Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

WH Lawyer Told Pres. Trump in January that Flynn Misled FBI, Pence; Prosecutors: Manafort Contacted Russian While on Bail; Trump's Lawyer Claims President Trump Cannot Obstruct Justice; Deputy's Congressional Testimony Contradicts Flynn Russia Plea Account; Big- Name Republicans Now Backing Moore; Pres. Trump Orders Historic Reduction of National Monuments. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 4, 2017 - 21:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: With the possible exception of The Ridiculist, breaking news fills the hour. CNN has learned the President knew or had reason to know earlier than we've been led to believe that then national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled the FBI about contact with Russians. We're also learning that Flynn's former deputy gave testimony to Congress that contradicts some of what Flynn pleaded guilty to.

On top of that, Paul Manafort now faces his bail being revoked for contact with a Russian. We begin with what the President knew about Michael Flynn, though, lying to the FBI and when he knew it, a question that this tweet on Saturday certainly prompted. "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice-President and the FBI. He's pled guilty to those lies. It's a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide."

Now the sentence about the FBI was news to many people and a fresh controversy for the White House, where CNN's Sara Murray joins us now.

So what are you learning more about who wrote that tweet?

SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been interesting to see the aftermath of this tweet play out, Anderson. John Dowd, who is President Trump's outside lawyer, actually came forward and took credit or responsibility, depending on the situation, for crafting this tweet. Now obviously that's a little bit unusual when it comes to the President's Twitter feed. Normally, he is the one who comes up with these things and maybe relies on some low-level aides to send it, but John Dowd came forward, said he's the one who wrote the tweet.

He also insisted in an interview with Axios that this was not an any kind of admission to an obstruction of justice and then went further and said the President himself can't obstruct justice because he's the nation's sort of chief law enforcement officer. That was his claim. That sparked a legal battle today. It also sparked some skeptical responses from members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, Anderson.

COOPER: The President spoke about this today when he was leaving the White House. What did he say?

MURRAY: He did. And he was speaking about Michael Flynn, his ousted national security adviser, and appeared to express some sympathy for the situation Flynn is in and also to try to turn the tables around on his former political rival Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I feel badly for General Flynn. I feel very badly. He's led a very strong life and I feel very badly, John. I will say this, Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI, nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they've destroyed his life. I think it's a shame.

Hillary Clinton on the 4th of July weekend went to the FBI, not under oath. It was the most incredible thing anyone's ever seen. She lied many times. Nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and it's like they ruined his life. It's very unfair. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MURRAY: Now, trying to turn the tables is of course nothing new for President Trump, but it is worth noting the facts in this situation, which is the FBI concluded that Hillary Clinton did not lie to investigators in her 2016 interview. They cleared her of criminal wrongdoing in that investigation into her use of a private e-mail server. Anderson?

COOPER: Right. Sara Murray, thanks very much.

I want to bring in the panel, Asha Rangappa, A.B. Stoddard, Michael Caputo, Ana Navarro, Robby Mook, and Alice Stewart.

OK, this President -- the argument that, first of all, that the President's tweet, that the lawyer said he wrote it, that it was poorly worded and that the President cannot be charged with obstruction of justice. I assume he's speaking, as our legal analyst said last week or in the last hour, they're speaking legally, not necessarily that political charges can't be brought up to Congress.

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Right. Congress can bring impeachment proceedings and that's not -- that's separate from the legal issue, but the legal issue can be dispensed with. The founding fathers in the declaration of independence, one of the charges that they levied against King George III was that he was obstructing the administration of justice. And then we fought a war to get rid of a tyrant who thought he was above the law.

So clearly the way that the Constitution is written now assumes that the President is not above the law and is subject to the provisions of the Constitutions and the laws of the United States. So what Dowd has said is just simply as a legal matter not true. COOPER: Does it make sense that the President's lawyer would have crafted this tweet? I mean, every lawyer I've ever talked to said he should not be tweeting about an ongoing investigation, an ongoing case. The idea that it was the lawyer himself who tweeted this very, if it was just a poorly worded tweet, tweeted this out seems hard to imagine.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: It's highly unlikely that John Dowd wrote that tweet. People who represent the -- who serve as lawyers for the leader of the free world don't do things to incriminate their client.

And in focus grouping my lawyer friends today, I found out that lay people like us use the word pled, past tense, but lawyers do not. They say their client pleaded. They don't use that word. I think he took the bullet for the President. That's fine. They worked out a deal, but it's just really hard to believe he would do something to put President Trump in more jeopardy and it just sounds like a tweet that President Trump could have written.

