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Voting Underway In Volatile, High-Stakes Election; Trump Fires Back Over Female Accusers "Fake" Stories; Senator Gillibrand: Trump Tweet A "Sexist Smear" Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 11:00   ET


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- talk to the Jones' campaign about how they're feeling today, they say that they are feeling confident. They say that they are in a better position than they thought they would be.

Jones has started saying over the course of the past few days that if you had asked him the odds of his winning the race back when he got into it, it would be about the same as the odds of seeing snow in Alabama in December.

Well what do you know? We have seen snow in Alabama in December. This is what you would expect from a campaign on election day. Of course, the Moore campaign is also saying that they're confident.

I was speaking with a senior campaign official yesterday, who was telling me that their internal polling does show them several points ahead, but they are not taking anything for granted.

They know that they need every single vote, every single vote for Jones counts. Jones actually spoke to the press after he voted, and I asked him, not a voting related question, but how he's feeling after this long race that has had such difficult moments, oftentimes been ugly and bitter and I asked him if he was relieved and this is what he had to say.


DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm certainly relieved, but, you know, look, we expected a tough campaign. Quite frankly, I think with all that could have been said and done, I don't think it has been as bad as it could have been.


MARQUARDT: When this general election first started, this really was Roy Moore's race to lose. It was always going to be competitive, but once those allegations of sexual misconduct and child molestation came to light, it really made it much tighter.

Now, we know that Moore has this very solid core base of support and this was always on Jones to really put in the effort to get the votes out. We know that Democrats will vote for him, but the challenge that he's had is to siphon off moderate Republicans, particularly women, who would have been turned off by these allegations against Roy Moore. He also needed -- needs, Jones needs a large number of African- Americans to come out and vote today. The big question, the big thing we're focusing on is turnout. That is the name of the game today -- Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: It is the name of the game, you're actually teeing up the game we are going to play in a second perfectly. Great to see you, Alex. Thank you so much. Alex Marquardt for us there.

A reminder, Roy Moore will be heading to his polling station to vote shortly. We will bring that to you when it comes and he, again, will be keeping with the kind of the old adage if it isn't broke don't fix it, and he's going to be arriving on horseback. His horse and his wife. We will bring you the pictures when they come in.

Joining me right now, though, Alex Burns, CNN political analyst and national political reporter for the "New York Times," David Mowery, political consultant in Alabama who's worked on both Republican and Democratic campaigns in the state, and CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg. Great to see you all of you.

All right. You know I love on game day to play games. You have to play along with me. That means it is game time. A little game I like to call it all comes down to but, you can't, as Alex did, you cannot use the word turnout. Alex, we'll begin with you. What does it come down to tonight?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, since you've taken away turnout, Kate, I'm going to say look at particularly three midsized cities in Alabama. We expect Doug Jones to do very, very well in Birmingham, Montgomery. He needs a run up the scoreboard really big in those cities.

We expect Roy Moore to do very, very well in rural Alabama. So, let's look at three other cities, Huntsville in the north, Tuscaloosa in the middle of the state, and Mobile down on the gulf coast.

These are areas where Roy Moore has prevailed in the past by just losing slightly. He's won statewide races by losing those cities just by a little bit. If Doug Jones can run up a bigger margin in those places, they are wider cities than Birmingham and Montgomery. If Jones can run up a big margin in those places, it may be tough for Moore to overcome that. That is not an easy task for Jones.

BOLDUAN: It's absolutely not. David, because I am the ref I can use the word turnout. The secretary of state expects modest turnout, something like 20, 25 percent. It was something like 64 percent in the 2016 election turnout. With that in mind, what do you think it all comes down to? Is it the letter, name of the candidate or letter after the name?

DAVID MOWERY, ALABAMA POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I think it's always going to be the letter after the name, but I would like to add to what was said earlier, I think you have to look at Shelby County and Baldwin County, which are Republican bastions and figure what the overall African-American turnout is versus the women turnout and there's your dynamic.

Jones essentially has to get about 150,000 crossover votes or whatever that percentage is, you know, that you're talking about that's the difference, and I mean that's just hard math. I'm not in the prediction game, but I will say that it -- a lot of times maybe it comes down to $20 million spent for Jones and $4 million for whatever on the aggregate spent for Moore. Does money overcome crazy?

BOLDUAN: Does money overcome no matter how you are going to describe it, soon we will find out, I guess. Rebecca, give me your take?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We've been talking a lot about what Jones needs to see with his turnout, African-American voters, women voters, younger voters, but I think it's interesting also to take a look at who might not turn out for Roy Moore this evening.

