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INSIDE POLITICS

Congress Back To Work Amid Sex Scandal Distractions; Trump Signals Support For Roy Moore In Alabama; Did Michael Flynn Flip?. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 27, 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] JOHN KING, INSIDE POLITICS HOST: -- Republicans are obviously in the majority. It seemed a messy process over the weekend. These allegations first came out last week. It was trying to Thanksgiving breaks. So you're waiting to get in touch with people as everybody took consult to attorney's anything else. But I just want to play a little bit of Nancy Pelosi here, the House Democratic leader on "Meet the Press." But she seemed frankly just unprepared and she had to know this issue was going to come up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: We are strengthened by due process. Just because someone is accused and was it one accusation, is it two, I think there has to be John Conyers as an icon in our country. He's done a great deal to protect women.

He will do the right thing in terms of what he knows about his situation that he's entitled to due process, but women are entitled to due process as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It was after this interview that, you know, the congressman has issued his statement saying I'm going to step aside. One would have thought that they would have coordinated that to make it less messy.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That was a very messy for Pelosi she had to put on a statement later as well to clean up that rather disastrous interview.

The thing is, well, there's really a lot to do with internal house Democratic politics in a lot of ways. She -- the congressional black caucus of which John Conyers is the member, the -- essentially he dean of --

JACKIE KUCINICH, THE DAILY BEAST: He help founded.

RAJU: He have founded. They're very influential faction within that -- within the Democratic Caucus. She needs support from various factions within the Democratic Caucus to maintain her position on top of her party.

Now, the CBC for a long time, there were a lot of members who felt that they've been unfairly targeted, they don't get their time to push back and due process and the like. And she was -- she's somewhat acknowledging that. And that's why she responded in somewhat clumsy manner when she was asked pretty directly about these allegations. It was not a particularly good moment for her.

And there's one that a lot of Democrats, not just in the CBC but others are saying she could have handled all of that.

KING: And it raised the question I think a lot of people outside of Washington are asking is, you know, Congressman Conyers is due his innocent until proven guilty. He deserves every opportunity to answer this if he says it is not true. However, the women also deserve an appropriate and respectful forum to come forward and make their case the process.

You have the -- we'll get to Senator Franken in a minute with the Senate Ethics Committee -- the House Ethics Committee private. We don't know much about him, some of these investigations drag on forever. Sometimes there's good reason for that on sensitive issues, on financial issues and the like. But is there any conversation on Capitol Hill about even if you have to use the vehicle of the ethics committee doing something to make people more confident in this process?

ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITICO: For starters, what Pelosi said about Conyers in the clip you showed were not the worst thing she said.

KING: Right.

JOHNSON: I mean she said that we need to give Conyers a little bit of a break because he's been a great advocate for women.

KING: Right.

JOHNSON: It's the same sort of thing that we heard about Bill Clinton that his policy positions exonerate his behavior towards women, and that she went on to say that because he's an icon in our country he should be given a great -- I mean you could say the same thing about Donald Trump and to excuse him from his behavior or Roy Moore that he has only been accuse. There has been no proof.

And what we know based on reporting from Capitol Hill is that the investigation process, the whole process in terms of investigating claims of sexual harassment is broken.

And so for her to say we need to trust the process I think is fraudulent on it beat and we saw her essentially being political in the way of handling his. That copping to political reasons because of political pressure which is precisely the way that we saw Democrats behave in the Clinton years and we're seeing Republicans behave now. Some Republicans, due to Roy Moore, and what both parties are trying to grapple with but trying to expel from their ranks.

KUCINICH: And to your point, a process that they -- that she and Paul Ryan so they didn't know about when they came to pay -- to giving settlements from this fund that no one apparently was aware of so that also a kind of discredits her argument there. RAJU: In a lot of ways to punting this to the ethics committee is and that what is it, it's a punt. Because the Ethics Committee is largely a toothless committee in both the House and the Senate. They don't do a whole lot but slap members on the write very stern letters saying we've been admonished and very rarely are you expelled from the Senate

That is in the most extreme, extreme situation order of the house. We'll see if it gets to that point. But let them think that the committees do the investigation in a lot of ways.

KING: That was my question then, where the leadership said we're to those committees and make any necessary changes if necessary to say you better get this one right and you better have, again, you have to respect everybody's privacy. But this is we where you can have transparency and should have it.

And as we continue the conversation, I just Senator Franken did a number of interviews back in Minnesota retrying to clean this up including this where he says that, you know, he does not believe, he says he does not believe he will face a disallow engage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENIFIED FEMALE: Have you ever placed a hand on some woman's butt?

[12:35:04] SEN AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: You know, I can't say that that hasn't happened. I take thousands and thousands of pictures. We sometimes in crowded in chaotic situations. I can't say I haven't done that. And I am very sorry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL SHEAR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean look, one of the things that these all of the episodes are showing is that the kind of swell of people coming forward doesn't discriminate politically on this. And the Democrats are finding out that that efforts to try to capitalize politically using the Roy Moore case and maybe to, you know, gain some advantage in the 2018 mid-terms to capitalize on allegations that have been long out there about Donald Trump. That those efforts to make those political are going to be really difficult because we're in a moment when, you know, allegations and accusations and revelations are coming out against both.