[21:05:02] ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And I think also from the bigger standpoint, the President has tweeted more than 3,000 times since he was president. Never, ever once has anyone else said, actually, I wrote that tweet and he's never had anyone else have to say that he did it. However, John Dowd, his attorney, read that and two words came to mind, legal jeopardy. And so he went in and tried to help clean this up.

I think explaining this as a way to clean this up because the way it's worded, it does appear that the President recognized the fact that Flynn lied to the FBI and then he let him go. And the timeline just goes to show that the President knew there was something illegal done here and he obstructed justice by trying to ask Comey to take it easy on Flynn.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: I see we're all kind of gleefully accusing Dowd of lying which, of course, would violate all the guidance in the bar in this. This is a very serious charge against an officer of the court. I would -- I'd caution everybody against it. But also I can tell you as someone who worked for Donald Trump that people draft tweets for the President quite often. And they can come from outside the White House.

And it happens, you know, Dan Scavino, who's in charge of social media takes care of that most of the day. And there are times where the President is tweeting on his own, but there are also times when he's not. And to say that he doesn't is incorrect.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well look, if that's true, I think it would serve the country, it would serve the American public if he would identify the ones that he is signing himself and tweeting himself and writing himself like Barack Obama used to do where he used to put a B.O. when it was himself. I would actually love to know that some of these tweets are being vetted and are being drafted and crafted by a team of experts as opposed to Donald Trump, who seems to have no impulse control, much less at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning when he loves to tweet this stuff.

If the lawyer tweeted this out then Donald Trump should be very concerned because it seems his doctor and lawyer all belong to the same school of professionals. And if he tweeted it out then all of us should be concerned because it means that our President knew before we did that his national security adviser, who he was defending and continues to defend even today, lied to the FBI, which is a very serious offense.

COOPER: Robbie?

ROBBY MOOK, FORMER CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Yes, look, you said it yourself, social media directors write e-mails for you, communications directors write e-mails -- or rather, tweets for you. Your lawyer does not write tweets. And we've established here every good legal counselor would advise you never to tweet on a topic like this.

And frankly at this point, this President has no credibility whatsoever. It's gone. So I don't believe him. I don't believe his lawyers. He should have fired the guy if he did draft that tweet and he's probably giving him a raise because Trump put it out and he's taking a bullet.

COOPER: Michael, assuming the President tweeted -- I mean his lawyer tweeted this, does it put the President -- you -- do you believe in any more jeopardy? Because it does seem to acknowledge that the President either knew or had reason to believe that Michael Flynn had committed a felony and yet he kept Flynn on for two weeks, he defended Flynn and then tried to, you know, if you believe Comey, tried to get Comey to go easy on Flynn.

CAPUTO: Well, I mean, I'm not an attorney, but I can tell you that it's perilous to tweet about an ongoing investigation where your White House is being indicated. Of course it is. The fact that the President tweets about this investigation rather often is frightening to a lot of people who support him. But, frankly, I think that if you want to go ahead and try to, you know, in a court of law it would be very difficult, I think, to charge Trump with obstruction from this one tweet. Of course this is a political situation.

COOPER: Right.

CAPUTO: It depends on what Mueller will do with this, but if he uses this tweet to recommend impeachment, I think it would be a little bit of a reach.

STEWART: I think so many times when the President says something and they have to walk them back, it -- either walk it back subtly or they'll say, oh, that was just rhetorical statement is what he was saying on Twitter. The reality is when he tweets something, that is an official statement from the president of the United States. Sean Spicer has said so himself. So we have to take that word for word exactly what it means. And it is, as you say, I want him to succeed but I think it's really problematic when he's tweeting about an ongoing investigation. This does indicate he knew something that was seriously wrong. NAVARRO: And the thing is -- also it's not just this one tweet. The obstruction of justice issue is not just this one tweet taken in vacuum. It is -- this is just one more instance, one more time. If you take it, you know, together with what he reportedly told Comey, if you take it with what he reportedly told Sessions, you come up with more than half a dozen times where he tried to influence an ongoing investigation.

And unlike what the President's lawyer says, no, Donald Trump is not above the law. I mean, this guy might think he lives in Cuba, that he lives in Venezuela, that he lives in North Korea, this is America. We've got checks and balances. We've got co-equal branches and he is not above the law. There's 40 senators in the U.S. Senate right now who voted an obstruction of justice charge against Bill Clinton. Have they forgotten?

