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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Interview With New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen; President Trump Touts Asia Trip; How Will Trump React to Moore News?; Alabama GOP Calls Emergency Meeting Amid Moore Allegations. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired November 15, 2017 - 16:00   ET



DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But just to be fair, Jen, I don't think you would expect that the discussions, private discussions held on North Korea on what the Chinese are willing to do and not do is going to be blasted out on the Chinese media or the front page of "The Washington Post."

I think that's all sub rosa. Those are things that we will wait and see how they play out. I think it's too early to say that he -- I think it's unfair to say that they failed in dealing with North Korea at this point.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think David, though, we have been hearing that for quite some time. And there is a short window for a diplomatic opportunity. It's not clear. We will see if that changes in a few weeks. But we've been hearing that for some time.

URBAN: The Obama administration had eight years to deal with the North Koreans. That's why we are where we are.

PSAKI: Well, Trump is president now. He has been for almost a year. This has escalated and gotten worse.


URBAN: I don't think it's gotten worse. I think it's got markedly better.

I think the president has put a great deal of pressure, has put a great deal of focus on this, unlike his predecessors dating back, Republicans and Democrats. This president doesn't have the luxury of time. This president does not have that. This president was forced to deal with it, unlike his predecessors, who were able to just kick the can down the road, talk about sanctions and things that haven't worked.

This president doesn't have that luxury.

PSAKI: I don't think North Korea is a partisan issue.


URBAN: I agree. I absolutely agree. PSAKI: I think it's something everybody is concerned about. And

everybody is looking to President Trump.

What you're seeing from world leaders is a concern that he is rushing to war and being erratic in his behavior.


URBAN: I don't think that's a fair analysis.

PSAKI: And not an opportunity for diplomacy. This was an opportunity to do that on the trip.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There is a concern, Kristen.

In some countries as you know, according to international polling, there is more respect for President Trump and more faith in the United States' leadership, in Russia, in Israel, and in other countries.

But the world as a whole, if you look at this, this is according to Pew, it's down. So up in ally Israel, up in traditional, I don't know what you call them, nemesis Russia, but down in the world, and, in fact, in Asia, it's also a mixed bag. It is down, at least in the last poll I saw, in Japan and South Korea, two American allies, but up in other Asian countries.

What do you make of all of that?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think is it has a lot to do with President Trump's -- take something like the Philippines, for instance, where the leader there is someone where we have a lot of reasons to be gravely concerned.

And yet President Trump has made what I frankly think -- I'm uncomfortable -- with very kind overtures to the leader of that nation. So I think it is on a country-by-country basis, because I think President Trump, his foreign policy is not some kind of overarching, clear, single unifying theory doctrine.

It's, I think, on a very country-by-country basis that he's choosing leaders that he likes and gets along with and leaders that he's getting along with perhaps better than Barack Obama. But there are other countries that's not the case.

TAPPER: What do you think, David?

URBAN: I think that that's probably the way to approach it. Right?

You can't have a one size fits all in diplomacy. Each country is a different give and take, especially in this region dealing with North Korea. And the Asian, you know, peninsula there -- on the Korean Peninsula, everybody's got a different take on this.

You're right in terms of what happened in the Philippines. There are definitely a lot of negatives about the president of the Philippines. I'm not quite certain what again happens behind the scenes sub rosa in terms of their helping us with terrorism and other things.

I'm not quite certain on the back channel things that are going on, what they may be doing or not doing. But I think, again, on the whole, this trip was a big success for the president. I think it's a big success for America.

TAPPER: And, Jen, were you surprised that President Trump obviously felt the need to come out and talk about the speech?

He didn't take questions, obviously, the political question of the day about Roy Moore and what President Trump's position is on Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate. He didn't answer a question about that, staying very disciplined.

But are you surprised that he felt the need to come out and give this mini-address?

PSAKI: The truth is, I think it was smart. We didn't do that enough. Most presidents don't do that enough. When you finish a foreign trip, it's not like the American public is watching every move you make. The time change is very difficult.

No one knows really what you're doing or what big foreign deals mean for you. Whether it's a success or not, we can debate that, but coming out and describing why you were in Asia and what you were doing there is actually a smart tactic for any president.

TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN's Boris Sanchez. He's at the White House.