Democrats and Republicans across the board, across industries, you know, and that it's going to be very messy and it's not a clean thing where you can sort of make a political calculation and know that that's going to help you politically down the road. And maybe that -- and that's probably a good thing, right. That we're -- I mean if this issue is going to be dealt with in a good way for all the parties then, you know, politics should dropout of it.

KING: If they can depoliticize it to the degree possible and town called Washington D.C. and transparency to degree that is respectful. And respect to your point about bipartisan.

When we come back, up next, the Alabama Senate battle. The president says electing a Democrat would be a disaster. The Republicans saying electing Republican Roy Moore would be even worse.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:41:17] KING: Welcome back. Breaking news, you can see that live picture. That's the Hart Senate Office Building up on Capitol Hill. Senator Al Franken's office, the Democratic, excuse me, from Minnesota facing allegations that he groped women during photo opportunities and he will make a statement at the media at the top of the hour, 1:00 p.m. Eastern here in CNN. We'll bring you live coverage of that.

Senator Franken gave some interviews back in Minnesota before returning to Washington. This will be his first public statement since returning to work in the United States Senate.

Again, 1:00 Easter Time, CNN, we'll have live coverage at the top of the hour.

Now onto another raise, Senate Republicans say President Trump is making a big mistake supporting Roy Moore in Alabama. A mistake the fear could hurt the Republican Party well beyond the election two weeks from tomorrow.

Many Republicans in Washington say they believe women who've came forward and said that Moore pursued them when they were in their teens and he was a 30 something prosecutor Alabama. But the president says Moore denies the allegations. And in a weekend tweet the president also said Democrat Doug Jones is weak on crime and the border "Schumer-Pelosi puppet" and the president said Doug Jones would be "a disaster".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: The president to the degree that he wants to use his influence in this race could I think help everybody out by doing what he can to try and get Roy Moore to step aside.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Yes or no, is the president making a mistake here?

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: That's up to him. I'm not going down the road he's going. That's up to the president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And so you have this fascinating dynamic. You want him a very competitive raise that shouldn't be competitive in most circumstances.

And number two you have a -- just a fascinating break between the president of the United States who is the leader of the Republican Party and just about every other Republican Senator in Washington, D.C.

JOHNSON: I think there are two dynamics at work. The first is Republicans in Washington simply don't like Roy Moore. They don't want him as a colleague. But the other is we're having a sort of sexual harassment moment and they don't want -- Republicans don't want to advocate their moral authority on the issue.

We're seeing Democrats do it a bit. We saw Nancy Pelosi do it with John Conyers and potentially with Al Franken. And Republicans really see the president because of the allegations leveled against him. And then because of his stance he's taking towards Roy Moore really see him advocating potentially the parties of that moral authority with regard to the sexual harassment issue and they've seen it by Democrats as the Clinton's out that their stance towards Bull Clinton has come back to bite them?

RAJU: Yes. I mean the president is choosing politics over morality here clearly. Especially no Republican in Washington other than the president really is defending or saying go on and vote for Roy Moore even his own RNC and the National Republican Senate Committee have abandoned an effort to work for Roy Moore.

The question is what will Roy Moore be like as a Senator if he gets here? Will he extra support the Trump agenda, will he support what Mitch McConnell want to do. And will the Senate Ethics Committee actually try to move and try to expel him by going over through these past allegations. And interestingly that goes up with Senate president (ph) for Al Franken to they do they decided that past behavior is for tempting onto expulsion. That could be problem for Al Franken.

KUCINICH: But to your point about Mitch McConnell there. And so he's being sold as just reliable Republican vote. There is no guarantee he's going to be -- he could make Ted Cruz look like go along get along. When he, you know, when he was doing his filibuster. So this could politically just speaking purely politically come back to bite Republicans in terms of votes.

KING: But Mitch McConnell had essentially said I don't care. I don't want this guy and Eliana is right. There are other issues. So she has called from McConnell to be removed as leader but he's not going to be in establishment Republican, but McConnell had said I'll lose the seat over this.

And the present has said something different. In the New York Times reporting on the Presidents mindset over the weekend it was fascinating. It said this "he sees the calls fro m Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now famous "Access Hollywood" tape in which he boasted about grabbing women's genitalia and the flood of groping accusations against him that followed soon after.

[12:45:11] He suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently. I will not going to be (INAUDIBLE) here. We're not going to play the tape again, the Access Hollywood tape, but that was the President's voice, he was with Billy Bush. And after that came out in October of the election year, the president -- then candidate Trump said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've never said I'm a perfect person nor pretended to be someone that I'm not. I have said and done things I regret. And the words released today on this more than a decade old video are one of them. Anyone who knows me knows these words don't reflect who I am. I said it. I was wrong and I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I said it. I was wrong and I apologize. Then the "New York Times" he suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic.