You think back to Donald Trump's election, we were all talking about what is going to happen with these college educated white voters, suburban, you might consider them chamber of commerce business oriented Republicans, what happens with those voters?

Do they decide to take the route that Senator Shelby took and write in another candidate or not show up to the polls at all? It's worth noting that Doug Jones and his campaign have been making a direct appeal to these sorts of Chamber of Commerce Republicans talking about how Roy Moore would be bad for business in Alabama. It will be interesting to see if those appeals actually resonate here.

BOLDUAN: So Alex wins because he's literally the only one who didn't use the word turnout. Guys, you got to follow the rules. Alex, how Alabama got here, follows a series of wild choices from Trump to the ex-governor to the current governor to Mitch McConnell. Who is going to be redeemed and who is going to be regretting their decision most?

BURNS: Well, look, I think on the Republican side, the conversation tomorrow either way frankly is going to be overwhelmingly about Roy Moore and about the scandal that has surrounded him for a little over a month now.

But as you said, you know, it's important to take a step back and look at the long view of this race, that Republicans never needed to find themselves in the position of having Roy Moore as their nominee, of having this special election in December, of having a vacancy in the Senate at all.

Those are all discreet and really, really unsuccessful choices made by the president, made by two different governors of Alabama, that even put this race in a position where it could be competitive to begin with.

So, you know, Kate, I would say that it's sort of a murder on the Orient Express level of collective act of political harm here inflicted on the party itself.

BOLDUAN: David, Charles Barkley last night was stumping for Doug Jones and it dawned on me when he took the stage that after the primary, you threw out his name as a possible write-in on the show for the seat.


BOLDUAN: What do you make, though, of his pitch last night? Essentially saying, this is Alabama's chance to, in his words, quote/unquote, "show the country that we're not a bunch of dam idiots?"

MOWERY: You know, a lot of times when you give people that choice, and you say it that starkly, they kind of go the other way and say if you think I'm an idiot watch me. I don't know that I would have made that exact pitch, but Charles has his own way with words and, you know --

BOLDUAN: Yes, he does.

MOWERY: -- whether Alabama or Auburn you don't fault him. Having him there helps either way. But I want to go back to one thing that Alex said, that's that I think a month ago, if you would have asked us what the craziest story in Alabama was going to be, it was that Robert Bentley resigned because of a sex scandal. And now we're all sitting here, waiting on what happens in this race and no matter what happens that's the craziest story of the year in politics in Alabama.

BOLDUAN: It truly has. Alex, when you were laying it out, I was reading on Twitter, it's truly an amazing series of events on how things have gotten to today. Rebecca, Steve Bannon, back in the state last night, true to form last night, hitting the media, Mitch McConnell, hitting Bob Corker, hitting basically every other Republican other than Roy Moore at this point, and then he said this --


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: There's a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better.


BOLDUAN: That is the same wording Ivanka Trump used when she spoke out against Roy Moore in the interview to AP. Do you think it's a coincidence?

BERG: Maybe, maybe not, Kate. I haven't heard direct confirmation from Bannon or his circle, but I do know that they have had a great deal of heartburn about what Ivanka said, particularly given the president's ultimate decision to endorse Roy Moore in this race.


BERG: Record robocalls for him. So, they do feel that her comment set them back, Roy Moore back, and worth noting that her comment was also used on anti-Roy Moore advertising sent out by Democrats, the Jones' campaign. It's something that potentially could hurt Moore in this race and they recognize that.

BOLDUAN: Definitely seemed to have left a mark.

BURNS: Can I say, can I add that that ad that Rebecca referred to, the Jones' ad featuring Ivanka Trump, Democrats here believe that was one of the most effective ads that Jones ran in the entire race.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Let's see, though, what happens. Great to see you guys. We'll be watching it together. Polls are open. They close at 8:00 p.m. Eastern this evening.

Coming up, this morning, President Trump is firing back, attacking the women accusing him of sexual harassment and a prominent female senator who is calling for his resignation. Gretchen Carlson is joining me next with her take on the state of play.

[11:10:04] Plus, new details about the man accused of detonating a pipe bomb during rush hour in the very busy morning commute in New York City. This as we are learning much more about the heroic officers who captured him moments after the blast.


BOLDUAN: We know this much about the new demands that President Trump be held accountable for past misconduct with women, the new outcry at least is getting his attention. He fired off this tweet this morning saying that the Democrats are coming up empty on the Russia investigation. So, they are now moving on to what he calls false and fabricated stories about women he's never even met.

