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Democratic Senators Call on Franken to Resign; Franken to Make Announcement Thursday; Trump to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's Capital. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 6, 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] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: -- issue from Capitol Hill just caught up with the Democratic senator from California, Kamala Harris who is one of those who came out this morning saying that her colleague Al Franken should resign. Let's listen to what she said.

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BASH: Oops, sorry about that. I think it looks like we have a little bit of a problem with the tape. As soon as we get that fixed, we are going to get back to you. And we're going to get back to the tape but I'm told that what Senator Harris told MJ Lee was that, it was typical decision and she wasn't exactly sure how to deal with that.

We're also waiting to see if we can get MJ Lee to give us a report on that.

Not surprising, that was a difficult decision.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes, and no, I guess. I mean, yes, I can imagine why it would be difficult. This is your colleague, someone you've worked alongside. At the same time, this just has been such a steady stream of accusations against the senator. He has admitted some role in these, he's not fully denied all of the accusations.

And we are in such a moment where I think it is incompetent for people talking about colleagues who are elected by the American public not CEOs, not executives who are in private industry but who come to Washington to represent the American people to hold themselves to the same standards as we have seen private industry.

BASH: Guys, let's try with that tape one more time. We are on breaking news, guys. But let's hope this one works.

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SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: First of all, it was a very difficult decision and I respect Senator Franken for the work that he has done as a senator on issues that are right now a lot of issues that we are fighting like DACA. And I think he's done good work as it relates to those kinds of issues. But frankly, the numerosity of the complaints and allegations against him I found to have weight bearing weight.

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BASH: OK, that was our MJ Lee talking to Kamala Harris, Democratic senator from California about her decision to call on Al Franken to resign. We now have I believe MJ with us.

There you are. Hi MJ. With some other very important breaking news that perhaps this growing number of Democratic senators has worked?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Dana, I mean, this is pretty remarkable that in just a span of maybe 30 minutes or so, the number of senators who have all come out at the same time to make this decision to call on Senator Franken to resign. And obviously, this is something that we have been keeping track of over the last couple of weeks as these stories -- allegations of sexual harassment began to mount against Senator Franken.

And up till this point, the silence was pretty remarkable. Whether it was, you know, female senators or male senators, Democrats or Republicans. These members were very, very reluctant obviously to call on Franken to resign. And I think today we saw sort of a turning point where it took one member, that was Kirsten Gillibrand to first say she is calling on him to resign. And then obviously, there were a slew of other members who then decided to sort of hit the press -- send button.

And I think just behind the scenes, you know -- and you know this place better than anybody else. You know that Senator Franken is someone who is just very widely and well-liked. He is a popular colleague among Senate Democrats. And I think you have gotten the sense, you know, talking to aides, talking to senators privately that there was a sense they truly that did not want to see something like this happen to Senator Franken. That he was not someone that anyone sort of wished ill on, that, you know, this is someone that they liked having in the Senate.

And you know, at some point when these stories just really began to build and mount, you know, they're reached a point where it became impossible almost for the senators to not call on him to resign.

BASH: And MJ, because this is fast-moving and I know what it's like to be running around as information comes on to your phone. On the bottom of our screen and what I was referring to coming to you, it says Franken to make an announcement on Thursday which is information that we just got.

Have you heard anything at all about what he might be saying? And is it what likely we expect based on the avalanche now of colleagues saying it's time for you to go?

LEE: Well, I haven't been able to look at my phone for the last 30 seconds or so, but no. So far --

BASH: Which matters in this --

LEE: It really does. They have not indicated, you know, what this announcement might be or, you know, what his thinking is, quite frankly, as his colleagues come out to say that he should resign. And, you know, he hasn't really been really out there advocating for himself or defending himself other than the one press conference that he had some days ago.

You know, this is not an issue he has really engaged on. He has not sat down for a lot of interviews. But I do think that whatever he decides to announce tonight, this is clearly going to be a big decision.

[12:35:04] Either he will say that he is resigning or he will stand his ground and say look, the Senate Ethics Committee is going forward with this investigation. And I prefer that we wait for the results of that investigation. But as you know, Dana, that is very, very difficult to do when the backdrop is that a lot of your colleagues are now saying you need to go.

BASH: MJ, thank you so much for that report.