Boris, you have some reporting. Why does President Trump feel the need to make the speech? You just heard Jen Psaki, former communications director in the Obama White House, say that was a good idea, we should have done more of that. Why does President Trump feel the need to do it?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, for months now, we have heard from this White House and other key Republicans that this administration is not getting credit for the things that it has accomplished.

And with so much else going on in the political landscape, whether it be Rob Mueller's special investigation into alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia or the special election in Alabama and the allegations against Roy Moore, there is a feeling that some of their accomplishments could be overshadowed.

In this speech, though, you saw the president go on a stop-by-stop tour detailing every accomplishment that he perceived was made in places like Japan and South Korea, and China.


Specifically on Japan, he said he convinced Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, to enact new sanctions against North Korea and also to reinvest in the Japanese military by buying U.S. arms.

In South Korea, he said that he convinced Moon Jae-in to expand the payload on certain missiles that could be launched from South Korea, in defense against any possible aggression from North Korea.

On China, he said he had a frank conversation with Xi Jinping, saying that time was running out to deal with the North Korean regime. He also said that he told him that trade -- the trade deficit had to be equalized between the two nations.

The president specifically going out of his way to combine the message of security and trade in this speech, and in his conversations with Asian leaders saying that the United States had established a new standard of trade and that the years of being taken advantage of, Jake, were over.

TAPPER: Interesting. Boris Sanchez at the White House for us.

I wanted to bring in Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen New Hampshire. She serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and the Senate Armed Services Committees.

Senator, thanks so much for being here.

What's your reaction to President Trump saying that the U.S. standing in the world is stronger than ever before?

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Well, I think it's important for the president to travel to reassure our allies who have been very concerned about some of the positions of this administration.

I think we need to continue to engage with our allies and with the world situation, both on trade. I'm concerned that by pulling out of TPP, while we all want fair and competitive trade, the fact is what we have done is left the playing field to the Chinese to engage with those partners.

So, I think we need to do both. We need to strike better trade deals, but we need to do it in a way that ensures that we are at the table on these deals.

TAPPER: Were there elements of the president's trip to Asia that you think were successes for the United States?

SHAHEEN: Well, again, I think whenever the president is there representing America, especially with our allies, that's very important.

I was disappointed. I thought this was a great opportunity to try and further engage Russia in what's going on with North Korea. One of the things we need to do with North Korea, which is a rogue nation, is to get the international community in support of further sanctions, of keeping pressure on the North Korean regime. And Russia is a key player there and he missed that opportunity to engage Putin on that issue. TAPPER: The president said that in meetings with other world leaders,

they were united in applying even more pressure on North Korea to give up that country's nuclear program. He blamed the predecessors of -- the presidents for their failures to take on North Korea. He didn't mention them by name, but Obama, Bush, Clinton. Does he have a point?

SHAHEEN: Look, I think we need to keep steady pressure on North Korea.

As I said, we need to build an international coalition, as President Obama did on Iran, to get people united in working and keeping the pressure on North Korea. What we don't need is inconsistent messages on Twitter that leave -- are open to interpretation by Kim Jong-un, who is a very irrational and radical leader.

So I think that's the kind of consistent, stable diplomacy that we need to continue. And I think, unfortunately, this administration has fallen short in that score.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you. To play devil's advocate here, President Trump doing what he's doing on Twitter, I understand it meets with a lot of criticism, especially when it involves Kim Jong- un, who is the leader of a rogue regime, subjects his people to horrific human rights abuses and obviously is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Is it not possible that what he's doing on Twitter is having a desired effect in terms of, you know, the madman theory in convincing Kim Jong-un, wow, maybe I really better take this seriously because who knows what this president's going to do? President Obama would never do anything like that. He was too rational, but who knows what this guy is going to do?

Is it not possible that that's working in a way?

SHAHEEN: Well, it's certainly creating uncertainty.

The concern is that at some point it could be misinterpreted in a way that would cause a dramatic miscalculation on the part of the North Koreans about what we're really, really willing to do in terms of responding to any of their actions. So, is it creating uncertainty? Is it making the leader of North Korea think about what he's doing? Sure. That's probably true.

But is that the best way to approach this situation? I think that's the real question.


TAPPER: So I know you're in favor of the Pacific trade deal that was scrapped by the House even before President Trump scrapped it.

