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AT THIS HOUR

Trump to Pitch on Tax Reform Bill to House Republicans; Al Franken Accused of Groping Radio Anchor Years Ago; 2nd Jury Deadlocked in Menendez Corruption Case. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 16, 2017 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- she is willing to put forth that yearbook and have it examined, if you will, by an independent source, if Roy Moore is willing to testify in front of a Senate committee. A lot of that has a lot of legal posturing sort of going back and forth. At the end of the day, what it's really going to come down to are the voters and that special election held on December 12th -- Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. It's going to -- that is exactly what it's going to come down to. Voters in Alabama and where they stand.

Jason, thank you so much on the ground in Alabama.

We will go back to our breaking news on Capitol Hill, though, in just a moment.

Any minute -- any minute now, President Trump will be leaving the White House and heading to Capitol Hill to make his pitch to House Republicans as they prepare to meet one of their major goals, at least the first step in the major goals of the year, and let's say of the decade or three decades. Right now, you're looking at the motorcade heading out from the White House to the capitol where President Trump will be heading into the capitol. On the Senate side, not such smooth sailing. We will be watching all of the moves of the president as he heads to Capitol Hill.

We'll also be following more breaking news coming in. Democratic Senator Al Franken now being accused of groping a radio news anchor in years past. The Senator is now responding. We'll have that in an update for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGINS IN PROGRESS)

[11:35:29] BOLDUAN: -- Margaret Hoover -- put your devices away -- political commentator and worked at the George W. Bush White House, and Scott Mulhauser making his AT THIS HOUR debut, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to the Senate Finance Committee.

Guys, let's get to it. Where shall we begin?

Bryan?

BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let's do it.

BOLDUAN: How do you see this going today? What's the pitch the president is going to be throwing at them in just a couple minutes?

LANZA: The pitch is simple, honor the promise you made to the American people, the same promise that the president made and every House of Representative and every U.S. Senator made. We've been promising tax reform for 30 years. The moment is here. You throw in the individual mandate, the cherry on top, and we now have an opportunity to create an offensive agenda that helps the American taxpayer and levels out the economy for a lot of people.

BOLDUAN: He is rolling heavy today. That is a lot of aides going with the president.

(CROSSTALK)

LANZA: He's the president.

BOLDUAN: I'm not questioning it. I'm not criticizing it. I'm just observing. As he walks into the capitol, he'll heading down to the basement to the grand old HC-5 to meet Republicans right now.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Margaret, play this out for me. House votes yes. Senate, where do you put your money right now?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I know --

BOLDUAN: I know.

HOOVER: Right now, it's a tossup. I don't know if they get it. I think there's a good chance. I do think there's a chance. Ron Johnson coming back from it, is not good.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

HOOVER: But then there's a chance that this bipartisan bill, that Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander might actually, in exchange for the repeal of the Obamacare mandate, might get their bipartisan push through that would replace the subsidies and add more freedom for interstate, cross-state exchanges or health care across state lines. There's a lot of deal making going on and truthfully, I would always bet on McConnell. If McConnell wants this to get done --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: With health care --

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: He didn't need it to get done on health care and that's what we didn't talk about, he was going to keep the Senate at that point in 2018 anyway because the deck was so in his favor that the national dynamic has changed now after Virginia. Republicans need to get this done. President Trump is on the Hill. By the way, he's never gone to the Hill to push major legislative action.

BOLDUAN: He's gone for meetings.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: But now he's up there telling them to vote for his bill. Republicans absolutely need this to win. And so all things being equal, I bet on be if McConnell wants it done, McConnell gets it through the Senate.

BOLDUAN: What do you think, Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Senate --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: There are real hang ups, real differences between the bills. Re nowhere clear -- close to the 50-yard line. See if the president talks. Let's listen in.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That looked like sheer confidence for the vote coming up. Clearly, obviously kidding.

Continue, Scott.

JENNINGS: I think it's going to pass the House. I've talked to folks close to Senator McConnell today and they still feel very good.