And as we were saying, this is so fast moving. As you were talking, MJ, Debbie Stabenow, another female Democratic senator has come out and said that Al Franken should resign. And as I bring it back around the table, I just want to mention one other thing.

My intrepid colleague Ted Barrett on Capitol Hill just spoke with Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who also said that she believe that this latest allegations are disturbing and it would be best for the Senate if he, Franken followed t. Meaning she added her voice to those saying resign.

I put MJ on the spot there. I think what that like, I shouldn't have done it. But the fact that Al Franken is saying that he's making a speech tomorrow.

First of all, tomorrow? I mean, this is moving like this. I mean, in some ways, you have to kind of understand that it takes a little while to process this kind of thing when you're getting -- when your colleagues are closing in on you which is exactly what is happening. Senator by senator as we speak.

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG: He is entitled, certainly to the Ethics Committee investigation and, you know, that the verdict of that. But his colleagues are also entitled to say we don't want you here and that that's what they're saying.

BASH: They're basically saying, you're not entitled to it.

KAPUR: As a rank and file senator, relationships matter a lot. Who is going to co-sponsor bills with him? Who is going to want to work with him? If they're saying this now, if all these senators are coming out and saying he doesn't deserve to be here now, I think his future in the Senate is pretty much over even if decides that he wants to -- BASH: And as we were speaking, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, a

Democrat, also came out. We're almost in critical mess. Certainly, you have the women. We have not yet heard from Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from the state of Minnesota, Al Franken's colleague in the Senate. We'll see if she comes out or she just lets her colleagues do that.

MATT VISER, THE BOSTON GLOBE: If he does resign, there's a Democratic governor of Minnesota who will be able to appoint a Democratic replacement for Al Franken but it's not as if it's a light schedule right now, you know, in the Senate. I mean, on Capitol Hill, Democrats are not controlling a lot of that agenda, but you know, you can imagine that process wanting to move very quickly if Al Franken does announce his resignation effective immediately. Who is going to replace him?

KAPUR: The tide of history is watching too. You know, this is absolutely leading to all of these accusations coming out so quickly. Everyone is going to remember who wavered, who stood strong and said resign, who defended these people. And includes Roy Moore, that frankly includes to a point President Trump's own accusers and, you know, the people who've made excuses and said that they're all liars.

ELIANA JOHNSON, POLITICO: In some ways, there are two factors that I think made this a relatively easy call for Democrats. The first is that Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota is a Democrat. So they're not losing a seat in the Senate ahead of the 2018 midterms.

And the other is that with Roy Moore, seeming more and more likely to come in the Senate, it sets Democrats up in a good position to really put the squeeze on Republicans to expel him. And that's something that Mitch McConnell seemed determined to do a month ago but has seemed more and more reluctant to do. He essentially adopted what was originally the White House position. Which was that if you want to elect somebody who seems pretty certainly guilty of some sort of sexual misconduct, so be it.

McConnell did not take that position originally but he's essentially come to that position now. But I think Democrats with this Franken move have been pretty politically savvy.

BASH: And listen, I think that that is very likely going to change the dynamic. We should remember that in six days, it is very likely that Roy Moore will be elected to the U.S. Senate. And so Mitch McConnell has kind of been moving towards let the Alabama voters decide, but now, he's got probably or potentially I should say a new Republican senator coming in against the backdrop where you have all these Democrats who just pushed one of their own out for allegations, different allegations but in some ways maybe not as egregious.

PACE: Republicans are in a real box on this one. But there is a difference between a senator like Franken potentially under real pressure from their colleagues saying I'm going to choose to step aside versus party leaders saying, we know that your voters elected you to this office, in this case with a full understanding of what they were getting into. And we are going to push you out. That is really complicated.

[12:40:01] It goes beyond the actual allegations. It goes beyond this moment that we're talking about. And it goes to the core of our democracy. If voters in Alabama choose to put Roy Moore in the Senate, how does it look for Republican leaders to say we won't seat him here?

BASH: Makes it even tougher. OK, we're going to take a quick break. And as we do, a reminder, that at this point, more than a dozen senators, mostly Democrats but now according to our Ted Barrett, one Republican Susan Collins saying that it is time for Al Franken to step aside, to resign his seat as senator from Minnesota. And he has said that is he going to make an announcement tomorrow.