He said that the U.S. is prepared to negotiate fair bilateral trade agreements with any country that believes in free and fair trade because the days of the U.S. being taken advantage of are -- quote -- "over." Given the fact that the Republican Congress wasn't going to support this anyway, is this not a possible decent route for the president to want to negotiate these bilateral trade agreements with Asian countries so as to make up for the lack of U.S. participation in the TPP, in the Pacific trade deal?

SHAHEEN: Well, we will see. So far, we haven't negotiated any of those bilateral trade deals. So if we can do that successfully, that will be great, but so far we haven't seen any proof of that.

TAPPER: I want to ask you before you go about Alabama's Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore, who has been accused of inappropriate, frankly, sexual abuse by one 16-year-old girl and one 14-year-old girl. Several -- now grown women.

Several Republicans, including many of your Republican colleagues, are calling on him to drop out of the race. I believe you're on the Senate Ethics Committee and this might come in front of you, so you can't talk about shut, but do you think in general that this is an issue that President Trump should weigh in on, given the fact that he is the leader of the Republican Party, as well as the president of the United States?

SHAHEEN: Listen, I hope this is an issue that people everywhere will weigh in on, because we should be having a national conversation about what's appropriate, what's acceptable and what is not.

And we're seeing that in terms of other allegations around sexual assault and sexual harassment. This is a conversation that's long overdue in this country. I hope everyone will stand up, whether it's our civic leaders, our religious leaders, our entertainment industry, whoever it is, and say, this is not acceptable behavior and we are not going to tolerate it any longer.

TAPPER: Well, while we're on the subject of that, as long as you said that, I do want to ask you, it's come to light because of the hearings in the House yesterday on sexual harassment and assault that Congress has a problem of its own.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier said that there is a current -- there are two House members currently right now in the House, one Democrat, one Republican, she didn't name them, who are sexual harassers. And what women have to do to lodge a complaint is an incredibly Byzantine process. It looks, frankly, designed as if it is set up to protect sexual harassers.

What kind of changes need to happen so that Congress does not avoid this wave sweeping the country of awareness and action when it comes to people who commit these acts?

SHAHEEN: Well, absolutely.

Congress needs to abide by its own rules in so many areas. And this is one where I'm pleased to see that Speaker Ryan and also that the Senate is talking about mandatory training for all employees, for members to understand what sexual harassment is, how you should respond to it.

I hope that we will make filing a complaint easier for those victims, so that they have an opportunity to be heard in any process. And we need to deal with this issue in the same way that the rest of our society does.

TAPPER: Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of the great state of New Hampshire, thanks so much. Always good to have you on, Senator.

SHAHEEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: I want to bling my panel back in.

There was a lighter moment, a lighter moment from this rather substantive speech. The president, as happens when one speaks for a long time -- you both have water in front of you, I have water in front of me. The president got a little dry-mouthed. Let's show that clip.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And jobs. Thank you. They don't have water? That's OK. What? That's OK. Oh.

Japanese manufactures Toyota and Mazda...


TAPPER: The only reason I bring that up is because President Trump when he was candidate Trump made a lot of hay during the campaign of another famous incident of dry mouth featuring Senator Marco Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Frustrated me more than false choices like the one the president laid out tonight. The choice isn't just between big government or big business.


TAPPER: I'm not going to run -- I'm not going to roll all of the clips of President Trump, candidate Trump making fun of Marco Rubio with his dry mouth. But it happens.


PSAKI: Sure. And to Marco Rubio's credit, he tweeted at Trump giving him some tips on how to do it better next time, including to keep his eyes straight on the camera, which was one of the weirdest parts of the Marco Rubio water incident.

[16:15:00] TAPPER: I thought that actually -- yes, I thought Trump's actually was a little bit smoother, because he was just like, where is the water?

PSAKI: That's true. That's true. But Marco Rubio handled it pretty well.

TAPPER: I thought Rubio is -- when he did it, it was almost as if he was trying to pretend that he wasn't doing it.

PSAKI: Right, like no one would see it.


TAPPER: More substantively, David, let me ask you -- President Trump avoided a question about Roy Moore shouted at him. I understand that. He wanted to focus on the speech. That was discipline and I totally get it. But at some point, isn't he going to have to come out and say something about Roy Moore?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't think so. Jake, look, I think the Roy Moore issue is easily dealt with and best dealt with by the folks in Alabama.

I think the governor, the Governor Ivey, has the ability. She pushed up the election. She has the ability to delay the election. She can postpone this election, take everyone out of this misery.