[21:10:08] CAPUTO: Of course. But one thing we haven't heard -- I haven't heard anybody here say, not even once, was Russian collusion. This is all about obstruction now. This is what it was all about to begin with that's why they brought --

NAVARRO: Al Capone went to jail for not paying taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

RANGAPPA: -- because what the tweet does is it highlights that if Trump knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, he also knew what Flynn had lied about. So we have to look at the content of that.

CAPUTO: No.

RANGAPPA: Well, of course he would. If he knew he lied, he -- then he would know what he lied about.

CAPUTO: But the CNN story says that Yates did not brief McGahn on the details or the, you know, the details of the conversation.

NAVARRO: So maybe he's like most Hispanic women, he lies about his age.

COOPER: One at a time, one at a time. Robby --

(CROSSTALK)

MOOK: You're assuming they're not talking to each other. This is the whole issue is we're starting to see this web and this connective tissue. They're talking to each other, they were lying about something. We don't know what.

CAPUTO: So where does this come down -- how did any of this help him collude with an election that was 45 days past?

MOOK: But this is the point, we're not talking about collusion right now because they're breaking other laws. We're in process of --

CAPUTO: That's what this is all about. MOOK: Yes, but we're in the process of trying to figure out what actually happened. And I -- the thing that Trump did today that made me think he's really in trouble is he started praising Flynn. Did you notice this before all the stories --

(CROSSTALK)

MOOK: He was angry, he was angry at Flynn and all of a sudden now, he's making a sttement today.

COOPER: All right.

MOOK: I think he's trying to --

COOPER: We have to take a quick break. We're going to have more on this after the break.

Also, later, why the President is now fully backing the Alabama Senate candidate accused of sexual misconduct with teens as young as 14 years old and so are other Republicans. More on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There's no shortage of breaking news in the Russia investigation, including this, some of the testimony by some of the principals doesn't seem to mash up. K.T. McFarland, former deputy national security adviser of Michael Flynn, telling the Senate Committee she was, "Not aware of any communications between Flynn and the Russian ambassador." This contradicts the court filing on Friday in General Flynn's guilty plea.

[21:15:06] In our hour, I spoke about it with Congressman Adam Schiff, who's a ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADAM SCHIFF, (D) RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: If she said to the Senate, I'm not aware of these conversations, and she was one of those senior transition officials and those e-mails if they're accurate that have been publicly released, it certainly appears that was a directly false representation to the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Asha, how do you see this? I mean if K.T. McFrland said she didn't recall and then that contradicts what Flynn said?

RANGAPPA: Well, I think Representative Schiff is right. The court filing that he pleaded guilty to and the statement of facts that were in there says that they were two senior transition officials. And if she is one of them, the -- Mueller would not have presented those facts if they weren't provable. And I suspect that they are probably provable by some electronic means.

COOPER: But is saying you don't recall, is that cover? I mean can that -- RANGAPPA: No. An intentional omission or an intentional inability to recall temporary amnesia is if they can prove that you did it knowingly that does --

COOPER: But they have to prove that you did it knowingly that -- I mean sometimes people genuinely do not recall.

RANGAPPA: That's right. But, you know, if there were contemporaneous communications from her that showed that she was activity involved in, you know, because those court filings suggest that these senior transition officials were not just -- they didn't just know, they were actively directing and receiving reports back from Flynn on his contacts.

So, you know, this was an active engagement. Everyone was on the same page and I do think that it -- it's harder to prove, but I think it also becomes more and more implausible with the more activity that's going on.

STODDARD: I think the K.T. McFarland news raises the sort of skepticism about what -- whether or not this was simply a Logan Act violation, and that's something that Asha raised earlier today. Why would he, after all his training in not only the military but the heist echelons of the national security apparatus, someone who knows likely that he was being recorded because he was talking to the Russian ambassador. He did consult with Jared and K.T. McFarland on this. I don't think he was a lone ranger.

And then why would he lie to the FBI about that? Why wouldn't he just say, you know what, we don't like sanctions. We have a different opinion than the Obama administration. That's no secret. Not a problem here. Why lie to the FBI? So it raises the questions of whether or not Sally Yates was trying to tell them about what made him vulnerable to blackmail. And it might not just be a Logan Act violation, something for which no one has been prosecuted for.

COOPER: Michael, how do you answer that question, why lie? I mean because if, as the President says, there's nothing wrong with having contact in --

CAPUTO: It's confounding. It's a palms up thing for me. I don't understand why the General would lie, I mean especially because, you know, he was in the intelligence community for so long. He knew all of his conversations were being monitored whenever he spoke with the ambassador from Russia.

