week in the Kyiv Post.

Mueller says that shows Manafort untrustworthy and should have not his bail conditions elusive. The judge says she's considering it this morning.

This is sort of a back and forth in a court case that in many case you would say, what does that have to do with anything? But, this is Manafort playing hardball with these guys who are charged and under house arrest, strict bail conditions. This is the special counsel not just sending a message to Mr. Manafort but anybody else who might come his way.

DAVIS: Right. I mean, Mueller playing hardball and showing that the reach of his investigation is really quite deep and he has access to this kind of documentation that if you violate the terms of your arrest or your charges in this case that you're going to be found out and he's going to hold you to account.

I mean, I do think this is about, you know, keeping Manafort in line individually, but it also is a message to other people he's looking into, other people he's questioning, people who may have cut a plea deal with for instance that you best hold up your end of the bargain, otherwise he has means to compel you to do it.

KAPUR: (INAUDIBLE) that shows some 400,000 documents of Manafort's that Mueller now has access to that also showed that there are 15 search warrants that he obtained. It's him sending a message I think as you pointed out that also him strategically looking to probably get Manafort to cooperate and to turn in possibly a bigger fish (INAUDIBLE). He sort of nailed the National Security Michael Flynn on much bigger charges that he got him to play down to. He's after something bigger and it seems like Manafort could be a piece of that puzzle.

JOHNSON: This is an obvious point that Paul Manafort doesn't ever see him to have been shy about being associated with bad actors on the world stage. But his participation in an op-ed that was working to distance himself from Russia, and to make him look better in the public eye does seems to be an indication that he knows this is bad and he is looking to clear up the sections that he had anything to do with Russia or he was working as a puppet for Vladimir Putin and Russia. And that was interesting to me just in terms the way that Manafort is looking at his own public perception.

[12:55:03] KING: And as everybody in this town, not just this town but everybody in politics looks at this investigation and sees how serious and (INAUDIBLE) Mueller is, he's under attack from conservatives. Listen to some of the president's favorite programs here, Judge Jeanine says the special counsel and much more is broken.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX NEWS HOST: It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs. Handcuffs for Andrew McCabe, deputy director of the FBI. Handcuffs too for Peter Strzok, a high ranking FBI agent and James Comey and Robert Mueller. Well, it's time to take them out in cuffs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're running short on time so I'll wrap out of that one. That tells you that Mr. Mueller has some people's attention (INAUDIBLE) some are worried about his work. Let's leave it at that for today.

Thanks for joining us in the INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow. Wolf Blitzer is up after a quick break. Have a good day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1 p.m. here in Washington, wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

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