They can have a new election of a new candidate, everybody gets to move on. Roy Moore is no longer the candidate. We don't have to deal with the issues of unseating him if he wins.

All of those things that you said that Senator Shaheen will have to deal with. I think it's squarely the ball is in her court. I think there is maybe a little political pressure in Alabama not to do that, right? Perhaps from the Alabama Republicans.

But I think the best course would be for her to postpone that and allow him to get out and allow Republicans in Alabama to remove him; the party not to endorse him. Kind of correct the record on this whole incident.

TAPPER: Although we're just learning, some breaking news right now, the Alabama Republican Party's governing body has called an emergency meeting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern at state party headquarters. We don't know the topic but one can assume pressure is mounting on --

URBAN: Looks like a prescient.


TAPPER: On Roy Moore.

Separately, an attorney for the Roy Moore campaign is also planning to hold a news conference at 5:00 p.m. Eastern as well.

Kristen, do you think that President Trump, as David says, can avoid and should avoid talking about this?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, POLLSTER: Well, interestingly, remember, President Trump endorsed the other candidate.

TAPPER: Luther Strange, the incumbent senator, yes.

ANDERSON: So, he's never technically come out and said, you know, that he is a Roy -- he wasn't his choice in the primary, and so, he has the ability to distance himself. But I think what is making this challenging is a lot of the reason why Roy Moore is appealing is the same reason why a lot of voters found Trump appealing. This sentence, well, I may not like the guy, I may not like some of the things he's done, but you know what, I'd rather have him in there than someone from the other party, than one of the other people.

I want to send a message. That's the exact same sentence you would hear a lot of folks say about why they supported Trump. Look, he may not be perfect, I may not like the "Access Hollywood" tapes but I'm going to vote for him to send a message. And you hear a lot of that from voters in Alabama about Roy Moore.

So, I think it would be very important for Trump to come out because so many voters who put their trust in Trump I think would be responsive to him if him and other major conservative leaders of his wing of the party were to come out and be unequivocal on this issue.

TAPPER: Although, Jen, I have to say, Jeff Zeleny is reporting that his sources are telling him that President Trump would prefer that Moore leaves the race but he's concerned he comes out and opens the obvious door to people saying, well, why should these women be believed but these women, Trump's accusers should not be believed? Is it smarter as a matter of politics for him to not say anything about this?

PSAKI: As a matter of politics, probably.

TAPPER: I'm not getting into morality here.

PSAKI: Sure.

TAPPER: Just as a matter of political advice.

PSAKI: He has his own awkward and unfortunate history of being a bit of a misogynist so that makes it awkward for him to be the moral authority or the moral compass. All that being said, and also, if you look at the polls, what's interesting is that the support among evangelicals and others in Alabama for Roy Moore has only increased with the allegations.


PSAKI: These are people who Donald Trump wants. So, politically, if you're advising him on that front, he maybe shouldn't come out. There is a separate moral question as to whether the president of the United States should welcome pedophiles into the Senate. I think the answer is no and they should be outspoken about them. I realize that wasn't your question though.

TAPPER: All right. We have lots -- we're going to take a very quick break. We have lots more on our breaking news. Two critical events at the top of the hour concerning U.S. Senate Roy Moore coming up. Everyone, stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about. Thanks.


[16:23:08] TAPPER: Welcome back. We're back with the breaking news.

President Trump just wrapped up a speech on his Asia trip and he ignored shouted questions about his views on Senate candidate Roy Moore.

And here at THE LEAD, we've been trying to figure out how President Trump might respond to all of this Roy Moore news. For help, we looked at what President Trump has said in the past about sexual scandals of other individuals. We think we have found a pattern.

Here is President Trump on Harvey Weinstein just last month.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not at all surprised to see it.


TAPPER: How about Anthony Weiner or Eliot Spitzer? Well, there is a tweet for both of them. Quote: With the two wacko perverts Spitzer and Weiner, NYC politics has become a joke all around the world, unquote.

OK. So, that's his view on high-profile Democrats.

Now, let's turn to conservatives, Republicans and friends such as the late FOX News CEO Roger Ailes.


TRUMP: It's very sad because he's a very good person. I've always found him to be just a very, very good person.


TAPPER: A good person. That's also how the president described Fox host Bill O'Reilly.