More than 50 Democratic congresswomen say the House should investigate the various allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Donald Trump, including from three women who spoke out just yesterday again. Four Senate Democrats are going even a step further calling on the president to resign.


SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: President Trump should resign. These allegations are credible. They are numerous. I've heard these women's testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking and President Trump should resign his position.


BOLDUAN: CNN's senior Washington correspondent, Joe Johns, is here now with much more. So, Joe, the president is not holding back this morning against Senator Gillibrand who you just heard right there. What's going on here?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a lot of back and forth, quite frankly. Of course, against the backdrop of people in the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill call for the president to resign, including Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, other Democrats, saying there ought to be an investigation of some sort and the president really went after Gillibrand today.

Let's just read that tweet, "Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office begging for campaign contributions, not so long ago, and would do anything for them, is now in the ring fighting against Trump very disloyal to Bill and crooked use" -- whatever that means.

So, Gillibrand responded with a tweet of her own saying, "You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you've brought to the oval office."

And just a little while ago on Capitol Hill, Gillibrand was also asked a question about this, the question was, do you see this as sexual harassment by a tweet and she responded, quote, "I see it as a sexism smear, part of the president's efforts to silence me, it's not going to silence me, the women that have been speaking out."

She goes on, "These allegations should be investigated and they should be investigated thoroughly. That is the right thing to do and I am urging them to do that and so should their constituents."

So, a little bit more now from Kirsten Gillibrand about this back and forth between her and the president of the United States. Still waiting frankly to hear from the White House itself in an attempt to clarify what exactly it was the president meant when he said, "she would do anything for campaign contributions."

We do know that sometimes people here at the White House don't like to get too far out ahead of the skis and interpreting the president's controversial tweets without some vetting on the response. So, waiting to hear on that.

Also, there is an opportunity for the president to speak to it himself when he signs the National Defense Authorization Act just a little while here at the White House and we expect to hear from Sarah Sanders too. Kate, back to you.

BOLDUAN: Yes. This would not -- it would not be surprising if today fits into the category as they've used many times before, the tweet speaks for itself when asked about it. We'll see. Joe, thank you very much.

Joining me right now is a woman who has taken up this cause, personal story ignited this new era of accountability in the work place, former Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson. She is, of course, also the author of "Be Fierce, Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back." Great to see you, Gretchen. Thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: So, you were just standing on Capitol Hill last week with Senator Gillibrand. She is championing -- cosponsoring the bill you were championing to eliminate forced arbitration in the workplace. You saw the tweet from the president this morning and thought what?

CARLSON: I thought it was totally sexist. I thought that it was a deliberate takedown of her because she's a female senator in an effort to try to silence her. Look, here's the message, sexual harassment is apolitical, it doesn't matter what political party --

BOLDUAN: It sure as heck should be.

CARLSON: It sure as heck should be and there are many, many accusers of President Trump and they deserve a voice just as Roy Moore's do, just as Al Franken's do. So, this is on both sides of the fence. We've seen titans from both sides fall. I think that was despicable tweet that he put out this morning.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- and this is a hypothetical, of course, do you think his statement would have been different had Senator Gillibrand been Senator Ken Gillibrand?

CARLSON: Possibly. But to say that she would do anything to get campaign contributions, somebody in the White House needs to explain what that means because a lot of people believe that that means she would have done sexual favors and that is absolutely disgusting.

BOLDUAN: It's a different time. People need to answer. People need to -- the innuendo and the -- I don't know, subliminal, doesn't work anymore.

CARLSON: Well, I think he's brought a lot of attention back to himself because the more that he supports a candidate like Roy Moore and tweets out about this, the accusers against Donald Trump are going to continue to have more of a voice.

[11:20:04] And that's the era we are in right now, 17 months after my story broke when it was a very lonely experience, I mean, look at where we are.


CARLSON: I mean, I'm so proud of the bravery and courage of all these other women who have come forward and men, and feel like they have a voice. I mean, it is truly a cultural shift.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you about that because the women who have come forward to tell their stories they did it during the campaign, coming forward again to talk about this against President Trump, calling for Congress to investigate. He calls it -- he called them liars back in the campaign, calls it fake news now.

Do you think the sea change, the shift that you're talking about, do you think that it -- do you think it's possible if the president is addressing the issue in the way that he is?

CARLSON: I don't know how you can pick and choose which women to believe and which ones are liars. I don't know if an entire category of women can all be liars. For the American people, it's time that we all have the courage to stop the divisive nature we find ourselves in and say look, no matter if I'm a Republican or a Democrat or an independent like I am, it's wrong.