But we also know from leaks, so none of it's confirmed, that Comey didn't think that he lied. In fact, Comey -- the irony all of this is that the President fired an FBI director who appeared to not believe that the General had lied. And when Mueller came in, he changed that determination. So this is -- there are so many comity -- it's a comity of errors here, I think. I feel badly for the General, but I feel more badly for the President because the General's mistakes put the President in harm's way.

COOPER: Where are you getting that about Comey not believing -- CAPUTO: I've read some reports on it. I mean I think that more will

come out here. But I don't know exactly what media --

COOPER: Right. Because Sally Yates certainly believed there were inconsistencies and that's one of the --

CAPUTO: Right. No doubt --

COOPER: Right.

CAPUTO: But what I have read and I wish I had -- I could bring the citation with me. I didn't do that. That there was -- in fact he did make false statements but he did so in confusion because, you know, we look right now we see reports that this FBI agent who was cashiered out of Mueller's investigation was one of people who interviewed him. This is coming out in other media reports. So if that's true, we have to wonder what kind of interview that was.

NAVARRO: Michael, it's either a tragedy -- you know, it's either a comity of error or a tragedy of truths and facts. Here's what we've got right now. Either to the FBI, to the Vice-President of the United States, to the American public, or to congressional committees, you've got Flynn lied, K.T. lied, Jared lied, Donald Trump Jr. lied. Well, they've either all lied or they're all suffering from --

CAPUTO: Well, you're making that up.

NAVARRO: OK. No, they've made -- they've either all made up stuff.

CAPUTO: You don't know K.T. lied. K.T. is a towering figure in New York politics with very high integrity.

NAVARRO: I didn't interrupt you. You either -- you've got to either --

CAPUTO: You can't call somebody a liar like that on national television when there's no indication she did.

NAVARRO: OK. She either lied or they've -- they're all suffering from --

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: Why don't you let me finish my sentence instead of getting so defensive about -- depending on what glasses you're looking at it, you've either got to conclude that they're all lying, they're all a pack of liars or they're all suffering from massive, collusive amnesia, all collectively and should checked what's being served in the water.

[21:20:08] Because we have seen and it's very scary because they're either in government, have been in government or very close to the guy who sits in the Oval Office.

CAPUTO: K.T. McFarland is a towering figure in New York State politics. We all know New York State very, very well. People have a lot of respect for her because of her integrity. I think this will all come out in the wash.

STEWART: And I think you asked the question why lie? People lie when they have something to hide and that's the question. That's what Mueller is trying to get to the bottom.

(CROSSTALK)

STEWART: Exactly. And why are these people continuing to put out false information, have selective amnesia and that is a big question. I think to push back on Michael a little bit, Comey understood that Flynn was providing false information. That is exactly the reason the President went to him and said, hey, take it easy on Flynn and that's why Comey was let go. I think, as you say, we don't have any exact hardcore evidence on Russian collusion, but so many lies and misinformation really raises the specter.

COOPER: When we come back, more on how this White House is responding to the Russia probe from two men who know their way around the West Wing, David Gergen and David Axelrod.

And later, why the President is now all in on Roy Moore? Why some previously squeamish big name Republicans, including a brand new backer, have started to decide that an alleged sexual abuser is now, well, worth throwing their support behind. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: One of the themes that's coming up time and time again as we talk about the Russia probe in this White House is this idea of strategy or lack of one. The tweets from this weekend are just the latest example. It's fair to say that this administration's handling the issue is not how most others would have done it.

Joining us now to try to help give us that 30,000-foot view is David Gergen, former adviser to four presidents and David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama.

So David Gergen, what kind of impact does all of this have on the White House's ability to function? I mean this is a question we've asked repeatedly, but there's already obviously tremendous amount of pressure even in the best of times.

[21:25:04] DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Absolutely, Anderson, and they have a -- their -- the inner circle of this White House is actually quite small. They don't have really a domestic strategy team. They do have an NSE but they don't have a domestic strategy team. They don't have the policy team and normally a President would have.

So when you've got something like this as these charges, they totally divert the White House. It's very, very hard to keep your eye on the ball. I must say, to be fair, they got tax reform through the Senate, they got it basically through the House at a time of crisis. But even so, I think the overall efforts of the White House are impaired because so much energy, so much gossip, so much time at the water fountain in effect gets sucked up by one of these kind of crises. COOPER: David, I mean, obviously every president handles this differently. What kind of a toll do you think this kind of investigation takes though on a president? Axelrod.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think one of the things that makes this so difficult is that you're used to missiles coming in, but what makes this so difficult is the missiles are often going out from the residence at the White House. And you have to -- you have to be aware, not just of incoming but outgoing, and, you know, I mean, I don't know who wrote that e-mail.