So, it would seem here's the pattern we've been able to discern, if you're an opponent, he believes the charges and if you're a friend, he stands by you.

And nowhere is this more apparent than with Mr. Trump's opinion of Bill Clinton. In the midst of the Lewinsky scandal in 1998, Clinton's then friend Donald Trump said this.


TRUMP: Paula Jones is a loser. He's had such bad advice. It's just been so badly handled. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: But then after Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary became enemies number one and two on President Trump's road to the White House last year, well, Trump then brought three of the former president's accusers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick to the second presidential debate to highlight their charges.

It would seem the only relevant factor for President Trump is whether you're a friend or a foe, not the credibility of the charges.

[16:25:00] And just as an observation, if the only thing you care about when it comes to sexual harassment or abuse charges is whether the person accused is your friend or whether you can use the charge against your enemies, well then you don't actually care about the crime of sexual harassment and abuse.

TAPPER: And just in to CNN, at the top of the hour, the Alabama Republican Party plans to hold an emergency hearing. And Senate candidate Roy Moore's attorney is planning to hold a press conference. This as the political walls appear to be closing in on Judge Moore after allegations that he sexually abused girls 14 and 16 years old when he was a grown man in his 30s.

President Trump ignored a question on Moore this afternoon. Meanwhile, other Republican leaders in Washington are giving serious thought to drafting another popular Alabama Republican on the ballot, that would be Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He held the seat Moore wants for two decades.

Could Sessions win as a write in candidate? The idea is picking up steam among Senate Republican leaders, but Moore, he's putting up a fight, tweeting this afternoon, quote: We believe in God, the Constitution, the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. We are everything the Washington elite hate. They will do whatever it takes to stop us. We will not quit, unquote.

CNN's Nick Valencia joins me now live from Gadsden, Alabama.

Since that tweet, Moore's attorney announced plans to hold a news conference.

Nick, do we have any idea what he's going to talk about?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the outstanding question at this hour, Jake, but if it's any indication what he said in the past, what he'll say later this afternoon, he'll be defending the character and integrity of his client, perhaps even going after the media.

Since this story was broken by "The Washington Post" last Thursday, Roy Moore has been defiant. He continued to be so yesterday at a campaign rally, saying he's the one that's actually a victim in all of this.


VALENCIA: Roy Moore digging in. The Republican Senate candidate in Alabama defiant, even while sexual assault allegations swirled around him.

ROY MOORE (R), ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm now facing allegations and that's all the press wants to talk about.

VALENCIA: Moore maintaining his innocence, as his attorneys threaten to sue the Alabama media group and the "Washington Post," were the first to report the claims. Moore's lawyer indicating the mounting pressure for his client to step aside is not likely to persuade him.

TRENT GARMON, ROY MOORE'S ATTORNEY: I do not think he's going to drop out and if in satisfactory these things are not true, the most appropriate thing for him to do would be to push forward.

VALENCIA: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now talked to President Trump. Earlier, he called on Moore to withdraw.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I'd like to save the seat and it's one heck of a dilemma when you've got a completely unacceptable candidate bearing the label of your party within a month of the election.

REPORTER: How was your trip, Mr. President?

VALENCIA: President Trump just back from his Asia trip has so far been silent on the issue, but the White House says Trump is closely monitoring the situation and weighing their options.

McConnell floated Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a possible write- in candidate to replace Moore, but conceded it would be tough to pull off.

MCCONNELL: He fits the mold of somebody who might be able to pull off a write-in.

VALENCIA: And the number two in the Senate, John Cornyn, today said he'd support a Sessions write-in campaign. Moore may even be losing the support of conservative FOX host Sean Hannity.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: For me, the judge has 24 hours. You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies.

VALENCIA: But Moore still has been advocate, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon. A source close to Bannon claims he's, quote, still with him and there are no signs of him withdrawing his support.


VALENCIA: And the suggestion that Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be a write-in in this vote on December 12th, well, that could complicate things. Even if Moore withdraws, his name will not be removed from the ballot, so Republicans run the risk of splitting the vote between the write-in candidate and Moore, and therein a handing an election victory over to the Democratic challenger, Doug Jones -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia in Gadsden, Alabama.

What about that Sessions scenario? Could the attorney general reclaim his old Senate seat? What would that process even look like? CNN's Tom Foreman, he's at the magic wall to break that all down for us.

That's next. Stay with us.