On Ron Johnson, the statement coming out, has thrown a wrinkle into this, but the last line of the statement is important, I still want to vote for this. And remember --

BOLDUAN: And he makes that clear.

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: We were here on Obamacare. He didn't want to vote for it, he said. There was a stern talking to and ended up voting for it. They feel very good about Johnson. Look, tax cuts and tax reform is like the last issue that still binds all the Republicans together. Everything else we're scattered. I think Bryan is right. The repeal on doing your campaign promises and the American economy will carry the day. This is going to a conference committee and inside that room it could get wild and we'll see what comes out on the other side.

BOLDUAN: Every time you say conference committee, I fall asleep and get excited the same time.

Scott Mulhauser, I spent a long time chasing you around the Hill when you were a top aide on the Finance Committee. Just asking you, where do you see this process right now in the Senate? Forget the House. Say this vote -- just assume that this vote goes through. All eyes are on the Senate. What do you see happening? SCOTT MULHAUSER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST & FORMER ADVISER TO SENATE

FINANCE COMMITTEE: All eyes are on the Senate, Kate. If you thought health care was hard that was one sixth of the economy, this is all of it. What's notable about the Senate is the host of different concerns. Susan Collins is raising concerns about the inclusion of the health care mandate. You're seeing Corker and Flake with deficit concerns. You're seeing Ron Johnson with concerns. Those aren't one fix that solves all of them. There are a lot of fixes and aren't a lot of votes to spare.

BOLDUAN: Who is gettable?

Scott Mulhauser, who is gettable of those that you list? That's kind of where I land. You've got Flake and Corker, they've got deficit. They've got deficit issues. Collins, she's got let's, if we're broad stroking it, health care issues. Who's gettable from the personalities that you know or who do you think -- who could be the problem here?

[11:40:10] MULHAUSER: I suspect they work on folks like Johnson, who says he wants to vote for the bill. I think the inclusion of the mandate makes it harder for Collins and for Murkowski and potentially others. Also the debt and deficit problems that are very real. I mean you're seeing tax breaks for corporations be permanent and tax cuts for regular folks not so much. This bill raises health care premiums and it's a tough vote for folks. When you look at the impact people are struggling to figure out how and where it lands. That's why you try for someone like Johnson knowing the concerns of Collins and others may be more endemic.

BOLDUAN: Bryan, the president is heading up to speak with House Republicans. Why if he really wants to say let's do this, why isn't he going to the Senate?

LANZA: The Senate has the process, they want to fix their kinks.

BOLDUAN: When has he ever followed process or rules?

LANZA: He's a negotiator and knows when to step in and stay out and let the people have the food fight. I think we can look at his career and know this is --

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: Really? Are you sure? I think he threw a wrench in the plan from overseas when says let's throw Obamacare individual mandate repeal into this thing?

LANZA: I don't see it -- listen, we were never -- always going to be tough to get Collins and Murkowski. That seems to be the issue. At the end of the day, we have Senators who want to vote for this. And if we can get both of these items with one kill shot, per se, that will be a good thing for the Republican Party, good thing for the base, good for America and the president.

BOLDUAN: Scott, do you think that -- do you think this, the individual mandate inclusion -- I mean, I've heard from a lot of Republicans with various things. One, it could be a real problem, why are we muddying this up, but still, I'm not necessarily going to be a no because I care so much about taxes?

JENNINGS: Number one, it is a tax increase that Republicans hate, so getting rid of it for the Republicans is right in line with how they campaigned.

BOLDUAN: And to your point that is what the Supreme Court did say, they did say individual mandate was a tax and allowed.

JENNINGS: Number two, they need the money. $338 billion that they need to get this done. So I support the inclusion of it. I do agree that it complicates maybe one or two votes.

My deep dark conspiracy --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Take us there.

JENNINGS: -- are the people that cannot be lobbied. The people not running again. Your Corkers, Flakes, McCains. They've had personal beefs with the president.

BOLDUAN: Who does Murkowski owe?