I have to -- it is unusual to think that a lawyer would be tweeting for the -- that tweet, I should say, that a lawyer would be tweeting for the President, certainly tweeting something that would implicate him. But this isn't the first time that e-mails have created problems for the President or his own comment.

So the hard thing about working in this White House is, you know, you're taking friendly fire all the time from the man on top and he's making your job more difficult.

COOPER: David Gergen, last week when we spoke, and I can't believe it's just last week because every week seems like a month. You talked about the possible need for some sort of I don't know if intervention was the word, but that you think the President's family should make sure that he is doing OK. Has his reaction to this Flynn news changed your opinion at all?

GERGEN: No, it's only reinforced it, I'm afraid. Look, I did use the word intervention and that is often that someone in a family if a family, a beloved family member has gone off the rails, you step in to try to help that person. You may do it with the help of outside psychiatrists or another mental health person or someone, you know, who can help a person through a crisis. But the critical thing is to make sure the person is OK and then try to get them back to stability.

That clearly hasn't happened with this President. And it is -- it's unsettling to say the least, but this is -- this has gotten so complex and so absorbing. It is -- and I think it is, you know, just has become a real drag on the country's morale in the sense of who we are as a person. You would think that for the sake of the country that people would go in and talk to the President. And he does have good -- he has some friends around the country who could help him.

I once asked a major historian of Lincoln, what's the most important thing a president needs? He said a friend, a friend. I think this President needs a friend to help him.

COOPER: David --

AXELROD: Well, let me just jump in here and say just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you're crazy. You know, I heard the discussion on your last panel, and the question was, well, why would he lie? And there's -- I don't know. But one person knows why General Flynn lied and that's General Flynn. And he's now working with the special counsel. And so this isn't the optimal circumstance under which to calm the President down. I think the President has reason to be nervous given these latest developments.

COOPER: Right. David Gergen, especially because it's not just about the President or it's not just about his, you know, people around him in the White -- I mean it's also about his potentially about his family, about his, you know, his son-in-law or whomever.

GERGEN: Absolutely. And we saw that Mueller in going after Flynn very artfully brought Flynn's son into the net. And basically was able to go to Flynn and say, look, you know, you want to reduce your charges and, by the way, do you want to reduce possible charges against your son? Well, cooperate. And that's what he's got.

And there has been speculation now for some time that ultimately Mueller hopes to do that if the facts justify it to go after one of the children of Donald Trump or indeed Jared and be able to go to the President, you want to save your family? You might want to begin by telling us the truth.

COOPER: David Gergen, David Axelrod, thanks very much.

Coming up next, Roy Moore accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old one week away from the election in his state. Why some Republicans, including the President and others who had been keeping their distance from him, are now throwing their weight behind him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:33:42] COOPER: More breaking news. Some big-name Republicans are now backing Roy Moore in Alabama's U.S. Senate race. They'll have the details in a moment. But the first woman who says she dated Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore when she was 17 and he was in his 30s, she is speaking out again tonight. Debbie Wesson Gibson talked again to "The Washington Post". She's upset that in recent days Moore has repeatedly denied knowing her and four other women who spoke to "The Post" and claimed he pursued relationships with them decades ago.

Gibson is sticking with her story. In this new interview with "The Post", she claimed to have proof of their relationship. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBBIE WESSON GIBSON: I came across a card, and it was a high school graduation greeting card from Roy Moore. Happy graduation, Debbie. I wanted to give you this card myself. I know that you'll be a success in anything you do, Roy. And we kissed with my consent. And I'm very sad that he said that he doesn't know me. This was the first thing that I've seen, that I know personally for a fact to be a lie from his mouth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Roy Moore's campaign is denouncing this new report. A spokeswoman for him told CNN tonight, "'The Washington Post' is reaching. Roy Moore already said he knew Debbie Wesson and her family but did not recall any formal dates. Furthermore, when he stated that he did not know any of the women, he was referring to those who accused him of sexual assault." Moore has steadily denied all the allegations, all the accusations against him.

[21:35:05] Meanwhile, just moments ago, the Republican National Committee said it will follow the President's lead and reengage in the race. This means the RNC will now transfer money to the Alabama Republican Party. This comes after the President gave his full support to the candidate this morning. The President's reason, he explained it in his tweet, writing, "Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive tax cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, border wall, military, pro life, V.A., judges, Second Amendment and more, no to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer puppet."