SHEAR: Right. Look, he has also said -- called it locker room talk and it would essentially now -- just again, that he -- that it was him. Then he said that didn't sort of dismissing it. I think that, you know, the question about picking politics over morality right, like, in some sense that's right. But in another sense, he is really not even picking politics, because as we've just said, it's not clear that the politics were actually favor him or his party either in terms of getting legislation passed and then a reliable vote, or in terms of what it might do to the Republican Party in 2018. I think in a sense it really is just a personal reaction, right?

It is a -- he feels like somehow Roy Moore and the situation that is happening to Roy more is analogous to his own situation is somehow, you know, that if he were to come out against Roy Moore, it's somehow analogous to a further admission on his part that these accusations which are in some ways similar to his are something that people should be concerned about. And he has always rejected that idea. So in some ways, this is really, you know, Donald Trump versus everybody else because he is reacted so personally.

RAJU: And what is the one thing that the President doesn't like, looking like he's weak.

KING: Right.

RAJU: And I think worse would be calling for Roy Moore to drop out and Roy Moore doesn't drop out. How is that --

SHEAR: Which we think it would be what would happen. And I mean, we don't think that he would drop up, so.

KING: All right, two weeks from tomorrow, the people in Alabama pick. We have a lot more on that issue as we get the weekend. But it reminds for waiting, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota will have a news comes at the top of the hour. His first day back in Washington after facing allegations that he inappropriately groped women during photo (ph) opportunities.

Plus, when we come back, the ex National Security Adviser Michael Flynn flipped. That's one of the big questions. Does Flynn's lawyer stopped talking with President Trump legal team.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:52:11] KING: Well, remind you, we're waiting top of the hour, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, right there at the Hart Senate Office Building to address reporters here in Washington. Senator Franken dealing with allegations that he has groped women during photo opportunities. Again, CNN will bring you live coverage of that coming at the top of the hour.

Another big Capitol Hill drama call it a deadline defer. The Senate Judiciary Committee now says Jared Kushner is cooperating. And then what had been an ultimatum to turnover documents by today is no more.

Kushner's lawyers telling CNN is now scheduled to produce a vast number of files the committee is looking for. Materials related the Kushner's security clearance at the White House, e-mails containing the words Clinton, Wikileaks and Putin, and information about his campaign communications. There's also word over the thanksgiving break that attorneys for fired adviser Michael Flynn have stopped sharing information with the president's legal team.

The congressional investigations of course were lead by Republicans. The special counsel is appointed by the Trump justice department. But the president refuses to acknowledge those facts. Tweeting Sunday impark, "Since the first day I took office all you hear is the phony Democratic excuse for losing the election, Russia, Russia, Russia.

So a reprieve for Jared Kushner. There had been some tension there. Obviously they're working that had happens in investigations a lot.

And then the president's tweet was interesting to me in the sense that the presidents in Mar-A-Lago for thanksgiving its processing this news, this is all these reporting that his friend close adviser now estranged national security adviser, Michael Flynn, his attorneys have stopped sharing information with the Trump attorney which is the common practice among defense attorneys. But one of the hints that might give you is that he's cooperating or negotiating a plea deal some sort.

RAJU: Yes. We don't know what it means yet right now. It could also mean that charges could be coming soon to Michael Flynn also could be that's problematic for the president.

It's clear that these investigations are moving closer and closer to his inner circle both on Capitol Hill and Mueller's team going to conclude move forward this investigation of senior White House staff on the Mueller side. Now in Capitol Hill these investigations could -- presumably bringing his son, Donald Trump Jr. to finally come and meet with some of these committees about what happened in that June 2016 meeting with the Russians. Clearly, the president recognizes the White House's certainly does. The pressure is intensifying on this probe.

KUCINICH: And he can't separate himself from Flynn the way he could or tried for Manafort saying, you know, he was only on the campaign for a short amount of time et cetera. I mean Flynn is actually in the White House so that is a much trickier issue the way the president note that.

KING: In some -- In Jared Kushner the president son and lawyer Ivanka Trump had been part of the drama of Washington to see administration came to power. What do they do, what are their roles, what influential are they? A two stories in the New York Times and Washington Post this weekend about Jared Kushner had his role change, doe he more behind the scenes now?

Including this to the Washington Post, "During the campaign, I was more like a fox than a hedgehog. I was more of a generalist when I got D.C. I became more like the hedgehog where it was -- more taking issues you care deeply about than going deep and devoting the time, energy, and resources to trying to drive change."

[12:55:09] SHEAR: I really didn't under know that hedgehogs are known for diving different issues. So I couldn't make.

JOHNSON: Well, I think what he's trying to say is that when Reince Priebus was chief of staff he had free range to jump from one issue to another. And now John Kelly has restricted Kushner working on a discreet set of issues. Including bringing peace to the Middle East.

So he still has an important role in this White House. But he now reports to somebody and I think he was at the time story said Kelly has said that about Kushner, he works for me. And that was not the case under the Priebus regime.

KING: Got it. The hedgehogs are more fenced in. Appreciate everybody coming in today. Thanks for joining Inside Politics. See you back here tomorrow this time.

Again, we'll remind we're waiting for Al Franken to come out and speak. Wolf Blitzer will be here to lead our breaking news coverage after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER: Hi, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world we begin with breaking news. Democratic senator Alf Franken is set to address the Washington --