JENNINGS: Nobody. But my problem is, just, you know, when pressure and the kinds of pressure that you normally put in the bills aren't effective against people who aren't running again or have personal relationship issues I worry about that. Ultimately, I believe the Republicans will perform here, but, you know, I think a lot of Republicans are worried that there's things out there that may be beyond anyone's control.

BOLDUAN: Margaret, real quick, after the House votes -- I'm just -- I'm having deja vu. The House votes, they have -- the president is very happy about it. Haven't had a big legislative win on any front at the moment. Should they be holding a pep rally at the White House after this?

HOOVER: They need to get it through the Senate. Capitalize all that energy and put pressure on the Senators. You don't do victory laps. You have to leverage your momentum and put it on the Senate and put pressure on the Senators in districts you want to see it passed.

BOLDUAN: So maybe they learned from the pass, from their health care pep rally in the summer?

JENNINGS: One thing they did learn is open process. This is going through regular order and committee. Anybody with an idea on the finance committee can bring it up and anybody on the floor can bring up an idea so this is an open process and a chance to get your ideas out. If Ron Johnson has an issue he can bring it up on the floor.

BOLDUAN: He didn't say it without purpose, publicly. Let's put it that way. He's got a concern, and he's making it known.

Guys, we have a lot more to come. Thanks so much.

We are following breaking news, some more breaking news on Capitol Hill. Democratic Senator Al Franken is now being accused of groping a radio news anchor years ago. The Senator is responding. We'll have an update. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:48:13] BOLDUAN: We're following breaking news. Democratic Senator Al Franken accused of groping a radio news anchor back in 2006. There is a picture of that. And also, she says that he kissed her without her consent. And she says this, quote, "I couldn't believe it, he groped me without my consent while I was asleep." This is all -- that's just part of it. She wrote at length about her experience.

This is all just coming in and the Senator is also now responding. Want to read his statement: "I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann. As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny, but it wasn't. I shouldn't have done that."

The woman, her name is Leeann Tweeden, a radio host and -- out in California.

Let me bring back in with me now, Scott Jennings is here, Margaret Hoover is here, Bryan Lanza is here, and Scott Mulhauser is here as well.

Let me start right here.

Margaret, this coming out about Al Franken, but in context of the conversation we're having about Senate candidate Roy Moore, the conversation that the country is having about that and more.

HOOVER: Our tolerance for sexual harassment in the work place which has gone on for as long as any of us have been alive and many more generations, has suddenly in the last six months taken a turn to the extent that regular people have much less tolerance for this kind of bad behavior in corporate spaces and private spaces and political spaces. And you notice, I mean six years ago, when Al Franken was running in a tightly contested Senate race, six years, maybe 10 years ago, 2006, against Norm Coleman, it was a tight race, we were discussing, if something like this had come out then, it probably wouldn't have been breaking news and CNN in the middle of the day or had the preponderance and willingness of the public to validate the victim in the case and to hear her story rather than sloughing it off as a "he said/she said" incident has totally changed in the last six months.

[11:50:09] BOLDUAN: Scott?

JENNINGS: I think Senator McConnell is calling for the Ethics Committee to investigate Franken -- (CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Let me read that. Let me read that. This is coming in from "Politico." "Mitch McConnell called for the Ethics Committee to investigate Al Franken." And here's the statement. This is according to "Politico" right now: "As with all credible allegations of sexual harassment or assault, I believe the Ethics Committee should review the matter. I hope the Democratic leader will join me on this." It also goes on to say, "Regardless of party, harassment and assault are unacceptable in the workplace or anywhere else."

JENNINGS: Here's why this is important in the context of Roy Moore. This behavior happened before Franken went to the Senate. And Roy Moore's allegations happened before he may go to the Senate. People have said, it's unprecedented to investigate or kick someone out for behavior that happened before they went. McConnell may be setting a predicate here, let's investigate Franken, and when Moore gets here, we'll investigate him, too. We'll have bipartisan investigations into the behavior that happened before they got here. We have no tolerance for this in this country anymore.

BOLDUAN: Scott Mulhauser, can I get your thought on this?