An endorsement from the President, even after his daughter Ivanka Trump told the Associated Press last month that, "There's a special place in hell who -- for people who prey on children." She also said she saw no reason to doubt the women's accounts.

You may recall the President also said he would not go to Alabama to campaign for Moore but he is going to Pensacola, Florida, 25 miles from the Alabama border for a campaign event this Friday, four days before Alabama's special election. Parts of Alabama are in the Pensacola media market and there's another Republican who's shifting his message on Moore. Here is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell taking questions from reporters just three weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roy Moore was the latest there. Are you calling for him to step down from that Senate race?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I do. I think he should step aside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe these allegations to be true?

MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Now here's what Senator McConnell said just yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Judge Moore should be in the Senate?

MCCONNELL: I'm going to let the people of Alabama make the call where this election has been going on for a long time. There's been a lot of discussion about it. They're going to make their decision a week from Tuesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Let the people of Alabama make the call, he said. A new "Washington Post" poll suggests that it's a tight race. Democrat Doug Jones is up 3% among likely voters with 50% to Moore's 47%, all of course within the margin of error. Some Republicans still keeping their distance from Moore and sounding the alarm. Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney posted this tweet this afternoon, "Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes, no vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity." A lot to discuss tonight with the panel.

So, A.B., Roy's own -- Roy Moore's own words, I do not know any of these women, it certainly made a difference to that woman, Debbie Gibson who says, you know, it's -- she has that card.

STODDARD: It changed back and forth. They're not formal dates. He knows some of them. He remembers that she was a good girl then he goes back to denying. He -- they make it murky enough that I guess they're saying it's -- it was about those who have accused him and come out with these allegations, but he's made it murky enough starting with his interview with Sean Hannity weeks ago that -- anyway, look, the piece was incredibly well-reported. These are credible accusations.

They're all on the record and you're really asking people to believe that Mitch McConnell got together with the Russian post in a secret Kabul with loads of cash and found all these women who don't know each other and asked them to come up with fake stories. That said, a lot of voters in the Alabama say even if the stories are true, we're totally at peace. He's not a Democrat. Integrity doesn't matter anymore. It's all about tribalism.

STEWART: And I believe these women. I believe the volume of them. The fact that Roy Moore couldn't unequivocally deny these allegations with this 14-year-old is extremely troubling. That being said, the President and now the RNC unfortunately are saying they're getting behind him. The President said on the phone call -- after the phone call today said he would rather have a Republican that supports his policies than a Democrat.

Look, I'm all for supporting the President's policies, but at the end of the day, Republican or Democrat, this is about principles, this is about character, this is about integrity that we need to do the right thing, in my view, and support someone who has the utmost of character and integrity. And I would much rather lose the seat and stand up for principles than to not. But the people of Alabama, it's their choice, it's their decision, and based on recent polls, it looks as though Roy Moore may pull this off.

MOOK: And Anderson, I think this says so much about our politics today that it doesn't matter anymore the quality of the individuals we send to Washington. It's juts all about the numbers. Are we closer to winning a majority? Are we closer to losing a majority? And I think this reflects the fact that individuals I don't think really have ability now to work across the aisle, to advance legislation. I just think this is symbolic of the larger problem, which is it doesn't matter who goes.

COOPER: Would you argue that's a problem with Democrats as well? I mean, look at Conyers.

MOOK: I think for all parties right now, it's all about the numbers. And it's all about -- and it's a game too. Can you hang on long enough? Can you get through this? And some people survive those situations. Some people don't. It's not actually about a real weight -- it's not about weighing the morality of the situation, it's about managing the politics, managing the incoming. And I just think it says so much about what's wrong. And you're seeing the Republicans do this now because they see its close, they think they can pull it out and it's worth it to them in the long term.

[21:40:04] NAVARRO: You know, this is -- for me, it's like watching this movie all over again, right? We saw this happen in 2016 during the election where we saw, for example, Reince Priebus who was then RNC chair cancel events with Donald trump right after the Access Hollywood tapes came out.

We saw a lot of congressional leadership denounce him strongly and step away from him, distance themselves away from Donald Trump when the Access Hollywood tapes came out, which came out pretty much about the same time in early October that the Roy Moore accusations came out. But as time went on and the accusations got older and less fresh and less, you know, people were getting used to them and were beginning to rationalize them somehow, they went back to Donald Trump. They're going back to Roy Moore.

And the Republican Party cannot do this. It's bad enough that we have a guy in the White House who was accused by over 12 women on the record of sexual harassment and sexual assault, to now compromise principle, and conviction, and decency, and morality, and integrity for one vote is something that at this point it's going to be defining for the Republican Party.