Look at that screen at this point, we can barely fit all the pictures on the screen. And this has just happened everyone in the past hour. In the past hour.

We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

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[12:45:15] BASH: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS.

You see a picture of the White House there. President Trump at the top of the hour is going to make a very big, very important statement on the status of the U.S. Embassy in Israel. We'll formally talk about the fact that the U.S. is going to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will signal that although it has been technically the law of the land since 1995, for 22 years that the U.S. Embassy in Israel should be in Jerusalem but he is actually going to be the first president to finally make that happen. We're, again, waiting for that announcement at the top of the hour.

In the meantime, we are having a warp speed political story happen. But by warp speed, I really mean that we can barely have a conversation here at the table or with our reporters on Capitol Hill for more than 30 seconds without hearing another Democratic senator coming out and saying that it is time for Al Franken, the Democrat from Minnesota who has been accused now by multiple women of sexual harassment, that it is time for him to step down.

You see some of the pictures on the screen there. It started again with Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York putting out a statement and then one after another after another. Their offices hit send on the press release button. And you saw them coming out with press releases on Twitter and elsewhere, Democrats, women and as you see there men, as well.

I'm going to bring it back around the table. Matt, as the Boston guy here, one of the most prominent women in politics, never mind in the U.S. Senate is Elizabeth Warren. She has been silent on this at least in the last 30 seconds.

VISER: It's striking. Well, I mean, we saw Ed Markey, the junior senator from Massachusetts, her colleague sign it, you know, just tweeted that, you know, he's joining those calls. You know, and Elizabeth Warren this morning had an event with Bernie Sanders doing a Facebook Live during this whole thing as these statements were coming out. But as we talked about earlier, the orchestration of this, I find it hard to believe that Elizabeth Warren's office was not given a heads-up that this is going to be happening.

So, it is striking she has not done this. A couple of weeks ago, she talked about her own me too moment as an early professor being harassed by an older professor. And so she's talked in personal terms, rare personal terms for Warren about these kinds of incidents. She and Franken have been simpatico politically which makes it a little bit harder.

But it is striking. She's probably the most prominent woman maybe aside from Amy Klobuchar, Franken's colleague from Minnesota who has not joined yet.

BASH: And Dianne Feinstein.

VISER: And Dianne, yes.

BASH: Who is the, you know, she's not the highest ranking technically woman, that is Patty Murray and she was one of the first to come out this morning. Dianne Feinstein hasn't said anything yet. We'll see.

PACE: We'll see. And again, I do think that Chuck Schumer is someone that we need to be looking at here.

BASH: No question.

PACE: He is the leader of the Senate Democrats. He has been silent as this has unfolded right now. If Al Franken is coming out tomorrow to resign, I think we have to watch and see if Schumer holds back, let's him make that announcement on his own or whether he joins this chorus and stands with a pretty sizable number of his own members.

And I think that will send a significant message to his members about what he stands for and what he thinks the standards for his Democratic Party should be.

KAPUR: And that's key where you draw that line, right? It seems that Al Franken clearly crossed that line in the eyes of many of his colleagues. And as the Democratic leader or the Republican leader, once you draw that line, you got to hold that standard for everybody.

JOHNSON: You know, with Elizabeth Warren, she's an interesting case because she --I think she was probably the most outspoken female member of the Senate in terms of standing up to Donald Trump. And so her silence in this regard and many of the allegations against Trump, they do mirror the Franken allegations in certain respects. And so her silence is really striking and interesting to me.

BASH: And not just standing up to Donald Trump on this issue.

PACE: Across the board but on this issue, as well. BASH: Also remember when she tried to speak on the Senate floor and

was out of order and Mitch McConnell made that known. You know, she started a whole movement about not being silenced. Obviously the issues are different but the point is that she is a leader among women in politics.

VISER: And you look at some of the people who have come out more forcefully on this in terms of 2020 presidential ambitions. Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, you know, like they have been leading the charge on this. And warren, you know, this is -- you know, I mean, it's an hour delay. So you know, I don't know how much to make of it.

[12:50:09] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is Cory Booker, guys?