MULHAUSER: It's awful to read and see and hear. The difference is Al Franken did the right thing. He apologized and he's attempting to move forward. What you are seeing from Roy Moore after seven different accusations is defiance and handwriting analysis -- there are profiles in moments in leadership. I think the guy who can't walk into the local mall because he is banned from the mall may think about walking into the Senate as well.

BOLDUAN: Bryan, one person we have not heard on this is President Trump. I'm talking about Roy Moore, of course. This is the breaking news about Al Franken. Why hasn't the president talked about this? Some of the reporting is he's mad about it but it doesn't want to talk about it because folks will then talk about past accusations against him. Shouldn't he speak out?

LANZA: No, no. First of all, he was on an Asia trip, so he didn't have the time to speak out when that came in. He came back --

BOLDUAN: He talked about a lot of domestic issues overseas.

LANZA: Sure. But he wanted to keep the focus on what the trip was about in Asia. Anytime you bring this in, you are changing the communication threat. That's not what he wanted.

BOLDUAN: He talked about the tax bill and he talked about throwing in Obamacare in the individual mandate while he was overseas.

LANZA: Issues that are affecting the American people, not just in Alabama. But I will say this about Trump --

BOLDUAN: You don't think this is potentially as important?

LANZA: It's equally important. BOLDUAN: In Washington.

LANZA: It's equally important. That's what I'm getting to. When you look at the situation with Alabama -- and Moore should step down. His behavior is repulsive. As an older brother with three younger sisters, I would never tolerate that in front of me or anything like that. We have this behavior from Franken. Everyone was quick to judge and said Moore needs to step aside and he needs not to run. And now we're performing in swamp-like behavior. We are not quick to criticize Franken. They say, oh, let the process work out and let the investigation work out. That's what the people of Alabama are seeing and saying, you know, that is swamp behavior. Here they tell us we have -- who our candidate should be and how we should vote for them. Yet, when they behave in the exact same way, we want to slow the process down.

BOLDUAN: Who are is "they?" Who is "they" right now?

LANZA: Senator Franken right now is the "they."

BOLDUAN: Let me ask, real quick, do you think President Trump should say what you just said which is come out and condemn Roy Moore?

LANZA: I hope he does. I absolutely hope he does. That's where the bulk of the Republican Party is. Not just here in D.C., but when we get people in Alabama. The problem with the Alabamans is they see this, when they see Franken, who is accused of the same thing of Moore, nobody is talking about that he --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That's not clear. I'm not trying to get into a fight, and we are going to end it here.

LANZA: No, that's fine.

BOLDUAN: What is not clear or what seems clear to me is that Leeann Tweeden was not a teenager when this was happening. That's a very important distinction.

LANZA: Correct. The behavior is still repulsive.

BOLDUAN: That you can say.

LANZA: Yes.

[11:54:05] BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you so much.

A lot coming in. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: We're following more breaking news in the corruption trial of Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

Let's get over to CNN's Jessica Schneider. She has all of the details.

A deadlock, Jessica. What do we know?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The second deadlock announcement from this jury this week. Of course, it was on Monday that this jury after four hours of renewed deliberations said to the judge, we cannot come to a unanimous verdict. Now again three days later, the jury is saying the same thing after about 15 hours of deliberations this week. Remember, this is the second jury. That juror last week left on vacation, so the jury had to begin their deliberations new on Monday. Just in the past few minutes, the jury told the judge we once again cannot come to a unanimous verdict.

Kate, what happens now? The judge does have the option to instruct them to continue to deliberate and give them an Allen Charge that says go back and try it again. That is possible. But right now, attorneys for both the defense and the lawyers for the government, they are arguing or giving arguments to the judge about what should happen. The defense wants the judge to instruct them, it's OK to be hung and not to agree. The prosecution wants the instruction to the jury to say, look, you can still come to an agreement on this, even if it's only on certain counts. Remember, Kate, Senator Menendez and Doctor Melgen both face 12 different counts. The jury could come to an agreement on some counts and not others -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: This has been going on for 11 weeks, days on end. The jury has been deliberating, reaching a deadlock. Another deadlock they have just reached in this breaking news.