Even though Robby is right, I think that when Nancy Pelosi came out that Sunday and started defending John Conyers, called him an icon, she was, you know, guilty of the same thing. This is worse because in the list in the spectrum of horrible bad things you can do, I'd argue pedophilia is far worse than practically any other horrible, awful crime.

COOPER: Michael, when you hear there are polls about it being close and stuff, I would imagine it would be very hard to poll accurately right now, because I think a lot of people don't want to say how they want to vote.

CAPUTO: Very much like the late stages of the 2016 race, I think. And, you know, we also know that 71-plus percent of Republicans in Alabama think these allegations are false. I think it goes back to the late stage, last five weeks, October surprise, type of stuff that we throw at each other and Americans have gotten numb to it all.

We know that most people lie in the last weeks of an election hoping you'll believe them and they go launch them into the presidency and the United States Senate. Look, I've never been a fan of Roy Moore's. But I understand where the people of Alabama are coming from.

And this is being litigated in the public square throughout Alabama. The newspapers of Alabama have all -- I think, almost every single one of them have come out against Judge Moore. And at this, you know, on election day, on the special election day we'll know whether the people of Alabama believe these accusations or not.

COOPER: Do you think it is going to boil down to whether or not people believe it?

CAPUTO: Absolutely. It is right now. I think, you know, we watched the Senate now getting more comfortable with having him come back in. We watched the President endorse him in a public tweet. People are getting more comfortable with the idea.

NAVARRO: I think people convince themselves they don't believe it. I think they know that this is one -- woman after woman after woman with credible accusations. They're telling themselves they don't believe it so that they can justify as good people, decent people of Alabama voting for a guy they know they did something wrong.

COOPER: Robby, and then we've got to know.

MOOK: I just -- they know this happened. They know it. It's just that we have become -- we don't care anymore about the substance of issues and we don't care about the substance of individuals. We care about our team winning. We've become way too partisan. That's exactly what is going on. This is a special election. It's about turnout. It's all about intensity. You'll see the two partisan ends will turn out and that's what will decide this.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. Much more ahead, stay tuned. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:47:07] COOPER: President Trump today signed two presidential proclamations to shrink and reshape two large national monuments in Utah by more than a million acres. At a rally in Salt Lake City today, the President said he's fighting federal overreach and the people of Utah know best how to take care of their land, not federal regulators. He said before making the decision, he spoke to the governor as well as Senator Orrin Hatch and then he called, "All the friends I have in Utah."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I also said, will it be at all controversial? They all told me no. How did that happen? I don't think it is controversial, actually. I think it's so sensible.

Therefore, today, on the recommendation of Secretary Zinke and with the wise counsel of Senator Hatch, Senator Lee and the many others, I will sign two presidential proclamations. These actions will modify the national monuments' designation of both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, there's controversy around the decision and it's not difficult to find it on the ground in Utah where Bill Weir spoke with a number of people. Here is his report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE}

BILL WIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: See if we can find a clearing. This is good. This is perfect. Let me show you the epicenter of what is the biggest environmental fight of the day.

Yes, yes, there they are. See those two beautes? Those are the Bears Ears, but they are a tiny piece of this huge fight because Bears Ears national monument is 1.35 million acres. That is over 2,000 square miles of wild western distance holding a potential fortune in oil, gas and uranium underneath tens of thousands of Native American ruins.

Folks like Mark Merryboy (ph), these sites are worth more than any mineral. To the Navajo and Hopi, Zuni and Hutch, these canyons hold the spirits of loved ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They live among us just like you and I, we're communicate.

WIER: These are your neighbors living?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's really meaningless to the local white Mormons in this area. They think we're just a bunch of stupid people.

WIER: We scramble into a canyon. And in the dessert silence it's like going back in Cana.

Catholics have the ceiling of the Sistine chapel and those in the Jewish faith may have the Wailing Wall. But for the tribes around here this is just as sacred. Look at this amazing Anasazi artwork.

[21:50:02] 1,200 years old or so. But the most alarming thing is all of these pockmark bullet holes from people who think it's a good idea to come here and use this as part of your practice. Ranchers can still graze their cows in the monument. Hunters can still hunt, but the big change that came with President Obama's designation, put Bears Ears off limits to any new drilling, mining, or fracking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there's oil that's out there, I guess it would be interesting to find that or to know that.