And we have to call it out when we see it if we have any chance of coming together. You can't just pick and choose because you don't like the fact that there are a lot of accusers against a Republican or against a Democrat.

BOLDUAN: When it comes to the president, Republicans seem to say, you know, it seems -- to be honest, fat chance there's going to be an investigation in Congress with a Republican House and Senate. Kirsten Gillibrand has also one of those that has come forward to take it a step forward and says in face of these incredible accusers against Donald Trump he should resign. Have you -- do you have a thought on that?

CARLSON: I don't have a thought on that. I get asked every single day about President Trump. But here's the big difference between the titans we've seen fall and the private sector versus in politics. The people elect the politicians. That's the only way they can be rehired or fired, right.

It really is up to the people. Now whether or not Congress wants to start an investigation into other senators and members of the House who have been accuse of similar things or even President Trump that remains to be seen, but it really in the end is up to the people.

BOLDUAN: There isn't one application of how they're responding to it when it comes to in Congress right now. That I found confusing and confounding. You have Democrats, Republicans resigning under pressure facing allegations or in the face of settlements that they've settled.

You have a Republican in there right now with no signs of -- that he's going to be -- asked to be resign at all. Blake Farenthold settling an $84,000 settlement on taxpayer dollars.

"New York Times" coming out with a scathing article about the culture and atmosphere he created in his office, and he's not going, and leadership has said nothing about it, only a couple lawmakers have said something about it.

How -- what do you make of this? As you said, it's apolitical, but there is a different application, put politics aside, of how leadership in Congress is addressing this issue?

CARLSON: Yes. Leadership in Congress should be addressing it whether or not it's a Republican or a Democrat. This is what I did last week. You know, it was --


CARLSON: -- it was an immense measure to get both parties to come together to introduce a bill in the House and the Senate to take away arbitration for sexual harassment claims within the confines of the workplace structure.

Wouldn't it be wonderful now if we could actually get these bills up for vote and we would actually do something spectacular for women right now? Many people complain about the fact that Congress gets nothing done.

BOLDUAN: Right. CARLSON: Imagine if all -- in this bipartisan effort that we could do something for women to have more of a voice. Arbitration is secret. That's the problem with it and that's how predators continue to work in their powerful positions because women have had no voice.

BOLDUAN: Do you -- have you thought if these bills move forward, right, have you wondered at all if it's a question, if the president would sign it if it made it to his desk?

CARLSON: Of course. I mean, that's the end result, right. It will land on his desk. And what will the public pressure be to do the right thing. Here's what I say when meeting with Republicans and Democrats. Do you want to be on the right or wrong side of history?

BOLDUAN: What's the answer they give you?

CARLSON: That they all want to be on the right side of history.

BOLDUAN: But do they have the courage to do it?

CARLSON: Many times they tell me stories that their wives have told them, their niece, children, grandchildren, and that's how we got to this bipartisan measure.

BOLDUAN: But with some of them, does it follow with a but, this is not the time for me to do.

CARLSON: Well, it wasn't for Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a Republican who came on board.


CARLSON: It wasn't for Elise Stefanich, the representative from New York, Republican. It wasn't for Walter Jones, Republican of North Carolina in the House. I mean, these were Republicans who had the courage to step forward and be on this bill.

BOLDUAN: This was also not a huge -- this is a huge issue in -- this is a huge moment, but also take it even granular in this election that's going on in Alabama right now, if Roy Moore is elected what does it mean for this movement?

[11:25:08] CARLSON: It means that some people believe that sexual harassment is political and that's a shame. That's a shame for our children, which is why I'm doing this entire fight and wrote the book, "Be Fierce."

We need to focus even more so on how we are raising our sons to respect girls and then their future female colleagues in the workplace. That is essential to empower our girls and to raise our sons respecting girls and women.

That's why I'm doing the work that I'm doing right now because I do see an optimistic change coming. It can't be political. We have to all take ownership and say we were not going to allow this, not going to allow women to be treated this way. BOLDUAN: It's going to take everyone coming together in this hyper- partisan time to keep it away from the politics. But you were a lonely woman when you spoke out when you did and it's great to see you.

CARLSON: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thanks for coming in. "Be Fierce" the book is out right now.

Still ahead for us, we do have some breaking news we are following coming in on that attempted terror attack here in New York City. We are learning the alleged attacker posted about President Trump on Facebook. What he said, that's next.

Plus, the White House says President Trump will have his first official medical exam as president. What will be released to the public? Remember what was released during the campaign. Nada, nothing, essentially and what is Trump's reported 12 Diet Cokes a day mean for the president's health. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will weigh in on that.