BASH: Yes. Well, and actually I just looking at my phone and forgive me because you have to in situations like that, like this. Michael Bennet, a Democrat of Colorado tweeted, "Sexual harassment and misconduct are never acceptable." He said he understands that Senator Franken will make an announcement tomorrow. "I'm confident he'll do the right thing and step aside."

And I should say we now have nine female Democrats, five male Democrats, one Republican, then of course, the DNC Chair Tom Perez.

PACE: I also think if we put this back in a political context, and I think because Matt who said this earlier, we can't look at this completely through the political lens but we have to, to some extent.

How do Republicans manage the next several days between now and the Alabama election? I think they're just in a really untenable position. If Donald Trump is going to go and basically be campaigning for Roy Moore, the RNC is putting money into the state right now.

Roy Moore is almost certainly going to be the next U.S. Senator from Alabama. They can't hide from these questions going forward. He's going to be up there. They're going to be relying on him for votes and trying to lobby him for votes. It feels untenable to me.

BASH: It does. And I should just say, as we're having this important discussion about Al Franken and much more importantly the broader impact and import of this on sexual harassment, sexual misconduct in politics. You see on the right side of your screen the diplomatic room in the White House and the podium where the president is going to speak in just a matter of moments on something that is very, very consequential. And that is the U.S. Embassy in Israel, he will say he will actually move it to Jerusalem. And the impact that that is going to have globally not to mention just with the whole notion of Mideast peace is something that you can't understate.

We do want to finish the conversation though here back around the table about the big political story of the day. You know, it's hard to get into Al Franken's head right now, but you know, I'm just seeing reporting from my colleagues, those who I've talked to that it's not like this came out of the blue from Democratic senators. This has obviously been -- there's been a lot of the pressure on them to call on Al Franken to resign. This came after a lot of soul searching and political pressure as I said. But I would imagine just real quick that for Al Franken to see this, the walls closing in on him by his colleagues.

KAPUR: It's huge. And this is why I think it's unsurvivable. You know, up until two hours ago, there was a theory in which he could stick around maybe until next election and trudge along and, you know, and say he's sorry and try to make it go away. I just don't think it's possible anymore.

To Julie's point about Roy Moore, I would say, there's only one Republican senator, literally just one who has said he will support his opponent to try to defeat him. Jeff Flake. Yes, (INAUDIBLE) the tyrant who donated. He posted a photo of a check that he donated to Doug Jones yesterday. All the others are wavering.

BASH: Well, we have a lot more to watch on that especially as that election comes up next week. Thank you all for rocking and rolling this hour.

Thank you for joining us on the INSIDE POLITICS. Wolf Blitzer picks up our special coverage after a quick break.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is cnn breaking news.

[12:57:56] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.

We're following two breaking stories out of Washington right now. The first calls are growing right now at a fast speed for Senator Al Franken to resign amid allegations by several women of groping and harassment. The calls started with seven female Democratic senators and now more and more are doing the same. Senator Franken is expected to make some kind of announcement tomorrow. We'll stand by for that.

You're also looking live at the White House right now where in just moments, President Trump will make an historic announcement that is expected to send some serious shock waves throughout the Middle East. President Trump is expected to direct the State Department to begin the controversial process of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In doing so, the United States would become the only country with an embassy in Jerusalem. In fact, 86 countries currently have their embassies in Tel Aviv and, again, none in Jerusalem. The city was divided in the 1948 war which led to Israel's independence. Israel ended that war in 1949 with control over West Jerusalem and Jordan with control over East Jerusalem.

In the 1967 wars, Israel took control over all of Jerusalem. The Palestinians believe that the formation of an independent new Palestinian state must include East Jerusalem as their capital. World leaders including Turkey, France, Saudi Arabia, and so many others are now warning that the move by the Trump administration will destabilize the region. There are also calls from some Palestinian groups for what they call days of rage and response to the president's promised move.

We have our correspondents spread out throughout the region to bring us all the late-breaking reaction to the president's message. But let's start with our Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta, he's over at the White House. So Jim, we expect President Trump any moment now to tell us precisely what he intends to do. Tell us what the White House is saying in advance.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And just to set up the scene here for us, we expect the president to start speaking right around 1:00. He'll be entering the Diplomatic Room here at the White House with the portrait of George Washington over his shoulder, and there will be a table in the room. We expect the president --