WEIR: Phil Limon says Obama's decision was like a slap in the face, and points out that the biggest, poorest county in Utah already has four other parks and monuments. They don't want so-called elites using their backyard as a playground, and they just want to control their own destiny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By designating a monument, what you're doing is you're using a tool that will bring hoards of people to a place that is very sensitive. WEIR: And while survey show an overwhelming majority of both Utahans and Navajo would rather see tourists than oil rigs on this land.

Hi, commissioner, I'm Bill Weir.

County commissioner Rebecca Benali races among the handful of Native Americans who spent the weekend cheering the president's decision and was by his side today.

What percentage of your local grassroots people agree with the President on this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A majority agree with the President today of downsizing the monument. They just don't come forward because of the bullying, the aggressiveness from the other side.

WEIR: That other side includes conservationists, scientists, and the biggest companies in outdoor adventure.

YVON CHOUINARD, CEO AND FOUNDER PATAGONIA: Well, I think the only thing this administration understands is lawsuits.

WEIR: The founder and CEO of Patagonia says, he is ready for a long, legal fight.

CHOUINARD: We're losing this planet and we have an evil government. And, you know, not just the federal government, but the wacko politicians out of Utah and places. I mean, it's evil. And I'm not going to stand back and just let evil win.

WEIR: If these rocks could talk, they'd tell of centuries of bloody human conflict before the United States decided to set aside the especial corners, for we, the people. This is your land, but Bears Ears is a reminder that how it is used all comes down to how you vote.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And Bill Weir joins us now from Salt Lake City. You touched on this in your report. One of the things that President said today was that the protections on these sites didn't allow locals to do things like hunt to let their animal graze. Is that accurate?

WEIR: No. No, it's not. I mean when Obama signed that declaration, none of those rules changed. You know, hunters can hunt, fishermen can fish, cattlemen can graze out there, and none of those have changed. Really the biggest change was the prohibition of new mining claims, new fracking, new drilling there, but you got to understand the dynamic of these folks.

For decades, generation after generation of white settlers down there, they've been left alone and this mass of land, it's their playground. They can ride their ATV's across it. A few years ago, there was a big crackdown in one of the towns there, they arrested over a dozen people for taking pottery and taking artifacts from some of these sacred sites there. They thought that was overreach. So this resentment has been building up now and those folks were celebrating here today, a lot of them were invited in by the president.

COOPER: Bill Weir, appreciate you being there. Thanks very much, Bill.

Coming up, something to make you smile at the end of this long day. The Ridiculist is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:57:43] COOPER: Time for The Ridiculist. And tonight, we're talking about the tax bill that Senate Republicans pass in the middle of the night Friday into Saturday. Not about the bill itself but the real housewives level drama surrounding it. A few hours before the vote, Senator Jon Tester posted a video after he was handed a 479-page bill with policy changes scribbled in the margins.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

SEN. JON TESTER, (D) MONTANA: Hey, happy holidays, everybody. It's a -- it's the night we're going to be voting on the tax bill. I just got the tax bill 25 minutes ago. This is the tax bill. See how thick it is?

This is what it really looks like. You should take a look at this, folks, this is your government org (ph). Here's the bill as it's written.

Here's the modifications that are in it. I can read one word, it's called add this language. Can you tell me what that word is? If you can, you got better eyes than me.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

COOPER: Other Democratic senators also took to Twitter to vent their frustrations but have no fear, said Senator John Kennedy, Republican from Louisiana. Here's how he tried to put it all in perspective.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY, (R) LOUISIANA: This is perfectly normal. Part of politics is drama. And everybody up here has politics in his blood kind of like herpes. We will get through this.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

COOPER: Did he just compare complicated tax policy to a sexually transmitted disease? And did he also just say that everyone in Washington has both politics and herpes in their blood so there isn't anything to get all worked up about? I'd like to say that was the strangest analogy Senator Kennedy has come up with, but six months ago he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

KENNEDY: I cannot go down to my overpriced Capitol Hill grocery this afternoon and choose among about six different types of mayonnaise. How come I can't do that for my kid in school?

(END VIDEOCLIP)

COOPER: He was talking about school. So if you're keeping score, schools are like jars of mayonnaise and tax bill drama is likely the herpes. With that, Senator Kennedy has taken a lead in the running in the 2017 Ridiculist Award for creative excellence and describing legislative battles.

He has narrowly edged out Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, who want to ask this past summer whether lawmakers could come together on a health bill, he said and I quote, "Even porcupines make love." He went on to tell reports, "Once in Glacier National Park, I saw a two porcupines making love. I'm assuming they produce smaller porcupines. They produced something. It has to be done carefully. That's what we're doing now."